Things We Saw Today: MTV Is Rebooting Daria, so at Least One Good Thing Happened This Week

MTV's Daria

MTV is reviving the holy grail of smart sarcasm, Daria, and will be updating the series instead of going back to high school.

Daria served as a beloved voice of the late ’90s (an extremely witty, caustic voice). The bookish high schooler navigated life with the help of artsy best friend Jane, bubbly sister Quinn, slacker crush Trent—and the clever, cool Jodie Landon. Now MTV has ordered Daria & Jodie, a reboot that will explore where life has taken the friends.

Buzzfeed reports:

The updated iteration of the show will be called Daria & Jodie and will be written by Grace Edwards, who worked on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Inside Amy Schumer.

The show will be based on the classic animated character, Daria Morgendorffer, and her friend, Jodie Landon, as they “take on the world” and deal with cultural issues that are relevant today.

“She is a huge fan of Daria,” MTV president Chris McCarthy told the Hollywood Reporter about Edwards. “The story she wants to tell of Daria is different, it’s about Daria and Jodie and two close friends taking on the world today and what’s happening in our culture at large.”

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the best thing that has happened to me in this week of hellish news. In addition to Daria & Jodie, MTV is looking at doubling down on the ’90s nostalgia, with plans to bring back new versions of The Real WorldMade, and maybe even Beavis and Butthead, Celebrity Deathmatch, and Laguna Beach.

(I’m sorry. I apologize profusely.)

(via Buzzfeed, image: MTV)

  • There are all kinds of fun reports that Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman 1984 will be making a splash at SDCC soon. Yes, please. (via Syfywire)
  • In case you missed our earlier coverage—live, from this dumpster fire of a week/presidential administration:

  • All of the big video games coming at you in summer 2018. (via Kotaku)
  • “The Frustrating Almost-Greatness of Legion.” (via Pajiba)

What’d you see today? We hope it was something good. As for me:

Daria

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Paramount Just Hired a Screenwriter for an Upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

It has been two years since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows came out and while movie ended up grossing $245 million against a $135 million budget, there were still no moves towards a sequel. Until now.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount has hired screenwriter Andrew Dodge (Strong Words) to craft the next installment in the TMNT movie universe. The new chairman of the movie studio, Jim Gianopulos, is looking to bring some quality to the brand, which has always gotten a mixed response when it comes to critical reception.

There is no news yet if this upcoming movie will be a reboot or a relaunch of the series (I hope Megan Fox can stay on as April O’Neil), but there are some doubts if the Turtles are the kind of franchise people will come out for, especially since the last handful of Turtles movies were a mix of bad and creepy looking.

To which I say, heck yeah people will come out to see Turtles! The Ninja Turtles, for those who grew up with them, are right up there with Transformers and other major franchises. I even remember getting copies of the Mirage Studios original run of the comics. It is a property with legs, even if recent attempts to transform the series into blockbuster events haven’t worked out.

For me, to get the Turtles right isn’t just about nailing the humor, it’s also about nailing the fight scenes. The Turtles were inspired by Daredevil in both their origin and the ninja elements, so maybe it’s time to lean into that. What made the first season of Daredevil so good to watch was the incredible fight scenes and feeling the creativity of how Marvel/Netflix created a fighting style for Matt.

While the Turtles have gone too deep into the family franchise nexus to go back to their violent gritty roots, and honestly it’s for the better (I don’t think we need to see Donatello dripping with the blood of victims), but I think actually spending time to give each of them their own fighting style and taking the time to make those scenes interesting would be worth it. If you can come up with the equivalent of a “hallway scene” for the Turtles, that will go a long way in terms of word of mouth.

We’ve had funny Turtles movies—the 90s ones are … charming. Yet it’s been done before, and I’m not a fan of Mikey’s humor in modern day being turned into horny teenage boy humor. There is a way to balance both elements without needing to turn Mikey into Peter Quill, and it comes with not wanting to capture something nostalgic and instead, trying to just create a solid story.

The Turtles are rooted in Indie comics, so maybe it’s time to put someone with that sort of inclination behind the franchise instead of Michael Bay.

So, for me, bring on the Turtles. I loved seeing them pop up in Injustice 2 as DLC characters, but let’s just remember that these characters aren’t just comedic relief: they are badass ninja warriors, so let’s see some badass ninja fights.

And maybe let’s kill Splinter for real … just saying!

Master Splinter

(via SlashFilm, image: Paramount)

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13-Year-Old Cartoonist Demolishes Trump’s Cruel Family Separation Policy

"Stable Genius" by Sasha Matthews

Sasha Matthews, The Mary Sue’s favorite cartoonist, is an eighth-grader who uses her artwork to make a social impact. Now Sasha is wielding her pen to highlight the crisis of family separation at the border that has come about because of the Trump administration’s inhumane actions.

You may remember Sasha from her previous project to raise money for the ACLU by drawing superheroes (she raised more than $10,000) and her picture-perfect response to Trump’s “both sides” commentary on the events in Charlottesville. Attention to Sasha’s mission has been growing: her free-speech activism saw her named to Crain’s New York 20 Under 20 and she was invited to speak at the ACLU’s conference in Washington, D.C.

Sasha has a new cartoon on the Trump administration’s hardline policy of separating children from their parents at the border. Her take is a brutal wordplay on Trump’s much-mocked claim in January 2018 that he is “a very stable genius.” Now he oversees stables full of detained children.

You’ll recall that the President of the United States said of himself, “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. […] I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!” You can’t make these things up.

“It’s a gut punch,” Sasha’s father Scott Matthews told me regarding Sasha’s cartoon. He pointed out that many of the children currently in detention centers—where there are reports of jail-like conditions and cages—are similar in age to Sasha.

As reported by the AP, even babies and toddlers are being kept in “tender age” shelters away from their families under the policies this “genius” and his hardline administration put into place. The New York Times reports that since the “zero tolerance” policy was adopted last month, it is estimated that more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents.

Though Trump just backpedaled in the face of a massive public outcry and appeared to sign an executive order late on Wednesday that would halt family separation—but still detain families with “zero tolerance”—it remains unclear how, if ever, many of the children forcibly separated will be reunited with their parents, some of whom have already been deported or detained elsewhere. And you should never believe a thing that comes out of Trump’s White House.

If Sasha’s cartoon is painful to look at, and to consider that a 13-year-old is drawing it about her country enacting this kind of cruelty on vulnerable young people, it should be.

(via Sasha Matthews’ Rumble Comics on Twitter, image: Sasha Matthews)

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Things We Saw Today: Vulture Ranks the Gayest Marvel Films and the #1 Pick Is Genius

Stucky

Vulture has made Pride Month a little bit brighter with its ranking of the “gayest Marvel movies.” Kyle Buchanan’s list is beautiful, stupendous, and delightful in so many ways. I won’t quote too much here because really, working through this article is half the pleasure, but here are some highlights:

– Edward Norton simply doesn’t have queer appeal, and if dating Courtney Love can’t give that to you, nothing can! (-200)

– This movie labors so hard to give Thanos a motivation when they could have just gone with “I love jewels.” (-75)

– Briefly features a Mara sister (+40 but no offense to Kate, it would be more points if they got Rooney).

– Assumes we want to see Benedict Cumberbatch shirtless and sometimes it’s nice to be invited to the party even if you don’t actually want to go. (+11)

Before looking what would be your bet for the #1 Gayest Marvel Film?

(via Vulture, image: Disney/Marvel)

  • The CW has announced its release dates for the newest season’s DCTV shows. The only real change is Legends of Tomorrow is moving to a new time slot, but it seems like everything else is in order. (via DC TV podcast)
  • There was some debate about whether the upcoming Guardians movie would take place before/after Infinity War but James Gunn has decided to be put it to rest. The answer is … (via i09)
  • Linda Hamilton is back as Sarah Connor and that’s the way we like it. Even though Lena Headey did the role justice on the small screen, on the big screen we can’t help but wanna see the OG and these new set photos reminds us why. (via Coming Soon)
  • DC to release 3 exclusive Batman figures at SDCC this year! (via The Hollywood Reporter)
  • If ABC is still looking for a solution to their Roseanne problem, well, Christopher Plummer offers himself as a solution. Him. (via The Guardian)

How would your ranking of Marvel gay movies go?

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Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson Are Back in Gripping First Creed II Trailer

In our Era of Perpetual Reboots, there is one revived franchise that already proved itself worthy: extending the Rocky universe to feature Apollo Creed’s son in the form of Michael B. Jordan.

Back in 2015, Jordan and his frequent collaborator, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, made their joint magic happen with Creed. Co-written by Coogler and earning Sylvester Stallone’s aging Rocky Balboa an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, the movie was a critical and box office hit. It’s no surprise that we’re here watching the promising trailer for Creed II. 

This time around the movie is directed by Stephen Caple Jr. (The Land), produced by Coogler, written by Stallone, and sees the return of the always-charismatic Jordan as Adonis Creed, my girlfriend and yours Tessa Thompson as his lady Bianca, forever Rocky Sylvester Stallone, and the great Phylicia Rashad as Creed’s mother Mary Anne.

Creed can be seen in intense training (including a stunning underwater boxing scene) for a fight against the son of Ivan Drago, Viktor Drago. The brutal Ivan Drago was the competition in Rocky IV, delivering the fatal punch that killed Creed’s father (Rocky’s old opponent and later good friend), Apollo. So there is a lot of pathos around this match. To say the least.

“Your dad killed my dad” is a hugely dramatic scenario to set up this movie, and we also see Creed struggling with problems that plagued his mentor Rocky, like how to balance his ambition and the danger of boxing with his growing family life.

Here’s the official synopsis:

Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family’s past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what’s worth fighting for, and discover that nothing’s more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can’t escape your history.

I would see this movie for Jordan and Thompson alone, but I’m also a fan of the Rocky franchise and what they did with Creed. What do you think?

(image: VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)

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Can Marvel Make Ant-Man and The Wasp’s Ghost Into the Complex Female Villain They Need?

Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost and Cate Blanchett as Hela

As we get closer to Ant-Man and The Wasp‘s release date, I’m increasingly interested to see what the movie does with Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost. Ghost will be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first villain played by a woman of color, and its second-ever female villain onscreen.

Originally an Iron Man villain, in the comics Ghost was an anarcho-engineer/hacker with a grudge against titans of industry and big corporations. We’re not sure which sociopolitical direction the MCU is taking her in, but we know that she’ll be using special technology to phase through solid matter and commit crimes—hence the moniker and the gray get-up. (I love that they’ve made the costume totally gender-ambiguous and generally mysterious.)

Ghost in Ant-Man and the Wasp

Director Peyton Reed has explained why he chose to change Ghost’s gender from the comics for the film:

The Ghost character could be male, female, anything, so it just seemed more interesting to us [to cast a woman]. Ghost’s primary power is the ability to ‘phase,’ which allows Ghost to move through solid matter. She has all sorts of strange versions of that phasing power—it proves quite difficult for Ant-Man and Wasp to deal with.

The British-born John-Kamen, whose father is Nigerian and mother Norwegian, will be the first woman of color to take center stage as a villain in a Marvel movie. This feels like an important step forward for Marvel Studios, and I’m crossing my fingers that Ghost will prove a compelling foil for Hope van Dyne and Scott Lang. The casting is crucial, and I hope that the character is worthy of it.

As much as I’d love to see many female villains in the future, what I really want is a female villain that we care about and don’t want to stop watching.

Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost

I’ve written whole essays at this point on how much I love Thor: Ragnarok, but for me, Cate Blanchett’s Hela is the movie’s biggest letdown. The brilliant, sneering Blanchett isn’t at fault—she’s imminently watchable, and Hela’s aesthetics are on point. But Hela is an all-powerful, one-dimensional embodiment of evil (quite literally the Goddess of Death), and whenever we see her in Ragnarok it’s as though we’re in another movie entirely.

That movie is a boring fantasy story with a cackling queen who might as well be yelling, “Bring me their heads!” Upon rewatches I find myself yawning through Hela’s scenes, keen to get back to Thor’s colorful adventures on Sakaar.

Hela had the potential to be a much richer and multi-layered villain. It’s revealed that she’s Odin’s first-born child and Thor’s sister, a huge surprise and news to the audience and to Thor and Loki. But rather than explore that dysfunctional family dynamic—a particular specialty of the Thor films—after their first confrontation, Hela doesn’t interact with our heroes until the movie’s climactic final battle.

Hela does have fascinating things to say about the nature of imperialism, as our Marykate Jasper pointed out:

She literally sneers at Thor, “Odin and I drowned entire civilizations in blood and tears. Where do you think all this gold came from?” She’s the murderous, covetous, colonialist underbelly of any wealthy and powerful empire – and she refuses to hide away and let them all pretend to be wholly good. “Proud to have it,” she observes, looking at Asgard’s wealth, “but ashamed of how you got it.”

Instead of leaning into this unique viewpoint for a villain, however, Hela stays as a cartoonish cliche, carving through broad swathes of warriors and threatening the innocent Asgardian populace with summary execution. We might initially sympathize with her anger over her father using her as a tool of conquest and then imprisoning her when she outstripped him, but this is quickly drowned out by how much she is, to use Thor’s description, “just the worst.”

Chris Hemsworth as Thor

2018 brought us Erik Killmonger, arguably Marvel’s best and most complex villain to date, marking what we hope is a turning point in Marvel’s approach to villainy. He is highly dangerous and also highly sympathetic: while you may not agree with the means Killmonger would use to achieve his ends, you can understand his motivation and where he’s coming from.

Killmonger showed how to perfectly play up a resonant familial connection between hero and villain and how to make the audience sometimes root for the bad guy. I cry every time I watch Killmonger’s masterful death scene. The end fight of Ragnarok is both overwrought and underbaked, and the villainess goes out with a whimper.

Unfortunately, Hela is the only point of reference we have right now to talk about how Marvel has represented a female villain. It did so in the same way it has created so many other villains in the past, by making her disposable and one-note. With Ghost, the studio appears to have an opportunity to deliver a timely villain with the potential to be relatable and revolutionary. The 28-year-old John-Kamen (Syfy’s KilljoysReady Player One) will also be among Marvel’s youngest villains to date, and I know I can’t be the only one who would love to see her as a saboteur raging against the corporate machine.

Ghost’s comics origins are both creepy and tragic. The company he worked for hired a woman to pretend to love him so that he would remain “happy and productive,” as Jesse Schedeen at IGN described:

After [the woman’s] death, Ghost spiraled into depression and isolation, designing a new computer network that allowed him to merge his own consciousness with a computer network. That bond allowed him to deduce the fact that his lover was an actor who had been murdered for trying to blackmail Omnisapient’s board of directors. And once the board tried to execute Ghost too, his transformation from overworked engineer to anti-capitalist supervillain was complete.

Will Ant-Man and The Wasp keep some of this commentary in their incarnation of Ghost? I hope so, and considering that another villain in the movie will be Sonny Burch (Walter Goggins), the chairman of the weapons firm Cross Technologies, chances are we might see some similar plotlines to those explored in the comics. Ghost’s story has parallels with both Hank Pym and Scott Lang, and the fact that the character has made other appearances as an antihero and even a hero intrigues me.

Imagine if John-Kamen’s Ghost is not killed off but gets to stay on in the Ant-Man-verse as a complicated, morally ambiguous figure. A girl can dream.

(images: Marvel Studios)

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Christian Siriano Doesn’t Get Why More Designers Don’t Make Plus-Size Clothing: “Do We Not Want to Triple the Business?”

Christian Siriano plus-size fashion

The fashion industry is notoriously elitist when it comes to which body types are expected to be embraced by designers. The average American woman is a size 16 to 18, but many clothing retailers stop short of those sizes. When it comes to high-end designers, even someone who wears a size 6 would likely have trouble finding couture. Christian Siriano, though, is a welcome respite from fashion industry snobbery.

In a recent interview with Elle, Siriano says that including plus sizes in his line has tripled his business. He can’t see, then, why more designers don’t increase their inclusion. “Why wouldn’t you do that?! Do we not want to triple the business? Do we not think these women should wear our clothes?”

He goes on to call out the prejudices in size discrimination. “Do we not want these women to have beautiful things because we’re afraid they’re not beautiful? What is going on here? Of course it’s a process to make things in bigger sizes. The patterns are different. There’s more fabric involved. But we will never charge more for a larger size, because that’s not the right thing to do. The whole point of being a designer is to make people feel good, we’re here to make people look cute in a dress. You want to look cute in a dress and you’re a size 26? Why not?!”

Siriano has dressed a number of high-profile actresses with non-conventional celebrity body types, including Leslie Jones,

Whoopi Goldberg,

and Oprah.

In an industry plagued with not just sizism but racism as well, it’s wonderful to see someone like Siriano who really does design for all bodies.

“You have to put it in people’s faces,” he says. “We’re visual. It has to be on the runway to get through to people. We’re all stubborn, even me. So when it’s on the runway, it’s there… Now, our business is 50 percent plus size. The reason it’s going so much is because the retailers will go with us. We got Moda Operandi to change their whole website—now they go up to our sizes! Knowing we have a part in change like that, it’s amazing… but it’s still crazy to me that it’s not the norm.”

(via Elle, image: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund)

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Things We Saw Today: We Want to Know Everything About Pedro Pascal’s Role in Wonder Woman 1984

Gal Gadot and Pedro Pascal in Wonder Woman 1984

***Possible Wonder Woman 1984 spoilers below***

An interesting rumor regarding Pedro Pascal’s part in Wonder Woman 1984 only makes us need more.

Listen, friends, Pedro Pascal could spend Wonder Woman standing in the corner and reading the dictionary out loud and I would still be happy about it, but chances are we’re going to see him do a whole lot more.

CBR reports on a rumor from a source who’s proven reliable with DCEU information in the past: Pascal could be playing “a God in disguise.” This wouldn’t be new, since we saw that scheme play out with David Thewlis’ Ares in the first movie, but I’d like to imagine that the filmmakers wouldn’t go the same route and have Pascal be another evil divine relative reveal.

Would they? The same source also insinuates that Pascal could be playing a villain. (He just played a hidden villain in Kingsman: The Golden Circle—so unless Pascal has been typecast across the board, I’m going to maintain skepticism about villainy for now.)

Fans on social media quickly jumped to the assumption that Pascal could be playing Hades, while some suggested he could be DC’s Doctor Fate, to help introduce a larger roster of heroes in the DC Extended Universe.

Considering that the insider claims that Steve Trevor is the real Steve Trevor and is not, in fact, a God in disguise as Steve Trevor, I can see why fans assumed Pascal might be playing Diana’s uncle Hades. Fighting—or persuading—the God of the Underworld to restore Steve in some capacity could be compelling. The powerful superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate is an interesting guess as well and would represent a direct counterpoint to Marvel’s embarkation into the mystic with Doctor Strange.

It’s very early, so all rumors have to be taken with many grains of salt, but we’re just glad Pedro Pascal is on board. Pascal is a talented actor (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Narcos, Game of Thrones) who has specialized in playing characters of ambiguous morality or straight-up baddies. Onscreen he’s winking, sly, and imminently watchable, and we can’t wait to see where he’s going in Wonder Woman 1984.

Who do you think Pascal could be playing?

(via CBR.com, image: Warner Bros./HBO)

  • Speaking of Wonder Woman 1984, Gal Gadot tweeted a gorgeous picture of Diana in her 1984 costume. Tag, you’re it, Marvel. Wonder Woman is killing the PR game.

  • For your tiny Marvel tidbits, Samuel L. Jackson talks Carol Danvers being important going forward and how dedicated Brie Larson is in the role. (via Uproxx)
  • At the Louvre with Jay-Z and Beyonce. (via Vulture)
  • “Trump and the Baby Snatchers.” (via The New York Times)

What’d you spot, folks?

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Excerpt of The Body Positive YA Novel To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

To Be Honest_Cover

Diversity in Young Adult fiction has been at the forefront of the genre for the past few years. Where once it was considered a deterrent to sales to put people of color and larger sized women on the covers of books, we have slowly seen that change for the better. What’s more is that we now have the room to tell stories previously considered not marketable for young readers. One of the books doing that is To Be Honest by author Maggie Ann Martin.

Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her big sister―and best friend―goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she’ll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn’t count on is that her mother’s obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy’s mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom’s diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

To Be Honest is another sharp, witty novel from Maggie Ann Martin, about a spunky heroine who is dealing with very real issues―body image, parental pressure, loneliness, first love, and finding your way―with heart and humor.

Swoon Reads, the imprint behind To Be Honest was gracious enough to let us share an excerpt of the upcoming book with our lovely Mary Sue readers.

To Be Honest Full Cover

 

It had been exactly two days, thirteen hours, and thirty- four minutes since we left Ashley at Indiana State, and I was itching to get out of the house and away from my mom’s sole attention. We’d already prepared healthy prep meals that we could freeze and eat for the next month, and if I had to dice one more carrot or make one more pot of rice, I would most definitely scream.

Thankfully, I’d already made plans with my best friend, Grace, to go to her family’s summer cookout slash family field day in the park. Each year, the Morenos from around the Midwest came and joined for this day of fun (and sibling rivalry). I was mostly there for a chance to see her cousin Mateo . . . and hang out with Grace, of course.

Fiyero the poodle monster rested his chin on the side of my bed, growling a low, guttural growl, alerting me it was time to get up and play with him. I groaned as I rolled over and grabbed his fluffy face between my hands.

“Now that Ashley isn’t here you have to resort to me, huh?” I asked.

Fiyero cocked his head like he was trying to understand me. His tongue, which was always a little too big for his mouth, flopped to the side and I barked out an early-morning laugh.

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” I said.

As I stood up, Fiyero started bouncing around the room excitedly and then raced down the hallway and down the stairs. Much to my surprise, I heard Mom yelp “Fiyero!” from the bottom of the stairs. Usually Mom sleeps in until noon on the weekends, but today she was already up and stretching in the living room. Her hands contorted in weird angles behind her back and she listened to the soft hum of Lady Gaga, her workout music of choice.

“Want to join me and Fiyero on a run this morning?” she asked without turning around. My tiptoeing obviously failed me.

“As fun as that sounds . . .” I trailed off.

“The first step to a healthier life is making a commitment,” she rattled off. I kept a mental tally of the thinspiration mantras she preached to me throughout the day. This one was at about two times a day.

“I inherited my commitment issues from Dad, obviously,” I said.

I regretted saying it as soon as it came out. We tried not to talk about the Dad Debacle of Sophomore Year when he cheated on Mom with one of her friends. Should friends be in quotation marks in that context? Yes. Her “friend” slept with my dad for about a year before he slipped up, leaving his phone charging on the kitchen counter and leaving message previews open for a naive sophomore me to find. Adult sexting is disgusting.

“Oh, Savannah,” she said, shaking her head with both of her hands firmly on her hips. It was a posed reserved for her times of greatest disappointment.

“Sorry, Mom,” I said. “I have to head over to Grace’s. She’s having the Moreno family reunion thing this afternoon. Um, did you want to come, too?”

She shook her head. “No, thanks, sweetie. I’m heading over to the gym this afternoon. You have fun, though. Be sure to tell Maria thank you.”

Her statement felt a little like a judgment. Like, You have fun while I improve my mind, body, and spirit at the gym without you. Most things out of her mouth sounded like a personal attack on me, lately.

“I will. See you tonight,” I said, heading into the kitchen. 

“Do you want to heat up one of our frozen meals before you go? You don’t need all the extra carbs that come with the grill-out food, especially the buns,” she said.

My whole body flushed red like it did every time she tried to restrict my food. I remembered Ashley’s plea to keep the peace while she was gone, and swallowed the anger that bubbled up inside of me.

“I’ll be sure to heat one up before I leave, Mom,” I lied. “Have fun at the gym.”

Normally on Sunday mornings, Ashley would be up and making breakfast. She’d make secret pancakes and bacon before Mom could wake up and tell us how many calories we were wasting on breakfast. We’d lounge on the couch and watch episodes of whatever show we were bingeing and practically become one with the couch before Mom woke up at noon. Maybe Mom woke up early so that I wouldn’t feel so alone. Even though it made me feel a little better, the giant hole in our home dynamic expanded two sizes.

I listened to the soft rhythm of Mom’s feet hitting the floor as she did her warm-up routine. I’d become accustomed to this sound over the past year. After Mom and Dad’s divorce, Mom tailspinned into a shame spiral. She started making changes to every aspect of her life—anything to get her out of the “rut” she’d been in all those years with Dad. One night, she saw a call for audition tapes for the weight-loss reality TV show Shake the Weight and conned Ashley into helping her film a tape. Thinking nothing would come of it and being willing to do anything to make Mom happy in those months, Ashley helped her out.

About a month later, on Mother’s Day, Mom got a call that she’d need to fly out to LA for a screen test with other potential contestants. Two weeks later, she was packing a bag to move out to LA and we were packing our bags to stay with Dad and Sheri for the next two months.

Each Wednesday night we would sit in front of the TV and watch this woman who was once our mother fight with other contestants, puke on camera, and shed a definitely unhealthy amount of weight in a few short months. She started praising the woman who barked orders at her, pushed her until she passed out, and caused her emotional damage she couldn’t see happening to her. There is a reason people on these shows aren’t allowed to call their family members while they’re filming. Everyone would convince them to run from that place as fast as they could.

Now Mom inhabited a new, smaller body, after rigorous exercise and plastic surgery to remove some excess skin. I knew she was the same woman, could recognize her voice and her eyes, but everything else about her had changed. She had a one-track mind to count calories, follow to-do lists, and repeat the mantras that had been ingrained in her on Shake the Weight. She fixated not only on every little thing that crossed her lips but mine as well.

I snuck back up the stairs as Mom did arm circles to “Applause.” The weather was sweltering. The Morenos always managed to host their family day on the stickiest day of the year. Thankfully, Mr. Moreno usually brought a sprinkler so that we could all cool down when it became unbearable.

The yellow-and-blue polka-dotted swimsuit sat snugly on my hips, and I instantly regretted opting out of swimsuit shopping this year. I figured I’d managed to squeeze into the same one for three years, what could possibly change in one more? Oh, right, everything. I flung on a T-shirt from Adventure World and slipped into my favorite flip-flops, on the verge of ripping in two. You can’t beat a really nice pair of broken-in flip-flops.

When I came back downstairs, Mom and Fiyero had left for their run. I grabbed the keys to my new, inherited car. Ashley always had the touch with Norma (a very normal car name for a Nissan), but I absolutely despised driving. Thankfully Sandcastle Park was only a few-minutes drive away. If I could make it there with only a few bumps along the way, I would consider it a successful trip.

Sandcastle Park came into my view after a particularly violent curb check. I parked a block away and could still hear Mrs. Moreno greeting everyone as they showed up. She had the biggest heart and the loudest voice to match. I once said that if I had to take one person with me on a deserted island, I’d take Mrs. Moreno, because she could calm me down, cook some bomb food, and use her loud voice to track down civilization from miles away.

“Savannah! Savannah, over here Savannah!” she called to me from across the street. I waved sheepishly as all of Grace’s extended family turned to look at me.

“Hey, Mrs. M,” I yelled back.

From the corner of my eye, I saw my best friend running my way. She wrapped me up in a hug, knocking the wind from me, in typical Grace fashion. When she pulled away, she held me by the shoulders and looked me up and down. “How are you doing? Don’t lie,” she added, holding up an accusatory finger.

I sighed. “I’ve been better. But we’re not here to have a pity party. We’re here to have a fun day!”

“I signed us up for a three-legged race,” she said, cringing as she waited for my response.

“You what?” I asked, knowing full well what I heard. Knowing full well that Grace knew that I refused to participate in this event every year since third grade, when I watched Andrew Adams break his leg while he was in a three-legged race with Cody Grant.

“You can’t let the ghost of Andrew’s broken-leg past haunt you forever. It’s the only event I’ve never won. Come on, this is our year. I’ll even get Mateo in on a conversation with you if that sweetens the deal,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows.

“I feel really uncomfortable with you bribing me romantically with your family members,” I said.

“Ugh, you wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t mention the three-legged race! What else do you want? I’ll do anything,” she said. When competitive Grace came out, you didn’t want to get in her way. She wasn’t above bribery if it meant she had the opportunity to win something.

“Do my laundry for the next month?” I offered. 

“You know how much I despise laundry,” she said. 

“Take it or leave it, Moreno,” I said.

She held out her hand for a binding handshake. “Deal.”

Maggie Ann Martin

(Credit: Larissa Wilming)

Maggie Ann Martin, author of The Big F and To Be Honest, hails from Des Moines, Iowa but moonlights as a New Yorker. She earned her BA in English and Journalism from the University of Iowa, the most welcoming literary community in the world. When she is not writing, you can find her binge-watching TV shows or passionately fangirling over fictional characters on the Internet.

To Be Honest comes out August 21st, 2018.

(image: Swoon Reads)

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What Should We Be Watching and Reading Right Now?

Killing Eve

We love to check in with you, our dearest Mary Suevians, to see what’s been consuming your attention as of late. What should we all be taking a look at?

We’re living in a golden age of television and an ever-expanding cinematic universe of superheroes, Jedi, and other spacefarers. Over in Bookville, there’s never been such an output of strong and diverse genre offerings, wide-ranging YA, and comic books that hold an increasingly realistic mirror up to what society really looks like. Video games are making exciting in-roads in terms of representation and are continually upping the ante on what’s possible in gameplay. There are so many incredible podcasts and new albums that I often wish I had extra ears.

The Mary Sue’s readers always keep us on our toes, and you all are often at the forefront of uncovering important media. We appreciate knowing what’s on your mind—this alerts us to the properties that we should be investigating on your behalf, as well provides what’s bound to be a wealth of things we’ll love to consume as well. You do, after all, have impeccable taste.

On our end, some of the media we’ve been obsessing over as of late:

Chelsea: Killing Eve (TV)

Princess: Circe by Madeline Miller (Book)

Charline: Keep It (Podcast)

Vivian: The Merry Spinster by Daniel Mallory Ortberg (Book)

Daniella: Hound Tall (Podcast)

Dan: The Good Place (TV)

Kaila: Last Podcast on the Left (Podcast)

What have you been consuming as of late that you can’t wait to talk about and share with others? Tell us in the comments! I may not have extra ears, but I can’t wait to see what’s caught your attention.

(image: Killing Eve on BBC America)

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