Tuesday’s Reviews – Losing It by Emma Rathbone

books, fucking awful, fucking idiot, hated it, review

So last night I finally finished the book that has been plaguing me since mid-December. I say finished but, if I’m honest, I got so bored that I skim read the major points of the final chapters. I always feel guilty reading to the end without getting all the way through but I knew early on that I was never going to finish this any other way. And, as I’ve mentioned on my Instagram, this is the year that I don’t waste time pushing my way through books I don’t enjoy. As the finish was unexpected and I’m really in the mood to talk about this book, it does mean that my intended review of The Nice Guys will be put off until next week. I’m sure you’ll survive. Plus, this promises to be a traditional Motherbooker rant so that’ll more than make up for it. Seriously, this book has cause me so much offence since I started reading it. I know I know; I need to get a life. It might just be old age that’s making me so sensitive or maybe I’ve always been this annoying? Either way, I have to get this rage out somewhere.

Losing It was part of my Most Anticipated Fiction of 2016 list because everything I heard about it was positive. I read reviews that claimed it was a fresh take on an all too familiar subject and that it was a triumph for women everywhere. I mean, I have no fucking clue which book they read but it can’t have been this one. Emma Rathbone presents the story of a 26 year old woman who is feeling a shitload of anxiety because she has failed to lose her virginity yet. Obviously, because in our society this idea is so absurd, this leads to much hilarity before she finally manages to achieve her goal. Of course, there is an additional attempt to add emotion and heart by getting the 26 year old virgin to live with her aunt who, by huge coincidence, is also a virgin. I had so much hope for this novel when I first heard about it. There was plenty of potential for it to open a dialogue about virginity but, instead, it just perpetuates every stereotype out there. Instead of representing a young woman happily living a life without sex it shows a someone who finds her inability to get any as a massive failure. Literally everything she thinks about comes back to sex. She leaves her job and moves in with her aunt to find a man. She becomes obsessed with the first guy she meets at her new job and will literally fuck anyone who shows willing no matter where she is or how it comes about.

This book just offers the opinion that it’s so necessary for us to lose our virginity in our early teens that you should go to any length to make sure it happens. Julia even says at one point that, despite having no interest in the man she is with and really not wanting to, she felt the need to continue because she wanted to get it over with. It’s no wonder we live in a world full of sexual assault. Having trouble getting laid, well why bother waiting to find someone who’s up for it when you can just take it for yourself? Now I’m not trying to accuse Rathbone of promoting rape but her novel does promote the idea that if you don’t have sex then you’re some sort of freak. And we already live in a society where sex is problematic. It’s got to the point now where it has become such a basic human right that the internet is full of threats of sexual assault and we live in a world where violent outbursts occur when someone rejects sexual advances. Maybe I’m just oversensitive after I read Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town last year but there’s a sense that the desperation to have sex as soon and as often as possible is getting out of hand. I would have preferred Emma Rathone to understand that before adding her toxic novel to the already tumultuous landscape.
Of course, I realise that this is probably just me reading too much into this and, had the novel been better written, I wouldn’t necessarily feel so strongly about it. However, Rathbone’s writing style is just awful at times. There are moment when she strives for pithy one-liners but just ends up saying something absolutely ridiculous. My personal fave was “A cave was the most inside place you could be, the most private place.” I mean what the fuck does that even mean? Inside is a finite thing. You can’t be more or less inside than something. It’s just Rathbone trying to be philosophical and failing miserably. There are parts of this novel that are just laugh out loud funny… and not for the reasons that Rathbone was hoping. 

The fact is, none of this novel feels real. It doesn’t read like the struggle of a young, single woman in modern society trying to get to grips with things. Instead, it feels like the fictional idea about young people today from the mind of someone at least 5 years older and who has been happily married for years. Take the internet dating that Julia, the books heroine, indulges in. The dates are all completely farcical and the kind of nonsense that would be dreamed up by a committee of sitcom writers rather than something a young woman would allow herself to be subjected to. Losing It is pretty much the literary world’s version of those awkward and cringey comedy shows that think they’re funny and relevant but are only watched ironically by hipsters. The reviews praised Rathbone for her shrewd and detailed insights into the modern world but it is merely the insights into the modern world as seen by bitter middle-aged people.

Losing It also fails to have any real purpose. The story doesn’t really go anyway and basically just comes down to Julia talking about sex, making snap judgements about everyone she meets, snooping around behind her aunt’s back, and generally just being the worst person in history. Now, I’m all for an unlikeable narrator but there has to be a purpose for it. Julia is just selfish and narcissistic because Rathbone doesn’t know how to create convincing characters. Just like she doesn’t understand narrative structure… because there isn’t really one. This isn’t a cohesive plot expertly weaving it’s way through the pages. This is a selection of events that happen are only connected because they happen to one person. And we have all the great sitcom tropes here: internet dating, sex at a funeral, car accident leading to a broken promise, the hilarious but totally unrealistic “oops in my haste I’ve sent this email to everyone I work with” bit, and the amazing “my parents are sexually liberated and I’m all skeezy about it” thing. It’s laughably bad.

And to top it off, Rathbone clearly knew she was in danger of not having a point to make so hastily attached one right at the very end. Yes, amidst everything, we have an awful final paragraph where Julia decides it’s time to stop worrying so much and just relax. Which is a fine point to make, if it in anyway related to what we’d just read. Julia never came to the realisation to stop worrying about her virginity, which is the thing she spent the entire book worrying about. She just finally lost it. That’s not the same thing. Anyone can look back after getting through something traumatic and say “it wasn’t that bad I guess”. It doesn’t make them a better person; they’ve just moved on. There’s no message here. This isn’t some woman overcoming her anxiety and accepting who she is and accepting the path she has ended up on. This is a woman who can stop feeling anxious when she has got rid of the thing giving her anxiety. If someone in a similar position were to read this book, they wouldn’t close the pages and think “maybe this isn’t such a big deal after all”. No, they’d think, “fingers crossed someone I know dies soon so I can fuck a random stranger at the funeral and finally lose my virginity.”

As a 28 year old woman, I am offended that this is the way in which women of my age are being represented. This novel is irrelevant, badly written, and lacking purpose and substance. I have to assume the people who gave it glowing reviews never actually got past the first page. I’ve never been happier to finally put away a book than I was with Losing It. Normally, this novel would sit on my bookshelf going dusty or be donated to charity. I don’t like the sound of either of those options. Instead, I’m going to burn it or something. Cathartic.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Haters Back Off (2016)

fucking awful, fucking idiot, meh, Netflix, review, television, YouTube

Over the last few months my dedication to YouTube has waned slightly and I don’t regularly watch as many videos as I used to. However, over the years I’ve been through a series of obsessions with certain channels before getting bored of them. I guess because, when it comes to these things, I have the attention span similar to the life of a mayfly. One of the people I used to be an avid subscriber of was Miranda Sings. When I first watched the videos created by Colleen Ballinger I thought they were fucking hilarious but, over time, everything was just painfully similar. The character is absurd, sure, but there is only so many videos you can make around the concept before it becomes a bit too familiar. However, I am obsessed with her brother’s vlog channel so I feel like I’ve been hearing about the Miranda Sings Netflix show for absolutely ages. So, when it finally came out on Friday, I decided I should watch it.

Haters Back Off is intended to introduce the world outside of YouTube to Colleen Ballinger’s comedy character, Miranda Sings, whilst also showing her army of fans her life behind the camera. Starting from the moment she posts her first video, the show takes us on her journey towards fame. Miranda follows the five step plan set out by her ambitious Uncle Jim (Steve Little) and is encouraged by her hypochondriac mother Bethany (Angela Kinsey). These are characters that have, thus far, been unseen elements of Sings’ YouTube career but have been discussed at length. The two new elements to her world are her lovelorn neighbour Patrick (Erik Stocklin) and her sensible sister Emily (Francesca Reale). Patrick lets Miranda get away with anything whilst Emily deals with the constant sources of embarrassment that her family deals out without her friends finding out about them.

This show seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix and would clearly bring about a shitload of Miranda fans from YouTube onto the streaming site. However, Miranda doesn’t really transition too well into a longer format. She found fame thanks to her misguided belief that she was an amazing singer yet possessed no real talent. This is the kind of shtick that works in bursts of 3-4 minutes but got kind of grating. Obviously understand that not all protagonists have to be easy to root for but Miranda is so abhorrent that it’s not just hard but almost impossible. It’s the kind of thing that’s funny for a bit but when it’s all you’re facing it just gets boring. In this format you really realise just how much of the Miranda persona is based on negativity. 
And I’m not just talking about the character herself but her origin. Every interview Ballinger has given about the birth of her alter ego is based around her derision of the girls who can’t sing yet dare to post videos of themselves to the internet. It’s basically Ballinger, a trained singer, shitting on everyone who isn’t professionally trained yet enjoys trying. It’s always struck me as massively egotistical on Ballinger’s part that she not only judges these people on face value alone but feels that she can use them to further her career. It’s mean. Especially as she, a great singer, isn’t actually using her talent to gain views. Miranda is just Ballinger, hiding behind comedy, to bully countless people who don’t have the natural talent that she is lucky enough to possess.
Haters Back Off just takes this idea further by adding in more character’s for Ballinger and co. to take the piss out of. All of Miranda’s family are quirky yet realistic. It’s an exaggerated version of lower-middle class family life yet intended to poke fun at the people at the heart. Take the single mother who struggles to make ends meet and keep her children happy. She is mocked for her protectiveness and her ability to make medical mountains out of imaginary molehills. It’s not a funny pastiche of life in this environment but the general mocking of those types of people. Ballinger has suggested the series was intended to show the heart and emotion behind the character but all it does is reveal the lack of it in the writing. 
There are some funny moments, sure, but for the most part I just felt sad watching this. Sad that Netflix put so much effort into such poor content. Sad that something so mean-spirited could be so popular. Sad that it will definitely get an awful second series. And sad that I’ll be one of the minorities that dare to say anything bad against it. The series follows a rather safe narrative structure but can never quite find the right tone or voice. It has moments of sheer ridiculousness followed by unnecessarily dark storylines. It’s insane. Just like the tone, which seems, for the most part, is written for the existing young fans of the YouTube channel but is augmented by an incredible amount of adult jokes. It’s trying to be all things at once and failing to be that good at any of them. 

Ranting about Game of Thrones: A Week of Irk and Ire – Jon Snow-Way Should He Be King

death, fucking idiot, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, irk and ire, King, politics

So, I promised you all a week dedicated to all my angry thoughts about Game of Thrones after the end of season and I fucking delivered. I’ve already spent a long time ranting to my friends and co-workers about the events that transpired this season but there a few massive points that I feel need reiterating here. Now, don’t worry, there won’t be any lengthy, petty rants about how Rickon was a fucking idiot to run in a straight line because, by this point, I’m starting to believe the kid’s better off dead. I mean I’m sad that another Stark has bitten the dust but he was a fucking moron for not even trying to zig-zag. Who, after being captured by Ramsay Bolton and being set free, doesn’t think “hmm, this is awfully convenient. I can’t imagine anything going wrong in this scenario.” I don’t think I’ve ever screamed at an episode of television as much as I have during ‘The Battle of the Bastards’. What a bunch of idiots. None more so, of course, than our new King in the North, Jon Snow.

Now, being upfront with you all, I’ve never had any warm and fuzzy feelings for Jon Snow. Obviously, having read the books, I’ve realised his importance but that doesn’t make me like him. I mean Dany is obviously important but that doesn’t stop her being an irritating fuck all the time. So yeah, knew he was destined for greatness but never believed he deserved it. For one thing, his fucking man ponytail has been the worst thing about season 6. I mean his hair has always looked shit but this takes the fucking cake. Then, let us not forget that Jon Snow has royally fucked up everything he’s ever tried to do.

  1. He was desperate to join the Night’s Watch and then instantly regretted his decision. He immediately made a ton of enemies and beat the shit out of many of his fellow wannabe brothers. Not a great start. 
  2. Almost as soon as he has said his vows Jon is ready to break them to join the fight with Robb. If it hadn’t been for his friends, Jon would have been branded a deserter and killed… helping nobody fight anybody,
  3. (TV show only) Jon pisses off Crastor by not following the Old Bear’s commands and gets the Night’s Watch kicked out into the fucking cold. 
  4. Lets Ygritte go causing him and Qhorin to get captured. This leads to Jon having to pretend to turn traitor and kill Halfhand to prove it. Once again, Jon breaks his vows by succumbing to Ygritte’s womanly wiles. Like a bloody idiot. 
  5. Leaves his post as Mormont’s steward leaving him vulnerable to a murderous mutiny. Like a bloody idiot. 
  6. Becomes Commander of the Night’s Watch, sends his only ally away and pisses off the rest of his brothers to the point that they all stab him repeatedly… to the death.
  7. (TV show only so far) Vows revenge of Ramsay Bolton for taking his home, kidnapping his brother and raping his sister. Fails to take any advice from aforementioned sister and walks straight into Ramsay’s trap. Nearly gets himself and Tormund the Epic killed. Like a bloody idiot. 
  8. (TV show only so far) Somehow manages to get Winterfell back but, instead of keeping Ramsay alive for potential political leverage, he allows his sister to set starving dogs on him. No matter how justified it was it was a fucking stupid military move to kill your greatest prisoner.
  9. (TV show only so far) Becomes King of the North whilst failing to see the potential enemies he has in Sansa and Little Finger. Also, fails to have his main source of protection, a fucking Direwolf, with at all times. Like a bloody idiot.  
So, yeah, that’s Jon Snow. As my old Graphic Design teacher once told me, “you have good ideas but lack the skill needed to carry them out”. Jon desperately wants to live up to the kind of leader that his (believed) father was but he isn’t anywhere near as great a man as Eddard. Yes, Ned was too trusting and didn’t have a great idea of the game but he was also the kind of man that people rally behind. Jon isn’t that kind of man. He focuses on doing what is right without thinking about the consequences of his actions. 
Even Robb, the last man to be named King of the North, was a great leader and was shrewd in terms of battle. Robb understood his enemies and managed to catch them all unawares. The only way the Lannister’s could kill him was by doing something unimaginably evil with the help of the sadistic Bolton’s. Robb Stark deserved the name King of the North because he showed great potential, understanding and had actual victories behind him. Jon’s victories only come with the help of the slimiest man in the seven kingdoms. Not a great start. 
Jon is even more trusting than Ned was and is incredibly naive. If the Stark patriarch didn’t understand the game of thrones then Jon definitely doesn’t. It wasn’t for nothing that Ygritte kept reminding us all “you know nothing, Jon Snow”. He really doesn’t. What are his plans now? Hold up in Winterfell and hope for the best. He must know there will be repercussions. He needs to get a plan and he needs to start listening to fucking Sansa. Without her the battle would have ended with everyone being killed. Jon needs to get her advice more often. 
The mark of a good King is realising your limitations and making up for them. Jon knew he didn’t know Ramsay and he knew that he had a great resource in Sansa. Out of brotherly love or just ignorance he failed to utilise her and look what happened. On the battle field he let his emotions get the better of him and he rushed into a fight he was ill-prepared for. If he’s got any chance of keeping Winterfell and earning his title then he needs to do a bit of boning up on battle strategy. I mean, who has a fucking Giant fighting for them and fails to provide him with any weapons or protection. That guy could have saved Rickon, stomped on Ramsay and ended the whole fucking battle himself. Instead, he’s dead.
So, for all you people out there suggesting Jon Snow deserves to sit on the Iron Throne at the end of this or, at least, wed Dany when she does, I urge you to think again. I cried more when the Red Woman brought him back to life than I did when he “died”. He’s a fucking idiot who has too much of a temper. We don’t need another ruler that lets his heart rule instead of his head. I get that people out there like his face but, looks aside, is this really the man you want protecting the Seven Kingdoms? Does he deserve it? Let’s ask Wun Wun shall we… oh, wait, we can’t.