Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What I Learned in University

It's the last week of my undergrad! Woooooohoooo! I know I haven't blogged in a while but I figured my future self would be pretty upset if I didn't blog about the completion of my university degree. I thought I would document some of the lessons I picked up along the way.

First, I want to thank my parents who were able to finance my degree. Thanks to my dad who paid for most of my tuition, and thanks to my mom for supporting me in ways she was by no means obliged to. She paid for the majority of my cell phone bill, my train pass, big portions of my vacations, in addition to, of course, providing my housing and food. All I had to pay for is Netflix, new clothes, and socializing. I know I'm privileged to be subsidized by my parents when many my age are struggling and in debt. The lesson here is to acknowledge and be grateful for the help I've received. Thanks, parentals.

Second, I learned to stop denying my intellectual ability. In CEGEP, my strategy for getting good grades was to anticipate what the prof might want and replicate it to the best of my ability. This rarely led to any grade better than a B. In university, I decided I was smart enough to take chances with my assignments. I decided to have faith in my intellect and it paid off. I've been pulling straight As since the second year of my undergrad when I decided change my approach to school. Writing about what you like and what you think is much more rewarding and fun than having to write about boring topics that you don't feel connected to. Profs (good ones at least) recognize when a student takes risks with their writing and they grade accordingly. It's nice.

Speaking of good profs, I learned that not all profs are good. Some are arrogant and condescending. Some are so worried about academic bureaucracy that they forget what their job is. I had one prof that was so hell-bent on not giving As that no matter how hard you worked, how often you consulted the TA and got professional feedback on your work, you were doomed to a B+ at best. It's demoralizing. Bless McGill students who have to go through this on a regular basis.

I learned to reeelaaaxx about the future. Ever since high school it's been clear that I should be focused on one thing only: $$$. At this point, many of my friends are discouraged, anxiety-ridden, and stressed beyond belief about what they're going to do when they graduate. This is no bueno. I decided that I need to chill out a bit so as to not have a head full of greys before I hit 25. We live in a time that glorifies hard work, which is not to say hard work is a bad thing, but it serves to make those who are not constantly working feel incredibly guilty. We're trying so hard to transcend the notion that millennials are lazy and useless, that we're overworked and tired beyond belief. I refuse.

Finally, I learned that I need to celebrate my accomplishments more. Over the course of three years I completed an internship, secured a position that paid more than minimum wage, QUIT said position because I realized it wasn't making me happy, took my time to complete my major without stressing the hell out, and completed a minor along with it. I made Dean's List. My GPA is nearly a 4.0. I'm more socially and politically aware than I've ever been. My friendships are stronger than they've ever been. My bank account isn't in the negatives. I'm a small business owner. Am I on the road to riches? Who knows, but right now I'm good. It's all good and I'm proud of myself.

Friday, September 11, 2015

My Lil Business: Etsy Shop

Hi everyone! Lately I've put blogging on the backburner to focus on something new: my Etsy shop! About three months ago I discovered the niche community of planners online. Essentially, there's a whole industry built around planning and planner decorations and stamps and stickers. There's a company called Erin Condren that sells custom planners, and an entire market has opened up for those who want to buy art supplies to beautify the inside of their planners.

I've always enjoyed stuff like scrapbooking so I was immediately interested, and now, months later, I have my own shop where I sell my own stickers!

It's been doing really well, so much so that I decided to quit my part-time job (I'm also a university student) to pursue it more regularly. I was told by someone earlier this year that I should take my passion for design work and put it towards a business. They suggested I do freelance design work. Thing is, I'm not confident I can design anything and everything. I'm self-taught in Adobe software. I'm artistic. But I'm not a professional. With my stickers, I can create things on my terms that meet my standards, so from that perspective it's kind of empowering!

I hope you don't mind that I'll be blogging more frequently about planner-related stuff. I want to pursue this for all its worth and blog along the way so when I'm older I can remember my first real entrepreneurial endeavor!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sigma E25 Blending Brush Review

Recently, Obsessed Canada asked me if I would like to review a Sigma brush, and if so, which I would like to review, and I immediately gravitated to the E25 Sigma Beauty Blending Brush because it reminded me of my favorite eyeshadow brush of all time - the Mac 217. (Do excuse the state of my 217 in the pic below.. It's a well-loved brush as you can see!)

Left: Sigma E25, Right: Mac 217

As I used the E25 I discovered that it's slightly different from the Mac 217 - not worse, not better, just different. The E25 is a lot flatter in shape than the 217, which is more oval all-around. This has its pros and cons. Pro: you can use it to pick up more shadow and place it all over the lid more efficiently. Con: it loses the ability to be as precise as the 217. Also, the E25 is denser than the 217, so you have to work a little harder to soften those edges.

The main reason I would advise picking up a Sigma E25 is the price point - $18, versus $25 at Mac. Sigma is a really reliable makeup brush brand, and they're my second-favorite right next to Mac. Whenever I feel like I need a certain brush but don't want to dent the wallet too much, I turn to Sigma! The brushes are sturdy and well-made. As a piece of advice, I would recommend the white bristled brushes over the black bristles, as the black bristled ones do tend to shed a little bit, but generally Sigma is a great mid-end brand for makeup brushes. Though more expensive than Elf they're higher in quality, but lower in price and comparable in quality to Mac.

Overall the E25 is a really nice addition to my brush collection. After all, you can never have too many eyeshadow brushes!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Latest Netflix Love: Sense8

Let me just start off by saying, Netflix is KILLING IT. They totally took the ineffective, outdated model of traditional television (i.e. making one episode at a time due to unsure network funding, etc etc) and flipped it on its head by shooting full seasons and making all the episodes available at once. They're essentially capitalizing off how much we love to binge watch, and they produce better quality content because of it.

The latest Netflix original series that caught my attention is Sense8. I'm a fan of sci-fi stuff like Orphan Black so I figured this would be right up my alley. It's basically about 8 individuals located around the world who can connect telepathically. They can communicate with one another and experience eachother's realities.

I watched the first episode and thought, meh. It felt like the show had a lot of convincing to do. It was a little overly dramatic and took long to get to the point. But as the episodes progressed, I got more involved. It hit me how crazy the production must be on this show. How can they possibly organize themselves to be able to shoot in worldwide locations every episode: London, Chicago, Mumbai, Reykjavik, Berlin, San Francisco, Seoul, Nairobi, and Mexico City? It's insane. Thinking about the level of production required to accomplish this is mindblowing to me. Like, even if it's not filmed on location (I'm not sure if it is), it's still incredibly complex to achieve the kind of authenticity Sense8 captures from each place.

There was one moment in particular that really convinced me that, yes, this is a fantastic show. (No spoilers here, don't worry.) It was a very simple moment, but so so powerful. All eight of the sensates become connected in their different parts of the world and sing along to "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes. 

It seriously felt like a spiritual experience when I watched it for the first time. I've embedded it below, but trust me, the impact is so much stronger in the actual episode. The scene comes after a really intense and emotionally-charged episode and it feels like a breath of fresh air. Each character experiences the song differently but the essential message is felt by all of them: "I wake in the morning and I step outside, I take a deep breath and I get real high and I scream from the top of my lungs, what's going on!" They're in this crazy experience together and they're not sure what to make of it but they're trying their best. It's amazing.

Another thing I love about the show is the incredible diversity and representation. You have a transgender woman in a mixed-race relationship, a gay man, a totally nonsexualized and strong Korean woman, an African man.. It's incredible. It goes to show how much more compelling storytelling is when you have diverse perspectives. 

Overall, I highly HIGHLY recommend this show for anyone that has a general appreciation for TV, and anyone who loves a good bit of sci-fi. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Gay Representation on CBS’s Big Brother: The Case of Frankie Grande

Since Big Brother 17 is right around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to post this essay I wrote last year. It's important to keep in mind how minority groups are represented on reality TV, that way we can mitigate our sometimes harsh, visceral reactions to contestants we dislike.

Gay Representation on CBS’s Big Brother:
The Case of Frankie Grande

CBS walks a precarious line with Big Brother. On one hand, the show is the epitome of cheap reality television, chock-full of tacky challenges, where one contestant gets evicted each week and the last houseguest standing wins $500,000. On the other hand, the show can be considered a microcosm of American society. This gives the producers a certain degree of social responsibility. What CBS chooses to air (and not to air) is important because it shapes the worldview of those who watch the show. As Sears and Goddaris argue in “Roar like a Tiger on TV?” reality TV programs reproduce contemporary society, and they “provide the viewing audience members with cues about ways of acting in the real world” (Sears & Goddaris 184).
As I watched the season 16 contestants’ pre-season interviews, I found out that Frankie Grande was cast as the season’s gay male contestant. I was pleased about this casting choice because I was familiar with Frankie’s YouTube videos, in which he comes across as friendly, outgoing, and sociable—a great combination of attributes for a contestant to have. Additionally, Frankie went into the Big Brother house with a relatively large fan base already built-in because he is Ariana Grande’s brother. Right off the bat, Big Brother puritans were annoyed because Frankie’s fame was bound to give him an unfair advantage in the game. As such, he was entering the house with a certain degree of stigma attached to his name. 
At the season’s one-week mark, fans began to turn on Frankie for various reasons. In the following essay, I will attempt to determine why this fan hatred came to be, and at whose fault: Frankie’s or CBS’s? I believe CBS’s penchant for heteronormativity made it difficult for him to operate authentically, and Frankie, by no fault of his own, played right into the negative tropes the show often employs. I will address heteronormativity on reality TV, the damaging effects of gay tropes, and the unrealistically high standard to which gay reality show contestants are held, using Frankie Grande’s experience as the vehicle for exemplifying my arguments.
I should begin this analysis by, first and foremost, situating myself as a white, heterosexual, feminist woman, and I acknowledge my subjectivity as such. I reconcile my difference from Frankie Grande by approaching this topic from an academic queer & gender studies standpoint, and I by no means wish to speak on behalf of the gay community. My goal is to rationalize Grande’s experience on Big Brother by using the experience of others in the LGBTQ+ community as a framework to guide my investigation. I am also invested in the representation of oppressed minorities in media, particularly given the profound potential for audience mimesis and validation (Silberman 449).
Heteronormativity on Big Brother
Season after season, only one gay man is cast on Big Brother. The imbalance of gay-to-straight characters on season 16 was a whopping 1:16, which places a gay man in a house full of heterosexuals. This heteronormative context is drastically different from the setting in which gay males perhaps find themselves outside the Big Brother house. Frankie Grande performs on Broadway, which is a notoriously safe space for individuals who identify as queer (Clum 247). Grande himself expressed how fond he is of the inclusive nature of theatre, given the camaraderie between straight and gay colleagues. He says, “There’s no faux pas with us being lovey-dovey and touching each other in theater” (Schultz). His public image is also very closely tied to his sister Ariana, who recently denounced Catholicism in favor of supporting her gay brother, which paves the way for an inclusive and tolerant milieu for Frankie and his Grandtourage (Ehrlich).
Grande on the set of Rock of Ages

The Big Brother house is very different. I imagine, for a gay contestant, the compulsory heterosexuality of the show can be staggering. Compulsory heterosexuality is defined as “the accumulative effect of the repetition of the narrative of heterosexuality as an ideal coupling” (Ahmed 145). Much of Big Brother’s appeal is the hope that two of the houseguests will couple up, or to borrow one of the show’s many colloquialisms, become a “showmance”. The gay male contestant, of course, has no potential to engage in a showmance since he is the only homosexual man there. In “‘You are not Allowed to Talk About Production”: Narratization on (and off) the Set of CBS’s Big Brother” Ragan Fox reflects on his time in Big Brother 12 as the season’s gay male. He notes the particular moments in which he felt isolated from the other contestants due to his sexuality, particularly at times when houseguests were discussing the possibility for showmances: “Early in the game, I felt left out when my roommates discussed potential romantic pairings among the houseguests” (Fox 193). These casual conversations constituted his “othering” by putting him on the periphery of the pre-established Big Brother rhetoric (Butler 133).
Frankie Grande tried to conform to the heteronormativity of his male peers on Big Brother. He mentioned that his strategy going into the house was to “infiltrate the jock alliance” because he has a “fraternal way of relating to [straight guys]” (Schultz). I believe Grande’s way of interacting with the other men on the show was problematic. He found himself in hot water when mentioning to the guys that they should “double team [Victoria]” and “take all of her virginities in one night”, in reference to raping another houseguest (Goddard). In another instance, Frankie and Cody Calafiore were discussing a rape scene in the movie Showgirls, and Frankie thought the scene is hilarious, while Cody maintained that rape scenes do not belong in movies (Grodner). As such, Grande appealed to the other contestants’ heterosexual masculinity in a way that was degrading and unacceptable, by repeatedly perpetuating the belief that rape is amusing. 

The Gay Villain & the Problem of “Zankie”
Fox also explains that “gay characters are marked by their failure to achieve intimacy” and so the show’s producers, fans, and LGBTQ+ contestants must find “other ways to performatively render gay sexuality” (Fox 193). One of the ways in which gay characters are typified is by enacting various tropes, which are “stereotypical, repetitious representations” of the gay persona (193). The trouble with these tropes is that they preserve “negative and limited portrayals of homosexuals”, which thwarts the efforts of the LGBTQ+ community, since, as I previously argued, what is portrayed on reality TV shapes the worldview of its audiences (193). In the case of Frankie Grande, I would like to particularly focus on the tropes of the villain motif and the gay-by-association heterosexual character.
It is quite often that, in competition-based reality TV shows like Big Brother, the homosexual contestant is characterized as the gay villain. This is unsurprising, given that the gay villain motif has been documented in media many times before, be it in “Disney movies, witches and psychos in canonical films, and perverts and child molesters in the news” (198). Fox suggests that the gay villain trope is born out of the stereotype of the gay contagion (202), which I believe is associated to Judith Butler’s understanding of Simon Watney’s concept of “gay disease”, explicated in his “Policing Desire: AIDS, Pornography, and the Media” (Butler 132). The stereotype of the gay contagion is rooted in the longstanding, homophobic response to AIDS; which is directly related to the notion that gayness can be spread, and even worse, that it is life-threatening (132). So, when a gay male participant on Big Brother aligns with a heterosexual male, the public reaction is both complex and outrageous.
             “Zankie” refers to the homo-hetero relationship between Frankie Grande and Zach Rance, another male houseguest on Big Brother season 16 (O’Keeffe). Zach and Frankie got very close in the competition. Their relationship was quite physical; they hugged and touched and cuddled constantly. This could have been the brink of Big Brother’s first homosexual showmance, however producers were quick to dismantle that possibility. On July 6th, CBS exposed Zankie’s relationship and answered the question fans were wondering: We know Frankie is gay, but is Zach? His answer: “I am not gay, but the bond that Frankie and I have is so genuine and sincere, that I truly feel like he is my boyfriend” (Grodner). This mixed response is exactly what CBS was hoping for: Zach Rance is straight and there is no possibility of Zankie becoming a veritable showmance. On the other hand, CBS must have realized how many Zankie supporters there were, because the second half of Zach’s statement was enough for fans to go wild with excitement. Many “Zankie” fan accounts sprouted on Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube around this time, which further solidified and arguably fetishized Zach & Frankie’s relationship. Essentially, the producers gave fans just enough information for them to be excited about the possibility of Zankie, but sanitized the response by having Zach confirm that he is not homosexual. Later on in the episode Zach says once more, “I’m straight and I only date women, but Frankie is just one of the best people I’ve ever met” (Grodner).

            The problem with Zankie is the following. Zach confirms he is straight, but continues to show affection towards Frankie… So how does this paint Frankie? It brings us back to the gay villain motif, which is perhaps best iterated with Zach’s own words to Frankie, as heard on the live feeds on August 3rd: “You try to turn me gay every single day. I feel like you get closer and closer every time but it ain’t going to happen […] Frankie’s the horniest guy in the world.” (Grodner). The “straight-mistaken-for-gay” trope that Zach enacts is “commonplace” in television, and it “derives much of its humor from the audience’s knowledge that the character is not, in fact, gay” (Fox 202). The problem is that this kind of behavior cites and reproduces the myth that gay men are predators, especially in their relationships with heterosexual men (202). While Fox, on his season of Big Brother, was particularly careful not to come off as a sex-starved gay predator, Frankie embraced this trope by taking Zach’s comment as a compliment to his virility (Grodner). In his autoethnographic essay, Fox reveals that CBS prodded him to talk about hetero-male cast members in a sexual way, which confirms the producers’ desire to perpetuate the trope of the gay villain as sexual predator (Fox 204).

            In an article from The Wire entitled “Breaking Down How Frankie Grande Became the Most Hated ‘Big Brother’ Contestant”, author Kevin O’Keeffe cites the “destruction of Zankie” as one of Frankie’s pitfalls. Later on in the season, Frankie contributed to a plan to have his showmantic partner Zach evicted. This move further entrenched Frankie into the villain motif because it proved to fans that Frankie did not care about Zach for anything beyond companionship, and was willing to cut him whenever he needed to. Breaking ties with allies at strategic points in the competition is generally seen as a strong move (Hayden Moss cutting ties with his showmance Kristen to benefit his alliance in season 12 is the example that comes to mind), but the backlash Frankie received proved that he was being held to a different standard than that of a heterosexual man playing Big Brother.
The fact of the matter is that Frankie Grande was not placed in this competition to win. He was simply there to contribute his gay storyline. This is perhaps why Andy Herren, gay male and winner of season 15 of Big Brother, is one of the most-hated houseguests in the show’s history. He was not there to win, but he did anyway. Alas, the role of the gay male is a typecast on Big Brother. “Type” is defined as “any simple, vivid, memorable, easily-grasped and widely recognized characterization” that has “no complexity of character or multiplicity of traits” (Wojcik 226). Frankie was not expected to excel in this competition; he was not meant to be the lead role, but rather, a supporting role (243). The gay male is therefore subordinate to his heterosexual competitors. Any time he transgressed this boundary by succeeding in the game, Grande was vilified even further. For example, Frankie was chosen to be part of Team America, and every week he had to carry out pranks in order to sabotage his houseguests (Grodner). Every time Frankie completed a prank successfully, he received $5K, and every prank he carried out solidified him as a villain.
Catch-22 for Gay Contestants
            It is my assertion that the gay man is set up for failure when he is cast on Big Brother. Frankie fell victim to the villain motif (among other tropes), but even if he actively resisted this kind of stereotyping, he would not have been able to escape these representations. Fox went into the Big Brother house fully cognizant of the negative ways in which he might be portrayed, and he worked very hard to combat them. Even so, CBS portrayed him as an oversensitive villain, and he found himself “ensnared in a web of gay representation” (Fox 204).
Fox addresses the fact that he was held to an impossibly high standard on the show. When Hayden Moss, his fellow housemate told him: “You are an awesome representative of the gay community”, Ragan appreciated his compliment but also acknowledged the unfairness (204). No one tells heterosexuals that they are “awesome representations of the hetero community”. As such, gay competitors have to “serve as an exemplar of a historically marginalized group and play a game known for cheating and backstabbing” (205). Anyone can see that it is extremely difficult, and perhaps impossible, to operate under such rigid expectations.
Still, Zankie’s hetero-homo relationship is being hyped as progressive in the LGBTQ+ community. In his article entitled “Frankie Grande on Big Brother and the Hetero-Homo ‘Zankie’ Showmance That Had Everyone Talking”, Brandon Schultz claims that “this is one of the first times we’re seeing a serious, strong love between a straight man and a gay man that goes far beyond tolerance—and it's on network television” (Schultz). While I can definitely see how Zankie’s relationship might be considered progressive, I feel like this speaks volumes to the need for a homosexual relationship between two men to be seen carried out on a normative reality TV show like Big Brother. Zankie, as loving as it may have been on the surface, was extremely tumultuous and problematic, particularly because it vilified Frankie as a gay man and conserved the myth of the “gay contagion”. Perhaps after acknowledging how much the public was rooting for Zankie, CBS might see that fans are eager to see relationships alternative to heterosexual ones. In breaking the show’s heteronormativity, a door of possibility would open for Big Brother’s homosexual contestants by allowing them a fighting chance to excel in the game, and it would also ameliorate the way homosexuality is perceived on a macro level. 

Works Cited

Ahmed, Sara. “Queer Feeling.” The Cultural Politics of Emotion. New York: Routledge,
2004: 144-167.

Butler, Judith. “Part iv: Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions” in “Subversive
Bodily Acts.” Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990: 128-141.

Clum, John M. Something for the Boys: Musical Theater and Gay Culture. New York: St.
Martin's, 1999. Print.

Ehrlich, Brenna. "Ariana Grande Reveals Love For Gay Brother Frankie Made Her
Question Catholic Faith." MTV News. Viacom International, 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 02 Dec. 2014. <http://www.mtv.com/news/1972089/ariana-grande-questions-religion/>.

Fox, Ragan. "“You Are Not Allowed to Talk about Production”: Narratization on (and
Off) the Set of CBS's." Critical Studies in Media Communication 30.3 (2013): 189-208. Web.

Goddard, Emma. "Frankie Grande's Rape Joke on 'Big Brother' Is Insensitive &
Completely Inappropriate." Bustle. Bustle, 31 Aug. 2014. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. <http://www.bustle.com/articles/38047-frankie-grandes-rape-joke-on-big-brother-is-insensitive-completely-inappropriate>.

Frankie Grande Discusses "Showgirls" Rape Scene. Prod. Allison Grodner. Perf. Frankie
Grande and Cody Calafiore. YouTube. YouTube, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UryhuU4sus>.

Grande, Frankie. "FrankieJGrande." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.

Grodner, Allison. "Big Brother Season 16." Big Brother. CBS. Los Angeles, California,
25 June-24 Sept 2014. Television.

Grodner, Allison. "Zach and Frankie Conversation." ItsZankie'sLife. Tumblr, 3 Aug.

O'Keeffe, Kevin. "Breaking Down How Frankie Grande Became the Most Hated 'Big
Brother' Contestant." The Wire. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 2 Sept. 2014. Web. 02 Dec. 2014. <http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2014/09/breaking-down-how-ariana-grandes-brother-frankie-became-big-brothers-most-hated/379465/>.

Schultz, Brandon. "Frankie Grande on Big Brother & Hetero-Homo 'Zankie' Showmance
That Had Everyone Talking." Out Magazine. Here Media, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 05 Dec. 2014. <http://www.out.com/entertainment/television/2014/10/02/frankie-grande-gay-big-brother-hetero-homo-zankie-showmance>.

Sears, Camilla A., and Rebecca Godderis. "Roar Like a Tiger on TV?" Feminist Media
Studies 11.2 (2011): 181-95.

Silberman, Marc. "The Politics of Representation: Brecht and the Media." Theatre
Journal 39.4, Distancing Brecht (1987): 448-60. JSTOR. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.

Wojcik, Pamela Robertson. "Typecasting." Criticism 45.2, Special Film Issue Part Two:
New And/or Neglected Approaches To Understanding Moving Images (2003): 223-49. JSTOR. Web. 05 Dec. 2014.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Becoming a Survivor Fan (Again)

It's been a long time since I've written a blog post and writing this now even feels a little foreign to me. I've been tied up with work and summer school, but hopefully I'll get back in the swing of things soon!

I wanted to do a post about Survivor because season 31 is currently in production, and the theme is Second Chance. Essentially, Survivor is bringing back past contestants to compete for their "second chance" at the 1 mil. The castaways that were chosen were voted in by Survivor fans.

I remember watching Survivor as early as the fourth grade, when my dad was rooting for Rupert on Pearl Islands and I laughed in his face when he got voted off :). Eventually I stopped watching the show, but a couple years ago I started getting into Big Brother, which, by association, brought me back to Survivor. I started on season 28 because I heard it was great (and it really, really was!) and I've been watching since. Given the new twist for next season (second chances), I wanted to familiarize myself with the players I missed out on so I could hopefully know some of the back stories of next season's players.

I decided to watch season 26 Blood VS. Water first because I was interested in that twist, and both Ciera and Vytas from that season are returning on Second Chance. Apparently, the public consensus on 26 is that it was kind of lame, but personally I really enjoyed it. I loved watching Hayden, whom I was familiar with from Big Brother, because his spat with Tyson over "rustle feathers" and the ensuing tribal council where they had to pick rocks was simply one of the greatest moments in reality TV, in my opinion. Ciera voting out her mom was great. Tyson picking up the win was great. Overall, I thought it was a pretty satisfying season.

Then I decided to watch season 25 Philippines, because working my way backwards, 25 was the next season with a returning contestant on Second Chance: Abi-Maria. While Abi-Maria was kind of frustrating to watch, it's always cool to see a villain in their element. Granted, Abi-Maria's form of "villain" was not strategic, she was just mean. Still, she caused drama which always makes for great TV. I thought 25 was pretty "meh" overall, but it did introduce us to Malcolm Freberg who is now one of my all-time favorites. It's always nice to have a cute, unproblematic white boy on reality TV.

As for the season 25 winner, do I think Denise deserved it? Sure, but I think Lisa deserved it more. The only thing that cost Lisa was her constant squabbles of "good vs. evil" and "finding herself" on Survivor that distracted the jury from her gameplay, which was actually so on-point. Lisa was a constant swing vote which put her in a great position, she discovered Malcolm's idol and made a play out of it by saving her closest ally Michael Skupin, she eventually blindsided Malcolm, and basically, she wasn't at all the sheep that everyone made her out to be. The second best choice was Denise, sure, but I'm sour on Denise because of the insensitive way she berated Abi-Maria at that one tribal council. You'd think a therapist would know better.

My third season to catch up on was 18, Tocantins. I really enjoyed seeing JT, Stephen and Taj as a power trio, and I think JT definitely deserved the win in the end. Yes, he did get a lot of strategic help from Stephen, but he absolutely crushed the final tribal council whereas Stephen pretty much choked. Stephen is going to be on Second Chance and I think he has a fairly good shot at going far if he can get his ducks in a row early on. Tocantins was also the first season we met Coach and Tyson. Coach was absolutely awful, and yeah, so was Tyson, but at least Tyson was strategic.

I then decided to watch what is widely considered the best season of Survivor ever: Heroes VS. Villains. What an awesome season. It was my first time seeing Boston Rob since I used to be a fan back in elementary school. It was my first time ever seeing Russell and Parvati play. Overall, it was super satisfying. Parvati was my favourite player of the season by a long shot. I love how she used Russell to her advantage, and her double immunity idol move was epic. I feel like women often get the short end of the stick in this game, but Parvati is just such a force. I have to say, I even enjoyed watching Russell play. For him not to get one jury vote was kind of sad to me. As for the winner, I thought Sandra was a poor choice. Yes, Survivor is about social game, but in my opinion the jury should reward big, risky moves, and Parvati should've won. Don't get me wrong, I like Sandra, but her game was much safer. I guess that's what happens when we're left with a jury full of big egos.

It's kind of embarrassing how many seasons I've burned through already, but I recently finished Cook Islands too, and I totally loved it. At first I was weary of having the tribes split up by ethnicity (Asian, White, Black, Latino) and I thought it was just going to dredge up racist remarks and cultural insensitivity, but it was actually so nice to see more diverse representation on this show that usually comprises of mostly white people. The final four consisted of two Asians, a black woman, and a Mexican man, which is a great win for cultural representation in media. Saying goodbye to all the butthurt white men along the way (namely Jonathan and Adam) was super satisfying. I thought Yul was a great winner, and Ozzy a great runner-up. And of course, I loved watching my fav gal Parvati on another season.

Right now I'm watching Survivor China to see how Peih-Gee fares, since she's going to be on Second Chance. So far, so good!