We’re back in lockdown once again! While I continue to compose my Swiss ‘Tinder Travels’ pièce de résistance and attempt to stay sane among the busy new year workload, I thought I’d share some of the great podcasts, movies and media I’ve found fascinating over the last year (and in the first few days of 2021).
Ok, I’ll admit these aren’t the cheeriest of finds… Although, I’ve tried to add a few recommendations that will guarantee a barrel of laughs! Most of the more serious picks relate to the investigative reporting work that I started doing at the end of last year which heavily revolved around sexual violence, revenge porn and abuse. With the alleged Armie
Dahmer Hammer DMs bringing the topic to forefront once again, I figured that it was pertinent I share some of the work from campaigners, experts and victims who I admire and who have helped me inform my journalistic pieces alongside sharing the fun forms of media that have brought joy to my days trapped indoors.
1. THE INVESTIGATION (BBC IPLAYER)
Danish drama, The Investigation, is the BBC’s latest true crime offering.
In August 2017, Swedish journalist Kim Wall received a text from Peter Madsen, a Danish inventor she’d been trying to land an interview with for months. She headed out to Copenhagen harbour to meet him face-to-face, boarding the midget submarine UC3 Nautilus. Kim Wall was never seen alive again.
It’s a gripping, heartbreaking and well-acted drama that is made all the more impressive by the production team’s sensitive handling of Wall’s story. Written and directed by the Oscar-nominated Tobias Lindholm, the series subverts the expectations of a typical true crime drama. The attention isn’t focused on Madsen, who was convicted of sexual assault and murder after a lengthy investigation, but on Wall, her parents and the brave forces working together behind the scenes to find out what happened to her. Madsen is merely referred to as the ‘accused’ or the ‘suspect’ and is never pictured on screen.
Lindholm told the New York Times, ‘I wanted to make a story about heroes, so I didn’t have room for him… It liberated me to tell a humane story’.
2. GHOSTS (BBC IPLAYER)
I could sing the praises of BBC’s Ghosts all day. The sitcom is written and performed by the cast members of Horrible Histories and is utterly hilarious.
The series follows young couple, Alison and Mike, who unexpectedly inherit the rickety country mansion Button House from a distant relative of hers. Unbeknownst to them, they also inherit some very needy ghosts.
It’s one of those rare sitcoms that is both side-splitting and heartwarming at the same time. And yes, that is my way of saying I sobbed like a baby while watching Christmas special last month. You’ll fall in love with each of ghosts and their own unique quirks and it’s a much needed reprieve from the doom and gloom of the world at the moment. I dare you to not binge watch it all in one day!
3. THE SERPENT (BBC IPLAYER)
Another true crime offering from the BBC which I managed to binge watch in the space of a few days is The Serpent.
The eight episode series is based on the crimes of serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who murdered young Western tourists throughout the Hippie Trail of Southeast Asia during the 1970s and the Dutch diplomat, Herman Knippenberg, who tried to catch him.
While I am confused by the decision to not hire a mixed or an actual Southeast Asian actor, Tahar Rahim is incredibly believable as Sobhraj and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have serious wardrobe envy when it came to some of the fits Jenna Coleman’s Marie-Andrée wears!
Arguably, not a show you’d watch to relax after a stressful day (Episode 5 is so tense!), it still features some of the best drama writing and production by the BBC in ages.
4. TED BUNDY: FALLING FOR A KILLER (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
Much like Danish drama about Kim Wall, Prime Video’s docuseries recounting the murders of serial killer Ted Bundy takes on a much more victim/survivor-centered focus than we’re used to, especially when it comes to Bundy.
Rather than marinating on Bundy’s gory crimes, we instead are given the perspective of his long-time girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall and her daughter Molly.
The five-part mini series is very much female focused and features the women who were impacted by Bundy. The ones who managed to escape, had a passing encounter with him or the ones who tragically lost their lives. All of them are given a spotlight in this docuseries and we learn not just their names, but we get to hear their stories and about how this case affected the women’s movement in the 70s.
5. STATH LETS FLATS (ALL4)
I watched Series 1 of Stath Lets Flats in my tiny university flat, stuffing my face with a packet of bourbons. Alas, work got in the way after that and I only managed to find the time to finally sit, watch and appreciate Series 2 quite recently. I’m praying for a far less demanding work schedule in the future for when Series 3 hits our screens, but until then, I want to share the joy of Stath with the uninitiated.
Co-written and created by Jamie Demetriou, Stath Lets Flats stars Demetriou as a stupid, incompetent and socially inept Greek-Cypriot letting agent in London who only has the job because his father is the owner of the company.
Having dealt with a whole host of lettings agents recently when moving flats in London (seriously, please stop calling! and please don’t FaceTime me at 5am!), I secretly wish Stath was in charge.
6. GROUNDED WITH LOUIS THEROUX (S2E19) W/ FKA TWIGS
tw: domestic abuse, sexual assault
As much as I adore Louis Theroux, I sadly didn’t have the time to religiously follow his podcast, Grounded, throughout the numerous lockdowns last year and am now having to play catch-up!
When I saw that this week’s episode featured British musician FKA Twigs, I immediately dropped everything to listen it. I fell in love with Twigs and her 2019 album Magdalene. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to the track ‘Cellophane‘, go do it NOW! It’s a heavenly experience and I’ll never stop being furious at how she was robbed at the Grammys for this masterpiece.
In her conversation with Theroux, Twigs talks about the inspiration behind the album, being the only mixed race person in her school in a rural area (I feel you, Twigs!), the racist trolling she endured during her relationship with Robert Pattinson and her love for Adam Ant and Shakespears Sister, but she also opens up about her abusive relationship. In December 2020, Twigs filed her lawsuit against actor Shia LaBeouf, accusing him of sexual battery, assault and infliction of emotional distress.
You can find a breakdown of excerpts of what she says in the podcast here, but I encourage you to listen to the episode in it’s entirety as Twigs is so brave and open. Her experience and her fears mirror the experiences of many of the survivors that I’ve spoken to in the last few months for my work. I love that she directly dismisses the incredibly frustrating, but all too typical ‘Why didn’t you leave?’ question that survivors so often get asked. She also discusses calling an abused women’s helpline which led her to reach out to friends and see a therapist, a process that eventually saw her leave LaBeouf for good.
Twig’s experience is so harrowing and heartbreaking, but I’m so glad to see someone as influential as Twigs speaking so openly about domestic violence.
You can find guidance on reporting domestic abuse and the numbers for advicelines here.
7. LALALALETMEEXPLAIN W/ WE CAN’T CONSENT TO THIS
I was forwarded this one by someone on Twitter who had been following the work I’ve been doing and thought I should look into the ‘We Can’t Consent To This’ campaign.
LaLaLetMeExplain is a podcast that dives into the highs and lows of modern dating, sex and relationships with the host, Lady, and her guests giving raw and honest advice to dilemmas sent in by listeners. In this particular episode, Eve from ‘We Can’t Consent To This’ talks about the campaign’s mission to change the law surrounding the ‘rough sex’ defence, which was brought to wider attention with the Natalie Connolly and Grace Millane cases. The smokescreen of ‘rough sex’ being used by men to excuse situations where women are seriously harmed or murdered has been on my mind lately due to the leaked Armie Hammer DMs and the harem of young girls he allegedly abused sexually and mentally. HouseofEffie on Instagram has all the receipts for those who may be unaware of the news.
The episode also touches upon the alarming normalisation of choking, spitting and hurting women during sex in popular culture as well as the issue of consent. Now, I’m all for kink and very light BDSM, but an ex of mine about a year ago would always suggest acts that were degrading and potentially painful during sex which I initially – and perhaps quite stupidly – agreed to, but I quickly realised he hadn’t done his research on how to take these acts he’d seen in porn and replicate them SAFELY and it made me scared wondering about the men who don’t ask before trying something they’ve learnt from years of porn. I’ve heard far too many stories of people assuming because someone has consented to sex initially, they believe they don’t need to get further affirmation of consent in subsequent encounters or stories of young girls who have had guys perform depraved acts on them without asking or really taking the time to learn about how to practice kinks like BDSM safely. That being said, if you want to go further down the rabbit hole of how harmful extreme porn can be, I suggest this article in the Guardian.
It’s an enlightening and empowering discussion and I urge you to visit the ‘We Can’t Consent To This’ website for more information and to the read the stories of the women who were harmed.
8. LET’S TALK ABOUT PORN BABY W/ THE REVENGE PORN LAWYERS
This podcast is by the team behind the #NotYourPorn campaign that you may have heard of. Let’s Talk About Porn Baby delves into the world of porn, chatting to sex experts, bloggers, porn models and companies to gain insight into the world that dominates our browsers.
In this particular episode, they’re joined by Georgia Calvert-Lee and Honza Cervenka from the law firm ‘The Revenge Porn’ as well as ‘Consent’ Lawyers McAllister Olivarius who give us a crash course in revenge porn law.
Ann Olivarius and Georgia Calvert-Lee are two of the most badass women that I came across during my research and who I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with when my first piece about reporting sexual assault in higher education came out last November.
With the increase of sexting due to the pandemic, I think every young (or old, I’m not judging!) guy and gal can take something away from this episode. The lawyers guide us through how to seek justice if you become a victim of image-based-sexual-abuse from what your legal options are (both criminal and civil), to seeking financial retribution and putting the perpetrator behind bars.
9. MY DAD WROTE A PORNO
Because I’ve bombarded you with podcasts that consider the more sinister and serious side of sex and relationships, I’m now recommending something that is fun and full of badly written, but utterly hilarious sex!
Jamie Morton’s dad, the now legendary Rocky Flintstone, has written a series of rather dirty books and in this award-winning podcast, Jamie and his friends Alice Levine and James Cooper delve into the world of the filthy and factually-all-over-the-place Belinda Blinked chapter-by-chapter.
Maybe don’t listen to this one out and about too much as I’ve gotten many an odd glare on the tube for my sudden outbursts of laughter, but hey, it makes the morning commute SO much easier. I highly recommend giving Belinda’s Timeline a look while listening just so you can fully appreciate the masterpiece Rocky has put together. Belinda Blumenthal is an icon and I won’t hear otherwise!
10. MISCHIEF MOVIE NIGHTS IN (STREAMING PAY-PER-VIEW LIVE ON TICKETCO)
Look, I don’t know if this necessarily qualifies as a movie per say, but I’ll do anything to spread the absolute genius that is Mischief Theatre.
The gang behind the West End’s The Play That Goes Wrong and BBC’s The Goes Wrong Show are performing a movie live on stage direct to your sofas. The catch? It’s fully improvised. You, the live audience, get to come up with the title, genre and location for the movie. Naturally, hilarity ensues!
We’ve had everything from period drama to a superhero origin story… Every night is brand new and a bargain at £10 a ticket! *10 more shows announced for February*
11. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (PRIME VIDEO, APPLE TV ETC)
Three guys spot a woman at a bar who appears to be heavily intoxicated, unable to keep her head up and practically falling over in her seat. One swaggers over to her. He’s a ‘nice guy’ who has to get her home safely before a bad guy swoops in. Of course, he’s so nice that he’d never hurt her. He has come to rescue the damsel in drunken distress. Should he help her home? Sure, but maybe they should go to his apartment first. Despite Carey Mulligan’s Cassie clearly being out of her mind and barely conscious, he decides to kiss her… They move to the bed… And that’s when we realise, Cassie isn’t drunk and he’s not a nice guy.
Emerald Fennell aka Camilla from The Crown‘s feature directorial debut is a highly ambitious and powerful film. We learn that ex-med student Cassie’s revenge stems from trauma involving her best friend Nina who was the victim of not just one privileged man, but a system that protected the criminal rather than the accuser. For those who have read my piece on reporting sexual assault in higher education, does this sound familiar?
Promising Young Woman‘s subject matter is intense, but it’s actually a film packed with dark humour. It benefits from comedian Bo Burnham, who plays Cassie’s former classmate who she begins to start dating. Fennell’s writing flows naturally and is witty and sharp, very reminiscent of Fennell’s time as showrunner on Killing Eve‘s second season. Mulligan gives the performance of a lifetime and Fennell never lets you forget that Cassie is a traumatised woman taking her pain out on the patriarchal system that enabled it one shitty ‘nice guy’ at a time.
12. A MAN CALLED OVE (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO)
A little hidden gem on Prime, A Man Called Ove is based on Fredrik Backman’s 2012 book of the same name and is a rather moving, poignant and funny story of a grumpy, suicidal Swedish mechanic in his sixties who finds unlikely friendship in his neighbour, a straight-talking pregnant Persian woman called Parvaneh who has two small children who take a liking to Ove.
It’s an incredibly touching film, aided by flashbacks that allow us an insight into Ove’s past. I challenge even the coldest of hearts to not find some joy in watching Parvaneh’s good nature and sunny attitude slowly melt away Ove’s cantakerousness!