If like me the impending Fall season makes you want to cozy up and watch a show that is heartwarming without being too "Hallmarky" (not sure that is a word, but you get the idea), then Amazon Prime’s A League of Their Own is the perfect Fall show for you. The show is a great example of how to stand out in a world obsessed with remakes. The show is inspired by the 1992 film and was created by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham. While the show honors the feel-good comedy vibe of the original film, it carves its own impressive path. The show’s path is focused on centering those that the original film excluded. It even corrects the real-life history that was intentionally left out of the original film. This lends well to the show, making it more inviting than the original.
The show follows its two leads, Carson played by Abbi Jacobson and Max played by Chante Adams, as they both attempt to make it in the 1940’s world of baseball. The show is focused on real history during WWII where, with many men at war, women had the brief opportunity to play professional baseball. For Carson, she finds her place in the Women’s American baseball league. In the first episode, Carson adventures from her small town to Chicago to try out for the league. While at the tryout, Carson witnesses Max get turned away from the league. This is a call out to the original film that only briefly references the reality of the exclusion of Black women from this league. The show gives Max a rich, in-depth, and layered storyline of her own that displays her own journey in finding her place in baseball. In fact, Max's story is also rooted in the real-life history of women playing in the Negro league during the 1940s.
While the baseball of it all is a fun aspect of the show, the real heart of the show is the expert manner in which it portrays intersectional experiences. The show, while centered on women and their struggles, does not present just one singular female experience. The Black female experience is a huge aspect of the show, but the show’s two main Black characters’ best friends, Max and Clance, have completely different experiences. Max is a Queer single woman trying to find a way to follow her dream of being a pitcher. Clance, on the other hand, is a married straight woman who writes her own comic books. While Max and Clance may have similar struggles (such as the constant racism they both face), how they are impacted by these experiences and how they react to them are unique, displaying the show’s powerful ability to craft in-depth characters.
Similarly, the show does not lump queerness into one storyline. In fact, the show has multiple parallel queer storylines. Not only are both main characters queer, but many side characters are also queer. While it is certainly not the first show to do this, how the show handles its queer characters is what makes it stand out. Despite an array of queer characters, none of them feel stereotypical or similar to each other. Each example of queerness in the show is unique. Carson’s discovery of her sexuality is completely different from Max’s exploration of her gender expression. Similarly, Bert's journey as a transman choosing to live openly despite the consequences is wildly different from Greta's "rules" that she lives by to hide her sexuality from the world. The show does a great job at capturing the vastness of what it means to be queer. The show sets a standard for queerness on television that will be hard for many other shows to keep up with.
The show also balances comedy with drama rather well. The show's comedy is quieter and often leans on Jacobson's brand of awkward humor, but it has impeccable timing that often makes the comedy feel natural. Max and Clance also stand out in terms of comedy on the show. Their relationship feels genuine, and their humor often lands, as jokes between friends often do. The drama of the show deals with issues such as racism, oppression, bigotry, and sexism. The show deals with these issues with nuance and care in a manner that that renders the show a must-watch.
With a fresh cast, impeccable writing, and a compelling storyline, A League of Their Own has something for every viewer. A League of Their Own has certainly become the underdog show of 2022. With a cliff hanger ending that perfectly sets the show up for a second season, the show is poised to continue making a name for itself. Here's to hoping we get another inning of A League of Their Own! You can stream season one of A League of Their Own on Amazon Prime Video now.
This summer, Penumbra Online's Summer Book Club wanted to read books in line with our theme of celebrating LGBTQ+ representation. As such, we chose the novel Yerba Buena, written by Nina Lacour. Yerba Buena is more than a lesbian romance novel: it follows to lives of two women, Sara and Emilie, who struggle immensely as they find closure and acceptance with their pasts within their respective lives. With its unique storytelling and authenticity, Yerba Buena shows a realistic yet heartwarming love story between two adult women while still allowing both women to have their own unique stories.
The novel itself is set up interestingly: it switches between the perspectives of Sara and Emilie. Sara's journey begins early on as a young girl. After she finds her girlfriend Annie dead in a lake, she runs away to Los Angeles with Grant, a strange boy who is also a social outcast because of his sexuality. Sara struggles with her past and her relationship with her father, as she's tasked with caring for her younger brother Spenser after their father is admitted into prison. Sara has to find herself before she finds Emilie, and likewise, Emilie must do the same.
Emilie has her own troubles when it comes to her past. Her family is riddled with issues, between her parents divorce, her sister's frequent use of drugs and alcohol, and her grandmother's death. In addition to all this, she has to combat her own feelings of uselessness, with her dissatisfaction in herself with not having a career as well as her need for male validation. Both Emilie and Sara have much to learn and discover about themselves before the two of them are emotionally ready to be a part of each other's lives long-term.
In all, Yerba Buena is beautiful, inspiring story about two women who find themselves and fall in love. This more mature take on romance is something I find refreshing, and the fact that it's a WLW story that focuses more on family connection is important too, as many members of the LGBT+ community find that they have to disconnect themselves from their family in order to live more authentically with less guilt.
If you can, definitely check out this book! It's a quick read and it's easy to get invested in the story to see how Sara and Emilie turn out. If you want to hear the Penumbra team talk about it, be sure to keep a look out for our latest podcast episode, scheduled to come out this Thursday. It'll be posted on our podcast page and Spotify.
This summer has already seen the much-anticipated release of many films and shows. From the blockbuster success of Top Gun Maverick to the release of Stranger Things season 4, summer 2022 is full of options for streaming and film audiences alike. While there is a lot to unpack this summer, one theme seems to be dominating streaming services and film as well: the superhero genre. There seems to be an option for every superhero type, from hilarious to heartwarming. To make it easier to find out what option is your best fit, I have categorized them here to show there is something for every viewer.
The Hilarious: If you like your superhero content to be a balancing act between fun and action packed, The Umbrella Academy is for you. The third season of The Umbrella Academy has proved that the show has not lost a beat since last summer. As the superpowered siblings find themselves in an alternate timeline (once again), they have to work together to find a way to fix what they have broken. Filled with family drama, action sequences, romance, and lots of laughs, The Umbrella Academy is a perfect summer watch. The Umbrella Academy is a perfect mesh between comic and television, keeping the fun from the comics and adding an emotional aspect that could only be found in television. As absurd as the show can be (one character is a literal floating cube), it thrives where other content fails because it is aware of its absurdity. The Umbrella Academy siblings are often just as confused as the audience about how time travel works, allowing the audience to find the hilarity in the madness. Whether it is Klaus just not caring about the timeline or Five deciding he is going to retire while still in the body of a teenager, there are plenty of opportunities for the audience to laugh about the time travelling plot. While comedy is where the show shines, it also thrives in the relational aspect between the siblings. While last season had the siblings spread out, this season smartly forces them all back together. Despite their heartwarming reunion last season, the siblings quickly find out it may be harder to work together than they thought. For a fun ride of family drama and action, watch season three of The Umbrella Academy streaming on Netflix.
The Dark: Of all the superhero shows out this summer, there is a particular one that is not for the faint of heart. Prime Video’s The Boys is a show that takes the superhero genre in what may be the most realistic. The Boys plays with the reality that if people really did have superpowers, not everyone would use them for good. Much more likely, The Boys postulates that superheroes would be a marketing dream (or nightmare). At the top of the capitalist superhero pyramid is “The Seven” (the 7 top superheroes), who are much more celebrities than heroes, complete with brands, stock, and films. With a mix between Disney and Fox, the superhero capitalist machine Vaught puts profit above humanity, and the result is a dismal look at humanity. Dealing with fallout of season 2’s heartbreaking finale, The Boys season 3 is darker than ever. With an unhinged Homelander desperate to save his brand and Butcher and the boys drawn into darker territory, the show deconstructs the superhero genre in an unforgettable manner. While the show is at its best in the grittiness, it has also made a name for itself with its outlandish. Never shying away from the ridiculous, The Boys ups the ante with the much anticipated “Herogasm” episode and a moment in the first episode that may go down as the most absurdly disturbing things ever done in the superhero genre. With the addition of Jensen Ackles to the cast and a slew of celebrity cameos, the show is also one of the best acted shows on television this summer. With the often-methodical manner superhero shows and films follow, The Boys stands out because it is unpredictably wild. While the show may teeter the balance between too far and just far enough, its unpredictable nature makes it a must-watch. Stream season 3 of The Boys weekly on Prime Video.
The Heartwarming: One show that could not be more different from the prior two is the Disney+ summer show Ms. Marvel. Ms. Marvel follows a Pakistani-American Jersey teenager, Kamala Khan, who, after inheriting bangles from her grandmother, gains superhuman powers. The show is a heartwarming look at the superhero genre. Where many superhero stories give their hero a tragic family backstory (think Spider-man and Uncle Ben, Ironman and his parents, etc.), Ms. Marvel displays the power of family. Kamala’s parents and brother are all loving to Kamala, even when they don’t understand her. That is not to say there is not tragedy at all in the show; as the episodes go on, Kamala learns about past family trauma including the impact the India/Pakistan partition had on her family. Despite some heavier topics, the show manages to stay hopeful and optimistic throughout. A huge Captain Marvel fan, Kamala is thrilled to have her powers, and there is a lightheartedness to her character that is refreshing. As Kamala learns to navigate her powers, family, and high school, she does it all with a sense of optimism that is genuinely fun to watch. The show like many other Marvel Disney+ shows seems to be leading somewhere larger. Whether that be a team up with Captain Marvel or an introduction to other phase 4 young superheroes such as Kate Bishop or America Chavez, it seems Ms. Marvel will be destined for things that will go beyond the show. You can stream weekly episodes of Ms. Marvel season 1 on Disney+ now.
Added Bonuses: Disney+ just released Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness last month. For those who did not get a chance to see the film in theatres, you can now stream it over the summer. To be honest, even those who did see the film may want to re-watch it! Also coming to Disney+ in August is She Hulk: Attorney at Law. The show seems like an interesting take on a hero that the MCU has failed to centralize just yet. Netflix is set to release their adaptation of the Neil Gaiman DC comic The Sandman on August 5th. The show will follow Dream, a sandman-type superhero who, after being held captive for over 100 years, is on a quest to reclaim his kingdom and right his wrongs. Also on Netflix, the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film is set to premiere on August 5th as well.
The Netflix summer show First Kill is not perfect. The CGI graphics are sorely lacking, the plot is sometimes predictable, and it is often campy and sometimes even cheesy. Despite all of this, did I still binge the show in one weekend? Yes. Not without its pitfalls, First Kill is still a fun must-watch summer show that is perfect for binge-watching and tailor made for a new generation to have their own version of Buffy/Twilight/Vampire Diaries. Growing up watching and reading the Twilight series and later watching all six seasons of True Blood, I thought I had seen my fill of forbidden vampire romances, but First Kill still managed to hook me. Despite its minor flaws, the show also gets a lot right. It handles the queer relationship at the center of the show with care and intelligently leans into the angsty chemistry between the two leads. Juliette (played by Sarah Catherine Hook) as the vampire and Calliope (played by Imani Lewis) as the human monster hunter are fun to watch both in their respective storylines and together on screen. The show brilliantly forgoes the slow burn trope that queer TV relationships are often relegated to, in fact they share a steamy kiss by the first episode. Also brilliantly, the show does away with the “coming out” storyline. Both main characters are layered with respective family pressures and teenage angst, but their queerness is just one aspect of their characters. In fact, the show just cruises over "coming out" altogether. Juliette briefly mentions coming out to her friend in a montage and Calliope casually mentions a conversation she had with her mom. The show brilliantly creates a queer relationship with high stakes for both characters without centering those stakes on their queerness. The show also does a great job creating a mythos that feels familiar yet unique. In fact, many aspects of the show felt like fun homages to other vampire medias. First Kill's use of “blood pills” to hold off vampire hunger is reminiscent to the blood bottles in HBO’s True Blood. Many fans of Buffy are sure to feel a call back to the show during Calliope’s many monster hunting training sessions. Similarly, much like Twilight or Vampire Diaries, the vampires have the ability to blend into society by walking in the sun. First Kill creates their own unique twist on this with the use of "legacy vampires," whose superior blood lines allow them to blend in with humans easier. Juliette is a legacy vampire and as such she can see her own reflection, go in the sun, and is virtually indestructible. This is juxtaposed with the fact that she is also a teenager complete with teen awkwardness and naiveté. Calliope on the other hand, while not supernatural, is a monster hunter rendering her knowledgeable to monsters but rather out of touch with people. In fact, Calliope is from a family of monster hunters who seem more focused on hunting monsters than saving people. As Juliette and Calliope forge a Romeo and Juliet type romance, they put their families further at odds and come face to face with their own beliefs.
While First Kill is not perfect, its handling of the queer relationship at the heart of the show makes it a must watch. The chemistry between the two main characters shines when they are on screen together. Other strong performances from side characters such as Juliette’s sister Elinor and Calliope’s mother Talia help the cast eclipse the faults of the show. If you were a fan of Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, or if you are simply looking for a fun summer watch, spend a weekend binging First Kill. There is already buzz about season two, and for good reason, considering the show's captivating cliffhanger season finale. You can stream First Kill in its entirety on Netflix.
Rutherford Falls is a 2021 comedy show starring Jana Schmieding and Ed Helms and is for anyone looking for a show that does more than make you laugh. The show follows best friends Reagan Wells (Schmieding), an Indigenous woman who has recently come home, and Nathan Rutherford (Helms) her best friend a man obsessed with his family’s legacy. The show follows Reagan and Nathan as they navigate their friendship even when being pulled in opposite directions. With Indigenous TV representation lower than 1% (as stated by UCLA’s Diversity Report from 2020), Rutherford Falls is a much-needed addition to the TV landscape. With the topics of Indigenous inequities, white privilege, and the ethics of statues at the center, it would seem the show would be a natural drama, but somehow the show always manages to approach all these topics with comedy and nuance. Statues in fact are in interesting plot device for the show, being used to pull the two friends toward opposite ends of the spectrum.
Much of the first season is spent focused on Nathan’s goofy and sometimes awkward obsession with his family legacy. Nathan is a man stuck in a past he didn’t live; he literally lives in a museum dedicated to his family. When the mayor decides it is time to remove a statue of Nathan’s ancestor from the middle of the town where people hilariously keep running into it, Nathan becomes obsessed with preserving the statue. While it may seem (especially from the first two episodes) that Nathan’s storyline is the driving force behind the show, as it goes on it becomes clear that Reagan is the heart of the show. Schmieding’s character becomes much more interesting, and she slowly begins to outshine Nathan in the comedy facet as well. As the season goes on, Nathan’s antics become less quirky and more blatantly out of touch. The show perfectly juxtaposes Nathan’s plight with Reagan’s. The more Nathan whines or throws tantrums in the name of his family legacy the more it becomes unsettling, considering the realities of the legacy Reagan’s tribe is left with. While the Rutherford family has a town named after them, a successful business conglomerate in their name, a museum, and even a huge ancestral home, Nathan still cannot fathom the removal of one small statue. In comparison, Reagan is fighting for one small room (her cultural center) inside of a casino as her contribution to her tribal legacy. As both friends fight to contribute to their respective cultures the antics get crazier.
While Reagan is the heart of the show, her character still seems to live on the fringe of Indigenous life. As a woman who left her tribe and came back, she is often out of touch, and that element is constantly being pointed out by her boss, casino-owner Terry (played by Michael Greyeyes). I felt Terry was one of the best parts of the show, as he is a man focused on giving his tribe a better future. Terry has a vision for his tribe that flips the script on traditional dominant culture approaches to Indigenous life. In addition to this, Greyeyes’s comedic timing is impeccable, especially when playing against Schmieding. If you were to make the assumption that Helms would be the star of the show (thanks to The Office and The Hangover), you would be wrong. While Nathan seems to be one dimensional, Reagan is multifaceted. Her struggles to fit in with her culture and her exhausting attempts to educate her out of touch friend are ones that many BIPOC can relate to. The show, while cutting at many important issues, also provides an element of television that has been sorely underrepresented--Indigenous comedy. Greyeyes and Schmieding (as well as the supporting cast) manage to be hilarious without adhering to Mainstream culture. There are many jokes that are made specifically for Indigenous viewers, and it is a perfect example of why diverse writing rooms are so important to the future of television and film. With a sequel/reboot/remake culture dominating much of what we consume, it is refreshing to watch TV that gives voice to cultures that have been historically underrepresented. There is no other show on TV quite like Rutherford Falls, which gave me a fun space to explore my own feelings on some important topics. I cannot wait for my next trip to Rutherford Falls as season 2 is set to drop sometime this Spring.
You can watch Rutherford Falls season one on Peacock.
Morgan Rogers’s 2021 debut novel Honey Girl is an introspective look at relationships, careers, and mental health that is a must read for anyone who has gone through a second coming of age. Rogers’s main character Grace Porter is a 28-year-old PhD graduate and is a main character that any late twenties to thirties year old can relate to. Burnt out from a decade of academic work and frustrated with the prospects available to her (which are compounded with the fact that she is one of few Black and Queer women in her field) she takes off with her friends to Vegas for a weekend of fun. After getting blackout drunk she wakes to find herself married to a wife that left only a calling card for a radio show. That is only where Rogers’s story begins; what seems like a fun romantic comedy quickly turns into a compelling glance at what happens when life does not go as planned.
The novel analyzes many themes, including Queer love, friendship, race, and generational trauma, in a way that feels both authentic and engaging. Grace’s friendships are beautifully written and display the reality that many millennials are creating their own found families. Her relationship with her parents is painfully true to life as she struggles to connect with both her cold father and flighty mother. Grace’s career is also relatable for anyone who has relentlessly pursued something only to get hit with the uncomfortable reality that sometimes-hard work is not enough, and life is often not fair. As the novel goes on, it explores the mental repercussions of exhaustion and overwhelm as Grace struggles to rediscover herself in the midst of a career roadblock.
While there are many YA novels that focus on coming-of-age themes, Rogers proves that there is also a market for adult coming of age novels. The truth is most people don’t find themselves at 18 or even in their early twenties; for many it takes much longer, especially for those who choose to pursue their career or academic goals with the tenacity that Grace does. Some call it a quarter life crisis, others call it a second coming of age, but the reality is that this happens to a lot of people. That is why Rogers’s novel is so important. While Grace as a character is refreshingly unique a Black, Lesbian, biracial astronomer, her story arc is universal. As Grace’s life closes in on her, it becomes evident that her problems are those that many can relate to, such as structural racism, disconnected parents, love, and finding a work/life balance. Many people charge into adulthood full speed ahead only to wake up one day years later and wonder who they are, just like Grace does. Grace struggles to balance her friendships with finding herself, she struggles to connect with her parents who failed her in different ways, and she questions her past choices, both personal and professional. All of these are things many people struggle with during their late twenties/early thirties when you have lived long enough to have regrets yet not long enough to have it all figured out. Rogers balances the heavier themes of the novel with the romantic story arc of Grace’s relationship with her wife Yuki, a free-spirited radio host. As Grace runs away from her work and familial challenges in Portland, she finds herself in New York with Yuki and her roommates. As Grace navigates her crisis of herself and her new marriage, she finds life is a lot messier than she prepared for and that sometimes there can be beauty in the mess. If you are looking for a book that is a quick read with a lasting impact, read Morgan Rogers’s Honey Girl. You will not be disappointed.
Rogers's novel can be found on Good Reads here: Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (goodreads.com)
The holidays are here and as they roll around, they bring with them the long list of "to dos." Shopping, cards, baking, it seems there is always something to do. One of my favorite things is watching Christmas movies because honestly it requires little to no effort, and I still feel like I am enjoying the holidays. After everyone is asleep and I have the house to myself, I like to eat something that is definitely not good for me but is good for me and watch a Christmas movie while I wrap presents. While I enjoy this tradition, I am rather picky about what kind of Christmas movie it is. I want to watch something that keeps me in the holiday spirit without leaning too far into Christmas. I enjoy the holidays, but my family was never the caroling, matching sweater, or Christmas vacation type, so I grew up a Christmas moderate you might say. That being said, Hallmark can often be a little too on the nose for me. I say this with no judgement; the holidays should be just that, a holiday, so if TV Christmas movies do it for you, watch on! But if you are like me, a Christmas Lite who sometimes feels overwhelmed with all the Christmas movie options, I have got you covered. I have picked out my favorite adult Christmas movie, something new to watch this year, and a new family classic sure to fit all the “Christmas Lites” of the world while they wrap their gifts.
My go to adult Christmas movie is The Family Stone. The Family Stone came out in 2005 and it has an all-star cast with Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rachel McAdams, Clare Danes, and more. The film is about grown children who have come home for Christmas with their parents Sybil and Kelly (played by Keaton and Craig T. Nelson). Their son Everett (played by Dermot Mulroney) brings home his new uptight girlfriend Meredith (played by Parker) and chaos ensues. The film does it all from laughter at sibling antics to enough emotion to bring a tear (I always well up when Sybil signs to her son Thaddeous from across the table after he feels Meredith has insulted him and his husband). I am not sure why this film has become a staple in my family. It could be it was the first Christmas film we watched that showed a family as chaotic as ours. It could be the fact that Christmas is not treated as some magical cure that makes the characters better people, in fact it seems to bring out the worst in all of them. Or maybe it is the fact that the film touches on issues often not discussed in Christmas movies. Whatever it may be, this film has become a “must watch” for my family; in fact, every year my brother and I watch it the night before Christmas while we wrap presents and text each other. If you want to watch a film that is most definitely not perfect but may make your family seem a bit more normal, The Family Stone is for you.
My new favorite “Christmas Lite” selection is the 2021 Disney+ show Hawkeye. While Marvel and Christmas may sound like an odd couple, the truth is it works. The show has a fun Christmas tone to it complete with music and the backdrop of a New York winter without being over the top. Stars Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner have a hilarious teammate dynamic as Kate Bishop and Clint Barton (Hawkeye). The show follows the duo as Clint tries to get Kate out of trouble and still make it home in time for Christmas with his family. The show is more than just fun; it’s also packed with plenty of surprise emotion as it delves into the human side of the Marvel universe. With the not so surprise inclusion of Florence Pugh as Yelena reprising her role from Black Widow, the show sets up a fascinating future for the Marvel universe. The show has all the heart of many Christmas specials with all the action and wit we have come to love from Marvel. If you like your Christmas movies with a side of action, Hawkeye is perfect for you!
Another new but sure to be classic family Christmas movie I enjoy is Netflix’s Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. The musical movie debuted in 2020 and has an amazing cast including Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Kay, and Anika Noni Rose. The film has a beautiful and mystical Christmas backdrop, but the plot of the film is much more Christmas adjacent. The story follows a toymaker Jeronicus (played by Whitaker) who has turned bitter and angry after his apprentice betrayed him and stole all of his inventions. After his granddaughter Journey comes into town, Jeronicus starts to find hope again as he tries to find his toy making magic again. Journey along with her new friend Edison have an epic adventure as they attempt to make things right in time for Christmas. The film has a fascinating storyline, exciting adventure scenes, touching flashbacks, and incredible music numbers. The show also shows the importance of representation both in front of and behind the camera. With a well-represented cast and director David Talbert, the film is a long time coming. Jingle Jangle is an epic journey that is sure to become a family favorite for years to come. So, if you like your Christmas movies to have a plot beyond Christmas, Jingle Jangle is a perfect family film for you.
If you want something to watch while you wrap this season, I recommend watching these three options. They are sure to keep you entertained and in the holiday spirit. The Family Stone can be found on Amazon Prime or Peacock, Hawkeye can be found on Disney+, and Jingle Jangle can be found on Netflix.
As a sports enthusiast and a woman, it would seem a given that I be a huge fan of women’s sports, but the truth is that was not always the case. Due to lack of exposure a majority of my sports content has always been men’s sports. Every time I watch women’s sports I am incredibly moved and entertained, but for most of my life I only got the opportunity to watch women’s sports during big moments (World Cups or Olympics). Women’s professional sports are a microcosm for the importance of understanding the difference between equality and equity. Sure, professional female athletes have their own sports, but they are in no way equitable to men’s professional sports. Women are not afforded the same pay scale, same airtime on networks, or offers for endorsements. This is changing but incrementally, not drastically (just take a look at the pay gap for starters). None of this has to do with women’s abilities or how fun watching their games can be. Serena Williams might be one of the most explosive athletes ever, Sue Bird’s three-point percentage is just as consistent as Steph Curry’s, Simone Biles is the most decorated gymnast ever, and the USWNT have been surpassing their male counterparts for decades. All of this has brought more fans to women’s sports, but it seems large media outlets are slow to make progress. So, where do all the fans go? Social media has given me the ability to follow along much easier, especially when following brands such as Just Women’s Sports. They support women athletes by promoting their content with the same tenacity men have always been afforded. While following them I found an entire new way to engage with women’s professional sports: podcasts. Just Women’s Sports has three podcasts they produce, and all three are must-listen to podcasts for sports enthusiasts.
The first podcast is aptly named The Just Women’s Sports Podcast. It is hosted by USWNT star and Washington Spirit defender Kelly O’Hara. O’Hara has a unique podcasting style that is lighthearted but also focused, as she asks guests to share their athletic journeys. O’Hara’s successful athletic career (two World Cup championships, two Olympic medals, and a recent NWSL championship) helps explain her interest in the drive behind each athlete’s story. She seems to be genuinely fascinated with each athlete’s unique journey to the top of their profession. Each athlete starts with their childhood and then discuss all the different milestones that got them to the top of their game. The podcast has guests ranging from household names, such as WNBA star Candace Parker, all the way to recent Olympic swimming sensation Erica Sullivan. The podcast is currently in its fourth season and has many episodes to listen to. Since joining I have expanded my knowledge, as specific episodes sparked my interest in different sports that I had no prior knowledge on. O’Hara treats each athlete with the same intrigue in their work process that men are afforded in interviews. Her guests are not plagued with questions that women athletes are often asked because simply being a female athlete makes a political/social statement. O’Hara gives guests a chance to share what drives them proving women athletes are equally (or more) interesting as their male counterparts. If you have ever wanted to understand the mindset of a professional athlete, this podcast is for you.
The second podcast Just Women’s Sports produces is Tea with A & Phee hosted by WNBA All-Stars and Gold Medal Olympians A’ja Wilson and Napheesa Collier. Tea with A & Phee is a fun and exciting take that feels like you are listening to an hour with friends. Despite being rivals on the court (Wilson plays for the Las Vegas Aces and Collier plays for the Minnesota Lynx) the two have a hilarious and entertaining dynamic. Wilson and Collier discuss everything from basketball to the latest pop culture updates and even their own personal lives during the podcast. In their first season (2020) they took listeners into the bubble with them and podcasted during their time in the WNBA bubble where Wilson ended up winning MVP. With guests ranging from NBA star Steph Curry to rapper Saweetie, and two seasons worth of content, the podcast is a must listen to for any fan of basketball, women’s sports, or even for those who just like a nice cup of piping hot tea.
The third podcast from Just Women’s Sports is the Snacks with Lynn & Sam podcast. Hosted by NWSL and USWNT stars Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis, the show is a peek behind the curtain of Women’s soccer. They interview professional women’s soccer stars ranging from Megan Rapino to Crystal Dunn. The two stars are former roommates and teammates who have a chemistry that makes the podcast feel like a fun bus ride with your teammates. They discuss everything from their personal lives to the weekly happenings in women’s soccer. Their interview style is breezy, and their friendly energy seems to be matched with each guest. If you are a fan of women’s soccer and want to get a deeper understanding of the game from a player’s perspective, this podcast is for you.
The Just Women’s Sports Podcast, Tea with A & Phee Podcast, and Snacks with Lynn & Sam Podcast are all available anywhere you stream your podcasts.
I have always been a nerd. I used to love obsessing over several fandoms with friends and attending midnight premiers, till I grew older and fandoms became a thing of the past. Of course, I have enjoyed fantasy/sci-fi shows since adulthood, but they have always felt heavy. No amount of funny memes can hide the reality that Game of Thrones was a serious and sometimes disturbing fantasy. Despite enjoying Thrones and shows like it, over the years I forgot that sometimes the draw of supernatural shows can be the fun and joy they bring. Then in the middle of the pandemic when I desperately needed more joy I found the hilarious show Wynonna Earp on Netflix. The show is based on the comic of the same name, about Wynonna the descendant of Wyatt Earp who is tasked with killing all the revenants (resurrected criminals Wyatt Earp killed) who have come back to her home town of Purgatory to take over. In order to do this, Wynonna becomes part of a demon fighting team that includes Dolls her government agent boss, Doc Holliday, and Wynonna’s genius little sister Waverly. Together they work to break the Earp curse and kill all the revenants in Purgatory, and they have a lot of fun while doing it. The thing that makes Wynonna Earp so much fun is despite the darker premise the show does not take itself too seriously. After all, the showrunner herself refers to the show as "our little shit show." The show has a charm to it that if given the chance will speak to the heart of any nerd or lover of fantasy/sci-fi, especially those who loved the nuance in their fantasy/sci-fi just as much as the mythos. I am not the only one that found Wynonna Earp later in the game either. The show certainly grew over time from a cult classic to garnering mainstream coverage by the fourth season. This of course left fans of the show feeling bittersweet that the attention seemed to be too little too late (Syfy announced season 4 would be the last about halfway through the season).
Part of the reason many were slow to fall in love with the show is the fact that it genuinely gets better as it goes. I can admit the first episode of Wynonna Earp is not its strongest. Between trying to explain a curse, family history, supernatural elements, and multiple murders all at once, I can see why the episode may feel overwhelming to some. Yet, once past the first episode the show slowly begins to build, displaying how captivating the show really is. The show is constantly taking all the tropes known to Western and Sci-Fi genres and flipping them around. The hero of this Western is a woman, and not just any woman but a messy, irresponsible, and funny woman (Melanie Scrofano is impeccable). The bad guys aren’t always bad and the good guys often mess up. It also challenges the Western love story by putting a LGBTQ+ relationship at the center. While Wynonna certainly has her fair shares of love stories, the most consistent relationship on the show is between Waverly and Sherriff Nicole Haught (played by Dominique Provost-Chalkley and Kat Barrell). This is also one of the show’s most appealing facets, the genuine chemistry between its core characters. Waverly and Nicole’s relationship (or WayHaught according to their ship name) has been a beacon for positive LGBTQ+ representation, even gaining the attention of GLAAD and others. In addition, Wynonna and Waverly’s genuine sister story arc is one of the cornerstones of the show as they navigate their cursed family line and reconnected sisterhood all with fast paced witty dialogue and a heavy dose of sarcasm. To top it off, the cast seems to enjoy being a part of the show just as much as viewers enjoy watching it. The cast has been known to engage with fans on social media, live tweet episodes, frequent cons, and even visit fan run podcasts.
The fans of the show, or “Earpers,” reciprocated the cast’s devotion to the show by creating a fandom that could compete with the best of them. Earpers have seen the show through droughts between seasons, cancellations, and even a pandemic. After the show was cancelled the first time, Earpers campaigned renting out ad space in Times Square, paying for ads to be placed on busses in LA and running a successful online trend till the show was renewed for its long awaited fourth season. While the show’s series finale seemed to be one huge thank you to the fans that would signal the show’s final curtain call, I have learned never to underestimate Earpers. I would not be surprised if one day a fifth season, spinoff, or movie were to happen. Till then, you can find all four seasons of Wynonna Earp now on Netflix. If you want to further enjoy or understand the show, you can listen to the podcast Wynaught for hilarious recaps of each episode between a Earper and newbie. Or the podcast Tales of the Black Badge for interviews with the cast and past deep dives on episodes. You can also read the episode recaps with the showrunner Emily Andras she did with TV Junkie to help understand each episode a bit more. If you are looking for a fun show give Wynonna Earp a shot, but fair warning, you may be calling yourself an Earper before long.
With Halloween around the corner, it is the season for pumpkins, costumes, and slasher films. Slasher films and shows are all around this time of year: Hulu has a Chucky remake, Prime has remade I Know What You Did Last Summer, and FX is never more than a breath away from a new American Horror Story season or spin off. While those shows and movies are for many, some prefer their Halloween festivities without the nauseating gore and looking over the shoulder scares. By some I mean me. I have lost my taste for the slasher side of the horror genre. Maybe it was overexposure (I was watching horror films at a really young age), maybe it was parenthood making me squirm every time a young woman was kidnapped and tortured, or maybe I am just getting old. No matter the reason, somewhere along the way I no longer got joy from watching slasher films, so I began to look into what it is I do like to watch to get me in the spooky mood for Halloween. What I found is there is something for every Halloween lover, no matter their threshold for horror. If you are like me and want something different this Halloween season, you may enjoy watching one of these new shows/movies below.
First up is Netflix’s show You, which just released a new season. The psychological thriller amps up the stakes in its third season following stalker/murderer Joe (Penn Badgley) as he moves to the suburbs with his equally unhinged wife Love (Victoria Pedretti). As the two try to navigate parenthood in the wealthy suburbs of Madre Linda, they must also try to tamper their worst impulses, like stalking and murder. I spent the better half of my weekend binging most of season 3 of You and it was the perfect way for me to get into the Halloween spirit. The show has just enough gore, creepiness, and thrill to be exciting without being over the top. Despite murder and stalking, the show never becomes overly scary for me. Maybe it is Joe’s unhinged semi-comedic monologues, the hilarity that is Joe and Love’s couples' counseling or the talented supporting cast, but the show has much more going on than gore. In fact, in many episodes, murder is only a side dish to sex, psychological games, and Joe’s disturbing outlook on love. If you want a show that is more excitement than gory (with still some gore), then You is the Halloween show for you.
If You is still a little too much for you Hulu’s murder mystery Only Murders in the Building might be a better fit for you. Although the show is centered around a murder mystery it is balanced with comedy. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez head up this comedy creating an unlikely leading trio. The show is enjoyable with Gomez skipping no beats and keeping up with her comedy legend costars. The show dives not just into the mystery but it also examines society’s obsession with true crime as a genre. With some amazing guest stars and rave reviews, the show already has whispers about a second season. If you want something new and funny this Halloween watch Only Murders in the Building.
If murder if simply not your thing, a classic action flick may be your perfect Halloween match. Action films have the suspense and gore to get you in the Halloween mood without scaring you. If you are looking for an action film and have the ability/desire to go to the movie theatres, I would suggest Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The film is part of the Marvel universe and follows Shang-Chi, the son of a villain with the power of the "ten rings". The movie has great fight scenes, a dynamic backstory, and lots of humor in part thanks to Awkwafina’s character Katy. The film is a great introduction into Shang-Chi’s storyline and is an exciting look at the much more inclusive future of the Marvel franchise. If going to the movies is not an option for you, Shang-Chi will be on Disney + by November 12th and Marvel’s Black Widow is currently available to stream from home. Black Widow gives a much needed storyline for Natasha dealing with her complicated backstory and proves that she was always worthy of a lead role. The movie has non-stop action and a complex plot that rivals any of Black Widow's male counterparts. The movie also gives viewers a glimpse into Marvel's next act, with the introduction of Yelena (played by Florence Pugh). Yelena is Natasha’s sister and seems to be Marvel’s attempt at righting the wrongs they did with early versions of Natasha’s character. So, if action is more your Halloween speed, watch one of these movies to get you in the spirit.
One last option for the Halloween lover who does not like slasher films is the fantasy/sci-fi realm. Nothing screams Halloween quite like fantasy. Allowing yourself to be transported to another world for a few hours can get anyone in the Halloween spirit. Netflix’s Shadow and Bone has everything required of an epic YA fantasy: love triangles, a heroine with newfound powers, and an immersive universe. To top it off, the creators of the show gave much needed updates from the novel, including a much more inclusive cast. In the same vein is HBO’s The Nevers. The show is set in Victorian England after a mysterious event causes a part of the community (mainly women) to get supernatural abilities. These women are called “the touched,” and they remind me of X-Men's mutants. Navigating misogyny, hate crimes, and other supernatural elements, the main characters Amalia and Penance try to protect other “touched” women and children by running an orphanage safe haven of sorts. The show is fast paced and full of action, making it a must watch.
So this Halloween if you don’t truly enjoy horror films or slasher shows, think about watching one of these instead!
Autumn Andersen is an editor for Penumbra Online and grad student at CSU Stanislaus. She enjoys reading, writing, and talking about her favorite shows.