I recently re-watched the 1951 Disney adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and on finishing it, realised that it is in fact, full of valuable life lessons. The film is one big public safety announcement – covering topics ranging from drugs to illegal squatting and without it who knows how many hapless people would have fallen foul to some of the issues it highlights. So without further ado here are five important things that the film teaches us.

  1. Don’t eat/drink random cakes and liquids, especially ones that appear out of thin air and have an ominous hand-written label on them commanding you to endanger your life and consume them. I can’t even imagine what changing from 2 inches to 9 feet tall does to a persons body and mind, but it probably isn’t pleasant. I mean poor Alice ends up crying so much from shock that she creates an ocean and puts the life on an innocent door-knob in peril.
  2. When approached on the street by dungaree wearing twins who give a mean side-eye and make honking noises DO NOT engage with them. Doing so will not only make you late for whatever you’re doing but will also lead to you getting embroiled in an odd re-telling of an even weirder story, about oysters and cigars and beaches lacking in a space-time continuum. Therefore it’s best to charge through the two of them and then run far away.
  3. Don’t take up residence in your pretend employers home. Especially when your employer is a rabbit permanently on the edge of having a stress-induced heart attack and you expand to being 9 feet tall again, due to ignoring lesson number one. Again. If you do decide to ignore this instruction and squat in said house keep in mind that fires are likely to be started and your life will be in mortal danger….for a while. Also by heeding this advice you are sparing yourself of having a lizard come down a chimney after you – something no one wants to happen.
  4. If you are invited to a tea party – do accept it. Attending this party will not only teach you a fair bit about table etiquette, such as plate smashing and correctly praising the perfect falsetto of the teapot. But it will also allow you to gain valuable insight into dealing with super-fast conversations and what makes a fabulous hat. All highly important skills that are crucial to leading a successful life.
  5. If you ever come across a purple Cheshire cat – make sure you chat to him. You will discover many things; from reaching the Red Queen to the meaning of life (maybe?) HIs wise-words will give you many an idea to dwell on and his wry sense of humour will brighten up your day. I guarantee it.

Ross Geller, he’s one of the most hilarious and loveable characters on Friends, yet also manages to be the most irritating and problematic. This of course means he falls right into the problematic fave category. For all his greatness, fundamentally he is a typical “nice guy” and shows all the traits that come with that including, feeling hard done by when rejected and blaming women for his rejection, having questionable ideas on gender roles and feeling as though women owe him something. In the episode “The One With the Male Nanny” he showed disbelief that a man could be a babysitter by implying that it is a woman’s job and responds to Rachel’s disdain with “that’s like a woman being a….” thankfully he gives up on this statement, but it’s apparent he believes women cannot do certain occupations – as well as this he makes snarky comments and jokes about the characters masculinity, perpetuating the idea that if a man does a seemingly “female” job it degrades him. Rachel’s response to this summed up mine and I’m sure many other women’s thoughts towards this old fashioned ideal. Sadly, this is not the only time in the show where he has come out with out-of-date and sexist views, during the episode where he debates whether or not to ask Rachel out, he decides that he is more entitled to her than Paolo because he’s her friend (yep, that old gem), his apparent “claim” on Rachel is one of the most inherently sexist things that occurred in the show because it implies that she is an object that can be owned in a way. I mean heaven forbid she date a man that she actually wishes to, rather had go out with Ross because he believes they should and they have a history.

Throughout the shows run there are episodes where he comes out with some right corkers, for example in “The One with Unagi” he accuses Rachel and Phoebe of not being aware of their surroundings because they are too wrapped up in what’s going on inside their heads, so therefore cannot defend themselves; an idea about women I liked to presume died out in the 1950s, but clearly is still alive and kicking. Even when he says these things though it is hard to well and truly hate him – especially as later on in the episode he gets “attacked” by the other two characters and brought down a peg or two, much to my amusement. My lack of dislike towards him proves him to be more than a strong contender for the being the king of my problematic fave’s – as I am pretty easily annoyed and turned off by characters when watching TV.

The reason I think, as to why it is just so hard to hate on him is rooted in his characteristics, as I feel, at the heart of it all he cares deeply for the other characters and throughout the show is shown to the audience to be a genuinely good person, for example when he comes to save the gang after Phoebe’s taxi ran out of fuel, even though him and Rachel could barely look at each other. Thus making him a good yet ignorant human being.

It is important to bear in mind though that the show itself brought the term “friend zone” into popular culture (something I like to pretend didn’t happen) and making it a mainstream ideal in society – so clearly there was an element of underlying sexism within the show as a whole, it just so happens to be reflected the most through his character. Therefore, on a bass line level and as much as it pains me to acknowledge it – Friends is quite a problematic show as a whole. The distinct lack of POC characters featured on it, with the exception of the character Charlie (the ones that are, are kept in small menial roles like a shop assistant that is seen for a fleeting moment), is a big issue and something I like to believe that if the show was made now would not exist. Fundamentally there is no way a group of young adults living in New York City would have an exclusively white sphere of relationships, it just isn’t realistic and not true. This, paired with the low-level sexism that runs throughout it to me is a big reason behind the ignorant comments that leave Ross’s mouth – because unfortunately at that time they were still prevalent in the media and were not seen as being especially wrong and demeaning towards women.

Despite all his faults, the idiotic comments he makes, and the fact that quite often he is a giant arsehole, I just can’t not like Ross and there’s no getting away from the fact that some of my all time favourite Friends moments include him. His repeated mishaps with tans, teeth whitening and leather trousers made me warm to him as a character and his try-hard nature led me to viewing him as a loveable idiot. Therefore I have decided to count to 10 in my head (Mississippilessly I may add) and try to focus on how happy Friends as a whole makes me instead whenever he spews forth a problematic opinion.

*also published on Screenqueens*

With the release of Mad Max: Fury Road this week, I decided to reflect on the previous three films and look at what the latest instalment has to live up to. The story begins in 1979 when the first film, simply named Mad Max hit our screens. Set in the near future – albeit in an alternative timeline, where society is falling apart and the human race is nearing its end, the first film introduced us to our quiet, brooding hero: Max Rockatansky. Clad completely in leather, he radiates doom and gloom and appears world-weary, even before his life is changed for the worse. The first film follows him as he attempts to end the hideously creepy and terrifying The Toecutter – an insane gang leader with masochistic tendencies and his band of equally as weird followers. The violence in the first film is to me the most realistic out of the three films, as it is less wild and more simplistically brutal, the scene where Max’s friend Goose is set alight whilst still alive is a stand out example of this. The first film contains all the basics that are seen in the follow-ups’; car chases, shootings and brutality. Most importantly of all though, the first film introduces audiences to the V8 interceptor. This car is in my opinion one of the most iconic movie vehicles, it’s cool, sleek and fucking fast – which when combined with Max’s style equals a dangerous and awe-inspiring duo. Mad Max ends in a heart-breaking way, with the audience learning how he gets the ‘mad’ added to his name, I won’t divulge what happens as to not spoil it for anyone who has not yet seen it – but I can assure you, it is truly shocking.

We are reunited with Max in the 1981 follow up Mad Max 2 or Road Warrior and boy have things changed. First off, there has been a nuclear war and the remaining humans are now living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and fighting over one thing and one thing only; fuel. The battle for petrol is the central plot line of the film, with Max begrudgingly teaming up with a bunch of survivors who are under-siege due to their lorry-tanker full of petrol. The enemy – The Humungus, a masked, muscly, bondage gear wearing psychopath who has a gang of crotch less leather chap wearing minions. One thing that returns however is the V8 Interceptor – which has been souped up, has oil drums on the back and looks even cooler than before. It is in this film that the Mad Max franchise I feel got the reputation for wackiness and hair-brained violence and car-chases, as fundamentally 3/4 of it is the ‘baddies’ pursuing Max and the tanker in a variety of different spiked, fire spewing, feather covered, arrow throwing vehicles. The clothes worn by the characters in Road Warrior are also pretty iconic now – with Max’s outfit staying relatively the same as before, with the exception of a leg brace – it is Humungus and his crew’s clothes that steal the limelight. Their S&M inspired outfits that are accessorised with metal gloves and large feathers, combined with their dominant/submissive behaviour e.g. when Humungus has Wez (his henchman) wear a collar with a leash attached to it – gives off quite a homoerotic vibe, something that adds to the films greatly layered plot and interactions. The highlight of Road Warrior to me is the character known as the Gyro Captain – a completely bonkers, flying buggy inventing Rhys Ifans in the late 90s look-a-like. What is so great about him is his complete belief that him and Max are best friends, all because Max didn’t kill him. Their growing friendship as the film progresses provides not only a comedy aspect, but also some light relief from all the killing and butchering that you are bombarded with for the majority of the time. One last thing to look out for in Road Warrior, is Max’s awesome dog. It wears a bandana – need I say any more.

The third film, released in 1985, named Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is set fifteen years after the events of Road Warrior and sees Max end up in the sleazy town of Bartertown – headed by a wild haired Tina Turner. Thunderdome’s plot is based around Aunty Entity’s (Turner) fight for control of Bartertown and Max trying to save a bunch of teenage survivors from getting caught up in her brutal plans. It is this film that introduces us to the concept of the Thunderdome and the fights that occur within it. It is in essence, a post-apocalyptic Colosseum – that sees hideously violent gladiator style fights go on inside it, one of which involves Max and a giant known as Master Blaster. Thunderdome does keep the idea of humanities obsession with fuel going, through Bartertown’s farming of methane gas from pig faeces – however it is more of a sub-plot this time round, with the focus mainly being on the idea of freedom and whether or not it can be achieved now humanity is in ruins. Unlike the first two films, Thunderdome had a PG-13 certificate, rather than being R-rated, so the violence isn’t half as brutal and graphic, which for me, takes away from the Mad Max experience a bit – as they are basically violence with a plot-line, not the other way around. The third film ends with Max disappearing into the desert never to be heard of again – until now of course.

Therefore, Fury Road has a hell of a lot to live up to, but with Tom Hardy taking on the iconic role from Mel Gibson and George Miller continuing to direct I have high hopes for this new instalment, as the adverts have shown that its full of explosions, wacky cars, violence, murder and weird shit going down. It’s going to be Max alright, lets just hope it is mad.

Ten months ago, if someone was to ask me whether or not I liked The Smiths and their music, I would have scoffed in their face and spewed hatred about “his annoying whiny voice” and “dull songs”, which is ironic as until 6 months ago I had never even listened to one of their songs in full. I had created an entirely incorrect and unfair assumption and I can’t even remember why – proving how ridiculous the whole thing was.

Fast forward to around three months into university – at this point whenever I was at my friends flat, she would invariably play The Smiths at some point, because, to be clear – she is obsessed with them. At first I would grumble and air my grievances at being “forced to listen to this shit” but as time passed I found a small part of myself humming along to some of their songs. I quashed this down because there was no way she could find out about this – her smugness would go through the ceiling! I attempted to occasionally enquire about the band or what the song on the radio was about from the fountain of all Smiths knowledge that she is. She always obliged as if there is one thing she loves to do, it’s talk about them – and to be honest I like listening to people talk about things they are passionate about so it was a win-win really.

By learning more about them and actually giving them a chance I have now become partial to a few of their tracks; in particular The Queen is Dead, Panic, Shakespeare’s Sister and Accept Yourself. These songs proved my preconceived ideas of The Smiths wrong, because they are anything but a dirge. I have built up a moderate collection of their songs on my Spotify and what draws me to them is that despite how much I still cannot stand Morrissey – he really knows how to write relatable songs. It is refreshing to every now and again listen to music that really speaks to you, after being bombarded with current day songs that are so often about dancing, getting off in clubs, love, and being rich – that as he states in Panic “say nothing to me about my life.”

Therefore to The Smiths I say sorry. I’m sorry for writing you off so quickly and taking so long to appreciate your great songs. Proving that basing an opinion on ill-judged presumptions is stupid and could deny you something that turns out to be pretty brilliant. And when it comes to music it is always worth giving an artist a chance – as you never know what you could be missing out on.

I don’t think there is anything better than rifling through box after box of vinyls in search of a bargain or something by your fave band/singer (in my case its Duran Duran). I love finding new places to fulfil my craving, and recently I stumbled upon a gem of a place, squished between a food outlet and adult store. Upon entering, my friends and I realised we had entered our own little utopia. Everywhere you looked there was vinyls; stacked up, on the walls, in boxes, placed on shelves and even on the floor. I had never seen so many in one place and doing so filled me with joy. What makes record shops so wonderful is the sheer quantity of music that is held within them; most of them have row upon row of boxes, all with as many vinyls in them as possible. It doesn’t matter what you are looking for – most second-hand record shops will have it, the ones I shop at have everything from thrash metal, to northern soul, to new wave, to reggae etc. The eclectic range of music stocked in them means that even if you have no intention to buy anything, just going into one and browsing is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. My friends and I spend inordinate amounts of time within the walls of these shops and never get bored.

The thing I love most about shopping for records is the smell, like with old books, records seem to take on a particular smell once they get old. As soon as you near a box of them it hits you and I find great comfort in it – it’s as though the smell is an aromatic nicotine. I just can’t get enough (something my bank balance does not appreciate), I’d even go so far as to say that my record player is one of my most prized possessions. Although sometimes I buy my vinyls from online retailers – as they are great for getting something specific and fast. I will never turn my back on these shops, it is important for music and its history that they stay around and I hope that they will for a few more years at least. I also hope that younger people continue to discover records and listening to music on them as it is a really special thing. To be able to sit back and think “I’m listening to something that was made 30 odd years ago,” is not only amazing but also a privilege. Thank god there were people out there who took such care of their records that in 2015 they still play perfectly!

For a nostalgia lover like myself they are the perfect way to temporarily go back in time and forget about everything else, when I enter one I can shrug off whatever is stressing me out and focus all my attention on the records. These shops – no matter where, always have a calming atmosphere, there is no bustling, no shoving and no having to try and peer around other people to get a look at something. It’s as though there is an unspoken rule of chillness. This just adds to their appeal, for someone who gets stressed out super easily it is great to be able to go somewhere and inhale these calming vibes.

I am lucky enough to live in a city that has an abundance of record shops, which makes life just that little bit better. Whenever I have a bit of free time that’s where I’ll be, either with my friends or on my own perusing the fantastic music that sits within their walls or adding to my ever growing collection of vinyls. So thank you record shops for adding that special something to my life’s musical experience.

During nights out with my friends it has been brought to my attention through talking to them and from two first-hand experiences that going to a nightclub and being a woman equals getting sexually harassed. The way many young women at university who I have bumped into in the toilet, or spoken to in the bar queue discuss this issue is with a sense of resignation, it is to be expected, and is therefore ‘old news’, of course this totally wrong. We should be indignant, up in arms and certainly not complacent! But this is where it gets tricky, as the only real thing you can do in a club if you are groped or smacked on the bottom etc. is report it to the bouncer, who depending on how they feel either kicks the offender out, or does nothing. Leaving us with little option other than telling said person where to go and carrying on with the night.

My first experience of harassment in a club was when a man came up behind me and put his hand under my dress and in between my legs. I was horrified. I felt dirty, violated and mortified. However as the night went on my feelings changed to anger, “how dare he touch me like that without any consent.” With my anger slowly reaching a boiling point I left the club to get some air. As soon as I saw my friends I remember squawking indignantly at them about what had just happened. A few minutes later I had received information that the same man had grabbed one of my friends bums and then just laughed. It was after this night that I decided to find out more.

Having talked about this topic a lot with my flatmates and friends, there is no doubt that a harassment culture exists in Britain’s nightclubs, be it Exeter, London or Manchester, women everywhere are subjected to unwanted advances and verbal abuse. Whilst at home in London one friend had a man try and place his hand into her underwear twice, even after she had yelled at him and another got hit in the face by the man she had just asked to stop grinding on her. The fact that these types of experiences occur regularly and across the country is totally unacceptable, there needs to be a huge drive by club security and police to drive this culture out of clubs and make them spaces that women can enjoy without constantly being in fear of harassment. Sadly until then clubs will continue to be predatory environments, where men can seemingly do as they please and women will continue to feel intimidated and on edge.

I wanted to show my love of an up and coming queen in the music industry and tell you all why you should be listening to and loving her as well. After a session on Spotify’s discovery section I came across TĀLĀ, an Iranian/British singer and producer. It only took two songs for me to decide I had found my new musical love. Listening to her Alchemy EP is a haunting, magical experience that made me wishing I were in a retro independent film; eating at diners on the coast of California with my friends and having rad hair.

Her vocals alternate between being at the forefront of a track like in Unfinished Business, to being barely there and letting the pulsating electro beats do her talking, in songs like Serbia. I find this contrast between songs a unique aspect of her sound, as she seamlessly combines her talents in production and vocals, with a range of cross-cultural sounds to create a listening experience like no other. The Duchess and Unfinished Business are my favourites and to me represent her versatility within the electronic genre. The Duchess is a dark piece of music, with almost no vocals but a thrumming bass line that you feel right in your core. Whereas Unfinished Business is a fast-paced dance track that just makes me want to get up and move (even though I can’t to save my life; making my “moves” more of a flailing motion) with warbling vocals atop of it. Her love of M.I.A is certainly obvious as her tracks have the same in-your-face, unashamed bad girl vibe to them, just like M.IA’s do. TĀLĀ’s vocals also have a kind of FKA Twigs feel to them too, which once again adds to the otherworldly nature of her sound and brings another element into her  slick production.

Her amazing music combined with her lustworthy style makes her my number one UK based artist at the moment and I am not too embarrassed to divulge that when she favourited a tweet of mine I yelled a bit. So here’s to another kick ass lady who is sure to take the music industry by storm.