Summer Foreign Flicks.

For the past year, I’ve been seeing someone who is big into watching foreign films. It started with French New Wave and has expanded into much more, and I am lucky enough to have him share this with me. Some of the films (I like to call them “films” as opposed to “movies.” Sounds more artistic) are a bit difficult to get through but they each leave you feeling something afterward, which is what good art must do.

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L’Avventura (1960), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

This is the first of three films by Antonioni, starring Monica Vitti. The film begins on a yacht where a group of wealthy Italian couples is sailing to a small, deserted island. The focus in the beginning is on the character of Anna, a snobbish rich girl who is bored with her fiance, but it is Vitti’s character that steals the show. After Anna disappears from the island, her best friend Claudia and her fiance Sandro search across Italy to find her, only realizing that they are attracted to each other instead. The film is shot across beautiful and desolate expanses in Italy and Antonioni shows viewers how the life of the rich is full of so much boredom that they try to excite themselves with physical attraction only to be bored again.

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Frances Ha (2012), directed by Michael Baumbach

While this isn’t a foreign film, it definitely doesn’t have the typical storyline of a Hollywood hit. The title character, Frances (Greta Gerwig), struggles to find her place in life as she reaches almost thirty with a dying career in dance. Her best friend Sophie has moved out and left her to find a way to live in expensive New York City. The film makes you fall in love with quirky and awkward Frances as she discovers herself and finally finds a place of her own.

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Blue is the warmest color (2013), directed by Abdekkatif Kechiche

Like most great French films, Blue is the Warmest Color is hailed for the intense lesbian sex scene that takes place multiple times in the film. However, this film is a beautiful look into friendship, sexuality, and coming-of-age. The story follows a young girl as she looks for sexual satisfaction, only to realize that they place to find it in a blue-haired artist that opens her world but also leaves her in the void. A wonderfully emotional film, with a stark look at two strong female leads.

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L’Astrangale (2015), directed by Brigitte Sy

Based on the real-life biography of Albertine Sarrazin, L’Astrangale starts out with a woman who escapes from prison by jumping off a wall only to be rescued by Julien (Reda Kateb). The movie recounts the romance between Sarrazin and Julien as well as Sarrazin’s background as a prostitute, bisexual lover, prisoner, and poet. The film is shot in black and white and has very distinct moments of film noir, which demonstrate emotion and art in biography.

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Betty Blue (1986), directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix

Fucking crazy. That’s the only way I can describe the title character, Betty. However, for all her wild arson and stabbings, the viewers come to sympathize with this misunderstood woman. As her lover follows her through wild adventures and emotional episodes, we fall more for this character and her wild ways. The film is a look at the emotions that both form and bruise relationships and the helplessness we can feel when someone is mentally suffering.

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Now Voyager (1942), directed by Irving Rapper

Also not a foreign film, but still a great flick to watch. The movie stars Bette Davis as Boston heiress Charlotte Vale– a woman trapped into depression and anxiety by her over-protective mother. The movie seems to be three movies in one as we watch Charlotte go from a psychiatric ward to a cruise and then back home. During her adventures she falls in love with Jerry (Paul Henreid) and ends up taking care of his young daughter, who reminds her a lot of herself. The film shows the transformation of a woman as she realizes her own bravery.

 

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High Maintenance.

An HBO series about weed and the people who smoke it.

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Usually, a show that doesn’t have a recurring set of characters, or studly title character doesn’t hit much with me in terms of exciting watch. I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that I love shows pumped with action and dramatic romance. But the new HBO show High Maintenance, is one that has a darkly funny undertone while touching viewer’s emotions.

The premise of the show is that is looks at the different clients of low-budget weed dealer (only known as “The Guy”) and their lives in turn. Each episode looks at one or two new people and analyzes the lives that the weed guy grazes. As he bicycles around New York to each client, we learn about their failing marriages, their beloved pets, or their father’s new passion for day raving.

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The main character of the show, simply known as “The Guy,” rides around New York City on his bike, delivering to his diverse weed clientele. 

Each episode is something new and shows viewers how people who buy weed aren’t stereotypical drug addicts and anarchists. Rather, they are people who just want to relax and have a little smoke. The show provides a deep look at the folds of culture and how this one plant can touch so many different corners. It helps to open up a dialogue on the seriousness of the drug, which is relevant to recent political and social arguments. In one episode, an older asian man confronts his neighbor, accusing him of bringing weed into the building and influencing his college-aged niece. To which, the neighbor looks at the baggy of bud in his hand and says, “Drugs? That’s just weed.” And slams the door.

This show isn’t some kind of stoner flick to be taken lightly, however.

The show was created by Ben Sinclair and his wife Katja Blitchfield four years ago, originally running on Vimeo before changing to the much larger network of HBO. On Vimeo, High Maintenance was a much shorter show that pounded into the homes of its subjects with quick takes and emotional subtlety. Switching to a longer-run of 30 minutes would scare most writers, but Sinclair and Blitchfield were able to write humanity and humor in conjunction with fluidity.

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Bin Sinclair and his wife Katja Blitchfield started the show together on Vimeo four years ago. Now that it airs on HBO, the length of episodes are longer but the couple steps up to the challenge and retains the dark humor that made High Maintenance a cult hit.

It can easily be labeled as an underground cult comedy, but it has so much more to it than simple humor. While the jokes are self-aware, the writing is compassionate and precise. Each character sticks with the audience even are we are three shows down the queue and onto the next storyline.

If you like this try: Master of None on Netflix

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Social Comparison.

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i120319marvinUniversities never really prepare you for postgraduate life. The shows you watch, the movies you listen to, all of it just tells you these false ideas of what it means to graduate from college and go into a low-paying job in order to work your life away. But, these are age-old complaints. Nothing out of the ordinary, just another millennial complaining about hard work.

But what if that is the point, what if all this complaining from the millennial generation is really demonstrating that life is not about hard work? There has to be a reason our parents slaved away at jobs they hated in order for us to have a better life. Now that it is here, we complain about the way things are and how hard our daily schedules of work and online shopping are. These lifestyles makes this particular generation ripe for criticism compared to the struggles that other generations have had to face. What is not being considered, however, is the idea that the generational struggles are vastly different.

For most of the people ages 20-30, the household was one with about three children, divorced parents and a television set in each room. There wasn’t any starvation, children didn’t have to work in factories, and so on. But this environment did create one thing: the complex concept of “enough.” This is a generation who were raised by parents constantly working for more, always trying to buy more, do more, be more. That has produced a complex society in which the feet are always twitching, the mind always going.

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In the third season of the show Black Mirror, an episode covered the underbelly of social media with a projection of how it will impact our society in the future.

Take this psychological atmosphere and mix in a heavy dose of internet. Not just access to online dictionaries and other research tools that have created an intellectual boom, but constant bombardment of other people comparing themselves to you. The idea of social media was originally fun and something to do for thirty minutes a day. Now, however, it consumes the millennial brain and places people in mindset that is made to fail. If we are forever comparing ourselves to others, we are never finding any real sense of self-worth. Not like our parents had. For the most part, there was only comparing yourself to yourself. You don’t want to live like you did when you were growing up so you work hard, make some money, make your life better. Or at least better than what your life would’ve been before.

For millennials, it isn’t so easy. There is the constant comparison at the fingertips that reminds you over and over again that you are not good enough. Sure, you are making more money than you did a few years ago, maybe you have traveled a little, picked up a few hobbies, but that isn’t enough. Not when @Sammmyybeee on Instagram is posting photos at a new location every week, displaying the company she started, and showing off how great her post-baby bod looks. Now, you are forced to realize that it isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to be better than you were, you have to be better than the others too.

Not only are we using comparison to understand our own status in society, we are using it as the only determinate of self-worth.

Human nature has been like this for a long time, we have been competing with one another for psychological gain for as long as humans had complex thoughts. Researcher Lynn E. O’Connor found that “the ability to make social comparisons provides information about our status and similarity to others. The importance of status and ranking has been viewed largely from the perspective of wanting to win in social competition, maintain or increase their status, and/or avoid losing status rendered subordinate or rejected.” This means that we are using comparisons to others in order to provide status symbols and acceptance. However, with the structure of society today it seems as if the newest generation to enter the workforce has the ability to take this to a more extreme level.

Not only are we using comparison to understand our own status in society, we are using it as the only determinate of self-worth. This concept is accelerated with the advent of social media and we can’t help but let it impact us on a daily basis. Day in and day out, we are just thrown against a wall of comparison, which downgrades our ability to love and be loved in return. This affects our personal relationships and relationships with ourselves directly. Not only are we looking to find the best partner in order to compare to other sets of partners, but we are second-guessing ourselves with these partners because we have access to so many different options. This comparison makes us views our friends, lovers, and family as less-than, which also causes us to reflect poorly on ourselves. Comparisons is hindering our ability to see what is good enough for us, and only focus on what another person has. While this has been a pitfall of society for ages, it is becoming particularly prominent as social media and values change.  

Aziz Ansari once said in his book Modern Romance, “We have two selves: a real-world self and a phone self, and the nonsense our phone selves do can make our real-world selves look like idiots. Our real-world selves and our phone selves go hand in hand.” When I read this, I realized how true it was. I thought about how often I see pictures of friends doing so many awesome things, traveling to so many cool places, and I become depressed because my life isn’t like that. But then, I look at my own profiles and I only see photos of me doing cool and exciting things. I don’t post day-to-day activities because why would I? Why would I want to share with everyone how bored I am, my daily battle with depression, or my struggle with weight gain? The purpose of social media is to show off the good things, no one wants to show how shitty their life is because then our status goes down in comparison with others.

Jane went to the Bahamas to prance around with her hot post-baby body? Well, I better post a photo of me at the pool looking good too. But wait…I don’t have that. I haven’t been to the pool yet because I’ve been working and feel insecure about my body. But now I feel even worse because Jane is able to display her beauty and cool life and I can’t. Jane however, looks at the photo and sees the days without eating breakfast and lunch, the postpartum depression, or the nights of fights she got into with her husband on the trip. People aren’t going to share the bad things behind their posts, they only want to see the good. But this affects us negatively because we think that it is possible for people to have only good in their life.

The false reality created by social media is creating a society of even greater comparison, and the newest generations will always be reminded that they are not enough.

Current music: Love is by Dude York.

Wonder Woman: The anti-female.

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The female superhero movie that displays anti-feminist undertones. 

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Superhero movies usually get a bad rap for being overly dramatic, far too long, and cheesy. However, the new Wonder Woman film was getting a lot of hype in the media for being none of those things and having a strong female lead (as opposed to the damsel in distress that moviegoers are used to). Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see the closest thing to a feminist superhero.

Wonder Woman is not, though, the woman to look up to. At least not in the way she is portrayed in this film. The movie begins with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), (AKA Diana, AKA daughter of Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons) as a young girl who is pining to train with the other female warriors. She sneaks around behind her mother’s back and trains throughout her youth, eventually becoming the best warrior on the paradise island filled with beautiful Amazon women.

However, it is not until Steve (Chris Pine) enters the scene that the story really picks up. Steve somehow blunders into the Amazon world by crashing his plane into the ocean and having Diana rescue him. Then, it is the Germans that storm the Amazonian beach, blindly killing everything in front of them as Germans are known to do, I guess.

The Amazon women come out victorious in the end and eventually pull the story of WWI out of Steve, which Diana hears and immediately feels the need to run off and save the human race.

But, let’s just back up a second. Diana and the women of the Amazon world are totally fine, living their own lives, doing their own thing, and then a man enters the scene and fucks it all up. It is a man that brings Diana to her true purpose, and it is a man that really begins her story or any reason of why we should care about her.

Also, from the moment Diana drags the soaking Steve onto the beach and looks him in the eyes (very similar to The Little Mermaid, by the way) I just knew that this was the romantic subplot. Honestly, I had really been hoping that there wouldn’t be one. Why? Not because I’m a heartless wench who hates romantic love, but because it is entirely unnecessary.

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The way their romance is set up is very much reminiscent of Ferdinand and Ariel in The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Here is a woman who has never before seen a man, so of course the first one she encounters she will fall head over heels for. It is just like every other Hollywood film where we can’t put a man and a woman together and there not be a sexual plot. Because men and women will always want to just have sex with each other if left alone together, right? I think that this character would not have bothered me so much if Steve had simply been a friend or brotherly. But, no, of course not. Because in order for any story about a woman to be complete, she needs to fall in love with a man.

It is also irritating how dumb Diana is portrayed throughout the film, especially in moments of sexual innuendo. Yes, we get that she is not used to the customs of this world but she isn’t an idiot. The jokes range from asking about the average male penis size to not understanding why a man cannot sleep with a woman. Most of these take place in the first thirty minutes of the film, which really sets up the precedent that Diana is naive for the rest of the story. 

It is important to remember that just because the woman is the lead of the film, doesn’t mean the film stands for feminist values. 

Another aspect of this film is the historical context. The entire story takes place during WWI however by the end I couldn’t even remember how or why it took place then. Most of the scenes involving the war and other aspects of it make it seem as if this were WWII. Which, despite not learning much about it in public school, I am aware there is a big difference. I think that the creators really just got too carried away with the war-time feel and forgot which wartime they were in. For example, most of the outfits Diana wears once she is in London are very 1940’s, which is far different from the style women wore in the first World War. To a lot of people, this is not a significant factor of what makes a great film but I think it is important because as a general public, we need to realize the significance behind historical context.

Most people are raving about how Wonder Woman is the feminist superhero that we have all been waiting for, but I disagree. It is important to remember that just because the woman is the lead of the film, doesn’t mean the film stands for feminist values.

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Current music: Obvs by Jamie XX

Paper Girls.

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A story for the graphic novel virgin

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Typically, graphic novels are not the genre of reading that I lean towards. In fact, I don’t think I had ever read a graphic novel before reading Paper Girls this past week. But something about this one stood out to me.

When I was walking through Barnes and Noble I saw it sitting on an endcap and the girls on the cover just looked so bad-ass, punk, and ultra-cool. It was something that I stopped and stared at every time I passed until one day it disappeared from its usual spot. I found myself panicking because I realized how badly I actually wanted to read this. I had already  connected with it simply from the artwork on the cover. It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I was telling my partner about the incident that he said, “Wait— I think I know what you’re talking about because I always see it and think you would like it.” And then he walked right up to the bookshelf and pulled it out like it was meant for me.

Paper Girls comes from the same creator of the popular series Saga, Brian K. Vaughan. The story takes place in a 1980’s suburb and features four middle school students who have to fight off monsters in the wee hours of the morning while trying to deliver newspapers. Think Stranger Things, but with punk 12-year-old girls and more time travel. The four main girls represent very different types of female archetypes: one covering the tom-boy personality, another one the sporty girl, there’s the token diverse character, and then the main character represents the lonely, new girl persona.

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Paper Girls features strong female leads that represent various types of women.

While the story is written by men, the characters are depicted with a good representation of the female character, even if it is somewhat stereotypical at times. Writer Vaughn said that he enjoys writing females, but in other works has been confined in the characters he created with regards to gender. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times Vaughn said,

“Usually, there’s a token female or two, but to have a team be predominantly of women, the fact that it was a bit of a conversation to have even that. Now being at Image, where we could do anything we want. Here’s a great opportunity to do what I always wanted to do, just a group of females and not have to defend it or explain it, and just get to write them.”

However, as someone who was once a 12-year-old girl, I think that the story forgets to look at certain aspects of the female thought at this age. To prevent the stereotypical portrayal of women centered around men, there are almost no male roles in the story. I think that this takes something away from the characters because they are at a point in their lives where puberty, sexuality, and self-image are all large focal points of a young woman’s life.

In the story, the four friends have to fight off monsters and save each other in different situations, all of which they do with unprecedented confidence. The only character who seems to ever question themselves and their self-esteem is the main character, and she only does so because she is new the new kid, which is naturally uncomfortable. However, the other characters are written as tough and confident.

There is something to be said about setting a graphic novel in this era because it makes people who never even experienced the ‘80s…long for it.

These girls are great to look up to but they lack a realistic sense that comes from men writing female characters. While they are interesting to read about and represent a girl one of us know in some way, I’m hoping that as the series continues the writers are able to dig even deeper into the psyche of the 12-year old girl. Which, I’m aware, brings some hesitation to writers because persona of a tween girl is known to be, well, annoying.

However, realistically, this is untrue and this age group can create sensitive and in-depth characters that readers will love. While there are certain situations in which they are placed create a sense of emotional depth, (SPOILER: for example when one of the characters learns they die of cancer in the future), it seems as if these girls could demonstrate more internal dilemmas and complex emotions.

However, the artwork in the graphic novel is entirely stunning. Vaughn uses various outdoor scenes that are depicted with rich blues and purples. In fact, there are entire sections of the the work that are dedicated to experiments with these colors. In terms of application to the story, the art reflects the time period because the tones are reminiscent of a lot of other works that have appeared from that time.

The story brings the reader into a sense of nostalgia as we watch the four girls race across their town on bikes. Actually even the title, Paper Girls, immediately places us in a different time where the papers were delivered by youth and people actually read them. There is something to be said about setting a graphic novel in this era because it makes people who never even experienced the ‘80s, such as myself, long for it.

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Current Music: Obvs by Jamie XX

Marijuana Legalization.

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With the 2016 elections, multiple states throughout the country found themselves passing recreational marijuana. The legalization of this drug has slowing been growing within the past decade as organizations promote the benefits of weed in the media. There are mixed reviews on the issue, though, as citizens wait to see how the country will be changed.

“I think it is positive to see how people will react in such populated areas and with so many states,” said Roanoke College freshman, Haley Streeper. “It is just a good idea to see where our country is going in terms of this argument.”

The history of marijuana regulation first began in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act. The goal of this act was to regulate the drug instead of prohibiting them entirely in order to prevent greater legal issues. The law came on the cusp of the popular film in 1936, “Reefer Madness,” which instilled fear of Mexican involvement in the spreading of the drug.

Under President Nixon, the laws and regulation grew even stricter. Former President Nixon vehemently promoted the dangers of marijuana and placed the drug under the category of Schedule 1, which is the section of drugs that the government finds no medical uses and high instances of abuse. Also placed in the Schedule 1 category are LSD and heroin because Nixon thought marijuana to be on the same level of a destructive drug. However, Nixon’s own self-appointed investigative committee recommended in 1972 that marijuana be decriminalized because of its lack of danger but Nixon denied this report and promoted constricting regulation on research of the drug, which prevented scientists at the time to study in full the benefits of the drug.

It wasn’t until recently with the rise of the baby boom generation that the population has returned to the favor of medical and recreational marijuana. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws (NORML) has been promoting the many medical benefits in the media to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with the drug.

…it was found that even though alcohol had a significant impact on the drivers, marijuana did not

The millennial generation is the population that is really pushing for its decriminalization. Many younger citizens see the positive effects of the drug as far outweighing the negative.

“It mellows me out and I don’t find a lot of drama attached to is versus with alcohol,” said Kelvin Obioha. “The only downside is, of course, the illegal aspect. If it were legal it’d be much easier for everyone. I think more places should legalize it.”

One of the hesitations for passing the law was the lack of information on how weed impairs driving skills. A federal study was done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse recently that tested drivers’ skills who were high in comparison to those who were drunk. The study included 18 participants from the ages of 21 to 37 and placed them in a driving simulator. Each time, the participants were tested under different concentrations of the drug, alcohol, both, or none at all. In the simulation, researchers looked at the number of times the driver would weave within the lane, how many times the car would leave their lane, and the speed with which the cars were weaving.

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High Times is a popular magazine that covers all aspects of marijuana, from uses to the politics surrounding the drug.

From this study, it was found that even though alcohol had a significant impact on the drivers, marijuana did not. While the drug did display a slight increase in weaving, it was similar to the same amount as a driver with the legal limit, .08, breath alcohol concentration.

Another factor to consider in the study was that the THC level drops much faster than a person’s BAC which means that toward the end of their driving, the drug would be less influential on their skills. However, one area that the study found a deficiency in was peripheral vision. The effect of this, though, researchers said, was it caused the drivers to actually driver more cautiously because they were aware of the impairment as opposed to drivers under the influence of alcohol who don’t realize how significantly they are impaired and take greater risks.

Another positive that people have been promoting is the economic benefits of legalizing weed. Not only would the drug be helpful in a medical sense, but it would also give a boost to our economy.

It is predicted that the legalization of weed will result in all-around positive effects, but it will take time before the government can decide if changing the federal is worth the effort.

With the decriminalization, there would be a far lesser cost in incarceration expenses. The United States is the global leading country in incarceration of its citizens with the war on drugs being the leading cause. The amount of taxpayer money that goes into incarcerating drug-related criminals is detrimental to the economy, especially because forty-five percent of the criminals are incarcerated because of marijuana. It is estimated that the government would save around $13.7 billion annually with the decrease in weed-related incarcerations.

While it may seem difficult to track the sales of marijuana because of the ease with which sellers can grown the product in their home, there are ways in which the government can regulate and tax the sale of the drug.

One way is by requiring licenses and permits for all citizens who intend to produce, sell, or use the drug. In doing this, the government would see a huge profit estimated at around $26 million annually.

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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stands by the idea that legalizing marijuana would lead to a greater public abuse of the drug; however, studies show from the Netherlands who decriminalized the drug that the usage only spikes in the beginning of the process and then either evens out again or declines.

With the legalization of this drug, people fear that it is a gateway to other, more harmful drugs. However, a study done by the University of Pittsburgh took 12 years to research the gateway theory and found evidence contrary to its accuracy. The study looked at 214 boys over the 12-year span and found that quite the opposite was true for the majority. Instead of increased drug use, researchers found that over time, the boys either used less or stopped using substances entirely.

While the United States heads toward the path of looser marijuana laws, the general population is holding their breath to see the effects. It is predicted that the legalization of weed will result in all-around positive effects, but it will take time before the government can decide if changing the federal is worth the effort.

Current Music: Strange by Patsy Cline

 

College Culture: Drinking to Blackout.

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Alcohol and college life have been synonymous for as long as most people can remember. However, it seems that in recent years the amount of alcohol abuse and underage drinking has risen which in turn has created the “drinking to blackout” culture in which students now find themselves.

Eighty percent of college students drink with the intention of getting drunk, says federal health officials. The culture of drinking on campuses is no longer one of casual nights out, but drinking to the point where entire hours of an evening are missing. This abuse has started to cause concern for most university administrators but the real issue that they seem to be forgetting is why this type of behavior has spiked.

Nationally, the atmosphere at universities prevents students from knowing how to relax which is what leads them to binge-drinking as their outlet.

As a Senior, I have seen and had my share of a typical college night. When I first came to Roanoke College, I had never tasted anything but the occasional beer. After a semester in the college environment though, I was learning my way through the liquor shelves. However, my experience is hardly comparable to some of the binge drinking in which students participate.

One aspect that has led to the rise in excessive drinking is the art of the pregame. Before coming to college, I had never heard of this but it took less than a week for me to be introduced to the concept. A pregame is a smaller party before the party where friends get together, usually in someone’s room, to drink heavily so that they have enough alcohol in their system to keep them sufficiently drunk while out at night. These events make students far less aware of the amount of alcohol they’re actually consuming because it usually involves games such as Beer Pong or Slap Cup that are fun even when you’re losing. Students start to drink heavily during these games and continue to do so in order to keep playing. This prevents students from keeping an accurate count of their drinks or realizing the amount of time that is passing.

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Another prevalent aspect that has led to the intense binge drinking culture in college is the amount of stress students are under during school. Drinking is a way to easily separate play from work and the phrase “work hard, play hard” is exactly what students are doing. Nationally, the atmosphere at universities prevents students from knowing how to relax which is what leads them to binge-drinking as their outlet. Universities offer other, alternative events on campus but they often are not viewed as a way to unwind. Students have to participate in so many campus-sponsored activities already in order to have a competitive resume. Colleges aren’t teaching students a lesson that might be most valuable: how to relax. If this were more emphasized on campus, students could turn to alternatives to help them psychologically unwind.

This association is so prevalent in our society that students have started to view binge drinking and partying as a basic right. Without it, most students feel as if they aren’t having the full college experience.

However, administrators across the board don’t seem overly concerned with changing in policies to help with this issue. In fact, regulations are becoming lighter and college officials are turning a blind eye to the issue more and more often in hopes that something drastic, such as one of the 1,800 student deaths caused by alcohol annually.

Roanoke College, the school I attended, has its own personal take on the issue by requiring freshmen to take the Alcohol Edu course online. This is a system that is implemented by many universities, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Sites such as Alcohol Edu are designed to be interactive and engaging to teach students how to be safe while drinking, but most students see it as a joke and a waste of their time. What colleges forget is that 18-year-old Freshmen will do almost anything to fit into their new environment which often requires binge drinking. The culture isn’t going to change unless it is changed within the infrastructure of the student body. This means promoting alternative, non-school related, ways to relax with friends and have fun. Ultimately, the biggest thing universities are struggling with is changing the “cool” association that comes with binge drinking.

In the media, students are taught that college equates to drinking before they even step foot on a campus. This association is so prevalent in our society that students have started to view binge drinking and partying as a basic right. Without it, most students feel as if they aren’t having the full college experience.

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The important aspects in changing this culture is by creating an environment for students that draws a clear line between work and play. The overworked young adults that romp around campuses across the country need to be taught better ways to manage their stress and the difference between social drinking and binge drinking. Until college administrators can create this change, students will continue to enter an environment that promotes an atmosphere of psychological issues.

Current Music: Films by Gary Numan

Finstagram.

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“Finstagram,” more commonly known as “finsta,” stands for “fake Instagram,”–an up-and-coming social media trend that students across the Roanoke College campus are participating in.

Finsta is being used as a forum for people to express themselves to their friends, typically in a humorous way and that is why some Instagram users love the concept of finsta. It can be used to make fun of yourself, to share something exciting and bizarre, or simply any thoughts that come through your mind. For a lot of people, it is a way to post photos that would not be appropriate on a personal account where relatives and potential employers would see it.

These accounts give people the freedom for a more personal and honest, portrayal of themselves on social media that might not be widely accepted by those who view your personal account. A finsta makes it easy to share these photos with specific friends because typically the account name is not associated with the person’s real name, and so the only people who would know where to follow the account would be those who the person chooses.

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Many people use the fake Instagram accounts to post photos that would otherwise be inappropriate, such as drinking or doing illegal activities.

But with all of the positive aspects, the concept of finsta isn’t without controversy. It makes some people question the type of image a friend is trying to project on these accounts. In social media culture, users post photos of themselves under with the excuse of it being to simply share photos with their friends, but the reality has become that the photos people post are specifically chosen to represent who they are as a person. This means there are those who judge the finsta accounts and see it as a way to project yourself in an inappropriate manner and these people question the psychological reasoning behind the need for a finsta account.

Some people think those who use finsta use it as a ploy to get attention. With the rise of Instagram as the popular form of social media, and over ninety percent of teenagers in the United States having Instagram accounts, the younger generation is already using every moment of their life as some kind of Vogue photo shoot. An Instagram account has become work for the youth of our culture because this is where they learn how to create themselves and present their personality.

It takes a lot of skill to make sure something that important is done right. Finsta accounts help to relieve some of the stress associated with personal Instagram accounts because they allow users to post content, such as embarrassingly funny stories, in a more relaxed environment. With these accounts being a more free space of expression, finstas, in my opinion, bring a greater sense of credibility to this social media outlet because it is a closer projection of reality.

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Finsta users view this use of social media as a form of greater self-expression and argue that there is no harm in telling a story. Almost all finsta users keep their account private, meaning they only accept follow requests from certain people, typically their friends. It is a way to express feelings, thoughts, and experiences to a variety of people without having to explain the story numerous times.

I have a finsta myself and I find it to be a fun way to swap stories and share videos with other users.

If you are a closet funny person, I would suggest having a finsta. It will give people the laugh that they need to get through school or work, and what is better than making people laugh? End of story: 10/10 would recommend.

Current Music: Money by Leikeli47

Urban Outfitters: Ultimate Gentrification.

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Urban Outfitters is one of the predominant retailers that has become a focal point of millennial fashion. It provides the Instagram-worthy attire that the 17-25 year old age group is looking for. However, at what cost is the rise of Urban Outfitters? It seems as if the store really is taking vintage looks and artists’ styles, overpricing them and selling them to wealthy youth who don’t understand the meaning behind it all.

Just a few days ago I was talking to a friend and I asked her if she got her sweater from UO. Her response was that she bought it from a Goodwill for five dollars. Sure enough, though, when I looked at the website I found almost the exact same sweater for sale with a price nearly ten times what my friend bought it for at Good Will. In fact, most of what is sold at UO can be found in far cheaper realms of the market, from local producers, or places that have a history to their style and art.

The store represents the ultimate gentrification of apparel, home decor, and lifestyles. The company began in 1970 by two men, Richard Hayne and Scott Belair. It began as a project for Belair’s graduate program in business where the two developed an idea to sell inexpensive clothing and decor to college students. In actuality, while the store does maintain the original values, apparel, and decor for college-aged students, it has strayed far from being “inexpensive.”

UO customers aren’t buying clothes, they’re buying a lifestyle.

The mission statement for the website describes the company as a, “lifestyle retailer dedicated to inspiring customers through a unique combination of product, creativity and cultural understanding.” However, it doesn’t seem as if there is really any cultural understanding happening in their products. What the company is doing is taking parts of urban cultures and selling them to over-privileged youth who have no idea what these aspects mean to a person’s identity. UO customers aren’t buying clothes, they’re buying a lifestyle. It is almost as if these shoppers are dressing themselves in something that they’re not— they are disguising themselves in costumes of cultures they don’t belong to nor understand.

For example, the store recently came out with a Kent State sweatshirt that had red stains all over it that resembled blood. This is a reference to the 1970 Kent State shooting in which four students were killed. However, the company denied this coincidence but it seems that just hours after Twitter users complained about the product, it was labeled as “sold out” online. It is in situations like these where UO is taking parts of culture that they don’t understand, labeling it as “vintage” and selling it at a ridiculous margin. And UO groupies scoop it up because they believe the company to be the law of the land in millennial fashion. People look at UO to help define a style that doesn’t necessarily describe wealth and aristocracy, however requires large amounts of money to purchase so that there is still a status quo aspect to it.

 

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Urban Outfitters tried selling a Kent State sweatshirt with a red pattern similar to blood stains in reference to the 1970 Kent State shooting.

This has become more prevalent in our society as the upper-class styles are developing into stigmas of control and power. Whereas in previous decades, people would want to wear similar clothing to those in the 1%, now it has become popular to wear styles of the lower class as signs of resistance– whether or not the wearer actually understands the resistance being promoted.

The company prides itself on taking the opinions of its base-level employees, the sales representatives, and using their creativity and fashion to decide what to place in the store. However, these employees are part of a culture that has essentially gentrified most of the artistic culture.

What has happened is the fashion that is on their racks comes from people of the streets. People who work minimum wage jobs, sell their art for a fraction of what it’s worth, and wear clothes that are handed down to them or bought from thrift stores. Yet, Urban Outfitters takes this culture and promotes it as their own style in order to overcharge so privileged upper-class shoppers can feel as if they are part of the artistic struggle. This style has become popular in recent years through promotions on Instagram and a rise in bohemian culture among younger generations.

A place like UO comes into the area to appeal to these people who can’t afford their products and then comes other companies that do the same. Then the neighborhood has a greater cost-of-living because the businesses have gentrified the area.

UO is also known to rip off other artists and designers to turn a profit. Similar to the store Zara, UO looks at designs that independent artists create and change them ever so slightly to sell them in their store. This is common with their collections of pins and patches and it is incredibly unfortunate that the artist receives none of the recognition nor any of the profit.

Another aspect that the company seems to be proud of is that they go into areas and renovate old and unused warehouses, stores, etc. This sounds great on the surface, because everyone loves renovation and bringing in new business, right? However, the company is taking these places that are historic locations in the community, whether it be by their age or influence in the culture, and turning them into an urban, upper-class white shopping local. Many of these areas are not looking for that. Often, these locations are in relatively poor neighborhoods where many artists reside because of cheap cost of living. A place like UO comes into the area to appeal to these people who can’t afford their products and then comes other companies that do the same. Then the neighborhood has a greater cost-of-living because the businesses have gentrified the area.

For example in Philadelphia the company has petitioned to purchase the Rialto theater which was built in 1917. The location is primarily empty after an earthquake and us unused, however, it once served as the hot spot of a community that loved it. Now, it will be turned into a chain store that is selling overpriced t-shirts to those who do not understand the importance or power that this location once had.

 

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The Rialto Theater in Philadelphia, PA was a center point of a community that held history for the culture of the area and was converted into an Urban Outfitters.

 

The matter is that this company is inputting itself into communities where it has no real sense of the atmosphere. It is pretending to be diverse and cultural, but in all honesty UO is looking for “cool” and untouched places to turn a profit. The people who work there, the products that are sold, these are not reflections of the surrounding community. They only come close to being replications of what people are wearing, but at a much higher cost. The profit is coming from people who cannot afford it.

It can’t be blamed on the company for trying to turn a profit, though. The blame lays in the culture of millennial youth who have idealized what it means to be a struggling artist. This culture looks at these clothes and these lifestyles and wants to play the role for a little— but not too long before they can return to their parents’ homes and Instagram photos of their artistic, rocker, or hipster lifestyle.

Because what it comes down to is the fact that the people and culture who inspire the style of Urban Outfitters, could never actually afford to shop there.

P.S.

One aspect of the culture that really bothers me is this need to buy fake glasses. This is a trend I remember was popular in 2007 in order to wear the thick-framed stereotypical nerd glasses, but UO has brought it back in full force and people with no need for glasses are purchasing these fake ones. This bothers me partly because I am a person who actually needs glasses and I think that the people who don’t shouldn’t use it as a fashion statement. Enjoy your vision, please, for all of us who can’t! But UO makes a huge profit off of selling products that are unnecessary because they serve a real purpose outside of fashion.  

 

Current music: 7:30 Am by Slothrust

Pornography in Sex Ed.

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Sex is a topic that most parents and teachers fear discussing with their children. In American culture, sex is treated as something dirty and wrong which has led to the abstinence only sexual education programs that cover our nation. The issues in sex education not only lie there, but also in the tone that sex is regarded and the aspects of sexuality that is missed.

As aspect of sex education that most people used to and outrageous is now coming into discussion about its place in our public schools: pornography. Porn accounts for thirty percent of internet traffic and is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Not only that, but it is an industry that many young Americans have easy access to at the touch of their fingers. Students across the board have been going to the easily-accessible porn websites such as “PornHub” and other favorites as a way to supplement the lack of proper sex education they are receiving in school.

 

“I had sex-ed when I was in fifth grade and seventh grade but that was more of the health aspect of it. When I took a class in high school about it, it was mostly about childbirth,” said Cassandra Balosos, a senior at Roanoke College. “My parents never had the sex talk with me so the internet and media here how I learned about sex, honestly. I mean, I got the ‘facts’ about it from school but no one really cares so much about the facts as much as they curious about how it actually is.

 

One of the primary routes of sex education in the U.S. is to teach students that abstinence is the only path for pregnancy and STD prevention. This is an issue because students are not looking to learn how to not have sex; the young people in our schools need to know that it is okay to have sex and that there are ways to do it safely. However, President Barack Obama has been trying to remove all federal funding for abstinence-only sex education in his 2017 budget in order to prevent the continuation of this type of culture. With this type of environment for teach students about sexuality, it makes most feel guilty about coming forth with questions. That is what leads them to the porn industry for the answers.

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For many, porn provides information on how to pleasure their partner or how sexual situations actually play out. However, this is a dangerous path because most of the images and videos on porn sites are unrealistic and contribute to an aggressive sex culture that has become predominant in our nation. It is reported that around eighty-eight percent of scenes in porn show some type of physical aggression and forty-eight percent show verbal aggression. The overwhelming amount of these scenes show aggression directed toward women.

 

In the majority of porn films, most women are referred to in derogatory terms and the scenarios are devoid of pleasure or respect, oftentimes, for both members involved. For students to be receiving their primary accounts of sexual interaction from this type of unrealistic source is detrimental to how sex is perceived as they grow into practicing adults.

Proposing to educate students on the porn culture also is a way or propagating an agenda that teaches sexual activity in a lesson plan that teaches about love and mutual respect in sexual experiences. Without including pornography in sex education, students will continue to believe the false-reality of sex that they are learning online.

Current Music: Cool Slut by Chasity Belt