Sunday, 27 July 2014

100 Songs *I* Love

My love of music is NEWSWORTHY!

I love music.  In fact, I could go as far as to quote the song and say it was quite probably my first love.  Well, music and Tommy Steele.  But let's not go there...

Today, Culture magazine - one of The Sunday Times' weekend supplements - ran an article entitled "100 Songs To Love."  It was, as you might expect, a list of 100 awesome songs that the writer(s) were urging readers to download.  Cleverly, these songs had been broken down into categories such as "Songs for After a Break Up," to add interest and each song had a short reason explaining why it had made it into the top 100.  Put simply, I thought this was a great thing to do and, since the only other other idea I had for a blog was a long list of reasons why writing fan-fiction about band members has become my new favourite pastime, I've decided to copy the list, complete with categories, but with my own song choices.  So pull up a chair and prepare to quite probably shriek: "WHAT?  No, no no, I would have chosen this song..."  Because that's entirely the point.  You don't need to agree with any of my choices, but hey, if this blog inspires you to make your own list and someone spots a song they've never heard of and gives it a listen, then we're sharing music.  And that's awesome.


1. ABBA - Dancing Queen

If I'm out somewhere and this song comes on, you can guarantee that I will transform from being a pretty normal person, capable of adult conversation, to being all pointy-fingers and shrieking.  Because damn it, I am the girl in that song.  We are all the girl in that song.  Even if we're male.  Which is weird, but somehow true.

2. La Bamba - Ritchie Valens

Learning all of the words to this song remains one of my proudest achievements.  I wish I was joking...  I hear this and my feet start moving of their own accord.  I unashamedly adore this song and if I'm driving with my phone on shuffle and it comes on, you can bet your backside I'll be car-dancing.

3. Cha-Cha Slide - DJ Casper

Corny?  Yes.  Catchy?  HELL yes.  I dare you to listen and not immediately "slide to the left."

4. Keep On Moving - 5ive

Not only does this song make me want to dance whenever I hear it, the lyrics are quite a pick-me-up if I'm having a bad day.  "Get on up, when you're down, baby take a good look around.  I know it's not much, but it's okay, we'll keep on moving on anyway."  Aw.

5.  Everybody (Backstreet's Back)

You may have guessed that I am an unashamed fan of boybands.  I don't care what criticism anyone wants to throw at them, as long as they make catchy pop, they're okay by me (although don't get me started on One Direction).  This song makes me want to attempt the actual dance routine, which, I've been told, I am incredibly bad at.  Meh.  I still do it all the same!

"I had that dream, also!"

6. Blame It On The Boogie - The Jacksons

It has a dance routine.  It's Motown.  It's the flipping Jacksons.  Of course this makes me want to dance!

7. Year 3000 - Busted

This song might not have made it onto this list prior to going to see McBusted at Weston-Super-Mare, although I have always liked dancing about to it.  But that Saturday, I was sunburnt, hungry and needed a wee (TMI?!), yet the second I heard the intro, I started to pogo like Tigger after a bowl of E-numbers.  I can't hear it without wanting to dance my backside off, now.  Awesome.

8. I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas

This is just one of those songs that I can't seem to sit down to.  Nor can I avoid doing the "woohoo!" bits.

9. Chocolate (Choco Choco) - Soul Control

I'm not even embarrassed by this one being on the list.  It's the song that probably most reminds me of my little holidays at Butlin's with my friend Lizzie and I love it for the memories it brings.  I hear it and I'm up on my feet before the intro is even over.

10. The Final Countdown - Europe

TUNE.  Simple as that.


Once upon a time, my words won me badges.

11. Stan - Eminem

This song made it into Culture's list, too and it's easy to see why.  If ever a song told a story, it's this one.  At the end, when Eminem finally replies - too late - I always get a bit of a shiver.  It's either the song or my house is a bit draughty...

12. Family Portrait - P!nk

I love this song, written from the viewpoint of a child, in which P!nk laments the breakdown of her parents' relationship and pleads with them to make things go back to normal again.  It's raw.  Or, to quote the spoken bit at the beginning of the song, it's "some deep shit."

13. Back To Black - Amy Winehouse

Another song that made it into culture's list for this category.  Amy never shied away from brutally honest lyrics and this was her at her most open.  She laid herself bare, lyrically and musically and not many artists are brave enough to do that.  

14. You've Got A Friend - James Taylor (Carole King)

For me, this totally sums up the beauty of real friendship.  Haven't we all wished for someone we can rely on so completely?  "You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I'll come running."  Gorgeous.

15. Parklife - Blur

It's less a song and more a chat about the mundanity of everyday life.  Somehow, it's instantly identifiable, no matter who we are and where we live.  And what a tune, when that chorus kicks in!

16. If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next - Manic Street Preachers

Yes, it's the first entry in my list for the Manic Street Preachers.  Say what you like about them, but when it comes to lyric-writing, they're one of the most adventurous, unafraid bands out there.  This song manages to say so much, so poetically, it had to be included.

17. In My Life - The Beatles

We all eventually reach an age where we become nostalgic for the past.  This song is a perfect love letter to lost places and moments, whilst bringing it back to the present and focusing on what's important right now.  Beautiful.

18. The Clash - Lost In The Supermarket

I can remember hearing this for the first time and being blown away by the simplicity of the lyrics, yet the power of the images they conjure.  When you hear the line "I hear the people who live on the ceiling..." it's impossible not to picture a young boy, staring up at the ceiling and wondering what's happening in the flat above his.  The words used are just perfect throughout this song.

19. Faster - Manic Street Preachers

Yep, here they are again.  Well, I couldn't have a Nicky lyric without a Richey one to balance it out, could I?!  And any song with the line "I've been too honest with myself, I should have lied like everybody else" is utterly worthy of its place in this list.

20. Wake Me Up When September Ends - Green Day

Whilst we're on the subject of brilliant lyrics:  "Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars..."  To be honest, I could have picked almost anything off American Idiot for this category, but that line has always been a favourite of mine.

As has Billie-Joe, if I'm honest...


21. Hysteria - Muse

This song comes on and I just want to jump around and lose myself in the guitars and the general awesomness.  "Epic" is one of the only words to describe it.

22.  November Rain - Guns 'n' Roses

One of my favourite songs of all time.  If you're not going crazy playing air guitar by the end, you're doing something very, very wrong.

23.  The Universal - Blur

Blur's second song on this list is one of my absolute favourites.  The strings, the hopefulness of the words ("it really, really, really could happen...")... It's perfect.

24. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen

Perhaps an obvious choice for this category, but my list wouldn't be complete without it.  It's an absolute classic.

25. Heroes - David Bowie

Perhaps not an "epic" in the same sense as the others mentioned so far, but the London Olympics and various other events have taken this already awesome song to a whole new level.

26. Jump - Van Halen

One of the most instantly recognisable intros ever, this song is just crying out to be played at a loud volume.

27. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird

Epic.  Simple as.  Just close your eyes and listen to that guitar. This hits pretty much every "epic" button.  Musically, length-wise and everything in between.  DID I MENTION THE GUITAR???!!!

28. The War Of The Worlds Theme - Jeff Wayne

If this doesn't make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, I don't know what will.

29. Jesus of Suburbia - Green Day

Yep, as you may have noticed, some bands are going to feature more than once in this list.  Green Day's second entry in this list is epic in the sense that the song is over nine minutes long and just sounds bloody amazing, as it slows down, speeds up and seems to meander all over the place, whilst staying utterly whole and true to itself the entire time.

30. Design For Life - Manic Street Preachers

Have I mentioned that I'm a Manics fan?!  The string solo in this song is just absolutely perfect.  The whole thing is just defiant and jubilant and there is no better moment at a Manics gig than when they play this and the whole crowd gets lost singing along.


Try not to envy my mad MS Paint skillz.

31. Woman - John Lennon

We're not talking about the man, here (people have criticised me for liking his songs before, in light of my very firm stance against any form of domestic abuse), we're talking about the song.  And this song is beautiful.  I've always wanted to be serenaded by a guy with a guitar and if this was the song he chose ("he" being someone who may well be imaginary at this rate...), I'd be putty in his hands.

32. It's All About You - McFly

Suddenly, all I want to do is dance in the kitchen with someone who'd answer all my wishes.  This song is lovely and I melt a little bit whenever I hear it.

33.  Oh Baby, I - Eternal

I won't lie, guys.  This section of the list is going to have something to do with the era of music I grew up with.  Or, to put it another way, the songs I was a hormonal teenager to.  This song reminds me of teenage crushes and falling asleep listening to soppy songs.

34. I'll Never Break Your Heart - Backstreet Boys

Again with the whole "songs from my teens" thing...  This song still stands the test of time, because given that my last relationship was so gut-wrenchingly awful, I secretly long to have someone sing this to me and mean it.

35.  A Million Love Songs - Take That

Yeah, I really am going down the road of songs from my youth... When I was 12 or 13 and had a major crush on a boy at school, a friend of mine wrote the lyrics to this song on a piece of paper and handed them to me, because she felt they were apt for the situation.  So, at least I wasn't the only incredibly soppy girl in my class at school, eh?!

36. For All We Know - The Carpenters

This is one of the most beautiful songs about the start of a new relationship ever recorded, if you ask me.  "Love, look at the two of us.  Strangers in many ways... And love may grow for all we know."  Gorgeous.

37. True Love Ways - Buddy Holly

One of the last songs Buddy Holly ever recorded was a love song to his wife, Maria Elena.  He wrote the song as a wedding gift, which in itself is incredibly romantic.  It's soft, beautiful and, in light of Buddy's tragic death, rather heartbreaking.

38. Unintended - Muse

Oh, the times I've sung this over some crush or other.  The beauty of this song is that it somehow sums up everything about falling for someone (because you rarely deliberately fall for a specific person), whilst also confessing to how scary it can be to put your heart in someone else's hands, especially if you've been hurt before ("I'll be there as soon as I can, but I'm busy mending broken pieces of the life I had before you").

39. For Once In My Life - Stevie Wonder

If there's a song that better sums up the joy of finding someone you're absolutely crazy about, I haven't heard it.

40. Love Me Tender - Elvis Presley

I take it back.  Maybe THIS is the number one song I would like to be serenaded by.  It's beautiful; that's all there is to say.


Because we can't be TOO soppy, right?!

41. Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson

I'm thinking these next ten songs are going to be picked depending on whether they encourage you to wallow or get seriously angry and flick the Vs at your ex.  This one definitely falls into the latter category...

42. All At Once - Whitney Houston

And here's one for the wallowers.  If you've been left for another woman, there's no way you'll be able to hear this without it resulting in snotty tears.  Nice.

43. I Know Him So Well - Barbara Dixon & Elaine Paige

Ironically, it turned out I didn't know my last partner very well at all, but for a while, this was the song that summed up the end of our relationship, in spite of him being an abusive shit.  The lyrics are a real stab in the chest, if you've recently parted from someone you loved.  The words "didn't I know how it would go?  If I knew from the start, why am I falling apart?"  are especially devastating.

44.  You Oughta Know - Alanis Morissette

Nobody does the wrath of a woman scorned quite like Alanis.  The furious lyrics are made even sharper by the way she spits them into the microphone.  If you want a break up song from a seriously pissed off female perspective, this is the ultimate.

45.  Circle The Drain - Katy Perry

After I walked away from my abusive relationship, my best friend made me a CD of songs she thought were appropriate.  This was one of them and my WORD did I blast this out over and over as I was getting over it all!!  I can remember driving with my windows down, shrieking: "WANNA BE YOUR LOVER, NOT YOUR FUCKING MOTHER!" without a care for who heard.  "I'm not gonna stay and watch you circle the drain."  Amazing.  As a bonus extra song, I also want to give credit to Katy's "Roar," which is like an anthem to the girl who's sticking her fingers up at her ex, because damn it, she's A FIGHTER.  Aherm.

46. No Distance Left To Run - Blur

I've been a bit girl-centric so far in this category, so here's where that changes.  Damon Albarn's heartbroken lyrics in this song make for a truly difficult listen if you're dealing with a break up.  "It's over.  You don't need to tell me..."

47. End of The Road - Boyz II Men

Aah, the denial phase.  "Although we've come to the end of the road, still I can't let go."  We've all been there...

48. The Winner Takes It All

It's a fantastic pop song about feeling like the loser at the end of a relationship, made all the harder to listen to when you think about it being written by a guy who'd just split from his wife.  Who then had to sing the line "tell me, does she kiss like I used to kiss you?"  Wow, Bjorn.  Harsh.

49. Emotions - The Bee Gees/Destiny's Child

I've put both artists, because although obviously it was a Bee Gees song way before Destiny's Child covered it, I definitely remember sobbing into my pillow to the latter version after the end of my very first relationship.

50.  Fuck You - CeeLo Green

Well, we had to end this particularly category on a more defiant note, right?!


Yes, it says "LOL."  I couldn't be bothered to edit it.

51. You Love Us - Manic Street Preachers

Well, we haven't had one of their songs for a while, so...  But seriously, this sarcastic Valentine's message to their critics marked the Manics out as a band with balls.  And in those tight, white jeans, you could practically see them, too.  Oh and speaking of the Manics...

52. Stay Beautiful - Manic Street Preachers

My list, my rules!  When the band were young and seemingly furious with everything, they wrote some corkers.  "Don't wanna see your face, don't wanna hear your words, why don't you just..." And if you've ever been to a Manics gig, you'll know that the crowd like to finish that line (which is left hanging empty on the album) with a scream of "FUCK OFF!"

53. Welcome To The Jungle - Guns 'n' Roses


54. American Idiot - Green Day

Few people saw the band famous for writing simple pop-punk tunes coming out with such a political statement, but then they went and did it all the same (and for the record, those pop-punk tunes were awesome as well...).  A lot of people criticised Green Day for suddenly wanting to "stick it to the man," when they'd never seemed concerned about it before.  But I know people who got thinking about American politics because of American Idiot and the album of the same name, so I refuse to diss.

55. God Save The Queen - The Sex Pistols

And they meant it.  Man.

56. Rage Against The Machine - Killing In The Name

If "fire in the blood" refers to a stubborn refusal to bow down and do what you're told, then this is surely the Fire In The Blood ANTHEM?!  "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!"

57. So What - P!nk

I know that going from Rage Against The Machine to P!nk is quite a leap, but if you've got a bit of fury flowing through your veins, this is a good song to vent to.

58. Forgiven - Alanis Morissette

Alanis is the QUEEN of pissy females, in my eyes.  This song is a brilliant, blistering look at religion and the effect that being taught that certain deeds are "sinful" can have on a person as they grow up and try to find their way in the world.  "If I jump in this fountain, will I be forgiven?!"  You go, girl.

59. Knights of Cydonia - Muse

"I'll show you a "God" who falls asleep on the job," Matt Bellamy sings in this attack on corrupt political leaders, that somehow manages to sound like a marriage between a country and western film and a massive guitar riff.

60. Clampdown - The Clash

"Let fury hath the hour, anger can be power."  The lyrics to this one range from wanting to do more with your life than be stuck in a dead-end job, to shouting back against national stereotypes.  I've said it before in this list and I'll probably say it again:  TUNE.

See?!  Told you I'd say it again.


61. Song 2 - Blur

It's quick, it's raw, you'll find yourself jumping up and down and you will be compelled to do the "woohoo" bits.

62. Crazy Horses - The Osmonds

It's not the kind of song you expect from the guys who begged you to Love Me For A Reason, but Crazy Horses is a two and a half minute slice of slightly bizarre brilliance.

63. I Found Out - The Pigeon Detectives

Remember this one?!  It was everywhere when it first came out.  With good reason; it's two minutes of ridiculous catchiness.

64. We Will Rock You - Queen

A total classic of a song, but did you know it's only a fraction more than two minutes long?  That's a whole lot of awesomeness to pack into a short amount of time.

65.  I Can't Decide - Scissor Sisters

I'm a Whovian, so this song was always going to feature in this category, seeing as it's under three minutes long and is used in one of my favourite scenes of Nu-Who EVER.

66. Come On Let's Go - Ritchie Valens

He's best known for La Bamba and Donna, but this is a fantastic little piece of Rock'n'Roll that gets your feet tapping for barely more than two minutes.  But what a fab two minutes they are!

67. Waterloo - ABBA

It won Eurovision and you can't hear it without picturing that sequined blue jumpsuit, but did you know this song was under 3 minutes long?!  Once again proving that awesome songs don't have to be epic in length.

68.  Please Please Me - The Beatles

It's funny to think that almost exactly two minutes of pop-rock played by four lads from Liverpool changed music history.  And yet...

69. It Doesn't Matter Anymore - Buddy Holly

My favourite Buddy Holly song comes in at just over two minutes in length.  And every second of it is bloody brilliant.

70. Return To Sender - Elvis Presley

Since we've had my favourite Buddy song, we ought to go for one of my favourite Elvis ones.  It's only fair.


Bow chicka wow wow...

71. I'll Make Love To You - Boyz II Men

And they apparently will not let go til we tell them to.  This is a bit of a slushy song for sexy times, rather than a "I just gotta have you NOW!" song.  Ah. Ah.  Aaaah.  Sorry.

72. Freak Like Me - Adina Howard

If you're of my generation, you probably know the Sugababes version of this rather than the original.  Either way, this is a pretty sexy song if you're planning to go "all through the night til the early morn."  Blimey.

73. Sexual Healing - Marvin Gaye

Okay, so the line "I'm hot just like an oven, I need some lovin'" is kinda cringe worthy, but it's got a nice rhythm for slow dancing to.  And we all know what slow dancing can lead to...

74. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow - it HAS to be the Amy Winehouse version!!

There's something slow and seductive about Amy's version of this classic song.  Again, it's not a song to tear each other's clothes off to, but for a luxuriously intimate moment, why the heck not stick this on?! And whilst we're on cover versions, the Girls Aloud version of "I Think We're Alone Now" is HOOOOOT.

75. This Is How It Works - TLC

I remember this being on a compilation album I had on cassette as an entirely inexperienced kid of 13 or so.  And I remember listening to it and thinking: "BLIMEY."  Seriously.  Google the lyrics. 

76. All Night Long - SWV

I'm such a girl.  All of these songs are sort of... Girly.  But anyway, this song promises "Boy, I'll do you all night long, I wanna please you, don't wanna tease you."  So, you know, it's not exactly virginal...

78. Endlessly - Muse

I won't lie.  I wanted to say Hysteria again.  Because Hysteria is by far and away the sexiest Muse song ever.  "I WANT IT NOW, I WANT YOU NOW!"  But because I don't think I'm meant to repeat songs in different categories, I'll include this instead.  BUT IT'S REALLY HYSTERIA, OKAY GUYS??!!

79. Animal Nitrate - Suede

Look, sexual appeal is something that can't really be explained.  And I can't entirely explain why this song is as sexy as it is, beyond the line "what does it take to turn you on?"  It just... Does something to me.

80. All Over Me - Graham Coxon

I'll level with you.  This is my list.  And I fancy Graham Coxon.  It was this or Sing by Blur.  And actually, either will do.  *mops brow*  I have a thing for nerdy guys who play guitar.

Speaking of which, I SERIOUSLY fancy this dude.  This category could've just been filled with me writing "JAMES SINGING ANYTHING." 


81. You'll Never Walk Alone - Gerry And The Pacemakers

It says a lot about me that I'm going to find this category easiest to complete...  So, anyway.  This song is pretty obvious, but if you've either watched the musical "Carousel" or you're old enough to remember Hillsborough...  Yeah.

82. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother - The Hollies

Without meaning to bang on about one topic, I already thought this was a rather tear-inducing song, but then Everton played it for all those killed in the Hillsborough disaster and reminded their fans that whilst there are two major football teams in Liverpool, it is one city, joined by the loss felt that day.  And now I can't hear it without one heck of a lump in my throat.

83.  The Living Years - Mike & The Mechanics

It's just bloody sad.  Let's leave it at that, eh?  

84.  Bring Him Home - Alfie Boe (yes I know others have done it)

I mentioned earlier that I'm a musical theatre geek.  Or at least I think I did.  That was several hours ago...  Anyway, I could use almost any song from Les Mis, such is the weepiness of that musical, but this one is just a punch in the guts as Jean Val Jean begs for the younger Marius to survive the battles ahead of them, regardless of whether he loses his life in the process.  Get your hankies out...

85. Memory - Elaine Paige

Yep, we're still on musicals.  This song was played at my Nan's funeral (and then my grandfather's too).  Weirdly, I can sing it, but I can't listen to it.  I'm odd like that.

86. This Is Yesterday - Manic Street Preachers

The Manics are back!!  WOOOOOOO!  Except more like "WAAAAH."  The album version of this song doesn't always get to me that much, but when James Dean Bradfield plays it on an acoustic guitar at gigs, the beauty of the lyrics and the wail of Bradders' voice just gets me right in the chest.  I've been known to bawl on the barrier.  I'm not ashamed.

87. Somewhere - West Side Story

Yeah, we've returned to musical theatre.  There's something so sad about the longing between two people to find a place where they can be together in freedom.  For exactly the same reason, I was torn between this and We Kiss In A Shadow from The King And I.

88. Jerusalem/Land of Hope And Glory

I'm not about to get ridiculously patriotic, but...  Both these songs bring a tear to my eye and I can't choose between the two.

89. Nimrod - Edward Elgar

I was raised in a military family and I guess it's the fact that this piece of music is used so often in tributes to those killed in war that it feels like a punch in the chest whenever I hear it.  It's utterly stunning in its beauty and if it leaves you unmoved, then frankly, I question whether you might actually be dead inside.

90. Slipping Through My Fingers - ABBA

From the band that gave us chirpy songs like Dancing Queen and Voulez Vous, suddenly comes this ballad about how quickly your children grow up and how easy it is to feel that you've lost them once they're adults and don't need you so much anymore.  I'm not even a mum, but when I saw Mamma Mia for the first time, I sobbed my heart out at this.  Then I turned to my mum, sitting next to me, saw that she was crying her eyes out and it made me sob even more.


91. Teenage Kicks - The Undertones

Well, come on.  What else was going to come first in this category?!

92. What I Go To School For - Busted

I don't remember the name of the gorgeous young teacher we had ever so briefly at school and it's driving me mad trying to remember...  All I remember is that for the few weeks he was there, he was what I went to school for.  Even though it was a real bore...

93. Young And Lovely - Blur

It's one of those songs that you don't really "get" until you're not quite so young anymore, but I listen to this and wish I had gone out more often as a teen.  Which is a bit sad.

94.  Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me - U2

It's a shock to my system that I'm including a song by a band who, on the whole, I don't like.  BUT... This song was an anthem of my very early teenage years.  I used to go to our local youth club on a Friday night and this was almost always played at some point.  So for the memories, it gets a place in in my list.

95. Never Forget - Take That

I was a "Thatter."  I was in love with Mark Owen.  I was one of the girls who cried her eyes out when Take That split up.  So it seems right to include a song by them here and it seems right that it should be a song about looking back and remembering "where you've come here from."

96. Alright - Supergrass

If there's one song that instantly sums up the invisible feeling of being young and doing whatever the heck you fancy, it's this one.

97. Try Me Out - Corona

I may not be mad keen on modern day dance music, but dance music from the 90's?  IS AWESOME.  I used to listen to this every day on the school bus, on my beloved Walkman.  I still can't hear it without grinning to myself about just what a bloody tune it is and how often I used to press "rewind" so I could hear it again.  Pressing the "skip" button might be easier, but it just isn't the same.

98. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

I'm pretty certain that almost every teenager (at least all the ones I knew) goes through a Nirvana phase.  And of course, this is arguably the ultimate Nirvana song.

99. Fun, Fun, Fun - The Beach Boys

This song IS just fun, fun, fun.  And it tells the story of a young girl getting her first taste of independence by borrowing her dad's car.  Teenage kicks?  You betcha.

100. Teenager In Love - Dion & The Belmonts

Did I mention how many crushes I had during my teens?  On school friends, teachers, pop stars, footballers, actors... You name it.  I mean yes, I still have loads of crushes now, but...  Well anyway, this song seems ideal for the big bag of hormones I was during my teenage years.

Blimey, I did it!  100 songs...  And it only took five hours to come up with this list.

I'm off to bed.  With several songs in my head...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Fifty Shades: Why The Trailer Proves That This Film Will Romanticise Abuse Just As Much As The Books Already Have...

Here's a quick bit of honesty, for anyone new to my blog...  Three years ago this August, I walked away from an abusive relationship.  For more than a year and a half, I was abused emotionally, psychologically and, to a lesser degree, sexually by a man I once loved.  Less than a year after walking away from that relationship, I read a book that everyone seemed to be talking about; Fifty Shades of Grey.  And to my horror and disgust, the title character - Christian Grey - may as well have been my ex.  He manipulated his partner, just like my ex did with me.  He sought to control her against her will, just like my ex did with me. He blamed his abusive childhood on the fact that he "couldn't help" his behaviour as an adult, just like my ex did with me.  He placed responsibility on his naive girlfriend to "fix" him, just like my ex did with me. The relationship was to be entirely on his terms, never mind her feelings, just like I had experienced with my ex.  Can you sense a theme??!!  Volunteers at the abuse charity who were helping me piece myself back together had decided to read Fifty Shades to see if it depicted a healthy relationship.  Like me, they were horrified that it absolutely did not.

I read the first book, hoping for something erotic and romantic, that would rekindle my belief in romance, after what I had been through.  Instead, I found myself crying into my pillow, unable to believe that anyone found this vile man attractive.  Imagine the worst experience of your life, re-written as though it's something to be envied.  That's what Fifty Shades was to me.  I couldn't bring myself to spend money on the second or third books, but I read detailed chapter-by-chapter analysis and realised that contrary to what fans insist, Christian Grey does not get better.  Ana's love does not "fix" him.  He gets worse, yet we're sold the lie that the right form of love will make an abusive man a nice guy in the end, because Ana (and by extension, clearly EL James) decides that he's changed, despite the lack of any evidence in the text.  The books take an abusive relationship and try to make it seem sexy and attractive.  And the scariest thing is that people are buying it.  Literally and figuratively.

Now, a film has been made.  A film that, if it stays true to the books, will romanticise stalking, manipulation, intimidation and threats, non-consensual control and violence masquerading as BDSM (ask anyone familiar with kink and they'll tell you EL James did no research and has created a warped version of the lifestyle which is offensive and dangerous).  After the way the books triggered me, it's no wonder that the last thing I want to subject myself to is the movie trailer.  I doubt I could sit in a cinema and watch the whole thing without having to rush out, eyes full of bitter, angry tears.  But I believe in knowing your enemy and because I think abuse is clearer on screen than on the page sometimes, I'm going to watch it and highlight why what it portrays is NOT A LOVING, HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP.

Here goes...

Within thirty seconds I have an issue.  Note how intimidated and nervous Anastasia looks in this still.  We're meant to find that sexy, because Grey is so powerful.  But considering that he uses his power over her throughout the story, controlling her and manipulating her, it's actually just enough to make my skin crawl.  Consider that this image is played  whilst we hear Ana's voice say how Grey is "polite, intense, smart... Really intimidating" and it becomes even worse.

Seconds later, when Grey asks Ana about herself, she replies "there's really not much to know about me.  I mean, look at me."  He smolders as he replies: "I am."  

I'm aware enough to know that that line could be sexy.  It could be if spoken by anyone other than a man who will later stalk this incredibly naive girl to her workplace, trace her mobile phone and blame her for being assaulted by a male friend on a night out.  A man who knows her address and bank details without her ever having given them.  Armed with that knowledge, the line is less sexy and more intimidating.  Which is apparently what they were going for.  Which is terrifying.  As is the look Ana gives him in response, which makes her look like she's a rabbit caught in the headlights.  Again, I'm sure this is intentional and again, that terrifies me.

After that moment, we get a shot of Ana leaving Grey's office, still looking freaked out and dramatic (borderline scary) music plays.  It's at this point that I realise that if this were a trailer for a film in which the male lead is a psychopath who abuses the female lead, it would be brilliantly done so far.  But no, this is meant to be a trailer for a love story.

And then, after we are shown some supposedly passionate shots of Grey kissing Ana in the elevator, we see this shot:

And the words spoken?  "I'm not capable of leaving you alone."  So my suspicion was right; the art of turning stalking into a sign of TRUE LOVE that EL James so horribly forced into the written version is being churned out in the film.  He's capable.  He just refuses to.  There's a difference and it's not a sexy one.  Oh and that stalking I mentioned, where he tracks her phone and turns up when she's on a night out?  That moment is of course portrayed with Grey as a dashing hero, "saving" Ana.  Never mind that she told him not to come after her, never mind that he tracked her phone and ignored her lack of consent, never mind that he then took her away from the safety of her friends inside the club... He's a HERO.

It just gets worse from there, too.  As Grey's voice claims "I don't do romance," we're treated to this shot:

Anyone who has read the book knows that this is the scene in which Grey touches Ana intimately under his parents' dining table, during a family meal.  Anyone who has read the book and comprehends what is on the page knows that this is the scene in which Grey touches Ana intimately WITHOUT CONSENT IN FRONT OF HIS PARENTS.  She clamps her legs shut.  He "punishes" her for it, later, by having sex with her and warning her not to orgasm or he'll spank her.  Orgasm denial does exist in BDSM, but doing it without consent and threatening physical punishment when the very first thing Ana says after he drags her into his parents' boathouse is "please don't hit me" is not sexy.  It's not BDSM.  It's abuse.  This trailer is now straight-up telling us that abuse is a sexy sign of love.  NO. IT. IS. NOT.  How offensive do you want to be to survivors of abusive relationships, EL James?  What about you, Sam Taylor Wood?!  How offensive do you want to be to everyone involved in healthy, safe, consensual BDSM?!  Because I'm guessing "a lot."

The rest of this horrific insult to anyone who has ever experienced any form of abuse is just a load of shots of whips and chains and floggers etc, because heavens, didn't you know EL James has researched BDSM and if you say her books romanticise abuse, you are the one with the problem, you big prude??!!

Seriously.  It was two minutes and twenty seconds long.  I'm fairly triggered and I want to throw up.  I urge you, with every fibre of my being, if you're interested in erotica, read something good, like The Boss by Abigail Barnette.  If you want to know more about BDSM, do some research; speak to people online who KNOW ABOUT IT.  Do not buy into this movie.  Do not accept that if a man stalks you, or tracks your phone, he must just really love you.  Do not believe that getting a person drunk and manipulating them is the same as gaining their full consent.  Do not allow EL James to tell you that threatening someone and controlling them against their will is safe, healthy BDSM when it absolutely isn't.

Fifty Shades is abuse.  I will not subject myself to the film and I suggest you don't either.

Monday, 14 July 2014

London Film & Comic Con - Summer 2014

Saturday 12th July 2014 was a momentous date for me.  It was, after many years of being something of a nerd, my first ever trip to any kind of Comic Con.  How I had waited so long is beyond me really, especially since my personality type can roughly be described as "develops huge obsessions and likes dressing up."  

Speaking of dressing up, my outfit was, in my own words "TARDIS with a 50's vintage edge."  It looked like this...

Yes, I regretted 5" heels.  Enormously.  And yes, I spilt water on my dress.  No, I did not wet myself with excitement.  Honest.

It's a frankly bizarre and yet altogether wonderful experience to arrive at an event and immediately be greeted by a sea of incredible costumes.  I saw Ariel from The Little Mermaid chatting away to Belle from Beauty And The Beast.  I saw the title characters from 2 Broke Girls hanging out with Austin Powers.  And I saw what felt like a hundred David Tennants and Matt Smiths, each one having faithfully recreated their favourite Doctor's look.  For a Whovian like me, it was pretty much heaven.  Oh and I saw Ben from the boy band A1.  But that wasn't cosplay, he was just there...

Of course, the plan had been to take loads of photos of the costumes I saw, but in the end, I was so busy going from one photo shoot to another and generally gawping at my surroundings, I never got around to it.  I can only apologise profusely and say that when I go again, I will be much, much better at documenting the event in picture form.  I can, however, share a photo of my friend Lizzie's rather awesome homemade Skyrim costume:

Live by the sword, die by the sword, cosplay with a sword.

My biggest reason for wanting to go to London Film & Comic Con was to have a photo taken with people from Doctor Who.  And so, shortly after getting into Earl's Court, I found myself standing in a line, looking at Jenna Coleman having her picture taken with a succession of admirers.  People in the queue were excitedly whispering to one another: "She's just as pretty as I thought she'd be..." and "Oh, she's so dinky!"  Okay, so that last one was me...  I can't help it; I'm short and I get excited when other people are, too.  My one gripe about the photo shoot with Jenna was how rushed it felt.  She was one of the biggest stars at the convention and obviously a lot of people had booked to have their pictures taken with her, so there wasn't much time for chit-chat.  It was "hello" *smile* "bye."  Still, even if we didn't exactly shoot the breeze, I can still say I've met her and as I said en route to the convention, surely hugging Jenna Coleman is like hugging Matt Smith by proxy?!  So...  I've totally (almost) hugged Matt Smith.  Or something.  Anyway, she was very sweet and yes, she really is as pretty in real life as she is on screen:

Girl is just super photogenic.  I am... Less so.

I could have gotten a ticket for Jenna's autograph queue and paid to have something signed and therefore had a bit of a conversation with her, but to be honest, there was so much to see and do that I just didn't end up getting any autographs (I did try to get to meet Bernard Cribbins, but alas, I arrived at his queue a little too late - gutted!).  My other photo shoot of the day was with the eighth Doctor - Paul McGann.  He was a total gentleman and it was lovely to see the way he made a point of shaking everyone's hand as they reached the front of the photo queue and he had a little chat with each person he posed with.  I had taken my little sonic screwdriver with me and in a flash of inspiration, I cheekily asked him to hold it in our photo.  Which he did.  Upside down.  I didn't realise until afterwards and I thought it was hilarious!  It makes my picture with him even more unique than it already was...

Paul has just accidentally sonic'd his nipples off.

Also, how slender is Paul McGann?!  WHAT IS YOUR SECRET, PAUL?!  

The photo shoots are, although rather pricey and time-consuming (don't get me started on people with higher ticket numbers being allowed into the queue before people with lower ones...), a really lovely memento and I'm thrilled with mine.  A photograph, to me at least, is more precious than a squiggle on a piece of paper or a picture.  Yes, I'll try to ensure I get a couple of autographs next time I go, but the photos are more important to me.  I mean, come on.  That's a picture of me and the Doctor!

So, my Whovian geekery aside, what did I make of my first ever Comic Con experience?!  Well, I had a great time, but there were a lot of things I'd either do differently or I wish the organisers had done differently.  With that in mind, I started thinking it would be a good idea to write a little list of things a first-time attendee might want to bear in mind.  Here goes:

1. Maps, maps, maps.

Earl's Court is massive.  And when it's packed with stalls, photo areas, areas for guests to give talks, autograph tables and of course thousands of people wanting to get their geek on, it's not always easy to remember where everything is.  I didn't think there were that many maps dotted around the place and the ones that were up on the walls weren't always easy to get to, because so many people were looking at them.  With that in mind, a top tip is to take a photo of the first site map and photo shoot/talk schedule you see up on the wall.  That way, when you want to know where to go for your next photo shoot, or what time a talk is happening, you can look at your picture and avoid having to find a map all over again.

2. Planning.

I'm the daughter of a retired RAF officer and I was pretty sure that I was attending my first Comic Con with pretty much military preparation.  However, I still managed to lose time I could have spent trying to get Bernard Cribbins' autograph by getting distracted by obsessively checking the photo shoot schedules and trying to plan a meeting place, should my friend and I lose one another.  Next time, I will do what I would advise any first-timer to do:  Look at the guest list and decide who you want to get an autograph from.  If you've got photo shoots booked, as soon as you've see the schedule for the shoots, you can plan when to go and get autographs in between having photos done.   I wish I had done that, rather than insist on going from photo shoot to photo shoot, because there's nothing sadder than the sight of a 31 year old woman, sadly mouthing "But...Wilf!" after being told that Bernard Cribbins' queue was being cut.


3.  Choose your outfit wisely.

I loved my TARDIS dress and I loved that I made it a bit more "me" by investing in a 1950's rockabilly underskirt to wear under it.  However, I made the mistake of thinking I could wear high heels because "I wear them all the time."  The thing is, I'm not always walking as much as I was on Saturday and I'm not always carrying as much as I was on the day (extra tip: take bottled water and snacks to save cash; you want to be spending money on cool stuff from the stalls or autographs from celebrities, after all!).  Five inch stilettos are fine for a night out dancing, especially once alcohol has numbed you to the pain, but I wore mine from 7:30am until 7:30pm on Saturday and my feet (and hips, strangely enough) are still killing me.  It's chunky, lower heels for me, next time.  Or flats.  

Also, think about how hot it gets.  Because believe me, thousands of people walking around in an enclosed space with little to no air conditioning...  It's hotter than the devil's sauna in there.  So if you struggle in the heat, don't wear anything that's going to make it hard to breathe or get air to your skin.  I was okay, but I saw a few people who were veering on the wrong side of "sweltering."

4.  Take photos!

I planned to take loads of cosplay photos (asking the cosplayers permission first, obviously - best not to "pap" them).  In the event, however, I was so awestruck by some of the fantastic outfits - and so busy doing other things - that I just completely forgot.  I wish I had loads of incredible pictures to show you, because believe me, the costumes on display were absolutely brilliant .  If you check out this fab website, you can see a gallery of cosplay pictures (and if you go to their Doctor Who section, you might see someone you recognise...).

5. Just enjoy it!

Yes, you're bound to panic about getting stuck in a queue and not making it to your next photo shoot, or you may be nervous about meeting a celebrity whose work you've admired for years.  But the best tip to take with you to Comic Con?  Just enjoy yourself!  Look around the stalls and see if you can find something awesome to bring home (I treated myself to a TARDIS necklace).  Have photo shoots, get autographs and go to talks (the talk Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat did was brilliant and gave me the charming mental image of Matt Smith, dangling from a harness which emphasised his man-bits, whilst his trousers slowly started to fall off...).  Chat to other fans.  Dress up if you want to.  But above all, just enjoy the day.  Remember that no matter how hot or tired you are, you're at an awesome event that will hopefully provide you with memories to treasure.  And of course, on the flip-side, if you are hot and tired, get some air and sit down for a while - you can always go back in when you feel like you've had a bit of a breather and you'll enjoy yourself more if you're being sensible and looking after yourself.  Just have a plan of action, don't panic and have fun.

Hopefully I'll see you there, next time!