Overlooked: Love Jones

Representation is important: Love Jones is the first Black romcom that feels more indie than commercial

Overlooked: <i>Love Jones</i>

I am a hopeless romantic. I love watching love, hearing about love, and reading about love.

My favourite type of romantic content are romantic dramas with heavy dialogue: movies that not only explore love, but the human condition in a meaningful way. From Before Sunrise to Under the Tuscan Sun, I can revel forever.

One such movie that is underrated is Love Jones, which follows the story of Darius Lovehall, played by Larenz Tate, and Nina Mosley, played by Nia Long. Nina is a photographer who has just left a long-term relationship with a neglectful boyfriend, while Darius is a poet and a hopeless romantic.

They meet at a nightclub where Darius is performing poetry and, unbeknownst to Nina, he dedicates a poem to her. From there, a relationship begins to bloom.

Although the premise is simple, the film is monumental.

While movies such as The Wood and The Best Man do explore the love lives of Black people, Love Jones is absolutely the first popular Black film that truly feels more indie than commercial.

Unlike the heavy dialogue, artistic shots, and meditation on the lives of twenty-somethings living in a big city in Before Sunrise, Love Jones has no big scenes or dramatic arcs.

Instead, this film is about love in all stages.

It demonstrates the ebb and flow of two people who love each other but struggle to be on the same page. They want to love and to know what love is, but they are torn by their professional pursuits. Watching this as a teenager, I did not understand the beauty of the film. I thought it was just about two people who couldn’t make up their minds.

But after rewatching it in my twenties, my perspective shifted. It’s now painfully familiar.

On top of that, the film has an incredible soundtrack with Lauryn Hill, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane. If you really like that jazz club episode from The Proud Family or enjoy a beautifully filmed romantic drama, this film is for you.

A love letter to Pride

A reminder that regardless of how far we have come, there is still more that needs to be done

A love letter to Pride

There are few places where one can strip themselves of any veil and express the unadulterated version of themself. Throughout the years, Pride has become one of these safe havens.

Pride highlights the LGBTQ+ community in all of its glory. The carnivalesque themes and harlequin atmosphere project and celebrate the years spent hiding from oppression and fighting for basic rights the right to love, to express, and to simply be.

LGBTQ+ individuals fight, whether in public or private, to be a part of the fabric that creates and connects societies worldwide. Pride allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to defend their feelings, protect their right to resist social stigma, and promote the rich diversity that defines the community.

There is a fearlessness to Pride, backed by a history infused with tenacity and courage, that leaves me in awe. June 16, 2017 was the first time I attended the Pride parade. People of every age, shape, and ethnicity filled the streets. The crowd was as polychromatic as the flags that they carried, and the atmosphere was filled with glitter and charged with ecstasy.

Amidst the bombastic music and vivid rainbows, all I saw was the unreserved emotion — the wide smiles that make eyes gleam, and the tears running down faces, filled with nostalgia and joy.  Coming from a country like Pakistan, where many aspects of society are censored, I had never had the privilege of experiencing something like this before.

I have always been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, possibly even before I understood how sexuality and gender are constructed in our world, but in those moments at Pride, a newfound appreciation for the movement grew in me.

The spectacle of ‘come as you are’ is terrifying for most people, myself included. We fall into a façade that we feel will be accepted, rather than letting the world adjust to accommodate, or simply accept, us.

Although I have experienced discrimination as a Muslim woman of colour, I also identify as cisgender. I cannot claim to completely understand the struggle of being constantly mislabeled by heteronormative culture, as I have never had to justify who I’m attracted to or the identity that I adopt.

But as I marched alongside all the supporters who had come out to celebrate Pride, I realized that this community has every right to be heard. A flicker of hope sparked in my heart that one day people in my country could do the same.

Freedom of expression is a relative term in Pakistan, but so are all the other freedoms that we take for granted in the West. Pakistan is a country submerged in years of turmoil and deluded by biased religiosity. There is a lack of free will, despite citizens being charming and humble. Even social activists are often afraid to advocate for the inclusivity of various sexualities, genders, and identities.

The monochromatic city walls retain the stories of people who are desperate, but afraid, to be themselves without discrimination. I have seen my friends struggle because we come from a society laced with conservatism, which leaves them unable to live their truths.

Narrow-mindedness bred through education paves a predetermined path for every generation, before its members even realize who they are or who they love. People have to think twice before touching, and the simple act of interlocking fingers turns into hushed shadows. They begin to live in the darkness — secretly existing, but never really seen. Where I am from, this is all too often the narrative of the LGBTQ+ community.

Standing at Pride, I wanted more for my country. I wanted ruffled feathers, ostentatious costumes, hopeful slogans, and liberation. It was all right in front of me people reveling in the light as they walked through the streets of Toronto.

For me, that felt like the importance of Pride. It is not just a celebration, but a remembrance of the journey that led to these moments and the road moving forward. That is, a road for further inclusivity that dispels the latent bigotry and gives rise to equity.

While the West has made strides, there is still a vast amount of LGBTQ+ culture that needs to be taught and mainstreamed. It goes beyond a day or a month — paradigms need to be shifted worldwide.

The LGBTQ+ community has always faced adversity with love and resilience, from Stonewall to the fight for transgender rights. Members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community keep marching to retain the rights given to them, with the hope that we can spark change in a countries where these rights do not yet exist.

This year, Pride encompassed not only the vibrant festivities, but also highlighted the violence that has recently struck the community. Pride serves as a reminder that regardless of how far we have come, there is still so much that needs to be done.

Rather than touting what I have done for the LGBTQ+ community which is little in comparison to what the community has taught me this is my love letter to Pride.  

Marriage is a big decision — and students shouldn’t go into it unprepared

Why the university should provide resources to students about choosing a life partner

Marriage is a big decision — and students shouldn’t go into it unprepared

Until recently, I thought marriage was something that just happened to people, rather than being a conscious, intentional choice. This changed when I completed my undergraduate program four years ago and read The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now. I soon fell in love with the sentiment of the book — that is, you can pick your family, and partnering in marriage can be a deliberate choice based on compatibility and fit.

This does not sound very sexy, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Millennials are marrying later in life than previous generations, and despite the common misconception that delaying marriage allows for the development of better decision-making skills and more life experience before choosing a partner, this delay is not actually a predictor of marital satisfaction.

Irrespective of when it happens, nearly 27 per cent of the population will be married by the age of 25–29. University graduates are also significantly more likely to marry than their counterparts who do not have postsecondary education, perhaps due to financial stability or investment in family.

It is important to acknowledge that many people do not ever get married for a wide variety of reasons — some simply do not want to marry, some prefer other types of romantic partnerships, some are celibate by choice, and some are bound by cultural considerations. However, the fact is that many current students will go on to get married, either right after graduation or later in life. Thus, knowing how to pick wisely is worth knowing something about.

There are many myths that guide millennials in love and relationships that are not particularly helpful, like ‘opposites attract’ or ‘you can’t choose who you love.’ On the contrary, researchers do know what facilitates a good marriage: oppositeness does not sustain happiness, and you can choose who you love. Interestingly, it is similarity in personality that contributes to compatibility and marital satisfaction. If this information were more accessible to university students, it may encourage better-suited partnerships, higher quality of life, and lower rates of divorce.

People who have happier relationships with their partners are happier in their lives overall. Couples partnered in happy marriages can buffer against and alleviate physical pain, contribute to successful recovery from illness, and mitigate the physical and cognitive declines associated with getting older.

For those who do settle into unhappy marriages or those that get progressively worse over time, however, the consequences can be severe. Unhappy marriages have a significant impact on psychological and physical health — so much so that marriage can serve as either a protective or risk factor for illness: happy marriages can facilitate a speedy recovery, while unhappy marriages can exacerbate illness.

The number of marriages in Canada that end in divorce has significantly increased since the 1980s. In addition to the negative physical and psychological impacts of divorce, there are also economic consequences. In national interest, it is advantageous for couples to marry once and stay married, given that separation and divorce have financial impacts and cost taxpayers money due to clerical and legal fees.

Considering the severe consequences to unhappy marriages, marriage may be the most important decision university graduates make. However, there are no university courses or resources available at U of T that advise students on how to choose a partner — and this is something that should be addressed.

Universities are not solely responsible for educating young people on how to pick a good spouse, but parents, communities, pop culture, and the media also play a role. However, universities can make an impact by offering courses and resources on what contributes to and sustains good relationships and marriages during this formative stage of life. Guidance on how to choose a spouse could be offered at the Career Centre or through Student Life. A course through the department of psychology on the science of love could be an option as well.

In addition to what sustains marital satisfaction, if university students were aware of the neuroscience behind their intense feelings of attraction, they might be more cautious and intentional with their choices before investing time in a partner. It is worth noting that we are not only drawn to people by what we think but also by how we feel. There are deal-breakers that deter us from certain people, but attraction is also associated with the limbic, or more reactive, part of the brain. Once the honeymoon phase dulls, and the dopamine levels decline, we may unfortunately find that our partner is not well suited to us at all. Resources that guide students toward making pragmatic choices when picking their partners might help alleviate the negative feelings that come with this outcome, if not prevent it altogether.

Marriage is about much more than love; it is about quality of life and overall happiness. When married, you will spend the majority of your free time with that person, and your spouse becomes your partner in every aspect of life, including finances, leisure, household management, and often child-rearing. More guidance on how to pick your partner is therefore always welcome, and the university is in a good place to provide it.


Kelsey Block is a graduate student in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

Me(n) in the mirror

A third-year discovers herself through past lovers

Me(n) in the mirror

It takes a lot of heart: an eventful year both on campus and abroad, 2016 was a divisive year for a lot of us. As another year begins, this series of personal essays invites you to ponder this question: where is the love?

“Is he looking? Is he walking towards us?”

“He’s totally smiling at you. Look at me, pretend I said something funny.”

“Do you think he’ll ask me out? On a date?”

He never asked me out. He thought I was cool, a “one of the guys” kind of girl, but not girlfriend material. His rejection hurt, and truthfully, it was the most painful experience I ever endured at the age of 12. Heartbreak left me as quickly as love found me, and I moved on.

In retrospect, my first heartbreak was child’s play, a joke compared to more recent experiences. However, it changed my perspective on boys and what they found desirable in girls. I convinced myself that intelligence was a turnoff; that having long hair, a full face of makeup, and a large chest was what made a girl attractive.

At the beginning of my journey to understand feminism, I believed that strong women were independent in their personal lives — solitude was the key to personal happiness, after all. I learned that shutting people out was a lot easier than dealing with the truth.

I internalized the fear of rejection and the obsessive need to be a “strong” woman until it ruined my body image, self-esteem, and relationships with people. I lost sight of who I was. In my spiral of self-destruction, male attention became my drug — except this time, I no longer cared about the possibility of rejection. I simply needed the hollowness inside my chest to dissipate. How could I fear being unwanted when I did not want myself?

I threw myself at every boy: the good, the bad, the toxic. I wanted their validation. I needed it. I began to fall in love, hard. I have loved three boys so far. Let’s call them Jesse, Keith, and Jack (not their real names). Each one has had an influence on my personal growth throughout adolescence.

[pullquote-default]I fell in love with each boy hoping I would find self-acceptance and self-love.[/pullquote-default]

Jesse was Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome with a charismatic, witty, and sarcastic personality. To my younger self, at the impressionable age of 18, he was perfect. He was my first lover, the first man to see me in my most vulnerable state. He showed me the beauty of sexuality, and the agency I had in exploring my own. I grew hungry for our nights together, tangled in between the sheets, lost in our own secluded world. Every kiss ignited a new passion, and every sigh spoke of promises I believed he would keep. The relationship Jesse and I shared was brief, but it was sensual, intense, and seductive.

Keith was a skater who cared more about smoking pot on the weekends than getting into university and receiving a post-secondary education. He was an angry, rebellious teenager who possessed a compassionate heart. Despite his lack of motivation and ambition, I saw potential in him, and refused to let him throw away his bright future for nights of partying and getting high. As our relationship grew, I discovered that underneath the hostility and laziness was a talented poet. Poetry, to Keith, was personal and too important for him to study at a post-secondary institution. Although we haven’t spoken to one another since high school, he occasionally sends me drafts of his latest pieces.

Jack was a childhood best friend. He was the shoulder I could cry on, the one constant in my dramatic teenage life. He was my person and I was his. There was not a single thing he did not know about me. My childhood would have been different without him — without his optimism, patience, and cheerful spirit. While numerous confessions about romantic feelings were made during our friendship, we never dated. It became apparent that a friendship like ours was hard to come by, and we weren’t willing to take the risk for a chance at love.

I realize now that Jesse, Keith, and Jack were reflections of the qualities I wanted to see in myself. I fell in love with each boy hoping I would find self-acceptance and self-love. Jesse was the first boy to see all of me; his male attention gave me confidence in my body, and in female sexuality. Prior to my relationship with him, I resented my body, and it was in my relationship with Jesse where I accepted my body the way it was. I didn’t crave Jesse’s touch, rather, I hungered for the effect my body had on him: the power I had in claiming my sexuality.

Keith was the boy I believed in wholeheartedly. I was never the smartest student, merely average. My parents were strict and expected straight As. In hindsight, I think I was invested in his success because I saw myself in him — I needed him to succeed, to believe that I could have success if I put my mind to it.

Jack mirrored the independence I needed, both self-assurance and reliability. He taught me to depend on myself during times of need, to begin a lifelong friendship with myself.

I didn’t know how to find self-love until I subconsciously looked for boys I saw pieces of myself in. For the majority of my childhood and early adolescence, I believed that the reason I felt empty and incomplete was because I hadn’t found my other half, my soulmate, to complete me. It never occurred to me that I am my own soulmate.

In photos: Valentine’s Day

A photo essay on the value of the self

In photos: Valentine’s Day

As Carrie Bradshaw eloquently put, “Don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first.” Single students might often see couples around campus and hear love songs on the radio, and wonder why they cannot find that significant other for themselves. Society has time and again reinforced the notion that, in order to be complete as individuals, we must be accompanied by someone else. However, instead of spending our time consumed with the worry of finding that person this Valentine’s Day, we should first learn to love ourselves and ensure that we are putting what we love first. The most important thing to remember is that you cannot fully love someone else until you truly love yourself.

This Valentines Day, show yourself a little love. Elizabeth Dix/THE VARSITY

This Valentines Day, show yourself a little love. Elizabeth Dix/THE VARSITY

We have transformed love into an object that must be attained – the idea that our whole life is an ongoing scavenger hunt to reach the goal of finding that one right person.

There is nothing inherently wrong with trying to find love. The problem is that we become so preoccupied with the search that, in the midst of trying to find it, we forget about ourselves.

We have been programmed to believe our worth is quantified by who we date, how many people we have dated, and how attractive we come across to others. We forget that our value cannot be found in another person, but rather, in who we are as individuals.

We spend so much time swiping left and right, looking for attention at the bar, and attempting to get noticed by an attractive person in a lecture that we don’t invest nearly enough time into ourselves.

How can we become more in tune with ourselves?

Explore: Explore your interests and meet new people by checking out clubs, joining an intramural team, volunteering with an organization, or even striking up a conversation with someone at the gym! The more you try new things, the more you will discover your likes and dislikes. If you do what you love and pursue your own interests, you’ll meet people who share the same passions as you, accept you, and you’ll feel a sense of belonging to a greater community. Ultimately, when you learn about yourself and pay attention to your needs, you’ll gain and cultivate the most fruitful of relationships.

Celine Markle photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Celine Markle photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Celine Markle photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Celine Markle photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Celine Markle photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Celine Markle photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Reflect: It is very beneficial to spend time alone; this time for reflection is crucial for self-development. Whether it is writing in a journal, spending time on your own, or pursuing a personal goal of yours, spending time away from others isn’t being antisocial or an introvert, it’s re-connecting with yourself. You can use this time to reflect upon where you are in your friendships, family, and school life. If you don’t feel accomplished in any of these areas, try to think about what you can do to improve your life and the lives of the people around you.

Jasmine Romero photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Jasmine Romero photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Jasmine Romero photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Jasmine Romero photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Engage: We often walk so hurriedly down the street to class, swerving in and around other students, that we don’t see the wonderful people we come in contact with each and every day. We assume that, since they aren’t constants in our lives, there is no need to acknowledge them. What if you took a step – even just a baby step – out of your comfort zone? Next time you’re walking to your next class, make eye contact with another student and smile! Ask them how their day is going! Be bold! Although the mere thought of interacting with a stranger stirs anxiety in many, the friendships you will open yourself up to by putting yourself out there is extraordinary. There are many opportunities to take in the beautiful city that we call home.

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Disengage: How many hours do you spend aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, only to close it and find yourself updating your Snapchat and Instagram, all while trying to sort out a social dilemma on Messenger? Sometimes, the best way to connect with others is by disconnecting from social media. We feel the need to live our lives through a lens – we make sure Saturday night’s concert was filmed, we spend the whole party taking pictures with our friends, and we snap a picture of every restaurant meal we’ve ever eaten and post it online.

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What if we rejected the notion of trying to document the entirety of our lives on social media and instead enjoyed the moment sans camera. Close your Facebook, delete your Tinder (a seemingly horrifying prospect), and enjoy life away from technology. In return, life will grant you the opportunity to meet, socialize with, and, most importantly, enjoy the moment with like-minded people.

Left to right: Jasmine Romero, Sarah Leuverink, and Alisha Becharbhai photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

Left to right: Jasmine Romero, Sarah Leuverink, and Alisha Becharbhai photographed by Elizabeth Dix/The Varsity

As February 14th approaches, stores put up romantic window displays, and chocolates are wrapped in pink ribbons, we may easily forget one of the most fundamental relationships – our relationship with ourselves. We go out of our way to compliment others, yet are first to criticize ourselves. This Valentines Day, show yourself a little love for a change.