Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Educating the Yorkshire girl.

I haven't written anything on here for a while. Third year of University has had me swamped with guilt; every spare moment was spent doing my dissertation or thinking 'Oh god, I should not be doing this, I should be sat at my laptop doing my dissertation'. However, it's all over now. Last Thursday, I finished University and education forever. I try not to make my posts too self-centred, but I think this one deserves to be.

My University experience was a really, really strange one. If asked whether it was a positive or negative experience, I honestly don't know how I'd reply. On a personal level, I've changed enormously over the past three years. The experiences I've gone through have made me a more well-rounded and stronger person, as well as much less naive. 

I chose to study Media Studies for the same reason a lot of people choose their Uni course: it was the only thing I was a good at in Sixth Form. Music and Drama had always been my favourite and best subjects, but the written exams completely threw me at A-Level and I did spectacularly bad. Pretty much everybody that doesn’t study it knocks Media Studies; however, I honestly believe that it’s one of the most important subjects to study. We live in a world that is completely enthralled by various forms of media; music, film and television is more accessible than it ever has been, and web 2.0 has completely changed the way we produce and consume all different forms of media.

Many of us, myself included, define ourselves by the popular culture that we love. I am the person that loves Springsteen, football and Cheryl Cole; my friend is the person who loves Robbie Williams, Marvel films and The Golden Girls. Media and culture changes our lives and shapes our personalities, yet so many deem it ‘not a proper subject’ or ‘not important enough to study’. It is a proper subject, and it is hugely important.

Like I said, University was tough on a personal level, but there have been some huge positives. I met some incredible people from all over the country whilst at Uni. Outside of Uni, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of my best friends, who make a shit job ridiculously fun week in week out. I hate those clichés that often appear on Instagram about people coming in and out of your life and shit, but the last three years have made me realise that a lot of them are relatively true. People that you trust can let you down and turn out to be arseholes, but the good people outweigh the bad people. Now, I have the best people in my life. The type of people who can throw green alcohol up my kitchen wall and I couldn't care less because they are the most supportive and best friend I could wish for (hello Chaz pet).

When I started University, I never wanted to leave Leeds and needed support from one person in order to feel OK. I don’t now. I’m a gobshite feminist that’s about to spend three months living in another country and intent on working in the male-dominated world of football. I have never been so happy in all my 21 years of life.

'Education is an important key, but the good life's never won by degrees.'

Monday, 25 November 2013

The End

I feel that I am coming to the end of a relationship which I have been in for a long time. I feel sad and angry because it is through no fault of my own that this has happened. It's out of my control.

Today was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It was a day for us to reflect; to show support for the 1 in 3 women who will be assaulted by a partner. It was a day which made me realise how embarrassed and ashamed I am to be a Sheffield United fan.

Two months ago, Sheffield United signed repeat woman beater Marlon King. There is no point in me going into depth about what King has done and why I loathe him so much, because I am sure that anyone reading this is well aware of my feelings. At first I vowed to stay away from the club, and then I thought, why the hell should I? Why should another woman miss out on something they love because of Marlon King being a violent thug? I've been to Bramall Lane twice since we signed Marlon King. Both times felt empty. Empty and soulless; that is the only way I can describe it. As I sat fixated on the Quick Quid advertising boards that have been plastered around the stadium, I felt nothing. Two months later, another Sheffield United player was charged with assault against a woman. When complaining to the club about King, myself and others were promised that he was sorry and he would be using his past to educate younger people to not make the same mistakes he did. Today, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, United haven't said a word. Not one peep. Something has gone in my relationship with United, and I really don't think I can get it back. I have a ticket for tomorrows game, and I've never wanted to go to a football match less in my life. The thought of never going again and missing the time I used to enjoy so much with my wonderful doting Dad truly breaks my heart. It's the last straw; the last chance to get whatever is missing back. I don't have high hopes.

All hope wasn't lost today, though. 1120 miles away, in the Catalonian capital, IDEVAW was recgonised. It may have only been through Twitter, but it was enough to give me the feeling of pride that I used to feel about my English football club.

I'm sure that I'll be branded a glory supporter that has abandoned my struggling League One team for the most successful team of the past 5 years. But honestly, I am absolutely fine with that. I'll sleep perfectly well at night knowing that my full support is going to a group of men who believe that me and my fellow lasses are 'the most important thing in the world', rather than worthless punch bags.

Thanks for reading.

Fellow Blade and Sky Sports News presenter Charlie Webster is running 250 miles in 7 days in support of Women's Aid, the domestic violence charity. It's a truly incredible thing that she is doing, and you can sponsor her here: http://www.justgiving.com/charliesbigchallenge

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Benefits Britain

It must be quite obvious that I don't have much of a life at the moment, seeing as all I write about is telly. Apologies. Here we go again.

In recent months, the UK benefits system has been in the media spotlight arguably more than it ever has been. Much of this has to do with prime-time television programmes about people on benefits such as Skint (Channel 4) and We All Pay Your Benefits (BBC One).

When talking about things like benefits and the class system, I always think it's important to talk about your own experience of benefits and wealth, because our opinions on these things often stem from our own background and experiences. Margaret Mountford and the BBC obviously disagree with me here, but fuck 'em.

Firstly: I don't know as much about politics as some people do. However, I do like to think I'm reasonably balanced in my opinions. I've been on this planet for 20 years, 8 months and 25 days. I live in a small town on the outskirts of Leeds. We were going to move to Wakefield until our house came onto the market, and we moved into this house because it was the cheapest house in the area. I've never lived in another house. My Dad is from Tinsley in Sheffield and my Mum is from Wetherby. The rest of my family are from inner-city Sheffield and inner-city Newcastle. Neither of my parents went to University; my Dad trained to be an electrician and worked in factories in Sheffield and my Mum went to art college to do textiles. When I was young, we didn't have very much money, and now we're relatively well-off because my Dad set up his own company in 2004 and after a few years and a shitload of hard work it started doing quite well. We used to have a Fiesta that leaked rain on to your head and now we've got two nice cars and a very dented 7 year old VW Golf (you'll never guess which is mine...)

I've never been on benefits and neither have my parents. I consider myself extremely lucky. Where I live, there are a lot of people who are on benefits and there are a lot of people who are quite rich. I've got friends in both of these categories. Some of my friends eat steak twice a week and some of my friends fill their cupboards with Tesco Economy custard creams. I love them all equally because they're all fantastic, wonderful people. Anyway, I'm getting further and further from the point.

The people that I know who are on benefits aren't reflected in programmes like Skint and We All Pay Your Benefits. We don't see the people who work their backsides off night and day to try and make ends meet but still can't due to disgustingly poor wages. We don't see the single mothers with disabled children who rely on the extra support from the benefits system in order to provide the care that their child needs. We don't see the people who work 12 hours a day in Subway and earn £2.60 an hour because they're classed as an 'apprentice sandwich artist'. What we see is the minority of fuckwits who can't be arsed to work, but they are portrayed as the majority when they are far, far from it.

It's easy to attack the poor because they can't defend themselves. They can't bring in big solicitors and attack the media. The poor are the only people who are truly affected by the government; the rich can feed their family under any government, but the poor can't.

What I find most bizarre about these TV programmes is some of the people that watch them. I can understand that it must be frustrating to see that a person on benefits has more money than you do when you work either full or part time, but some people actually want to see these people have absolutely nothing. These tend to be the people that live a comfortable life and have never experienced being on benefits. They sit in their comfortable arm chair with the heating on, pointing at the telly with their fork shouting "Look at this woman here! She's got a telly and a dog and a sofa has this fucking scrounger!"

What if she had that dog before she was unemployed and relied on benefits? What if she put away three pounds a week for four years in order to buy that telly?

People want to watch people suffering. It's exactly the same as the shit auditions on The X Factor; people like to watch others fail because it makes them feel that tiny bit better about their own shitty little lives. This isn't an X Factor audition though; this is real life and people need the welfare state in order to be alive. If you're really that against the benefits system, go out and meet real people on benefits and then make your decision. Don't get brainwashed by crappy propaganda television.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Ten years of The O.C.

A few weeks ago, whilst trying to find something to write about during football's summer break, I wrote about TV and how I felt that many of today's most popular programmes lack character depth (ooh, get me). In that post I talked about some of my favourite characters from my favourite TV programmes, and of course I had to mention my favourite programme of all time: The O.C.

The O.C. celebrated its 10th anniversary on 5th August. It's crazy to think that it's been that long since the very first time we had 'CaaaaalifOOOORRRNIIIIAAAAA, here we COOOOOMMMME' belting out of our television sets; however, what's even crazier is how much The O.C. has shaped TV today.

Now, you may be familiar with this already, but after The O.C. was launched and was immediately a hit, MTV decided to launch a reality series which they presented as 'The Real O.C.'. This was of course 'Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County', a reality series (well, ish) which followed the lives of real wealthy teenagers living in Orange County. One of the show's main cast members, Lauren Conrad, then went on to have her own reality show, 'The Hills'. The Hills was enormously successful for five years, and influenced some of the biggest programmes on television today, such as Jersey Shore, The Only Way Is Essex and Made In Chelsea. So in a strange way, we have The O.C. to thank for these utterly bizarre reality-but-not-actually-very-real-whatsoever programmes that have dominated our television screens for the past few years.

The strange thing about all this is that The O.C. couldn't be any more different to the likes of TOWIE and The Hills; even its rival teen soap One Tree Hill is completely incomparable. On paper, The O.C. should have been absolutely terrible. It wasn't though; it was excitingly unique and truly fantastic, and that's all down to its creator: Josh Schwartz.

The first and most important thing that Schwartz did so well was the creation of the characters. American teen film and television tends to fit to one overused, dull formula. There's the beautiful all-american girl, the 'jock' (what does that even mean?) and there's the nerd/dork/geek. Despite there still being elements of these stereotypes within the characters in The O.C., the personalities that Schwartz created were like nothing that American television had ever really seen before.

First of all, Seth Cohen. Beloved, wonderful Seth Cohen. The first thing that hit me about Seth was how could he possibly be the 'geeky' character when he is arguably the most attractive man on planet earth? But the thing which I love so much about Seth and think is so clever is the way in which he's an outcast. He isn't an outcast because he looks weird or because he's horrible, he's an outcast because of how far he is from any other teenage boy on American TV. The way in which his character is outcast from his peers is the same way all his hobbies, tastes in pop culture and funny little quirks are outcast from American TV. Unlike One Tree Hill's Lucas Scott, who is apparently a weirdo because occasionally he mentions that he likes Shakespeare, Schwartz pushes Seth's quirks to the boundaries. Seth is a witty, socially awkward teenager who thrives off drawing and listening to Modest Mouse, all whilst talking to a plastic horse. He's a full on weirdo, just like so many of us are. A beautiful little weirdo. The fact that Josh Schwartz created a character like Seth rather than the stereotypical 'looks and dresses a bit weird and is a member of Mensa' geek character speaks volumes about how fantastic he is at character development.

Seth's on-off girlfriend who eventually becomes Mrs. Cohen, Summer Roberts, is my favourite TV character of all time. She's a little ball of rage, and in that sense she reminds me a bit of myself (but maybe that's just because I really want to be her...). For the first few episodes, Summer comes across as the usual all-American cheerleader, except less blonde. However, Summer's character develops - perhaps even blossoms - and like Seth, we see her strange little habits which would never usually be explored on an American teen soap. I think my favourite thing about Summer is her quick wit. She's by far the funniest character on the show; a role which isn't often given to females in TV. Every time you want to throw something at the telly because Marissa is being SO FUCKING ANNOYING (which is a lot), Summer will always say something unintentionally funny to calm you down.

Now, I could sit here all night and talk about why every character in The O.C. is great, but I don't really have the time, and to be honest I doubt anyone's actually reading this anyway. However, there is one more character who is truly irreplaceable, and without him, The O.C. would never have reached the godlike status that it has done.

Of course, it's Sandy Cohen.

No matter how much you love your own Dad, every time you watch The O.C., you kind of resent him a little bit for not being Sandy Cohen. I can't even begin to count the amount of times I've laid on my bed in a total mess, wishing there was a Sandy Cohen in my life to sort me out. The world would be a much, much better place if we all had a Sandy to give us a bagel and a good talking to every time we fuck up. One of my favourite things about Sandy is that he reminds me of a northern English man. He's a gobby lefty and proud of it, he secretly loves California but pretends he hates it 'cos that's what New Yorkers do, and you'll never hear him utter a word of bullshit. He definitely has an ounce or two of Yorkshire in him does Sandy Cohen. Despite him being a forty-odd year old public defender, Sandy's wit and irresistible charm makes him just as popular to teenage viewers as the teenage characters do.

As much as every character on The O.C. is fantastic, the programme would never have taken off the way it did without these three characters, and without the fantastic depth and unique characteristics which Schwartz established them with. There are of course so many other reasons that The O.C. was so brilliant; one of the main reasons of course being The O.C.'s mock show within the show, 'The Valley'. Schwartz used 'The Valley' to subtly portray the things which were happening in the real world, for example the creation of 'Laguna Beach: The Real OC':

Seth: They're showing a marathon of 'Sherman Oaks: The Real Valley'.
Ryan: What's that?
Seth: Hm, apparently 'The Valley' has got its own reality show knock-off. And, you know, why watch the angst of fictional characters when you can watch real people in contrived situations?

and also in reference to Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson's real-life break-up:

Summer: Oh my god! Real life Jake and April broke up!

There are so many things about The O.C. which made it stand out from the crowd. It may have been ten years since the first episode, but its stood the test of time and probably will for the next ten years, if not more. Despite many efforts, nothing has ever quite lived up to it, and I doubt it ever will. 

Monday, 29 July 2013

The boy lays still,
Only 11 years old.
Your knees start to shake,
Your forehead is cold.
You tap tap tap,
Nine nine nine,
No voice to greet you,
A dull, dead line.

Back at home,
Your father arrives.
Click goes the lock,
Of the Audi he drives.
Overly stuffed wallet,
The tax he forgot to pay,
To his off shore account,
For another rainy day.

Just thought about yourselves,
'Cos it's fine for you.
Food, water, shelter,
Cars and ponies too.
Still the boy lays,
Half dead like prey.
Much less important,
Than your rainy day.

Your selfish views,
Your twisted ways,
Leave him there,
Maybe for days.
You voted for cuts,
That would kill the poor,
Here's one in front of you,
Half dead on the floor.

This boy doesn't matter,
You hear Grandma say.
In this house here,
We'll all be ok.
No NHS needed,
Bupa will save us.
This dying poor boy doesn't matter,
So what's with all the fuss?

Monday, 8 July 2013

Girls On TV

I love telly.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I arrange most of my life around the telly. I watch four soap operas; two daily, and two that are shown on alternate days. This perhaps portrays me as a dullard, but I couldn't be any further from arsed. I am at my happiest when I read a spoiler which will have me clock-watching for a week, waiting and waiting until the day that finally, after two long years, Mark Brennan will be back in my life. I love watching relationships unfold, I love getting angry about things the writers haven't thought about (Tonight: "David, Kylie, Gail, Nick and Leanne are ALL in the Bistro! WHO is looking after Max?! WHO?!") and I love the ridiculous, yet often beautifully prominent storylines.

After many a failed attempt at getting into critically acclaimed shows such as Mad Men, The Wire and The Sopranos, I always return to the soap opera. Soap opera is the mistress that just keeps on draggin' me back in, no matter how many times I tell her to put her pants on and go home, please.

Although mainstream television has positively addressed issues with sexuality, discrimination and hate crime, there still seems to be one thing it seriously lacks: personality diversity. Everyone is just so dull. We are a country which celebrates art culture perhaps more than any other country on the planet, yet none of this is reflected on prime-time television soap operas. There are no female TV characters that I get excited about anymore; not like previously, where television has created some of the most interesting females of our generation.

Since the age of seven, I have been in love with Zack Morris. From the moment we could afford digital television, he has had my heart and will forever more. However, the flame I will forever hold for Zack Morris will always be beaten by my undying love and admiration for my Queen: Jessica Myrtle Spano.

Jessie Spano is everything I wish to be in life. She's intelligent, she's beautiful, and most of all, she's an angry feminist. She points out the everyday sexism that is usually so celebrated in teenage television, she consistently discusses the womens' rights movement, and she refused to take Slater's surname in the school's mock-marriage project. And she does all this whilst still enjoying fashion and sports (like all feminists do, it's just the rest of the world thinks we don't.) She is the dream. And the best thing about her is that she isn't perfect, because no feminist is. Television writers and producers are scared of introducing feminism to mainstream TV due to fear of backlash from the poisonous lad culture that is slowly decaying our society; but for crying out loud, Saved By The Bell was one of the most successful teen-programmes of all time. Feminism can work on TV and it fucking well should. We need another Jessie Spano on TV to educate and remold the real-life AC Slaters of the 21st century.

But like I said, it's not just the lack of feminism on TV, it's the lack of any personality whatsoever. There's no quirks that will make you fall in love with a character; there's no girls that suffer from rage blackouts and talk to plastic horses like Summer Roberts. It's either geek or chic; there's no in between, no substance. It's boring. Because after all, the TV characters that stand the test of time are the ones that have depth. Sometimes, I want to know what type of music Abbie Branning likes, or I want to know what British-Indian shop owner Dev Alahan thinks of the Tory government. I mean, what's David Cameron going to do, sue Coronation Street? These soap operas are supposed to be portraying the lives of working class people, so shouldn't the storylines reflect the real social struggles of the working class rather than leaving it to the likes of Channel 4's propaganda nonsense, Skint?

Of course, there are more important things going on in our country. But when we all spend 4 hours a day in front of the telly, how can anyone suggest the things that we watch don't affect our everyday lives? In fifteen years time, I just want to be able to say "I have been in love with *insert character name* since I was 20", the same way that I am with Zack Morris today. Well, not in exactly the same way. Like I said, I'll never love anyone as much as I love Zack Morris.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

End of an era, you say?

We are coming to the end of an era in football. In English football, we are seeing the last signs of loyalty slowly but surely dry out; Ryan Giggs perhaps being the last of the 'one-club men'. Ok, so perhaps only ever playing for one club isn't the only sign of loyalty in a football player, but it is something we hardly see in English football these days. Players would rather go to bigger clubs with more money and more glory; and let's be honest, who can blame them?

FC Barcelona are very different to any other football club, particularly any English football club. Many mock the mes que un club motto, but I really do believe that they are more than a club. Of course, many of the players who progressed through La Masia have stayed at Barcelona because they are one of the biggest and best clubs in European football; but there's something that makes FC Barcelona different to the likes of Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

In tonight's game against Bayern Munich, seven players out of Barcelona's starting eleven have played for the club since age sixteen and under. This is a group of players who have not only grown together as football players, but grown together as people. They are best friends, and they are a family. It doesn't take an expert to look at this group of players and see that the passion and commitment that they hold is something truly special and cannot be bought. Over the past five years, we have seen Pep Guardiola shape FC Barcelona into an outstanding organisation. Under Pep, you could win the battle, but Barca would always win the war. I don't believe that passion can win you a football game, but I do believe that combined with individual skill and Guardiola's tactics, passion and love for the club is what made Barcelona the indestructible force they have been for the past five years. But I also believe that is what has been their downfall over the past couple of months.

Pep Guardiola's departure left a huge hole in the heart of FC Barcelona. Many will never understand how he could leave the club he had made so special as both a player and a manager, and the club he had adored since being a young boy. It will be interesting to see what Pep does with Bayern Munich, but will he ever really care for them as much as he did for Barcelona? I'm not so sure.

I think that Pep's departure really did break the players hearts, and it took them a long time to get used to not constantly having him there not only as a manager, but as a friend. But of course, they hadn't totally lost Pep's tactics and passion completely, because his successor was his former assistant Tito Vilanova. I think that Tito was the best man for the job, but I also think that he is (through absolutely no reason of his own) part of the reason Barca have been so, well... off, recently.

On 19th December 2012, news broke to the media that Tito Vilanova had suffered a cancer relapse, and was to undergo surgery the very next day. This came just nine months after Barcelona defender Eric Abidal had to undergo surgery for a tumour relapse in his liver. I think this is what has struck FC Barcelona the hardest over the past few months; they have had to continue to play football whilst knowing that two of the closest members of the Barcelona family have been dealing with perhaps the most horrific thing a person can deal with. Losing a manager and a key player will always dampen a football team's spirit and often their performance on the field, but to lose them in this way must have been extremely difficult to deal with. And of course, all this happened only months after they had lost the most decorated manager in FC Barcelona's history.

It's not just these off-pitch issues that have affected Barcelona's performances recently; I think the lack of Carles Puyol has really affected the team, particularly Gerard Pique, who hasn't seemed to play as well when paired with any other player. Barca aren't a one man team and they can perform without their Argentinian wizard, but against a side as resilient and organised as Bayern Munich, of course they were going to miss him (note: It has just been stated by Vilanova in the post-match press conference that Messi was "not injured, but was not 100% and felt he could pick up an injury").

This year has been a long and bumpy road for FC Barcelona, but I don't think it's the end of an era. Messi is still surpassing records practically by the day, they're still comfortably at the top of La Liga, and Dani Alves is still sporting ridiculous clothes and hair-dos. It isn't the end of an era; in fact it is far, far from it.