October Staff Picks (Intern Edition): K-dramas, Podcasts, and Animorphs!
Words By F(r)iction Staff
Jung Hae-in has been one of my most favorite actors ever since I started watching K-dramas. When his latest series D.P. was released, I had to watch it. It is the story of two soldiers searching for fellow soldiers who have deserted the army. It is a haunting tale of the cruelties that unfold within the military. With only six episodes, it leaves a mark. It’s been weeks since I finished, but even now I recall those stories and the unfairness of it all, the unforgivable tragedies, the trauma that they live through, and the entire futility of expecting change and the rage behind it. The soundtrack is absolutely beautiful as well, there is so much emotion in it. I would recommend giving “Higher,” “Free,” “Tell A Lie,” and “Goodbye” a listen. I have been hooked on these tracks and they keep bringing those stories back to me with the desperation of wanting things to change and my desire for those soldiers to lead better lives.
Recently, I’ve been binge-listening to the podcast Say More by Melissa Olivia-Lozada and Olivia Gatwood. It has strangely functioned as a sort of mirror to my internal monologue and innermost thoughts, especially during this very murky pandemic year. Melissa and Olivia are best friends, poets, and feel very real. They discuss issues like retroactive jealousy, pop culture icons like Lana Del Ray, and veer off on lengthy tangents about karaoke. What I love about them, and the podcast, is that though they’re definitely two strong, independent female writers, they also come across as deeply human, plagued by the same troubles and anxieties that their listeners undoubtedly share (I know I do). They’re spunky, wildly funny, and exceptionally perceptive. Not only do they have the best insight (on a range of issues, from capitalist power structures to The Bachelorette), the language they use to relay this insight is so precise and incisive. They’re keenly aware of the world around them, and as they respond to it with gentleness and thoughtfulness, you can’t help but get completely sucked in.
A novel I read semi-recently that stuck with me and that I’ll continue to recommend is Night Film by Marisha Pessl. This is a mystery/thriller with elements of experimental and psychological fiction—genres that intertwine beautifully to make a haunting and mind-bending story. A perfect Halloween-time read, this story starts on a late October night, when Ashley Cordova, daughter of infamous movie director Stanislas Cordova, is found dead in an abandoned warehouse. The death is ruled a suicide, but investigative journalist Scott McGrath is doubtful of this conclusion due to the strange details surrounding Stanislas Cordova: he hasn’t been seen in over thirty years, and yet he and his cult-horror films, some of which are rumored to show real violence, have amassed a devout underground following. Shunned by the journalistic community the first time he tried to learn the truth about the reclusive director, Scott is determined to redeem himself, even as things become increasingly dark and dangerous the deeper he pries. Night Film had me hooked from the beginning, as Pessl does an exquisite job of building suspense and keeping her reader just as paranoid and unsure as her protagonist. The novel also directs the reader to a website with links to images, recordings, and documents to supplement the story—you can quite literally experience parts of this story as Scott does. The novel itself includes newspaper clippings, pictures, and screenshots of websites throughout to make this a truly immersive read.
I saw Pig recently and I can already tell it’s going to be one of my favorite movies of all time. Rob (played by Nic Cage) loses his beloved truffle pig, and will stop at nothing to get her back. First of all, the eponymous pig (played by Brandy the pig) is absolutely gorgeous. She’s a natural born actress with no formal training. I would watch an entire movie of Brandy running around in the dirt doing pig things. In addition to being a most excellent vehicle for Brandy footage, the movie also serves as an exploration on love, the pitfalls of prestige, loss and the avoidance of loss, and how capitalism destroys art. Nic Cage is magnetic as a mystic hermit chef/truffle hunter/secret . . . underground . . . Portland restaurant, uh . . . ? You’ll just have to watch it. If you need more convincing, watch this scene.
SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE ANIMORPHS SERIES AHEAD!
Remember Animorphs? Those goofy, human-turning-into-animal covers? The overly saturated backgrounds; the sometimes-messy, usually awkward shifts? I was entranced. My older sister had a few of those books stuck in our garage; I stole them for myself, reading through the books late at night, flipping through the pages to watch the transformation, the limbs twisting and shrinking, faces flattening. Yes, I was hooked by the gimmick. But Animorphs was much more, and much darker, than their goofy covers. It is one of the most unexpectedly mature, strange, and wild book series I’ve ever read, igniting my love for strange sci-fi and fantasy.
It begins lighthearted. We love the cast, we root for them, and maybe we expect a (children’s) book standard: a happy ending. Instead, the story ends in abject horror: the death of a main character. The series’ ultimate main character commits genocide. Characters are romantically separated, suffering from PTSD, depression; others have cut ties, left. The book is callous. The characters, ghosts. No goofiness is left; the book has calcified fully into war. It ends ambiguously, with the remaining main characters ramming their ship into the enemy’s.
People were angry with that narrative choice. K.A. Applegate, the series’ writer, responded to dissatisfied readers: “Animorphs was always a war story. [W]ars very often end, sad to say, just as ours did: with a nearly seamless transition to another war.” Animorphs showed me how powerful, mature, and nuanced children’s media could be. It still scares me, but I always return to it. I highly recommend it.