Overlooked: Anne with an E

From a children’s classic to a Netflix original, literature’s favourite Canadian redhead finally reaches our favourite procrastination tools

Overlooked: <em>Anne with an E</em>

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, set in Prince Edward Island, is about a unique orphan who wins the hearts of siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.

The book is treasured not only by Canadians, but by people all around the world. I remember growing up and falling in love with Anne’s flamboyant personality.

I laughed when she got into trouble for dyeing her hair green and adored the love-hate relationship between Anne and Gilbert Blythe. Over the years, there have been many television adaptations of this series, however, Netflix and CBC’s diamond-in-the-rough Anne with an E offers a fresh new perspective on Montgomery’s beloved novels.

Despite being renewed for a third season, the show is still vastly underappreciated. The first season offers us a look into Anne’s life before she arrives at Green Gables and sets a grim mood to the show.

Anne copes with post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks, which reveal the trauma she has endured at the hands of her previous foster parents. Although this adaption is different from the previous light-hearted depictions of Anne, it sheds light on the challenges that children in the foster care system face.

The second season delves into other important topics, such as racism, homophobia, and misogyny. We are introduced to the show’s first Black character Sebastian ‘Bash’ (Dalmar Abuzeid), who Gilbert befriends while working on a ship together. We get to see Gilbert develop into a fully fleshed-out character who has a life beyond being Anne’s love interest.

At the same time, we see Gilbert learn what it means to be an ally to Bash against the racism he faces. Queerness is examined through the role of Diana Barry’s aunt Josephine who had a partner called ‘Aunt Gertrude.’ Aunt Josephine holds a queer-friendly party which sets the scene for Diana Barry, Anne’s closest friend, to grapple with her feelings about her aunt’s sexuality. The show also flirts with feminism by introducing the new teacher, Miss Stacy, who breaks gender norms by being single and wearing pants.

Anne with an E dives into our cherished novel and updates the classic tale with vibrant new characters and themes. The show does not shy away from exploring painful topics which is what sets it apart from previous adaptations.

In conversation with Rini Sharma

Rotman MBA student talks media, entertainment, technology

In conversation with Rini Sharma

Among students making their mark in the field of business is Rini Sharma, part of the Rotman School of Management and a member of the Rotman Entertainment & Media Association. The Varsity caught up with Sharma to discuss her experience as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) student.

The Varsity: What does your role in the Rotman Entertainment & Media Association entail?

Rini Sharma: I’m currently serving as Vice-President External for the Entertainment & Media Association at Rotman. My role involves building relationships with industry leaders and connecting them to our student community at Rotman through the medium of events and other platforms.

TV: What kind of work does the Rotman Entertainment & Media Association do?

RS: The Entertainment & Media Association at Rotman is working on bridging the gap between MBA students and Toronto’s growing media and entertainment sector. Our goal is to help students identify and create opportunities for themselves in a manner which combines their business skills with their passion for the media and entertainment sector.

To do this, we planned various events over the 2019–2020 school year which will provide students with hands-on skill-building through case competitions, as well as networking opportunities through our industry night event, set to be held later in the year. And, last but not least, I’ve been lucky enough to produce and host my own personal project with the club, the Rotman Thoughtcast, which is Rotman’s upcoming official podcast series.

TV: What are some of the productions you’ve worked on?

RS: Prior to starting at Rotman I was working at Shaftesbury, a leading Canadian media production company, as a development and production analyst. I’ve worked on several major projects, including CBC’s most highly-rated program Murdoch Mysteries, CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries and Netflix’s Slasher. I was also involved in Hudson & Rex from Citytv and Shaftesbury’s latest drama series Departure, from GlobalTV, in their early stages of development.

TV: What or who has been your greatest influence in starting a business career?

RS: My dad, who has taught me the values of integrity, persistence, and relationship-building in the world of business.

TV: When did you think to combine two seemingly-different fields of technology and business?

RS: While I’ve always been curious to learn about new technologies, it was only after I joined Rotman that I observed how emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, are disrupting several different industries besides media. Moreover, I spent my summer interning at a tech accelerator, which made me realize how important it is to have a viable business strategy in order to grow and scale new technologies.

TV: How has your experience been, managing your education while also managing your career?

RS: The MBA program is a huge time commitment which essentially requires you to work on academics and career simultaneously, since day one. It hasn’t been easy. However, I love a good challenge and I’m enjoying every bit of it.

TV: How do you think an MBA has prepared you for your field?

RS: Aside from the core academic learnings, my experience in the MBA program has enabled me to enhance my time management, leadership, and communication skills — and that shall go a long way in any field!

TV: What has been your experience in media been like?

RS: In my experience in the media industry, I’ve been lucky enough to work in an environment where I was mentored by strong women leaders. That being said, it is still an evolving space for a woman of colour to be in. There’s a long way to go before we, as the audience, start perceiving stories about Mindy Kaling as anything other than a factor of her immigrant experiences.

TV: What has been your biggest challenge so far?

RS: Finding and carving my own unique niche within an institute full of 650 bright and ambitious minds.

TV: What are some tips that you have for anyone pursuing a career in business?

RS: For anyone wanting to pursue an MBA, I would recommend knowing your own personal goals before choosing a particular school or stream. In the world of business, I think it is very important to have an open and flexible mind in order to be successful in today’s globalized economy. Always strive to expose yourself to different experiences, people, and cultures.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This profile is part of an ongoing series to highlight women in business.

Release of 13 Reasons Why linked to increased youth suicides in the United States

Youth suicides rose by 13 per cent in three months after release, finds U of T-affiliated study

Release of <i>13 Reasons Why</i> linked to increased youth suicides in the United States

Content warning: discussions of depression and suicide.

The release of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has been severely criticized by mental health advocates for potentially harmful depictions of mental illness and suicide, which they say could lead to higher suicide risk among viewers.

These warnings were substantiated by a recent U of T-affiliated study published in JAMA Psychiatry that correlated the release of the series to an uptick in youth suicides in the United States over the three-month period following its release on March 31, 2017.

Results of the study

The study found that the number of reported deaths by suicide among 10 to 19-year-olds in the United States was 13 per cent higher than projected based on a “time series analysis” which took into account pre-existing trends. This is the equivalent of 94 more deaths than expected.

This sudden and significant increase in suicides was observed only in youth, and most prominently in young women, wrote co-author Dr. Mark Sinyor, Assistant Professor at U of T’s Department of Psychiatry, to The Varsity.

“The first season of 13 Reasons Why failed to show that suicide most commonly arises from a treatable mental illness,” wrote Sinyor.

“[Our research team] can’t definitively prove that the show caused the rise, but this is precisely what we anticipated we would see if the show was causing harm,” he wrote.

To Sinyor, the results of the study are not surprising.

This was an unfortunate yet predictable outcome,” he wrote, “because past scientific research has repeatedly established that media dissemination of the kind of content depicted in the show can lead to increased suicide rates.”

Sinyor noted that the series has violated guidelines recommended by mental health experts to media producers intended to avoid irresponsible suicide portrayal.

“The first season of 13 Reasons Why failed to show that suicide most commonly arises from a treatable mental illness,” wrote Sinyor.

“It romanticized the suicide, depicted suicide methods, presented the suicide as inevitable, and even [achieved] positive results in that it appeared to punish those who had hurt the show’s protagonist. It also presented the school’s mental health expert as incompetent.”

“There’s no single reason people take their own lives,” says Netflix

Netflix responded to The Varsity’s inquiry concerning the study.

“Experts agree that there’s no single reason people take their own lives — and that rates for teenagers [dying by suicide] have tragically been increasing for years,” Netflix wrote. “These two studies raise important issues but directly conflict with each other, even though they’re based on the same US government data.”

After inquiring about the second study referenced in Netflix’s reply, which supposedly conflicts with Sinyor’s findings, The Varsity did not receive a response.  

“And they don’t explain the increases [in suicides] for girls in November 2016 and boys in March 2017 — before the show had launched,” continued Netflix.

13 Reasons Why tackles the uncomfortable reality of life for many young people today and we’ve heard from them, as well as medical experts, that it gave many viewers the courage to speak up and get help.”

To follow up, The Varsity also requested the names of medical experts who have said this to be the case. Netflix did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.

Remedies to the potential impact of media involving suicide

To ensure that the entertainment industry observes best practices with the influence it can have on the public, Sinyor urged for greater collaboration between the industry and suicide prevention experts.

He further underscored the importance of sharing messages of hope and distributing information on ways in which to seek help in order to decrease the number of deaths by suicide.

“The overwhelming majority of young people who think about suicide do not die by suicide and even those youth suicides that do occur should always be viewed as preventable tragedies,” he wrote. “That is the message that we need to disseminate.”

“The key is to find and present identifiable stories of resilience rather than stories of deaths. As only one example, J.K. Rowling has said in the popular press that she was depressed and suicidal and sought therapy which she credits with helping her overcome those feelings.”

“There are many other such stories in both celebrities and non-celebrities and we need to encourage the media to help us spread them in addition to crisis resources such as the new national crisis line in Canada.”

If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
  • Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
  • Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.

Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

What to watch this winter: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Two writers offer opposing opinions on Black Mirror’s interactive episode

What to watch this winter: <I>Black Mirror: Bandersnatch</I>

I have a love-hate relationship with Black Mirror. When it’s good, it uses technology as an accessory to tell stories about every aspect of humanity, positive and negative. Episodes like “Be Right Back,” “Crocodile,” and “San Junipero” seamlessly integrate the technology they explore into the story, so the viewer can focus on the actual ideas presented. When it’s bad, it’s a Luddite-esque fable about the dangers of scary, spooky technology. Episodes like “Men Against Fire” and “Arkangel” are less about humanity and more about how it would be really bad if we had certain kinds of technology. Or, as it has been put online, “what if phones, but too much.” 

I wanted to like Netflix’s newest addition to Black Mirror, the film-length choose-your-own-adventure Bandersnatch. It was advertised as a brand-new experience of watching television,  allowing the viewer to make the decisions for the characters and push the story toward their own desires. Of course, as someone who has played video games before, this is not 100 per cent novel, but nonetheless I decided to watch. Spoilers ahead. 

What I wanted, and expected, was a story about choices, about creation, and about ’80s video games. What I got instead was a regurgitation of one of the most damaging tropes about mental illness in pop culture: that mental illness causes creativity, and that treating mental illness causes one to lose creativity. When Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) chooses to take his medication, his video game is rated poorly, with the suggestion that he was on “autopilot.”

Medication doesn’t stunt your creativity. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. For most people with a mental illness, creativity is stunted when they experience symptoms without access to treatment. You can’t work on a piece of art or a game if you are consumed by anxiety, paranoia, or depression. In fact, sometimes you can barely function enough to eat and sleep. 

This idea also goes hand in hand with the belief that sacrificing health, especially mental health, is not only necessary for artistic creation, but also that it is a reasonable sacrifice. Nobody with a mental illness should have to sacrifice their own health for the sake of a project, but that isn’t the case in Bandersnatch. Colin (Will Poulter), Stefan’s mentor and idol, even says that he needs “a bit of madness” to create his project. And the only way that Stefan’s video game can be given five stars is if Stefan — by the hand of the viewer — plunges deeper into his own psychosis and paranoia. 

Another damaging trope Bandersnatch uses is the tired idea that people with mental illnesses are inherently violent. In the path that leads Stefan to getting five stars, he ends up brutally murdering his father. The vast majority of individuals with mental illnesses are no more violent than anyone else. In fact, sadly, they are far more likely to be the victims of violence. 

There were things I genuinely enjoyed about Bandersnatch, from the phenomenal acting to the tongue-in-cheek fourth wall breaks. But if the lesson Black Mirror wants to give me is the same tired, damaging portrayal of mental illness, I’d rather settle for the Luddite stories.

— Adina Heisler

My scriptwriting professor used to say that characters are the soul of every play. A successful character — who could be as distant a serial killer, or as close as the neighbour’s daughter — needs to be authentic, keeping a safe distance from a humdrum life, but still sharing traits of humanity that resonate and tug at our heartstrings. 

It is the characters we root for or resent who decide their own fate, which is also the direction of the plot, and only when we are drawn to the characters do we keep watching. But such an existentialist view on the role of the character is about to change as Netflix released its first interactive movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. 

Unlike previous Black Mirror episodes, Bandersnatch is a standalone, non-linear film that involves viewers in characters’ decision-making. With each choice made by a simple click on A or B, the film resembles an ideal game for uncoordinated players. 

The idea that we are watching ourselves, rather than the character, might sound new under the guise of interaction, but it really isn’t. We empathize with fictional characters in order to understand them, and we seek our reflection in fictions all the time. We project our memories on fictional characters and take it as their truth, and our acceptance of their truth hinges on how well it agrees with our experiences. 

Meanwhile, Stefan is losing his mind knowing that he is not in control of his actions. He is convinced that the invisible hand pulling him like a puppet is also watching him. But why is the thought that he has no autonomy so unbearable? According to Lauren Bialystok, a professor in U of T’s Department of Social Justice Education, Western tradition does not define the purpose of life by a shared “human-ness” as a species. “Rather, to lead a human life—at least a fulfilling one—is usually thought to require honoring what it means to be human for me, as a once-occurring person,” Bialystok wrote in a 2014 paper. 

This explains our need for characters to be different, to lead a hell of a life, or hold a secret that demarcates them from the pedestrian life they keep. Being different verifies their authenticity as a character. 

Personal authenticity hinges on the truthfulness of the relationship to self. Autonomy, in other words, conditions authenticity. Yet with or without surveillance, do we have as much autonomy as we’d like to hope? Stefan believes that he is controlled by those who are watching him, but aren’t we always aware of our audience and controlled by their perception of us? How many of our so-called authentic acts are conducted by being true to ourselves, rather than to be perceived as such? 

Bandersnatch is revolutionary for having engaged viewers in the development of the plot from the perspective of scriptwriting. But from the perspective of the movie industry, there hasn’t been a single film that succeeds by disregarding viewers’ experiences. While interactive films engage viewers in a creative process, they also deprive them of the chance to apply their empathy. It is worth considering whether Bandersnatch suggests a more narcissistic or creative society.

— April Yan Jin 

When you can’t make it to the drive-in, the sofa is a great place to spend a lazy summer evening

A perfect movie for capturing every summer vibe

When you can’t make it to the drive-in, the sofa is a great place to spend a lazy summer evening

Here’s a list of movies for all your summer watching needs.

For beach vibes: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Honourable mention: The Descendants

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is set in balmy Hawaii, amid palm trees and dreamy ocean waves. Between Kristen Bell in a pink bikini and Mila Kunis with a white tropical flower tucked behind her ear, this movie is sure to make you wish you could leave city life behind to join the characters in a warm haze of sand, cocktails, and bathing suits. Also, Paul Rudd as a surf instructor is officially my summer chillness guru.

For thriller vibes: Jaws

Honourable mention: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Famously featuring a great white shark devastating unwitting beachgoers, this movie is ideal for those of us who want to both get in the summer spirit and are in the mood for mystery and suspense. With its marvellously tense soundtrack mingled with a summer resort aesthetic, Jaws is a great way to add a surreal creepiness to an otherwise tranquil summer day.

For romance vibes: Call Me by Your Name

Honourable mention: (500) Days of Summer

Set in the small town of Crema in northern Italy, this movie is a delicious exploration of the ups and downs of summer love. Call Me by Your Name captures the salacious heat of summertime lust, the playfulness of a fast-paced friendship, and the excitement of pursuing someone forbidden. You can witness the blissful sensuality of falling in love against a technicolour backdrop of tall grasses and shaded ponds. It also isn’t a real summer romance film unless there’s a strange sex scene involving fruit, and Call Me by Your Name certainly delivers on that front.  

For innocent Disney vibes: Moana

Honourable mention: Lilo and Stitch

It’s an animated movie about a strong young woman embracing her passion for the ocean by defying the confining boundaries of her island — you can’t watch it without developing an unshakeable desire for adventure. Featuring a dazzling but deadly crab, a beautiful grass-covered goddess who finds her heart, and songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda at his finest — Moana inspires you to take the voyage across the ocean — whatever your own metaphorical ocean may be.

For horror vibes: It

Honourable mention: Friday the 13th

This coming-of-age movie about finding friendship during a time of adversity is often punctuated by characters groaning that it’s summer break, a time for relaxing and having fun, not fighting monsters. It is perfect for those of us who disagree and think the whole point of summer break is fighting monsters.   

For showbiz glam vibes: Almost Famous

Honourable mention: La La Land

If summer is the time when you repress all the biology facts you’ve been cramming in your brain and return to your childhood fantasies of living a rock-and-roll lifestyle, this is the movie for cultivating your delusions. Almost Famous is about a young hopeful journalist on the road with a bus full of washed-up rockstars and glamorous groupies — the summer road trip of your dreams.

For childhood nostalgia vibes: High School Musical 2

Honourable mention: The Parent Trap

This movie asks “what time is it?” for us to all yell back, in perfect unison, “SUMMERTIME!” High School Musical 2 has a song for every summer scenario: summer job doldrums, perfecting that fabulous poolside aesthetic, the inevitable breakup after a summer romance fizzles, angsty soul searching on the golf course, and, for some reason, a “pineapple princess” pining after a fish with a long, complicated Hawaiian name.

For ‘80s classics vibes: Dirty Dancing

Honourable mention: National Lampoon’s Vacation

With its iconic soundtrack and killer dance numbers, this movie will make you long for those days of family vacations. Except this time, instead of wasting your holiday sunbathing and begging your older sister to sneak you mojitos from the bar, you could be falling in love with the resort’s dance instructor to the tune of your favourite ‘80s pop songs.

For teenage revelry vibes: Meatballs

Honourable mention: American Pie 2

If summer makes you nostalgic for high school (shudder), then you probably spent your teenage years partying at your friend’s beach house, or drunkenly singing songs around a bonfire. Meatballs, however, will make you wish you had spent your summers as a camp counsellor — the main duties of which are apparently playing pranks and scoring chicks. This film will make you pine for the semi-innocence of those blissful teenaged summers.

For musical vibes: Mamma Mia

Honourable mention: Grease

Amanda Seyfried’s character is a makeup-free, beachy-haired goddess who always has a bathing suit on underneath her white summery blouse, in case she needs to frantically chase after a retreating boat. Spoiler: she does. She lives on a fictional Greek island called “Kalokairi” that is essentially a slice of heaven. The crystalline ocean and Mediterranean architecture of the island would also make me want to periodically burst into song. To me, the soundtrack to this movie is the soundtrack of summer.

We shouldn’t be surprised Netflix is trying to conquer late night

Talk shows are just another step toward the service’s total TV domination

We shouldn’t be surprised Netflix is trying to conquer late night

Netflix’s transformation of the television industry has long been debated as being either a blessing or bane for the old gogglebox. With the streaming giant’s latest string of original programming, that debate has now zeroed in on one specific genre: late night.

Talk shows have been around forever, but Netflix seems to be trying to work its magic to bring new dynamics to the tried and true late night formula.

Bill Nye’s Bill Nye Saves the World cuts to enough celebrity segments to give it the feel of a talk show, but it primarily focuses on zany experimentation and palatable scientific explanations. Chelsea Handler’s now-canceled Chelsea eschewed the traditional monologue in favour of longer interviews, more cinematic and comedic segments, and even ‘remote’ dinner parties featuring multiple guests.

One of Netflix’s latest ventures, The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale, exposes its viewers to a wide range of content, some drawn from the internet. It harkens back to not only McHale’s previous show on E!, The Soup, but another clip show of old: Ray William Johnson’s Equals Three.

Elsewhere, Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman have managed to make the simple art of conversation exciting again with Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, not to mention Jim Rash’s talk show lite take on behind-the-scenes footage with Beyond Stranger Things.

With these exciting, fresh takes on a classic genre, Netflix is cleverly combining its own pedigree with the individual star power of big-name celebrities to usher in a new age of late night — the same kind of new age it brought with its other originals. The revolution is truly being televised.

No revolution is without its opponents, however. Netflix has been blamed for significantly impacting traditional cable viewership with its à la carte nature and quality original programming.

Netflix boasts a slew of high-profile shows with large fanbases under its Netflix Original label. Stranger Things, for example, has had such a cultural impact that it warranted a coveted Super Bowl halftime trailer for its second season.

The influence of the Netflix special has even made its way into comedy. The service has begun to offer many comedians, seemingly regardless of their mainstream popularity, the chance to film their own hour.

Late night is only the latest foray Netflix has made into original programming, and it might have only just begun. The Daily Show alum Michelle Wolf, a standup comedian and long-time contributor to the satirical news show, recently announced her own talk show venture with the streaming giant. Fellow Daily Show alums Jessica Williams and Hasan Minhaj have also contributed to the Netflix catalogue, and Minhaj also recently secured his own deal with Netflix for a talk show.

The talk show correspondents and hosts who have attracted Netflix’s attention prove that the streaming service has an eye for talent and is willing to expend its resources to lure them away from traditional broadcasting.

The great prestige attached to its original work and the unprecedented access it provides to an ever-expanding library of network TV shows have firmly established Netflix as not only a part of the industry, but of the cultural zeitgeist.

Such a force cannot exist without challenge or something to challenge. Netflix very much seems to be gearing up to actively compete with traditional cable television. Be it in late night, standup, or scripted shows, the Netflix Original is undeniably on the rise.

Who is the most extra character on Riverdale?

The Varsity investigates

Who is the most extra character on Riverdale?

Everyone’s favourite crime-solving, gang-busting, shower-sex-having teens returned to television on October 11. That’s right, Riverdale is back. We just can’t decide if this show is the best or the worst thing ever. We asked our contributors for their opinions on who the most ‘extra’ character on Riverdale is — a difficult task when many of them routinely accuse their parents of attempted murder.

Dr. Masters

Less than two minutes into the second season premiere and Riverdale is already up to its old tricks. As Archie rushes his dad to the hospital, the audience comes face to face with the most absurd looking doctor ever shown on screen. His name is Dr. Masters, and he looks like a Tic Tac. He looks like the kind of doctor that would tell Archie it’s okay to shower with a cast on. He looks like he primarily operates on teddy bears, and like he was genuinely excited when Crocs were invented. His look is extra AF, and I hope I never see him again.

— Elspeth Arbow

Veronica Lodge

“Daddy?!” This moniker is, impressively, made even more ridiculous than usual in Riverdale — thanks to none other than Miss Veronica ‘my parents may be attempted murderers’ Lodge. That alone should be enough to win the richer half of B&V the title of ‘most extra.’ Between using childish terms of endearment at her age and throwing wild accusations left and right, Veronica truly goes above and beyond to say absolutely nothing of value. Speaking of value, her steamy idea of comforting Archie as his dad lay comatose? Maybe not the most tactful. If hyperbole personified wore preppy skirts, it would almost be at Veronica Lodge’s level.

— Sarim Irfan


For all the talk about dogs being selfless creatures, Vegas seems to have Archie on a tight leash. Fred Andrews is literally comatose in the hospital after a shooting, and the dog needs a walk? Considering the amount of emotional labour that apparently goes into caring for Vegas in the Andrews household, you’d think Vegas might have been a bit more concerned that one of his owners came home covered in his other owner’s blood.

— Teodora Pasca

Archie Andrews

Archie is definitely the most extra. I mean, come on, an emotionally sensitive football quarterback? Please, Archie, you banged your music teacher and wanted to show your ‘undying’ love for her by playing crappy poems and guitar. How many love interests has Archie had again? And he won’t even give Betty, the sweetest character of all time, a chance. Has everyone forgotten that he’s only 16 and yet he’s out here trying to find a gun to somehow save his dad? Stay in your lane and stick to the football field, Archie.

—Yasaman Mohaddes

Betty Cooper

Some may argue that Betty Cooper is one of the only remotely sane characters in Riverdale, but the fact of the matter is that Betty is just as extra if not more extra than Veronica, Cheryl, and the others. At least they can remember their crazy antics. Since she seems so kind and innocent, Betty can get away with throwing on a black wig and almost boiling Chuck Clayton to death in a hot tub. Obviously, it’s Riverdale, so almost killing Chuck is hardly considered an extreme act, but it’s the fact that Betty usually pretends that she wants to drink milkshakes all day at Pop’s and have everyone get along that concerns me. Who knows what she’s truly capable of?

— Lauren Dubay

Jughead Jones

I think Jughead is the purest cinnamon roll and I love him dearly. Let’s face it though, he’s the show’s oddball. And he’s totally okay with that. I think I’d even go far enough to say that he perceives himself to be edgier — and weirder — than he actually is. Everything that comes out of his mouth is so, so extra. By now, we’ve gotten so used to it that if Jughead said something remotely normal, we wouldn’t be able to handle it.

— Rue Guha

Cheryl Blossom

Cheryl Blossom is undoubtedly the ruling queen of extra. One half of a set of creepy redheaded twins, her obsession with her brother Jason and her propensity for sleepwalking the halls of her ancestral mansion, bedecked in a floor-length gown make for delightfully hammy gothic vibes. Cheryl takes her complex even further when she arranges for the song that her parents listened to during her and “Jay-Jay’s” conception to play at semi-formal. The cherry topping this sundae of crazy is when she burns down the Blossom McMansion with a freaking candelabrum. Cheryl Blossom: To know her is to be extremely, involuntarily, horrifically, entertained.

— Alice (KX) Zhang

Penelope Blossom

While many of Penelope Blossom’s actions can be understood as being affected by the loss of her son Jason, her obsession with the Blossom name reaches a whole new level. The idea of having “purely Blossom” twins thrills her so much that she even accepts her son’s unintentionally incestuous actions. Her desire for a picture perfect family leads her to enter a burning building to save a portrait. Was that worth suffering from third degree burns, Penelope? Also, she slapped Alice Cooper. There are much less dramatic, and more mature, ways to deal with someone you dislike. What kind of example is she setting for Cheryl?

—Alexa Ballis

Ms. Grundy

Ms. Grundy is definitely the most extra person in the most extra show. The way she stares at Archie in the crowd, thinking of their steamy summer. Isn’t it amazing how Grundy managed to run into Archie in a purple Volkswagen bug, with red heart-shaped sunglasses on, while sipping a slushie? In the end, poor Grundy did leave Riverdale, but just when you thought she would never be back, we see her in Greendale, teaching piano again. Guess what? She’s in the middle of seducing another young student, and gets killed just after being kissed. Isn’t that ironic?

— Sammi Chan

To the Bone zeroes in on the one per cent

The Netflix film’s portrayal of disordered eating is distorted

<i>To the Bone</i> zeroes in on the one per cent

Netflix’s original programming appears to be on a mental health kick. Not too long after the hit series 13 Reasons Why became entangled in controversy over its depiction of graphic content, this summer’s feature film release To the Bone has ignited similar debates.

The film follows 20-year-old Ellen, played by Lily Collins, as she struggles with anorexia; there have been claims that the movie could be triggering for viewers vulnerable to depictions of disordered eating, with some going so far as to accuse the film of glamourizing eating disorders.

Director Marti Noxon, who has had personal experience with anorexia, has stated that she intended for the film to spark a wider conversation about body image and eating disorders. “What’s amazing,” she told IndieWire, “is people who’ve been through [disordered eating] know what we’re talking about, and people who haven’t finally say, ‘Oh, I get it.’ That’s what I hope.”

Though Noxon’s compassion is appreciated, if To The Bone’s raison d’être is to transform the way we talk about eating disorders, it sorely misses its mark. Of the numerous problems with the film’s portrayal of disordered eating, the biggest is the simple fact that it does nothing to correct the misconceptions that dominate the popular understanding of these illnesses. Instead, it perpetuates the maddeningly oversimplified image of the emaciated white teenage girl as the archetypal eating disorder patient.

Eating disorders are estimated to affect up to 15 per cent of adolescent females. In Canada, that could translate into roughly 448,000 young women. The rate for adolescent males is roughly three per cent. At the college level in the US, the rate is 16 per cent for trans persons. All ethnicities are affected. By contrast, the prevalence of anorexia nervosa specifically, which serves as the main villain in To the Bone, is estimated by Statistics Canada to be one per cent at most among the general populationGiven that anorexia has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental disorder, even one per cent is a disturbing figure.

Unlike the film’s cast of characters, the vast majority of those with easting disorders do not look sick. This is the crucial gap between the wider perception of disordered eating and the reality thereof: even though eating disorders manifest in the body, they wreak the most havoc on the mind. Put differently, you do not have to be thin to have an eating disorder.

While most people are familiar with anorexia and bulimia alone, there are actually several eating disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Among these is Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED). OSFED serves as a catch-all category for ‘partial-syndrome’ cases in which an individual definitely has disturbed eating- or weight-related behaviours but does not meet diagnostic criteria for a ‘full-syndrome’ eating disorder. For instance, one’s body mass index might not be low enough to qualify as diagnosed anorexia nervosa, or they may not purge frequently enough to be bulimic.

From a distance, this system of classification seems to establish two tiers of eating disorders: ‘serious’ and ‘not that serious.’ But recent studies have demonstrated that partial-syndrome disorders carry with them the same level of impairment as their full-syndrome counterparts. When it comes to somebody’s level of internal anguish — how long they spend thinking about food and weight each day, how often they pinch and tug at the fat on their bellies, how intensely it distresses them just to look at their body in a mirror — there is no meaningful distinction between OSFED and disorders like anorexia.

Although estimates of prevalence can vary, one study with a sample size of 496 adolescent females found that 11.5 per cent of adolescent females had experienced OSFED by the time they were 20, while 0.8 per cent had been diagnosed with anorexia. This is not to undercut anorexia’s seriousness — it is certainly a deadly disorder, but fortunately it’s one that is relatively rare.

Given that anorexia is the only diagnosis that requires a significantly low body weight, it’s reasonable to assume that many, if not most, people with eatings disorders might not appear unhealthy to an average observer. What people need to understand about disordered eating is that it is usually invisible and able to masquerade in our weight-obsessed culture as benign dieting or simply ‘healthy eating.’

To the Bone nonetheless focuses on that 0.8 per cent, and in doing so, inadvertently reinforces the idea that a person must be on the verge of death before they can be considered ‘sick’ with an eating disorder. This perception has very real consequences: it blinds those afflicted, their loved ones, and even their doctors to the fact that they have a psychiatric illness.

To the Bone does not get everything wrong. Noxon takes aim at the false idea that eating disorders are born out of vanity, a notion she dismantles through her empathetic and careful telling of Ellen’s story. 

But while the film is well-written, well-acted, and darkly funny, it is by no means a game changer.