Ok, so I’m a linguistics major. And of course that means I’ve spent a lot of time over my first couple of years of study looking at how people communicate and performing conversational analysis of various types. I’m definitely not an expert as I’ve still not graduated and there will always be more to learn, but here are some of my thoughts on how certain parts of Blake and Yang’s dialogue were written and what it says about the way the audience is meant to perceive their relationship.

This goes pretty deep with the analysis, so bear in mind that I’m not suggesting everything I talk about here is 100% fact or completely intentional on the writers’ part. I’m just offering some thoughts as someone who has had to learn how to look for every ounce of meaning in conversations, so you can take whatever you want from this. It also got pretty hefty, so it’s divided into four sections for easier reading. With all that said… enjoy!

PART THE FIRST

Here we have their very first exchange of dialogue on their first night at Beacon. Now, Yang’s response to the conversation stalling is what I find most interesting about this. This is someone who has been established as an outgoing, confident, sociable person. Yet she goes with a line as awkward as “I like your bow… it goes great with your pyjamas” to try and push the conversation forward? It doesn’t quite seem to fit with the idea of Yang as someone who is self-assured and capable of socialising with ease that the viewer has been given up to this point for her to be so unsure when handling a simple introduction to a stranger.

Obviously her awkwardness is partly because Blake isn’t exactly the most co-operative conversationalist here, but it’s only a few lines into the interaction and Yang’s already slightly tripping over her words. Now also take into account that one character behaving unusually awkwardly around another character and complimenting them soon after meeting them is often used as a way for writers to quickly establish attraction and are you beginning to see what I’m getting at?

(No, I’m not saying the audience is meant to think that Yang has romantic interest in Blake at this point, I’m simply saying that their first interaction bears some resemblance to a typical meet cute scenario in a romance story.)

It’s also noteworthy that Yang tries to keep the conversation going for a good while even while Blake is only offering near monosyllabic replies (”Nice night, don’t you think?”). She clearly wants to have a meaningful interaction with Blake despite there being numerous other students better-suited as potential friends for Ruby, and that suggests that something about Blake interested her enough to try and continue the conversation despite the fact that she had to pull all of the weight.

That initial exchange creates a dissonance with Yang’s character in terms of how she interacts with Blake compared to everyone else who she is perfectly comfortable around from the start. And it becomes even more apparent when–after calling Blake a “lost cause” at the end of their first meeting–Yang’s first words to Blake after they become partners are a cocky “I could have taken them.”

So far with the dialogue between them the show has told us that: one, Yang feels awkward around Blake when they first meet for some reason despite being socially competent, and two, Yang wants some sort of interaction or approval from Blake (hence the slight boasting about her combat abilities). Expanding on that idea, it seems strange that Yang goes from referring to Blake as a “lost cause” to being perfectly happy to have her as her partner so fast, until you consider that Yang likely only made the “lost cause” comment to try and draw some kind of further response from Blake.

The last thing I want to address for now is: that initial awkwardness of Yang’s that I spent half this first post talking about? Yeah, as you might be thinking, it doesn’t last long. As soon as they make eye contact and become partners in the Emerald Forest, Yang acts far more casual around Blake and treats her more like she does the others.

Which makes it even more fascinating to me that they had Yang stumble through that clumsy comment about Blake’s bow matching her pyjamas at all. Sure, it could definitely be a simple oddity because it was early in the show, but someone still had to write that line, and regardless of why it was written it still creates a launching point from which Blake and Yang’s dynamic can (and indeed did) develop.

I know I spent a lot of time on this section considering how short these initial interactions are, but a first conversation is crucial to establishing a dynamic between a pair of characters so I needed to give it its due.

The summary of this first part can be mostly boiled down to: Yang wants to form some sort of bond with Blake.

PART THE SECOND

Here we have the other significant lines/conversations in the first three Volumes. I’m going to go through these in order to make things as simple as possible for myself.

One, “I love it when you’re feisty.” Well, this is just self-explanatory. Yang delivers what can only be interpreted as a flirtatious line while pointing directly at Blake. It’s… not subtle, and moreover there’s no reason for it to be included except to let the audience know that Yang is attracted to Blake.

Two, the talk in Burning the Candle. This is often pointed to as one of the moments that really made Bumbleby take off, and it’s easy to see why. The entire scene is extremely intimate, with Yang opening up to Blake about her abandonment issues which she has never been shown to tell anyone else about, but there are a few details of the dialogue that I want to focus on.

  • “Just please, get some rest. If not for you, then for the people you care about.” This line reads a little oddly at first, and I sort of felt like it should be “[…] for the people who care about you” instead. But eventually I realised that it does make sense in the context of what happens after, which is…
  • “And if you do feel like coming out tomorrow, I’ll save you a dance” followed by a wink. Once more, this entire line could so easily have been removed or never added at all without changing the outcome of the scene if we were just meant to read Yang’s intentions as purely platonic, but that’s not the most intriguing thing about it. To me, this line reinforces the one I just mentioned above, in that both of them show Yang gently testing the waters—carefully hinting at the idea of something between them without forcing them to address it directly. She seems to think Blake might return her attraction, but wants to make her own feelings clear to see how Blake reacts. Lastly, the “coming out” pun draws the audience’s attention to it more and makes it harder to miss or gloss over.
  • With that in mind, it seems more logical that she would say “[…] the people you care about” and not “[…] the people who care about you” in the previously mentioned line if she is trying to discover the nature of Blake’s feelings for her rather than only disclose the nature of her own feelings for Blake. By subtly implying that Blake cares about her she is opening the door for Blake to choose what happens next, and we all know what that choice was given Blake decides to give Yang her first dance later in the episode.

Three, the talk at Mountain Glenn. Blake explains how she feels like the only thing her Semblance is good for is running away, and Yang counters that Blake is “not one to back down from a challenge.” Her voice when she says this is… peculiarly soft, which only adds to the weight of the line, but mostly this is showing the viewer that Yang sees Blake’s strengths where Blake only sees weaknesses. Yang expresses great belief in Blake here, which links nicely to…

Four, the talk after Yang’s fight against Mercury. This addresses Blake’s belief in Yang in the spiritual follow-up to the Mountain Glenn scene, and oh boy, is it rife with obvious romantic coding. Just for starters, it’s the first direct parallel between Yang and Adam—i.e. Blake’s canonical ex and her canonical future… well, I think you see where that’s going—with Blake herself openly comparing them.

She says that she had “someone very dear” to her change—a curiously ambiguous term when she could have used “someone I worked with” or even just “partner” to contrast Yang and Adam’s roles as her combat partners instead of their roles as people she’s very close to on a personal level—but that Yang isn’t him and so she chooses to trust her.

This clues the audience in that what connects Yang and Adam is their differences—i.e. the way they reacted when Blake confronted them about their violent act, one with gaslighting and the other with understanding and reassurance—not their similarities. They are opposite forces in Blake’s life, and the show is informing the viewer of that now because not long after we arrive at…

Five, Volume 3 Chapter 11. This isn’t just not subtle, it’s setting subtlety on fire and then throwing it out of the window never to be seen again.

  • Adam declares that he will “destroy everything [Blake] loves”, basically the narrative equivalent of summoning whoever is most important to Blake, and of course the person who appears is Yang.
  • As if that didn’t already go far enough, Adam then looks from Blake’s horrified face to Yang and adds “starting with her”, beating the audience over the head with the fact that Yang is someone Blake loves.

I don’t think I need to say any more about this. It’s the point where the writing tied Blake and Yang together irrevocably, and there was no going back from it.

The summary of this second part can be mostly boiled down to: Blake reciprocates Yang’s attempt to form a bond, but that bond is then tested to the full (in a common technique to show the audience how powerful a relationship is by almost breaking it).

PART THE THIRD

Here we have Volumes 4 and 5, a.k.a. the conversations that Blake and Yang have with other people about each other.

One, Blake and Sun’s talk in V4C11. This one’s fairly simple. Blake says that she loves her team like she never thought she could love anybody, and that she thinks about them every day. Her voice only cracks when she says Yang’s name, indicating that though she means all of them Yang is the person she misses the most.

Two, the initial RWY conversation and Yang and Weiss’ talk afterwards. Yang claims not to want Blake around, but then admits that she “needed [Blake] there for [her].” This contrast between want and need highlights that although she’s conflicted Yang would still rather Blake were there if she had the choice. Then Weiss explains why she believes Blake left, giving Yang greater perspective on why Blake did what she did. But this is all fairly straightforward, the noteworthy part is…

Three, Sun’s “[…] and I can promise Yang would say the same” and Weiss’ “[…] and I’m willing to bet Blake feels the same way.” More clear parallels; a friend of theirs reminds Blake and Yang that the other person does care about them despite the literal and metaphorical distance between the two of them. Most striking, however, is that there is no precedent for Sun bringing up Yang here. Immediately before he says that he makes the very romantically charged declaration of “I would do it all again if it meant protecting you”… and then instead of following up on it he kills his own romantic moment by referencing Yang. Combined with the fact that he is flagrantly conflating his own (widely accepted to be romantic) feelings for Blake with Yang’s feelings for Blake, this scene is meant to tell the viewer that Sun has realised that Yang has those feelings for Blake, and he wants Blake to be aware of Yang’s feelings too so that she can fix her relationship with Yang.

The summary of this third part can be mostly boiled down to: Blake and Yang both pine for each other and are angsty about the idea that the other one doesn’t return their feelings, and Sun and Weiss become best wingman and wingwoman respectively.

PART THE FOURTH

Alright, we’re near the end now, I promise. The last scenes I want to cover are from Volume 6. This section might not go quite as deep with the analysis since a lot of things became much more obvious by this point, but hopefully this part will still be fun with a few interesting observations nonetheless.

One, the conversation on the train in V6C1. Not too much to go over here. Yang is awkward. Blake is awkward. It’s a whole mess of awkwardness. But there are two things I would like to briefly touch on.

  • First, the way Yang says “Blake, you don’t have to do that.” This line could have been delivered in an angry or bitter tone to show Yang’s lingering doubts about Blake rejoining the team, but it isn’t. Instead it sounds almost sad, and a little uncomfortable. What the viewer is supposed to take from this line in particular isn’t so much that Yang is still mad at Blake for leaving, but that Yang doesn’t want Blake bending over backwards and doing things for her to try and make it up to her.
  • Second, “I’m fine… we’re gonna be fine.” Yang initially frames her answer only in terms of herself, but then shifts to referring to both her and Blake. It’s not just their individual wellbeing she’s talking about, it’s the state of their relationship. This is an olive branch, if you will, letting Blake know that even if she’s hurt she does still want to see if they can fix their bond.

Two, “Good to see you’re not rusty.” This comment serves two purposes: 1) it shows that Blake and Yang’s dynamic hasn’t been irrevocably damaged as they’re still able to share the playful banter they did before, and 2) it establishes that Yang’s still casually flirting a little.

Three, each of them calling out the other’s name first in V6C2. In a moment of panic and fear, Blake and Yang are each other’s first thought. Take from that what you will, but it emphasises how much they care about each other even after everything that happened during/following the Fall of Beacon. So far all of these moments are telling the audience that there is something to be repaired here; Blake and Yang’s connection is presented as weakened, but far from broken.

Four, the barn scene in V6C5. Oh boy, oh boy. First there’s Yang answering Blake’s “Are you okay?” with “I don’t know”, which is not at all the same “I’ll be fine […]” she gave Weiss in V5C6 and “I’m totally fine, I’m great” she failed to convince Ruby or Weiss with in V5C8. Even just earlier in V6 when it’s in front of the others she tells Blake “[they’re] gonna be fine”, but when it’s just the two of them she admits that none of those answers were true where she didn’t with anyone else. Combine that with the fact that Blake starts opening up about what her relationship with Adam was like later in this scene when before she didn’t even tell Sun he was more than someone she worked with and only vaguely described what he was like to the rest of the team after Yang’s fight with Mercury, and it’s pretty obvious that both of them only really feel comfortable discussing their most intimate feelings with each other. Lastly, also compare the sharp “We’re fine” Yang gives Blake here to the reassuring “We’re gonna be fine” in C1; while this scene demonstrates the strength of Blake and Yang’s bond, it is also its lowest point. From here it can either snap completely, or be mended to become stronger than ever, which is what we get starting with…

Five, V6C10 a.k.a. the gayest scene in RWBY so far. This exchange is just as awkward as the one in the first episode, but for somewhat different reasons. It’s flirtatious and lovestruck – there isn’t really any other way to describe it. Blake is shy and almost bashful; she teases that “stealth isn’t exactly [Yang’s forté]” then panics and immediately backtracks with “I mean, you’re great, and I’ll hurry back.” It’s all totally unnecessary to reach the objective of the conversation (which is just to convey that Blake is going to disable the tower alone) and it can’t be reasonably interpreted as anything other than romantic. The most striking part for me, however, is Yang’s “Go.” It’s one tiny word, yet it serves perfectly to make it clear to the audience that by now Yang trusts Blake not to leave again, and not only that but she trusts Blake to leave and then come back. This interaction is needed in order to move their reconciliation forwards so that they are a united front when…

Six, Adam happens. If subtlety was set on fire and thrown out the window never to be seen again before, then now its remains have also been trampled on by a raging bull just for good measure.

Adam is exceedingly open about the fact that he sees Yang as a rival for Blake’s love, and hates the fact that Blake has, as he perceives it, chosen Yang over him. He tries to manipulate Yang by arguing that Blake “made a promise to [him] once that she’d always be at [his] side”, but when Yang instantly sees through him he resorts to asking Blake if he “just wasn’t good enough for [her]” to which she very rightly replies that “it was so much more than that.” Adam’s jealousy reaches its most undeniable, though, when it culminates in him screaming “What does she even see in you?!” at Yang. It’s a phrase that is never used except in the context of romantic interest, and it removes any remaining doubt that this isn’t a personal conflict for Adam. It could make sense for him to hate Yang because she’s a human, but he never brings that up and instead repeatedly highlights himself that it’s her connection with Blake that he despises.

The other part worthy of note here is Blake’s “[…] we’re protecting each other” speech, which serves as a direct counterpoint to her earlier declaration to Yang of “I’ll protect you”, and completes their V6 trajectory from the start with Blake’s guilt putting them on an uneven footing to this moment in which she recognises that they need to stand as equals instead. (And I’d like to clarify that this issue was never about Blake seeing Yang as weak–heck, her word for her is “strength”–it was about her feeling like she owed Yang something in return for the loss of her arm to Adam and needing to let go of that unhealthy mindset.)

Seven,  the aftermath of the Adam confrontation. It’s only a couple of lines of dialogue, but it says an awful lot. The fact that Blake’s first instinct is to reassure Yang that she won’t leave again or go back on her word when Yang is already holding her demonstrated just how deep Adam’s manipulation ran, and Yang’s response is equally significant. She could say “It’s okay” or “I forgive you”, or something else that would validate Blake’s guilt in the process of absolving it, but she doesn’t. She says “I know you won’t”, which is infinitely more powerful because it demonstrates that she isn’t just offering Blake forgiveness, she’s also making it clear that there was nothing to forgive in the first place since Blake’s actions were well-meaning and a result of past abuse.

Eight, and last but very very far from least, “we were there for each other.” This is the conclusion of this whole arc in Yang and Blake’s relationship. This line emphasises that they are closer than ever before, and that they’re finally back in a healthy place from which they can move forward.

The summary of this fourth part can mostly be boiled down to: yeah, they’re in love.

Well, there we are. We have reached the end. Sincere congratulations to anyone who stuck around this long, because this got very very long, but I hope it was worth it.

Disclaimer #1: This post is going to discuss an emotionally and physically abusive relationship, as well as the topics of rape and sexual assault. It won’t go into great detail, but if those are subjects you wish to avoid entirely then this might not be something you want to read.

Disclaimer #2: I am approaching this article with the perspective of a rational person, i.e. I am of the opinion that Adam Taurus is an abusive murderous pedophile and that Blake and Yang’s relationship is romantically coded and thus should be examined through a romantic lens. If you firmly disagree with either of those statements then please do me a favour and leave now.

Now, with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s get started.

On first viewing the final confrontation in which Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long face and defeat Adam Taurus, their shared demon and the primary source of conflict in their relationship throughout three seasons of the show, is an impressive visual spectacle and a hugely significant event in the narrative of RWBY. That is to be expected from the climax of a plot arc that has spanned half of the show’s run so far and was the catalyst for substantial development of two of the series’ main characters on both an individual level and in terms of their bond with each other. However, a deeper examination shows themes that are far more interesting and thought-provoking than the surface reading of a pair of heroes triumphing over a villain.

I was inspired to write this piece by a couple of posts (that I will link at the end) which touched on some of the ideas I am about to cover, and I wanted to consolidate the excellent points they made and add some further interpretations of my own.

In order to understand the full meaning of how the storyline involving Blake, Yang and Adam ended we first have to look at how it got there. Therefore, I’m going to talk briefly about some earlier scenes in this arc before I move on to the last few Chapters of Volume 6.

Adam’s sword has been a prominent part of almost all of his on-screen appearances, to the point where it’s integral to his image.

He uses it far more frequently than the other half of his weapon, and the only time we see him genuinely panic is when he loses it.

When Yang throws it over the edge of the cliff, she doesn’t just disarm him – she disempowers him.

It’s also worth noting that his sword, along with his mask, is the primary focus of Yang’s nightmares and flashbacks where she remembers the loss of her arm.

Lastly, when Adam murders Sienna Khan it is by brutally impaling her with it.

The reason for the emphasis placed on it becomes apparent in “The Lady in the Shoe” when Blake reveals that it is literally the source of his power as she explains his Semblance to Yang.

Adam is an aggressive, violent, manipulative, egotistical murderer. He is a spiteful, self-centred psychopath who cares for no one but himself and will do absolutely anything to get what he believes he deserves. He is immature, incapable of empathy, and is so poor at processing his emotions that he cannot let go of anything. Most of all, though, he is an abuser – he took advantage of Blake’s admiration for him, separated her from her parents, coerced her into a romantic relationship when she was still practically a child, and repeatedly used gaslighting and intimidation to make sure she did what he wanted.

In short, Adam is an embodiment of toxic masculinity, and his sword is the tool through which he imposes that masculinity on others. This makes perfect sense considering it is established extremely early in the show that in Remnant weapons are thought of as an extension of a person’s soul.

As one of the posts I mentioned earlier comments, when Adam stabs Blake in the exact same place in her side in each of these two fights the framing of it is… not subtle.

In both cases he steps between her legs and impales her with his sword (I repeat, in the exact same place). I don’t think I need to say anymore about what this is meant to suggest, and frankly I don’t want to because the implications are incredibly unsettling. It is a very well executed analogy, however, that prevents them from blatantly showing or stating something that horrific on-screen and risking accidentally glorifying those experiences by dwelling on them too much.

All of this goes to prove that Adam’s sword is intended to be a physical manifestation of his toxic behaviour. And if Adam’s weapon is a representation of his sexuality, then it follows that Blake’s is as well.

This makes the moment where he breaks her weapon that much more impactful, since he is not only removing her only way to fight back against him, but is also destroying her soul – the very essence of who she is.

As a side note, this also adds much greater significance to the fact that not only was Blake willing to let Yang touch her weapon within a day of their first meeting, but one of the core combat moves within Team RWBY consists of Blake letting Yang handle her weapon, so it happens not just once but on multiple occasions.

Anyway, with that general thematic context established, I’m now going to go through the actual fight scenes between Blake, Yang and Adam in Volume 6 and highlight a few particular details.

During Blake and Adam’s initial one-on-one battle his sword continues to be prominent – he knocks her over the head with it not just once but twice, he beats her into the ground with it. He’s using it much more viciously than necessary; this is not a fair fight, it’s one person taking out their anger at the world on someone else and feeling justified in doing so because they see that person as their property (hence Adam’s use of “my darling”, “my love”).

If any of this makes you think of domestic violence, then you’re getting the right idea.

I would also like to draw attention to this particular moment (that is discussed in slightly more detail in one of the two posts I’ve linked at the end) where Blake briefly catches Adam’s sword in the sheath of her own weapon.

In other words, she has to let her soul take the damage to escape the physical pain. Just as she’s been doing throughout the entirety of her relationship with Adam.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Worthy of note as well is the part of the fight where Blake and Yang fight Adam together – specifically, the part where Blake throws her broken sword at Adam, he sends it flying back towards Blake, and Yang jumps in to catch it and launch Blake towards Adam in a reversal of their long-standing team attack where Blake sends Yang flying towards the enemy.

This shows us several things. One, we get another example of Adam overpowering Blake’s identity with his own when he uses his sword to turn her own weapon back on her. Second, Yang preventing Adam’s weapon from hurting Blake is a fairly obvious representation of how over the course of their partnership Yang is slowly helping Blake to heal from Adam’s abuse. Third and last, Blake and Yang switching roles in their combined attack move demonstrates not just that they have become complete equals in their partnership (“She’s not protecting me, Adam. And I’m not protecting her. We’re protecting each other.”), but also that while Adam has always attempted to suppress Blake’s identity Yang seeks only to support Blake rather than control her.

My final point regarding the fight is about how it ends. Adam tries to use the shattered pieces of Blake’s soul to kill her, but she turns them back on him and reclaims her identity. Yang takes the other piece of Blake’s weapon—the other half of Blake’s soul—helping to liberate Blake from her abuser but not overshadowing Blake’s victory over him.

In summary, the way in which Adam uses his sword to absorb damage from others without feeling it himself and then send it back at them is a metaphor for how he forces his masculinity/sexuality on Blake (and other characters to a lesser extent) and removes her agency. On the other hand, Blake actively selects Yang as her partner during Beacon initiation, marking the start of her reestablishing her agency by making her decisions uninfluenced by anyone else. Moreover, when you consider the rest of the symbolism involving the character’s weapons, this leads to a very clear potential conclusion: where Blake’s sexual identity—and even her soul (supported by the line “you lost your mind, I lost my soul” from Blake to Adam in Nevermore)—was forcibly taken away from her by Adam, Blake chooses to trust Yang with both willingly.

 

 

These are the two posts I referred to in this article:

https://alexkablob.tumblr.com/post/182485098674/kkglinka-replied-to-your-post-laulink-replied-to

https://alexkablob.tumblr.com/post/182208545819/god-that-move-where-blake-caught-wilt-in-gambol

There are undoubtably a number of songs I could have chosen to illustrate this point, but with “Treat You Better” Shawn Mendes has created the ultimate anthem for every self-proclaimed Nice Guy™ all the world over.

I am going to dissect (and I do mean dissect, so prepare for some savagery) this song line by line to show how the lyrics may sound fine at first, but are actually utterly detestable.

Right, let’s tear this track to shreds.

I won’t lie to you

Okay, we’re off to a good start. I wonder what you’re telling her that you don’t want to lie about. After all, it must be something pretty damn important if you’re starting off the conversation with such a serious tone.

I know he’s just not right for you

Ah, so her boyfriend’s bad for her. Is he abusive? Are they just incompatible? Do you know that he’s cheating on her or something? Please explain why he’s not right for her, Shawn, I’m all ears.

And you can tell me if I’m off

Good, you’re doing well. It’s one thing to express concern that someone’s relationship is unhealthy, but you can’t just insist you’re right when they’re the one actually in said relationship and therefore should know if they’re happy with it or not.

But I see it on your face

And the plot thickens. What can you see on her face? A bruise from where her boyfriend hit her? A look of sadness, which is how you know she’s unhappy? Let’s find out.

When you say that he’s the one that you want

So you’re not actually going to tell us what you see on her face? Okay then. This line makes no sense in that case. If you said you saw sadness on her face when she says he’s the one she wants, or something like that, then I’d understand. But I can’t know what you mean if you don’t goddamn tell me! For all I know you might see sincerity, or happiness, on her face when she says he’s the one she wants, which kind of undermines this entire song.

And you’re spending all your time
In this wrong situation
And anytime you want it to stop

I’ll tackle these three lines in one go since they’re basically one sentence. You say she’s in a wrong situation, but what makes it wrong? You have provided literally no evidence that her boyfriend is in any way not right for her. So far this sounds like a desperate attempt to justify why she should be with you instead of him, not an offer of help to someone who needs it. But maybe it’ll improve, let’s move on.

I know I can treat you better than he can

What, by whining and complaining constantly but making no valid points? If that’s treating her better then her current boyfriend must really suck. Then again, we only have your word for it that you could treat her better, so I have no reason to believe anything you’re saying.

And any girl like you deserves a gentleman

I can’t tell if he says “gentleman” or “gentle man” here because his enunciation is complete crap. If it’s “gentleman” then it’s fine, I guess, although why are you implying that only girls like her deserve a gentleman? Are you saying there are types of girls who deserve to be treated badly? If it’s “gentle man” then I must ask, who the hell would ever use the phrase “gentle man”? Nobody, that’s who, because it sounds like a bad guy describing their henchman; “oh, don’t worry, this torturer here is a gentle man”.

Tell me why are we wasting time
On all your wasted crying

Oh wow. We’ve almost reached rock bottom here. First, why are you suggesting that any time she spends anywhere other than with you is wasted? Can she not have her own life? And as for the second line, oh boy. If she is in a legitimately abusive relationship, then you describing her crying as “wasted” is just despicable. Way to disregard her feelings… oh wait, that’s what you’ve been doing this whole song already. And if she’s not in an abusive relationship, then she’s probably crying because you keep harassing her and she’s scared of you. Also, “time” doesn’t rhyme with “crying”. Yeah, there are so many levels on which these two lines don’t work.

When you should be with me instead
I know I can treat you better
Better than he can

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse. You have done absolutely nothing to explain why she shouldn’t be with her current boyfriend or why she should be with you instead. Why should I believe that you can treat her better when you have told me nothing about how her current boyfriend treats her, or how you’d treat her if you were together? Based on this song so far, I’d say she’s probably just fine with her current boyfriend.

I’ll stop time for you

And how are you going to do that exactly? You couldn’t even stop a sneeze if you tried, Mendes.

The second you say you’d like me to

If you seriously believe that she’s in trouble, why would you not try to help her anyway? Oh right, because she has to agree to sleep with you before you’ll help, I remember now. I could understand wanting to respect her boundaries, but given for the whole song you’ve been moaning to her about how she won’t sleep with you I highly doubt that was your motivation here.

I just wanna give you the loving that you’re missing

Once again, why should I think that she’s missing out on love at the moment? Or that you could give it to her if she was missing out on it?

Baby, just to wake up with you
Would be everything I need and this could be so different

Yeah, baby, things could be so different: you could be having sex with me because I persisted until you gave in, instead of having sex with the man you actually chose to be with. Isn’t that romantic? These lines could have worked in a different context, but when the rest of the song is so repugnant they’re tainted by association.

Tell me what you want to do

Finally you actually ask her what she wants and act like she’s a human being who can make her own decisions. Way too little too late though.

Give me a sign
Take my hand, we’ll be fine
Promise I won’t let you down
Just know that you don’t
Have to do this alone
Promise I’ll never let you down

I’m not even going to bother going through this last bit, it’s all just generic pseudo-romantic stuff that a million other songs have done before (and most of them did it better). If Shawn Mendes can’t make the effort to write a halfway decent song then I won’t waste any more of my effort on this dumpster fire.

In conclusion, sometimes things seem nice on the surface, but upon closer analysis the unpleasantness inside is revealed. Like a turd covered in chocolate!

If you want to experience this garbage that Shawn Mendes is calling music for yourself, and hear all the different ways he can mispronounce the phrase “better than he can”, then I’ll leave the music video below for your enjoyment (or more likely lack thereof). I’m not sure what’s more terrifying: the number of views it’s had, or that there are over 4 million likes and under 200,000 dislikes.

As some of you may know, June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. This year I felt that I should do something relevant to show my support, and with the first Legend of Korra comic being released later this month this seemed like an appropriate choice for something to write about. Before I get started I just want to say a couple of things. One, if you have not yet watched Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, then you need to because they are both absolutely wonderful. Two, I just want to take a moment to appreciate the representation in these shows, especially The Legend of Korra. The nations in the Avatar world draw inspiration primarily from Asian cultures, meaning none of the characters are the Western white people who still dominate our media. The female characters are as varied and capable as the men, with both shows achieving roughly equal numbers of men and women. And, of course, The Legend of Korra has two bisexual main characters, plus a couple of other characters who were later confirmed as queer. Considering how underrepresented, and often misrepresented when they do appear, bisexual characters are, this is a significant achievement, particularly for a show on a children’s network.

Anyway, with that gush out of the way I can move on to the actual article. The first thing I want to discuss is the opinion of a minority of the show’s fans that Korra and Asami’s romantic relationship was rushed. While I can to some extent understand why someone might be of that opinion, I would have to respectfully completely disagree with them, for a large number of reasons.

Since I am a relatively unimaginative person, I’m going to start at the beginning, namely the beginning of Korra and Asami’s interaction on the show. Now, when they first meet they obviously don’t exactly get along, what with them both liking the same dude and all. However, what I did notice right from the first time I watched the show was how persistent Asami was in trying to become Korra’s friend. Korra is nothing but abrasive and aloof with her, even referring to Asami as a “prissy, beautiful, elegant, rich girl” (side note: it’s interesting that even while trying to dislike Asami, Korra manages to compliment her just as much as she manages to criticise her in this quote). There is really no reason why Asami would want to be around Korra at this point in the show, and yet she keeps on not just being friendly towards her, but even actively trying to spend time with her (such as when she takes Korra for a spin on the race track).

I can only conclude that Asami found Korra exceedingly fascinating right from the beginning, because I sure as hell wouldn’t be that nice and forgiving to someone who was almost constantly rude to me the first few times we met (side note: I’m not saying she had a romantic interest in Korra at this point, just that she had a strong desire to get to know Korra better). Then again, perhaps it isn’t surprising that Asami seems drawn towards Korra this early considering the writers have said that they considered the idea of putting them together as a couple as early as during the writing of Book 1. In short, it was clearly not a last minute decision to end the show with Korra and Asami about to begin a romantic relationship.

Since Book 2 is fairly devoid of important moments in their relationship, the next things worth noting come in Book 3. It is immediately apparent from the first couple of episodes of the third season that the dynamic of Korra and Asami’s friendship has shifted significantly. They’ve both moved on from Mako, and with no awkward love triangles to get in the way it becomes obvious how well they complement each other as individuals. Korra’s growing spiritual side and Asami’s technical innovation make for a powerful combination; an excellent example of balance between the natural and the man-made. This is exemplified in the show when we see Asami teaching Korra to drive, and Korra repeatedly opening up to Asami about how uncertain she is of her own ability to be a good Avatar.

As Book 3 goes on, their friendship grows more and more solid. Asami not only lends Korra and the others a brand new Future Industries airship to search for new airbenders, but also leaves her company to her board members in order to go with them (side note: at least I’m assuming she left her board members or someone like that in charge, otherwise she probably wouldn’t have had a company to come back to). Now, it’s not like finding the new airbenders is vital in order to save the world or anything, so there is no logical reason why Asami has to go with them; she could just have given them the airship and stayed in Republic City. She and Mako have been broken up for well over a year at this point, and she was never really close to Bolin or Tenzin or any of the others. Therefore the only reason for her to go is because she knows that restoring the air nation is important to Korra and she wants to support her. I would also like to add that while I would happily lend my friend an airship if I had one, I wouldn’t follow them halfway across the world to do something that was of no real relevance to me personally, especially if I was the CEO of a company.

The season continues, and the amount of screen time that Korra and Asami share without any of the other main characters being present increases noticeably. They go to retrieve the money for the Earth Queen together, they get captured by the Earth Queen together, and they end up stranded in the desert together. Then of course at the end of Book 3 is Korra’s fight with Zaheer. This is Korra at the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen her, and it’s Asami who steps in to look after her. It isn’t surprising that out of the gang Asami seems to best understand what Korra’s going through since she’s the only person we’ve really seen Korra open up to in this season apart from (to a much lesser extent) Tenzin.

It’s interesting to compare the two times on the show that Korra loses her bending. When Amon takes it at the end of Book 1 it’s Mako who tries to be there for her, but he’s too overbearing and when he tells Korra that he loves her she runs away because she can’t process it on top of everything else she’s going through (side note: I don’t dislike Mako at all, in fact I quite like him, but I really don’t think he and Korra were at all right for each other in the long term). On the other hand, at the end of Book 3 when Korra’s recovering from what Zaheer did to her Asami tells her that none of them expect Korra to get better right away, and that she should take the time she needs to heal. Basically, she puts the emphasis on Korra’s wellbeing and what Korra needs to do, as opposed to making it about her own feelings (I don’t think Mako was deliberately being self-centred, but in that particular instance he did shove his emotions on Korra at a time when she needed unconditional support rather than declarations of love).

Asami is also the only one of the gang to offer to go with Korra to the South Pole, despite being by far the busiest member of Team Avatar (apart from Korra herself of course). She is also the only one whose letter Korra replies to, probably because she’s the only one to say that Korra’s absence has had a significant effect on her life beyond simply missing her friend. Unlike Mako, however, she doesn’t express it in a way that forces Korra to say something in reply; Asami’s not saying it to get it off her chest, she’s saying it because she simply wants Korra to know how much she cares about her (side note: I have to say, it is wonderful how healthy and supportive this relationship is, and we seriously need more examples of this on television). In my opinion, it’s not a stretch to say that Asami is already in love with Korra when Korra leaves for the South Pole, although she may not have realised what those feelings were at that point.

At last we reach Book 4, and this is where we see another change in the way they interact, in this case the first more overt signs of the possibility of romantic interest. The clearest example of this is the restaurant scene when Korra first returns to Republic City. Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that Asami meets Korra in the foyer while Mako and Prince Wu wait inside at the table. It’s a small detail but the writers are subtly establishing that Korra’s relationship with Asami is becoming different to her relationships with her other friends. Then there’s the distinctly less subtle flirting in their conversation here, which is obviously a cover for deeper emotions but is still cute as hell. I have to mention the fact that Asami actually makes Korra blush here, a feat only before achieved by Mako (at least I think he probably made her blush at some point, I don’t remember for sure). And to top it all off, even Mako notices that something’s going on between them, and he’s normally pretty oblivious when it comes to reading other people’s feelings.

There are other small moments throughout the second half of Book 4 that further solidify the idea that Korra and Asami’s relationship is moving beyond just friendship, such as Asami bringing Korra tea just for an excuse to be around her (I don’t believe for a second that Asami forgot that Korra is a firebender and can therefore warm herself up without the aid of tea, proving that the tea was just a way to start a conversation). Another example of this is the group hug (pictured below) in which Asami is literally only hugging Korra despite Mako being right next to her and Korra is quite clearly leaning into Asami although she has an arm around Mako (side note: you almost gotta feel sorry for Prince Wu here, getting hugged by no one). These are all little details, but they’re the kind of things that make a relationship much more convincing and believable.

Now that I’ve gone over how Korra and Asami’s relationship is developed during the show, I want to briefly cover the other main source of evidence for them as a romantic couple. What I’m talking about is the parallels between Aang and Katara, and Korra and Asami. Most of these I didn’t notice when I first watched the show, with the exception of the obvious visual parallels in the final scene, but rather they occurred to me afterwards.

While Korra is far more combative and quick to anger than Aang, they are both undeniably eager and often impulsive. In Avatar, Katara serves the purpose of tempering Aang’s rashness with her own ability to remain calm and think things through. Asami fulfils a similar role in The Legend of Korra; for example, she speaks up against Korra facing Zaheer alone. When Aang was worried about the power of the Avatar state Katara accepts every part of him, even those that scare her; when Korra feels like she’s failing as the Avatar, Asami reminds her of all the good she’s done in the world. When Aang is badly injured after Azula hits him with lightning, Katara is the one who looks after him; when Korra is badly injured after fighting Zaheer, Asami is the one who looks after her. In fact, there is a noticeable similarity between the scene in which Katara gets Aang to safety after the lightning, and the scene in which Asami gets Korra to safety after Zaheer’s gang find them.


As one can see below, the most obvious comparison of the two relationships is in the final scene of the two shows, which are clearly meant to be reflections of each other.







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Finally, there are some more subtle parallels. For example, Aang and Katara first bond by going sledding; Korra and Asami first bond by going driving. Katara and Asami also share some aspects of their background; both of their mothers were killed by firebenders when they were very young, and they both have an at times rocky relationship with their fathers (albeit for very different reasons).

In conclusion, I think it’s utterly unfounded to say that Korra and Asami’s romantic relationship was rushed. Just because the writers actually developed their connection realistically and didn’t hit the viewer over the head with clumsily obvious hints that they were interested in each other doesn’t mean that those feelings aren’t easy to see for someone not watching the show through heteronormative glasses. They have one of the most positive relationships to appear recently on television, and like a lot of the best love stories it started with a strong friendship which slowly developed a romantic dimension. I can’t wait to see where the writers take things in the comics, and since they’ve done such a stellar job so far, I’m fairly optimistic that it’s going to be good.

I want to start by saying two things. Number one is that while this list applies to any kind of writing, it is probably rather more relevant to stories (such as novels, fanfiction, etc.) than to a Tweet or Facebook comment. Number two is that I don’t expect everyone to have perfect spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but that’s why spell checkers and other people are useful. If you are aiming to write something that people will take seriously, it is probably a good idea to use those sorts of tools to help you. Anyway, now that the disclaimer is out of the way let’s get to the actual list.

1. Unnecessary adjectives. This one should be fairly self-explanatory. I’m not complaining about description. Description is great; it’s necessary in order to be able to understand what characters and locations look like, and it is what transforms a simple retelling of events into a great story. No, I’m complaining about when a character’s eyes were described as blue at the beginning of the story, and from then on every time that character’s eyes are mentioned the writer feels the need to repeat that information. Usually a different word for blue is retrieved from the thesaurus each time, and an extra adjective is added to help inform the reader of how wondrous or stunning or cerulean this person’s eyes are.

I’m also referring to such original and unique phrases as “molten lava”, “happy smile”, and so on. If you find yourself writing something like that I would suggest considering if you really need to remind the reader of lava’s default state of existence, and perhaps just referring to it as “lava” instead. However, the final and worst kind of unnecessary adjective is not when the description is repetitive or obvious. It is when the writing descends into such pretentious self-worship that reading it makes you want to give up on the decrepit, devaluated debris of your exhausted, existential existence (yes, what I just wrote is exactly the type of self-important wankery I’m talking about). If I see tears described as anything resembling “opalescent salty drops saturated with the black sorrow of my dark soul” one more time I may jump out of the nearest window.

The ultimate example of this sort of purple prose, however, has got to be from the supposedly classic Frankenstein: “[…] his full-toned voice swells in my ears; his lustrous eyes dwell on me in all their melancholy sweetness; I see his thin hand raised in animation, while the lineaments of his face are irradiated by the soul within”.

I’m just going to leave that there.

2. Sudden changes in a character’s voice. No, I don’t mean that it annoys me if a character suddenly goes from a soprano to an alto. I’m not referring to their physical voice, I’m talking about the words they use to express themself. What I mean is when a character communicates somewhat monosyllabically in dialogue and then in their thoughts the same person turns into someone akin to a poet from the Romantic movement. I am not going to buy it if someone uses 10 times as many words in their head as they do when they speak, not unless there’s a very good reason for why they would not speak the same way they think. For the record, I am also not going to buy it if a character is generally about as friendly to other people as Scrooge is to carol singers, but when they speak to the person they have romantic feelings for they suddenly launch into sentimental soliloquies. People may change their manner slightly when communicating with different people, but the kind of vocabulary they use is not going to change completely.

3. Excessive analogies or metaphors. This is another pretty obvious one. Poetry is the only kind of writing where you can use constant metaphors without coming across like a tosser, and if you try and keep an analogy going for three paragraphs of a novel you will lose track of it and end up writing something very weird and quite possibly sexual when you didn’t intend to. If you’re writing prose and not poetry, please just describe things as they are; the good metaphors have been used so much they’ve become clichéd, and any original one you think of has probably not been used before for a reason that will become apparent after you’ve written it.

4. Misuse of apostrophes. It’s bad enough when writers leave out apostrophes (I once saw a sign at a well-regarded university that said “artists impression” instead of “artist’s impression”), but it is even worse when they put apostrophes everywhere except where they’re meant to be. It doesn’t matter if the word is a possessive or not, apostrophes will appear wherever you can think. “Motives” becomes “motive’s” and “hers” becomes “her’s”. “It’s” and “its” swap places like twins trying to confuse everyone, making “it’s bad” become “its bad” but “its strength” become “it’s strength”.

In case you’re one of the people who gets confused by the apostrophe, here’s how it works. If a single person/object possesses something then add “- ‘s” to the end of the word (e.g. “Clare’s book”, “the army’s leader”). I would like to add that plurals are not the same as possessives. Sorry, but you can’t get away with “the stories beginning”, it’s “the story’s beginning”. When either the word ends in “s” or multiple people/objects possess something then just add “- ‘ “ to the end of the word (e.g. “Chris’ hair”, “the countries’ alliance”). A final note: “hers”, “his”, “yours”, “their”, and “its” are possessives but do not contain apostrophes. Yes, it’s weird but that’s English for you.

5. Confusion of similar words. I’m going to make this simple. “Shudder” is not the same as “shutter”. One is “a convulsive movement of the body, as from horror, fear, or cold”, and the other is “a solid or louvered movable cover for a window”. “Then” is not the same as “than”. One is a connective used to indicate the order of events (e.g. I did this then I did that), and the other is a comparative (e.g. she is faster than I am). Finally, “your” and “you’re” are not the goddamn same. One is a possessive used to indicate ownership of something (e.g. your shirt), and the other is a contraction of “you are” (e.g. you’re tired).

6. Words used in inappropriate ways. Here are some basic rules that should help you avoid this kind of mistake. Do not use the word “moist” in any kind of positive way. Ever. Do you want food that is “moderately or slightly wet”? I didn’t think so. Do not try and use the word “caress” in any kind of romantic or sexy way. Not only is it horribly overused, it also just sounds creepy. Ask yourself if you would write the following sentence: “He lightly stroked her”. You wouldn’t? I rest my case.

7. Sections in other languages with no translation or indication. I’m looking at you, Jane Eyre. Please, if you must write more than a few words in a language other than the main one you’re using, provide some kind of explanation or indication of what it means. Otherwise it seems like you’re just showing off that you know this awesome language that the reader doesn’t. And that’s not cool. That’s being a supercilious dickmonger.

8. Phonetically spelt dialects. I understand that you want the reader to know that a character is from Yorkshire, Birmingham, etc. But, for the love of the mythical dictator commonly known as God, do not spell out said character’s dialogue phonetically as a way of showing what accent they have. Just mention the first time they say something that “they had a strong Yorkshire accent”, or something like that. That way the reader will actually be able to understand what the character is saying, and no one will be offended by your butchering of their dialect.

9. Overzealously described detail where it is not needed. I’m talking about times when one paragraph is needed but the writer decides to use five because why the hell not. For example, if a character is cooking, then unless you’re writing a cookbook, I do not need to know the step by step guide of how to cook some (usually posher than is necessary) meal to perfection. All I need to know is that “they cooked [insert meal here] and it tasted great”. And here’s the great news, you don’t have to spend line after line describing the taste of the food either. The same rule applies to clothes too. Whatever your characters are wearing will probably be out of fashion in ten years or so (yes, even those black fishnet tights from Hot Topic that you think will make your protagonist so trendy). Therefore, spending five sentences describing exactly what clothes your characters are wearing is pointless, and will just put future readers off.

10. Characters being referred to by a trait (e.g. their profession) because the writer thinks it makes a change from using their actual name. I get that it can be hard to write scenes that predominantly feature two men or two women without feeling like you’re repeating their names too much. But that’s why we have the words “he”, “she”, “him”, and “her”. Unless your narrator does not yet know a person’s name, it is not a good idea to refer to characters as “the doctor”, “the scientist”, etc. You can make these monikers even worse by using a personality trait rather than their profession, and adding an adjective for good measure (e.g. “the temperamental policeman”, “the blue-eyed vixen”). Now I think about it, you could make a hilarious character generator with some of those examples… Anyway, referring to your characters that way demeans them, and there’s no better way to make someone laugh hysterically and then stop reading.

Clara "dies", supposedly...

Clara “dies”, supposedly…

When I was watching ‘Hell Bent’, the finale of the latest series of Doctor Who, I found that Clara’s return from the dead really annoyed me, and upon looking back I came to the conclusion that it has almost always irritated me when characters keep cheating death on Doctor Who, especially since Moffat took over. I then realised that another of my favourite shows, Xena, contains its fair share of resurrection, but it had never bothered me. I asked my brain why that was, and here’s what it said.

To start with, I don’t think that Steven Moffat is capable of killing characters. I mean, if you count the number of times Rory died you almost need two hands. And now Clara has “died” at least two times over in the space of about three episodes. And it’s not just main characters, hardly any secondary characters or even extras appear to die in MoffatWho. In the Russell T. Davies era it was clear that a lot of people died in the conflicts and battles that were depicted, but despite Moffat ratcheting up the skates with every goddamn double part “timey wimey” finale there don’t seem to be too many casualties. Obviously I don’t expect him to show every civilian death on screen but to not show that war and fighting has consequences of a fatal kind is just plain unrealistic.

On the other hand, considering the level of 90s campiness often present in Xena, particularly in the first and second series, it does a surprisingly good job of showing that fighting actually leads to people getting injured and sometimes killed. If you watch Xena episodes such as ‘Is There a Doctor in the House?’ or ‘The Price’ you’ll notice something distinctly lacking from Moffat’s melodramatic, apocalyptic, legendary, “end of the universe…again” battles. You’ll notice people actually, shock horror, suffering and expiring. This means that in Xena death is established as something that is generally permanent. However, in Doctor Who only main characters ever die, and you know that they won’t be gone forever, so the only death you see is of an impermanent kind, which means that the audience can’t relate and therefore often don’t care.

You see, Moffat, this is what war looks like…

Also in Xena there are some set rules regarding death. Namely that there are lots of afterlives (Heaven and Hell, Elysian Fields and Tartarus, Amazon Land of the Dead, etc.) and which one you go to depends on your affiliations and beliefs. On the contrary Doctor Who has the opposite of rules, in fact I’m beginning to think that Moffat cannot have an idea without contradicting it within a series at best. For example, when people die in the ‘Forest of the Dead/Silence in the Library’ double parter they get uploaded to some kind of cutesy field, but when the Daleks die they get dumped in the sewers of Skaro to stew in their resentment and definitely never rise up against their brethren who so kindly abandoned them in poop. Oh wait, that did happen…

Anyway now that I’ve addressed the representation of death in both shows I’ll move on to characters coming back from the dead. In the recent series of Doctor Who characters seem to be able to return to life with alarming regularity and ease. It got to the point when the Doctor seemed to be capable of bringing Rory back just by waving his sonic screwdriver, which doesn’t do wood, but apparently does death. So maybe I’m exaggerating slightly, but what about the time when the Doctor just stuck Amy in the Pandorica and it saved her from a fatal gun shot wound. Or how about the Time Lords conveniently having the ability to bring people back using the Extraction Chamber. That definitely wasn’t there just so that Clara could come back. Nope, not at all. The problem is that Moffat tries to show that the Doctor cares about people by having him do everything he can to save them, but he’s made the Doctor so over-powered that he is always capable of saving them or resurrecting them and it is so boring.

I second this emotion...

I second this emotion…

On the contrary, on Xena it takes a whole lot of effort and luck for someone to return from the dead, and getting more than one chance at life isn’t portrayed as normal. Instead, just as they would be in real life, everyone (including the main characters) is helpless in the face of death, and it takes exceptional circumstances for anyone to get another life. For example, when Gabrielle dies for several minutes in ‘Is There a Doctor…’ Xena uses every method she can think of, even inventing CPR on the spot, to bring her back but none of them work and it’s almost by chance that she eventually restarts Gabrielle’s heart. Then in ‘The Quest’ Gabrielle has to simultaneously defend her position as Amazon Queen against Velasca and try to get ambrosia, the food of the gods, which can bring Xena back from the dead, and she has to do both quickly as even ambrosia can’t revive people if they’ve been dead for too long. Basically, my point is that in Xena it is difficult to return people to life, and sometimes it just can’t be done, such as when Xena dies for good in the last episode of the show.

In conclusion, although in both shows the main characters seem to die and come back rather a lot of times, the difference is that in Xena you really don’t know if some one will return to life because none of the characters have the power to just decide they won’t be dead anymore so the only way they can be resurrected is if something out of the ordinary happens, whereas in Doctor Who if the Doctor doesn’t want someone to die then they don’t die, no matter how contrived Moffat has to make the plot to bring them back, and so gradually people just coming back to life has become so ordinary that it’s mundane.

After reading that title you’re probably a bit confused so I’m going to explain what I mean. For several kinds of media (e.g. TV shows, books, music, video games, etc.) I’m going to create categories (e.g. Most Shocking Episode for TV shows or Most Depressing Album for music) and put my personal winner in that category. Of course, this is just my opinion so feel free to disagree. Anyways, let the awards begin!

 

BOOKS

 

Author with Best Writing Style: Gail Carriger – She’s possibly the funniest author I’ve ever read, her use of vocabulary is exemplary and her turn of phrase is something else so this award simply had to go to her.

 

Honourable Mention: Derek Landy

 

Best Book Series: The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien) – While not personally my favourite books to just pick up and read (don’t get me wrong, I love them, they’re just a bit tough to read at times) these books are classics of the fantasy genre and paved the way for many more fantasy books to follow and so they definitely deserve this accolade.

 

Honourable Mention: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

 

Favourite Book Series: Percy Jackson & the Olympians/The Heroes of Olympus (Rick Riordan) – I know, I know, they’re kids books. Wrong. They’re well written, very enjoyable stories, which work accurate bits of Greek and Roman mythology into modern fantasy, and that’s why they get the award.

 

Honourable Mention: The Infernal Devices/The Mortal Instruments (Cassandra Clare)

 

Favourite Romance Book: A Kiss in the Dark (Cat Clarke) – I picked this book up at a book event at school (I even got it signed by the author!), and I have to admit that after reading the blurb I was expecting another cheesy YA romance novel. I was wrong…very wrong. The twist was genuinely surprising and the ending was just adorable. It’s really rather unique in a genre full of clichés and therefore it deserves its place on this list.

 

Honourable Mention: Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

 

FILMS

 

Best Film Series: The Lord of the Rings – LotR, LotR, so good it won an award twice…

 

Most Enjoyable Film: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl – This film stars Johnny Depp as a pirate, of course it was going to be ridiculously fun! Also it’s the only really great movie in the franchise so it wins this category.

 

Most Confusing Film: Inception – I’ve finally sort of got my head around this film now. When I first watched it however I thought it was cool but it made zero sense to me therefore it receives this award.

 

Worst Book to Film Adaptation: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief/Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – Literally the only good thing about these films was Logan Lerman. OK, they weren’t that bad, but they failed completely at retelling the story of the books well so it gets this…disaccolade…is that a word?

 

MUSIC

 

Best Album: Epica/The Black Halo (Kamelot) – Combined they’re one of the greatest concept albums ever released. They’re masterpieces and they deserve their place on this list.

 

Favourite Album: Once (Nightwish) – This album just has so many great individual songs on it that I had to give it this award even if as a cohesive album it’s not incredible.

 

Favourite Band: Nightwish – Ghost Love Score…that’s all. That song alone would almost be enough to earn them this spot. That’s what a brilliant song it is.

 

Most Depressing Album: Dear Agony (Breaking Benjamin) – Ben Burnley has never exactly been a well of happiness with his lyrics but he took it a step further on this album with lines like “I’m already dead/I will rise to fall again” taking the very miserable cake. This album has absolutely nothing in common with sunshine, rainbows or pink fluffy unicorns and that’s why it gets this commendation.

 

TV SHOWS

 

Best Episode: The Body (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – With no music, an excellent script and sublime performances from the entire cast, this desolate episode has to take this award.

 

Best Scene: Buffy making the ultimate sacrifice in “The Gift” (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – Everything about this scene is so perfect, from Buffy realising what the phrase “death is your gift” really means, to her last words to Dawn being “the hardest thing in this world is to live in it”, to her gravestone saying “she saved the world…a lot”, this scene is the epitome of great and heart breaking television and that’s why it gets this spot.

 

Best Show: Game of Thrones – This is a fantastic show in every respect and even if they do kill all of your favourite characters (ALL OF THEM!) you’re guaranteed to keep coming back for more so it must be doing something right, and that’s why it gets my badge of honour.

 

Best Comedy Show: Futurama – Sometimes it’s weird, sometimes it’s sad and very, very often it’s hilarious but it’s always awesome. In my opinion Futurama is far superior to Matt Groening’s other creation, The Simpsons, and it’s a spectacular show so it’s awarded this place.

 

Honourable Mentions: Blackadder and Father Ted

 

Favourite Episode: Once More, with Feeling (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – The series’ only musical episode is a classic, with great songs and a good plot to explain the sudden musicality of Sunnydale. It also helps that the actual cast sing all the songs and do a damn fine job of it too. For all these reasons it is an episode I keep coming back to so it gets this award.

 

Favourite Scene: Gabrielle vs. a squad of Roman soldiers in “The Ides of March” (Xena: Warrior Princess) – It took me quite a while to process what was happening the first time I watched this scene. It’s probably the first (and only) time on the show that we see Xena physically helpless, and so that’s pretty powerful by itself. Beyond that, however, after 6 episodes as a complete pacifist who refuses to fight, Gabrielle kills around 8 men in the space of a couple of minutes. Even though this scene contains about a quarter of the amount of blood usually used in the average Game of Thrones fight scene, it’s still brutal thanks to throat cutting, impaling with spears and swords, not to mention an awful lot of stabbing. Neither of these things are why this is my favourite TV scene though. In the end it’s the fact that when Amarice or Eli were in danger Gabrielle had no problem sticking to her convictions and keeping out of the fight but the second Xena‘s life is at stake Gabrielle’s going at those soldiers like a crazed Energiser Bunny with a very big sword that makes this scene so brilliant. This scene emphasises that Xena is one of very few people Gabrielle would kill for and, for me, instead of making Gabrielle a killer it makes her a really great friend. It shows that she won’t take life to defend herself, but if she has to in order to protect someone she loves then she will and that’s why it earned this place.

 

Favourite Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Xena: Warrior Princess – I genuinely couldn’t choose between these two wonderful shows. In some ways they’re fairly similar and yet they’re also completely different but I love them both equally so they’re tied for this spot.

 

Favourite Comedy Show: Ellen – It might not be the greatest show ever with regards to consistency or character development but it’s made me laugh out loud more than just about any other show I’ve watched and therefore it deserves this commendation.

 
Honourable Mention: The Big Bang Theory
 

Most Disappointing Character Death: Ephiny (Xena: Warrior Princess) – I don’t think I’ve come across a single Xena fan that didn’t like Ephiny. She could be brusque and rather fierce but she was also an extremely loyal and caring friend and an intelligent, devoted regent of the Amazons. Danielle Cormack is a wonderful actress and I think they could have done so much more with the character. She deserved a better death than being stabbed by Brutus, who is of course an honourable man, before the opening credits even rolled after far too few appearances on the show.

 

Most Painful Episode to Watch: Maternal Instincts (Xena: Warrior Princess) – it sort of goes without saying that an episode that includes two funeral pyres and a character seriously considering suicide is never going to be a particularly happy affair. This episode, arguably the climax of the infamous “Rift” story arc, basically consists of gut punch after gut punch, and still finds time to rip the hearts of both main characters to pieces and utterly destroy their relationship. If it wasn’t for the final scene, which is even more heart-wrenching than the rest of the episode, and the fact that after two and a half series of the show you care too damn much about these characters for your own good then maybe The Body would have won this category too but as it is this is the closest TV’s ever got to exquisite torture, for me anyway, and so it gets this…well I guess it’s more of a warning than an award!

 

Most Shocking Episode: The Rains of Castamere (Game of Thrones) – Even if you’ve read the books and know what’s coming there is nothing that can prepare you for this. The Red Wedding is one of the most brutal scenes ever shown on television and it has certainly earned this place on the list.

Before I start you should know that unlike other “Albums to Listen to Before You Die” lists, I intend to make sure you actually have fun by firstly, keeping the list to 10 albums so there’s a chance you could actually listen to them all before you die, and secondly, not including albums based solely on how good they are objectively but by taking enjoyment factor into account as well.

 

1. Epica/The Black Halo by Kamelot

Kamelot - Epica

I know, I know, technically they’re two separate albums. However, they’re both concept albums telling one cohesive story so I’m counting them as one. They’re the epitome of what a concept album should be and they’re brilliant. The songs work on their own just fine but for the full experience I’d recommend sitting down with the lyrics and the Wikipedia summary of each song’s part of the plot and listen through them both from beginning to end. But that’s just my suggestion.

 

2. Once by Nightwish

I’m aware that this is a controversial choice but I maintain that just going by the songs on here this is Nightwish’s best release. I mean it’s got Ghost Love Score, Dark Chest of Wonders, Nemo and Wish I Had an Angel on it for crying out loud; I had to pick this one to put on the list!

 

3. The Unforgiving by Within Temptation

Here’s another concept album, although admittedly a very loose concept going just by the lyrics. There was a comic released telling the story behind the album though, so that’s cool. This is simply a great album and it’s responsible for introducing me to the whole genre of symphonic metal and therefore most of my favourite bands so I had to put it on here.

 

4. Fallen by Evanescence

This album has gone multi-platinum and sold millions and millions of copies for a reason. A cynical person might say that Daredevil is that reason. The truth is though that this album sold so well because it’s incredible. Apart from the obvious singles stand outs include Taking Over Me and Hello, which is a haunting ballad written about Amy Lee’s younger sister who died when she was 3 years old (Amy Lee was 6 at the time). This is probably Evanescence’s best release and it fully deserves to be considered a modern classic.

 

5. Metallica by Metallica

Also, perhaps better, known as “The Black Album”, this album divided Metallica’s fans but received universal acclaim from music critics everywhere, topping charts all over the world. This is my favourite release out of Metallica’s first 5, all of which are rightly considered metal classics. The difference with this album was that it’s appeal stretched much further than simply metal fans and probably contains at least something that everyone will like.

 

6. Black Holes and Revelation by Muse

Most people have probably heard Supermassive Black Hole and Starlight, both of which are excellent songs. However there’s much more amazing material on Muse’s fourth release, all the way from the cutting opener Take a Bow to the epic finale that is Knights of Cydonia the preposterousness and brilliance never let up.

 

7. Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi

Yes, it’s very over the top, and yes, it’s more than a little bit silly but this is just a really fun album and it has a good heart. It’s cheese, but it’s the best quality cheese. That was a rubbish analogy but this is still a wonderful album.

 

8. Meteora by Linkin Park

A lot of people say that Hybrid Theory is Linkin Park’s best album. However, this is my list and to me Meteora is a more sophisticated and consistent release. It’s a great showcase for how good Linkin Park’s mix of rock, rap and electronica can be when they do it right.

 

9. The Defamation of Strickland Banks by Plan B

This album was a far cry from his usual urban rap but by mixing the rap with his soulful and surprisingly great voice, plan B created an album that ends up sounding pretty unique. Combine that with the fact that it tells the story of a singer who is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and you definitely have a winner.

 

10. City of Evil by Avenged Sevenfold

Whether you love them or hate them, you’ve probably heard of Avenged Sevenfold. Waking the Fallen is widely considered their strongest release but for me City of Evil is the definitive Avenged Sevenfold album. It’s full of great tracks and fantastic guitar work, and should appeal to any rock or metal lover.


Lots of good video games have been made over the years but there are some that are so good that at times you forget that you’re playing a game, you forget that you’re crying because a collection of pixels just died and not a real person and you forget that you’ve actually never met the characters in real life.

The Mass Effect series is like that.

To avoid this turning into a useless gush about how incredible these games are I’m going to separate this article into different sections. Anyway here goes.

1. The characters

This is arguably the best thing about the Mass Effect games. By the end of Mass Effect 3 I felt like I knew every member of my squad. I knew their personality, their likes and dislikes, their sense of humour, what they’d done in their life. They’d actually become my friends. Too many games are action driven or plot driven. The Mass Effect games are character driven. And that’s why I care about the plot. I care because I don’t want these people to die.

Throughout the series the Commander Shepard that you’ve created will develop relationships of various kinds with other characters in the game depending on who you, the player, like and don’t like. By the end of the series you’ll be laughing and crying along with Commander Shepard and her gang (I’m going to refer to Shepard as female for the purposes of this review to save using non-gender specific pronouns), you’ll be able to predict what the characters will say in certain situations and you’ll care if they live or if they die. You can have interesting and deep conversations with all of your squad and they all feel like real people. An example of one such conversation is this one you have with Liara T’Soni about the place she grew up and also about her mother, who died in Mass Effect 1.

Another example of the genuine friendships you have with your crew is this wonderful piece of bonding between Shepard and Garrus Vakarian.

It isn’t just the relationships between Shepard and her squad that are brilliantly executed however. The relationships between your squad are deeper and more complex than most romance subplots in modern day blockbusters. Then again that’s not saying much! For example the argument between Liara and Javik, the last surviving Prothean (a now extinct race which Liara spent most of her life researching), after her home has just been annihilated by the Reapers engages the player because everyone can relate to having someone you idolise (in this case the Protheans) turn out not to be anywhere near as nice as you expected.

The Mass Effect series also does a wonderful job of giving AIs and synthetic life forms personalities and making them feel like individuals with their own thoughts and feelings. EDI, the Normandy’s AI, grows hugely as a character throughout Mass Effect 2 and 3. She develops feelings and opinions and in Mass Effect 3 she says, “socialising with the crew prevents [her] from feeling lonely”. This quote from Mass Effect 3 best shows how EDI grows beyond an AI:

Shepard: Are you saying submission is preferable to extinction?
EDI: My primary function is to preserve and defend the–No. No, I disagree. Shepard, I am going to modify my self-preservation code now.
Shepard: Why?
EDI: Because the Reapers are repulsive. They are devoted to nothing but self-preservation. I am different. When I think of Jeff, I think of the person who put his life in peril and freed me from a state of servitude. I would risk non-functionality for him, and my core programming should reflect that.
Shepard: Sounds like you found a little humanity, EDI. Is it worth defending?
EDI: To the death.”

She starts to express concern for the feelings of others and slowly acts more and more like a human. She even starts making jokes!

And I’m pretty sure most people who’ve played the Mass Effect series will agree that this scene where Legion sacrifices himself is one of the saddest scenes in the entire trilogy even though he’s a machine.

Speaking of sacrifices, Mordin’s incredibly brave and selfless sacrifice is another scene that will have even the most hardened gamers bursting into tears, especially if you mention seashells.

2. The plot

The premise for the Mass Effect trilogy is actually very simple. An ancient race of incredibly powerful machines called the Reapers exterminates all major galactic civilisations roughly every 500 years, now they’re here again and Shepard has to stop them. The story is very well written though and the plot related cutscenes don’t feel forced. The characters, dialogue and extensive background lore help make the story come alive however and you won’t want the galaxy to be destroyed. The story wouldn’t work if you didn’t care what happened but thankfully you will care. A lot.

3. The humour

For the most part the Mass Effect series are very much serious games. However it just wouldn’t be the same without the numerous in-jokes and light-hearted moments. There’s Samantha Traynor’s toothbrush that seems to cost almost as much as a spaceship and ends up being crucial in rescuing Shepard when she’s kidnapped by her own clone.

There are Garrus’ never-ending calibrations. Seriously you try to talk to him and he’s always calibrating. Then again I guess, as he himself says, “I’m pretty sure we’ll still need giant guns. And lots of them”.

It’s also a running theme that Shepard’s squad are some of the funniest drunks ever known. You don’t believe me? I think these clips should make my point.

Of course there have to be some immature jokes as well…

There’s also Gilbert and Sullivan! Or there’s a version of it at least.

And Joker’s tasteless yet still somehow funny comments.

Not to mention EDI’s slightly creepy but still hilarious sense of humour.

That was a joke.

‘Nuff said.


I liked “Deep Breath”. I really did. However there were a couple of scenes that were examples of Moffat at his absolute worst. For the most part “Deep Breath” was a cohesive episode with a good one off plotline but also a good set-up for future episodes (the crazy umbrella-twirling woman at the end). This is what makes it all the more annoying that there were two scenes that jarred and felt completely and utterly out of place with the rest of the episode.

One of these two scenes contains the line I referenced in the title of this article so I guess I’ll start there. The line in question is when Vastra says “Ah, Clara, just pop your clothes on the chair over there”.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “How can such an unimportant line be an example of serious script-writing deficiencies?” but bear with me. It’s obvious that in Moffat’s eyes this line was just a (bad) attempt to be funny. But to me it was a lot more significant than just unfunny humour.

This line shows that Moffat doesn’t really seem to know his characters at all. The entire scene but especially that line is so horribly out of character for every one of the characters in it that it made me want to bash my head against the wall. In fact the only time I would have expected Vastra to say that line is in an atrocious smut fanfic. No, Moffat, that is not a compliment.

Allow me to explain. All of the other scenes between Jenny and Vastra in “Deep Breath” try to make the point that one, their relationship should be taken seriously, and two, that they’re equals in the relationship. This scene completely undermines both these points and it’s utterly unnecessary. On top of that the fact that neither Jenny or Clara even bat an eyelid at that line shows that the audience is clearly meant to chuckle and have forgotten Vastra ever said it 5 minutes later. If Moffat had actually considered the connotations of that line I seriously doubt he’d ever have written it.

This brings me onto the second problem with Moffat’s writing that this line is an example of. Moffat constantly contradicts himself in almost every way possible. Some examples: Amy loves Rory, except when she loves the Doctor. Absolutely everyone in the galaxy loves the Doctor, except when they all hate him. Rory’s a plastic Roman centurion being controlled by the Great Intelligence, except when he needs some time off and randomly becomes an ordinary human again. Need I go on?

The third and final problem with MoffatWho( me, just now) that this line brings up is the fact that, whether we like it or not, Steven Moffat is a misogynist. I’m sorry but it’s true, the evidence is all there. From Strax’s line about Clara’s head supposedly being filled with “attractive young men doing sport” when we’re told she doesn’t only care about pretty young men about 10 minutes before to Vastra and Jenny continually being the victims of seemingly every lesbian-based stereotype and joke ever thought up. Moffat’s constants “jokes” at women’s expense are getting old very quickly and I’m sorry, Moffat, but they’re just not funny.

I haven’t even started on his convoluted, so-complex-they’re-dumb plotlines, complete with rule re-writings and contradictions or the fact that in his universe everything revolves solely around the Doctor so that on alternate weeks he’s the most loved or most hated man in the universe to the point where no one else’s lives or opinions seem to matter.

I rest my case.