December 25, 2015

Rae's newsletter: A Christmas list

Merry Christmas, if that’s your jam, and Happy Friday if it’s not.

There’s a lot of options already out there on lists of the best TV shows, movies, and books of 2015. If you want some great ones, my favorites year-end lists are these from Emily Nussbaum and Mo Ryan, both of whom I agree with most of the time and admire all of the time.

A goal of mine this year was to consume more culture both by and about women, and as I look back on what truly touched me this year, that seems to be the common thread.

So here is my 2015 list of things that were so good they made me burst into tears.

Star Wars

The hero in Star Wars is a girl named Rey. I am a girl named Rae. I have never seen a girl with my name be the hero in anything. I’m used to being the only one with my name, and I love its uniqueness. But then I saw a girl named Rey lead the biggest franchise of the decade. And she was wonderful. We share more than our names--we also share an attitude, strength, and love for our friends.

Star Wars, to me, was about friendships that span galaxies. But now it’s also about a girl named Rey who gets to pick up a light saber, and that means more to me than I ever expected. (Is this how all the Lukes have felt for the past 30 years?)

The last few years have been an awakening for me. I didn’t know I was missing women-specific stories until I got a taste. I had always felt fulfilled with the stories I’d been given until I uncovered the giant hole that had always been there. Now my thirst cannot be quenched.

I cried for the deep friendships in Star Wars, and I cried for the young girls seeing Rey for the first time who will hopefully not know a lack of leading ladies. We need more, we need more, we need more.


The first time I listened to Hamilton, I had about 10 minutes before ShondaLand on Thursday night, and I wanted to see what everyone was talking about. I’ll just listen to a few songs, I thought, and then I’ll watch Scandal. Ten minutes went by, and my show was starting and I thought, well, I could just finish the first half of Hamilton. Then another hour went by and I was sobbing on the couch as the last song of Hamilton played.

My boyfriend came home and asked if I was ok, and all I could get out was that I was fine, I was just listening to this new musical, and Eliza, she just loved him so much and she told his story, she fought for them both.

He hugged me, and I cried for Eliza and her sister and for the women whose stories never got told.

Mad Max

Imperator Furiosa makes quite an impression. But nothing hit me harder than Furiosa standing in the middle of a desert greeting a group of women she had traveled so far to find. In the middle of the most gorgeous action movie I have ever seen, the screen was full entirely of women. My tears came unexpectedly and flowed like water.

(I saw Mad Max again this week, and it’s still great.)

Jane the Virgin

Jane the Virgin is so good it makes me angry. (Is there a word for this emotion? Let’s come up with one.) Every week I look forward to its unexpected storytelling, and every week my heart gets a little softer and my brain a little more creative. By focusing on the stories of the three Villanueva women, it quenches my thirst an hour each week.

You’re the Worst

My favorite relationships in culture are the ones that crack a little under stress, and fight when things get hard, and make it through anyway. I want to see the ups and downs and imperfections more than a perfect love story. Maybe it’s just the stage of life I’m in—I’ve found love, so I want to see more of what comes next.

You’re the Worst showed some of what came next when Jimmy and Gretchen moved in together and depression wormed its way back into Gretchen’s life. It wasn’t pretty. It was hard and ugly and sad, but they got through it. And that was beautiful.

Todd VanDerWerff and Pilot Viruet also wrote about You’re the Worst and their experiences with depression in a way that made me feel a little less alone.


Rachel Syme’s confident investigation into the selfie phenom explores what it means to be seen. So much of what I found wanting in culture is the result of women not being visible and not being in charge of their image. Selfies can bring all that crashing down. If you haven’t read it yet, this piece is my Christmas present to you. Read it, feel seen, and be merry.
Cheers to you, dear friends, and thanks for reading. May 2016 never leave us thirsty.