Why Sense8 Could Trigger a Social and Media Revolution

The new Netflix series,  created by the Wachowski siblings of The Matrix alongside J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5, has inspired an online fandom thousands strong, and here’s why. 


LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD
Reviews for Sense8, the new Netflix original series, have been mixed so far. Critics still don’t know what to make of it. Even the positive reviews point out flaws, presenting them in a way that the drawbacks seem equal to the many positive aspects of this show, so that potential viewers are skeptical even before giving it a chance. 

To avoid spoilers, some reviews feel incomplete. Slate called it a “Queer Masterpiece”, focusing on one specific scene in episode 9, where two queer characters bonded over their own coming out experiences. It is, in fact, a fantastic scene, and while Sense8 is definitely super queer friendly, this review focuses on one side of a multi-faceted, and multi-dimensional project. Across the board, (with some noted exceptions) critics seem to be stuck more on this show’s queer characters or minimal storytelling flaws than on the story it is trying to tell.  

Still, this is still better than the negative reviews, which have been negative. My favorite so far is one published this week by Spanish outlet Notas.org, which referred to the show as a literal abortion and in its closing sentence “as a final and unnecessary confirmation of a vacuum as absolute as it is pretentious” (translation mine).

As someone who loves intelligent media and cinema, Sense8 resonated with me on a level that left me emotionally numb for several days. There are some flaws, yes, and there are lines that will make your eyes roll to the back of your head for sure, but these flaws are minimal, and often happen when experimental projects are obligated to have mass appeal: some parts are unsatisfying. You can’t make everyone happy all of the time. 

This is what frustrates me about the critical reviews. It’s a little dumb to complain that you don’t understand something while simultaneously faulting it for the parts that have been watered down to make it easier to digest. It’s like eating a large sandwich and getting mayonnaise on your hands on the first two bites. It’s annoying, it’s a little disgusting, but we all know you should still eat your sandwich because it’s delicious.

For those who love the show, and for those who don’t know much about Sense8 or tried and don’t understand it, this is my own fan girl perspective on why you should be watching Sense8, why you should be talking about it, and why it’s slowly taking over the internet with no designs on stopping.

So, let’s unpack this delicious sandwich Netflix has made for us, shall we?

The Premise

Sense8 is a series about eight individuals from different parts of the world who become emotionally and psychically linked. The first episode, “Limbic Resonance” opens as Angelica Turing, played by my favorite mermaid and snake-named-murderess-for-hire Daryl Hannah, gives “birth” to the group. All eight sensates experience seeing Angelica in some way as this happens, but having little explanation for what they’re experiencing they go about their daily lives more or less per usual, some walking away with headaches or other physical reactions that they can’t fully explain.

For the first two episodes the audience gets to watch what going back to their daily lives really means for each of these characters, and that in part is what loses some of the critics. Not much is explained because the audience learns as the characters learn. So they are left with two choices: sit back and relax, knowing that things will be explained eventually as the show continues, or work to figure out what is going on. And Sense8 does tell you what it is, through dialogue, visuals, and its own episode titles, but it takes work. And that what makes this show, because it actively asks audiences to take the red pill willingly, and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. 

Sense8 was developed with two groundbreaking concepts in mind: as “an examination of politics, sexuality, gender identity” and “…about the ways technology simultaneously unites and divides us.” Sense8 season one is thus very much a character study involving different characters with different backgrounds, cultural influences, and gender experiences. It is a positivity-laced reflection on society that shows audiences what we are and what we can become if we just worked together, all wrapped up in a big, heaping dose of empathy.

Sense8 is all empathy, and this loses some critics as well. For those used to seeing white cisgendered characters getting the majority of screen time while characters of color are often cast as filler, Sense8 offers a confusing change of pace. But for those who have been begging for more diversity in casting, Sense8 is a gift from Ganesha himself. The characters are so dammed likable that you don’t just feel empathy for them. No, by the end of episode 12 you will want to take them all home and raise them with the kind of dedication of a hopelessly devoted parent whose child can do no wrong.
The Characters


Will Gorski

Will Gorski is the first character we meet after the credits. Played by Brian J. Smith, Will is a Chicago cop who is still haunted by the memory of a little girl named Sara Patrell, who went missing when Will was only a boy. Will’s father, played by Joe Pantoliano (a.k.a “Holy shit it’s that guy!” in my house) was once a celebrated police officer in his own right and handled Sara’s case when she went missing. Sara is mentioned several times throughout the season, and it is heavily implied (and confirmed by a Sense8 wikia page) that Patrell was a fellow sensate who made eye contact with Will as a child. Will, a child himself, saw Sara as a ghost. He flashes back to her several times throughout the season, hinting that not only was she his first experience interacting with another sensate, but that she will be part of a larger mystery as the show continues.

Riley Blue

Played by Tuppence Middleton, Riley is an incredible DJ living in London. She seems to be the most emotionally open of the group. As others experience some sensory changes, Riley is the first one who “visits” the other sensates (Sun is the first to visit the church where they all see Angelica, but this doesn’t quite count). Riley’s musical sense and connection is also peppered throughout the show. In one scene in the first episode she listens to Kettering by The Antlers, and the lyrics are absolutely heartbreaking and reflective of her emotional turmoil. As the series progresses, Riley’s connection to music is key to the plot, and to the relationship the sensates develop with each other.

Lito Rodriguez

Played by Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Lito is a popular Mexican actor who is afraid to come out publicly as a gay man for fear of damaging his career (this is mentioned on the Wikipedia page so it’s okay to put it here). Lito has the most personal growth of all the characters. At first, he seems to be full of self-loathing, referring to himself as a liar and even risking his friends in order to protect his career, but Lito grows. He is instrumental to the group and is at times hilarious to watch. His relationship with Hernando is probably the most adorable thing you will ever see.

Sun Bak

Played by Bae Donna, Sun is a Seoul business executive and a bad ass kickboxing star. However to her immediate family, Sun is seen as little more than her gender and is often dismissed entirely. Her character offers a great exploration of the expectations set on women in different cultures, and how, no matter how powerful you may be, systemic inequality can render you powerless if you let it. But Sun doesn’t let it, and she is unequivocally bad ass.

Kala Dandeka

Played by Tina Desai, Kala is what the kids on Tumblr call a beautiful cinnamon roll, too good for this world, too pure. An university-educated Mumbai pharmacist and devout Hindu, Kala is stuck between a rock and a hard place, engaged to a man she does not love in a society that tells women that the most important thing they can ever do in the history of everdom is to get married. While Kala’s parents seem unconditionally supportive, Kala is on the cusp of wanting to respect the same traditions she grew up with while creating something new.

Wolfgang Bogdanow

We first see Wolfgang, played by the impossibly chiseled Max Riemelt, at his grandfather’s funeral, and it pretty much goes downhill from there. Wolfie has family Issues. Raised in an environment where organized crime is the seemingly the only means of survival, Wolfgang learned to survive at the expense of his own soul. His only friend Felix Bernner, played by Maximilian Mauff, seems to be Wolfgang’s only anchor until the sensates connect, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to save Wolfgang from his death wish.

Capheus a.k.a. “Van Damme”

Capheus, played by Aml Ameen, is a Matatu bus driver in Nairobi with a contagious sense of optimism. Capheus is the most impoverished member of the sensate cluster. When he is introduced to the audience, he is taking care of his sick mother who is dying of AIDS and needs appropriate medication. Capheus runs a small transportation business to pay for his mother’s medication, but it’s not enough. When his ability to get his mother the medicine she needs is threatened, Capheus is forced to go against some very dangerous people to survive. 

Nomi Marks 
Jamie Clayton, Nomi Marks is the last character to be introduced. Nomi is a trans woman and former hacktivist living in San Francisco with her girlfriend Amanita, played by Freema Agyeman, a.k.a. Martha Jones from Doctor Who. Lana Wachowski, who is a trans woman herself, wrote Nomi’s character with some autobiographical aspects, and it shows. Nomi knows who she is despite anyone’s objections, and her character arc drives the first few episodes. Her story is a very real example of what trans people must suffer through. In one heartbreaking scene in the second episode, Nomi’s mother refuses to call her by her new name, stating “What kind of name is Nomi? Have you ever heard of anyone named Nomi? You were Michael before you came out of me, and you will be Michael until they put me in my grave.”

What Sense8 Does Right

1. The Nuances 

One complaint from critics is that the characters are tropes, all living in major cities with problems that are stereotypical to their class and structure. But they are portrayed in such a loving, nuanced way, that they do not feel like tropes.

For example, the complete erasure of identity that Nomi experiences from her mother echoes the very real bigotry and hate that many trans people have to deal with. Nomi, whose name may easily be a shortened version of “No Michael” to answer her mother’s question, chooses to sever ties with her family to be her true self. This decision alone resonates deeply with audiences. While other portrayals may have Nomi’s character reconcile with her family to guarantee a happy ending, Nomi here gives no fucks, turning away and never looking back.

2. The Characters 

Capheus’s boundless optimism even though he is in one of the poorest areas in the world is severely contagious. The portrayal of women, not only Nomi but Sun, Riley and Kala offers a breath of fresh air. They are characters that are strong but also layered and damaged and interesting, and absolutely no one is objectified in this show. In part, I am kind of surprised that the feminist news outlets haven’t jumped all over this show, because the female characters are portrayed in a way feminists have been asking for a very long time. 
3. The Relationships 

The adorable relationships, not only among the sensates but the supporting characters as well. Hernando is sweet and refined, and you can see his love for Lito in his eyes. Dani is a pushy Latina that grows on you as the show continues. Amanita says the most eye rolling lines of the show, but she is so energetic, stunning and loves Nomi so much that you can forgive her. Diego is a great friend to Will when he needs it most. And Riley’s father, who is seriously so adorable I could cry, makes you feel so warm inside.

4. The Visuals 

Sense8 has some great examples of Pure Cinema. Shot entirely on location, the sets are stunning and breathtaking. You can also watch key scenes in Sense8 with the volume off and actually gain more, because there are many Easter eggs scattered across the show. Sense8 knows that the way we watch and share information about media is evolving. We don’t just watch new shows, we share them, screenshot them, gif them and examine them for Easter eggs, and Sense8 delivers. I have watched the entire series at least three times and I am still noticing new things in various scenes.

5. The Music 

When one of your main characters is a highly praised DJ, your music better deliver, and it does. The Sense8 soundtrack is an eclectic mix of old and new, popular and lesser known acts, all which fit perfectly in their corresponding scenes.

6. The Sex Scenes 

Oh em gee, the sex. There is a lot of sexy sex in this show. There is a sex scene in the first episode, and for a fraction of a second an adult toy was plopped on the screen in all its slimy, post-coital glory, and that what Sense8 does. It shows you what it is and doesn’t apologize for it.

For all the sex, there is no cisgender sex in this season (Edit: there totally is). There is girl on girl, guy on guy, and some girl on guy, on guy, on guy, on guy (it makes sense when you watch it, and then you won’t stop watching it).

7. The Payoff 

If you stick with Sense8 through the end, the payoff is both satisfying and leaves you wanting more. It is a complete story that hints at a greater arc, and you wont be able to wait to see what comes next. You will watch it and talk about it for weeks after its over.

How Sense8 Will Shape The Future Of Media 

Remember a little movie called The Matrix? Remember what a big deal it was when it came out? Remember what a game changer it was? Yeah, today people love to nitpick The Matrix movies, but at the time The Matrix offered a completely new concept: Shoot em’ up kind of movies could be both action packed and interesting, with an unique style and a philosophy. This was HUGE when The Matrix came out, and it has influenced the way we make movies ever since.

Sense8 will change media because of the things it does well, and because it inspires empathy with its viewers. It resonates with the audience, and that is instrumental to its success. I pretty much said the same thing about Twilight when it was only one book.One Facebook fan group alone is nearly 10 thousand strong, and the numbers are only poised to grow. That still not counting Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram fans.

In part, I have the sneaking suspicion that the reason Netflix has yet to confirm a season renewal is because they are waiting for the internet to do what it does best, as the beautiful and strong hive mind that it can be: to not only demand for more seasons of Sense8, but to demand more media and TV shows to be as intelligent as Sense8. With a reported 900,000 Netflix ratings of 4.2 to 5 stars, and fans watching it straight through, five or six times, Netflix would be dumb not to renew this show.

So to close: Sense8 is here to stay. Sense8 will be everywhere. Sense8 is amazing. Sense8 is intelligent. Sense is the future. I know that because I am also a we.

TL; DR: You Should Be Watching Sense8 If: 

  • You enjoy intelligent television. 
  • You want diversity in casting. 
  • You are a feminist. 
  • You like sex. 
  • You love visually stunning shows. 
  • You like action. 
  • You need something new to watch. 
  • You enjoyed The Matrix. 
  • You’re a Hitchcock fan. 
  • You’re bored. 
  • You’re a person of color. 
  • You’re not a person of color. 
  • You want to feel more for mankind. 
  • You want something to challenge you. 
  • You have a Netflix account. 
  • You want television to be better. 
  • You’re alive. 

This post was copied to Moviepilot.com. See it here

Why I Stand With the Fast Food Strike

Full disclosure: I am a socialist. A big one. I believe in social responsibility and allowing all individuals to have a chance to succeed. So when I saw the beginnings of the fast food worker strike not only was I not surprised, I was eager to join in solidarity.
Over the past forty years wages have stagnated while CEO pay has soared. Service jobs are slowly replacingthe industrial jobs that once created the middle class, and wealth and savings for the poor and the middle class have all but disappeared.
If wages have kept up with worker productivity, the minimum wage should be closer to $22 an hour. That means that if wages were actually correlated with how much output employees create, it would be over three times higher than it currently is. If wages had kept up with CEO pay, that number would be closer to $33 an hour. The fast food workers are asking for $15 an hour, a $7 dollar increase so they can feed their children and keep a roof over their heads and not have to depend on social services to survive. More than 66 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour. President Barack Obama is asking for an increase to $9 an hour.

Increased wages help millenials because it is pay for work done. It is the fairest way to show employees that you appreciate the work they do, day in and day out, and allows them to pay for the gas, food, student loans, rent and clothing necessary to perform their work duties. Today, students are graduating college with crippling amounts of student debts and not enough jobs to pay them off, let alone jobs that pay enough do that we do not have to live at home with our parents. Paying a fair wage also helps businesses, and may actually be the key to stimulate economic growth, so when I see the question whether minimum wage hikes help millenials, my answer is yes.

Yes, without question. 

What I Learned From Dr. King

(Originally Published Here

The first time I learned of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in the sixth grade. I was a Puerto Rican immigrant that had narrowly escaped being demoted a grade due to my language skills, and had been finally integrated with the mainstream, English-only classes.

It was the first year that I saw black history month be celebrated in earnest.  My teachers, all strong black women and activists in their own arenas, were active participants in the civil rights movement. It was their own connection to the movement that brought their passion, and each one of my educators had a personal story to tell.
The presenters spoke about how their families had stood alongside Doctor King during demonstrations, helped their neighbors commute to and from work during the Montgomery Bus Boycott and saw their churches bombed in consequence. And though I cannot remember the exact words, I remember how moved I was during those assemblies by the passion and love that these activists had to offer.
It was in college that I first read Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” and I learned an important lesson: That change does not happen by the passage of time itself. It takes action, even if that action is passive and non-violent, as simple as writing a letter from jail. Dr. King was the voice of a movement that taught us that when it’s right, sometimes the simplest gesture can move mountains.
Now, at a time when schools are more segregated than ever before, or a simple Cherrios commercial gets backlash, race is still a much-needed conversation. And today, the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, is another reminder it is a dream that is still in progress. It takes action, but what is more, it takes the desire to see your brothers and sisters, your neighbors and acquaintances, as equals.

Program Puts Students To Work

(Originally published in The Hartford Courant. Read it here.)

For some students, summer means spending more quality time with the remote control, having fun or just hanging out. It is a time of relaxation and, one might say, full-fledged laziness.
For others, it’s an opportunity to experience full-time employment without having to balance it with class schedules. That was the case with Corey Brinson and Brad Steward of Hartford, two college students in the city’s Student Internship Program who were assigned to work in the corporation counsel’s office.
Their duties included assisting the lawyers by doing research, attending court cases, discussing the cases with the lawyers and offering their points of view as people outside of the legal system. Cases involved employment issues and on-the-job injuries involving city employees.
The Student Internship Program is open to full-time college and high school students aged 16-21 who are Hartford residents. The summer program, which began in 1995, employed about 150 students this year. Interns are assigned to a specific unit and project in various city offices and departments and work 20 to 25 hours per week. The program will end Aug. 31. Some participants, such as Steward, who wanted time off before classes begin again, have already finished their internships.
Brinson, 21, a senior at the University of Connecticut, graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1998, where he was voted most likely to succeed.
“I’ve always wanted to do some time of public service,” Brinson said. “At first I thought of being a police officer. Then I realized that an attorney has the power to defend those who cannot defend themselves.”
Steward, 20, a sophomore at Connecticut College, said he was influenced to pursue law by his family.
“Every male member in my family is a lawyer, so that fact motivated me to gain an interest in law,” Steward said.
Both said the mentoring they received was valuable.
“These people have taken me under their wing and have given me guidance,” said Brinson, referring to Corporation Counsel Alexander Aponte and executive assistant Sandra Tortoro.
“The lessons that I’ve learned from them go far beyond the law,” Steward said.
“I’ve had nothing but support from friends and family,” he said. “They are proud to know that I will always represent my hometown positively, like it should be.”

Nordstrom to Open Its First Rack Store in State

(Printed in The Hartford News on April 26, 2012. You can read the original copy here.)
Whether you are a bargain hunter, designer label seeker, or simply want to spruce up your wardrobe, be sure to visit Connecticut’s first Nordstrom Rack, an exciting new store that will be opening on Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 9am.
The 36,000 square foot store is located at 1600 Southeast Road, Farmington, in the West Farm Shopping Center, just one block south of Nordstrom’s full-line store in West Farms Mall. The Rack is the bargain-hunters, off-price, dream version of Nordstrom shopping— same high quality but most merchandise is 30-70% off regular retail prices. The Rack offers a huge selection of men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing, plus thousands of shoes and accessories, including jewelry, handbags, luggage, hats, scarves, lingerie, home furnishings, hair care, cosmetics, and more.
Both the new Rack and the full-line store in the Mall are owned by the same company, which has expanded from a small shoe store in Seattle, founded in 1901 by John W. Nordstrom and Carl F. Wallin, to over 220 locations today.

While Nordstrom has become a multi-billion dollar, Fortune 500 Company, it is still managed by the family, fourth generation Nordstrom brothers, Blake, Peter, and Erik. Nordstrom is listed in both Fortune’s and CNN Money’s list of the 100 Best Companies To Work For.
Responding to the nation-wide demand for its Rack Stores, Nordstrom is opening several new ones each year all over the country.The Farmington Rack will be the 110th Rack Store and the only one in Connecticut.
The Rack comes with high anticipation and much local buzz. Within its first week, the Rack’s Twitter feed  Farmington_Rack had over 250 followers, through word of mouth alone. This is a point of pride for Store Manager, Bianca Cassidy, who chose to relocate to Connecticut from her former Regional Merchandise Manager’s job with Nordstrom in Virginia. All the department managers and assistant managers were promoted from within the company, which also hired 58 new employees for the new store. Bianca, who is a high-energy woman with a flair for fashion and a good eye for a bargain says, “The customer is our first priority. We put service first.” The Farmington Rack includes an impressively diverse team, with individuals from varied backgrounds, levels of education and career experience, and ranging in age from 18 to over 60. This translates to a team that is welcoming to all and committed to providing the best service to every customer.
While you will find some clearance items from full-line Nordstrom Stores as well as its on-line offerings at Nordstrom.com, most of the Rack’s inventory (80%) is new merchandise purchased specifically for the Rack stores from all the famous designers you love. The Rack expects to sell out one third of its inventory opening weekend, so make sure to come in early in the weekend and then come back every week to see what’s new. The best bargains will go fast, but you will find something for everyone, at prices you won’t believe possible.
Employees using the new Mobile technology will help credit card customers open new accounts and check out more quickly. The Rack is located in the building formerly occupied by Linens and Things. Its shopping center neighbors include Michaels Crafts, Petco, Sports Authority, TJ Max, Chili’s, and the China Pan Restaurant.

Restaurant owner Charlie Chang says about the new Rack, “Everyone is excited. My customers are excited. I believe it will help business.” For weeks as the store was being furnished and stocked, potential customers peeked in the windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the excitement within.
On opening day shoppers should come early for “Rally at the Rack,” starting at 7am outside the store, where they will have a chance to win a $2000 shopping spree in 90 seconds. Inside they will be treated to door prizes, rewards, entertainment, and hunt for golden hangers worth $100 in store credit. The first 1000 buyers will get to take home a souvenir of opening day, a free Nordstrom Rack tote. Come early, come often, and please say hi to all the new employees who can’t wait to serve you with a smile.
Andrea Obaez lives in Hartford and is a graduate of Hartford Public High School and CCSU. She is the Assistant Manager of the Accessories Department at the new Farmington Rack and formerly worked at Nordstrom in West Farms Mall.

When A Friend Is In An Abusive Relationship

(Originally from Suite101, 2008)

Unfortunately, women (and men too) at one point or another know someone who is in a bad relationship, and often its hard to know what to do, and how to help. Even if you’ve reached a point where every fiber in your body may be telling you to ditch this friend and stop returning her phone calls, your friend may still need you to hang on a little longer. Below there are some suggestions that may help.

First, on You

First thing to do is to analyze how you feel about the situation. Is this friend a long time friend or an acquaintance that has taken to coming to you with her problems? Are you sincerely concerned with her wellbeing or are you already at the end of your rope? Figuring out how you feel about the situation is key in identifying the type of help you can provide. Sometimes you may recognize that you’ve done all you can, and the best thing you can do is refer her to someone who may be able to do more.
This can be done many ways: talk to a friend or professional about how you feel about the situation, keep a journal, or, next time your friend comes to you with her situation, think about how you feel about it. Are you empathetic or would you rather be doing something else? Are you upset that she hasn’t listened to you yet? Unfortunately, no one can help your friend unless she wants them to, and it may take many false starts in order for her to make permanent positive changes. You must be prepared to be in it for the long haul if need be.
How You Can Help
  • Be there to listen
  • Be prepared to repeat yourself
  • Be a good friend
  • There is violence. In many cases, she may feel physically and emotionally unable to leave the relationship. If the relationship is violent, keep a log and be prepared to show it to the authorities.
  • There are children involved. Remind her that it is not only her safety at stake, but the children as well. If she doesn’t listen and the children may be at danger, many child social services programs take anonymous calls. Sometimes you will have to make that call.

As much as you may want to give advice, you’d be surprised how fast people clam up when given unwelcome advice. Be sympathetic, listen, and only reply when expressly asked. Many women lock themselves in dangerous situations because they feel they have no one to turn to, or someone will judge them. Sometimes just asking, “Would you like to talk?” is more than enough.
Chances are, your friend believes things will miraculously fix themselves. If she leaves the relationship and is considering returning, remind her why she left in the first place.
Keep in mind, leaving an abusive relationship is sometimes like breaking a drug habit. She may relapse, crave the “drug”, and turn on you. This is when she needs you to be the most supportive an non-judgemental.
Consult a Professional
If you’ve done all you can, if you need advice, or really, any reason you see a red flag and want to speak to a trained professional, there is help available.
The YMCA has a sexual abuse hotline in most regions. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE. Many states have valuable resources that you can suggest.

THE BAD BOY SYMPOSIUM

(I didn’t write this one, I was interviewed for it. Read on.)
(Copyright @ The Hartford Courant 2001)
The magazine invited a group of Hartford area students to talk to us. We gave them bottles of soda and sat them around a conference table. We told them we wanted to know about bad boys.
We became intrigued by the topic when a news story broke about the assault of a woman by a man she knew. We were told in the newspaper article that Monica Camby, the 21-year-old sister of NBA star Marcus Camby who was attacked, “liked the bad boys.” Was that a fair comment about somebody who was sexually assaulted, had a knife held to her throat and was in fear of her life?
There is a broad distinction between a career felon and a so- called bad boy. But repeated references in the media and in the community had us wondering. Whether Troy D. Crooms, who police said assaulted Monica in her South Windsor home, is a bad boy is open to interpretation. (In a separate event, a woman who dated Crooms in 1990 also was held by him against her will and assaulted. “I was young,” the woman told a reporter, “I didn’t consider him dangerous.”) But there is no doubt that fatal or near-fatal attractions have been a longtime phenomenon in life and in our culture.
We turned to the girls of Metro Bridge, a monthly magazine written by area students, both boys and girls, and produced with the help of Hartford Courant mentors. The girls write about topics ranging from Internet stalkers to fashion, and prefer writing in the first person.
We wanted their opinions because, at their age, they are tied into the popular culture and are just beginning to explore relationships. Plus they are willing and intelligent commentators.

Their idea of a bad boy is a romantic hero. Bad boys do not follow the crowd. Rather, they set the rules, the girls said. Bad boys are independent and sexy, “the kind of guy every other guy wants to be.” Good girls and bad girls want to be with them, because “they rule.”

Meg Hooker, who is 14, was the youngest member of the group. Meg brought to the discussion a perspective from her private school, Renbrook. Meg, along with Grace M. Kuilan of Hartford High, who is 16, and Irena Kaci of Wethersfield High, who is 17, were less infatuated with bad boys than were the other girls. Andrea Obaez, 17, and also of Hartford High, seemed to occupy a middle ground, having once fallen for a bad boy. The two girls who had the strongest opinions about bad boys were Hillary Herman (a.k.a. Kiwi of a high school that shall remain nameless at her request) — and Keyshawna Sealey, of Weaver High, both 17.
Among their examples of bad boys were Larenz Tate of the movie, “Dead Presidents,” David Boreanaz of the television show, “Angel,” a spinoff of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Going back further in time, other Hollywood bad boys would be Clark Gable in “Gone With the Wind,” and Marlon Brando in “The Wild Ones.” Following in that tradition were Mickey Rourke of “9 1/2 Weeks” and Eric Roberts, Rourke’s co-star in “The Pope of Greenwich Village.” More recently, a classic bad boy would be Leonardo DiCaprio, whose independence and working-class cockiness, not to mention his blond good looks, captivated rich girl Kate Winslet in “Titanic.”
For the most part, women are attracted to these characters for their independence and sexiness. Yes, the men are dangerous, but in a romantic, not a violent way.
Who do you think is the ultimate bad boy? None other than Bill Clinton, the girls agreed.
Is George Bush a bad boy? I naively asked.
“No!” the girls screamed.
“What kind of bad boy is that?” Keyshawna asked.
Reforming Your Man
Forget about trying to change a bad boy. These girls already know to avoid that relationship pitfall.
Grace: Seventy-five percent of the Hartford High guys would fit in [the bad boy] category, you know, and I’m not about to go out and date 75 percent of the school to try to change them.
I don’t know. They have to want to change before they would ask for it. So you don’t go around dating people, saying, “OK, you’re going to change,” because they’re not going to want to change. Because they’re going to want to do what they want to do.
Keyshawna: Some of them change on their own like a little bit. Like if you around them a lot and if like they’re always cussing and you don’t cuss they won’t want to cuss a lot around you because they’re going to see how you is and how you present yourself. So it’s not like it’s my plan to change them. It just, you know what I’m saying, happens gradually.
Andrea: It works the same way for the girl. She doesn’t become bad because of him.
Keyshawna: It depends on the situation. You have to be strong not to go into that area. Because that’s what he wanted you for. And that’s what you wanted him for. So it brings out a little you in him and it brings out a little him in you.
Andrea: Something about the bad girls the bad boys want.

Speaking of bad girls …
Grace: Humm, that’s 50 percent of the Hartford High girls. And the 75 percent of bad boys want to date the 50 percent.
Meg: Well, I’m in middle school and I guess our private school definition of going out is, “I think you’re cute,” and “so do I.”
There’s always the girls who get the most attention, they get the captains’ spots on the sports teams because they’re the team queens. They’re who everyone else wants to be. And then the guys go after them. They put everyone down, they decide what you wear, if it’s cool or not — this is the way you have to be. You have to fit this little profile and then you can be friends with them.
They’re usually the prettiest girls in middle school — so the guys all want to go out with them. But they aren’t the nicest people in the world.
Andrea: By the time they get to high school they look like hell. (They laugh.)
Grace: And then they’re pregnant.
Andrea: The bad girls seem to get along with the guys better than the girls. If anything comes up, in some magical way, they all seem to back her up, you know. And it’s like the person that you never see in class, they have straight A’s.
Keyshawna: You think the bad girl the trashiest one?
Hillary: I don’t know, I don’t know about that. Our school never been like that. All the girls take charge at my school. The girls rule stuff at my school. They decide whatever they want. My boys just sit around and wait for someone to pick them up. I don’t know about your school. Our school, don’t like, the boys don’t judge the girls on how they act and if they put somebody down because all our girls want to be on top … or whatever, so they like flaunt it.
Keyshawna: In my school, all the girls be trying to set an image, to like (“Exactly!” Hillary says) skip class or go talk to this boy or to go grab a boy instead of the other way around. They have like an image they’re supposed to always represent when they’re there, but who knows what they’re doing when they’re not there. And that’s why it don’t make a difference.
Hillary: The boys in our school, they don’t judge the girls by intelligence or nothing. They judge them by their body. And it ain’t never been intelligence or how you act or nothing like that. Boys in our school just judge you by your body. If you have a nice body, they’re gonna go with you.
A Bad Boy Is:

Hillary: Outcast!
Meg: Not outcast, but like the guy every other guy wants to be like.
Andrea: Cool, calm and collected.
Grace: And dangerous.
Hillary: I don’t think it’s that either. I think it’s the outcast. I think it’s mainly the outcast and like the person that represents their selves by their selves.
Keyshawna: And they rule!
Hillary: Yeah, and they speak their mind and nobody want to be around them because they tell the truth.
Keyshawna: And he don’t care because he rule.
Hillary: Exactly. I don’t think it’s nobody that like everybody want to be like or nothing like that. I think it’s like the outcast.
So he’s like an independent person? We adults in the room ask.

Keyshawna and Hillary: Exactly.

Hillary: He have his own style.

Keyshawna: And he have no intention of being with anybody or having anybody being with him.

Keyshawna: He rule. He’s a leader.

Grace: And if there are set rules, he’s the one who breaks them.

Andrea: And he always looks good at it.

Grace: Basically looks good in general.

Keyshawna: If you want him to be ugly, he can be an ugly bad boy. He’s still an outcast. He’s just
out there by himself.

We ask for examples of bad boys from television and the movies.

Irena: Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing.”

Grace: Classic!

Meg says bad boys are different in the movies than they are in real life. “From the discussion so far, it’s totally different than in the movies where everything works out OK in the end. In real life it doesn’t,” she says.

But Andrea and Grace are in a groove.

“How about, “Out of Sight?” Andrea asks, referring to the movie that starred bad boy George Clooney as a bank robber and bad girl Jennifer Lopez as the federal agent pursuing him in more ways than one.

Grace: How about Romeo and Juliet? That’s what happens when you fall in love with a bad boy. You end up killing yourself!

(The girls laugh.)
An Essay By Hillary
“The other day I was talking to some classmates and we just happened to get on the subject of how men think that they are the rulers of this earth or something. And then one boy in my class, I’m not going to say the name, but by the looks of things, ladies, you know he was still a boy, but anyway, he yelled out, `If it wasn’t for us men, you women would not be here today, because we are the ones that gave y’all the rib.’

“Now you know me, big Kiwi, was not taking that. I recall his name was Adam, not Tom, Dick or Harry and if y’all was anything like Adam, y’all would know how to treat a girl, woman, female, right. I mean, I thank Adam for sparing us a rib, but I think if God would have known how much fuss y’all was making about it I’m sure he could have created us without the help of any of your bones. Trust! I mean, what are men thinking — that they are so much more powerful and greater than women are? We can do anything and everything that y’all can do – – just way better. And I’m thinking that y’all should learn to respect that.”

Hillary: I didn’t write that essay about boys in my school, I wrote it about the boys on the block. Thuggish kind of people. I wrote that because while they come mostly from school, boys always think they have all the power over women. And like for the year 2000, we’re showing them differently and that’s the main thing that I wrote about. Because like boys always say they can do this and if they hadn’t given us this we wouldn’t be here. … And that’s mainly their excuse for us being here: “If we didn’t give y’all a rib you wouldn’t be here in the first place.” I’m like, whatever, we’d still be here. It has nothing to do with your little rib.

No Happy Ending

Andrea: I know the ultimate bad boy. Bill Clinton.

Grace: He has been no help.

Keyshawna: He helped me, I don’t know about y’all.

Grace: Because of him there have been a shortness of interns everywhere!

Keyshawna: That’s my boy. He gave scholarships.

Grace: But we don’t know what’s going on in the closet.

Keyshawna: I don’t care what’s in the closet!

Hillary: That’s their personal life.

Meg: I think Bill Clinton was like a bad guy because he’s not the happy ending. He’s sort of what happens. Yeah, they cheat on their wives. Because that’s like who they are. He cheated on more than one woman while he was President of the United States because he didn’t care. She stayed with him because she needed him because she was running for the governor of the state of New York. So that kind of boosts it just a tad. … I probably would have said drop him and run. I’m just sorry she had to put up with that, that he did that to her while he was such a huge public figure. …

Bad Boy Crushes

Has anyone had a crush on a bad boy and you didn’t want anyone to know?

Grace: There was a bad boy going to my church, and I was in awe that he was against everything that I was brought up to believe. And I was so scared to even tell anyone for fear that my mother would find out. You know. But the infatuation doesn’t last very long, and then you move on to your next victim. (She giggles.)

Hillary: To me, every bad date is like being with a bad boy because to me they do stuff I would not do in my lifetime. But no, I never had a crush on anyone that I didn’t ever tell. It’s like every time I dated someone who was thuggish was like normal. Everyone expected me to do it because that’s what I do.

When asked if a bad boy would make a good husband, the girls came alive.

Keyshawna: They have experience and they know, like if they started smoking at 13, when they have kids, they’re going to know that’s what’s going through that child’s mind with their peers and stuff so they would know what to expect.

Bad Boy Stories

Keyshawna: He was, oh my gosh, he was sexy! He was so attractive. And he was nice, I mean when I first met him, whatever, he used to do stupid things and then he realizes that was not helping him be with me. So he changed little stuff in his life, not because I asked him to, but because he wanted the relationship with me to work or whatever. So he changed little stuff in his life to accommodate both of us and then, well, skip all the other stuff to the end — he went right back to his old ways because he realized that’s what he enjoyed and that meant more to him. I mean there are some situations it works out and some it doesn’t. But it’s for the best.

Meg: A guy in seventh grade got a lot of attention. He used to get written up. He came to a birthday party drunk.

Keyshawna: What was he drinking?

Meg: Wine.

Keyshawna: That’s only 7 percent alcohol.

Meg: He drank two bottles. This is seventh grade. And he came drunk. He puked all over this nice person’s rug, everywhere.

(Laughter)

Hillary: Guess he can’t hold his liquor.

Meg: And his parents are never home. He lives in this huge house and he’s all alone most of the time. And so you felt real bad for him because he was kind of like crying out for help.

Keyshawna: That was his way to deal with the time he wasn’t spending with his parents. That was how his mind was occupied.

Meg: He was crying out for attention.

Keyshawna: Sometimes it’s not even that. That’s just the way you have to do stuff for yourself. And some people go the wrong way, but it’s not really crying out for attention. It’s something to fill your time with. Like the people be out on the street selling drugs. Some of them bad, some of them not. It’s not really they want to be caught by the police. It’s what they trying to do to make their money and that’s what they’re doing with their time.

Irena: I know of people from a distance, and I know TV characters, but I don’t know any bad boys personally.

Good Boys

Keyshawna: At Weaver, some of them is nice and you can really tell they have good intentions, and they like, you can tell they’re gonna be lawyers and stuff when they get older. But like, they boring. It’s like, they dragging, they lacking, it’s something like, they don’t got any excitement in their lives. All they do is ask, “You wanna go to the movies?” “No, not with you!” And then they’d want to go see some love movie!

Grace: I disagree. Sometimes those are the guys who have the biggest hearts, you know, and really know how to care and love for someone.

Andrea: They’re still boring.

(They argue.)

Irena: The bad boy image — the guy who’s out every night and drinking or doing something insane (“Because he has more experience,” Keyshawna interrupts.) — that excites you. But there are, like, the good guys. They’re the guys that are sensible. They’re not boring. They know their limits and they don’t push them for whatever reason. I mean, it only makes sense. And if you get past your desire to just break all the rules like you basically go through in your teen years, once you get past that, you know that’s a person you want to be with. Somebody that’s slick.

Hillary and Keyshawna, alternately: We’re not saying it’s not. We’re not saying it’s not like attractive or anything. We’re just saying good girls usually want to be with bad boys because they’re doing stuff that they’re not doing. It’s like they have interest in them, it’s not like they don’t like the other boys; they’re attracted to them too. But it’s like, the bad boys are like, exciting. You don’t know what’s gonna happen next. With them, you know what’s gonna happen next … . Why I want that? I want this. I want something I don’t have.

Meg: I think it’s not necessarily the good girls who want the bad boys. I guess it depends on your generation, how far apart you are in grade or age. The different ways you’re brought up. … I’d rather talk or hang out with a guy who is not the kind of guy who I can picture going to a party getting drunk or smashed … I’d want to hang out with a guy I can have a legitimate conversation with.

Hillary: She wants a lawyer.

Meg: Um, no, I think more along the lines of someone interested in science, but that’s OK.

Grace: I was brought up the typical good girl. You know, my mom and I go to church every Sunday and a lot of times during the week. And I’ve always been gung-ho on school work and doing my homework. I never wanted the bad guys. I don’t want the bad guys. I want someone who is going to see me for my intellect instead of me for my outward appearance. You know that’s all I’m asking.

Keyshawna: Well, regardless of good or bad, I want somebody I can grow with. Bad or good, If I can grow with that person, if we can learn from each other, then that’s the kind of person I want.

Hillary: When I was a good girl, when people were drinking and smoking around me, I wasn’t doing it, I was just watching them and I was gonna see how they react to it. Even if he smoked or drinked, I still wanted to go with him. That wasn’t going to change anything.

Grace: But if you don’t want to smoke or drink, why go out with someone who does?

Hillary: Because it’s not like they’re forcing you to do it. It’s not like they say, “Here. Take some. Come on, I ain’t going with you if you don’t smoke it.” It’s not like that. Maybe you don’t want to be around him when he’s smoking, but maybe you that kind of person, “You can smoke but I’m not gonna do it.”

Grace: But then you’re compromising. Because if you don’t want to do it and you’re going to hang around someone who is going to do it, then sooner or later, the compromising level of “I’m not gonna do it” is well, one drink or one smoke.

Avoiding Violence

We return to Monica Camby’s story and the possibility of getting involved with a violent person. The important question is, how do you know if a bad boy is violent?

Meg: I think you can tell if you hang out with a guy long enough. You can tell if they have the tendency to do something like that. I think you sort of can get yourself out of that situation by checking the guy out first.

Grace: If people watch Lifetime enough they basically know what they want and don’t want. I’ve watched a lot of movies with my mom and she says, “That’s probably not the type of guy you want.” But it seems to me Monica knew exactly what she wanted [the boyfriend, that is] and when she got it I don’t think she was ready for what happened, the repercussions.

Andrea: I think no matter how well you know someone, you never know what they’re capable of. … If there’s something that aggravates you, you can stop. But sometimes you can’t differentiate.

Keyshawna: That’s the type of relationship you stay out of if you can’t handle it. You meet somebody and he killed people before and you still want to be with him because you don’t think he’s gonna kill you … then that’s a messed-up relationship.

Hillary: Sometimes you can talk. You can figure out how he is.

Keyshawna: You can tell at some point you can’t handle it. If one time he gets off at you and … you know when to get out of that relationship that’s just being dumb, staying in it.

Irena: A guy either hides his violent impulses at first or grows violent. Because I don’t think anyone would want to get involved with someone who’s openly violent on like the first date, like stab someone with a fork because they got the wrong muffin or whatever. (Everyone laughs.)

Grace: Then you gotta run!

Irena: I don’t think I’d go back and ask for a second date. You know what I mean? I just think it happens, eventually, and then you’re in love with this guy and then you don’t know how to handle it.

Jane Ellen Dee