Featured TV and Film

Barbie Beats Oppenheimer to Break the Weekend Box Office 

If you’re internet-savvy, the chances that you’ve not heard of the word “Barbenheimer” is likely to be zero. It is a blend of the titles of two blockbuster films with simultaneous theatrical release dates, Barbie and Oppenheimer. The last few weeks has been filled with a surge of internet buzz around the two movies which were released on July 21, 2023 in the United Kingdom, United States, and several other countries. 

Barbie is the first live-action production of the animated classic children’s movie. Margot Robbie stars as the titular character alongside an ensemble cast of Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Issa Rae, Will Ferrell, Kate McKinnon, and Rhea Perlman. The Greta Gerwig-directed movie was promoted with ample marketing efforts in the months leading up to its release. Mattel entered into partnerships with brands including Airbnb, Gap, XBox, Bloomingdale’s to promote the movie. Warner Bros tweeted the first ever Barbie poster in 2022. 

On the other hand, Oppenheimer is a biological thriller film written and directed by 5-time Academy Award nominee, Christopher Nolan. Universal Pictures won a bidding war over Sony, Paramount, and Apple Studios to produce the trending movie after The Dark Knight trilogy filmmaker developed a strained relationship with Warner Bros. 

Peaky Blinders lead actor Cilian Murphy stars J. Robert Oppenheimer, the titular character who was a physicist crucial in developing the first atomic bomb. The movie also has an ensemble cast of Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, Florence Pugh, and Kenneth Branagh. 

What is the Fuss About?

The two movies explore different themes. While Barbie is a feminist-themed fantasy film, Oppenheimer is a tensely grin thriller. But it’s interesting to note that they share a few similarities. They are both written and directed by Academy Award nominees. Barbie is a journey into Stereotypical Barbie’s (Margot Robbie) adventure in and out of Barbieland, her ambitions, regrets, and fight for a better future. Oppenheimer shares a similar approach. Nolan explores the hero’s hopes, ambitions, and regrets for creating a weapon of mass destruction beyond his control. 

The dual rendering of the two blockbusters at cinemas got the highest gross opening in the UK since 2019, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to sit at home. 

A cinema chain Vue International recorded over 500,000 customers on the weekend alone. The chief executive officer Tim Richards said “We knew it was going to be a big weekend based on the advanced bookings, which were also the biggest since the pandemic.” Richards further confirmed that almost 20% of people who bought a ticket for Oppenheimer also did so for Barbie. 

Barbie was projected to gross between $90-$120 million in its opening weekend, while Oppenheimer was projected to average $45-50 million in their opening weekends. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that both films exceeded box office expectations considering the massive wave of influence the Barbenheimer brand has wielded in the last few months.

What Did They Make?

Barbie and Oppenheimer had a weekend debut of £29.4 million ($37.6 million) in the UK and Ireland combined. Barbie did £18.5 million ($23.8 million) while Oppenheimer grossed £10.8 million ($13.8 million). 

In the United States and Canada, the movies grossed more than $10 million each in their Thursday preview. Barbie did $22.3 million and Oppenheimer grossed $10.5 million, which has never happened for two previews of movies released in the same weekend. This led to the increase of the weekend projections to $160 million and $77 million respectively. By the end of the weekend, Barbie grossed $162 million and Oppenheimer did $82 million in the US and Canada alone. 

Barbie and Oppenheimer grossed a combined amount of $511 million dollars worldwide over the weekend. They did $337 million and $174 million respectively, with the pink-themed film grossing almost double of the biopic’s revenue. Barbie marked Greta Gerwig’s highest grossing opening weekend in the US since her movie Little Woman did $16.8 million. Oppenheimer is Nolan’s third highest grossing worldwide opening weekend ever. His movie The Dark Knight Rises did $249 million while The Dark Knight came behind with $198 million. 

Surprisingly, the two blockbusters are not considered rivals but complimentary movies. Reports show that Oppenheimer had extra ticket sales in its opening weekend because Barbie tickets sold out fast in cinemas across the world. In the US, it is estimated that $4.98 million of Oppenheimer’s $82.4 million box office sales came from Barbie remnants. 

In conclusion, it is safe to say the juxtaposition of the films created the box office magic we see today, otherwise known as the Barbenheimer phenomenon. While it remains to be seen that the movies continue to shatter box office expectations, we urge you to check them out to determine if the hype is well worth it.

To hear more Gen Z stories


Sir Elton John Stands As Defence Witness for Kevin Spacey In UK Court 

American actor Kevin Spacey has been the subject of a sexual misconduct case since 2017. The House of Cards star was dropped immediately from the Netflix show in solidarity with the fight against sexual abuse. The 63-year-old actor now faces 12 counts for alleged incidents between 2001 and 2013 during his stay in the UK. 

Kevin Spacey Is No Stranger To Lawsuits 

In 2017, 51-year-old Anthony Rapp accused the American actor of abuse and charged him in court in 2020. The confession stirred up a rollercoaster of allegations that tarnished Spacey’s acting and filmmaking career. Rapp claimed the Academy Award-winning actor tried to sleep with him in the 1980s when he was only 14. 

However, a federal jury in New York waived off the case in October 2022 after concluding that Rapp didn’t prove his allegations. Similarly, another fellow accused Spacey of groping him when he was a busboy at a restaurant in Massachusetts during the summer of 2016. But prosecutors dropped the case in July 2019 when the accuser pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to testify. 

Also, a massage therapist accused Spacey of groping him. But the case was dismissed in Los Angeles after the accuser died in 2019. The actor was also hit with a $31 million lawsuit after his disgraceful exit from House of Cards because of allegations of sexual harassment of crew members, which cost the company a tremendous amount of money. 

Disgraced Stellar Actor Now Faces 12 Counts 

Four men have accused Kevin Spacey and are on trial in London because the crimes were allegedly committed on UK grounds. The trial started on June 28 and will last for four weeks. A jury of nine men and five women was also selected on the first day to handle the case. 

Prosecutor Christine Agnew called him a “sexual bully” at the London Southwark Crown Court on June 30, citing the actor’s joy in oppressing others. The American actor and his defence attorney Patrick Gibbs pleaded not guilty to the 12 charges. Gibbs argued that the accusations were made up. He asked the jury to carefully examine the evidence to see that the claims of non-consensual activity were wrong. 

Spacey was once the artistic director of the Old Vic Theater between 2004 to 2015, which authenticates his stay in the UK during the alleged timeframe. One of the four accusers testified on July 3 via video interview that Spacey assaulted him in the early 2000s by rubbing his neck during a working relationship between the two. 

The second accuser testified on July 4 that he met Spacey in a pub. He claimed that Spacey kissed his neck twice and grabbed him by his crotch after saving the actor’s dog. Another man testified on July 5 that the 63-year-old Hollywood leading man made sexual comments at him at a charity event and grabbed his penis from his jeans when they were alone. 

The fourth accuser charged Spacey with seven counts and testified on July 10 that the actor was a “vile sexual offender” who drugged him when he visited his home for acting mentorship. He claimed to have found the former House of Cards star performing oral sex on him when the drug’s effect waned, and he woke up. 

British Legend Stands As Key Witness 

Sir Elton John, alongside his partner, David Furnish, testified on behalf of Kevin Spacey on July 17. The Rocket Man singer took the stand from Monaco and answered the prosecuting counsel’s questions regarding Spacey’s presence at John and Furnish’s yearly White Tie and Tiara ball in the early 2000s. 

The 76-year-old British music legend told the court that he didn’t recognise one of the accused actor’s alleged victims, who claimed that Spacey inappropriately touched him. The accuser said he almost swerved off the road on one specific occasion during an aggressive incident with Spacey while driving to the ball around 2004 or 2005. 

But Sir Elton John testified that Spacey didn’t attend the event in either of the years. He claimed that the actor only participated in the ball in 2001 on a memorable night when he dressed in white tie and arrived on a private jet. No photograph was seen of Kevin Spacey from the 2003 or 2004 events, to which John alluded that an actor of Spacey’s calibre couldn’t attend and not be documented. 

While the actor’s 42-year career has been riddled with controversies, it is illegal to call him an offender. Since a person is innocent until proven guilty by the law court. So we wait patiently for the jury to conclude if the actor goes scot-free and continues his stellar career or follows the path of other acting colleagues into incarceration. 


Battle of the Billionaires: Zuck Strikes the First Blow with Threads

The epic battle between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk has invaded the internet over the last three weeks. This hasn’t come as a surprise to most insiders and general onlookers, as the battle has been brewing for a while now. Both men had been subtly taunting and throwing shades at each other, but very few saw the direction it would take next.

How Did This Happen?

It started on June 21, 2023, when the Twitter owner tweeted about his willingness to engage Zuck in a cage fight. In response, the 39-year-old Meta CEO took to his Instagram story and posted Musk’s tweet with the caption, “Send me location.” 

The media thought it was just banter until Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White revealed that he received a text from the billionaire Meta CEO asking about Musk’s true intentions for the fight. Dana reached Elon Musk, who confirmed he wasn’t bluffing and was ready for a real man-to-man showdown. Meta’s spokesperson Iska Saric also verified that the battle lines have been drawn, and there is no backing down. 

The two billionaires are fierce tech rivals who have criticized each other over the years, with Zuck making snide remarks about SpaceX and Musk mocking Meta’s data privacy scandals. Physical combat between the tech heavyweights will be historic. The late Apple ex-CEO Steve Jobs and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates used to throw verbal shots at each other, but it never escalated into physical combat. 

How Has it Gone So Far?

On Wednesday, July 5, 2023, Mark Zuckerberg introduced Threads, a direct Twitter competition, to the world. Although he hinted at his plans for the app three months ago, no one envisioned it would come at a time like this. But what better time to kick your competition than when he is down? It is no news that Elon Musk has been taking the heat recently for his management of Twitter. With the exit of core team members in November 2022, the Twitter Blue saga, and the introduction of daily tweet limits, the billionaire has not been in the good books of many social media users. 

Threads started with a bang as over 10 million users signed up to the platform in the first seven hours, with the numbers skyrocketing to a whopping 30 million by the morning of Thursday. The Meta CEO took to his Threads account and expressed his joy. 

Threads is an app from Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. It is available on iOS and Android and has a text-based feed like Twitter. Messages posted to Threads have a 500-character limit. In contrast, the Bird app has a 280-character limit for primary users but up to 4000 for Twitter Blue subscribers. 

Threads users can repost, quote, and reply to other posts. The app is synced to a user’s Instagram account, allowing sharing posts directly to Instagram Stories via Threads. Verified Instagram accounts are automatically verified on Threads. Accounts can be listed as public or private. But DMs are not available on Threads. 

The similarities between Threads and Twitter have caused an uproar on social media. DogeDesigner, a Musk faithful, clowned the lack of originality of Meta’s latest app and tweeted a meme to signify that the team simply copied and pasted. Elon Musk responded with a laughter emoji, leading to more war of words between the billionaires. 

The story gets even more fascinating with Elon Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro sending a cease and desist letter to the Meta CEO. The letter claims that Meta stole Twitter’s intellectual property to create Threads. It also accused Zuckerberg of hiring several ex-Twitter employees who still had some illegal Twitter documents and electronics in their possession. It is also worthy of note that Threads is not available to European Union (EU) countries because of a data and privacy protection policy Meta is yet to agree to. 

What is Next?

Many people have expressed concern over Threads, with several questions flying in the air, whether it will genuinely be the end of Twitter or is just another case of shiny object syndrome. Then there is also the possibility of legal action from Elon to Zuck.

While the answers remain to be seen, Twitter’s backlash over the last few months makes it vulnerable, but trust time to tell who delivers the winning knockout. 

To see more stories like this click here

Featured Thought + Opinion

Has Elon Musk Lost His Midas Touch?

Billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk is known worldwide as a creative and financial genius. Before acquiring the raving social media app, he was an early investor in the electric motor company Tesla, Inc., owns spacecraft manufacturing company SpaceX and co-founded OpenAI, the brain behind the disruptive AI tool, ChatGPT. According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, he is the wealthiest man in the world as of July 2023. 

Recently, Elon Musk has made a name among Gen Z and millennials as a social media animal. So the famous quote, “Make money, not memes,” does not apply to the 52-year-old entrepreneur. With thousands of daily tweets and engagement on his Twitter account, he’s changing the narrative that billionaires can’t be social. In October 2022, Elon reportedly sold 10,000 bottles of Burnt Hair perfume, which he dubbed “The finest fragrance on earth,” in 24 hours—a nod to his massive influencing superpowers. 

However, like athletes reaching the twilight of their careers, there are speculations that Elon’s creative juices might just be dwindling. 

Elon and His Angry Bird

From his controversial coup of ex-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s management policies—leading to the exit of core team members, to introducing an $8 monthly subscription fee for Twitter Blue checkmarks, the billionaire businessman seems to be falling out of favour with the masses daily. 

Lebron James, Lil Nas X, and Bette Midler were among the many celebrities that commented on the Twitter Blue saga. 

Bette Midler termed Elon Musk “pathetic” after he took away her blue check mark, despite how much she contributed to the bird app. 

On April 24, Bette got her blue check back and tweeted, “Thank you #Elon.” But her victory was short lived when she lost it again 2 hours later. She remains unverified despite having over 1 million followers. The uproar ceased when Elon Musk rescinded the decision and returned the blue checks of thousands of celebrities. Halle Berry and a few others didn’t get theirs back. 

But after a short period of peace, Elon seems to be back with his antics. 

Twitter and its Limits

On Saturday, 1 July, he announced that the Bird app had implemented a new policy where newly registered users can only access 300 tweets daily. Unverified accounts now have a daily viewing limit of 600 posts, while verified ones can access 6000 tweets. This has led many to believe it is just a familiar ploy by the business mogul to get more people to subscribe to Twitter Blue. 

Elon Musk tweeted that the new changes are to reduce illegal data scraping and system manipulation on the micro-blogging platform. He also believes he’s doing Twitter addicts a favour by imposing the new daily view limit. 

In a new update, the daily tweet limit has been increased to 600 for new users, 1000 for unverified accounts, and 10000 for verified tweeps. As expected, there have been several reactions to the billionaire’s decision. On the top of the list is ex-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who has mixed feelings but hopes that the decision is for the best. 

Many users and businesses with unverified accounts are against the decision because of the new limitations. People are complaining about not being able to access their tweets. Some others believe that the latest tweet limit policy would encourage a mass exodus of Twitter users and cause a massive loss to the company. 

For someone renowned for turning everything he touches to gold like the ancient Greek king, Midas, we fear that Elon Musk’s draconian policies might bring his empire to dust and ruin. However, let’s not come to a hasty conclusion. But instead, watch as the drama unfolds to see if he becomes a victim of his success or stands tall against all odds and wins back the reverence he once had in the hearts of many. 

Events Featured Music

Glastonbury Festival 2023: The Highlights

The 53-year-old event, dubbed “UK’s biggest musical festival,” was filled with drama, stage shocks, and huge surprises. Glastonbury’s gate flung open on Wednesday, 21 June 2023, and welcomed over 210,000 people who trooped into Somerset’s Worthy Farm to experience the anticipated occasion’s glitz, glam, and glory. 

Here are seven highlights from the event before the curtains closed on Sunday, 25 June 2023.

The Churnups? What The Hell!

Mystery band, The Churnups were announced as headliners, leaving speculations on their identity. But the atmosphere roared with life when Dave Grohl came on stage and revealed The Foo Men as the missing piece of the puzzle. The band’s frontman dedicated their last song on the setlist, Everlong, to their deceased drummer, Taylor Hawkins, and introduced Josh Freese as his replacement. Friday night also saw performances from Arctic Monkeys, Kelis, and Guns N’ Roses.

Blimey! Is that Cate Blanchett?

Two-time Oscar award-winning actress Cate Blanchett got the crowd wild on Friday night when she appeared on stage with US pop duo Sparks. Glastonbury has a reputation for pulling off surprises, but no one was ready for the 54-year-old Australian superstar dressed in a yellow suit and buzzing with vigour. Sparks performed “This Girl Is Crying In Her Latte” while Cate replicated her energetic dance routine in the song’s music video. 

Confession Time With Lewis Capaldi

Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi announced his struggles with Tourette’s syndrome in September 2022. While singing his final song, the worldwide hit “Someone You Loved,” on Saturday, the 26-year-old pop artiste lost his voice in an emotional atmosphere. He took the backseat, allowing the crowd to fill in for him as his band played the outro, signifying an end to his one-hour set. On Tuesday, the singer announced an indefinite break from touring to focus on his health. 

Headliner Lana Del Rey Cut Short On Set

Lana Del Rey’s performance at the Glastonbury Festival got cut short after she arrived 30 minutes late on Saturday. The technical crew muted the 38-year-old’s mic before she could perform anticipated tracks like “Summertime Sadness.” But the fans protested and sang “Video Games” a capella, while the critically acclaimed American songwriter joined them just in time before security led her off stage. 

Jacob Collier Brings The Church To Town 

English multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier led the audience at the West Holts Stage on a soulful rendition of Queen’s “Somebody To Love.” He split the crowd of 30,000 into various sections and directed them to sing in different harmonies, waving his hands like a skilful choir director to signify unison, change in keys, and up and down scales. The 28-year-old Jazz singer was left dumbfounded at the magical result and thanked the audience for being unbelievable and surreal.

Debbie Harry Shows Up In Style

On Sunday, the 77-year-old lead vocalist of the ‘70s band Blondie rocked the Glastonbury Festival in an all-black mini dress. Debbie Harry paired the dress with a black jacket and a black inner t-shirt. She also wore dark visor sunglasses to match her striking outfit and started her performance with the band’s smash hit “One Way Or Another.” However, some online and onsite viewers complained that they couldn’t hear the American rock legend.

Elton John Bows Out Gracefully 

On Sunday, Sir Elton John came out in a gold suit and delivered an impeccable performance on what may be his last gig at Glastonbury. With hits upon hits like “Rocket Man,” “Tiny Dancer,” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” the 76-year-old British legend didn’t disappoint, taking the audience on a nostalgic ride into every era of his 50-plus-year career. 

John was joined on stage by Brandon Flowers, Stephen Sanchez, Jacob Lusk, and movie debutante Rina Sawayama. The Beatles legend Paul McCartney watched from the wings as the singer dedicated his single “Don’t Go Down On Me” to his deceased friend, British legend George Michael who would have turned 60 on Sunday. 

These were the memorable events of the just concluded festival. Early this week, organisers Michael and Emily Eavis confirmed that there would be Glastonbury 2024 when they shared a picture on Twitter with the words “See you in 366 days”. Although the dates are not confirmed, we look forward to more surprises as we anticipate next year’s event. 

Art + Culture Featured

My Year of Rest and Relaxation: Book Review

‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’ by Ottessa Moshfegh is a ‘sad girl’ book through and through   

In 2022, the curious ‘sad girl’ trend appeared on our Instagram and TikTok feeds: its hashtag collects videos and photos of young women indulging in grungy and gloomy aesthetics and in the enveloping decadence of Lana Del Rey’s, Phoebe Bridgers’ and Fiona Apple’s music. As with any trend, it doesn’t only involve the spheres of fashion and music, but also of literature: many writers were warmly recommended by numerous websites and online reading communities, from the classics of Sylvia Plath and Emily Bronte to the contemporary voices of Eliza Clark and Raven Leilani (acclaimed authors of Boy Parts and Luster respectively). But there’s one book in particular that enjoyed a renovated success: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. 

‘Sad girl’ books often focus on the character of a stone-cold, angsty woman. And Moshfegh’s work – first published in 2018 – is no exception: the protagonist is an unnamed girl living alone in New York City at the beginning of the 21st century who, in an attempt to fix her extreme distress and dissatisfaction with life, decides to self-isolate and sleep for a whole year. Her physical attributes label her as the ideal woman of the early 2000s – young, thin, blonde and rich -, but these privileges hardly corresponded on a personality level. Since the first pages of the book (which develops as a first-person narration), we’re faced very clearly with the protagonist’s mind: she’s cynical, pessimist, spoiled and lazy; her behaviour towards people – especially her only friend Reva – is rude and careless. This extreme anger and negativity can be hard to digest for some readers, but this is also what makes the story interesting. 

The turning point of the book is the encounter with Dr Tuttle, an incompetent therapist who becomes an involuntary accomplice in the protagonist’s plan: while the latter falsely claims growing insomnia episodes, the psychologist prescribes her (always stronger) sleeping pills. The protagonist’s apartment becomes a laboratory where she experiments with any meds available to her, mixing them and taking notes of their bizarre side effects. Once ready to embark on this weird healing journey, she resigns from her job and goes on a year-long hibernation, from whom she only wakes up for a few minutes to eat and take more pills. 

my year of rest and relaxation
My Year of Rest and Relaxation Book Over

It’s important to highlight that this short novel is not only about a bizarre self-healing method, but it’s also a notable exercise of internal monologue and a cruel satire of America’s attitude towards mental health, as well as a mockery of the hedonist and exclusive late-90s/early-00s art world. Throughout the book, we’re given a better understanding of the protagonist’s familiar background, as her absent parents are the main reason behind her lack of emotional intelligence, respect for other people and self-esteem – as shown in the twisted relationship with her boyfriend Trevor. Her wide financial resources (obtained from her parents under sad circumstances, as the readers will find out) give her the possibility to access the medical care she needs – despite how arguable and inappropriate it can be; this element underlines the bitter and now well-known American reality where only those with money can afford healthcare, as well as the scary ease with which some doctors prescribe potentially harmful medication without properly visiting their patients. 

Moshfegh’s satire reaches also a more sociocultural level: at the beginning of the story, the protagonist, being an art history graduate, works listlessly for a contemporary art gallery that exhibits and sells mainly meaningless and obscene works. Here we have the description and brutal caricature of a rotten industry, controlled by hypocrites, where lazy rich kids come up with shocking and conceptual ideas, which legitimise their success and growing wealth: one of them is Ping Xi, a young artist represented by the gallery, who agrees to assist the main character during her hibernation in exchange for being allowed to conduct an art project/experiment while she sleeps.

Another relevant character is Reva, who insists on considering the protagonist her best friend despite being constantly treated badly by her. Reva comes across as naïve, insecure and caring: she also struggles to lead a satisfying and happy life, and her unexpected and sad epilogue makes the end of this novel particularly gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. 

My year of rest and relaxation is not a book for everyone: the writing is raw and maniacally meticulous in the description of the endless loop of coffee, mindless film-watching, sleeping pills, side effects, negative thoughts and emotions, surreal situations, idleness, anger and bitterness, which might be hard to digest for some readers. But for the more intrepid ones, Ottessa Moshfegh’s work can be a challenging experience and an excellent look into the depths of “sad girl” literature, where lightness is an illusion and an intriguing, weirdly seductive darkness is always around the corner.

Fashion Featured

Here’s How to Dress Like TV Characters

Are you amazed by TV fashion? Well, with just a bit of online help, maybe you can dress like tv characters from your favourite shows

Popular contemporary shows are known for their meticulously-thought fashion and the characters embodying their pieces. Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon were praised by their amazing costume department, as was the original Gossip Girl while it ran. 

But, those interested in buying some of these pieces tend to have a hard time finding them, or any replicas, online. Except for the most brand-apparent clothes, it’s hard to find some random, albeit fashionable, flats Blair Waldorf wore a decade ago just by searching on Amazon. 

The trend of finding out what TV characters and their actors wear on TV is as old as TV itself. And, in the early days of the internet, there were forums and Facebook groups dedicated to the task of helping fans dress like TV characters. But now, this process has become slightly more refined, with entire websites committed to finding as many replicas or dupes as possible. 

blair gossip girl
© Gossip Girl is just one of the many websites proposing solutions for fans who want to take a page out of the book of these shows. Basically, the site features a bunch of shows and pictures of their characters, identifying the pieces they wore or similar replicas that can be purchased online. It also has a site link to buy the piece on the spot, assuming they’re not sold out. While many of them could be already sold out or might not be the exact piece worn by that character, it’s a genuinely helpful pointer in the right direction for those walking the road of fashion.

The website also features outfits from Emily in Paris, Euphoria, Riverdale, Dynasty, Yellowstone and Black-ish. It also has a section for talk shows and reality shows, and a whole directory of Netflix shows you can choose from. Additionally, there are categories for men and plus-sized users, and a section for outlet shopping, in case you’d like to purchase outfits at a lower price.

Of course, even if you do decide to check out the website, there are bound to be a couple of pieces you’ll still have trouble finding. So, it’s not an exact science yet.

TV characters and celebrities tend to have dedicated fashion stylists and serve as inspiration for many brands. And, although even they don’t always get fashion right, they get it right more often than we do. So, it’s no surprise we’d also like to look like many of them.

Culture Featured

“Normal People” by Sally Rooney: Book Review

Normal People is a book that doesn’t need any big introductions

Normal People, written by Sally Rooney, could be considered the typical bestseller and it’s preceded by its on-screen fame. Also, as often happens when a piece of work is so widely popular, Normal People has proved very divisive – people either praise it or tear it down. 

Normal People is, after all, a simple story: the protagonists are two young people, Connell and Marianne, who live in a small town in Ireland and meet in the last year of high school. The narration follows what happens to them over the span of four years, from January 2011 to February 2015. At the beginning of the book, Marianne doesn’t have any friends – at school, everybody avoids and bullies her. While, Connell is popular and well-liked, even if he doesn’t make any true, meaningful friendships. The two meet, fancy each other, and life runs its course: school ends and both decide to attend the same university in Dublin, and it’s at this point that an overturning of roles happens. Now, Marianne has lots of friends, she’s charming and attractive but can’t build any healthy connections. On the other hand, Connell finds it difficult to fit in and feels like a fish out of water. But, the only certainty in the lives of both is that they’ll always be there for each other. 

sally Rooney
Sally Rooney @ Ellius Grace

The novel has many notable aspects: character development and the experience of growing up are undoubtedly the foundations of the plot. As time goes by, the courses of their own lives and their attempts as a couple shape Marianne and Connell’s personas. Their differing personalities and backgrounds affect the way they act and take decisions, which sometimes can pull them quite far apart, but it eventually results in making them realise how complementary they’ve become to each other. 

Social class and family are important features in Sally Rooney’s novels too: her characters are explicitly the product of their upbringing and Normal People is no exception to that. Marianne comes from an upper-middle-class background, which allowed her to grow up with all the economic privileges that come with it. But, her family is careless and abusive, and this has a profound impact on her self-esteem, as well as her romantic relationships and friendships. On the other hand, Connell is the son of a single mother who works for Marianne’s family as a housekeeper and the healthy, caring bond he has with her allows him to be more confident and conscious of familiar support in hard times. 

Another fundamental element is the portrayal of mental health issues, in particular in men. In fact, when the pair move to university, the novel especially focuses on Connell, who – as a consequence of the difficulties of his new student life and the tragic loss of a close friend – starts to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression which become more and more destabilising. After accepting his own vulnerability (not without fright), he asks for professional help and, also thanks to the support of his mother, his friends and Marianne, eventually learna to live with his condition. This is one of the most praised aspects of the novel, as the theme of men’s mental health is often minimised if not absent in books and films (as well as in general conversation), Rooney’s account of it is exceptionally accurate and respectful. 

Normal People On Screen Adaption
Normal People On Screen Adaption @ Edna Bowe

On the other hand, something that many readers didn’t particularly appreciate is the miscommunication trope. It’s undoubted that the two protagonists face many obstacles which they overcome in different ways, but sometimes Connell and Marianne miss many occasions of reconciliation because they don’t clearly communicate with each other. This expedient – although vastly present in numerous works – might give the impression of being used improperly in certain passages of the story, where a well-deserved step forward might have felt more appropriate instead. 

Sally Rooney is considered one of the most peculiar voices of the Millennial generation, but with Normal People, she delivered a truly universal piece of work. Although her novels are well-defined chronologically and geographically, they strike a chord with readers all around the world and the story of Marianne and Connell in particular can move and interest all generations, as nobody really knows what it means to be ‘normal people’.

Featured Gaming & Tech

Are Instagram Notes a Twitter Copycat?

Instagram Notes are the latest update added to the content-sharing social media giant

Since the launch of Instagram notes last month, most people have focused on sending notes requesting food or sharing PayPal & CashApp links. But, since Instagram has a track record of attempting to copy what other social media apps are doing successfully, this seems like their version of Twitter. They copied Snapchat with Instagram Stories; they copied TikTok with Reels and their backtracked attempt at a single-scroll feed.

Instagram Notes are messages that appear at the top of someone’s inbox. You slide to your DM’s, and you’ll see all these Instagram Story-like bubbles, but with text messages instead. You have the option of selecting followers who follow you back or your Close Friends as those who can see the notes. Notes can include text and emojis, and must be 60 characters or less.

Notes are available to all Instagram users except those based in the European Union, the UK, and Japan, who will get the features in early 2023. Other users have also reported not seeing the notes despite being part of these countries.

Businesses might be interested in using notes for promoting flash sales in a non-pushy way. As they don’t come with notifications and are only available in your inbox, they are more subtle than any other Instagram feature. Despite their relatively hidden location, they are also a good way to draw attention to an announcement, as they’re always at the top of your audience’s inbox, and away from the clutter of Instagram Stories.

Most people wondered who asked for Instagram notes, or what’s the overall purpose of them, at first. Of course, they asked these questions precisely using the notes feature, or by going on Twitter, its distant cousin.

After a couple of days with the notes active on Instagram, users have gotten more or less used to them, using them to comment on the events of their daily life, or popular worldwide events, like the FIFA World Cup.

Reception has been mixed, but since Instagram Notes seem to be here to stay, people are using them regardless. And, those who want them removed (expressed through Notes, of course) will probably have a better chance of being heard by screaming into the void.

The Instagram Notes feature was actually tested out several months prior to its implementation in specific countries, and only with certain users. Supposedly, Meta learned that people liked having lightweight, easy ways to share what’s on their minds and begin conversations with others. Notes give people a way to express themselves and contact each other.

Featured TV and Film

Did the Gossip Girl Reboot Finally Redeem Itself?

The Gossip Girl Reboot (2021) debuted its second season at the beginning of December

Matching the new social media influencer lifestyle that’s a cornerstone of the new series, most of the new Gossip Girl season’s marketing was done on the characters’ TikTok and Instagram accounts. All the characters have real accounts you can follow, with even a Goodreads account for Audrey Hope and a Letterboxd for Aki Menzies.

Season One of the reboot received mixed reviews for trying to be as scandalous as the original while pretending to be woke. The show took itself too seriously, and the plots were getting repetitive as early as episode three. It also had too many characters, some of which had multiple storylines, while more interesting characters were left unexplored. The issue of the adults’ involvement was also controversial at best.

The reboot also seemed to emulate Élite too much, which ironically, was also highly inspired by the original Gossip Girl. Now, Élite’s later seasons are meh, while the reboot is improving. And, once you watch S2E1, you’ll realise that the writers have seriously stepped up their game.

Fans, overall, have expressed pleasant surprise with the increase in the quality of the show. And, what seems to have helped to boost that quality, was it finally standing on a definite identity. The original Gossip Girl was not about petty, rich people pretending to be good, woke, and self-aware. It was about petty rich people being petty rich people, while also having sex with each other. 

The new one made away with the nonsensical ending of season one as fast as it could and began showing us rich people doing petty things to each other just because they can, through modern lenses. Giving sidelined characters like Monet de Haan the spotlight was a good move. Tucking away the Obie x Zoya x Julien triangle, which had long overstayed its welcome in Season One, was also smart.

While that’s not to say Season Two has some flaws, namely the Max x Audrey x Aki relationship not having an actual storyline, it’s still stepping in the right direction. And, whether the writers learned from their mistakes, or now have a better grasp of their target audience, it’s safe to say the Gossip Girl Reboot has redeemed itself from its shaky first season run.