Tag Archives: spoiler alert saturday

Spoiler Alert Sunday :: her thoughts on Lady Bird

26 Nov

(I saw it too, and echo this. I just wanted her to phrase things because she felt them more articulately.)

I don’t want to say too much about this movie, because I don’t think it’s the kind of movie you should talk too much about. It doesn’t have a complicated plot, or shocking twists, or flashy cinematography. It’s just a story about a girl and her mother in the early 2000s and how they talk to each other and hurt each other and lie to each other and love each other.

 

I think what’s most interesting to me about this movie is that it’s written by someone – Greta Gerwig, also the director – who so clearly remembers being a teenager. I’ve been reading a lot of young adult novels recently, and there are some that I do finish, but that grate on me because they sound too much like An Adult Writing a Teenager. My favorite kinds of stories with teeangers are stories where teenagers say horrible things, make huge mistakes, and are the narrative doesn’t excuse or coddle them. The thing about teenagers is that many of them are very smart, and say very smart and/or very frank things, but they will also think, say, and do some truly terrible or stupid things. (A quick plug here: two of the best novels I’ve read recently that capture what terrific fuckups teens can be, while still remembering that they are sometimes very smart, are Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy and Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld.) Anyway. Lady Bird is an authentic movie because its lead character, as well as some of her friends and acquaintances, say and do a lot of cruel, assholish, or just plain stupid things. But they also do and say some clever, kind, and profound things. The best kind of teenager-centric stories remember both of these elements and neither make teens into savants nor irredeemable assholes.

The name Lady Bird is one that our protagonist, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, has chosen for herself. We don’t see the process of her choosing it, or even where it comes from. It doesn’t matter. She insists on it, up to and including scratching out her given name on a call sheet to replace it with her chosen name. She and her mother fight about this, and about a thousand other stupid little things, and some bigger things too. (I really don’t want to spoil too much here.) I’m lucky to have a pretty good relationship with my mom, for the most part, but I could recognize elements in their relationship all the same. Both of them are headstrong, stubborn people who don’t really want to hurt each other, but who sometimes do it anyway because they forget to be careful or because their need to say something to the other is more important than thinking before they speak. It’s authentic in a way that I haven’t seen done in mother-daughter movies before – the handful that I’ve seen, I find sort of precious in a way that I can’t really stomach. (Brave is the exception here.) But in this movie, you can see how they try to love each other but don’t always succeed. It’s masterfully done.

I don’t think, at this point, it’s really necessary to point out that this movie absolutely smashes the Bechdel Test, but, well, it does. I think there are perhaps two scenes where men talk to each other? Almost all of the important relationships are between women. It’s very refreshing. However, this movie is very much about whiteness and white lower-class families – Lady Bird’s brother Miguel is Mexican and his girlfriend Shelly is black, and there are a few unnamed or briefly appearing characters of color, but for the most part it’s a pretty white cast. That’s fine, but it does influence the story.

Anyway. This is not really a movie that you need to know a lot about before you go in. It’s just a movie that you should experience. And if Saoirse Ronan doesn’t finally get an Oscar out of this, I will be very angry and never shut up about it ever.

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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Thor: Ragnarok

5 Nov

So we’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while, despite the early announcement that not a single of our beloved ladies from the first two Thor movies – not darling brilliant Jane, not spectacular sassmaster Darcy, not even fantastically badass Sif – would be present. There are reasons (not great ones, but reasons) for this, but it’s still a bummer. We love them and pray that we have not seen the last of them.

That said, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Hela (Cate Blanchett) are about the best apologies that we could possibly have been given, and Taika Watiti as a director gave a film that was in general a beautiful apology, as well as a series of amendments and fixes and clarifications and extra bursts of joy and goodness.

But this is one of those ones where spoiling would be cruel because you need to experience this joy for yourself, so here are a few things that we can say that aren’t spoilers so much as just truths.

  • Valkyrie. Valkyrie is in the comics (AKA Brunnhilde), leader of the Valkyrior, a group of warrior goddesses who choose which mortal Asgardian worshippers who have fallen in battle will be taken to Valhalla, member of multiple teams including the Fearless Defenders, and Valkyrie is a big giant bisexual. Both Thompson and Watiti have verified that they filmed a scene of a woman exiting her bedroom to confirm this, and Thompson has said she was playing Valkyrie as bisexual, but it was cut pretty late into production. Alas. It’s still been put forth into the world and it’s true and we love her. She is also kind of a disaster person who has Fallen On Hard Times. That’s all I’ll say about that from the get-go but it’s important to mention. She’s delightful. Also, she’s putting on my absolute favorite kind of British accent, very South Eastern and lovely. And she is seen riding a pegasus. That is the most glorious thing.
  • Hela. Hela is the goddess of death. She is, mythologically, Loki’s daughter… but she is not in fact Loki’s daughter in this continuity because that would be just too odd. Hela is also completely batshit bonkers, and it’s clear Blanchett is having the absolute time of her life strutting and posturing and dramatically intoning and gesturing nonsensically. I spent most of the time before this movie affectionately calling her “goth swamp witch Cate Blanchett” and I am pleased to report that that is exactly what she is. Also, speaking as someone who has wanted her to play more batshit crazy witch-types since that infamous “you should not have a Dark Lord but a QUEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNN not beautiful but terrible as the dawn treacherous as the sea STRONGER THAN THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EEEAAAAARTTTHHHHH ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRR” bit in The Fellowship of the Ring, Hela is pretty much what would have happened if Galadriel had gotten ahold of the One Ring.
  • Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is himself a lovely and wonderful man. He has been a lovely and wonderful man, and an infinitely lovable protagonist, since his mid-first-movie revelations, but now that he has spent enough time on Midgard to become a backtalking memelord he is unstoppable.
  • Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is also something of a memelord. It must be interesting to be a memelord and a meme simultaneously. This is not a pro-Loki blog, but this is a blog that nonetheless appreciates Hiddleston’s performance objectively if not what fandom has made of him. Also, he gets mocked, humiliated, and thrown around in a slapstick way constantly throughout the movie, which is really delightful.
  • Bruce/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is mostly the latter, but manages to be an engaging character regardless. I’m very fond of Bruce, which I think not a lot of people are, but Ruffalo especially brings an earnestness and sweetness to him that previous incarnations of the character lacked (even Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk, who I think was pretty good). The Hulk is more talkative than he has been in the previous films, having semi-complex conversations with people, while still being a giant green rage-monster. He and Valkyrie have a weird little friendship that is adorable. I understand why they’ve made the choice to sideline him and not give him his own movie, but I hope they keep letting him take second or third billing alongside other characters, because I think it makes for some really fun character beats. (Also drift partner specifically: oh my god there was a reference to Bruce/Natasha and I almost lost it right there in the middle of the theater how could they do this to me MY HEART GOODBYE)
  • This is a movie that is very clearly the product of Australian and New Zealander creators and performers. Not everyone is, obviously, and some of them are pretending to be not-British or some such, but it’s still very nice.
  • Oh, and Heimdall (Idris Elba) is a joy always.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

15 Oct

So I will begin by saying: gosh, we enjoyed this movie. I mean, that should be kind of a gimme, considering it’s about the bisexual triad responsible for creating and inspiring Wonder Woman, who is a wonderful and kickass character and a feminist inspiration. But I went in expecting to go “oh, that was really good,” not necessarily to feel as many things as I did.

Here’s the thing. A lot of what I felt was deeply personal, and not necessarily the sort of personal I want to or can find words to describe in detail. There was a quiet beauty to this story and its telling, though, that I can explain.

Let’s start with Rebecca Hall, portraying scholar of psychiatry, wife, and muse Elizabeth Marston. I have always been very fond of Rebecca Hall but this performance was poignant and sometimes painful but thrilling. (I’m not great at award predictions, and I doubt this will garner the proper attention to secure her any nominations, but I’d be very much supportive of it if it did come to pass by some miracle.) She was this fascinating balance of caring and heartsick and abrasive and vulnerable and angry and just so many things, and it’s not just the “true story” aspect of things that made this character seem very real, real in a way a lot of female characters don’t. It was a thoughtful portrayal that was full of nuance and flaw and dimensions. Also, she’s gorgeous and incredibly electric to watch.

Bella Heathcote, as the student who became the Marstons’ lover and mother of two of the triad’s children Olive Byrne, was decidedly more openly caring and vulnerable most of the time and yet perhaps the figure with the most ultimate power in the situation. She naturally has a sort of unusual porcelain doll quality to her, which worked to her advantage here for certain (one of the first scenes is the Marstons discussing the psychological advantages or burdens of Olive’s physical beauty, which was itself fascinating). But she was also so, so good at the moments where more steel was required of her.

Luke Evans was the titular Professor (William Moulton) Marston, and quite good as well. I haven’t seen him in many things, but what I have seen has been… well, a Fast and Furious film or something, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect from him. It was interesting to watch a movie in which he was the protagonist, technically, and the guiding figure of the story, but he as a character was quick to ascribe more importance to the two women in his life and he as an actor was quick to let the two actresses take the spotlight much more often as it suited. He was a framing device sometimes more than a character, but he was also, I must say, a very good ally. The construction of the story (scenes from the trio’s lives intertwined with an interrogation by, essentially, the old-timey morals police) provided him ample time to elaborate on his psychological theory and the motivation behind his creation and handling of Wonder Woman as a character.

But honestly, there’s a lot that can really only be experienced for yourself. It’s possible that it’ll hit some of y’all differently than it hit us, because not everyone is us (and let’s not mince words, I’m sure being Sapphic women made it hit us more strongly than it might hit others), but it’s small and beautiful and wholly worth it.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Spoiler Alert Saturday :: our thoughts on The Hitman’s Bodyguard

27 Aug

You know how sometimes you just crave junk food? You know it’s bad for you, and it won’t be filling or substantive at all, but you want it anyway? This movie is basically the movie version of that. It’s stupid, and cheesy, and not even that great, and you know it, but in the moment it’s pretty enjoyable.

If you’ve seen the trailers for this movie, you’ll know whether you’ll like it or not. The trailers pretty much give away the basic beats of the movie: Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) needs Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a former professional bodyguard, to protect him, and they’re total opposites and fight each other as well as the people who are after Kincaid. There’s a tiny bit more plot to it, which is completely ridiculous – Kincaid is the single credible witness in a trial against a foreign dictator, and escapes Interpol custody after double agents try to take him out, and Bryce is the only person who can get him to the trial before the deadline is up and the dictator is pardoned due to lack of evidence. But mostly it’s just an excuse for Ryan Reynolds and Sammy L. to banter for two hours and shoot people. This movie is basically a wacky cartoon with real people and more murder and violence.

It’s honestly kind of bad, but it knows what it is, and Reynolds and Sammy L. are pretty much parodying themselves and that makes it fun. Half of Sammy L.’s dialogue is “motherfucker,” and Reynolds is an affable tightass. Sometimes the jokes are stupid, but you can tell they’re both having so much fun that you end up smiling along anyway. I nearly always have a better time in movies when I can tell that the actors are having a good time. I was also expecting a lot more cringe-worthy offensive moments, but aside from one use of the r-slur and the occasional (not unexpected for the genre) sexist joke or titty shot, it’s really not that bad. There’s also a scene near the beginning where a man’s wife and child get shot in front of him for no other reason than a Kick the Dog moment, but hey, I wasn’t shocked, just mildly annoyed.

Most of the reason we went to see this movie on the big screen was because Elodie Yung has a pretty significant secondary role, playing an Interpol agent and Reynolds’ ex. She is the one who helps Sammy L. to a safehouse after the double agents strike, and she contacts Reynolds because, as she says, “he’s the only one who can get Darius to the trial safely.” She gets to kick a reasonable amount of ass, and her cheekbones are ridiculous. As we’ll get into more in our Monday Defenders post, she’s an absolutely electric presence. I’m also obsessed with her accent. She also screams at Reynolds in French a couple of times, which is a nice bonus. Salma Hayek is also here, as Sammy L.’s wife who is locked up, and she’s only in a handful of scenes but she is a profane delight. She’s not always in “popcorn” kinds of movies, but she was delightful. She and Sammy L. actually have a really sweet relationship too – he gushes about her nonstop and goes out of his way to perform one particular romantic gesture for her even though he’s got dozens of operatives on his tail. It’s weirdly charming and I’d watch another movie about them.

I don’t know that it’s worth full theater price, but if you don’t have anything else to do and there’s a morning or matinee showing, and you like any or all of these people, there are worse things you could see. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, for sure.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Spoiler Alert Saturday :: our thoughts on Atomic Blonde

12 Aug

Damn, guys. I’m sorry. It’s been incredibly busy lately, and I’m just going to leave it that and move along.

Now, if you’re here you probably know all the reasons you might not like this movie. All of those are valid. But we went anyway, because we wanted to watch Charlize Theron kill guys. And of course, that’s the #1 reason that you could, in fact, like this movie. Here’s five others.

  1. The aesthetic. It’s a comic book movie (though a lesser-known comic, one I’d not heard of) and that’s pretty clear from a lot of the visual layout. The hotel room in particular is a total illustration.
  2. Charlize’s character Lorraine also has an incredibly satisfyingly cohesive and interesting wardrobe that has its themes (black and white and maybe red) without being too reliant on the 80s setting.
  3. There is a very good amount of girlkissing. Yes, this doesn’t end well. No, we’re not excusing that, and yes, we look forward to a movie where Sofia Boutella gets to be happy without being painted to look like a space alien. But there’s girlkissing (and girlsex!) that didn’t feel entirely male-gazey. They’re actually cute and converse and cuddle.
  4. Bad things happen to the men that deserve it. Pretty much all of them.
  5. Bill Skarsgard’s Merkel was oddly charming, and I’m not just saying that out of Skarsgard bias, because I didn’t actually connect the dots of who he was until the end. I just liked the character.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Spider-Man: Homecoming

9 Jul

I myself do not have particularly deep feelings about Spider-Man. I have enjoyed or not enjoyed the previous films to about the degree that most people have. I, on the other hand, have EVERY feeling about Spider-Man because watching the first Sam Raimi movie in high school was my gateway into superhero stuff (unless you count The Incredibles and I don’t since it’s not a comic book property). I’ve seen at least a little bit of pretty much every Spider-Man adaptation, including a really bad animated one that aired on MTV and had Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of Spidey. Yes, this is real. Anyway, my favorite adaptations up to this point were the Ultimate Spider-Man comics and a semi-obscure 2009 animated series called Spectacular Spider-Man. Both of these were attempts to modernize the story and incorporate various elements that weren’t present in the original comics: Ultimate has him working as a web designer (haha yes I know) for the Daily Bugle and he and Mary Jane Watson are high school BFFs, and Spectacular keeps the classic photography job but includes Gwen and Harry as his BFFs. I pretty much judge every adaptation against these two. Homecoming is, I’m happy to say, a very very good Spider-Man adaptation. It’s probably my third-favorite, and that’s mostly because it doesn’t really have Gwen or Mary Jane, who are my two favorite parts of the stories. But it’s still a damn good movie.

The problems with the previous Spider-Man movies is that they have largely not understood two basic, important points of Spider-Man: unlike Bruce Wayne/Batman and Clark Kent/Superman, Peter Parker and Spider-Man are not separate entities, and the strength of Spider-Man as a character comes from his relationships and interactions with the people around him.

The first two attempts at Spider-Man movies were both deeply flawed adaptations that miss critical parts of the story. The Raimi movies, at least the first two, have pretty good villains: they’re campy, sure, but the charm of Spider-Man is its inherent campiness. The Green Goblin and Doc Ock are given backstories, they’re played by good actors who are having a blast hamming it up, and, in the latter’s case, the film seems to sympathize with him at least to some degree. The problem with these movies is Spider-Man. Not only is Peter far too broody, but so is Spider-Man himself; I can’t recall him cracking a single joke, and the entire point of Spider-Man is that he makes stupid jokes in the middle of fights! It leans way too heavily on Peter’s angst about Uncle Ben and being a good person and forgets to make him funny. The Amazing duology started out pretty decent, with a Spider-Man who makes jokes and a Peter who, while a bit hipstery and smug, at least knew how to smile. The problem with that first movie is that the Lizard is a half-formed idea of a villain that doesn’t make any sense and his plan is total bullshit. (There is actually a short arc in the Spectacular animated series that uses the Lizard – it’s really well-done and makes way more sense, so I’m not saying that the Lizard as a character is inherently unadaptable.) The less said about Amazing 2, the better. The great thing about Homecoming is that it understands that a good Spider-Man story needs both a quippy, likeable Spider-Man and a bombastic villain. Tom Holland is charming and believable as a kid who’s pretty much in over his head, but who just wants to help people and use his powers to do awesome things. They added in a short montage of him doing dumb little heroic things like giving an old lady directions and stopping a bike thief, which is important because Spider-Man is supposed to be a hero for the little guy first and foremost. Michael Keaton as the Vulture is legitimately menacing and also chews the scenery all over the place. They’ve written this version of the character as a blue-collar worker who stumbles into alien technology after the Chitauri incident and, along with some of his colleagues, decides to use it to build himself some weapons to rob banks and commit other crimes. There’s also a spoiler about his character which I won’t mention, but it was a pretty good touch and I felt silly for not guessing it.

The previous movies also leaned far too heavily on his relationships with his love interests, to the detriment of his relationships with Uncle Ben, Aunt May, or literally any other people. The first Amazing movie at least had the decency to give Gwen sort of a character arc, motivation, and a hero moment outside of Peter, but still, it was largely about Peter’s love life. In the best versions of the story, Peter has friends and loved ones. The conflict comes from his wanting to protect them from the villains who are trying to hurt him while still trying to show them how much he cares. This new movie gives him a best friend in Ned (Jacob Batalon), a fellow nerd who he builds the Death Star Lego set with and who is the first person to learn his secret. It also doesn’t forget that Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is an essential part of Peter’s life, and while she’s not in a lot of scenes, she’s in enough to give the viewer a real sense of how much she and Peter love and support each other. Zendaya is also here as a girl who mostly exists on the fringes of the story, mostly to provide snarky commentary. She’s basically Marvel’s cop-out because her name is “Michelle” but at the end she says “my friends call me MJ.” I guess maybe they thought nobody in 2017 would be named Mary Jane? I expected to be a lot angrier about this than I actually am, and it’s probably because Zendaya is a scene stealer and I’m just happy to have her here at all.

There is a romance subplot in this story – they’ve borrowed one of Peter’s second string short-term girlfriends, Liz Allan (Laura Harrier), who is introduced as the ideal girl that nerdy Peter doesn’t have a chance with. I was worried about how they would handle this, especially after the Raimi movies where poor MJ is basically reduced to a pretty idea of a character and nothing else, but Liz is a character with her own personality and ambitions. Not only that, but she’s captain of the school’s academic decathlon team rather than being a cheerleader. She and Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) are both members, which is a fun update to the classic story where Flash is the quarterback and Liz is his arm candy. But back to Liz; after her initial introduction, her screentime is meant to remind you that she is a person just like Peter is, and Peter’s feelings do not make her into some unattainable goddess. I doubt she’ll be back in the next movie, but I was satisfied with her treatment in this one.

This is not a perfect movie, however. The single greatest flaw in this movie is that Marvel apparently has some kind of Stark quota now, where Tony has to be in X amount of screentime in every movie that he can possibly be squeezed into. I have pretty well run out of patience with Tony Stark (and I am, particularly after our Fourth of July Captain America movie marathon, eager to see Tony destroyed elaborately – more on this in a second), and in this movie he is trying and failing to be a parental figure to a kid who is a thousand times kinder and better than he is. I still haven’t forgiven Tony for recruiting a fifteen-year-old child into a superhero battle where he had no business being. He did his best to rub it in in this movie, too, lecturing Peter on his behavior while conveniently side-stepping the point that if it wasn’t for him, none of the stuff with Vulture would have happened. He’s in something like twenty minutes of the movie, all told, but it’s twenty minutes too long. Because here’s the thing. The Sokovia Accords were bullshit. I have only seen Civil War a handful of times but every time I do I get even angrier about the Sokovia Accords (which seem increasingly more pointed and directed less at the problem and more at the convenient scapegoat of, as I said on Twitter during aforementioned Fourth of July rewatch, a magical [Roma-Jewish] refugee girl – but Kermit meme). But considering that Tony was the biggest advocate of the Accords, and that he literally endangered Peter’s life in their name, the fact remains that this movie could have been called Spider-Man Comes Home To Violate The Sokovia Accords. They’re bullshit, but the fact that Tony went out of his way to institute legislation insisting that all superheroes (not just the Avengers proper, all superheroes or even just enhanced people, as seen repeatedly in SHIELD) be monitored by a governing body and then said “but hey, kid, you just go be neighborhood Spider-Man, you do you” is also bullshit. I don’t want harm to befall Peter. Peter’s just trying his best. But Tony Stark plays favorites and only remembers things when it’s convenient; even when he’s mad at Peter he doesn’t so much as mention the Accords or the fact that not only is Spider-Man violating them but that by the end of this particular film he’s likely responsible for at least as much property damage, if not incidental civilian injury and loss of life, as (for example) Scarlet Witch in Lagos. (We didn’t hear about any of the loss of life, but – you guys. At one point Spider-Man is on an airplane that flew by and sliced the top off of the Coney Island Parachute Jump. That ride isn’t operational; it’s, according to Wikipedia, “250 feet (76 m) tall and weighing 170 tons (150 tonnes).” Based on approximations of when their Homecoming dance was [likely a Saturday evening in September] there’s literally no way that when the top came off of it didn’t fall on people, possibly at least twelve. I’m not blaming Peter for these people being injured or killed. But but Kermit meme.)

My other biggest complaint is that the AI in the suit that Tony gave Peter apparently didn’t have a name, which is ridiculous because Tony names everything, and then when Peter names it the name he picks is Karen. The problem with this is that there’s already a pretty prominent Karen in the MCU: Karen Page. Marvel has a real problem with repeating names anyway (James “Bucky” Barnes/James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Hope Van Dyne/Hope Shlottman/Hope Mackenzie, Peter Parker/Peter Quill/Pietro Maximoff, Robert Gonzales/Roberto “Robbie” Reyes, etc.) and this is just another piece of evidence that someone needs to get them a baby name book. Bucky and Rhodey can’t be changed at this point, but “Karen” isn’t even really a mythology gag. The only Karen in the Spider-mythos is from the 1999 animated series Spider-Man Unlimited, which is so obscure that even I hadn’t heard of it until yesterday, and if we wanted a mythology gag, why not “Gwen” or “Glory” or “Carlie” or even “Felicia”? Or his mother’s name, Mary? It’s just frustrating to see them reusing names that aren’t even particularly common ones.

Overall, though, this is the single best Spider-Man movie to date and a great addition to the MCU. I would say it’s one of the more joyful superhero movies that I’ve seen in the last few years. I’m very happy with it. And though my strongest feelings were overly elaborate rage-induced calculations based on how terrible Tony Stark is, I very much enjoyed it as well.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Spoiler Alert Saturday :: our thoughts on Wonder Woman

3 Jun

DC finally did a good. A really good. A spectacularly good. A so damn good we don’t actually want to spoil any specific details for you so you can experience them on your own because it’s so worth doing that.

We are not disappointed. We are thrilled.

(Also, our entire theater lost it at both the 47 Meters Down trailer and a certain pithy declaration made by Diana [Gal Gadot]. We won’t spoil it for you but it’s perfect.)

–your fangirl heroines.

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