Vrai Writes Pop Culture Essays: Popularium

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I’m proud that I can finally talk about my engagement with this site. I’ve been working and writing with them for more than six months now, but things were very hush hush as far as getting things ready for launch. But lo! Now I can share the stories I’ve been working on with all of you.

As for what they are, here’s what the About page says:

Popularium is about sharing great things and great experiences. We believe that we all make emotional connections best through telling relatable stories about the stuff we love. And we do this by featuring real stories by real people about real products.

In other words, people write personal narrative essays about how various pieces of media (or weed or alcohol – hence “products”) have played into the story of their own lives. There’s quite the breadth of experiences on there, and it’s heartening to finally see it fully formed.

You can visit my author page here, and check out links and samples to the stories I’ve published thusfar under the cut.

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The Consulting Analyst – The Vampire Lestat (Part 1)

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Interview with the Vampire Recap

It’s time to talk about Lestat. You remember Lestat, don’t you? The one who came up out of nowhere to take these books in a completely different direction, the one who eventually could do no wrong?

We’ll be covering a slightly shorter segment of actual text this round, since there’s a whole bunch of setup and context we need to discuss before going forward. Also, this book is a good deal longer than Interview (my 1st edition of IWTV clocks in at a little over 300 pages, while my trade copy of TVL runs 550, with thinner pages and smaller typeset), so we’ll probably be riding this train on into the new year. Hopefully it’s an entertaining ride.

….I also better reiterate my fondness for these books right here and now, because the claws are gonna come out for a bit.

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Can We Cool it With the “Woman Disguised as a Man” Twist Already?

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During the summer of 1997, Mulan was seven year old Vrai’s very favorite movie; during the fall of 1997, it was therefore assured that a costume from the movie. What that small child quickly found, however, is that while they wanted to dress up as Ping, all that the stores were selling was the matchmaker dress. Nobody thought it worth selling the masculine clothes when obviously the girly girl no really totally a girl bit was obviously more appealing. This trend never stopped. Your author just got more bitter about it.

As for why it’s come up now, a story: I’ve been inundated lately with comments about how I should watch Voltron: Legendary Defender. It’s the Legend of Korra writing team. It’s really clever and adorable. And, most alluringly, it supposedly had a canonically non-binary character. I’m nothing if not predictable.

[Minor Voltron spoilers follow]

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Anger is Our Last Respite

In light of the tragedy in Orlando, I hope you’ll forgive the small change of pace.

I finished a piece recently about my hometown: about its culture of silence, and the muffled cries of queerness and mental illness struggling to survive under that suffocating grasp. An acquaintance of mine was editing it and of everything we discussed, this stuck with me: “It’s sort of an angry piece.”

She didn’t mean it as a criticism, but my first instinct was shock. I’ve never thought of myself as an angry person. I am quiet in public. I avoid conflict with a deftness Aaron Burr would be proud of. I hold back, and I convinced myself that meant the anger wasn’t there.

Today, I am angry.

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Why The Rocky Horror Picture Show Still Has Meaning (But the Remake is a Terrible Idea)

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In 1973, the Rocky Horror Show opened in London. In 1975 it was adapted into The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Tim Curry in arguably his most iconic performance, and the fandom that grew up around that theatrical flop came to define the cultural reference of what a cult film following looks like. You can go to just about any city in America and find a midnight showing of the film, and the show is all but guaranteed to show up at Halloween (in America and its home country of England). And FOX, after hemming and hawing about it for years, is finally looking to cash in on that sweet, sweet remake money (or “reimagining,” but hold that thought). This is the worst idea, and not in the usual “worst idea” way in that remakes tend to be poorly thought out and offer little new interpretive value beyond “we cast younger actors and got better cameras, money please.”

The deeper trouble is that Rocky Horror is in the unenviable position of having become a cultural mainstay for long enough that it is really starting to show its age. The disparity between what queer culture was when the stage show and film were produced and what it is now are whole universes apart. And that has resulted in a gap of sorts: you have the predominately straight or mainstream audience who views the film as a fun exercise in camp and potentially takes the parody on display at face value (thus perpetuating harmful stereotypes), and you have a young queer audience who’ve grown up in a world where a spectrum of positive, diverse representation from Steven Universe to Orange is the New Black exists, and they dismiss the film as harmful trash with no redeeming value whatsoever. The truth, by my estimation, is somewhere between these extremes: Rocky Horror has certainly aged poorly in some regards, and to say that those outdated portions are more harmful than helpful is a perfectly valid position; at the same time, not only has the film been a respite for thousands of outcasts since its release (and the play before it), but it continues to be subversive in some interesting ways that I rarely see addressed.

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Who I Was, Who I’ll Become: Sound! Euphonium’s Two Love Affairs

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This essay was commissioned by Sinclair. You can find out more about commissions at my Patreon page or contacting me on Twitter or Tumblr.

Sound!Euphonium is a show about two girls bonding over high school band. What kind of bonding? Well, that is ever the question, and there are many complicating factors when trying to come up with an answer (even more than the usual issue of Japan’s fraught relationship with earnest LGBT representation). The show walks a fine line in arguably playing to and at times subverting elements of the Class-S genre (which emphasize “pure” emotionally intense relationships between young women that are confined to high school/”practice” for heterosexual relationship), studio KyoAni’s usual infatuation with mixing beautiful animation and baseless fanservice, and moments that feel frightfully close to sincerity.

In the name of appreciating the delicate, dangerously close to ship affirming ambiguity of these first 13 episodes before the sequels arrive, let’s look at Sound!Euphonium’s central relationships.

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