The Monthly

January 2021


It's prime time

Illustration by Cynthia Zhang

by Jennifer Zhan, Monthly Editor

In my first class this quarter, I was in a breakout room where we were discussing what we thought the role of a letter from the editor was. It was a sort of horrifying experience for me, given that I knew I would eventually have to write this. Apparently, I need to perfectly encapsulate the voice and tone of the publication, be witty and likable, and also prime you for the content that’s ahead.

I don’t know about all that, but I am excited to be The Monthly’s editor and for you to read this issue. For those of you who don’t know, The Monthly is an arts and entertainment magazine that publishes (who could’ve guessed) every month. We feature stories about alums, students and local residents who are involved in the arts and entertainment world, as well as our staffers’ thoughts on TV, food and music.

There are so many moving parts to putting the Monthly together. It turns out that you actually can’t manifest a story happening by sheer force of will. I’m so grateful for our reporters, and for The Daily’s web, interactives, graphics and social teams for being super flexible as stories fell through or changed. Special shoutout to my predecessor Wilson Chapman for answering so many questions about technical details, and for an intentional investment and prioritization of diverse coverage in our issues that I’m excited to build on.

The poet Kaveh Akbar once wrote, “Art is where what we survive survives.” It’s a quote that I think of when I encounter people who feel that arts and entertainment pieces are just fluff. We can learn something about the world by understanding what artists and actors and writers and creatives of any kind are grappling with in their work, or by examining how audiences are reacting to and engaging with that work.

Those takeaways can be big ideas about justice and morality. But they don’t always have to be such big concepts, and I think that’s okay. Sometimes I have a hot take on what celebrity culture can tell us about society, but sometimes I just want to plan out a collab between two Disney+ stars, with a music video where they take a road trip to somewhere more exciting than a 20-year-old man’s suburban residence (i.e., anywhere). I hope the issues this quarter can reflect that range of possibility.

All this to say, there’s a lot of heart in these stories. I hope you’re feeling primed.

NU alumna Danielle Taylor pushes for increased access in the classical music world

Photo by Ally Almore

by Jennifer Zhan, Monthly Editor

For Danielle Taylor (Bienen M.M. ‘19), teaching classical music in her hometown of Oakland, Calif. was heartbreaking.

Taylor taught in underfunded public schools that were only a few miles away from where she grew up, with Black and brown kids being the largest demographic. White, wealthier kids, meanwhile, were mostly the ones coming to her private studio lessons. As a result, she was seeing the difference that financial resources made in the classical music world, back-to-back, within the same day.

“I think that was part of the early fire that was really born inside me about being passionate about access,” Taylor said. “Because I saw kids in the public schools who were phenomenal musicians, who wanted to play all types of music on their instruments. To look at these kids who were passionate about it, and to know that it was close to impossible for them to continue — it felt criminal.”

Taylor later moved to the Chicago area and pursued a master’s in violin performance at Northwestern, adding to undergrad degrees in African American studies and violin performance from Oberlin College & Conservatory.

She’s active in a long list of Chicago organizations that are shaping a more diverse, inclusive and equitable vision of classical music. And last spring, she was named the Project Inclusion manager of the Chicago Sinfonietta, a nationally acclaimed orchestra that champions diversity and equity efforts. Project Inclusion offers nine-month professional fellowships to diverse musicians, composers, art administrators and conductors.

“Working with Danielle has been one of the highlights of [the program],” current fellow Michelle Di Russo said in a statement. “One of the qualities that I admire most about her is her authenticity. She has no fear to show us who she is and to create safe spaces for us to develop freely as artists while we search for our true selves.”

An alumna of the program herself, Taylor is now responsible for keeping up with the 14 fellows, planning monthly career development sessions and connecting them to helpful resources. Di Russo added that Taylor also creates space for topics beyond just music, holding wellness and empowerment sessions, as well as check-ins where fellows can talk about how social and political changes have affected them.

In the American classical music industry, the Sinfonietta stands out in diversity. People of color represent over 35 percent of the orchestra’s musicians, 58 percent of its board, 73 percent of its associate board and on average 46 percent of its audience.

But as a whole, the field of classical music is not known for those demographics. White musicians accounted for nearly 86 percent of all musicians in 2014, according to a League of American Orchestras Report based on a survey of its members. That world wasn’t the one Taylor grew up in.

Her musical world was informed by the aesthetics of Black music, from gospel and funk to hip hop and R&B. She said she thinks it’s part of Black culture to view music as a communal experience, as something that is more meaningful the more people engage with it. Singing in church from a young age, she said she knew her music was powerful and speaking to people if they sang, clapped or stood up — if they made it a conversation.

But in much of her classical music training, she said, there was an implicit demand to adopt a different and almost oppositional way of listening to, understanding and expressing music.

“There was a lot of, it felt like, constraints and restrictions from how I express the music,” she said. “[In terms of the] playing, but also how I stood and all of these other things, that felt like there were more walls there that were very unfamiliar to me.”

She said it can be very hard to separate the word classical from the culture it represents. But she stressed that the music itself is evocative and relevant. Just a few weeks ago, for example, she heard Beethoven coming from her teenage brother’s room and discovered that he plays symphonies while video gaming because they feel magnificent and powerful, an appropriate accompaniment.

“But I think in order for people to experience that live, it has to be in concert halls with dress codes, surrounded by a lot of things that are signatures of class and exclusion,” Taylor said. “Even as somebody who’s trained in this field, I don’t want to go there, I don’t feel comfortable. And so when we talk about it on that level, I’m like, ‘I agree with you. It’s not the music though.’”

In 2017, Taylor co-founded D-Composed, a Chicago-based string quartet that celebrates Black culture and creativity, and takes their musical performances into places like cafes, museum galleries and botanical conservatories.

Tahirah Whittington, the cellist of the ensemble, said Taylor often leads impromptu breakouts into song and dance during rehearsal. As the artistic director, Taylor is also instrumental in the cultural aspect of D-Composed concerts, which exclusively feature works by Black composers, including pop artists like Solange and Lizzo. D-Composed events also often have interactive elements, such as collaborations that fuse live classical music with a yoga class, or spoken word performances.

“In my work with D-Composed, 100 percent of our audiences are Black,” she said. “We have more Black people at a chamber music concert than most major orchestras have at their events. And so, it’s not actually rocket science. You have to know what people want, you have to be able to understand the culture of space, you have to understand that all of that matters.”

She’s said she’s watched orchestras and organizations spend tens of thousands, even millions, of dollars trying to figure out how to reach the Black community, yet be unwilling to hire Black people. And to her, that embodies the definition of white supremacy: investing in still being able to make the decisions, and believing that you are the most qualified to do so on behalf of another community.

Blair Milton, an adjunct professor at Bienen, said a couple decades ago, diversity, equity and access weren’t really even points of discussion in the classical world. Milton, a former professor of Taylor’s, has performed in the Chicago Symphony for over forty years.

At Bienen, he said performance faculty are now encouraging and even insisting that students playing recitals include at least one work by a composer from an underrepresented background. Milton said that last year’s racial reckoning, along with the #MeToo movement, has brought issues of diversity and equity into more mainstream conversations in the classical world.

“But Danielle’s way ahead of the curve on that,” Milton said. “She was holding meetings like this and getting people together for years.”

Milton added that when Taylor was getting her master’s degree, on top of the organizations she was part of, she was also managing her responsibilities as a mom and staying involved with diversity and inclusion projects at NU and D65 schools, including as a co-founder and co-facilitator of the Black Parents of King Arts group in Evanston.

Yet despite all these accomplishments, Milton said what’s most impressive about Taylor is what’s not on her resume. As his grad assistant, he said she took the initiative to set up a mentorship program between grad and undergrad students.

“She has a way of bringing people together that allows them to be comfortable with each other,” he said. “She opens lines of communication. She has a way of allowing topics to be discussed and solved that somehow don’t get addressed otherwise, she just works effectively with everybody she meets.”

Whittington said this is Taylor’s gift. Even though the two have only known each other for a few years, she calls Taylor a sister. Over the pandemic, she said Taylor started a group for Black musicians that meets twice a week on Zoom and has become a close-knit community, despite the fact that many have never met in-person.

In general, Taylor is well-connected to Chicago’s community of Black classical musicians, which she credits partly to the fact that the community isn’t large. When Taylor hears of a Black musician in the city, she said she immediately looks to be introduced to them so they can play together and find opportunities for each other.

“So many of us went through our decades of training in isolation, isolation as in being the only Black person for all these years, so it’s quite joyous for me,” Taylor said.

In the future, Taylor said she wants it to be natural, not surprising that Black people write and perform classical music.

To her, this is a social justice issue. People are being denied more than just access to music and learning music, she said. They’re being denied access to a different way of being in the world. That’s why she takes it so personally when people are not serious about equity work.

“I’m still the kid at a public school in Oakland,” Taylor said. “And I have no tolerance for people who say that kids who grew up in the neighborhoods that I did, who grew up like me, don’t deserve to be in a field or are less than anyone else.”

Weinberg junior on writing, racism and success

Photo Courtesy of Giboom (Joyce) Park

by Haley Fuller, Development and Recruitment Editor

Northwestern fraternity parties aren’t usually the beginning of a 244-page book, but for Weinberg junior Giboom (Joyce) Park, they were a catalyst for her book “Not Your Yellow Fantasy: Deconstructing the Legacy of Asian Fetishization” on racial fetishization, from its history to how it plays out in today’s world.

At one of her first frat parties freshman year, a guy asked her what “kind” she was. When she said she was Korean American, he went on and on about how that was “the best kind” and how much he loved Korean culture. He told his friend that he was going to take her home, so Park and one of her friends ran away from the party, she said. As they were running, she could see him chasing her in the corner of her eye.

Park had experienced similar comments throughout high school and on dating apps. But that night was a tipping point, leading her to research yellow fever, or the desire to be with an Asian woman due to racial stereotypes. She also hoped it would be a way to deconstruct her own trauma in a way that would be healthy and beneficial.

“That experience kind of catalyzed my frustration with yellow fever, with Asian fetishization in general and the phenomenon of BIPOC women and men being stereotyped based on their race on dating apps and in the world of sex,” she said. “I started reading more about it, I started interviewing people and I came to the realization that this was a story that I wanted to share with others.”

Park’s writing process started last January, after being recruited by a professor from the Creator Institute at Georgetown University, a program which helps young authors write and publish their own books. By mid-summer, she had finished a manuscript and began editing, finding illustrators, crowdfunding and promoting “Not Your Yellow Fantasy.” It was published in December, less than a year after she started the writing process.

The book became the top seller in multiple categories on Amazon in its first week and is the product of Park’s own experiences, those of over 50 interviewees and hours of research online to create the book.

“There's one chapter specifically on pornography, sex trafficking and mail-order brides, and I actually had to censor out a lot of the original content that I had in it. I almost registered for a mail order bride website,” she said. “I didn't have a choice to just let everything go and stop writing because I felt like if I wasn't going to do it, no one was, because it was so disgusting.”

Park managed the emotional and mental toll of working on her book on top of her triple major with support from her friends, she said. One friend would comb through Pornhub and Reddit with her so she wouldn’t be alone, while others even helped with illustrations peppered throughout the book.

Weinberg junior Angel Wang, who co-founded an art club with Park, was happy to contribute as an illustrator when Park reached out.

“I think at one of our club meetings she said that she was working with a professor to come up with a book, and then she actually ended up doing it and publishing it. I think it's so amazing, and I'm really happy that I got to be part of it,” Wang said.

Park’s book has reached far past her friends at NU, however. Through the help of social media, Park’s work gained traction even before publication. She worked with Asian American activist organizations who picked up her book, and even collaborated with the popular Instagram account @soyouwanttotalkabout, authoring a post on sexual racism. Recently, she’s been on multiple podcasts, hosted seminars and moderated an event on Clubhouse.

Medill junior Mary Yang said she is proud of her friend’s accomplishments and the impact it has had on a wide audience, but isn’t surprised, she said.

“I found myself relating to the story she told about being a freshman in college and having a guy comment on the color of your skin, and just becoming really aware of it,” Yang said. “I think some of the stories are hard to get through, because I can relate in a negative way, but it was empowering.”

For Park, that’s a payoff that makes the difficult process of researching, writing, editing and promoting her book worth it.

“Even if it's just one person who feels seen, that's all I need,” Park said.

Q&A: Alum Raymond J. Lee talks Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical and finding new passions during the pandemic

Illustration Courtesy of Raymond Lee

by Jordan Mangi, Assistant Audio Editor

Raymond J. Lee (Communication ‘04) has appeared in multiple Broadway shows, including “Mamma Mia!,” “Groundhog Day” and “Aladdin.” Most recently, he was an ensemble member in Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical. From humble beginnings as a TikTok trend where people wrote songs and drafted sets for Pixar’s Ratatouille, the show became a star-studded production after Broadway pros partnered with many of the original TikTok creators. Lee Zoomed with The Daily to chat about being a working actor, his time at Northwestern and advice for students graduating into an industry largely put on pause.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Daily: What were you involved with at NU?

Lee: No joke, The Daily Northwestern was one of my first jobs, because I was a photographer, so I would take pictures for the Daily back in the day. I think I got to go to Wrigley Field and take pictures, it was really cool! I started off pre-med chemistry — I thought I was going to be a doctor — and then I was like, “I can't do this,” and I ended up switching midway sophomore year to RTVF and got into the music theatre certificate. From there, I was in musicals, I was a proud member of Boomshaka and I was part of a bunch of Asian American groups. I kept myself busy; I feel like all of us do at Northwestern.

The Daily: After graduation, how did you start working as an actor?

Lee: I was very lucky because I left Evanston with a job at MTV as a PA. My first gig was the VMAs, I would run errands and then — “oh, there's Christina Aguilera! Oh, hi Alicia Keys!” But part of me still always wanted to perform. One day my agents told me, “hey you need to come to the office.” And I thought, “oh no, am I in trouble?” And they sat me down and told me, “hey Ray, you're going to be on Broadway in “Mamma Mia!” I freaked out. I think that was the start of me taking this career extra seriously. I'd been serious before, but this really proved to me that I could do it.

The Daily: Recently, you appeared in Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, which was a huge success in the realm of virtual theater. What was that like?

Lee: It was a super fast process, I don't know how the creative team did it. We did one Zoom rehearsal and we're going through our songs, Emily [the music director] is on the screen plunking on her keyboard for this computer speaker, we're all muted trying to sing along. Then we went and separately recorded our harmonies for all the songs and they edited it together. Then, we were told about the videos that we had to do and our costumes were mailed to us. It was absolutely mind-blowing and inspirational to see how fast and how hard everyone worked.

The Daily: Did you and your family watch the completed project?

Lee: We love Ratatouille, and so we had to watch it. And [my daughter] was like, “Daddy is that you? You have, like, whiskers!” We made sure to watch it, especially because I feel like so many of us are hungry for theater right now, and these online performances and musicals and concerts are such a good way to satiate that appetite.

The Daily: What advice would you give to people just entering an industry that has been halted in so many ways due to the pandemic?

Lee: I would tell them it will happen. In-person theater will be back, we will all be on a stage again. Hang on to that. In the meantime, keep on learning, keep on training. Feel free to explore, because now's the time, and you never know when you might find another part of the industry that you really feel like, “This is awesome!” I recently started doing more voiceover stuff and I just did my commercial reel, so I’m focusing on other aspects that I haven't had a chance to before. When you're rehearsing for a show, especially as a dad, you're there 10 to 6 and at nighttime are trying to get lines in your head. So, now that we're all home and I do have this time, I want to fill it up with other stuff. And lots of Netflix, lots of Disney Plus.

Far from perfect, “Tiger” documentary explores golf’s complicated G.O.A.T.

Photo Courtesy of HBO

by John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor

In my kindergarten classroom, there was a stack of biographies of the most prominent figures of our time. Only one was on an athlete — Tiger Woods.

Several generational athletes who defined the early 2000s, from Michael Phelps to Roger Federer to Lance Armstrong, never made it into my kindergarten classroom. But Woods was something more than just a great. He carried Michael Jordan-level cultural relevance and broke down the racial barriers, spoken and unspoken, of the golf world in the process.

Over a decade removed from Woods’ prime and cultural peak, the two-part HBO documentary “Tiger” attempts to pull all these aspects together to paint a picture of a man who had no equal. HBO’s attempt to chronicle Woods’ journey is neither the story his crew would tell nor a perfect distillation, but “Tiger” rises on its ambition and in its thorough (if impossibly difficult) attempt to reckon with the dizzying highs and lows of the golfer who transcended the green.

“Tiger” is most remarkable for what the American public hasn’t already seen. In the film’s depiction, Tiger’s father Earl emerges as both his son’s best friend and greatest enemy. Earl is a caricature, a tyrannical and delusional parent who (the documentary implies) introduces Tiger to the vices that threaten to derail his career. At the same time, he's a driving force in Tiger’s rise to a champion and the man Tiger tried to emulate and please even after his 2006 passing.

Just as jarring is the Tiger Woods we see blossoming into a superstar. The gallery of images ingrained in the American public’s mind of Tiger — the trademark fist pump and DUI mugshot — are present, but are accompanied by home videos of a carefree, teenage Tiger dancing with high school friends in a welcome escape from the pressures of golf. “Tiger” also chronicles his hesitations with increased media attention, with pressures mounting until his only compass is victory.

The emphasis “Tiger” places on Woods’ extramarital sexual encounters, a crux of the documentary’s promotional campaign and the cliffhanger at the end of the first installment, is excessive. The nuances of his addiction and double life are sacrificed to fit the narrative, with the documentary reaching for cause and effect relationships between Tiger’s past and his struggles. There are redeemable elements, namely the exploration of Tiger’s emotional longing and the depiction of the harsh and unrelenting censure from the American public toward its fallen hero, but the depth that “Tiger” devotes to this aspect of his life is wildly out of proportion and largely exploited for shock value.

The January release of “Tiger” comes in a golden age of sports documentary work. The most obvious comparison is last year’s 10-part ESPN series “The Last Dance,” which drew millions of viewers and became a cultural phenomenon and meme generator. But “The Last Dance” is a fundamentally different project, one that traded authenticity and journalistic explorations for access to Michael Jordan and his teammates and used its video to pull the strings of nostalgia in telling the story of the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. “Tiger'' does the exact opposite, reliving Tiger’s worst moments in a production largely devoid of Tiger’s shadow and influence but trusting spurned friends and lovers to explore Tiger’s psyche. Neither approach is necessarily superior to the other, and the sports documentary catalog benefits from having both styles.

The ultimate test of a documentary is its impact on the viewer. I finished “Tiger” with newfound awe toward Woods’ greatness, but more surprisingly, a sympathy for his pressures and shortcomings, and an appreciation of his return to grace. That’s certainly not a mix that would fit nicely into the kindergarten reader format, but “Tiger” is nevertheless valuable for its exploration of a seemingly immortal athlete and the nation that watched him.

Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales is 2021’s first great album

Photo by Myesha Evon Gardner

by Wilson Chapman, In Focus Editor

On “Lost One,” the excellent lead single from her recently released EP “Heaux Tales,” Jazmine Sullivan pulls off a clever bait-and-switch. As the music swells during the pre-chorus, the R&B singer pleads to a lover she hurt, “Just hear me out, before you let it go/There is one thing, I need, for you to know.” Mentally, you prepare yourself for a grand romantic statement. Instead, she follows it up with this: “Don’t have too much fun without me.”

It’s a messy sentiment, so bald-faced in its selfishness that I laughed out loud the first time I heard it. But that’s what makes it so relatable. And as Sullivan belts the song out, the meaning behind her words seeps in.

Sullivan has spent her entire career as an artist exploring love and heartbreak, and the messiness that comes with them, via song. “Bust Your Windows,” the first track off her debut album and one of her first big hits, is a campy revenge song in the “Before He Cheats” vein that still manages to tap into real emotional rawness. She’s a great vocalist, up there with the best working in her genre, but she distinguishes herself from her peers with her sharp writing and her talent at creating songs about love that feel truthful. And she really flexes that ability on “Heaux Tales,” a project that is as much a creative writing exercise as it is a collection of killer R&B tunes.

At an economical 32 minutes, “Heaux Tales” is short, but it’s the most ambitious project Sullivan has put her name on. The eight songs on the EP are complimented by a series of interludes in which various women, ranging from friends and family of Sullivan to R&B singer Ari Lennox, discuss their personal and complex relationships with their own sexualities. Sullivan uses these interviews as a prompt for her songwriting, exploring the sentiment and situations described from the perspective of her subject. “Lost One,” for example, directly follows the interlude “Rashida’s Tale,” where the titular woman describes how she cheated and hurt both her girlfriend and herself.

One of the effects of the tales’ conceit is, aside from the opener “Bodies” and the Lennox collab “On It,” there’s inherently a slight distance to the songs, an acknowledgement that Sullivan is singing from the perspective of others rather than from a personal place. What’s remarkable about the album, however, is how empathetic her writing is, and how she manages to embody the voices of vastly different women with vastly different perspectives. One of the monologues, “Precious’ Tale,” sees its subject discuss how she only gives attention and time to men who have money; it's easy to imagine an artist playing a song from her point of view with an ironic, mocking edge, dismissing her as a gold digger. Instead, Sullivan’s song from Precious’ perspective, “The Other Side,” is warm and kind, understanding her preference as a personal choice informed by lived experience rather than a moral failing.

The various songs on “Heaux Tales” embody very different and oftentimes contradictory approaches to navigating modern sexuality. The practicality of “The Other Side” contrasts heavily with the euphoric bliss of “Put It Down,” a song about falling hard and crazy in love with a man who doesn’t deserve it. Many of the songs, such as the Anderson .Paak feature “Price Tags,” look at sex and hookups from a position of confidence. Conversely, the last monologue “Amanda’s Tale,” and the gorgeous H.E.R. duet “Girl Like Me” that accompanies it, explores how the modern dating world and the conflation of sex with power can easily breed insecurity. Sullivan doesn’t judge any of the women; she, and her album, understands that there are multiple ways to be a woman and a sexual being, and all of them are valid.

Whereas Sullivan’s previous work was big and theatrical, “Heaux Tales” is comparatively more downbeat and contemplative, aided by a production that certainly has a few flourishes but mostly serves to highlight Sullivan and her collaborators’ vocal ability. And while Sullivan has plenty of opportunity to showcase her big voice (the way she belts out the chorus of icy break-up song “Pick Up Your Feelings” gives me goosebumps), she’s slightly more restrained than she was on her previous albums. For the most part, she lets her writing and the lives of the women who serve as her muses do the talking, and that’s more than enough to make the album soar.

Feminism in “The Wilds” falls flat

Photo by Matt Klitscher/Amazon Studios

by Megan Munce, Campus Editor and Sneha Dey, Editor in Chief

Content warning: This story contains mentions of sexual assault.

At first glance, Amazon Prime’s original series “The Wilds” seems like the female answer to “Lord of the Flies.” A group of teenage girls must navigate survival after their chartered plane, en route to a female empowerment retreat in Hawaii, crashes near a deserted island.

The viewer soon learns that the crash is staged and the stranded girls are subjects of a social experiment led by ousted academic Gretchen Klein, who herself has taken more than a few pages out of Golding’s book.

(Warning, major spoilers for the rest of the season ahead!)

The experiment — packed with staged cameras, intrusive interrogations and strategically packaged suitcases — is an attempt to prove that society would thrive on a matriarchal structure. It’s so outrageous it feels like a fever dream, or maybe just bad fan fiction.

At one point, Gretchen even practices a presentation for potential donors against a backdrop of nuclear war to show the viewer just how dire the state of the world is under men.

The producers of the show want you to think she’s a villain at first. The episodes cut between the girls in hunger and in pain, and Gretchen in the control room gleefully celebrating the milestones they’re reaching: building a fire, finding shelter, discovering water.

There’s a slow shift in how the producers expect us to perceive Gretchen. We learn she has been fired from her teaching position for bold, radical thought. We watch her process the incarceration of her college-aged son, who participated in a fraternity hazing incident gone wrong. We are to sympathize with her as she grieves the loss of her friend and colleague Jeanette.

Gretchen, once a villain, becomes a supposed icon for feminism. Her uncompromising commitment to her vision makes her the fierce fighter for women struggling to thrive in a modern-day world tainted by patriarchal expectations.

There’s just one problem: the girls on the island aren’t thriving either.

Their time on the island is plagued by rifts caused by a scarcity of resources, childish slut shaming and the sheer trauma of believing that death is fast approaching.

We receive snippets of their lives before the crash through faux interviews that are as unethical as the rest of the experiment. A hired psychiatrist — posing as an interrogator — coaxes each girl into disclosing their adolescent trauma during faux interviews.

Season one never gives us a clear explanation as to why each of these girls was chosen, but the trauma they’ve overcome in the past is why Gretchen is so confident they’d succeed as a cohesive group on the island.

The girls’ trauma is also all uniquely gendered; God-fearing Christian Shelby has to hide her sexuality from her father, sweet and caring Martha was sexually assaulted by her male doctor and 16-year-old Leah is in love with an older man who took advantage of her.

Throughout their time on the island, their development is thrown in your face; Shelby kisses another girl, pacifist Martha kills a goat to overcome starvation and Leah throws away the book her love interest gave her. Only after that do they find the strength to band together so one of them can break out of the facility and free them all.

Gretchen romanticizes the idea that women must undergo the worst the world has to offer in order to wake up to their own internal power.

Gretchen is a morally gray antihero who subjects younger women to physical and psychological breaks in a bid to prove once and for all that women are stronger than men. But the quest to prove women are superior, at the cost of their well-being, grotesquely simplifies the challenges of a patriarchal society.

“The Wilds,” and the not-so-visionary social experiment the show is built around, is the product of a twisted understanding of feminism. But fortunately for “The Wilds,” we’re too starved for content to put it down.