It’s Okay to Try

You don’t have to try
Take your makeup off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror
At yourself
Don’t you like you?

- “Try,” Colbie Caillat

If you’re at all engaged in social media, you’ve probably seen Colbie Caillat’s new music video for her song, “Try,” in which she starts out looking like a Kardashian and ends up looking like Colbie Caillat.

It’s a beautiful video with a beautiful message. The girls and women featured in it look incredible in the before and after shots, which is the whole point. I’ve seen my female friends moved to tears this week as they passed this video and Colbie’s commentary around Facebook. I have no trouble seeing “Try” as a sincere expression of Colbie’s story, and I also believe that the women who were moved by it see their own story reflected in it. Which is a wonderful, powerful thing, and I certainly don’t want to detract from that in any way.

Colbie Caillat, still adorable with no makeup.

Personally, though, I was struck by how different Colbie’s story of self-acceptance and embracing self-expression looked from my own.

I rarely if ever experimented with makeup in my teens. I know for sure that I didn’t own any. I think I was 19 before I tried so much as shaping my eyebrows, and then I felt absurdly guilty about it. Makeup wasn’t for me. I was an intelligent, talented, virtuous young woman. I wasn’t one of those vain, frivolous girls whose value was in how attractive they were to boys. I was smart. I was accomplished. I was responsible. I was respectable. Why on earth did I need to be pretty on top of that? More specifically, why did I need to put any effort into being pretty? Wasn’t pretty one of those things that you just are or aren’t? And why did I even care? I didn’t care.

Except I did. A part of me that I’d stopped listening to a long time ago wanted desperately to be pretty. Not because society was telling me I should. In fact, the society I inhabited was specifically telling me that I shouldn’t. That putting any thought or effort into outward appearance meant I was a vain seductress like the worldly women in magazines I was discouraged from looking at and movies I wasn’t allowed to watch. That, sure, a few lucky girls had the gift of being pretty without trying, but this was more curse than blessing. It made them targets for boys who would never appreciate their True Inner Beauty because they were so blinded by their outer beauty. Charm was deceitful, beauty was vain.

As I grew up, I exchanged patriarchy for feminism, and was told almost exactly the same thing. Don’t tell little girls they’re pretty. Women’s value shouldn’t lie in their looks. Women should take pride in accomplishment, intelligence, talent, and integrity. The World tells women they have to make themselves sexually appealing for men, so we waste so much effort in these vain pursuits that could be spent achieving things like men are taught to from infancy. A Real Man (not that you need one anyway) will love you for being A Real Woman, not one of those made-up, photoshopped, underfed women in misogynist magazines and movies. Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain.

As I continued to internalize these messages, they enabled a deeper, more insidious message I was getting from my own brain chemistry as I battled clinical depression: There’s no point in trying. Why bother running a brush through your hair? Who’s going to see it? Who cares if all you’ve done to your face in a week is splash water on it every other day? It’s not like you can improve it that much. Screw personal hygiene. No one’s getting close enough to see how much you’ve been neglecting it. On some level I knew how repelling my appearance was.* This time, I really, truly, didn’t care. I couldn’t care. My brain had forgotten how.

I got help. I learned how to care again. I felt happiness again and learned how to take conscious actions conducive to that feeling. I learned how to deconstruct the ideas I’d internalized about what I was supposed to be, and how to sift through the pieces and uncover who I really was.

I discovered that who I really am is an intelligent, talented, accomplished, courageous woman who freakin’ loves makeup, accessories, and clothes. I love decorating my face and my body with bright colors. I love knowing how different cuts of clothing can change the way my body appears. Dressing and grooming feels like an opportunity to create a new work of art every day. Fashion has become one of the most powerful depression-fighting weapons in my arsenal. It’s not about pleasing men or women, though I’m happy if it does. Honestly, sometimes I worry that my bright colors and sparkles make people think less of me. But, like Colbie in her video, it’s not about them liking me. It’s about me liking me.

And ironically, it was only after embracing all this that I learned to love my face without makeup. I don’t need makeup to like the way I look. I go out with a bare face plenty of times, usually if I’m in a rush or if I’m going to a movie that I know will turn my eyes into a waterfall. A movie with beautiful women whose beautiful makeup I’ll probably challenge myself to replicate sometime. I won’t look just like them, and that’s okay. Because I’ll look just like me. And I like me.

I like me enough to try.

Full disclosure: Foundation, concealer, highlighter, a four-shade eyeshadow palette, mascara, blush, and lipstick.

*Just to be clear, I’m not implying that women are repelling when they don’t wear makeup, shave their body hair, or style their hair in a conventional, feminine way. I’m talking about neglecting very basic hygiene, which can be a sign of clinical depression regardless of gender.

Sailor Moon Crystal: Random Observations

Sailor Moon Crystal, the Sailor Moon reboot series that has been emphatically pitched as a new adaptation of the original manga and NOT a remake of the 90s anime, premiered on Saturday.

Sailor Moon Crystal

My overall impression: It feels like a remake of the 90s anime. But a good remake. Here, in no particular order, are a few more particular impressions I had during my first viewing.

The animation is beautiful. My favorite aspect of the original animation, the over-the-top flowery pink girliness, is still there, and this time around there’s a new grace and elegance to it. The opening theme and transformation sequence are different from the original, but they’re just as enjoyable to watch, and I think they’ll soon become iconic in their own right.

Sailor Moon Crystal title card

The boys are quite crushable. Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask/Tuxedo Kamen has a spark with Usagi from the beginning that I felt was lacking in the original series, where (imho) their sparring often came across less as romantic tension and more as people genuinely disliking each other. This incarnation of Mamoru feels more endearingly awkward than just plain bitchy. I’m curious to see how long it takes this Usagi to figure out Mamoru and Tuxedo Mask are the same person since he was wearing a freakin’ tuxedo when she met him.

Usagi meets Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask

However, despite all of Mamoru’s adorkably romantic charm, Motoki is still my favorite. He’s sweet, attentive, helpful (especially at video games), and he looks like a male Haruka Tenoh. What more could a girl want?

Motoki, surrounded by roses.

Crystal feels more like a cohesive story with an ongoing arc. While I did enjoy Usagi’s episodic adventures in the original anime, it took awhile to indicate that it was telling a bigger story than “random kid gets superpowers and fights a new monster every week.” In the new series, the eponymous crystal is introduced as the Magical MacGuffin right away, we get a first look at Ami (Sailor Mercury) before the end credits roll, and those end credits give us a beautiful image of Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion.

omg it’s the back of Ami’s head!!!

Usagi is still Usagi. Clumsy, a bit of a crybaby, chronically late, and way more interested in video games and shopping than homework. And of course, a hopeless romantic. I’m looking forward to meeting the rest of the Sailor Senshi and watching them fight together by moonlight.

Sailor Senshi

Want to check it out for yourself? Click here to watch Sailor Moon Crystal on Hulu, or watch the pilot video embedded below.

Green Gables Fables: Anne Shirley, Vlogger

It seems The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has started a trend. Vlogs based on classic literature and starring cute redheaded girls seem to be popping up everywhere. The latest one to suck me in is based on the series that pretty much defined my adolescence, Anne of Green Gables.

Anne Shirley, 17-year-old Canadian foster kid and vlogger

It’s remarkable how very little about the original story is changed in Green Gables Fables. Anne is an orphan who’s spent most of her life in neglectful foster homes. She’s just been taken in by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who’d asked for a boy and got Anne because of a clerical error. Anne clashes with Marilla’s best friend, Rachel Lynde. She goes to a new school and meets lots of new friends and frenemies, including a boy named Gilbert Blythe. She bonds quickly with Matthew and slowly but surely with Marilla. And she’s obsessed with her BFF, Diana Barry.

It all translates really well with a few modern updates. The series, of course, is ostensibly Anne’s vlog. Her epic fight with Rachel Lynde happens over an insensitive tweet. Diana meets Anne through Tumblr, a setting which makes their occasional lapses into Victoriana and referral to each other as “bosom friends” seem oddly believable. The infamous slate broken over Gilbert Blythe’s head is a magnetic locker board (thank God it wasn’t a tablet!).

What really sells this webseries is that it keeps the heart of the books. Anne Shirley is exactly as Anne Shirley should be. She’s a charming, talkative, nerdy, melodramatic, imaginative kid who’s been dealt some really bad luck, but who continually rises from the depths of despair to find kindred spirits who will love her as she is and to make the world a little more like she imagines it.

And she prefers to be called Cordelia.

Want to check out Green Gables Fables? Click here to go to the YouTube channel, or watch the playlist below.

Update for Unraveled

Unraveled (Thalia's Musings, Volume Three)

Unraveled (Thalia’s Musings, Volume Three)

Unraveled (Thalia’s Musings, Volume Three) has been sent out to my wonderful volunteer beta readers. Well, “volunteer” might be less accurate than “hand-picked and drafted.” But anyway, I can’t tell you guys how excited I am that the book is finally at this stage! Due to numerous real-life complications, it’s taken me about a year longer than I’d originally intended. I appreciate my readers’ loyalty and patience.

Keep watching for release dates, cover reveals, and all that. :D

10 Things I Love About The Legend of Korra

The trailer for Book 3 of The Legend of Korra has been viewed about 1,140,000 times, which means people other than me have viewed it about 140,000 times.

The Legend of Korra was my introduction to the Avatar franchise. I watched The Last Airbender after Book 2 ended last fall because I missed my Korra fix. I loved Aang and his story, too. Aang is as different from Korra as humanly possible, and the two shows have very different feels to them, so I can understand why some people who fell in love with Avatar Aang and his team first aren’t huge Korra fans. But Korra was my first love, and I can’t wait to see more of her and her team. Here, in no particular order of favoritism, are ten things I love about The Legend of Korra.

10. LIN FREAKIN’ BEIFONG

I had virtually no knowledge of The Last Airbender when I started watching The Legend of Korra, so I didn’t meet Lin as Toph Beifong’s daughter. Her awesomeness was all her own and not a matter of legacy. I couldn’t remember her name at first, so I just called her Lady Magneto in my head. She quickly became one of my favorite things about the show. Really, how many shows have you seen with a middle-aged gray-haired female action hero? Where her age and grayness weren’t played for laughs or irony? Lin got even cooler for me when I did watch The Last Airbender and Toph became my favorite member of the Gaang. This video is, imo, the perfect summary of the Beifong legacy:

9. MOAR GROWNUPS

Image via deviantART user SuirenShinju

I like it when kids’ stories are well-populated with an active, non-useless adult generation. Lin, as I mentioned above, is clearly middle-aged and drawn with unambiguously gray hair. The Avatar wiki gives her age as 50 in the first book and 51 in the second. She’s far from the only one. Tenzin, Korra’s Airbender mentor, is the same age as Lin. His older brother and sister, Bumi and Kya, get a lot of screen time in Book 2. Their family issues take up almost as much of the story as the actual Avatar’s arc. Also earning plenty of screen time is Pema, Tenzin’s wife and the mother of his four children. Even Korra’s own parents are key players in Book 2. Yes, you read that right – there is such a thing as a fantasy protagonist with two living parents!

8. ASAMI SATO

Image via deviantART user Nortiker

Asami is the resident muggle on Team Avatar, and she’s a very conventionally attractive and conventionally feminine girl. It would’ve been really easy to write her as weak and shallow to make Korra look stronger and more authentic by contrast. Instead, Asami is intelligent and courageous. We quickly see that she’s someone Korra can learn a lot from, and not in a cliched “Girly girl gives the tomboy a makeover” way. Asami is a valuable asset to Team Avatar and eventual friend to the Avatar herself.

7. LOVE TRIANGLES THAT DON’T COMPLETELY SUCK

Love triangles are pretty case-by-case for me. Sometimes I find them entertaining, and other times I’m like, “Why? Just…why???” I have to admit, it could be argued that this story didn’t need love triangles at all. But accepting the fact that they are a big part of this series, I think they’re handled really well. Like I said above, Asami, Korra’s “rival” for Mako’s affections, isn’t portrayed as weak or shallow in contrast to Korra. I put “rival” in quotes because for a long time Asami didn’t even know Korra had asked Mako out, and she and Korra get along reasonably well considering Korra’s secretly in love with Asami’s boyfriend who may be in love with Korra. Or with Asami also. (Mako’s an idiot. I didn’t say it was a perfect love triangle. :P ) You sympathize with both girls and want to see them both get a happy ending.

Image via deviantART user dCTb

This is all foreshadowed when Korra confides her feelings about Mako to Pema, Tenzin’s wife. Pema encourages Korra to go for it and tell Mako how she feels. She recalls that, when she fell in love with Tenzin, he was interested in someone else, but that she made a move because she couldn’t stand the thought of him being with “the wrong woman.” Pema is a likable character. She and Tenzin obviously have a happy marriage. I took her words at face value, interpreted the scene as an older woman empowering a younger one, and was interested to see how her advice would serve Korra.

Then it turns out that “the wrong woman” was LIN FREAKIN’ BEIFONG. Who evidently never found anyone else. The story gives no easy answers as to who “deserves” to “win” their love interest. No matter how things are resolved, someone will have every reason and every right to be hurt, and someone else will have every reason and every right to have made the choice that hurt them. And young impressionable viewers will learn the valuable life lesson that love effin’ sucks.

6. THE AIRBENDER KIDS

Okay, so, something a bit lighter. Tenzin and Pema have three little airbenders. Meelo has all of Grandpa Aang’s boyish exuberance and Great-Uncle Sokka’s goofy sense of humor. Ikki is the Keeper of the Baby Sky Bison, and if you don’t think Blueberry Spicehead is best bison, we’re not friends. Jinora…Jinora is everything. EVERYTHING. The next spinoff could easily be Legend of Jinora. Rohan, the baby born in Book 1, is predicted to be an airbender, but personally I think it’d be interesting to see what happens if he can bend some other element, or if he isn’t a bender at all. Time will tell.

5. PRO BENDING

Image via deviantART user Jonie182

I love everything about this. I love that, in this universe, superheroes have turned their superpowers into a competitive sport. I love Korra, Mako, and Bolin as a team (when they are functioning as a team). I love that Korra can learn bending best in the context of a dangerous, high-stakes game. I love the old-timey radio announcer. And I love the Fire Ferrets’ mascot.

4. THE CHANGING WORLD

Even without having watched The Last Airbender, I could tell that Korra’s story took place in a world that had seen a lot of change over the last century. Benders, once the saviors, had come to be regarded with suspicion and fear. A world once strongly divided along nations and races had overcome these barriers only to create new ones, namely benders vs non-benders. After watching The Last Airbender, I could appreciate even more how different the political landscape was in the two series. I think my favorite change, though, is the progression of technology. It’s like The Last Airbender is around the mid-19th century, and The Legend of Korra is circa World War I.

3. ESKA AND HER FEEBLE TURTLEDUCK

Image via deviantART user AtomicMangos

I am a horrible person.

2. “WHEN WE HIT OUR LOWEST POINT, WE ARE OPEN TO THE GREATEST CHANGE.”

This line is really insightful and thought-provoking to me because, in my observation, it’s usually true. Though not necessarily in a good way. The biggest changes in my life were usually the results of decisions that were made at someone’s lowest point. Sometimes they were my decisions. Sometimes they were decisions made by my parents or by other people with direct influence on my pre-adult life. There’s something about being at that low point that makes you open to a level of change you wouldn’t otherwise consider. Sometimes those changes aren’t good, and you find that it is in fact possible to reach an even lower point. But other times you look inside yourself and find a power you’d never quite been able to tap into before, and you finally make that change that lets you save yourself and become what you were meant to be. At least, that’s how it worked for Korra.

1. KORRA

You guys, I freakin’ love Korra! Yes, she’s a hothead. Yes, the writers were playing ping-pong with her mental state for most of Book 2. Yes, she’s Not Aang. But having “met” Korra without the weight of Aang’s shadow, I saw her as an engaging, entertaining, likable, and believable 17-year-old girl. She wants to do the right thing and solve all the problems of the world even though she doesn’t always know how. She wants to excel at her calling even though she doesn’t always have the patience to learn the skills that don’t come naturally to her and polish the ones that do. She does excel at bending and fighting and has since she was a toddler. Her arrogance and brashness hint at years of knowing very few people skilled enough to teach her. Once she knows what she wants, she goes after it right away. She has a joy and enthusiasm that you don’t see in a lot of contemporary YA heroines. She is fire. She is earth. She is water. At last, she is air.

She’s the Avatar, and you gotta deal with it!

Image via deviantART user and illustration goddess alicexz

In The Name Of The Moon, I Shall Punish You!

I’ve been watching Sailor Moon on Hulu for the last few weeks. I didn’t get into this franchise until I was an adult, but it’s still nostalgic to me in a way because it’s such a blatant celebration of female adolescence. Usagi Tsukino is the personification of the 14-year-old psyche. All the ups and downs, the joys and tears, the insecurity and the arrogance, are worn boldly on her sailor suit sleeve.

And for most of the first series, at least, Usagi’s main role as Sailor Moon is the defender of female adolescence. She fights demons who prey on typical teenage desires like finding love, shopping for beautiful jewelry, having a cute cuddly pet to play with, slimming down and toning up at the gym, becoming famous, and getting perfect grades to get into a top university.

My favorite thing about these battles? Sailor Moon never blames the victims.

She always puts the blame exactly where it belongs: on the evildoers who exploit these completely normal desires. You won’t hear her chastising girls for caring about their appearance, daydreaming about boys, or chasing fame and fortune. She unequivocally tells THE VILLAINS that they’re in the wrong for creating a world where it’s unsafe for young girls to pursue these desires.

“In the name of the moon, I shall punish you!” (Image via Wikipedia)

Then she brings the beatdown even though she’s so clueless about fighting that she needs a talking cat to walk her through every step. And a masked man in a tuxedo to create a distraction by throwing a ninja star rose and pithy one-liner. I don’t even mind it when Usagi can’t win her fights without a male character’s help, because Tuxedo Mask’s snarky interruptions still emphatically affirm Sailor Moon’s message. That, if the world isn’t safe for teenage girls, it’s not teenage girls’ fault. That youth isn’t a weakness. That femininity isn’t a weakness. That heroism sometimes throws roses and wears an opera cape.

Or maybe even a pretty sailor suit.

Want to watch Sailor Moon with some awesome nerds and (internet connection permitting) me? Join #SailorMoonLiveTweet hosted by @BlackGirlGeeks at 7pm/6pm Central on Mondays!