Bruno Mars Has Already Found Cardi B’s Replacement for the 24K Magic Tour

Bruno Mars was blindsided by news of Cardi B pulling out of their joint tour to take care of his newborn baby, so much so that it’s being reported that his team is “scrambling” to find a replacement ASAP.

From TMZ:

Sources connected to Bruno’s tour—slated to kick off in September—tell us he’s without an opener and, so far, there has been no replacement made for Cardi. We’re told Bruno’s people were burning up the phones Friday … starting conversations with reps from a number of musicians but nothing is close to being locked down.

Our sources say Cardi’s decision to back out of the tour has created some issues … dancers were hired, costumes made and stage backdrops built.

Back in February, Mars announced that Cardi would be joining him on the final leg of his 24K Magic Tour. However, last Thursday (Jul. 26), Cardi announced via Twitter that she “understated this whole mommy thing” and she’s “not ready physically” and “not ready to leave [her] baby behind since doctors explained it’s not healthy for her to be on the road.”

Bruno was supportive of Cardi’s decision to stay home and enjoy being a new mommy and replied with a heartfelt message, saying that the “most important thing is you and your family’s health” and “you are absolutely doing the right thing.”

He went to say that he loved her and would “play Bodak Yellow every night in your honor” before ending his message with “Please give your baby girl a hug from me and a hug on behalf of everyone on the 24K Magic Tour. Love, Bruno.”

And after days of working overtime to find a replacement for Cardi, it sounds like he’s already found someone to fill her spot.

Responding to a fan who asked who would be taking over, Bruno joked, “I got a cousin learning all of Cardi’s songs right now. It’s gonna be great! He’s super excited.” When asked if he would reveal who’s really replacing Cardi, Mars said “Nah.”

With the tour kicking off in September, Bruno should be making an announcement about who will be taking Cardi’s spot pretty soon. Of course, Cardi B is irreplaceable, but I’m sure he’s found someone good enough to fill her shoes.

Bruno Mars Has Already Found Cardi B’s Replacement for the 24K Magic Tour is a post from: Gossip On This – Pop Culture, News, Videos & Humor

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The Hope We Desperately Needed Today Arrives in Kesha’s Rainbow Trailer

In case you weren’t already moved by Kesha’s journey of healing and affirmation in last year’s album, “Rainbow,” the singer is now stepping behind the camera for a documentary of the same name. Featuring footage of the singer touring as well as in the studio paired with “psychedelic vignettes,” Kesha will explore her journey through some of her darkest days.

In a press release obtained by Billboard, Kesha writes:

“Making Rainbow the album was such a therapeutic process and given the opportunity to turn it into a three-dimensional piece of art has helped me find even deeper healing and catharsis. I hope this film inspires others to never give up even if you feel full of hurt or lost, because after the storm comes a rainbow. Depression, anxiety and mental illness are things we all need to talk about more, and there is no shame in asking for help. Making the decision to work on yourself is the bravest thing you can do. I hope this film helps bring light and love to everyone.”

The trailer for the film, which was released today, showcases a few of those vignettes, proving that Kesha has as powerful a visual flair as she does a musical gift. The color scheme of the film is as bright as the natural phenomenon it’s named after, and the vignettes will prove to be a powerful storytelling device as Kesha unfolds her story.

Kesha wrote the album while fighting a $50 billion lawsuit in court from Lukas “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, who allegedly raped and drugged her before launching the defamation suit against her. The legal battle lasted years, and Kesha is now embarking on a healing process which she is sharing with her fans through both her music and this film.

Kesha’s journey is one of heartbreak and ultimately hope. By sharing her experiences with the world, Kesha will normalize asking for help while dealing with trauma, rather than toughing it out on your own. The singer is proving to be not only a talented artist but a strong humanitarian, which is something the media never recognized about her prior to the album’s release.

“This album saved my life,” Kesha says in the trailer, a powerful reminder of the way art can help and heal while recovering from trauma. We at The Mary Sue stand with Kesha and cannot wait to see the entire film when it’s released by Apple Music.

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter; Image: Shutterstock)

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The Best Ship in Avengers: Infinity War? Bucky and Rocket

bucky in Avengers: infinity war

When I first heard about Avengers: Infinity War, I had one wish: I wanted Bucky Barnes and Rocket Raccoon to be best friends. Was this wish selfish? Yes, absolutely. They’re two of my favorite characters, and I just thought that it would fit if they were in a scene together.

The closer we got to the movie release, the more I began to hear of a magical scene where the two are friends. So, when I actually saw the movie and saw that Bucky used Rocket as a weapon, all my weird fanfictiony dreams became a reality.

Look, there isn’t much love in Infinity War, other than Pepper and Tony for five seconds in the beginning of the movie, and Vision and Wanda, a relationship that came out of nowhere and only after she shoved him to the ground to escape the compound in Captain America: Civil War.

So to me, the greatest love story of all came from this genetically engineered raccoon wanting a metal arm. Imagine, if you will, the start of their friendship:

Rocket sees Bucky’s arm. The two have a moment where they fight side by side. Later on, Rocket asks Bucky about it again and Bucky tells him how he came to get the arm. “The star always reminded me that I was made into this monster, I didn’t want to be the Winter Soldier,” he said, Rocket looking away and remembering his own tortured past.

A heart to heart where two beings, pained by events outside of their control, connect. It ends with Bucky saying Rocket will never get the arm. When Bucky vanishes, the arm remains (I know it disappeared, but stick with me for a second here), and while Steve is mourning the loss of his best friend, Rocket sadly picks up the arm and begins to cry.

Now tell me that’s not the love story we deserve to see in Avengers 4. Keep your “I can’t have children” Hulk/Black Widow storyline; I want Bucky Barnes and Rocket Raccoon making best-friend bracelets.

Avengers: Infinity War is released on digital on July 31. If you want the Blu-Ray, buckle up and wait until the full release on August 14.

(Image: Marvel)

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Learning to Love Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars The Last Jedi

I used to be one of those The Last Jedi haters.

Not because there were too many women, or because it wasn’t “my” Luke Skywalker. I disliked it because I thought it teased too dangerous of a relationship between Rey and Kylo, because it sidelined Finn, and because it gave Poe a bad arc. I thought it didn’t continue the plot of The Force Awakens well and boy was I frustrated with both the parentage reveal and the fact that the climax only involved Luke and Kylo rather than the other characters.

After watching it in December and listening to the discourse surrounding it, I opted to ignore the film’s existence for a while, burying myself in other Star Wars media that made me happier.

This piece began as a conversation with fellow TMS editor Princess Weekes. We started discussing The Last Jedi from the position of fan and not fan, and I said, “maybe I need to go back and rewatch The Force Awakens and this back to back, see if I like it better.” Then the news broke that Episode IX would be the last Skywalker Saga film. While writing up that news, something clicked for me about The Last Jedi, and I began my sequel trilogy rewatch that night.

First off, I remembered how much I adored The Force Awakens. I might be a Star Wars Rebels girl at heart who loves a good Rogue One/A New Hope double feature, but there’s something about JJ Abrams’s return to a galaxy far away that melts my heart. It probably has something to do with the gorgeous cinematography, the sheer joy of the film itself, and the characters of Rey and Finn.

Finn is my second favorite Star Wars character of all time. I love Imperial defectors, but something about Finn’s courage, humor, and spirit captured my heart when I first saw the film. John Boyega delivers a terrific performance, and I adore Finn’s arc. He’s my favorite sequel trilogy character and watching him not only be a wonderful hero but a kind friend to those around him makes me flail around in delight.

And then there’s Rey. Sweet Rey, who’s angry yet compassionate, brave without being defined by some sort of gendered trauma. When she catches the lightsaber, I start to cry; I didn’t grow up with Ahsoka, so Rey is the first female Jedi in a leading role I ever saw. I feel so seen by Rey that I’m Rebel Legion approved with one of her costumes (soon to be all of her costumes). She means the world to me.

I found that The Force Awakens, with the exception of one plot thread, seemed to move towards the plot of The Last Jedi far more smoothly than I remembered. Feeling rejuvenated by re-watching a film I loved so much, I opened Netflix and turned on The Last Jedi, feeling only a little bit anxious.

The first thought I had? Wow, the opening scene is one of Star Wars’s best. The heroism of Paige Tico in the face of insurmountable darkness tied into my favorite Star Wars, Rogue One. The music, performances … really, everything about the scene is perfect. I remembered watching it on the big screen and being blown away. Even on my much smaller screen, it was incredible. Leia in particular stood out to me, both because she’s Leia and will always stand out, and because I feel like I finally grasped the thesis of the film. But more on that particular thread later.

I found myself more engaged with the film as I viewed it through a new lens. I still had issues with Poe’s arc, and how a lot of comic relief seemed to be aimed at Finn getting hurt or being in pain. I still didn’t like the ship tease of Rey and Kylo, though with my newfound idea about the film I found it less egregious. I found Luke’s gruffness far less frustrating, though I would have liked to know more about the darkness Kylo displayed that led Luke to his fateful decision.

Mostly, I found myself examining the film through the lens of it being the second to last film in a trilogy that would close off the Skywalker Saga, and through that, I found meaning in a film I struggled to understand before. The film is about new heroes learning their place in the galaxy and finding the strength to step up and lead the fight, despite not coming from a famous and iconic bloodline.

Let’s start by analyzing the actions of Luke and Leia. Luke is grieving because the Skywalker line, and the Jedi, have once more brought pain to the galaxy. His final sacrifice is giving the Resistance the legend they need one more time before sacrificing himself so they can continue to save the galaxy … without him. Leia grieves for dead pilots and fighters because she knows they need leaders to carry on after she’s gone; this is a theme that’s touched on in an issue of the Poe Dameron comic where she talks with Poe about how one day, she’ll be “luminous” too. The Skywalker elders are facing their pasts and a future where the galaxy must continue without them, and by helping Rey, Finn, and Poe, they are building a future where their legacies will be secure.

Kylo too must face a choice, and he does in a way continue what his grandfather started. But as Rey learns, just as we cannot demand that Luke be the hero of the story again, Kylo is not the hope they need just because he’s Leia’s son. Kylo might be conflicted but he still makes the choice to turn to the dark again and again. He is now the Supreme Leader of the First Order, free from his master’s abuse in a way that Anakin only was in death; unlike his grandfather though, he’ll live to see the consequences of his choices.

Rey’s story then is about learning that only she can be the Jedi hope for the galaxy. She’s shaken, confused, and traumatized after her adventure, but she has her friends by her side. In a way, as established in The Force Awakens when Finn came to rescue her and became the first person to ever do so, they’ve given her all she’s ever wanted. Rey has everything she needs, just as Leia is right in saying they have everything they need to begin the rebellion again.

Rey’s compassion for Kylo was not, as I previously and wrongly assumed, a character flaw. She has heard the myths of the Skywalker family her entire life. Of course she’ll assume Luke will be the hero from myth, and of course in her vulnerability she’ll turn to Kylo and believe that, given his role in the family, she can save him and turn the tide of the battle. But she learns that even if she doesn’t come from a famous family, she is the new hero the galaxy needs. This is what matters.

This to me is crystallized in the scene where Kylo tells Rey she’s from nothing. Kylo views her worth in relation to him, judging her his equal despite her humble origins. Rey rejects that idea. She is his equal in the light because she matters, not because someone tells her she only matters to them. She has a place in this story as the next generation of heroic figures in the rebellion. She has a place, as does Finn. As does Poe and Rose. All these heroes from non-famous families will rise up to lead the Rebellion and pass on their stories.

Viewing the sequels as a story about new heroes becoming the powerhouses that the Skywalkers were adds a new depth to the film. There is a narrative richness to them that I missed when viewing them as just regular installments in the story. The Last Jedi is about learning to be the hero you need, rather than relying on others. It is, ultimately, a story about hope. Hope within oneself, hope that others will be there for you, hope for a better future. The last shot of a young child staring at the stars reminds us that the story will continue. Hope will always be found, even in the darkest of places. And what’s more Star Wars than that?

The Last Jedi works. Even if you take away my take on it — which could very well be wrong, because I’ve been wrong before and will be wrong again — it still works as a film, something that my fandom biases refused to let me see in the first place. Star Wars twitter and fandom was so polarized that I felt like I had to hate it to save face, even if with all my quibbles I felt neutral on it at most. Now, I’ve come to terms with the fact I let those biases change my opinion and have given the film a fair shot, and I’m much happier for it.

As Yoda says “we are what they grow beyond; that is the burden of all masters.” The Last Jedi is about the students — Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, and even Kylo — growing beyond their masters to become the protagonists and antagonist of their story by becoming more than their teachers (in Finn and Kylo’s case, that also becomes killing your abuser). Where their stories will end, we cannot say. I have my hopes for the end of the trilogy, as do we all, but for now, I’m happier to just watch the story unfold rather than be bitter over choices I once did not agree with.

Mr. Johnson, you have my full apology for being a hater before. Sorry it took me so long to understand your message.

(image: Disney/Lucasfilm)

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Guardians of the Galaxy Cast Releases Letter Supporting James Gunn

attends the European launch event of Marvel Studios'

In the week or so following James Gunn’s controversial tweets coming to light and Disney opting to remove him from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, there has been an outpouring of support from both fans and celebrities for the director. Today, an open letter signed by the entire cast of the Guardians franchise was released, detailing their support for Gunn and asking for his reinstatement.

The letter reads as follows:

To our fans and friends:

We fully support James Gunn. We were all shocked by his abrupt firing last week and have intentionally waited these ten days to respond in order to think, pray, listen, and discuss. In that time, we’ve been encouraged by the outpouring of support from fans and members of the media who wish to see James reinstated as director of Volume 3 as well as discouraged by those so easily duped into believing the many outlandish conspiracy theories surrounding him..

Being in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies has been a great honor in each of our lives. We cannot let this moment pass without expressing our love, support, and gratitude for James. We are not here to defend his jokes of many years ago but rather to share our experience having spent many years together on set making Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2. The character he has shown in the wake of his firing is consistent with the man he was every day on set, and his apology, now and from years ago when first addressing these remarks, we believe is from the heart, a heart we all know, trust, and love. In casting each of us to help him tell the story of misfits who find redemption, he changed our lives forever. We believe the theme of redemption has never been more relevant than now.

Each of us looks forward to working with our friend James again in the future. His story isn’t over — not by a long shot.

There is little due process in the court of public opinion. James is likely not the last good person to be put on trial. Given the growing political divide in this country, it’s safe to say instances like this will continue, although we hope Americans from across the political spectrum can ease up on the character assassinations and stop weaponizing mob mentality.

It is our hope that what has transpired can serve as an example for all of us to realize the enormous responsibility we have to ourselves and to each other regarding the use of our written words when we etch them in digital stone; that we as a society may learn from this experience and in the future will think twice before we decide what we want to express; and in so learning perhaps can harness this capability to help and heal instead of hurting each other. Thank you for taking the time to read our words.

The Guardians of the Galaxy

While the letter supports Gunn, the cast members also say that they hope this is a lesson for us all about thinking before putting words out into the digital space. Gunn deleted his tweets, but they still found a way back. Ergo, it’s important to think before you tweet, or do anything that would put the words out there, permanently, online. Personally, I’m glad the cast decided to include that message, as it’s one of the most important takeaways from this entire situation, as well as the message that harmful words, even if they seem funny to you at the time, have real consequences.

At this point, Disney is stuck between a rock and a hard place. To rehire Gunn would draw a lot more of the attention and ire Disney was trying to avoid, but to not listen to the fans, and the cast themselves, would also show a lack of consideration for where this really came from. There is also no denying that these tweets were dug up by a right-wing conspiracy to discredit a vocally political man. Gunn’s jokes were deeply harmful, but he has apologized for them already on multiple occasions. We’re faced with a test here: Should this be the punishment for what he’s tweeted about and the harm it has caused survivors, or should the outcome be based on the fact that this was part of a disingenuous smear campaign?

It all comes down to how you view Gunn and his apologies. The Guardians cast has come forward to vouch for him while still calling out his grosser behavior. They speak of the themes of redemption in the Guardians films as being more relevant than ever. Maybe Gunn will receive the redemption the cast thinks he deserves. Maybe he’ll resume making smaller, indie sci-fi and genre hits. It’s hard to say where things will go from here.

Do you think Gunn should be reinstated? Let us know in the comments.

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John Oliver Presents a Scathingly Honest Version of Facebook’s Apology Ads

Facebook has been having a bit of an image problem for a while now, what with their epidemic of fake news and conspiracy theories leading up to the 2016 election and that whole allowing companies to harvest and sell your data in order to engage in “psychological warfare” thing. Mark Zuckerberg had to testify in front of a joint Senate committee, Facebook set a record for the biggest one-day stock drop ever, and the company has started churning out apology ads, promising that they’re going to stop getting tripped up with the “spam, clickbait, fake news, and data misuse” and get back to what Facebook was supposed to be about in the first place—no, not ranking the “hotness” of female Harvard students. Friends.

As John Oliver noted on last night’s Last Week Tonight (their first episode back from hiatus), that’s a load of sycophantic bullshit. Oliver thinks Facebook needs a friend—a real friend, not a Facebook friend—to remind them who they really are: “a surveillance system disguised as a high school reunion.” So they made an ad of their own, one that’s a lot more honest than the one Facebook made.

Narrated by Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch, the new ad is upfront about what its purpose is: friends data. “Your data enabled us to make a fuckton of ad money from corporations, app developers, and political campaigns,” he says. “Then, we discovered your uncle used to have ties to the Klan, and guess what? We realized we could make a fuckton of money off that shit, too. Seriously, you guys, we were making so much money off of you. You don’t even understand.”

Facebook is really, really sorry—not for what they did, but that we found out about it—but as the (fake) ad says, what are we going to do about it? Leave? Sure, but that can be a difficult thing for many, not just because of the social element, but also because Facebook makes it really hard to definitively delete your account.

The new slogan created by Last Week Tonight is depressingly apt: Facebook: We own who you are.

(image: screencap)

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Things We Saw Today: This Avengers: Infinity War Gag Reel Tease Is Delightful

It’s almost time to watch Thanos kill everyone you love in the comfort of your own home! Let’s celebrate with some laughs.

People Magazine got an exclusive near-minute of gags from the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War blooper reel, which will drop along with the movie’s digital (July 31st) and Blu-Ray release (August 14th). Per People, the full version of the blooper reel should run to about two minutes long.Tony Stark in Avengers Infinity War Gag Reel

Blooper reels are funny, sure, but for me the pure joy of watching them stems from seeing the actors in full costume, skirting the line between being in character and breaking from it. Observe as Vision says, “Fuck you, Ruffalo,” Tony Stark, Stephen Strange, and Bruce Banner dance and sing a song from Mary Poppins amidst the ruins of a New York street, and absolutely everyone seems to be grooving. It’s nice to see some light-hearted content emerge from the grim Infinity War; it looks like the actors were having fun on set.

Okoye and T'Challa Black Panther in infinity War gag reel

Hoofs down, the goats in Wakanda steal this whole damn reel.

There are some more bloopers contained herein (via Movieweb):

(via People, image: Marvel Studios)

  • CASTLEVANIA SEASON 2 TRAILER. Netflix is bringing back the animated show for grown-ups, inspired by the classic video game, on October 28th. Written by my perennial fave, comics legend Warren Ellis, the first season of Castlevania was only four episodes so you have no excuse not to catch up by the time season 2 rips our heart out and chops off our head for good measure.
  • Trump’s personal lawyer, ex-New York City mayor Rudy “Broken Windows Policing” Giuliani, now says that he’s “not sure that collusion” with Russia would be considered a crime. In other news, war is peace, slavery is freedom, and ignorance is strength. (via CNN)
  • I need this for, uh, serious reasons?

  • Michael B. Jordan thinks Killmonger would’ve had a plan to take out Thanos and why can’t we have nice things like getting to see that showdown? (via Comicbook.com)

What’d you see out there today?

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Will Republican Voters Care More About a Candidate’s Bigfoot Fetish Than Actual Racism?

bigfoot tweet porn fetish denver riggleman leslie cockburn nazis racism

Just when you think our political landscape can’t go any further off the rails, a Congressional candidate goes and kink-shames her opponent for his alleged Bigfoot fetish.

That’s what Leslie Cockburn, who is running for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District, did over the weekend after apparently stumbling upon an Instagram post of her Republican opponent Denver Riggleman.

She followed that up with this screencap of another picture from Riggleman’s now-private account, which references a book he wrote titled Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him.

It appears that book is a real thing that exists, but Riggleman insists it’s satire. He did also write another Bigfoot book titled Bigfoot Exterminators Inc. The Partially Cautionary, Mostly True Tale of Monster Hunt 2006. Riggleman says the Instagram posts are part of a “long-running prank,” while Cockburn called them “disturbing.”

What is (I guess arguably) more disturbing, though, is how much attention Cockburn’s tweet has gotten. Or, specifically, how much attention part of her tweet has gotten. Because sure, the Bigfoot stuff is unusual, but shouldn’t we be talking more about that “campaigning with a white supremacist” part? Or are racist political candidates just so commonplace at this point that we’ve become unfazed at the presence of yet another? That feels disturbing.

Cockburn mentions Riggleman’s ties to Corey Stewart, who won the Republican nomination for Senate in Virginia, despite his connections to the alt-right. Stewart is vehemently pro-Confederate, anti-immigrant, and he and Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler share a mutual admiration.

A few months before the Charlottesville rally, Stewart spoke to a group called “Unity & Security for America,” organized by Kessler, and thanked them for taking a stand against “real racism.” Just this weekend, Stewart’s spokesperson tweeted that a number of black-majority cities were “shitholes” and warned against opening businesses in black neighborhoods.

Riggleman hasn’t said whether he’ll support Stewart in the next election, but he was seen campaigning with Isaac Smith, a Unity & Security for America co-founder and co-organizer of Unite the Right.

As for Riggleman himself, he did write an op-ed following the violence in Charlottesville that was an unequivocal condemnation of the neo-Nazis organizing there. “I condemn this rally. I condemn the khaki-wearing White Supremacists who attended the rally last year,” he wrote. “The country in which we live should be a shining beacon of freedom. Neo-Nazis are cultural parasites. To any white supremacists intending to come back to Charlottesville on August 12 this year, I say this: You are not welcome. Go back to your cave. Vote for somebody else. I don’t want your support, your help, or your vote.”

A few weeks later, though, he posted an article to his Facebook page written by racist, misogynistic shitbird Matt Walsh. The article, which Riggleman captioned “This is an excellent article. I agree,” is total “antifa is as bad as white supremacists” both-sides BS. Riggleman is also a vocal defender of Confederate monuments, saying he wants to “help construct MORE statues to great Virginians of every race and period of our history instead of tearing them down.”

And, again, it sure would be nice if he didn’t take the support of prominent Nazis.

It’s easy for all of us to fall into political fatigue, especially when the news is so depressing and overt racism has become so normalized that hearing about yet another politician with ties to white supremacists isn’t at all shocking.

So sure, a Bigfoot fetish might be a reinvigorating jolt to our political consciousness. (Although honestly, I don’t know why we should care about the sex life of a politician who isn’t engaging in harassment or other non-consensual acts.) But if it ends up being accusations of sexual Sasquatch fantasies that take this candidate down rather than his habit of consorting with actual Nazis, surely that’s a(nother) sign that Republican voters’ priorities are skewed beyond redemption, right?

(image: gratisography)

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Whose Religious Liberties Are Going to Be Protected by This Task Force, Beauregard?

Attorney Gen. Sessions And Deputy Attn. Gen. Rosenstein Speak On Religious Freedom At Justice Dept. Religious Liberty Summit

Today Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who remains the most efficient at implementing Trump’s evil policies, decided to tip us further into The Handmaid’s Tale territory by creating a “religious liberty task force” that will operate as part of the Department of Justice.

Let me just go out on a limb here that this religious task force will be primarily making sure that women can’t get birth control and that LGBTQIA+ people can be persecuted as long as you really and truly believe that they are meant to burn in hell. Just a guess.

“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives. We’ve seen U.S. senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about dogma—even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office. We’ve all seen the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips,” Sessions said. “In short, we have not only the freedom to worship—but the right to exercise our faith. The Constitution’s protections don’t end at the parish parking lot nor can our freedoms be confined to our basements […] Religious Americans are no longer an afterthought.”

First of all, “confined to [your] basement”? Is your basement the Republican party? Listen, I know it must be shocking that now a whole 17% of Americans don’t have a religious affiliation, according to the Pew Research Center, but the largest religious group in this country are Christians with Evangelicals at the top. You are not a religious minority. At least not in this country.

Religious liberty should not mean putting your religious values above the needs of others or not helping people who are in need. Does the “love thy neighbour” section of the Bible just not appeal to you Beauregard?

What about those of us who are not Christian, not religious, not monotheistic?

And no one else seems to be fooled by the idea that this “task force” will be an inclusive place.

Protecting religious liberty is important, but consider that this same administration that tried to have a Muslim travel ban, and seems allergic to all other Christian tenants like charity, caring for the sick and poor, protecting families, and of course compassion. Also, the Pope doesn’t even like y’all.

(via The Hill, image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Please, Please, Please Give Me More Coffee Shop AUs

gordon batman coffee shop

Full disclosure: I work in a coffee shop. There’s some credence to the idea that building rapport with customers, especially regulars, is one of the best parts of the job. Seeing the same people everyday, learning their orders, and being able to make them smile by having their small drip coffee ready at the register when they reach the head of the line is kind of special. You learn about their lives, and they learn about yours, and the cafe becomes a microcosm of the neighborhood.

I’ve had two major career goals in my life: becoming a writer and working at a coffee shop. If you’re laughing, that’s cool; I get why that seems kind of silly (on both counts). The truth is, having grown up in fandom, I’ve spent a decent amount of time reading fanfiction for my favorite fandoms. Since not every TV show, book, movie, or comic has a built-in coffee shop setting like Friends or Gilmore Girls, recreating these worlds in “coffee shop AUs” (alternate universes where the same characters and situations play out in an entirely different physical setting and/or time—in this case, coffee shops) has become an integral part of fandom and fanfiction.

Coffee shop AUs are one of the pillars of a fanfiction community, to be quite frank. Every time I dive into a new fandom, one of the first things I look for is the token coffee shop AU. Usually, I find several; that’s how I know I’m going to be in a fandom for the long-haul. Reading coffee shop AUs as a young person convinced me of something that turned out not to be true for me, but has definitely proven to be true for people I work with: true love can always be found in a coffee shop.

My spouse and I didn’t meet in a coffee shop, but we have both worked in coffee shops. Pursuing a writing career while simultaneously punching in and out at the cafe four times a week feels exactly like the life I envisioned when I was younger; the only difference is that I’m not flirting with customers or hoping to see the Cute Regular Who May Or May Not Be Into Me, because I’m already married. Remarkably, working in coffee hasn’t at all dimmed my love of coffee shop AUs—if anything, it’s only increased since I learned how truly hectic this job can be.

Some of my favorite coffee shop AUs stand out because they seem so normal in the grand scheme of the fandom. Draco Malfoy working in a muggle coffee shop after the war, for example, stands out because it’s hilarious to imagine Draco Malfoy as an everyday muggle barista. Clarke Griffin having a kid with her platonic life partner, Wells Jaha, but falling for the new regular at her coffee shop and creating a new kind of unconventional family with that regular’s friend and ex-girlfriend fits the themes of The 100, but with the added bonus of coffee and a cute kid.

Coffee shop AUs create interesting spaces to explore social issues (like blended families, in that The 100 fic), romance, and more. There’s even a coffee shop AU for Mad Max: Fury Road, in which Max works at a coffee shop while he learns to cope with PTSD, and Furiosa runs a mechanic shop and a shelter for abused women.

Luckily, as fanfiction becomes more mainstream, and as writers who started flexing their imaginations in fandom when they were younger start to produce novels, TV shows, comics, and more, coffee shop AUs are becoming pretty popular. In fact, they’ve become the actual setting for stories, rather than fodder for alternate universe fanfiction. I’m not just talking about the infamous orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally, though I’ve read that scene reenacted in fanfiction and cackled with absolute glee. My favorite new comic series takes place primarily in a coffee shop, which honestly adds to the list of reasons why I love it so much.

moonstruck comic

(image: Image Comics)

Moonstruck is a humorous, monstrous, LGBTQ romance comic by writer Grace Ellis, artist Shae Beagle, colorist Caitlin Quirk and editor Laurenn McCubbin. Published through Image Comics, this series follows fat werewolf Julie as she experiences the magic of falling in love with her new girlfriend, all while her best friend Chet, a non-binary centaur with a crush on one of their customers, deals with magic of a more sinister kind. Julie and Chet work together at a coffee shop, where their best-friends-and-coworkers routine is sometimes interrupted when one of them catches Feelings.

The comic is stupendous. It’s a delightful script with whimsical illustrations, perfect pacing, vibrant colors, and so much positive representation on the page that the first time I picked up an issue, I cried a little. Moonstruck is funny, even when it takes a dip into darker subjects, and the characters live and breathe on the page.

Their friendships and romantic interests are given equal and necessary attention, and the world the creators have built obviously extends beyond the page; I want to know everything about everyone in this little town, and I already know that they have lives beyond what we see, which is incredible. Too often, especially with such simple-on-the-surface stories, depth of world-building is extremely lacking.

In a 2017 interview with Jameson Hampton at Rogues Portal, Ellis said the drive for setting Moonstruck in a coffee shop was to take fantastical elements and put them somewhere normal: “It was important that the story take place somewhere that was immediately recognizable and familiar, and I mostly write at coffee shops, so it seemed like a natural setting.”

Coffee shops create a wealth of people-watching opportunities; as someone who works in the cafe, both on my laptop and behind the counter making beverages, I firmly believe that coffee shops create the largest possible cross-section of people to inspire fictional stories. Coffee shops—especially small, local ones—are spaces where people can quickly become familiar, but even if they don’t, they can still stick in your mind for days, weeks, months, and even years at a time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean people who write stories set in coffee shops are afraid of using even more familiar settings—like corporate coffee chains, for example. Oftentimes, coffee shop AUs take place at Starbucks, I think because the chain represents a universal coffee shop experience, at least to most people. Rainbow Rowell’s best-selling novel Fangirl features one character who works at Starbucks, and when the main character mocks him for it, he replies with a snappy quip about needing health insurance. It’s a quick, grounded-in-reality moment that has been with me ever since I first read the book last year.

The best part of Fangirl is that the entire book follows Cath as she navigates her first year of college and writes the penultimate fanfiction of her fandom career. Rowell has gone on-record saying that she wrote her first three books at the same Starbucks; much like Ellis, she took the setting and incorporated it into her book. However, there’s something particularly on-the-nose about a book that explores fanfiction taking place, at least partially, in a coffee shop.

There are, of course, several other books that follow this theme that I have yet to read: The Espressologist, by Kristina Springer, reimagines Jane Austen’s Emma to take place in a modern, hip coffee shop, where main character Jane Turner plays matchmaker with her friends based on their coffee orders. My Lost and Found Life, by Melodie Bowsher, follows a young woman named Ashley, who survives the disappearance of her mother (who allegedly embezzled millions before ghosting) by taking a job in a quirky San Francisco coffee shop. Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, by Jody Gehrman, follows Genna, Amber, and Hero through a summer working together at the same coffee shop, in a story of mistaken identities, romance, rivalry, and girl-bonding.

There is always, always more room for coffee shop AUs in fandom, and the world at large. If you have suggestions for where I can take my coffee-loving, hopeless romantic attentions to next, I’m all in.

Samantha Puc is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager whose work has appeared all over the web; she collects it at her portfolio site, The Verbal Thing. Samantha lives in Rhode Island with her spouse and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also likes vegan food. For more, follow her on Twitter.

(image: Warner Bros.)

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