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The Importance of Catelyn Stark

From the beginning of the first book, I knew Catelyn Stark was a good person (and a good mother, of course, although I still think she could be nicer to Jon Snow). Maybe liking House Stark was my default mode because they’re the protagonists.

However, like Bran, I didn’t realize what Catelyn Stark represented for me personally until I watched the show. I was watching Season 2, Episode 6, “The Old Gods and the New” the other day, in which Catelyn finally arrives back at Robb’s camp, presumably with news from Renly.

She calls Robb’s name, and before he could even turn around to respond, I squealed “Mom!” out loud. Softly, of course, but I’m still surprised my own mother didn’t hear.

I wasn’t sure what to make of my reaction at first, and it messed with me for days. It wasn’t like I was super invested in the familial relationships in Game of Thrones before. But maybe I was, at least subconsciously.

Because a few days later, the reason for my reaction came to me: Catelyn Stark respects her son’s decisions. She may not always like them, but she doesn’t complain or try to change his mind. She doesn’t undermine her king.

Not everyone is as lucky as Robb Stark. Some of us, unfortunately, have parents who think that their way is the best way to do things, which inevitably makes us doubt ourselves. Or they interrogate us with what seems like a million questions about the most random things. We’re not allowed to make mistakes because they’re afraid our mistakes will make them look like bad parents.

I really hope people as fortunate as Robb know how good they have it.

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TV

Safe Spaces: Jim’s Room and Lord Stafford

I recently watched Season 2, Episode 9 (“Email Surveillance”) of The Office for a second time. Basically, Michael installs software that allows him to see everyone’s email, and he’s hurt when he realizes he’s the only one Jim didn’t invite to his barbecue.

So, obviously, part of the episode takes place at Jim’s house. And it affected me in a way I didn’t expect. When Jim and Pam went into Jim’s room, a sense of safety came over me. If I was in the room with them – and in that moment, I wished I was – I’d feel completely comfortable there. And if I ever were to actually meet John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, I’d probably feel safe with them as well.

Part 2, Episode 7 of The Spanish Princess affected me similarly. Warning: spoilers ahead. There’s a scene where Catherine is “walking off a cramp” in the middle of the night. Lord Edward Stafford just happens to be walking by when the pain is too much for Catherine. She pleads for him to help her. He replies that it would be improper, that she should call for her ladies. But he also sees her desperation, so he picks her up and carries her back to her room anyway. Once Catherine is back in bed, she begins to bleed; she’s lost another child. And Stafford is there to comfort her.

In that moment, Stafford is Catherine’s safe space, where she is allowed to let her guard down and cry. That’s why his death a few scenes later is so upsetting for me. Catherine has few allies left at court, and she just lost an unlikely one. Even though he was a jerk face in Part 1, Stafford clearly cares for the queen, and she trusts him enough to let him see her vulnerability.

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206: A Field of Cloth of Gold

My thoughts about Part 2, Episode 6 of The Spanish Princess are too complex to be individual tweets, so here goes nothing.

I’ll start at the very beginning: the opening credits. When I saw Nadia Parkes among the cast again, I squealed so hard. I literally texted my friend “OMG THEY BROUGHT ROSA BACK!”

I’ll talk about Rosa in depth later. I have to start by talking about Catherine and Harry’s daughter, Princess Mary. First of all, the girl who plays her is ADORABLE. I wasn’t expecting to see much of Mary, if the show included her at all, so it was nice to have her around throughout the episode.

Unfortunately, neither Catherine nor Harry has paid her much attention at this point. Catherine only becomes interested when the subject of Mary’s betrothal comes up. Harry wants to see her wed to the heir of France, since his sister went rogue and married Charlie Brandon, but Catherine isn’t having it. She begs Harry to reconsider her nephew Charles as a potential suitor. Harry, however, isn’t having any of that, so they sail for France anyway.

Once they’re in France, Catherine explains betrothal. Mary might not be afraid of marriage, but she doesn’t really know how to feel about her mother. That is, the lack of connection between her and Catherine is obvious. I can’t say I blame the kid though. It’s weird when a parent who has essentially ignored you for your whole life suddenly takes an interest. Nice, but still all kinds of weird.

While in France, Catherine sees Rosa again. It’s nice to see Rosa happy with a family of her own after what happened in Part 1. At first glance, Rosa looks like Frida Kahlo, which is fun. The similarity is definitely in the eyebrows.

Meanwhile, over in Scotland, Meg has, in her own words, lost her mind. She’s done with her marriage to Angus and searching for a way out of it. Georgie Henley is so good at flying off the handle and acting crazy that it’s scary. She brilliantly scares the crap out of me.

And back in England, racial tension is high. Common Londoners are out of work, and they blame immigrants for taking their jobs. This is where Bessie comes back into play. The riots are too close for comfort, so Oviedo wants to bring Lina and his twin sons, Thomas and Barnaby, to the palace where they will be safe. Lina points out that Bessie’s house is closer, so they go there instead. Bessie isn’t quiet with her politics. As soon as she welcomes Lina and Oviedo in, she starts ranting about the riots:

I suppose it’s bound to happen sooner or later. It is not the honest way of working men who know God’s order. It’s the incomers who have done this. They take the work of the Englishmen, and this is what results. The Tudors do not brook rebellion. Some heads on Tower Bridge will soon remind people of the proper order here.

Bessie’s comments made me angry, but they also highlight the current political climate throughout the world. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the writers did that intentionally. The last episode, about the bubonic plague, was probably a nod to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Catherine and Rosa finally get a chance to talk, Catherine starts having a pity party, but Rosa shuts it down immediately:

You have given the king a strong, intelligent daughter. Your mother is Queen Isabella of Castile. Your daughter is from a line of warrior queens. Forget about some milksop English boy. Mary is your heir, your legacy. She will be the one to rule and follow you in greatness. But she needs her mother’s love to do that.

When Harry and Catherine are ready to sail home to England, Rosa gives her friend one last wake up call:

The secret to happiness is to value what you have, not yearn for what you do not. Love your daughter … and your God. Hold onto them. They are what matter. They are what will endure. Find your way back to her. To your daughter. And to yourself.

It’s clear that when Lina can’t be there, Rosa can step up to drop some truth bombs on Catherine. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

On the way home, Catherine tries to connect with Mary, to no avail. Again, I don’t blame Mary; if you’re not comfortable with someone, you’re not inclined to share things with them, even if that person happens to be your mom.

This time, Maggie Pole has the parenting pep talk ready to go:

Reggie was the same with me. He was away for so long, he did not know a mother’s love. He would not speak to me, either. But it is not too late if you work hard with her. She just needs time.

I really need to applaud Catherine’s response. She says she will give Mary time and be worthy of her. She’s not forcing herself on Mary or demanding respect just because “I’m your mother”. She knows she hasn’t been perfect, and she’s willing to put in the effort to make it up to her daughter.

The one time Catherine and Harry are on the same page about something is when they almost lose Mary in the riots. They’re both calling her name, and when they find each other in the chaos, the way they look at each other is just … it makes me want to keep shipping them even though at this point their marriage is all but officially over.

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TV

Catherine, Ferdinand, and sugared grapes

Last night was the premiere of the second (and unfortunately, last) part of The Spanish Princess.

Even though things went from happy to sad in a split second, the premier was everything I wanted and more. Even the bit with Ferdinand and the grapes.

In the beginning of the episode, Catherine and Harry arrange a feast to celebrate her family’s arrival in England. Her father, Ferdinand, and her nephew, Charles are there to put the finishing touches on their alliance against France.

As soon as Ferdinand shows up, things get awkward – Catherine was probably cringing inside. And it gets worse when Ferdinand presents her with the plate of grapes.

“I bring sugared grapes for you, your favorite. Remember? Take one.”

Catherine absolutely does not take one, because all she can remember is what happened with the grapes during her childhood.

The scene flashes back to when Catherine was younger. She and Ferdinand are sitting at a table with a grape between them. He encourages her to take it, only to slam his hand on the table and snatch it away.

Later in the episode, Catherine learns that Lina is pregnant. When Catherine asks why Lina didn’t tell her before then, Lina says that she didn’t want to bother her. So Catherine asks a question.

“My father … he took the grape. He used to promise me that this time, he’d let me take it. Then he’d do it again … and again. Now again. Have I become like him … so you no longer trust me? Am I so changed that we are no longer friends?”

And Lina responds

“You are better than your father. You show strength, but humility … courage and patience. And you do something your mother and father could not do. You ask questions of others as well as handing them orders. You have a good heart, Catherine. This storm will pass.”

I know what Catherine is feeling. I know what it is to hope your parents have changed, only to realize that they haven’t – and probably never will.

It’s also nice to see Lina reassure Catherine that she isn’t like her father. It’s so weird when people say I’m a nice person. I have a lot of trouble believing it sometimes. At least Catherine has Lina to lean on. I can lean on my friends too, but I’m always wary of talking about things too much because the last thing I want to do is push anyone away.

It definitely sucks, but it’s also kind of cool to be able to relate to Catherine in this way.

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TV

Appreciation for Bran Stark

I liked Bran Stark as soon as I started reading A Game of Thrones, but the personal significance of his character didn’t really hit me until I saw the first episode of Game of Thrones.

The episode ends with Bran’s fall from the tower window. It isn’t clear if Bran understood what he saw, but the Lannisters weren’t about to take any chances. If word got out that Jamie and Cersei Lannister were having incestuous relations, it would change everything.

Bran’s fall leaves him without the use of his legs, which sort of puts us in the same boat. The only difference between Bran and myself is that I have the use of my legs – with the help of equipment, of course.

At first, Bran is mad at the world, as anyone would be. Sometimes, I find myself thinking “Why me?” too. But he eventually accepts his condition, and House Stark makes it work for him. And it actually starts with Tyrion Lannister, of all people. On his journey back to King’s Landing from the Wall, Tyrion stops with the Night’s Watch at Winterfell. He sketches a modified saddle for Bran and tells him to give the design to his saddler.

And that really makes me want to get back on a horse again. I stopped riding horses when I started college, and honestly, I miss it. If Bran can ride, then I’ve got no excuses. Someday I’ll ride again.

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TV

Too Much Streaming

I recently read an article from the Los Angeles Times about Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+. Believe me, it’s enticing, but do we really need another steaming service when we already have so many?

I’m not saying one should have a monopoly or people shouldn’t have choices, but does one person really need to have all the streaming services? At the end of the day, it’s another TV bill. Who wants that?

For now, streaming seems to be a cheaper alternative to cable or satellite. But the separate bills for the different services will add up quickly, if they aren’t already. Netflix and Hulu produce their own content – as will Disney+ – but how many people have time to sit around and watch every show or movie? Not many. It definitely wouldn’t be healthy. And it would probably be boring after awhile anyway.

It would be easy if all anybody had to choose from was a few general services like Netflix or Hulu. The name of the game is making more money, but having Disney shows available exclusively through Disney+ doesn’t seem fair. I mean, its content has been on the other services for so long. Why yank it away now? What if consumers don’t feel like paying another bill? It’s not like Disney is on the verge of bankruptcy and they desperately need the money or anything.

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TV

Appreciation for the Princess

I didn’t think anything could compete with Outlander. But Starz kept suggesting this other show called The Spanish Princess, so I decided to check it out. If the previews were any indication, it was going to be good.

The Spanish Princess nearly blows Outlander out of the water. The waves would definitely make James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser (Sam Heughan) seasick.

It’s got a little bit of everything: romance, drama, and of course, royal politics. It’s basically Henry VIII from the point of view of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Did I mention Catherine is Spanish? It’s probably common knowledge, but it’s very important to me. Because whenever anyone mentions Spanish – or Spain, for that matter – my ears perk all the way up. Part of me wishes they used more Spanish in the show, but the other part of me remembers that Catherine speaks English flawlessly and no one but her squad would be able to understand her. And she’s in England anyway.

There are different ways to view the character, of course. Personally, I err on the side of “Catherine of Aragon is the older sister I never had”. Someone who isn’t afraid to use any means to get what she wants. However, other people seem to think she’s a somewhat self-absorbed trickster. But we can’t exactly go back in time and ask Catherine who she really is, now, can we? It all comes down to the writers’ interpretation of what Philippa Gregory wrote.

And last but definitely not least

I can’t forget Catherine of Aragon herself, Charlotte Hope. She’s definitely one of my new favorite people. And her Spanish accent is spot on. Seriously. The first time I heard her speak normally (spoiler alert: she’s English), it was really trippy. Like, “wait, what?”

But the penultimate episode is what finally compelled me to write a blog post about The Spanish Princess. I was mulling it over after having watched it, and so I took to Twitter as is habit these days:

Yeah, I let the cat out of the bag, and that was her response.

It really means a lot to me. Because while I’ve been lucky to have my favorite journalists notice me (which is always fun and probably won’t ever get old), I’ve never had someone … validate me like this.

Honestly, I’ve always struggled with the strength of my imagination, and whether it’s weird or not to use fictional characters/ famous people to fill the various voids left by my lack of siblings. Obviously, I don’t talk about it much. But it turns out The Spanish Princess herself doesn’t think I’m weird to think of Catherine of Aragon as the older sister I never had. And when the queen of England speaks, you listen. If she says something isn’t weird, it’s not weird.

Charlotte probably takes my sentiment as a compliment. It means she’s doing her job, and she’s doing it well. What is entertainment if actors and actresses don’t make the audience feel things or create characters that people can connect to? Nothing. That’s what.

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TV

Just a karaoke show?

eonline.com

For those who may not know, this is Alejandro Aranda. He was the runner up on this season of American Idol. After the finale last week, The Washington Post published an article about why he didn’t win it all, and they implied that Katy Perry accidentally pointed out the reason why in her comments.

After reading the article, it’s not entirely clear whether Perry’s comments were an accident or a Freudian slip. She simply said that American Idol has traditionally been a “karaoke show”, where the contestants sing covers of popular songs. Alejandro, on the on the other hand, came out swinging with his own music on Day 1.

Since its debut in 2002, the show has evolved to allow contestants to sing original songs. Alejandro obviously took advantage of that. It was a risk for sure, but it will pay off in the long run. He made it to the top 2 in the competition, after all. Now that the audience has seen how far Alejandro made it, it will encourage others to try out for future seasons with their own music and help the show evolve once more.

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TV

Breakdown: A Million Little Things

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If it weren’t for Outlander, A Million Little Things would probably take the top spot on my list of favorite TV shows. Is it weird that I even have a list to begin with? Why am I ashamed that I have a list?

Anyway, I actually took a break from the latter for a while because I wasn’t really sure if I would be comfortable with the direction in which it seemed to be going. But the commercials for it sucked me back in, and now I’m fully invested.

I’m going to break down the reasons why I love it so much, because they’re probably somewhat obscure. Here goes nothing.

Friendship

One day, John Dixon (Ron Livingston), Gary Mendez (James Roday), Rome Howard (Romany Malco), and Eddie Saville (David Giuntoli) get trapped together in an elevator. So what do they do? They sit down on the floor and get to know each other. It’s the Muggle version of how Harry, Ron, and Hermione become friends:

There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

So the guys and their wives (well, Gary and his girlfriend) quickly become the ride-or-die type of friends who will do anything for each other. Gary even goes so far as to drop whatever he is doing at the moment to help one of the others out.

I don’t have a lot of friends. Never have, probably never will. And I’m okay with that; quality over quantity, after all. But sometimes I find myself wondering about the ride-or-die part. I’m definitely Gary. If I’m able to, I’ll drop whatever I’m doing to help one of my friends. But would my friends do the same for me?

Don’t get me wrong, I found some good friends in college, but everywhere I go, I seem to run into people who seem to be nice to me just because I have cerebral palsy and I use a wheelchair to get around. And that’s the thing I hate the most. I’m more than just a disability, and it’s not something about me that should define me. If someone is going to be my friend, I want the relationship to be reciprocal.

Mental Health

In Episode 9, “Perspective”, Rome finally opens up to his father about his depression while they’re fixing one of the sinks in Rome’s bathroom. His father is somewhat unnerved by the fact that Rome is on anti-depressants. Mental health is one of the most stigmatized things ever, and it’s ridiculous if you ask me, but I digress. Rome explains his situation to his father like this:

You want to teach me how to fix the sink, but me, taking those pills, quitting my job, that’s me trying to fix me.

It really resonated with me, because I’m also trying to “fix me”. I’m trying to lean into the things that make me happy without feeling ashamed about it. I’m getting better, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

Family Dynamics and Amicable Divorce

In the penultimate episode of Season 1 (Episode 16, “The Rosary”), Eddie’s ex-wife, Katherine (Grace Park) chaperones their son, Theo, on a school field trip. Theo has a bit of an attitude because he’s used to Eddie being there for him. Eddie was a stay-at-home dad until he decided to rejoin his band, The Red Ferns.

Anyway, when Katherine and Theo get home, Theo lets her have it, with “just so you know, you did a bad job today” and “I knew it should’ve been Dad”. However, Katherine doesn’t respond by getting mad. She calmly explains to her son that she understands he’s in a bad mood, and she’s sorry, but it’s not okay to talk to her like that.

And Theo actually asked for a consequence. When I got in trouble, I knew I was going to have a consequence, but I didn’t ask for one. Theo’s self-awareness seems a bit unrealistic.

On another weird note, during Theo’s field trip, Katherine hears one off Eddie songs, and she calls him because she thinks it’s really cool and she’s excited. I can’t say I understand it; people can still be friends after a divorce? How? I guess some people are better off as friends. It was really nice to see that everyone hates their ex-husband or their ex-wife.

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TV

Subtitles

image: lightbox.co.nz

I’ve been watching Future Man on Hulu recently – hence the photo – and because I’m a nerd (and trying to be proud of it), I turned on the Spanish subtitles. It’s also a way to ease myself back into Spanish.

It’s really cool to see how certain words are translated into Spanish. Sometimes, they’ll use a phrase instead of just one word. Because realistically, not everything has an English equivalent; translation is never going to be exact, and that’s okay.

But I also have a bit of a problem. Either I’m too busy focusing on the subtitles to pay attention to the action, or vice versa. I wish I could focus on both at once. But is that even possible?