Ghostly Worlds

My_Mad_Fat_Diary_titleMy Mad Fat Diary (January 2013–present, E4)
If there’s one thing Rookies understand, it’s the need to confide your deepest, darkest, silliest, most shameful secrets in a diary. In the British comedy series My Mad Fat Diary, Rae Earl, recently released from a psychiatric facility, takes comfort in pouring out her heart in her own private journal when she rejoins the world and has to deal with her mother, her seemingly perfect childhood best friend, and a suite of dreamy boys. Rae has a really complicated relationship with Chloe, her lifelong friend, who alternates between encouraging Rae to join Chloe’s new group of buddies and going out of her way to make sure Rae doesn’t get too close. Rae also has to cope with her feelings of guilt over her friend Tix, who is still struggling with anorexia inside the hospital. My Mad Fat Diary is great—not only does it give us a fat female protagonist I would have related to as a teenager (and still kind of do), but it also allows Rae a sexuality, a courtesy that fictional fat people rarely get. When she’s writing in her diary, Rae obsesses over boys and details what she likes about them, what they make her feel, and what she wants to do with them. She has fleeting crushes on many if not most of the boys she meets and pines over Finn, a moody dreamboat who’s into Morrissey—be still, my heart and loins—and when he invites Rae over to listen to records in his room, it’s hard not to have flashbacks to every single time your stomach flipped while talking to a crush. —Brodie

MV5BNjUyOTEzMzI5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTY0MzQyMQ@@._V1._SX325_SY475_Beloved (1998)
When I was a freshman in college, my boyfriend took me to see Beloved on a chilly Halloween night in Washington, DC. I’d read Toni Morrison’s book in high school, so I knew I was in for a fright, but I didn’t realize that its painful themes of slavery, sexual assault, and betrayal would cut even deeper when brought to life on the big screen. Like the novel, the movie focuses on the life of Sethe, a former slave (played by Oprah Winfrey) living in rural Ohio in the Civil War’s aftermath. A wrathful ghost who turns out to be Sethe’s reincarnated daughter frightens Sethe’s family and causes all hell to break loose. My heart remained heavy throughout the film as the title character (played by Thandie Newton, whose name coincidentally means “beloved” in Zulu and Xhosa!) wreaked havoc as a forlorn orphaned poltergeist in human form. I slept with the lights on for several nights after seeing this film, my mind filled with thoughts about the painful historic ghosts of slavery and genocide still swirling around me. This scary film will freak you out for days. —Jamia

Blair_Witch_ProjectThe Blair Witch Project (1999)
Before one million Paranormal Activity movies came out, there was The Blair Witch Project, a mockumentary about three student filmmakers who set out to make a movie about the witch that is said to haunt the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. If you know nothing about this movie and might watch it, stop reading this paragraph right now! The thing you might know, and that most people in 1999 knew by the time the movie hit theaters, is that it was not actually made from culled-together found footage, as you’re told at the beginning of the film, but it is no less terrifying just because it’s fake. The students head into the woods full of skepticism, but they grow more and more wary as the days pass and weird shit keeps happening: noises, things that mess with their perception, and members of the group disappearing. It’s all shaky camera footage and first-person points of view, so it’s super easy to get lost in the story and forget that it’s all fiction. There’s no gore or monsters or ghosts—just the unknown, which is even scarier because the fear is totally psychological. I have never been into scary movies, but Blair Witch is different, because it leaves all the scary parts to your imagination, and what’s scarier than that? —Laia

The Addams FamilyThe Addams Family (1991)
I always wished I was part of the Addams Family. My family is weird, but The Addams Family was my kind of weird—there’s a goth mom, a funny dad, a crazy uncle, a sweet witch of an aunt, an annoying, creepy little brother, and CHRISTINA RICCI, forever the spookiest sister. Even though the outside world thought they were freaks, the Addams family had a bond that I always envied. For sure the best creepy family out there. —Dana

CANP_1210059_REVENANTS_COUTEAU_SS_DATE_Abribus.indd_NjpgLes Revenants (2012, UK Channel 4)
The first season of Les Revenants (The Returned) has just finished on British TV, and I’m counting down the days until the next one. The plot is simple: Various dead people come back as zombies in a little French village. But this isn’t the usual, gory kind of zombie fare that I hate. These are just normal people of different ages trying to fit back into a place where everyone thought they were dead—and they are. (As you might expect, people’s reactions to their returns are mixed.) What I love about this show is that you’re never sure what’s going to happen next. It is so haunting—but not in a spooky way—and it really gets you thinking. There’s also a really gripping soundtrack done by the Scottish band Mogwai, which you should totally get even if you don’t watch the show—it’s dark, atmospheric, and very haunting. —Caitlin

-homeland-season-1-dvd-B212P_SP761_30_27YVLHomeland (2011–present, Showtime)
Be warned, Homeland novices: I’m gonna spoil a few things for you here if you’re not up to date! Starting…now. Homeland is a show about terrorism that also deals with how our pasts can come back to haunt us. If you ask me (and I always assume people do), Carrie Mathison is one of TV’s greatest female characters, and Claire Danes plays her as someone who is damaged and talented and sick and lively and incredible at her job, but also kind of a huge failure. Homeland exists in this gray space between the real world and a fictional reality. Carrie is haunted by guilt over something that can’t be repaired and hides her lifelong battle with bipolar disorder from her employers, the CIA (kind of a huge deal). She starts the series on the trail of Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a returned prisoner of war, who she believes is working with Al Qaeda on a plan to attack the United States. Brody is also dealing with some pretty heavy shit, including returning to his family after eight years away, manscaping, the death of a child he grew close to while in captivity and, oh yeah, being held captive for almost a decade! When Claire and Brody are together, I get so tense I tend to eat my feelings and sleep fitfully for days. —Brodie

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch season 1Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996–2000, ABC; 2000–2003, the WB)
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch is one of my favorite TV series ever! When Sabrina, who lives with her two witch aunts and a black cat named Salem, turns 16, she discovers that she is a witch, too. She had to learn to use her powers wisely and ethically, like all teenage girls do, and her problems were similarly universal: a first pimple, talking to her crush, and dealing with a high school Mean Girl. Even though she had magical powers, she always seemed to solve her problems the way every teenage girl does: by facing her fears and working through them using nothing more than her inner strength. —Dana

crucibleThe Crucible (1996)
This movie, adapted from the 1953 play by Arthur Miller, is about the Salem witch trials, its main goal is really to deliver a long moral message about the dangers of slut-shaming. A pastor catches a group of innocent pilgrim girls crucifying a chicken while they say the names of the guys they have crushes on, and then all hell breaks loose. In order to protect their secrets—which range from “I like a boy” to “I’m an adulterer who drank blood in a ritual with the hopes of killing my crush’s wife”—a few of them go catatonic, and the rest start lying and accusing people in the village of witchcraft. No one is immune—old men, all the women, and various slaves are gathered up, tried, and hanged as the village suffers a sort of mass hysteria. The cast is stunning: Winona Ryder plays the girl gang’s ringleader, Abigail Williams, who starts all of this so she can keep banging John Proctor, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. Since Day-Lewis is a method actor, I got a kick out of imagining him doing some deep scything and living in a pilgrim-y shack as he prepared for the role. Miller originally wrote the play to challenge McCarthyism, but the message applies today: Stop telling teenage girls they can’t be sexual, or they might rally together and make the adults start murdering one another in the name of the lord. —Danielle ♦

Seeing Is Believing

Black Narcissus (1947)
This is a chilling film (a chilm, if you will) (you probably won’t, because chilm sounds disgusting) about a bunch of nuns who lose it while on a mission at the Palace of Mopu near Darjeeling, right at the edge of a cliff. The women battle with their loyalty to their faith, and shit gets catty when some of them start to have the hots for a British guy who’s always wearing this stupid burlap hat. The whole movie builds slowly and carefully as you too become consumed by the atmosphere of this mysterious place—the colors of the skies, the smells, the plant life, the drum that consistently beats as long as the sage at the top of a mountain is alive. After a little over an hour of hauntingly beautiful scenery and nuns going about their business (and, unfortunately, some casual 1940s racism), everything just spirals quickly out of control in a way I was completely unprepared for and which may give me nightmares tonight. My favorite part was, after the super-serious, crazy climax (which I won’t give away), there’s an intense conversation about it between two of the characters, but this horse in the lower corner of the screen totally ruins it by making these ridiculous horse faces. Ha ha, horses. Nuns. Chilms. We learned a lot today. —Tavi

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
This is my favorite movie of all time, a Christmas-y love story between two coworkers (Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan) who unwittingly fall in love while exchanging anonymous letters. If the plot sounds familiar, it’s likely because Nora Ephron updated it in 1998 for You’ve Got Mail, and though I know a lot of people love that movie, the original has a dreamy quality that the remake never quite achieves (though we’d all love to own Meg Ryan’s bookstore, right?). Jimmy Stewart is a total dreamboat, romantic and slightly tortured (the best kind of Jimmy Stewart) and Margaret Sullavan is heartbreaking and hilarious. It’s a movie that makes you feel warm and happy and aware of the possibility that love shows up in the most unexpected places. —Pixie

Run Lola Run (1998)
This movie will blow your mind, f’realsies. It is a movie about love, about the things we do for love, about the faith we have in love and in the ones we love. It’s also about the choices we make and the way everything is connected, but mostly it is just the GREATEST movie. Franka Potente (best name ever or BEST NAME EVER?) stars as Lola–who has fiery red hair that for the past 14 years has been making me want to reach for the Manic Panic and just GO FOR IT. She has 20 minutes to find 100,000 German marks that her boyfriend has lost. The money does not belong to him, but to a criminal kingpin, so if he doesn’t come up with it, he is, you know, dead. So Lola runs—she runs to think and she runs to save her boyfriend. When I watched it, I knew nothing of the plot, and the movie blew my MIND. I want your minds to be blown too, so I won’t say much more, and don’t check Wikipedia either. The first time I saw it ended up being the first three times, because I kept rewinding it so I could go back and make sure I caught all the details, and also because I didn’t want to leave the world it created. The movie also has a killer soundtrack that will make you want to run, or at least dance, your worries away. —Laia

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
Life of Brian is a parody of big-budget Bible epics from the ’50s and ’60s like The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told. It also serves up a very loony but sly critique of blind faith. Graham Chapman plays Brian Cohen, a young man who was born on the same day as Christ. He’s living in Judea during the Roman occupation, and throughout the movie his life continually intersects at pivotal moments with Jesus’s (e.g., Brian and his mother attend the Sermon on the Mount). But Brian isn’t a Jesus figure, he’s simply an unassuming guy who just happens to be Jesus-adjacent. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is probably the more famous of this influential British comedy troupe’s films, but Life of Brian is my favorite. It’s just so absurd and hysterical. The Pythons (Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones) are geniuses. Plus, the movie features the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” probably the best thing to listen to when you’re feeling lousy. —Amber

Keeping the Faith (2000)
This is one of my FAVORITE romantic comedies. It stars Edward Norton as a Catholic priest, Ben Stiller as a rabbi, and Jenna Elfman as the lady that both dudes fall for. But wait! Edward Norton is a PRIEST! He can’t commit to that! And Ben Stiller technically can, but his friend likes this girl too, so what is he supposed to DO? I don’t remember, frankly, but that’s not really the point in a romantic comedy, because you know everything will be OK. It has everything else a rom-com should have—bromance, a rendition of “Jessie’s Girl” during karaoke, religious old people, a bar mitzvah, the works. —Tavi

Scrooged (1998)
In this modern reimagining of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, an unfeeling TV network executive who’s visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. So…Bill Murray is my favorite. Maybe he’s your favorite, too. If you’re still on the fence about him and have maybe been wondering what’s so great about the guy (is this even possible?), then you have to watch Scrooged—it’s Murray at his charmingly smug best and has the added bonus of being a pretty fantastic Christmas tale that’s both extremely funny and life-affirming. As they say in the movie, “yule love it.” —Amber

Long Island Medium
2012-present, TLC

So listen: I don’t want to get into a debate over Theresa Caputo’s purported ability to talk to the dead. (Yes, I am aware of cold-reading techniques and how they’ve been used for decades to scam people.) The reason I love Long Island Medium is Theresa herself, and how she interacts with her family. Her hair! Her NAILS! Her outfits!!! She embraces who she is, and for that, she is my favorite forever. And the embarrassment of her family, even while they agree to participate in rituals like saging the house, is the best. Her daughter, Victoria, could not be more mortified when her mother bum-rushes someone in the grocery store to ask about a great-grandpa who has passed away, and it’s just always fun to watch, mostly because it’s how anyone would react if their mother did ANYTHING embarrassing at the grocery store, much less talk to the dead. —Pixie

Angels in the Outfield (1994)
A very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in this Disney classic as Roger, a kid in the foster-care system who prays to God to help his local baseball team, the Angels, become league champions—this after his mostly absent father makes an offhand remark about the two reuniting once the terrible team does the impossible and wins the pennant. His prayer is answered when real angels, led by Al (Christopher Lloyd), start leading the players to victory. There’s obviously a Christian element to this story, but really it’s about optimism and how much you can achieve when you have faith in yourself, and that’s why I adore it. Angels in the Outfield is one of the great underdog-athlete movies. You’ll undoubtedly get so wrapped up in it that you’ll start flapping your arms while watching (if you’ve never seen the movie, that statement probably doesn’t make sense at all, but mark my words). —Amber

Father Ted
1995-1998, Channel 4

My dude is Irish and felt it was his duty to introduce me to Father Ted, which has since become one of my favorite television shows, on account of its absurdity, Seinfeldian plots, and general hilariousness. Set in a parochial house on the fictional Craggy Island that holds three wayward priests and their housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle, the show may come across as slightly dated (or slightly inaccessible, to those who don’t pick up on every Irish Catholic joke), but it holds up and is still hilarious, thanks to the writing, acting, and basically every expression made by Father Dougal McGuire, who has a heart full of gold and a brain full of…well, air, mostly. —Pixie

Doubt (2008)
Doubt is not one of those “fun nun” movies, like Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley and based on his long-running play, it is a film about allegations of child abuse in a 1960s Catholic school, and mostly it focuses on a silent war between Meryl Streep’s Sister Aloysius and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Father Flynn, the priest suspected of impropriety. This adaptation still feels very much like a play, with only a few actors, and very few locations—there are no pyrotechnics here, only tiny fissures in a facade. Faith and human fallibility intersect in surprising ways. You will probably cry. —Emma S.

Signs (2002)
I know a lot of people identify this movie as the shark-jump moment in the Shyamalan ouevre, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. (Truth be told, I’d watch Joaquin Phoenix tie his shoes for nine hours, so his inclusion in the cast doesn’t hurt any, and one must remember that this film came out before Mel Gibson’s career, and Mel Gibson himself, went awry.) Gibson plays a former priest who has given up on his faith after the accidental death of his wife, when suddenly crop circles—and signs of little green men—start appearing around his farm. The movie hits on one of Shymalan’s best tactics as a filmmaker, which is that what you DON’T see is more thought-provoking (and, at times, more frightening) than what you do, which is sort of a nice summation of the nature of belief itself, no? —Pixie

2011-present, Showtime

On Showtime’s Homeland, Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison, a C.I.A. agent who suspects that a recently freed prisoner of war is actually working for al-Qaeda. Danes is amazing here—the part requires her to have some pretty serious meltdowns and she’s always so real and intense. The show is about people who’ve had their beliefs challenged and the aftermath of that disruption. It’s also one of those crazy suspenseful dramas that, in my opinion, is actually better to hold off on watching until the entire season is over (the second one just ended), so that you have every episode available to you on demand or on DVD or online or however you watch your TV shows, because you’ll want to watch it in one sitting. —Amber

The Believer (2001)
This movie stars a young Ryan Gosling, at the height of his hotness, as a neo-Nazi leader who hates Jews…and is secretly Jewish. A lot of it doesn’t make total sense, and some parts are just kinda boring, but Gosling makes you want to cry in almost every scene, because you can feel him searching for meaning and belonging, but you can also read on his face his continual disappointment at every person and idea he encounters, himself and his own included. Don’t watch this if you don’t like that uncomfortable sensation when you apprehend the humanity in a hateful person. Personally I love that experience; I’m into ambivalence and I get stoked on the faint possibility of redemption. More uncomfortable is feeling sexually attracted to a dude as you watch him carry out violent hate crimes—but it’s Gosling, and his big, crooked nose is beautiful, and you know this is a movie and not real life, so you live with yourself. It was, however, based on a true story of a guy who was arrested at a KKK rally and was outed by the New York Times as a Jew. The guy told the Times reporter that he’d kill himself if the story was published—it was, and he did. I’m not gonna tell you if the movie ends that way; you should just rent it. I made many of my loved ones watch it back when it was on Showtime in 2001, because it got stuck in my head and my throat in a way I couldn’t explain—I had to force people to have the same experience I’d had so they’d understand my feeeelingz. And so now I’m doing the same to you, beloved Rookies. Please watch this weird, flawed movie. —Anaheed

2010-present, HBO

One of the most heartbreakingly real shows out there, Treme chronicles the lives of several New Orleanians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The characters include jazz and street musicians (the main one is played by New Orleans resident Wendell Pierce of The Wire) who have to scramble to make a living after the storm, an enraged college professor (John Goodman) who can’t focus on his work because he is so disgusted by the local and national response to Katrina, his lawyer wife who is trying to understand and find justice for victims of police brutality during the storm, a chef who is uncertain if she can get her restaurant running again, a bar owner dealing with the increased violence in her neighborhood, and a Mardi Gras Indian chief who is trying to rebuild his home and, in the first season, prepare his elaborate costume for the first post-hurricane carnival. Produced by David Simon, who also created The Wire, this show is definitely gritty and dark, but the music, strength, and faith of the characters make it a powerful reminder of human resilience. —Stephanie ♦

Saturday Links: New Dinosaur Edition

Dinosaurs are my favorite, so I geek out whenever a new one is discovered. This week, the New York Times discussed the Xenoceratops. Look at this guy! He’s like a Triceratops (Though apparently 15 million years older—doesn’t it freak you out to consider the timespan between the lifespans of different dinosaurs? Fifteen million years!) but with a more badass horn helmet. Although he would immediately destroy me if I traveled back in time to meet him, I am hopelessly in love.


Our friend Seth, of Hunx and His Punx glory, has a new show on internet TV! It’s absolutely spectacular! Watch some of your favorite California superstars get weird and glittery in a solid half-hour segment of bizarre magic and rock & roll. To me, it feels very legendary, and smells quite luxurious. I can’t wait until episode two!!

Amy Rose

I am an ardent fan of Johnny Marr’s work, from the Smiths (doye) to The The to Electronic to, well, everything he does, so it should come as no surprise that I totally adore this single and its accompanying goofy video. It’s nice to see such a brilliant artist, who’s been releasing amazing work for like three decades now, strike out on his own.


Am I the last person on the internet to find out about Birdy? This week she visited Paper TV to perform a couple of covers, and I can’t wait to rewatch this Bon Iver one once it’s more wintry outside and I really need a good cry. Just imagine how it must feel to scream “BIRDYYYYY” at your computer through tears.

Refinery 29 had a feature this week on Issa Rae, creator of Awkward Black Girl, including a great interview and some gorgeous photos. Highlights: imagining how awesome a collaboration between her and Tina Fey would be, hearing how she freaked out about her NETWORK TV DEAL (YEAHHHH), and a really cute pink button-down.

At least three people have sent me this post about Claire Danes’s cry face, and with good reason.

Grace Coddington winking on the cover of i-D is, literally, the best thing ever.

Four Nigerian girls created a generator that runs on PEE! With one liter of urine, the generator can create up to six hours of energy. WHOA! Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, and Faleke Oluwatoyin, and Bello Eniola (who are all under the age of 16) might work with a professional engineer to develop a large-scale model. The world’s energy crisis might be solved by four teenage girls. Why am I not surprised? TEEN GIRLS RUN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!


This handwritten list of Nirvana’s favorite 50 albums was making the internet rounds this week. It’s basically the perfect starting point for every awesome mix, ever.

A fairy tale came to life this week when this 56-year-old granny wielded a wooden axe against a marauding wolf. She describes the attack thusly: “When I raised my arm up like this, the wolf was just holding my hand. Trying to claw my hand. I wanted to open his mouth and put my fist all the way there, all the way to his throat. But I could not open him. So I just left my hand, and the wolf was just clawing into it, pulling on it, pulling away like this. And then I took the axe and hit him on his head.” How’s that for a bedtime story! ♦