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“END OF THE F***ING WORLD” PIERCES THE MIND OF A TEENAGER BY VIKRAM BALASUBRAMANIAN & SKYLER SPEARS Satire Editor & Photography Editor The eight-part series based on the graphic novel by Charles S. Forman, “End of the F***ing World,” is a dark comedy and a perfect netflix binge. It’s a romance story for the twenty-first century: a classic boy-meets-girl. But this boy is a self-diagnosed psychopath, and he’s looking for his first kill. We start by meeting James, who introduces himself as an emotionless teenager whose killing of small animals is his favorite hobby. Except animals aren’t quite good enough anymore, he’s looking for bigger prey. Cue Alyssa. She is almost the opposite of James and deemed a “rowdy, foul-mouthed rebel,” who lives with her distant mom and her creepy step dad. James decides she’ll be the perfect kill, so naturally he pretends to fall in love with her. This tryst leads them on a wild adventure when Alyssa decides she wants to go find her absent dad. The show presents a beautifully framed coming-of-age story, filled with dark humor, sick twists and an anti-romantic romantic comedy. The show makes it obvious it’s going for the gritty, dark, middle-finger-tothe-world mindset right away, presenting characters who spontaneously


and collectively hold all the traits society says a sharp no to. The first three episodes, all very brutal and deliciously dark, possibly to the point of overkill (no pun intended), introduce us to James and Alyssa’s unusual road trip. The show is not only stunning in content, but it also exceeds the mark in all other aspects too. Using a combination of flashbacks, voice overs and creative shots the show becomes a new kind of masterpiece. The main character’s internal thoughts are often broadcasted out giving the viewer a unique insight that no one else on screen knows and offers brutal honesty that leaves onlookers laughing despite the shows dark tones. DVHS junior Sara Dada said, “The show has a very unique aesthetic. The format of the 20-minute episodes, the retro vibe and music all separate ‘The End of the F***ing World’ from anything I’ve ever watched before.” Unfortunately, the show falls flat with a poor side tangent with cops Teri Darego


and Eunice Noon, played by Wunmi Mosaku and Gemma Whelan respectively. Representing female, LGBT cops, the characters’ love life provides such a cringey humorous sidebar it’d be better omitted. The “good cop, bad cop” trope leaves audiences wanting for less, and grateful for a transition back to the main characters. The soundtrack was the cherry on top of this TV adaption. It integrates a combination of ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s music, setting the “End of the F***ing World” to a remarkably haunting soundtrack. Director Jonathan Entwistle speaking to Billboard Magazine said, “We made an adult show about teenagers. The dawn of teenagers was the ‘50s and because we were playing that whole creepy, suburban thing, I automatically went to a ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s doowop thing. I think that’s the saddest music in the world.” The combination of grim scenery and cheerful music leaves you with an inexplicably sinister feeling. In the era of teen dramas and reality TV, it’s easy to tune into a shows riddled with stereotypes and repetitive plot lines. “End of the F***ing World” provides the perfect alternative: a gritty, joyful and honest romance. It gives us a look into the tumultuous world of a teenager’s mind, and leaves the viewer with a hunger for more.

The Netflix original reinvents the “boy meets girl” story. //SARAH KIM

ter egg requires an extensive knowledge of the ‘80s — knowledge that I lacked. Although Cline haphazardly explained some of the references throughout the novel, I still felt alienated and confused. A comAfter the release of the CGI-heavy trailer, dedicat- prehensive understanding of the ‘80s is required in ed fans have been practically salivating for the mov- order for each step in solving the puzzle of Halliie adaptation of “Ready Player One,” directed by day’s egg to feel logical; otherwise, the answers feel Steven Spielberg and set to hit screens on March 30. Critics from the Boston Globe to Entertainment Weekly praised the book and marked it as one of “Each page is crammed with refthe best books of 2011 when it was first released. erences to ‘80s pop culture to the The trailer itself proudly touted the novel as a “Holy Grail of pop culture.” I opened the book excited to point where the plot becomes deembark on an immersive journey, but was disappendent on it. The thought process pointed with what I found. Ernest Cline’s story follows 18-year-old Wade involved in finding the egg requires Watts in 2044, where the real world has fallen to an extensive knowledge of the ‘80s ruin. The good citizens of the world now learn, work and live almost entirely in the OASIS, a virtual reali— knowledge that I simply lacked.” ty so captivating and pervasive that it has essentially replaced reality. Wade is part of a global hunt for the Easter egg, a arbitrary and forced. virtual prize left behind by the now deceased James Indeed, that’s Cline’s selling point. He markets Halliday, owner and creator of the OASIS. Wade himself as an unabashed geek, a proud devotee of races against fellow egg hunters (known as gunters) the era of his childhood. His fans, the downtrodden and the mega corporation IOI that wants to com- nerds and geeks of the world, praise the book for its mercialize the OASIS for a profit. In the end, Wade homage to their favorite decade of pop culture. emerges triumphant, defeating the IOI and winning Cline himself provides an excellent example: ownership of the OASIS along with Halliday’s entire “I made a big entrance when I arrived in my flying fortune. DeLorean, which I’d obtained by completing a Back The first and most obvious issue with the book is to the Future quest on the planet Zemeckis. The that it’s marketed to a very specific audience: nerds. DeLorean came outfitted with a (non-functioning) I’ll preface this with the disclaimer that I’m not a flux capacitor, but I’d made several additions to its huge ‘80s fanatic, so perhaps my sense of alienation equipment and appearance. First, I’d installed an was magnified by the fact that I grew up in a gener- artificially intelligent on-board computer named ation beyond the era “Ready Player One” is devoted KITT (purchased in an online auction) into the to. But I expected a greater degree of relatability dashboard, along with a matching red Knight Ridfrom a book so widely praised. After all, I enjoyed er scanner just above the DeLorean’s grill. Then I’d series like “Stranger Things” and “Ender’s Game,” outfitted the car with an oscillation overthruster, a which are built around the ‘80s and nerd culture. device that allowed it to travel through solid matter. The difference is that “Ready Player One” is almost Finally, to complete my ’80s super-vehicle theme, exclusionary in nature. Everything is centered I’d slapped a Ghostbusters logo on each of the Dearound the ‘80s and the media James Halliday (a.k.a. Lorean’s gull-wing doors, then added personalized Cline’s self insert) love so dearly. plates that read ECTO-88.” The main issue is with the excessive use of refer- At some point it stops being about paying respect ences, to the point where it feels like you’re reading to the ‘80s and becomes about how many referenca Wikipedia page and not a fiction novel. Each page es Cline can sneak into the novel. Well, not ‘sneak’ is crammed with references to ‘80s pop culture to so much as ‘parade past you.’ Passages like this are the point where the plot becomes dependent on it. littered throughout the book. Other works based The thought process involved in finding each Eas- around the ‘80s don’t feel the need to loudly explain

MARCH 29 2018

BY ERIC CHANG Staff Writer

pride,” highlighting his affection for his wife. Although the work may seem as if it focuses on the platform from which he developed his With the release of “Man of the Woods” on career around, due to the country style guitar Feb. 2, Justin Timberlake brings his music back riff in the background, by delving deeper into to his origins, surprising his fans and critics the lyrics, the piece is truly written for his wife. with an unfamiliar combination of country “There’s only one me and you,” Timberlake and pop and moving away from his usual style. sings as he rejoices at the memories he shares While feelings about the album have been with the love of his life. By devoting this song mixed, Timberlake successfully blends genres to his wife, Timberlake emphasizes the positive effect that Jessica has with nostalgia and love, had on his life as well as creating a familial atmohis music. sphere that will make A shift to a more you want to dance. popular style in the alRight off the bat, the album, “Say Something” bum cover is unlike any reveals the impact outof the artist’s past covside opinions have had ers. It features Timberon his album developlake standing in a forest ment. In this song, Timwearing a suit. However, berlake acknowledges underneath he is wearthat his new album is ing a red and white flanmoving away from his nel and jeans, hinting at normal style, writing the effect of southern “everyone knows all culture, not only on the about my direction.” specific album, but also experiments with differ- He writes that his criton his music and style Justin Timberlake ent genres in his latest album. ics push him to “say as a whole. The album is // RCA RECORDS something that says named after his son Silas, whose “name means ‘of the woods,’” as Timber- something,” leading to the release of an album that “says something” about his music and style lake announced in an Instagram video. Starting off the album with a blast from the origins. The final song of the album, “Young Man,” is past, Timberlake brings “SexyBack” with the song “Filthy.” Although the song strays from dedicated to his son Silas. “When this song plays, I have to leave the the main purpose of the album, it successfully captivates the listener with its declaratory room because it makes me so emotional,” guitar chords mingled with funk. Timberlake Timberlake explained during a preview of the repeats, “I guess I got my swagger back,” hinting album with Poleman. Throughout this piece, Timberlake teachat a newer version of the established pop star’s es his son how to face the demanding world image. Tom Poleman, the chief programming officer and be a man and tells him that “you can do at iHeartRadio, stated that “I would be disap- anything in the world if you listen.” The proud pointed if the [‘Filthy’] reviews weren’t mixed father advises his child to never “back down,” because that would mean he came out with never “act out,” and never “stay down.” One can hear the thought and emotion that went something predictable.” The album’s main song is “Man of the Woods.” into this track for his child. In an age where hyThe piece is devoted to his wife, Jessica Biel. He per-masculinity is becoming an issue for men, constantly repeats, “I brag about you to anyone Timberlake sensibly informs his son that “if you outside / But I’m a man of the woods, it’s my need to cry, you’ve got my permission.”

every reference to really milk the nostalgia like Cline does because those works have actual substance and don’t rely on heaps of references to make people care about the characters. Many of Cline’s fans are victims of what I call “nostalgia porn,” a flimsy narrative whose sole selling point is the fact that it constantly dumps warm, happy reminders of relics from a bygone era straight into the reader’s lap. “Ready Player One” is nostalgia porn on steroids. Instead of being content with simply remembering the ‘80s, Cline invents a world where the culture is glorified. It’s a world geared around his interests, where a maniacal obsession with the ‘80s conveniently pervades society due to the death of an eccentric Steve Jobs-esque billionaire. It’s a world where being a nerd isn’t scoffed at; it’s socially acceptable, even admirable. The flimsy nature of the narrative becomes most apparent when one takes a closer look at Cline’s characters. Wade Watts, the main character and narrator of the novel, is rather one-dimensional. In a tactic similar to that used in harem anime, Cline produces a bland, colorless and slightly pathetic character for his target audience to unconsciously project themselves onto. Nobody cares about Wade because he’s strongwilled or has compelling motivations; people care about Wade because he’s generic enough for every nerd reading the book to relate to. Thus, the audience cheers Wade on because his successes as a nerd validate their own identities. Outside of being a nerd, Wade has no defining traits. His motivations are largely unclear as well. The most compelling reason I could find to root for Wade was because he was up against a greedy corporation who sought to monopolize the OASIS for a profit. As much as I hate lazy writing, I guess I

hated the mega corporation more. In an almost self-congratulatory fiction, Cline writes a character who gets it all — just for being a nerd. He starts the book as a poor, lonely, chubby nobody, barely scraping by and living in a trailer park. At the end, he’s a fit and famous billionaire who owns the OASIS and has the most powerful avatar inside the simulation. And of course, Wade gets the cute nerdy girl he’d been crushing on (and kind of stalking) since the beginning. This wouldn’t be a problem if Wade earned any of these achievements, but he doesn’t. Any meaningful character development is subverted by Cline, since any and all obstacles can be overcome through Wade’s inexplicable gaming prowess and devotion to ‘80s trivia. At one point, Wade acts out the entire plot of a movie inside a virtual simulation verbatim. Of course, Wade manages easily, because he’s “watched [the movie] over three dozen times.” He infiltrates and hacks IOI’s database singlehandedly in eight days while on the run as a fugitive. At the end of the book, he outlasts his friends only because he plays a perfect game of Pac-Man (a perfect game of PacMan! Literally SEVEN people have done this in history). In an attempt to cover for this, Cline occasionally kills off minor characters and acts as if Wade’s fleeting, episodic grief is some sort of meaningful character development. Ultimately, Wade doesn’t need character development because he has no real flaws. And that, in and of itself, is a flaw. It’s easy to get caught up in Cline’s world. He offers a sort of self-proclaimed escapism from reality. But, when you break down the novel, it’s a shallow narrative with a dose of ‘80s references, barely held together by Cline’s imagination. The novel inspiring Steven Spielberg’s newest film offers fan service, but not much else. // CLAIRE ZHANG

Volume V Issue 6  
Volume V Issue 6