The Vampire Diaries

TVD_3It’s safe to say I’ve seen my fair amount of TV shows over the past 10-15 years. But there are very few shows I started around the time its first season debuted on a TV network. Let alone the week the series pilot aired on television. This is why it is very bittersweet to say farewell to The Vampire Diaries (TVD). The Vampire Diaries pilot episode aired on The CW network back in September 10, 2009. The pilot was available on iTunes for free the following day. On random whim, I decided to buy it. I didn’t have much to lose.

Around this time, I was in the early stage of my Twilight phase. The Vampire Diaries series by LJ Smith had been around much longer than The Twilight saga by Stephanie Meyers. Yet it was Twilight saga books and movies that commenced the widespread popularity for vampire genre. The popularity of vampire genre books, movies, and TV shows within pop culture resurged between late 2000s and early 2010s. Otherwise, vampire genre was a very niche market. Up to this point, only aficionados cherished this niche genre. The CW bought the copyrights from Alloy Entertainment to adapt The Vampire Diaries book series into a television series. Most of all, The CW network chose the perfect the time to debut TVD in 2009.

TVD bookThis CW show is loosely based off LJ Smith’s The Vampire Diaries book series. LJ Smith wrote The Vampire Diaries books 1-7. Four books are part of first phase. The Awakening: Volume I. The Struggle: Volume II. The Fury: Volume III. Dark Reunion: Volume IV. These first four novels were written between 1991 and 1992. Many trilogy series continued from The Vampire Diaries series. After more than 10 years, LJ Smith wrote The Return trilogy which consisted of three books. The Return: Nightfall (February 2009). The Return: Shadow Souls (March 2010). The Return: Midnight (March 2011). As part of her original contract, Alloy Entertainment publishers owned copyrights to this book series. The publisher fired LJ Smith in 2011. Ghostwriters have written consecutive books in The Vampire Diaries trilogies. The Hunters trilogy (books 8-10) and The Salvation trilogy (books 11-13) were not written by LJ Smith, the original author.

I’d read the books first before I even know they were adapted into a CW series. Between 10th and 11th grade, a fellow classmate let me borrow her copies of The Vampires Diaries books 1-5. It wasn’t until college I finally got around to read book 6. But I stopped reading after The Return: Shadow Souls. I’d lost interest in the books at this point. This rarely happens to me. But I no long cared enough to continue The Vampire Diaries trilogies.

The books provided me enough background to understand the TV show. I was curious how the books would translate into a television series. Yet, I didn’t want the TV show to be marketed like another Twilight. In comparison, I much prefer LJ Smith’s The Vampire Diaries book series than Twilight saga books. Better character development among major and minor characters. Plus, the plot arcs were more complex and captivating.

There will obviously be changes when a book is adapted into a TV show. In the book series, Bonnie McCullough a young human psychic turn witch. She is a descendant of ancient Celtic Druids. But this character was drastically altered for the TV show adaptation. Bonnie McCollough became Bonnie Bennett. She was still a novice psychic turned full witch. One of Elena’s best friends, Meredith Sulez is completely eliminated from the main cast ensemble. Meredith was one of the few human characters with no extraordinary abilities. She eventually becomes vampire hunter. Meredith merely winds up being a recurring character in TVD season 4. Compared to book versus TV show, Elena Gilbert’s character development and storylines are radically different. Literally day and night. No overlap at all. The TV show took the bare bones of the book series and put their own unique twist on it. By Season 2, the show stopped pretending they were remotely trying to follow the book series at all. This is where I had to mentally detach these two entities. Ironically, I actually ended up loving the TV show’s storylines way more than the books’ storylines.

TVD S1 Promo

Season 1 Promotion Poster

TVD’s pilot aired September 10, 2009 but I didn’t watch it until the next day. I watch it with an open-mind. Halfway through the pilot, I still wasn’t convinced to continue watching The Vampire Diaries television series. Then, Damon Salvatore (played by Ian Somerhalder) appeared on the screen. “Hello brother” was all it took to convinced me to stick with this show. Bad boys aren’t my type. Yet, I cannot help but feel attracted to the bad boy stereotype character(s) in my bias books, TV shows, and movies. I was pleasantly surprised by the plot complexity and dark themes in the pilot episode. Most importantly, the casting for main TVD cast ensemble was perfect! All the actors brilliantly bring out the rich multi-faceted layers of their characters on screen. Off-screen chemistry among the cast ensemble enhances the on-screen chemistry between the characters in the episodes. Damon Salvatore is the main reason I stuck with the show for eight years. But I eventually grew attached to the other main characters within the first few seasons. Some sooner than others.

Also, I love it when a show inserts subtle emotional context without always having dialogue in every scene. Facial expressions or body motions can sometimes convey more than actual conversational dialogue between characters. Music can further enhance this cinematic element. Over the eight seasons, the music soundtrack for TVD beautifully encapsulated the particular scene’s mood.

(Side note: Within Temptation is one of my favorite Dutch symphonic metal bands besides Nightwish. I didn’t realize they’d used a Within Temptation song in The Vampire Diaries. Best of all, “All I Need” song was used in an iconic Delena scene. The Founder’s Day dance scene firmly established the concept of Delena ship.)

TVD_2In the first season, I only recognized three actors out the main cast ensemble. Paul Wesley portrays Stefan Salvatore. Ian Somerhalder portrays Damon Salvatore. It’s funny how actors from other shows surprisingly tie back to Smallville. Paul Wesley had a guest role on Smallville in episode 2.15 as Lucas Luthor. Lucas was Lex Luthor’s half-brother. Also, Paul had a guest role on The OC as Donnie, a kid from Corona who befriends Ryan Atwood (portrayed by Ben McKenzie). Ian Somerhalder had a recurring role in Smallville Season 3 as Adam Knight. Adam Knight was resurrected by Luthor Corp to be a spy in order to learn more about Clark Kent’s true nature by getting close to Lana Lang. Matt Davies portrays Alaric Saltzman. Matt starred in 2001’s Legally Blonde alongside Reese Witherspoon. He portrayed Warner Huntington, Elle Wood’s ex-boyfriend. Now I’ll always associate him as Alaric.

Every TV show has its popular “ships”. “Ship” is the shortened abbreviation for relationship. Ships can be romantic or bromance in nature. CW’s The Vampire Diaries was full of interesting ships. Stelena. Delena. Beremy. Steroline. Bamon. Klaroline. Forwood. Dalaric. Not all ship pairings are confirmed with canon TVD universe. Fans can come up with their own non-canon ships. Even if I didn’t support a canonical ship, every romantic or bromance pairing has its purpose within TVD’s multi-season storylines.

I’m emotionally attached to only few canon ships. Delena (Damon+Elena) was the first ship I threw my full support into all way back in Season 1. The first few seasons revolved a complicated love triangle between Stefan, Damon, and Elena. Nothing against Stelena but it didn’t quite emotionally stir me as much as Delena. In Season 2, we were introduced to the Mikaelson clan. The first vampires ever created. The Originals have the motto of “always and forever”. They had recurring roles in season 2 but became series regulars in seasons 3 and 4. I myself was surprised how the dynamic bond between Caroline Forbes and Klaus Mikaelson really grew on me. Undeniable chemistry. I wholeheartedly support Klaroline. I hope Caroline can eventually transition to The Originals show universe.

Of the two Salvatore brothers, I’m very open about my bias towards Damon Salvatore. He never pretended to be a purely good person unlike Stefan. He will always be one of the my favorite characters on this show. Plus, Damon has some pretty damn epic bromances (literally and metaphorically). Three in particular  Damon non-romantic ships always pull at my heartstrings. Defan (Damon+Stefan). Dalaric (Damon+Alaric). Denzo (Damon+Enzo). Bamon (Bonnie+Damon). At some point, fans realized the show revolved more around the complex, dynamic relationship between the vampire brothers, Damon and Stefan Salvatore. Elena’s relationship with the brothers was not the intended main focus. Despite their tumultuous past history , Damon and Stefan realized they couldn’t live without each other in their lives. Emotionally vulnerable Defan scenes never failed to turn me into a puddle of feels. So many tears shed over the eight seasons. Outside of his brother, Damon considers very few people his dear friends. Alaric Saltzman, Lorenzo (aka Enzo) St. John, and Bonnie Bennett. We saw new depths of Damon’s sensitive side with each of them. I hardly  had a dry eye watching Dalaric, Denzo, or Bamon scenes. Out of the entire main characters. Damon Salvatore had the most drastic evolution since the pilot episode. He became a much better person. Over the eight seasons, he retained aspects of his bad boy personality thankfully .  That would have been a damn shame if Damon was totally tamed in the end. Also, his snarky personality provided many unforgettably awesome one-liners. Damon was one of the most multi-faceted main characters.

I can tell when a long-running TV show is running out of ideas for its storylines. Even my favorite shows. Smallville. Gossip Girl. The end is near when US viewer ratings start to slip below 1.5 million. I give it no more than two seasons before it is cancelled. CW’s The Vampire Diaries began to struggle in US viewership in Season 7. Ratings officially dipped below one million viewers in its final season. The CW has a cruel tactic for when shows enter its final season. They are given what I dub the “graveyard” time slot. Friday nights. TVD firmly held onto the highly coveted Thursday 8 pm time slot until the first half of Season 7. Then, it moved to Friday nights at 8 pm during the second half of Season 7. This was a tell-tale sign that the end was coming. I’ve been watching The CW network since fall of 2006 so I’ve learned their sneaky tactics in terms of scheduling time slots. Ultimately, reach and viewership statistics is how networks determine whether a show gets renewed or cancelled.

When a TV show runs longer than 3-4 seasons, there will certainly be at least one or two seasons with weak overarching plot arcs and sub-plots. I struggled to get through a couple seasons of CW’s The Vampire Dairies. Yet, it’s very rare that I entirely give up on a television show. I’d invest hundreds of hours into TVD so I might as well see it to the end. For better or worse.

Over the past eight years, I’ve cried rivers of tears watching CW’s The Vampire Dairies. Hell it’s probably an ocean at this point. They certainly know how to send the viewers on an emotional rollercoaster of feels. Absolutely no dry eye especially with the season finales. So it wasn’t surprising that I basically balled like a baby watching TVD series finale. Series finale episodes are presented with a daunting challenge. Simultaneously wrap up the final season’s plot arc and any other unresolved storylines in previous seasons. Some shows do a good job of accomplishing this arduous task. Others miserably fail. When this happens, it leaves the fans even more distraught and heartbroken but for a different reason. I know from personal experience.

Thankfully, The Vampires Diaries delivered a satisfactory series finale. It is bittersweet to say goodbye to your beloved TV shows. When you’ve dedicated 8 years, you don’t want it to end. But all TV shows must come to an end eventually.  At least it got a long run to tell many incredible storylines.

It’s worse when your favorite TV show gets prematurely cancelled by the network. I’m still angry at NBC, TV Land, and The CW for prematurely cancelling certain television shows. I’m not a person to hold grudges against people for past wrongs. Nope. I’m the type of person to hold grudges against television networks for how they’ve wronged me. Prematurely cancelled shows never get to live to their full potential.

You gain a better overall perspective once you’ve finished a whole season of show. You see the connection among previous season storylines as well. Season 8 had its valleys and peaks. (I won’t reveal any major spoilers. They’re all over the internet and social media platforms anyway.) I personally felt the siren plot arc dragged on way too long. The final four episodes felt a bit rushed in some ways. I had a nagging feeling TVD would pull a “True Blood”-esque ending. Sadly, my prediction turned out to be fairly accurate for one particular character. Despite its flaws, the show took the main characters on insane plot arcs which directly resulted in dynamic, strong character development. None of the main ensemble characters are the same people they were in the pilot episode. So much heartbreak and loss over eight seasons. Yet, they persevered through those hardships and triumphantly overcame it all. Becoming stronger people in the end. Despite all the supernatural madness, it never ceases to amaze me how Matt Donovan remained human all eight seasons! He is the “normal” human among the Mystic Falls gang. Overall, TVD’s final season was a befitting sendoff.

The CW’s The Vampire Diaries appeared on the television scene during the resurgence of vampire genre around 2008 and 2009. Twilight saga films spawned a worldwide phenomenon from 2008 to 2012. True Blood aired on HBO from 2008 to 2014. Yet, TVD was still airing on television. Its longevity is proof of their immense success. A true testament considering vampire genre’s popularity faded from pop culture relevance.

CW’s The Vampire Diaries is over. But it shall forever live in my fond, nostalgic memories. Thank goodness for FanFiction stories too. Since I was 15, this show has been part of my life. This chapter of my life has closed for good. Cue TVD hangover and withdrawal. I won’t get my Ian Somerhalder fix anymore. I will properly mourn the loss of this beloved show. Then, I shall discover other supernatural genre TV shows. At least, I still have CW’s The Originals, a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries. I’ll be very pissed off if it gets cancelled after its fourth season. I can’t lose both shows in such a short span of time.

I’ll end on a slightly lighter note. In February 2011,  The Hillywood Show released The Vampire Diaries parody. It never fails to make me smile like a dork. I’ve legit lost track how many times I’ve seen it over the past six years. It’s easily one of my all-time favorite Hillywood Show parodies. I will eventually make a blog post about The Hillywood Show.

TV Land Network

tv-land-logo

TV Land network officially launched in April 1996. I had no idea it was owned by Viacom Media Networks. Other sister networks include MTV, Spike, Nickelodeon, and TeenNick to name a few. TV Land shows serve up a huge platter of nostalgia to its audience. The intended audience for their shows is the 30-50 age group. Throughout the day, TV Land airs syndicated classic television shows. Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Andy Griffin Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Golden Girls, The Nanny, The King of Queens, Reba, and George Lopez. The network decided to re-brand TV Land in 2015 along with changing their logo. There was a major overhaul of TV Land’s brand. The new intended target audience for their original programming is Gen X age group.

I have never watched any TV Land programming…but that all changed last summer. All my prime-time shows had gone on summer hiatus. This left a huge gaping hole in my TV show schedule. At this point, HBO’s Game of Thrones and The CW’s Beauty and the Beast were my only summer television shows. I randomly stumbled across two new TV Land comedy-dramas thanks to bias actors I knew well from previous TV show projects.

Darren Star’s comedy-drama, Younger, initiated the rebranded TV Land network. Many people might not recognize Darren Star’s name, but you’ll instantly recognized many of his well-known television shows. Sex and the City. Melrose Place. Plus, he was one of the co-creators of Beverly Hills, 90210. Younger revolves Liza Miller, a recently divorced 40 year old, who must afresh in her career at the bottom by posing as a 26 year old assistant at publishing firm, Empirical Press. Liza has relocated from New Jersey suburbs to her best friend’s Brooklyn loft in New York. Maggie is the only person who knows about her double life.

I’m not gunna lie…at first I thought this sounded like a very cliché show. Then, I found out Hilary Duff, my favorite former Disney Channel actress and singer, was returning back to the small screen…lo and behold in a TV show called Younger. She hadn’t played a lead role in a TV show since Disney Channel’s Lizzie McGuire. Lizzie McGuire ran from 2001-2004. Plus, I’ve seen majority of her films between 1998 and 2006. Disney Channel TV shows, movies, and music shaped my pre-teen and early teenage years. This wound up being my reason to check out Younger.  So I was willing to keep an open-mind about this new TV show.

younger-cast

It wasn’t until last summer I actually started to watch Younger. The pilot episode really took me by surprise. I haven’t laughed so hard watching a comedy-drama sitcom since Friends. Being a night owl, I often watched Sex and the City or Friends episodes. I was 11 or 12 around this time. Younger is essentially the modern-day Sex and the City. Darren Star TV shows always emphasize the significance of female friendships with unconventional quirks. Plus, there are dynamic personalities among the major and minor characters. The comedy is unconventionally fresh and simultaneously relevant with present-day pop culture. The entire Younger cast ensemble has an incredible on-screen and off-screen chemistry. This is an important element for any TV show. Chemistry among the cast member makes their characters’ interactions way more convincing. Overall, Younger is a vivacious show full of heart and soul.

Christopher Vane’s dark comedy sitcom, Impastor, is further proof of TV Land’s re-branding strategy. Impastor is about Buddy Dobbs who is a hardcore gambling addict who is deep in debt with loan sharks. He comes up with a solution of getting rid of his financial predicament. Suicide by jumping off a bridge. Jonathan Barlow, a gay Lutheran pastor, driving on the same bridge Buddy plans to jump off. The pastor convinces Buddy suicide is not the answer to his problems. Unfortunately, Pastor Barlow falls off the bridge to his untimely death when pulling Buddy from over the bridge’s railings. Suddenly another solution to this predicament appears right in front of him. Escaping to the small town of Ladner and stealing the identity of deceased Jonathan Barlow. This is a chance at a new life away from his troubled past. Initially, Buddy only plans on impersonating Pastor Barlow long enough to get enough money to pay off his gambling debt and find a new town to settle down. Obviously his plans drastically change the longer he resides in Ladner. The people of this small-town community genuinely care for Buddy as a person. Ladner no longer becomes a means to an end. He really enjoys living in Ladner even though it’s under the false identity of Jonathan Barlow. But Buddy can’t let his guard down as his false identity must still be convincing to Ladner townspeople.

The CW’s Smallville has a very special place in my heart. Michael Rosenbaum played the notorious Lex Luthor. He was hands-down one of the best villains in this science-fiction show. He was part of Smallville’s main cast ensemble from Season 1 to Season 7. As a special guest, Michael reprised his role of Lex Luthor for Smallville’s two-hour series finale in May 2011. Basically, Michael hadn’t been played a main role in Smallville since 2008. I was happy when I Michael’s tweets hinted at his return back to TV. So this was my main reason to check out TV Land’s Impastor. I honestly had no idea what to expect but was willing to give it a chance.

michael-rosenbaum-before-and-after-smallvilleThis was my first time seeing Michael Rosenbaum in a comedic role. Also, he is one of the executive producers. He is full of surprises. (The only thing that took some time getting used to was seeing Michael Rosenbaum with full head of hair. Still to this day, I associate him as Lex Luthor from Smallville. He completely shaved his head for this particular role.)

On random whim, I decided to check out Impastor last summer. All my angsty prime-time shows were on summer hiatus leaving a huge gap in my TV schedule. I try to fill the gap with some comedy genre TV shows. So far I’d only discovered CW’s Significant Mother and TV Land’s Younger. Impastor’s fascinating show concept piqued my curiosity for this dark comedy. I was officially hooked within the first two episodes.

impastor-cast

Impastor is an irreverently hilarious show! The quirky main cast ensemble has incredible chemistry which makes their characters’ interactions more convincing. Also, each character has a unique unconventional quirk. Each of these quirky main characters adds depth to the plot. Dora. Aldean. Alexa. Russell. Buddy forms friendships with each of them. Of course the nature of the each relationship greatly varies and evolves. Over time, Buddy Dobbs grows to love the small town. The townspeople genuinely welcome Pastor Buddy into their small community. He finds a new family. Ladner no longer becomes a means to an end. Obviously, the sentimentality makes it even more difficult for Buddy to conceal his false identity. Overall, Impastor is an addictive dark comedy.

Unfortunately, TV Land network decided to not renew Impastor for a third season. I’m very sad about this news. This show completely took me by surprise. I really grew to love this unconventional comedy. The worst part is season 2 finale left off on a big-ass cliffhanger. It leaves even more unanswered questions! It’s very unlikely Impastor will ever get decent closure at a future date. I hate when this happens to one of my bias TV shows.

There is some good news at least. TV Land network renewed Younger for a fourth season. I’ll take whatever good news wherever I can get it. I’m glad at least one out of the two shows are still ongoing.

I get extremely nervous when it comes time for television networks to determine whether shows get renewed or get axed. My bias TV shows are usually considered “bubble shows”. In general, very few of “bubble” TV shows get early renewals by the network.

 

Suicide Squad

Let me start by saying DC comic universe it not my usual preference. The only exceptions I make are their television shows Smallville, The Flash, and Gotham. Otherwise, I avoid DC universe movies. Way too much angst with very little to no humor injected into the script. I need a good balance of humor and angst in my superhero or anti-hero movies. My preference goes towards DC universe’s TV shows.

Suicide Squad

There has been much hype leading up to Suicide Squad’s film release on August 5, 2016. For the most part, I hardly cared much for this DC movie. I was aware Jared Leto, lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars, was cast in the role of the Joker. Leto garnered considerable press coverage for it. Despite his awards for Dallas Buyer Club, Jared will now become synonymous known for playing the Joker.

Jared Leto_Joker

Jared Leto’s portroyal of the infamous Joker received mixed reviews. In my opinion, Leto brilliantly portrayed this villainous character.  Bad-ass. Charmingly wicked. Enigmatically charismatic. I love how the Joker was depicted as a modern-day gangster of Gotham. I cannot deny that I was kinda attracted to this character. The Joker wasn’t part of Amanda Waller’s Task Force X. Yet, he still fits into Suicide Squad’s overall plot arc. Within the film’s storyline, his appearances basically revolved around Harley Quinn’s character.

Some things in Suicide Squad really impressed me. First, the fascinating development of Harley Quinn/ Joker romance sub-plot arc was well implemented. Harley Quinn is the product of Joker’s screwed-up experiments in Arkham Asylum. How long did it take for the drastic transformation from psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel to psychotic Harley Quinn? The movie didn’t quite clarify this time span. Not that is a big deal. I’m just curious. Her obsession and infatuation morphed into an unhealthy, co-dependent romantic relationship with the Joker. Clearly, he has no remorse about emotionally manipulating Harley Quinn to be his lover and accomplice in crime. But I don’t think the Joker is completely heartless. He does have some convoluted emotional connection with Harley to keep her by his side. I didn’t expect to get tad emotional during some of the Harley/Joker scenes. The Joker/ Harley Quinn romance sub-plot was compellingly convincing. Margot Robbie & Jared Leto had great on-screen chemistry.

Second, the conversational interaction between the main characters added a good balance of dark humor. I especially enjoyed the interactions between Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Although, Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang offered some moments of humor. The element of dark humor is what sets Suicide Squad apart from other DC universe movies.

Third, the main characters were developed well throughout the film. The flashback sequences fluidly meshed with the present day sequences. We were given the most background information about Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Diablo. Though, the backgrounds of Killer Croc, Katana, and Captain Boomerang could have been explored a bit more. Some of Task Force X’s “bad guys” had so much potential yet had weak character development. I’m really curious how Killer Croc acquired his fierce reptilian appearance. I was pleasantly surprised with Rick Flag’s development. Being part of Task Force X, Flag monitors the six criminally insane team members for his superior, Amanda Waller. So he is the only “good” guy among the main characters. His “holier than thou” self-righteous mentality slowly fades away throughout the movie. Sadly, Dr. June Moone had the worst character development. This character had so much potential with the whole split personality aspect. It’s obvious how June strongly resists the Enchantress. In fact, she avoided invoking the sorceress’s spirit unless the circumstance truly warranted it. Enchantress was your stereotypical villain. The usual motive of taking over the world so people fear and quiver at their immense power. Villains want weak, puny humans to worship them. If not they’ll destroy all of humanity. In my opinion, the June Moone/Enchantress conflicting natures could have been better fleshed out.

Suicide Squad_The Album

Fourth, the song selection for the movie’s soundtrack enhanced the cinematic experience. Each of the songs appropriately matched the mood of the scenes. Some of the songs blur the line between pop, techno, and rap genres. But there are some curve-ball songs thrown in. “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Slippin’ into Darkness”, “I Started a Joke”, “Heathens”, and “Fortunate Son” are exceptions. It is great to heard rock genre music in movie soundtracks. I’m glad Suicide Squad soundtrack incorporated different music genres. This is quite refreshing. Not many movie soundtracks have song tracks from various genres.

In a previous blog post, I’ve mentioned about my love for Panic! at the Disco. The movie soundtrack featured Panic! at the Disco’s cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Although, the film includes the original version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap to buy the rights of this famous Queen song. That’s probably why the original song isn’t featured on the soundtrack. Panic! at the Disco kept the integrity of the song’s tune yet still inject their own unique twist on this classic rock song.

Random fun fact: Panic! at the Disco’s music has many classic rock influences including Queen. I saw Panic! at the Disco live in concert back in August 2014 and September 2015. A cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is part of their concert setlist.  I think I prefer the live version slightly more than the recorded version. Although, the live and recorded versions of this Queen song are equally awesome in their own ways.

“Professional” critics have been severely harsh about Suicide Squad and its soundtrack. Basically I ignore critic reviews about movies, music, and TV shows. Critics are human too. Human beings will always have bias of some sort. This is why I refuse to let “professional” critics shape my movie experience. Only I will decide whether or not I liked something. Usually I disagree with critics reviews anyway.

Originally, I wasn’t planning on even seeing Suicide Squad in theaters. I don’t normally care much for DC universe films. Yet, the TV spot trailers piqued my curiosity. I didn’t know what to expect with this movie. My friend and I went to see Suicide Squad on August 5th in standard format. (Random side note: I hardly watch movies in digital 3D or IMAX 3D formats. There must a damn good reason I pay more for those formats. I’m not an avid DC fan so I saw no valid reason pay additional for 3D movie format.) Not surprisingly the movie theater was packed to almost full capacity. It was opening day.

For some reason, I convinced myself that Suicide Squad was rated R. So I was mentally prepared for content and profanity associated with R rating. Only halfway through the movie, it dawned on me that Suicide Squad was only PG-13. Recent interviews revealed director, David Ayer, had two version of Suicide Squad: PG-13 and R rated movie. I’m actually glad it wound up being PG-13.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Suicide Squad. The movie has a dark, gritty theme but still conveys a wide range of emotions. I actually teared up a bit at some of the heart-wrenching scenes. The talented cast ensemble, diverse music selection, and visual style enhanced the cinematic experience.  In the end, my curiosity paid off. Suicide Squad was a very entertaining anti-hero DC universe film.

[Somewhat related side-note: Ted Whittall plays the role of Admiral Olsen in Suicide Squad film. CW’s Smallville has subtly references Suicide Squad in few episodes in season 9 and 10. Ironically, Mr. Whittall formerly portrayed the recurring guest role of Rick Flag in Smallville Season 10.]

Rock Music

I didn’t grow up listening to rock music. Middle school was truly when music became an integral part of my life. It wasn’t until 2006 I discovered the rock genre. There is a three way tie with artist/band who introduced me to this particular music genre. Skillet’s Comatose album. Three Days Grace’s One-X album. AFI’s Decemberunderground album. 2006 was a pivotal year that left an indelible impact on my musical taste. This would shape my music preference as a teenager along with well into adulthood years.

In my previous blog post, it recounted of my discovery of AFI thanks to Smallville’s episode 6.09 titled “Subterranean”. YouTube’s debut in 2005 was monumental for the music industry. People had more access to music from their favorite artists and bands. It wasn’t until 2006 I regularly used this video-sharing website. Around this time, Smallville and Gossip Girl were my TV show obsessions. Fandom subculture was further perpetuated within society thanks to technological advances of the internet. YouTube was one of the leading technological platforms which influenced the fandom subculture. TV show fan-made YouTube videos related to Smallville and Gossip Girl was my official introduction to Three Days Grace and Skillet.

100 Years of Rock Music’s Evolution (Infographic)

Rock music has a plethora of sub-genres. Further sub-genres continue to proliferate within the rock genre still to this day. My rock music interest lays mainly in “scene” genre. Although, some of my rock bands are on the heavier spectrum in terms of musical style. So they don’t exactly go into the “scene” categorization. Over the past 10 years, I’ve broadened my music horizons and discovered many more rock artists. Way too many to list. Often, I’ve branched out to other rock artists as a result of influences from my friends or social environment.

My bias rock bands are usually categorized in 3-5 sub-genres. It gets so confusing to keep track of what genre classifications my artists fit into. Cumulatively, my favorite rock bands have many genre labels. Pop punk rock. Alternative rock. Christian alternative rock. Nu-metal. Hardcore punk. Alternative metal. Progressive rock. Symphonic metal. Hard rock. Post-hardcore. Electronic rock. Gothic metal. Punk rock. Glam metal. Emo pop rock.

Rock subgenres

Over the past few years, I’ve adopted the philosophy of keeping genre classifications as broad as possible. I’m not even sure of the exact distinction between sub-genres at times. Some sub-genres sound too similar to me.

Also, certain rock sub-genres are surrounded with much stigma and inaccurate assumptions. It promotes a closed-minded, ignorant outlook on certain types of music. Those alone can cause a person to not give an artist or band a chance. This is why if people ask about my bands I keep genre labels as very general. Not using very niche sub-genre classifications. I will only do this with individuals who are already familiar with the particular niche sub-genre. Sometimes, sub-genres constrict people from generating more vast variety among their artists. It will pleasantly surprise you what artists/bands you discover when you embrace a more open-minded perspective. This is certainly true when it comes to my rock genre artists.

I tend to gravitate towards emotionally-charged rock with confessional lyrics about life in general. The moments of joy, frustration, hope, and sorrow to name a few emotions. Cliché concepts don’t bother me too much as long it is brilliantly executed within the song’s lyrics and musical style.

Lately, I’ve contemplated what drew me to my favorite rock bands. Often, people’s attachment to an artist or band revolves around emotional connection to song lyrical content. This is not case for majority of my rock bands. What a fascinating conundrum. Then why do I still listen to my bias rock bands many years later? I look for three essential elements in my rock music. Beautifully complex layering of drums and guitars, emotionally-charged vocals, and confessional lyrics. Not too repetitive lyrics or song beat. I want to be able to tell my rock songs apart. Often, this cannot be said about pop genre music.

To date, there are only three rock bands who have invoked such strong emotional connection from me through their confessional lyrics. Skillet, Three Days Grace, and Black Veil Brides. Also, they have a much heavier rock sound incorporated into their music. Times when I’m experiencing any sort of anger, frustration, or sorrow I’ll listen to heavier tone rock music from my hardcore genre artists.

Music Quote_1

I do listen to other music genres like soundtrack, Asian pop, and smidgen of mainstream pop. Yet I don’t listen to these genres as frequently compared to rock music. I can listen to my beloved rock artists regardless of my mood. Also, his particular music genre is extremely therapeutic. Over the past 10 years, my love for rock genre music keeps exponentially growing. It never gets old. Only getting better with age like a fine wine.

Emo Rock

MusicMainstream music has drastically evolved since I was a child in the 90’s. I have always loved music but it didn’t become a prevalent part of my life until late-elementary school. Yet it wasn’t until around 2006 or 2007 I even discovered the rock genre. In fact, “emo” genre was my official introduction to the world of rock music. This realization only recently dawned on me.

I won’t go into detail about the history of emo rock genre. You can always consult Wikipedia if you want to learn more about this genre’s history. Emo rock genre is often associated as emotionally-charged punk or hardcore rock music with confessional song lyrics. I remember emo rock becoming part of mainstream culture around mid-2000s. Essentially this music genre has been a prevalent part of my life from middle school to high school years. Emo rock genre’s mainstream popularity began to decline around early 2010s.

I don’t know what exactly prompted my interest in emo rock music. It is a tie between my social environments and TV shows. AFI and Fall Out Boy were my official introduction to emo rock genre.

First, I’ll elaborate how TV shows influenced my music tastes. My love for science-fiction superhero genre TV shows and movies was rapidly growing during this time. In 2006, I randomly discovered The CW’s Smallville as I was casually browsing the television channels. X-men trilogy and original Spider-man trilogy movies had formed an unintentional bias to Marvel universe. Yet, Smallville was my official introduction to DC universe. I will discuss my Smallville obsession in another blog post at a later date. This particular show had a fantastic selection of music incorporated into its episodes. Smallville is the reason it introduced me to many great artists and bands between 2006 and 2011. I can tell you the exact moment my interest in AFI was sparked. Smallville season 6 episode 9 which was titled “Subterranean”. In the final scene of this episode, it brilliantly depicts the villainous, bad-assery of Lex Luthor. AFI’s song “Prelude 12/21” plays in the background of this final scene. The song plays only for 1 minute long in the episode, but it made quite the lasting impression on me. This prompted me to check out AFI’s new album, Decemberunderground.

Second, I’ll elaborate how social environments influenced my music tastes. In 2005, Fall Out Boy released their sophomore album, Under A Cork Tree. This band was most popular when I was in middle school. There was excessive hype surrounding them. I’d frequently hear my fellow peers talk about them throughout the school week. Fall Out Boy was frequently featured in many teen magazines as well. All these factors shaped my outright refusal to not listen to them. I had a close acquaintance who was very much obsessed with this band. Shakira made it her mission to convert me to their music. It was uphill struggle for a while as I continued to refuse to give them a chance. One day I couldn’t deal with the constant badgering and caved to her demands by listening to some songs from Under A Cork Tree. I was pleasantly surprised by Fall Out Boy’s music. But I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan. Their third album, Infinity on High, was released in 2007. Typically, you gained access to your favorite artists’ music was by physically owning their CD albums. Or having a friend burn a CD for you. CD albums are an outmoded concept to any Generation Z kids born after mid-2000s. Anyway, I randomly picked up Fall Out Boy’s Infinity on High album from my local library. My former reluctance to listen to their music a couple years prior had completely vanished. I fell head over heels in love with Infinity on High album. Fall Out Boy had gained a new fan.

AFI and Fall Out Boy had formed my appreciation for the emo rock. Yet I only began to listen to this music genre around 2008-2009. Emo rock was slowly losing popularity within mainstream music. I’m pretty sure this was the main reason I decided to venture into this genre. Apparently I was a borderline hipster in my early teenage years.

107 Emo Bands You Knew About Before Anyone Else

Wikipedia’s List of Emo Artists

In July 2009, I attended my first concert. mtvU’s SunBlock Festival line-up hadBoys Like Girls as the headliner with supporting acts of The Academy Is, Never Shout Never, The Veronicas, and Gym Class Heroes. My main motivation to go for SunBlock Festival was to see The Veronicas. Yet this music festival formed my appreciation for Boys Like Girls and The Academy Is. I attended another mtvU music festival in October 2009. mtvU’s Ulalume Festival line-up had Paramore as the headliner with supporting acts of AFI, Dead by Sunrise, and Kid Cudi. I was super excited to see AFI in concert. I had been avidly listening to AFI since 2006. In preparation for Ulalume Festival, I listened to Paramore’s newest album, Brand New Eyes. I was very impressed. These two music festivals strengthened my love for emo punk/ hardcore genre.

I mentioned earlier how Fall Out Boy was my official introduction to emo rock. Fueled by Ramen label enabled me to discover other similar bands within this particular genre. The Academy Is. Paramore. Cobra Starship. This occurred between 2008 and 2009. It wasn’t until 2011 that I discovered Panic! at the Disco. That’s a long story for another blog post.

I formed my love for emo rock from 2008-2010. It was surprising the wide variety of artists I’d discovered within this genre. Because of my closed-minded attitude, I joined this party late. This deeply saddens me still to this day. I missed a golden opportunity to meet others who had similar music interests to me. Throughout middle school and high school, not many of my friends were fans of rock music. My love for rock genre really intensified in high school. It wasn’t until college I found friends who shared similar rock music interests. Emo rock helped me branch out to rock sub-genres like hardcore, post-hardcore, nu-metal, and symphonic metal. What I love about these rock genres it has beautiful storytelling in their songs. It addressed the ups and down moments of life. Also, there is emotional depth in terms of lyrical content. Most of all, the beautifully complex layering of music and vocals within the songs. These are all elements seriously lacking in mainstream music over the past five years.

Emo music scene perpetuated the “emo” look. This fashion style varied from clean-cut to more punk. The most prominent aspect of emo fashion was the hairstyle. Short, choppy layered flat-ironed hairstyle with side-swept bangs covering one or both eyes. Hair color could be standard black, brown, or blonde to the opposite spectrum of various bright colors like blue, pink, purple, or red. Excessive amounts of black worn are often associated with “emo” fashion. Darker shades of eye-shadow and heavy eyeliner are part of this make-up regiment. You can’t forget the staple of this look. Tight skinny jeans and band tees. Often, there was confusion between emo and goth fashion styles.

It never ceases to amaze me the negative stigma surrounding the term “emo”. This never bothered me much when I was discovering this particular genre. As I grew older, the inaccurate stereotypes surrounding emo subculture really pissed me off. I personally love emo rock genre, but I’ve never dressed emo. I describe my fashion style as nerdy chic with hint of preppy. Although, I do prefer incorporating darker shades of colors into my outfits. I own a fair amount of band t-shirts as well. Stereotypes about someone solely based off their music tastes or fashion should be eliminated within our society.

Stereotypes promote a “us versus them” mentality. This perpetuates a closed-minded attitude toward life. I firmly believe stereotypes are divisive tools that don’t teach people to love others for their differences. We should embrace diverse personalities, music tastes, and fashion styles. Not be judgmental about a person’s differences. Variety makes the world a beautiful place. Therefore, I’ve come to passionately hate the term “emo” regardless if it refers to people or music. My deep hatred for the term “emo” is the reason I refer to emotionally charged punk rock music as part of the “scene” genre.

Quite frankly I’d rather listen to music within scene, hardcore, post-hardcore, nu-metal, symphonic metal, and alternative rock sub-genres. It is like a fine wine…it gets better with age. I’ve been listening to the many of my rock bands for nearly 6-10 years. The quality of mainstream music has drastically declined over the years. I can tolerate no more than 1% of mainstream music. This is why I all together stopped listening to Top 40 radio stations several years ago. Basically I rely on iTunes, YouTube, and Spotify to listen to music.

Oscar Wilde