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An Alien

By Arts & Culture, Featured, SAIC

Illustration by Meghan Sim

 

You are 15.

You are sent to the United States by your mother. You land in an unfamiliar country by yourself.

You wait for the assigned driver by the terminal in the airport alone.

By the line for customs, you see different languages saying, “Hello.”

“你好!” in your mother language is included, 

but some of the other languages you have never seen.

You are delivered to the homestay by the driver.

The first interactions outside of the airport you have with the country are: the car crossing through a tunnel under the water, driving onto the highway, and passing traffic lights.

The traffic lights are the same as they are in China.

Some of the signs have green backgrounds and white words, but the words are in English —

which are different from the Chinese characters you’ve seen in your home country.

 

You are living with someone who has no blood relationship to you.

You pay for your residence with “homestay parents” at what is called a “homestay” because you are not an adult and need a guardian for your high school in a foreign country. 

Your homestay parents are an old couple in their 60s, but they still go to work in the early morning on weekdays.

You know that in China, men retire at 60, and women retire at 55, so this fact amazes you.

Your homestay parents never ask about how you feel, what you are doing in school, or your dreams.

 

They don’t care because you are not their relative; they don’t pay attention because they are busy.

They even walk into your room without your permission while you are at school and tell you they must ensure you don’t destroy anything in their house.

You treasure the time you talk on the phone with your parents in China, but there is a 13-hour time difference, and they are also busy at work.

You look at your classmates at school, who always have their parents or relatives to pick them up after class.

Because you must walk to the T station, it takes you one hour to commute home — 

to the home where nobody speaks your mother language.

 

You are a teenager.

In China, your parents made you a hot meal every day before and after work: noodles, meat buns, rice, seafood, and vegetables,

everything your Chinese stomach would love to have.

But here in this country what you have is: pastas and pizzas with tons of cheese, hamburgers with oily meats and onions inside, and sometimes, 

cold chicken breasts, cooked a day before you have them. 

You liked those foods in China because you seldom had a chance to eat them.

However, you are homesick, and you miss food from your culture. 

You don’t know how to cook.

But you are tired of learning to order a Subway sandwich, so you start reading Chinese food recipes

until you realize you are not allowed to cook in your homestay.

 

You were a person who liked to make friends when you were in China.

After coming here, you wanted to continue to do so. 

But you realize that your proudly spoken English needs to be better for your peers and classmates to understand you.

The question you hear the most is, “What do you mean?” 

You are tired of constantly explaining yourself, and your peers are tired of knowing you only through extra explanations. 

You seem to play well with your classmates in your basketball club, but no one plays with you on their own initiative

unless the coach asks them to do so.

 

You try to make friends with the international students who live in the United States like you do.

They are from South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Japan, and some are from China.

You confidently speak English in groups of people who speak multiple languages, and more comfortably speak Chinese in groups of people who only speak Chinese —

but there are only a few international students at your high school. 

One day, you argue with one of the Chinese students at your school.

It is just a tiny thing on a simple math question in calculus. 

Even though you apologize, the next day, all the Chinese students in your school refuse to talk to you. 

You make a phone call to your mother to ask for help,

but she asks, “我送你来美国不是让你每天说中文的。” (Translation: Why don’t you make local friends and try to get into the American culture?) 

 

You are confident with your English and your study skills,

but the exams and requirements for college applications are totally different from what you have learned for 15 years in China.

The classes at school are also different.

Though you are confident in your English skills, using English in daily work, life, and study is different than using English as your academic language. 

Immediately doing 40 pages of English reading per week is difficult. 

Meanwhile, you are still curious about why your classmates can use the bathroom during class time without asking permission from teachers.

You see your peers, including those international students, finishing their homework earlier than you and adapting to life better,

but you are afraid to ask, and no one offers to help.

 

The international students in your school start to prepare for college applications when they are juniors in high school.

Most of the national students in your school start to do so once they are almost seniors.

You need to figure out when to start, and schoolwork takes almost all of your time. 

You were a top student in China and confident in your achievements, 

but after coming to this country, you are average and even the worst in your class. 

You realize that you want to become a writer when you are in your application season,

but you don’t know if you can write stories and essays well in English.

 

You start to doubt yourself and for the rest of your high school life you question: your health, your schoolwork, and how to be a better person. 

You end your high school life without any achievements,

but with depression and no friends. 

At least, luckily, with a college offer —

even if it is not your favorite one.

You see your middle school classmates from China, who want to come to the United States for college, planning to attend top schools. 

They are excited to come to this country, and some ask you through social media what they need to do to prepare to come here.

They tell you they are jealous of you for living in this country for many years. After all, you were: living alone, getting away from your parents, having Western food every day, making friends worldwide, and learning in an English environment.

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Unseen in the Scene

By Entertainment, Featured

Illustration by Shina Kang

I spent my teenage years attending concert after concert headlined almost entirely by men. In early 2017 I was a 14-year-old girl who had suddenly decided to make live music my entire personality. Throughout my high school years leading up to the pandemic I attended nearly 50 concerts and around six music festivals. It was nearly two years after my first concert that I saw a band with a woman in it, and I wouldn’t see a musical act with entirely female members until the summer of 2022. That was my high school experience, but is this the experience of high schoolers now?  

In 2016, Huffington Post analyzed the gender breakdown of 10 music festivals and found that 78 percent of the acts only featured performers who were men, 10 percent featured mixed-gender groups, and 12 percent featured women-only groups. In 2018, an article from Pitchfork tracked 19 music festivals and found that the number of female acts increased over the past year, but there was still a large disparity between male and female acts: 74 percent male, 12 percent mixed, and 14 percent female in 2017; changed to 70 percent male, 11 percent mixed, and 19 percent female in 2018. 

Across the board, women are not performing as artists in festivals as often as men are regardless of the genre. However, women almost equally make up the audience of festivals regardless of the genre. In 2016 Eventbrite (a ticketing platform) released an article saying 59 percent of festivalgoers were male and 41 percent were female. A 2023 Statista study found that 61 percent of summer festival attendees were women and 39 percent were men. 

Generally, regardless of genre, music festivals have a fairly even split in the gender demographic of festival attendees — but that breakdown doesn’t exist for musical acts. 

In November 2023, When We Were Young Fest, a newer popular music festival featuring pop-punk, emo, and early-2000s alternative bands, announced their 2024 lineup that contained only two bands with women in them out of the 53-band lineup. The festival eventually added more acts featuring women, but this was after hundreds of complaints, which included numerous complaints that the festival received for the same issue in their lineups over the past two years. 

In some way, this backlash represents a good change in the music scene. People cared about women being left out of the lineup so much that more women were added to the lineup of the festival; however, no major music publications wrote about the lack of female acts or the influx of complaints the festival received.

One of the most discouraging parts of researching the disparity in musical acts by gender is the lack of available information. There are few resources that have information about the demographics of live music events, and the places that do have information specify the type of live music events but are unspecific about what the information is based on. 

For example, most studies I found didn’t say what festivals or music events their studies followed, and many of the resources I found were dedicated to following festivals for only one genre of music, which means the information is available but limited to those specific genres. 

In addition to the lack of available information, there was also no specificity around the terms “women” and “female” when referring to the gender divide in both audience and performers. Both terms are not defined by the studies and are used interchangeably. 

Festivals are not the only places where the audience is not fully represented by the performers, but the data on venues does not get the same attention, even though the acts performed at venues are public information that anyone could collect.

So I conducted my own research on three venues in Chicago that are all around the same size: House of Blues Chicago, Metro, and Subterranean. I tracked the gender demographics of artists that have either played or will play these venues in 2024 as of February. I used the terms “women” and “men” instead of “female” and “male” to look at gender rather than biological sex. The statistics don’t include comedy club nights, non-DJ-based dance nights (i.e., 90s Dance Party or Emo Nite), or any events that didn’t specify the artist playing during the event. I also excluded opening bands and only focused on headliners.  

Gender breakdowns of musicians and performers by Chicago venue. Illustration by Shina Kang

The House of Blues Chicago has 54 criteria-meeting musical acts that have played events or will play events in 2024. Of these musical acts, 72 percent (39) were acts with only men, 17 percent (nine) were acts with only women, and 11 percent (six) were mixed-gender acts — which includes any band that has both men and women or any band with non-binary musicians.

Metro has 49 musical acts that have either played events or are set to play events in 2024. Of those acts 65 percent (32) were acts with only men, 16 percent (eight) were acts with only women, and 19 percent (nine) were mixed-gender acts.

Subterranean has 102 criteria-meeting acts that have either played events, or will play events in 2024. Of these acts, 69 percent (67) were acts with only men, 20 percent (19) were acts with only women, and 11 percent (11) were mixed-gender acts.

The average of all three venues was 69 percent (46) acts with only men, 18 percent (12) acts with only women, and 13 percent (8.67) mixed-gender acts.

But why does it matter? Why do women need to be represented in the live music scene? 

When I was young, I craved community — a sense of belonging. The lack of representation is isolating because it makes it clear that the community isn’t built to include people like me. And alongside my feelings, numbers don’t lie. If the audience for live music is typically around 50/50 in terms of gender, then there is an audience of women that should feel included. How can 50 percent of an audience be represented by 18 percent of the acts they see live? 

The live music scene is, and always will be, an ever-changing landscape, but when it comes to gender diversity,  the scene hasn’t become an equitable space.  There is hope for change: the percentage of performing acts with women is increasing. With enough of a push, eventually, women might be equally seen in the live music scene.

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Tumblr Tumbles On

By Entertainment, Featured

Illustration by Meghan Sim

You’re bored. So, you open your phone to go to your social media dopamine-dispenser of choice. Instagram is for the baddies and the artists and creating a highly manicured perfect image of one’s life. TikTok is the ultimate happy-chemical hit distraction. If you’re really old-school, you’ll open Facebook. But we all know that if you’re queer, dysfunctional, and terminally online, you go to Tumblr.

The general public often thinks Tumblr, the infamous blogging social media platform, is dead, resting in an online graveyard next to MySpace and Vine. But Tumblr’s heartbeat is strong. 

Launched in 2007, Tumblr’s real heyday was in the early 2010s, with a slow decline after 2014 when the site was bought by Yahoo for $1 billion. 

The decline turned into a nosedive with the porn ban of 2018, which alienated a large portion of the site’s user base. The filters brought on to enforce the ban flagged and took down many inoffensive posts, while porn bots continued to thrive. Traffic crashed. Tumblr had always housed a thriving queer community, and that community felt targeted by the 2018 porn ban as “adult content” was banned. Many users didn’t know where else to go. The platform, a safe space for this community, felt less safe. 

Automattic, a software developer, bought the platform from Yahoo for just $3 million in 2019. Automattic had hopes to turn the platform around, restoring it to its former glory and planning to add (now-reviled) features to the platform. 

However, in November 2023, a memo from the desk of Matt Mullengwig, CEO of Automattic, was leaked. The memo spoke of the lack of progress in Tumblr engagement by Automattic: “We are at the point where after 600+ person-years of effort put into the Tumblr acquisition since 2019, we have not gotten the expected results from our effort, which was to have its revenue and usage above its previous peaks,” wrote Mullenwig.

After years of toying with Tumblr, Automattic was admitting defeat. The company planned to pull back staff and try a more user-dynamic approach. 

While the site has been unable to live up to its former glory in more recent years, the user base is thriving. Tumblr is the origin of many internet-renowned memes, including Goncharov, Canon Destiel, Horse Plinko, Blorbo, Dracula Daily, to name a few. This is to say nothing of the thriving shit-post community that continues to churn out content that is reposted to social media sites everywhere.  

On Tumblr, the main way one interacts with other users is reblogs, which are similar to X (formerly Twitter) retweets. On Tumblr, you can stack reblogs and create reblog chains, which makes the site different from algorithm-driven social media. A core part of the ecosystem is digging up old posts to reblog them again, extending old chains, and reviving old jokes.

This model is undeniably unique and interesting, so why has Tumblr been flailing since its sale to Yahoo? Tumblr’s failure stems from a misunderstanding of what users want and how they use the platform. It’s an unintentional tradition for Tumblr’s user base to dismiss any and every update. And while yes, this tradition turns every user into an elderly person shaking their fist at the teenagers on their lawn, the complaining is never entirely without reason.

Take Exhibit A: Tumblr Live. The live-streaming service was introduced in November 2022 in an attempt to foster new ways for users to interact, and parallel features on other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

However, the addition of Tumblr Live represents a core misunderstanding of the Tumblr user base.

This is a group that values anonymity and the written word. Tumblr was founded on blogging; and also on essays and terrible puns, stories and barely-strung-together thoughts. Instagram is about likes, TikTok is about views, and Tumblr is about sharing. 

Tumblr Live was disliked and ignored by users for many reasons, but the really damning feature was users’ inability to turn it off. Tumblr’s app interface was significantly changed by a feature users didn’t want and weren’t going to use. Eventually, Tumblr created a temporary snooze option, where users could silence Tumblr Live for a week, at which point it would be erased from your interface entirely. This wasn’t enough for users, who complained that one should be able to completely disable the feature instead of only temporarily ignoring it. 

Exhibit B: the “twitterification” of the desktop interface,  whose rearranged buttons and menus have been rearranged to mimic other social media sites for no conceivable reason.

The mobile app has also continued to have issues with crashing and bugs, despite its popularity. The desktop site isn’t much better, but most users augment their experience with third-party programs such as XKit, which can’t be applied to mobile apps. 

Exhibit C was by far the most despised. In June 2023, Tumblr drastically changed the way users interacted with reblogs,the very thing that makes the site unique.  

There was widespread outcry. Vitriol was so intense that Tumblr scrambled to revert the change back soon after it was implemented.

Automattic also tried new monetization methods such as implementing an ad-free subscription, the badge shop, and selling real physical Tumblr merch. While these new monetization strategies didn’t fail, they weren’t nearly as productive as Automattic needed them to be.

The changes made in fall 2023 contributed to an angry user base and gate-kept new users from joining, while failing to make Tumblr sufficiently economic.

But with Mullenweg’s leaked memo came new hope for the site. Mullenweg stated in another post that Automattic is going to concentrate on changes that users want and begin to shut down things that don’t work, such as Tumblr Live, which was permanently removed as of January 2023.

This is exactly what the site needs. Since 2014, Tumblr has suffered from a disconnection between the site and its users, the quirky foundation the platform stands on. 

Things are looking up. Tumblr continues to survive, trading owners and changing for better or worse. Through pandemics, political changes, and fandom upheaval, Tumblr continues to be there. And rest assured, when you die, Tumblr will still be there to crab rave on your grave.

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Placemaking at SAIC

By Featured, SAIC

Before coming to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I researched the hell out of art institutions. I found myself asking questions like, “Where can I go to experiment with nontraditional materials?”; “Which school will allow me to blend my focus on Black culture through created objects?”; “Which institution will have me in all my interests, without asking me to squeeze into one category?” 

Again and again, I returned to SAIC’s website. The site was minimal, focused on student work, and featured the following phrase: “Here is where innovation happens.” 

The word “innovation” gets thrown around a lot, but it bears mentioning that SAIC is known worldwide as one of the nation’s top universities. SAIC has had artists who built the Lincoln Memorial, architects who rebuilt the city after the historic Chicago fire; painters, like Georgia O’Keeffe (1905-1906) who changed the world; animators, like Walt Disney, whose visions have defined an industry. 

Juxtaposed against this, though, is the knowledge that “an art school” is a place that reflects the deep divides of the country. Before I came here, many people in my community warned me about what comes with attending a Predominantly White Institution like SAIC — the stress, loneliness, and potential mental health side effects of it. They often questioned if I would simply be a token or a pawn that the university would use to say that they value Black Indigenous People of Color in image, without valuing me, my history, or my ideas in any substantial way. 

Throughout my time here, I have been privy to an institution in the midst of change. 

Well-documented is how this school changed from a Beaux-Arts French style art school to a contemporary art school; however, the lesser known lore of SAIC is that it was never meant to succeed.

SAIC began just after the Civil War ended in 1866; but the building burned down in 1871 – in the middle of the Reconstruction era. SAIC built its reputation in a type of art practice that was divorced from critiquing the structures that would define it a hundred years later – often excluding women and people of color.  By 1970 when the university needed revitalization to accommodate contemporary art practices that didn’t simply focus on artmaking but on the social aspect of art, SAIC began working with the Black artists who revitalized the institution through social practice. An article by Rebecca Zorach titled, “Art and Soul: An Experimental Friendship Between the Street and A Museum,” in the book Institutions and Imaginaries, details how Black artists and community members, who comprised the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (shortened to AFRICOBRA) pushed SAIC to become involved with the Black community in Chicago to offer storefront museum exhibitions off-campus. Today, SAIC still operates out of non-campus places, like Homan Square at Nichols Tower. That same year, the SAIC Flaxman Library was started.

The 280 Building was built in 1973 by the architecture firm SOM, and the AIC thought that they would be able to utilize the extra space for their collection, but that never happened. Instead, SAIC expanded its campus into the Sharp Building in 1989. 

That was the same year SAIC began a discussion of  “Time-Based Arts” as an accessible way to do art. This sprung digital and internet-based applications. After that, the school floated along relatively stably.

But in 2020, a tense racial climate forced SAIC to rethink itself as an institution. This was the Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiative that would spawn the Cultural Oasis and several other structural changes.

In all of this, my question is, how does the place and the space of this institution facilitate collaboration for students?

Collaboration is a pedagogical practice, and the laws and policies regarding group art limit the effectiveness of individuals in doing collective art on a large scale. Maybe the question of collaboration is an institutional question.

The redesigned website, the remodeled library, and the Cultural Oasis are new spaces that can tell the story about place at SAIC. All three have humble beginnings, are designed for the entire SAIC community with a direct aim to help the community learn, and have been through recent renovations within the past three years.

Illustration by Shina Kang

The Website: Accessibility 20 Years In The Making

In 2003, when the SAIC website was launched, it was designed the way all early internet pages were: the type was small with competing fonts, the page was unclear in its audience, and only those who were a part of the school community had insight into what was being communicated. 

In 2008, the site got its first bit of branding when the SAIC box logo appeared against a black background for the first time.In 2013, the design of the website primarily reflected the white cube aesthetic popularized by De Stijl and Bauhaus groups. Using this go to aesthetic of modern art institutions, SAIC finally had large, clear, static photos of staff, posed in front of artwork. Finally, the website had a sense of its audience and presented a menu for “prospective students, current students, and alumni.” 

The site redesign in 2018 had the photographs updated frequently to give a sense of time. The subject matter of the images changed to action shots of students working in the studio, guests at the AIC practicing drawing or writing, or visiting speakers addressing a crowd. These images worked best on a laptop or desktop. 

In 2023, accessibility became the focus. The words are larger and the school’s colors  — black, pink, and teal blue — are featured through block-building aesthetics. There are more video elements rather than scrolling pictures. The landing page greets you with an action-packed looped video that cuts every two seconds from one dynamic scene to the next. The images have metadata with descriptions.

The website today is more for the outsider looking in, exhibiting students’ work and explaining the different elements, buildings, programs, and workshop spaces that make up this campus. It has the feeling of a fish bowl, with students and buildings on display for anyone interested in seeing them. 

But some current students have complaints.

Zeynep Karahasam (BFA 2026) said that the website presents an ideal, but doesn’t provide details that current students need. For instance, the undergraduate pathways are generic. If you need more detailed information you have to ask professors and advisors to help find the information. 

“A road map for undergraduate pathways exists but it’s buried and you have to find it,” Karahasam said.

The Rowdy Library

In 1971, the “library” was a reading room in the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at AIC. Photos from school archives show that student use of the space necessitated its growth. With the 1976 completion of the 280 Building, formerly called “the Columbus Drive facility” the library relocated. 

After 13 years in what was affectionately called “the magic basement” (as detailed in a book by the same title written by alumnus Cassidy Marie (MA in Art Education 1997) the library was relocated again in 1989. When the Alice R. Sharp building (formerly known as “the Champlain Building”) was remodeled, the sixth floor was dedicated as the John M. Flaxman Library. This was made possible by the contribution of Flaxman’s family, in honor of their late son who graduated from SAIC in 1988. The Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, the only library special collection for many years, had a small room on the sixth floor.

The library was small and cramped, according to Holly Dankert, Head of Research and Access Services at the Flaxman. She recalls using the space. Students had to sit in the library instruction room airplane style — two to a row on each side of the room with a narrow gap in between. By 2006, library staff offices and the library special collections, featuring the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, had expanded to the 5th floor.

In 2013, the library saw another transformation when the teal blue wall behind the reference desk was widened and repainted, and other color changes were made.  Apple computers sat on high desks close to the stacks, crowded with students. 

In the most recent change — a big one, which was completed in 2023 — the elevator wall is white and the display cases have been removed, cleaving the last homey piece of furniture from the area. The exhibition case was blasted open to connect the fifth and sixth floor, making the two halves of the library — Special Collections / Joan Flasch and Main collections / John Flaxman — one cohesive whole. The floors are connected by a metal staircase that sings when you pass between the two.

Students are quiet and the space is bigger. The carpets are white. In the library, the story of John Flaxman and Joan Flasch and the sheer amount of time the space has been a part of SAIC helps define the place. 

When asked what the purpose of the space is, Ethan Allen (BFA 2024), a senior library assistant, said that the library exists to help the community with research needs.

Jude Kharchou (FVNMA 2025), also a senior library assistant, said that the “vibe of the library leads many people to ‘shush’ each other without prompting, even though this isn’t a shush library. When people are in the library they look like they know what they are doing and it leads people to feel very intimidated by the space.” 

The Intentions of the Cultural Oasis

The Cultural Oasis is located on the 14th floor of the Sullivan Center — by far, one of the more isolated spaces on campus. The design of the space is defined by its use value. 

The impetus for the Cultural Oasis was talks about anti-racism in 2020. During that time, it was made clear by student affinity groups and student leadership that the school needed a space where students who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color could find community. 

Statistics show that the overall student demographic at SAIC has largely skewed international, white, and Asian; while Hispanic, Black, and Native American have the lowest enrollment by proportion. At the onset of the Cultural Oasis, students were involved in every aspect of the design process.

“We engaged the students in the design first as opposed to after the construction. In this process listening is valued,” said sculpture student Laura Bustamante (MFA 2023), who was a graduate student during the time the space was being developed.

One of the largest pieces of student artwork featured on the wall  “Layering Our Feelings,” by Fernanda Carvalho is an interactive piece where students can write statements to share their thoughts. Some of the thoughts written on the piece are questions like,”Where does a third culture kid find belonging?”; “They told me I wasn’t dark enough or white enough, so what am I?”;  “I love being Black!”; and “I am from the Middle East. Hala Wallah Poggers.” 

An ash-colored tree sits in the far corner of the space filled with cards written by the founding community members indicating their wishes for the Cultural Oasis. 

“My wish for this space is for students of color to meet and collaborate. I hope it inspires growth and big changes in the structure of SAIC. I hope the administration prioritizes the needs and frustration of these students more too,” reads one message. 

“This space has only existed for a year, and I hope one day it will be as large as the library,” said Bustamante, the current coordinator for the Cultural Oasis

Features include a rainbow ceiling made out of dyed industrial felt, a polished concrete floor, a stainless steel refrigerator that is often restocked with leftovers from school events, a meditation closet with adjustable mood lighting and soft bean bags, movable wooden furniture and lounge chairs with high backs, a series of long desks with wheels, an abundance of living plants, and a large TV monitor mounted on the wall connected to Apple desktop computers set off to the side. 

There’s a bookshelf with interactive board games, cards, and books with titles like “Organize Your Own: The Politics and Poetics of Self-Determination Movements,” “Talking to Action: Art Pedagogy and Activism in the Americas,” “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” “Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides, and Figuring the Plural.”

Listening to the needs of the students means that the space is always in flux. The Cultural Oasis was created to be a gathering space for BIPOC who otherwise would have a hard time finding each other on campus. 

At the conclusion of its first year in 2022, the staff of the Cultural Oasis held a meeting to reflect on how the space was utilized, possible improvement, and concerns. The students who gathered addressed issues such as the name of the space, the programing to non-programing ratio, and the inclusion of spices and other diverse foods in the kitchenette. 

Bustamante addressed concerns about the word “oasis.”  She said that students involved with the establishment of the space said that the space was given the title “oasis” as a way to keep the intention of the space as a place where BIPOC narratives are centered and to help students navigate the institution.

However, much of that intention had not been explicitly stated anywhere in the space. This lack of context left many new students confused, so “a space by and for students of color” was added to the door at the end of Fall 2023.

The relaxed nature of the space is less intimidating for students. Students say they enjoy the fact that the room acts as a respite from the serious and crowded spaces around the SAIC campus. 

Aashina Singh (MFA 2024, Design for Emerging Technologies) said she uses the space on the weekends, outside of normal business hours. That’s when she has the most fun hanging out with friends. 

“What happens with me and my friends? We stay away from electronics, we talk to each other and we play games. For example, the other night my friend was stressed about exhibition installation,” Singh said. “She came and she wanted to hang out in the Cultural Oasis.  We sat and we de-stressed by playing Uno. The Cultural Oasis, I feel, is fantastic; often after 4 p.m. on weekends we laugh like drunk people.” 

 

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Anti Racism Committee: Political theater or true commitment to DEI?

By Featured, SAIC

Illustration by Shina Kang

In 2020, SAIC Solidarity and Black Futures wrote letters outlining desired structural changes for SAIC.

That year, police violence became the tipping point in a culmination of events that showed how structural inequality has shaped American life, including how policies in housing, policing, education, and healthcare have shaped the outcomes of Black lives. 

To address the issues raised by the groups an Anti-Racism Committee was formed at SAIC that year which went to work on several key issues that included: hiring a more diverse staff,  renaming of the 280 Building (then the Columbus building), improved financial aid for students of color, the development of an ombudsperson, and an affinity space for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 

When the demands were first made, the political landscape was one in which organized efforts like Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (referred to as DEI) committees were a popular response to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. Eager to quell unrest, politicians and institutions alike performed solidarity, with scenes such as Democratic senators in kente cloth stoles kneeling as they announced police reform. This theater is typical in American politics that often offers a good show, but rarely does anything to fix problems in society. 

However, the approach to DEI by the Anti Racism Committee addressed structural issues that were not flashy theater, but slow work. The committee and its numerous subcommittees began working within the departments of SAIC to implement permanent changes to the school that address issues around student labor, student mental health, and financial aid. 

Four years later, the national state of DEI efforts is drastically different. 

There are prominent, DEI-related stressors on higher education across the United States, and it’s showing. At the end of 2023, amid student protests on college campuses regarding the Palestinian genocide, universities like Harvard, MIT, and UPenn fired their presidents in response to congressional inquiries regarding political speech on college campuses. The Supreme Court outlawed affirmative action and race-based admissions decisions in June of 2023. Many DEI initiatives that were popular four years ago have begun to recede. 

At most universities, DEI responses to structural issues are largely shouldered by BIPOC staff, who are often untenured or temporarily employed. SAIC is not immune: 71% of faculty members at SAIC are White, while 7.6% are Black; the remainder is made up of Latino, Asian, and Native American faculty members. 

In a statement, the Art Institute of Chicago Workers United union explained that they are working towards reaching a contract to specifically support faculty and staff who are BIPOC, disabled, and / or LGBTQI+. The statement described the ways that these educators perform un-recognized and unpaid work as mentors for students and beyond.

“We’re fighting for a contract that recognizes and compensates faculty for this work — to retain them, promote them, and enshrine their contributions to our community,” the statement said.

The potential increase in BIPOC staff who have secure employment at SAIC could lead to changes in pedagogy. Many white professors have been trained to approach art from a Western canon. Often, when race is not being completely avoided in the classroom, professors trained in the Western cannon tend to present history by overwhelming their students with facts without interpretation and insight from BIPOC professors trained in different epistemological modes. Educators who are trained in different epistemological modes tend to include not just facts in the form of dates and numbers but also social and emotional experience which is factual. To increase the number of works by BIPOC artists and thinkers in the curriculum, without changing both the pedagogical approach to teaching and the experts in the room leading the discussion is a recipe for alienation.  

Even with so few BIPOC faculty at SAIC, the quiet structural changes that began in 2020 have slowly crept into the school environment. According to the SAIC’s website, the school has hired an ombudsperson who is active in their role as of Fall 2023; the BIPOC space, the Cultural Oasis, was established in 2021, has active programming, and is used by BIPOC students; and while the 280 Building was not renamed Three Fires, as suggested by Indigenous students, the racist nomenclature of the building’s past is not actively in use. 

The Anti-Racism Committee has waned since 2020, with one of its leaders, Delinda Collier, becoming the permanent dean of graduate studies. On February 15, SAIC announced the appointment of a new president Jiseon Lee Isbara, from Otis College of Art, whose background holds promise in terms of furthering the DEI changes that began in 2020. 

The increase in a diverse student population must be met with the interconnected struggle of part-time professors and non-tenured professors whose union negotiation is stalled. This struggle is interconnected because upon graduation, BIPOC students will face a hiring landscape that doesn’t value them as professionals as much as they valued them as students. 

Without a diverse teaching faculty whose needs are met, SAIC will repeat failures in educational approaches to DEI that are rampant in American schools and colleges today. When an academic institution integrates BIPOC students without integrating BIPOC faculty, the cycle of harm that has been playing out in American education since desegregation will repeat itself. A diverse BIPOC student body whose instructors do not reflect them, whose pedagogy does not prepare them, and whose epistemologies do not come from their cultures will inevitably experience the harms of assimilation and appropriation characteristic of American life. 

Whether or not SAIC has participated in DEI theater or true structural change that improves the lives of BIPOC students and faculty remains to be seen. Improvement depends on the institution’s long-term commitment to these structural changes. 

Sometimes racist acts are not always blatant. Without secure employment for BIPOC, disabled, and LGBTQI+ professionals— which includes full benefits packages, and opportunities to advance their careers— SAIC is not addressing a key element of the Black Futures demands. SAIC’s inability to address this harm is a reflection of which lives are important and valuable to them. At least for F Newsmagazine, that is racism, plain and simple.

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Global Animation at the Golden Globes

By Climate, Entertainment, Featured

The 2023 Golden Globes have come and gone, but many of the nominees and winners are still worth talking about, considering most are continuing on with Oscar nominations. Among these noteworthy movies are two specific international movies from the Best Animated Film category: “Suzume” (2022) and “The Boy and the Heron” (2023).

“The Boy and the Heron” (2023)

In the history of the Golden Globes, there have been a total of 11 non-American studios nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. It is a category that has existed only since 2007 (the Golden Globes has existed since 1944), and Disney has been nominated at least once every year. 

To have two nominations from non-American studios, specifically non-conglomerate companies like Disney, this year is outstanding. That’s even before we count in the fact that “The Boy and the Heron” won against the likes of “Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse,” “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Elemental,” and “Wish,” all from powerhouses in the animation scene.

For anime lovers, Makoto Shinkai and Hayao Miyazaki (along with Miyazaki’s studio, Studio Ghibli) are well-known and well-loved directors. They both have outstanding careers; a quick Google search will show both multiple times on the list of highest-grossing Japanese films. It just goes to show how much their reach is growing with their subsequent nominations in the animation category of the Golden Globes, a first for both, and Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” even winning the category.  

“Suzume” (2022)

“Suzume” by Makoto Shinkai is a departure from Shinkai’s usual  romance films such as  “Your Name” (2016) and “Weathering With You” (2019) Yes, it still features romance but “Suzume” is character-driven rather than being pushed forward by the romance. 

It’s a coming-of-age story about the main character Suzume who goes on a journey across Japan chasing a cat in order to turn the man she met, Souta, back into a human and to close magical doors to prevent natural disasters. It’s about love and grief. 

“Suzume” is the third of Shinkai’s disaster movies, the aforementioned movies being the other two, and it focuses on the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, a disaster that caused the Fukushima Nuclear disaster, killed thousands, and displaced many more. This movie serves as a tribute to that day, and it is well deserving of its Golden Globes nomination due to its very human and moving story paired with gorgeous animation and wonderful soundtrack.

“The Boy and the Heron” was a long-awaited movie as it was supposedly Miyazaki’s last (which he has said seven times before) and is a very personal film for him. 

“Miyazaki’s never done a film where he himself is the protagonist, so he felt that he needed to do that while he’s alive,” said co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Toshio Suzuki, when speaking to Deadline. 

“The Boy and the Heron” follows a boy named Mahito and tells the journey of finding meaning in the midst of grief. After he loses his mom during World War II to a fire at the hospital she works at, Mahito’s father moves them to the countryside where his new step-mom, his late mother’s sister, lives, and there Mahito meets a heron. All of that is the setup for Studio Ghibli’s typical fantastical storytelling as Mahito experiences strange phenomena and ends up entering another world as he searches for his missing stepmother. It’s truly a heartwarming story about family, the trauma of war, and how to move on from loss.  

Suzume” and “The Boy and the Heron” bring something fresh to the American animation scene. The art styles of both movies, while reminiscent of previous movies from Shinkai and Miyazaki, are wholly different from American animation, and the stories are brand new, bringing in a mix of personal and non-American perspectives. Audiences are looking elsewhere for animation than the likes of Disney, Pixar, and Illumination, and they are enjoying what they find. 

This trend can be seen in the growing popularity of anime, as well. While anime has always been around, it’s become a massive market for American audiences,  and its growing prominence might mean something good for animation at large and across international borders. 

 Shinkai and Miyazaki are far from small, but with their nominations, it’s clear that the world of animation is finally beginning to reflect a larger scope of the talent that is out there. That’s not to say award shows like the Golden Globes are the end all be all, but it is nice to be recognized for your hard work. 

Film, and especially animation, is an art form and should be highlighting a variety of voices, not just those from the same big (American) names. As award shows start looking at a wider range of animated movies, hopefully, this means that smaller and indie animation studios get recognition and then nominations as well as more international nominations. As the years go on, animation will only continue to grow; we can only hope that award shows do the same. And we’ll have to wait and see if “The Boy and the Heron” can take home the trophy from its Oscar nomination. 

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Just Hard Feelings: Part Three

By Comics, Featured Comics

PAGE FIVE
CAPTION: It’s the people you know that will hurt you the most in this world, not strangers.
Sid looks over his shoulder.
SID: You’re focusing so much on them, spending all your time at the fucking hospital.
CAPTION: 2023
Mae pulls at their hair in distress.
MAE: They almost died, Sid! How selfish could you be?
Tears start to roll down Mae’s cheek.
MAE: I’ve never met someone with so little empathy. The only person I’ve seen you care about is yourself.
Sid, back turned to Mae, also starts to cry.
SID: . . .
MAE: If you really do care about me, at all, please get some help!
Nancy is laying down, with Sid on top of her.
NANCY: I can help you.
SID: No you can’t.
CAPTION: 2022
In a crowd, Mae stands with a “one of those days” shirt. Nancy gives them a dirty look from the side.
Nancy puts her foot out in front of Mae.
Mae falls, with a crack in their leg, as Nancy walks away smirking.
PAGE SIX
Mae reminisces, wistfully.
MAE: But why can’t things be the way they were back then?
CAPTION: Maybe that good feeling was just an illusion.
CAPTION: 2019
Mae walks out of a doorframe wearing a towel. The ghost form of Sid waits for them.
SID: Can I tell you something?
Mae adjusts their hair, giving Sid a side-eye.
MAE: Dude, um, how about later?
Sid watches Mae apply lotion on their leg, drooling over them.
SID: I think you’re damn good-looking.

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F Newsmagazine Triumphs with 35 Awards at 2024 Illinois College Press Association

By Featured, SAIC

At this year’s Illinois College Press Association, F Newsmagazine made history by winning 35 awards in the Open and Division categories. 

Some of the major awards won by School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s student-run newspaper included first place for General Excellence (Web), second place for general excellence (print), first place for front page page layout, and both first and third place for feature page design. F Newsmagazine also won the overall sweepstakes award for the most prizes overall awarded to colleges in Illinois.

Held annually in Chicago, the ICPA brings together student-run newspapers from the state of Illinois as it hosts a conference featuring sessions and events for student journalists. The conference culminates in an awards ceremony and luncheon, which was attended by 11 F Newsmagazine staff members.

Full awards list for 2024:. 

Editorial Cartoon, Honorable Mention, Sidne K. Gard, “Pokemon X”

Editorial Cartoon, Second Place, Teddie Bernard, “Everyone’s Doing It”

Entertainment Supplement, Second Place, F Newsmagazine staff

Critical Review (Film), First Place, Myle Yan Tay, “All Quiet on the Western Front”

Critical Review (Film), Second Place, Kit Montgomery and Teddie Bernard, “Is the Barbie Movie Kenough or is it Everything?”

Critical Review (Other Than Film), First Place, Eliza Sullivan, “It End With Us”

Advertisement (Best Print Ad), Third Place, Teddie Bernard, “Ignite Your Passion”

Advertisement (Best Print Ad), Second Place, Teddie Bernard , “Exchequer Ad”

Advertisement (Best Digital Ad),  Honorable Mention, Ketaki Kulkarni, “May Banner Ad”

Advertisement (Best Digital Ad), First Place, Bei Lin, “April Banner Ad”

General Excellence (Print), Second Place

General Excellence (Web), First Place

Front Page Layout, First Place, Bei Lin, Ketaki Kulkarni, and Teddie Bernard

Editorial, Honorable Mention, “Entering a New Era”

Editorial, Second Place, “To Mask or not to Mask”

Opinion Page(s), Third Place, Ankit Khadgi, “Decolonize SAIC”

Opinion Page(s), Second Place, Sidne K. Gard, “Accommodation as Advocacy”

Column, First Place, Sisel Gelman, “Slut Saga”

Feature Page Design, Third Place, Aditi Singh, “A Year of Revolution in Iran”

Feature Page Design, First Place, Shijing Li, “Mars Argo’s Return to Music”

News Story, Honorable Mention, Marium Asif, “SAIC Students Criticize School for Neutrality on Palestine”

Sports News Story, First Place, Teddie Bernard and Sidne K. Gard, “Caring, Collaborating, Climbing”

Sports Page Design, First Place, Bei Lin, “Caring, Collaborating, Climbing”

In Depth Reporting, Honorable Mention, Ankit Khadgi and John W. Bateman, “SAIC Ends its Only Journalism Department”

Headline Writing, Second Place, Sidne K. Gard, “Bury Your Gays and Cancel Your Lesbians”.

Headline Writing, First Place, John W. Bateman, “SAIC: Where A Credit Hour Costs More Than An Ounce of Gold”

Photo Essay, Third Place, Nitya Mehrotra, “Bollywood Drag Show”

Photo Essay, Second Place, F Newsmagazine, “Protestors Rally in Support of Gaza”

Sports Photo, Second Place, Teddie Bernard and Sidne K. Gard, “Caring, Collaborating, Climbing”

General News Photo, First Place, F Newsmagazine, “Protesters Rally in Support of Gaza”

Spot News Photo, First Place, Marium Asif, “One in 300,000”

Spot News Photo, Third Place, F Newsmagazine,  “Protesters Rally in Support of Gaza”

Multimedia Reporting, Third Place, Marium Asif, “One in 300,000”, 

Multimedia Reporting, First Place, Teddie Bernard, “Life After Art School”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coverage, Honorable Mention, Sidne K.Gard, “Accommodation as Advocacy”

Additionally, F Newsmagazine won the sweepstakes award, taking the highest number of awards among all the student newspapers at this year’s convention.

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Surviving Summer Camp with Mx. Madison

By Comics, Featured Comics

Surviving Summer Camp with Mx. Madison

Panel One: 

Out of the corner of the panel we see Counselor Mx. Madison (narrator), a pink haired individual sitting directly across from a child holding a chess piece in front of a chess board. The caption box across the top says “I had never played chess before”. The table is messy with trash and there is an arrow pointing to the child that says “Litcherally the smartest 7 year old ever (I think)”. The child asks Madison “Miss Madison wanna play chess?” to which they say “you’re on.”

 

Panel two: 

Caption box: “My first mistake was letting him teach me how to play”. 

To the left there is a flustered/angry Mx. Madison with the smug looking boy across from them. Inbetween is the chess game at hand. The child is claiming “you can’t do that.” while Madison son yells “WHAT!! YOU DIDN’T TELL ME!!”

 

Panel three: 

Caption Box: “To be fair. I’m very competitive, even with these turds.”

Image is of Mx. Madison wearing a crown and a sash that states “mancala queen”, holding flowers and crying miss america pageant style. An arrow points to her with the caption “me, mancala queen”

 

Panel four:

Caption Box: “This was no exception” 

Mx. Madison has an angry disgruntled face and is holding a white chess piece so tight it is cracking.

 

Panel five:

 Caption Box: “This kid was good. -or maybe I was bad…”

Mx Madison is looming above the chess board seemingly very stressed looking down at a white horse chess piece.

 

Panel Six: Caption box

“Either was this was keeping me up at night”

Madison  is tucked into bed half dreaming about chess. Imaginary pawns kill each other in front of them, Madison  watches the soul leave her black pieces body while the white one laughs. She mumbles to herself “stupid pawns” 

 

Panel Seven: 

Caption Box: “I was playing chess twenty four seven.”

While playing chess on her phone the screen in big letters says “YOU LOSE (loser)” and she lets out an “ugh”

 

Panel Eight: 

Caption Box: “But I still…”

Mx. Madison is surprised holding the white king chess piece in front of the chess board. The child sits there, proud of his work and tells them “check mate.” A child can be seen in the background heckling mx. Madison son going “oooooooh!!” in a manner that she is in trouble. 

 

Panel Nine: 

Caption Box: “Kept”

Mx. Madison lays with their hands over their face as the kid holds the white king. The kid is saying “check…”

 

Panel Ten: 

Caption Box: “LOOSING” 

Madison  is fully splayed out on the floor next to the game, looking particularly annoyed that the child has won the game again, ending it with “mate”. It probably also doesn’t help that there is another kid saying “haha you suck!” 

 

Panel Eleven: 

Caption Box: “We would talk smack”

The child smugly stands there telling mx. Madison  “you stink”. Madison on the other hand is yelling off panel “YOU STINK I BET YOU GOT OFF BRAND LEGOS AT HOME.”

 

Panel Twelve: 

Caption Box: “and the other kids would make fun of me.” 

A kid stands over Mx. Madison  laying on the floor, he tells her “Miss Madison you suck at this.” she responds with a defeated “I know. God I know.”

 

Panel Thirteen: 

Caption boxes: “So I began plotting”

Madison  has their hand on their chin thinking real hard about chess, like with numbers floating around and everything.

 

Panel Fourteen: 

Caption boxes: “Churning”

A side view of Madison  you can literally see the gears turning in her brain. They are smoking. 

 

Panel Fifteen: 

Caption Box: “Honing in on my skills”

Madison  is holding the phone joyfully yelling “yes. Yes! YES!!” as she had finally won the chess on the phone. Even the phone was surprised saying “you won??”

 

Panel Sixteen: 

Madison is looking over the child and pointing at him, she looks a bit unhinged with hair frizzed and eye bags. The child looks more concerned than scared. She tells him “I’m going to beat you today” to which he says “you smell”. They respond with “That’s the smell of a winner.” She forgot to put deodorant on. 

 

Panel Seventeen: 

Caption Boxes: “Today was the day. I would beat him”

Madison daydreams about being both the mancala queen and chess queen, it was so beautiful it brought a tear to their eye.

 

Panel Eighteen: 

Caption Boxes: It was intense. I think we both put up a fair fight.”

Both of them sat on the floor, mx. Madison was contemplating their next move when the child said “um, miss Madison …” Madison  hummed in response.

 

Panel Nineteen: 

The child says “check mate” and crosses his arms. Meanwhile mx. Madison son is throwing the board behind them and screaming “RAHHHH” in anger. Chess pieces make up the words “the end” in mid air. 

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‘Hazbin Hotel’ Breaks Hellish Animation Boundaries

By Entertainment

“Hazbin Hotel” (2024)

Animation in the West is quite restrictive. While some of the first animated works were often geared to an adult audience, as of late western animation is dominated by family-friendliness and Disneyfied stories. When cartoons exist for adults, they are often cheaply animated and serve as a vehicle for raunchy humor. Anything with music or a strong story structure is often for children, with only a few exceptions.”Hazbin Hotel” (2024) breaks down these categories boldly being an adult comedy featuring Broadway singers and a complex serialized plot.

“Hazbin Hotel” takes place in literal Hell, where the demonic inhabitants, known as Sinners, are subjected to annual exterminations by Heaven to control the population and avoid the possibility of an uprising. In an effort to put an end to these yearly massacres, the Princess of Hell, Charlotte “Charlie” Morningstar (voiced by Erika Henningsen), opens a hotel with the whimsical yet borderline-delusional goal of redeeming Sinners so they may “check out” of Hell and into Heaven 

Of course, Charlie does not go it alone, and her supporters in this endeavor (of varying degrees of enthusiasm and willingness) include her girlfriend, Vaggie (Stephanie Beatriz); the bartender, Husk (Keith David); the maid, Niffty (Kimiko Glenn); the Hellish Overlord, Alastor (Amir Talai); and the pornstar/Charlie’s first patron, Angel Dust (Blake Roman). Together, they face the uphill battle of proving whether or not a Sinner can truly find redemption after death, all amidst growing opposition from Heaven and Hell alike.

“Hazbin Hotel” juxtaposes the glamor of a Broadway musical with the decay and visceral grunge of Hell, neatly shown in the first episode with Charlie belting her heart out like a Disney princess on a street corner, then rubbing brains out of her eye after being sprayed with a cannibal’s dinner. The characters constantly bounce around the screen both in displays of violence and dance, but with the flashiness of it all, I had a hard time not seeing it as style over substance. Every episode features at least one musical number, and the songs were well done and easily the strongest part, but visually I found it a bit much. The designs of the characters are often so complex they essentially turn into a herd of zebras, and I became lost trying to figure out where to turn my attention. It’s a real shame because it became difficult to fully appreciate the actors’ talent and performances when I couldn’t tell where to look.

This form-over-function issue also spilled into the overall writing, which seemed fixated on chasing two rabbits. Eight episodes clocking in at under twenty-five minutes each is not a lot of time, but the show seemed determined to both showcase the hotel and explore all of Hell within this minuscule slot. As a result, the story often moved in too many directions for moments to really land, with more time being dedicated to introducing new characters than to fully realizing the core cast. It’s the kind of show that would’ve benefitted with a much longer episode run for season one. 

To make things worse, there seemed to be a general expectation for the audience to have had knowledge of “Hazbin Hotel” beforehand. The pilot of the show was well known for many years as it was posted to YouTube in 2019 and built up a cult following. “Hazbin” also has a sister show on YouTube set in the same universe with a different cast of characters. In “Hazbin” itself, information I would have considered important to touch on (such as what the Sinners did in life to deserve Hell) is readily available for a quick Google yet virtually untouched in the show proper.

The humor is downright foul at times, though I noticed a severe downtick in references to real events compared to the pilot. But the jokes often rely on shock humor and profanity. 

  That’s not to say the show is all bad news, of course. I enjoyed the casual LGBT+ representation, without anyone getting turned into a squeaky-clean lesson plan for children. The majority of the main characters are LGBT+. Lead character, Alastor, even has his asexuality acknowledged as a valid orientation. 

The strongest storyline of season one was about Angel Dust’s exploitation in the porn industry, as the idea of sex itself was not put on trial, but rather the abusive treatment he suffers from his horrific boss, Valentino. I do feel obligated to state that this, however, may not be for anyone disturbed by discussions or depictions of sexual abuse or assault. But, given the format of the show, much darker and harder-to-talk-about topics were able to be brought up often when they would have to be altered or cleaned up.

If nothing else, what this show represents is very important. The idea of combining Hell, raunchy comedy, theater, and animation in this way seemed pretty impossible to me back in high school when I saw everyone raving about the pilot. The show may be far from perfect, but it does set a precedent that animation does not need to be so viciously categorized as it typically is. People really are willing to watch a demonic princess sing about rainbows and unicorns while learning about restorative vs punitive justice and debating whether the damned deserve mercy. 

Harsh stories do not have to be relegated to live-action dramas and adults are not inherently “too mature” to enjoy animation. So, in the end, while this wasn’t my favorite show in the world, I would implore you all to consider what “Hazbin Hotel” represents in the long run, and maybe listen to a song or two from it, though they’re bound to get stuck in your head.

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Nicki’s ‘Bigfoot’ Tries to Step on Megan’s ‘Hiss’

By Entertainment, Featured

 

Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hiss” (2024)

2024 rap is off to an explosive start. If you keep track of pop culture and rap news, you’ve probably heard about the recent feud between artists Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj. Seemingly beginning with Megan’s new single, “Hiss” and escalating with Minaj’s X (formerly known as Twitter) response and Minaj’s single “Bigfoot,” two of the many questions the spectacle has raised include who dissed who first, and, when and how did celebrity fights become our problems as well?

Beyond either track, this cultural moment has implications for the ways that we identify with and labor on behalf of celebrities. Fans of one rapper or listeners of both sides of a feud often eagerly tune into diss tracks, where they can hear each side putting pen to paper to prove their superiority. 

Disrespect is part and parcel of rap beefs, with both sides slinging their most creative and disparaging insults. As a result, when tempers run hot, these beefs can leave the studio and hit the streets. The online dimension of fandom has caused beefs to expand into digital space, and have consequences “‘IRL” in extreme cases. This isn’t unique to rap either. In the era of stans, fandoms are enlisted into real or imagined conflicts and take digital platforms by storm. Fans acting on behalf of their beloved celebrity 

Released on January 25, Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hiss” started by saying “Fuck y’all.  I ain’t gotta clear my name on a motherfuckin’ thang.” In the song, Megan bashes “Z-listers” who lie about her in order to get attention. 

The key source of controversy, however, was the line “These hoes don’t be mad at Megan, these hoes mad at Megan’s Law.” The line references a federal law which initiated public sex offender registries. Nevertheless, for Minaj, the line hit close to home, as Minaj’s husband and brother have both been convicted of sexual crimes. 

Some fans were confused that Nicki Minaj deigned to respond to the song at all, since the “Megan’s Law” line is only one bar out of the 3:12 minute song which contained many more insults referencing male rappers having “fake ass accents” and getting BBL surgery, and Minaj was not mentioned by name. However, she is Mrs. Petty, as she even points out in her own song “Bigfoot,” and clearly, she felt slighted. 

This line even earned Megan Thee Stallion some flak with Richard Kanka, father of the eponymous Megan Kanka, who was displeased at the mention, calling it “disrespectful and offensive”.

When asked about the intended targets of “Hiss” Megan only supplied: “A hit dog gon’ holler,” meaning, if it doesn’t apply, let it fly. 

In response, Nicki Minaj has spoken, and tweeted, abundantly on the subject running up to her release of “Bigfoot” on January 29, four days after Megan’s single dropped. Minaj’s tweets and the song called Megan broke, accused her of betraying her friends, mocked her for getting shot, and accused her of “Lying on her dead mama.”

Nicki Minaj’s tweet announcing “Bigfoot.”

In the most bewildering move of this saga, Minaj tweeted an endorsement of right-winger Ben Shapiro. Shapiro said that Minaj won the feud, but then again, he has also said that rap is not music. 

Overall, it could be argued that Minaj took the first shot, long before the release of “Hiss” when she put a lyric about “Not fuckin with horses” (note the ‘Stallion’ part of Megan’s stage name, which comes from her being a tall woman at 5’9”) in her single “Red Ruby Da Sleeze on March 3 2023.
Others could argue, Megan was guilty by association because she collaborated with Cardi B on “WAP” in 2020, and Nicki Minaj and Cardi B are very much at odds, with a physical altercation having taken place between them at NYFM in 2018.

Another cause of conflict between Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj seems to be Megan’s affiliation with Roc Nation, an entertainment company owned and founded by Jay-Z, which is currently managing her

On Jan. 29, Minaj quoted a tweet made by Roc Nation’s account promoting the new “Hiss” single and took aim at a “Desiree.” The Desiree mentioned is Desiree Perez, the CEO of Roc Nation since 2009. In another tweet, Minaj made reference to “phone calls [being made]” supposedly to block the release of “Bigfoot,” implying some sort of conspiracy. This could be a reference to the previous roadblock she encountered clearing “Bigfoot”’s beat with producer LilJuMadeDaBeat.

Nicki Minaj’s quote tweet of Rock Nation.

Even before the Megan feud, Minaj’s fan group, the Barbz, have been criticized for their overzealous defense of Minaj, which in some cases has included threats and doxxing, releasing an internet user’s personal information such as real name, living address, and employment or school. The public information of Bela Delgado, @belatown on TikTok, was released by fans of Minajafter he made a video disparaging the rapper. He claims his family also received threats, and the video was deleted shortly after posting. 

Troublingly, Minaj has not denounced this illegal behavior, and in fact, quoted a tweet mocking the user’s tearful apology and retraction video with a sardonic Nene Leakes GIF, saying “True dat. Family off limits.”

Minaj’s tweet using the Nene Leakes GIF.

No doubt, many say that Barbz crossed a line by releasing the location of the cemetery where Megan’s deceased mother is buried. While currently nothing more than online bluster, it deserves mention as an example of extreme stan behavior. It merits reflection on what some fans are willing to do on the behalf of someone who might never even acknowledge them. 

It’s still uncertain whether the dust will settle between Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion. In a spoken segment at the end of “Bigfoot,” Nicki Minaj claimed she was still withholding more screenshots and facts as ammo, to be released barring Megan’s prompt public apology. Minaj also claims to have four or five more songs ready to release. 

As of yet, Megan Thee Stallion has not acknowledged “Bigfoot.” 

Arguments over who won have yet to cease online. I’d rather let the rap speak for itself.

 

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Bollywood 101: 8 Hindi Movies to Watch on Galentine’s Day

By Entertainment

Ah, it’s that time of year when romance and love are in the air, in our grocery stores, in our drinks, in our food packages — thanks to capitalism.

If you, like me, don’t have a Valentine’s Day date and prefer to spend the day indoors with friends, here’s a list of Hindi movies that celebrate the beauty of friendship to enjoy on your own or with friends.

1. ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ (2001)

“Dil Chahta Hai” (2001)

A film about three friends growing up, “Dil Chahta Hai” (2001) beautifully portrays the value of friendship in one’s life. From road trips to fights to reconciliation, these friends grow as individuals and understand the importance of each other as the movie progresses. This is a classic that will stay with you long after the movie is over. 

Also, don’t forget to dance to “Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe” with your friends when the song comes up in the movie.

Where to watch: “Dil Chahta Hai” (2001) is available on Netflix.

 

2. ‘Dor’ (2006)

“Dor” (2006)

Films about female friendship are rare in Bollywood. While homosociality between men is cherished, women in Hindi cinema are always portrayed as each other’s enemies. 

But in 2006 came “Dor” (2006), a sensitive film about female friendship and its power, along with themes of forgiveness, patriarchy, and community. The two female protagonists go through an ordeal that can only be resolved by each other. But they can’t ask each other for help. What follows is a story of hope, resilience, and joy between two friends who need each other.

Where to watch: “Dor is available on YouTube.

 

3. ‘Tu Hai Mera Sunday’ (2016)

“Tu Hai Mera Sunday” (2016)

This is a light, breezy, yet poignant movie that will teach you a thing or two about life.

In the bustling urban jungle of Mumbai, five friends are looking for a place to play football (or soccer, for the Americans). The sport isn’t just a game for them — they find peace in football, as it allows them to escape from their problems. But will they ever find a place to play their favorite game in one of the most densely populated places in the world? “Tu Hai Mera Sunday” (2016) takes this as its main conflict. However, it also touches on several other themes such as sibling jealousy, the innate human search for love, and the need for people to be happy regardless of having all the materialistic goods in their lives.

Where to watch:Tu Hai Mera Sunday” is available on Hulu.

 

4. ‘Rock On’ (2008)

“Rock On” (2008)

A movie about an Indian rock band that breaks up due to ego clashes between the band members. Will the members ever get back together? Or are their egos so big that they will never move on and start again? Watch “Rock On” (2008) to find the answers to these questions.

Where to watch: “Rock On” is available on Amazon Prime and Netflix.

 

5. ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’ (2013)

“Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” (2012)

A rom-com, “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” (2013) is one of the most popular mainstream Hindi movies of the present times. Starring Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Kalki Koechlin and Aditya Roy Kapor, the movie takes the audience through a beautiful journey of school friends traveling to different places and through a plethora of emotions that change them as people. 

The locations are stunning, the romance is palpable, and the chemistry between all the actors is magical. This is a full-fledged Bollywood drama. Can’t be skipped.

Where to watch: “Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani” is available on Amazon Prime and Netflix.

 

6. ‘Aaja Nachle’ (2007)

“Aaja Nachle” (2007)

On paper, “Aaja Nachle” (2007) does not qualify as a film about friendship. But its central plot revolves around people and how the power of community can solve any problem. 

In the film, Diya, a professional dancer returns to her hometown of Shamli, India. A community dance theater she was a part of growing up is on the verge of collapse because big corporations want to build a shopping mall on the land. 

Diya enlists the help of community members to save the theater and ends up uniting everyone in the process. Before I spoil any more, go watch this movie starring Madhuri Dixit as Diya, whose dance moves will make you fall in love with her.

Where to watch: “Aaja Nachle(2007) is available on Amazon Prime. You can also rent it on YouTube.

 

7. ‘Axone’ (2019)

“Axone” (2019)

One thing I realized after moving to the U.S. is how important it is to have a circle of friends who easily understand you because of your shared experiences. Exploring that type of special friendship, “Axone” (2019) is the story of friends from northeastern India who come together to celebrate a friend’s wedding in Delhi. But there’s a problem — they have to cook akhuni, a pungent dish that smells so strong that no one in their neighborhood will let them cook it. 

Will they be able to cook it? Go and find out!

Where to watch: “Axone” is available on Netflix.

 

8. ‘Three of Us’ (2022)

“Three of Us” (2022)

“Three of Us” is a poetic drama that deals with the memories of the past and how we hold them in the present and the future. Supported by some powerful performances, the film is the story of Shailaja (Shefali Shah), who is struggling with the early stages of dementia. Before she loses her memory, she wants to revisit her childhood home and meet her friends who shaped her early days. What follows is a poignant story about remembering the past and the importance of letting go. 

Trust me. You will be deeply moved as you watch this heartfelt story.

Where to watch: “Three of Us” is available on Netflix.

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