Topic: Cultural Commentary

The Madness of Queen Charlotte’s King George

One Step Away from Authentic Representation of Mental Illness?

A colleague asked what I thought of the representation of mental illness on Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (2023). Some people take casual questions casually. Six hours of Netflix, two hours watching interviews, and [however long it took me to write this blog post] later, I can state with utmost certitude: I am not one of those people.

Full confession: period melodrama is not usually my thing. I have seen zero Bridgerton (2020-present), of which Queen Charlotte is the prequel/sequel spin-off. To boot, this is my first venture into in Shondaland. And I am only one person. My own experiences of mental illness and of the mental healthcare system are not universal. I’m a part-time historian, but don’t give two flying flips if writers take liberties with the past when they write fiction. (Black German nobility in the 1700s? Natürlich!) Within those admitted limitations(?), my viewing of Queen Charlotte has left me feeling generally impressed and inspired, but with a profound sense of just how much work remains to be done for authentic and inclusive representation of mental illness.

Read More »

Some Kind of Freedom

Why do Americans Practice Child Sacrifice?

I used to look down on the Aztecs and Maya of old, with their bloodthirsty and unreasonable gods. I lumped them together with the devotees of Moloch, a cruel deity of the ancient Canaanites to whom followers would offer up their children as a way of ensuring prosperity. I cringed when we sat down as a family to watch “Lost Cities with Albert Lin: The Great Flood”(2021) and learned of the mass child sacrifice that took place at Huanchaco some centuries ago. We had some explaining to do with the kids. “We’re so much better,” I thought. “So much more civilized. We’ve come so far!” Now I’m not so sure.

Read More »

Original Recipe Fascism

14 Mix-and-Match Ingredients to Beware (from Umberto Eco)

What is fascism? I thought I knew. And I thought that the answer didn’t matter, because fascists were the stuff of history books. I was wrong. They have proliferated and, although they defy concise definitions, you can spot them if you know what to look for.

Read More »

Graffiti Prophets

Scrounging for Hope

When shadows fall heavy upon the land, I look for signs of hope. Lately, the shadows have weighed so heavy that I’ve been tempted to stop looking. Still, on unhurried days I walk our dog down along the river. It feeds straight to the Bay. I try to forget that it could flood our neighborhood, maybe for good someday if the sea level rises enough. The floodwall wears predictable layers of spray paint script. Much of it inscrutable, though one can decode the predictable bevy of profanities, as specific as they are explicit. But a few weeks back, I saw something new: “you are loved,” “keep going,” and “I am scared I don’t know what to do but I know I will survive and be glad that I did.”

Read More »

Untangling the Lies that Bind

6 Toxic Elements in Contemporary Storytelling

A many-branching poison spreads through the land, touching many news outlets, schools, houses of worship, and families. A new presidential administration represents hope to much of America in the form of concrete, inclusive policies. Because of this, some might be tempted to forget the lessons of the recent past, along with the toxins that lingers, still spurring people to fear, to hate, to trust the untrustworthy, and to doubt the trustworthy.

Read More »