Illustration by Isha Khanzode.

Illustration by Isha Khanzode.

TV Show: High Maintenance (HBO, 2016–)

High Maintenance feels genuinely diverse, nuanced, and empathetic—in its narratives and its characters. Each episode of the show, which began as a web series, is packaged like a short story that follows a new protagonist at a detailed, micro-level. For example: a young gay man is in a toxic friendship; a Muslim-American college student rebels while living with her religious aunt and uncle; a super-shaggy pooch falls in love with his dog walker. The common thread among this varied cast of characters is that they’re connected to an affable weed delivery man, simply known as the Guy, who drifts in and out of these folks’ lives. The show is funny, real, and absolutely captivating. Get caught up with new episodes on HBO, then go back into the archives and watch the entire web version—all episodes are now on HBO Go. You won’t find any stereotypical deadbeat stoner-dude stories here. High Maintenance is honest, thoughtful, and kind to the potheads living among us.—Jinnie Lee

Documentary: 13TH (2016)

13TH, Ava DuVernay’s incisive documentary, does not coddle as it traverses the history and implications of the “exclusion clause” in the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment abolished chattel slavery, the economic backbone of the American South, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” 13TH never allows the viewer to slip into blind optimism, and is as unrelenting as American history. In two hours, it traces the timeline from emancipation to our present mass incarceration—over two million people are held within American prisons today. 13TH does not deal in moral outrage—DuVernay is simply turning her camera toward the American penal system. It includes valuable insight from various prison abolitionists and historians, including Angela Davis and Michelle Alexander. It’s a necessary documentary, and I encourage you to watch. —Jasmine Sanders

Short Film: Fluffy (2016)

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a film strike a balance between super adorable and thought-provoking as well as Sarah Ramos’s short, Fluffy. The nine-minute film revolves around Grace; her crush, Mark; her friend, Leah; and the titular Fluffy. By the end, Ramos somehow manages to wrap up all these elements into one tidy, satisfying package. The eponymous Fluffy is said crush’s cat, played by the Instagram legend Shrampton. (I love cats, so seeing Fluffy/Shrampton scurry around was a perk in and of itself.) When Grace, played by Ramos, opts to cat-sit Fluffy at Mark’s apartment for the weekend, her infatuation for Mark and her feelings of envy and jealousy toward Leah, who happens to share an interest in Mark, come together with surprising results. What stuck out for me was the film’s look at the expression and suppression of sexuality, along with the relationships between girls vying for the same love interest. Lots of literature has dealt with this topic, but in Ramos’s film, it’s very realistic. Grace is a little jealous of Leah, who’s comfortable expressing her sexuality, while Grace herself is not. Sometimes mainstream media pushes the message that girls who envy other girls are immoral and unnatural, and it’s refreshing to see Grace’s struggle with resentment, and the impact it has on her, depicted in a normalizing way. It’s engaging, too, to see Ramos’s character humorously deal with generally serious subjects like self-delusion and self-sabotage. And on top of all that, the film is straight-up beautiful, visually and audibly. Pay attention to the gorgeous colors and the soundtrack, and prepare to rewatch this delightful short again and again. —Victoria Chiu ♦