rants and ramblings

Thoughts on… “The Affair”

*Just an FYI, there are some spoilers if you have not watched all the way through!*

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From the get-go, I’d done nothing but talk shit about the show The Affair. Before it was even on, I just couldn’t say enough about how sick I am of the romanticizing and glorification of something that is so morally wrong. I am not as prude as this sounds, but was brought up in Catholic school and I just don’t think infidelity should be this glamorized. From Scandal, to nearly every other drama on TV, sex sells and it seems like AFFAIRS really sell. So for the entire premise of a show to be focused on the *very exciting and romantic* betrayal and ruining of a marriage, I just couldn’t have been more disgusted.

Then I found out Joshua Jackson was in it. And I quite literally can’t resist Pacey Witter, affair or not. So, since it was coming on after Homeland anyway, I decided to give it a shot.

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I have to admit I was very intrigued, even though I didn’t like what I knew what would happen (hello, it’s in the name). Each episode plays out the same event – in the story, and in their relationship – but the first half from Noah Solloway, the male’s perspective, then the second 25 minutes from Allison Lockhart, the female’s perspective. This is something I’d never seen before in a TV show, and I loved the concept, so I hung on. The writing was just too cool – how they made the stories overlap, how their clothes changed, how what they said and who did what changed based on who’s point of view we were seeing. There were also True Detective-type interviews happening with each main character – they are recounting the events of the story as they remember them to a detective, so this implied there was some sort of criminal storyline that we don’t know about, in play as well.

One other thing to mention is the theme song/intro is IN-CREDIBLE. Just, fucking, awesome. It’s a new original song written and performed by Fiona Apple specifically for the show, called “Container,” and I wish to God it was longer than a minute! It starts out a cappella, and then a drum beat comes in… It’s haunting, and beautiful and just totally perfect for the show. Take a listen here

 

THE AFFAIRAnyway, despite the opening theme that truly kept me hanging on, by the fourth episode of the show, I was over it. That episode surrounded ONLY the two leads, those having the affair… and when it was just the two of them, I just couldn’t keep watching it.

I felt dirty, guilty; like I was the one having the affair, or something.

 

Much later, “The Affair” won two Golden Globes. I didn’t really understand why, (other than it’s salacious nature, and because it’s a new show), but a friend told me she caught the season finale without watching the others and it was VERY entertaining. I decided to give it another go, and I’m glad I did… sort of.

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The first season, at only 10 episodes long, definitely packs a lot of nail biting drama. After the episode I quit on, several other interesting characters and plot points came into play that somewhat made me feel okay about the dirtiness of the adultery – drug dealing, a murder case, Noah’s crazy teenage daughter, Allison’s crazy mother, small town family feuds, a lost child, and in general the deep roots of the character’s personalities and motives (which are perfectly executed by the actors). Plus, more Joshua Jackson (albeit a sad, angry Joshua Jackson).

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The last two episodes especially were so entertaining I found myself yelling at the TV. It’s really rare that a show (or film) is satisfyingly, totally put together and feeling complete, in terms of continuity, storylines, character motives, all really coming together, and it’s even rarer when you’re seeing it from two points of view the entire time. But as well written, well directed, and well produced the show is, there’s a few plot holes I am so disappointed about and can’t ignore, so I’d like to put this out there and maybe some other fans can enlighten me:

  • What exactly happened around episode 6 or 7, where Noah goes from realizing pursuing anything else with Allison is “completely crazy,” he goes back to having sex with his wife (a fantastic Maura Tierney), he goes through marital therapy with her, and seems to be completely regretful of his actions and confident in his marriage – to telling Allison he loves her?? Part of me thought this was something that only happened in her POV, but then later it’s said in his too. This seemed like sort of a 180 that just didn’t add up. Noah was believable in his attempts at apologizing and searching for forgiveness for an episode or two. But suddenly he’s thrown into a situation where he sees Allison again, and that is a time that the L-word is realized? I can’t wrap my mind around this. There wasn’t a lead up where he was thinking about her, or having issues with his wife regularly, or anything. Even if the idea is “he’s around her again, he sees her again after some time, and they can’t deny their love for each other” their actions before saying these words did not really indicate their sudden profession of love. Maybe it’s a move to keep the audience on their toes, but I found it frustrating and just did not at all add up.
  • How could there possibly be two interpretations of the events of the last episode? This involves a gun, a lot of yelling, and some very angry Solloways and Lockharts. It just seems to me that when there is a gun in play and it’s pointed at you, you aren’t forgetting what exactly played out in this scene, but somehow Noah and Allison’s memory of these events are very 
  • In general, much of Allison’s side seems to be slightly more in “love” in “The Affair” than Noah is. Noah seems very  much in lust, and then in guilt. Yet suddenly in the last two episodes, Noah is the first to tell his wife he is “in love” with someone else, and makes the moves to leave and be with her (this might actually just harken back to my first point).
  • Chemistry – I didn’t feel it beyond the intimate scenes. It seemed like they had chemistry when it came to sex and being physical, etc. but that’s not hard to do – everyone looks sexy and connected when they’re having sex. In the scenes where they are just spending time together or talking, or Noah is trying to make Allison feel better about something… I just didn’t see it. I didn’t buy that they had this crazy, deep connection, or “love” that would absolutely have to lead to them ruining their marriage and lives.

 

What did anyone else think?? Did I completely miss something or did you have the questions? Let me know!

Thanks for reading!

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“Feminism” Criticism

Up until recently, I considered myself a semi-feminist. Not to the point of bra burning per say, but more than the average girl-you-might-meet-at-a-party that doesn’t start telling you why Katy Perry on College Game Day was degrading and embarrassing to women. My boyfriend can attest to this, as he’s listened to many-a-rant about the bias in media, politics, or film when it comes to women, or my ramblings about the general behavior/lack of intelligence when it comes to some men vs. some women. If you asked him, he’d probably tell you I was a feminist.

But this past week, “feminism” has gone overboard. DESPITE the rousing and inspiring speech by the incomparable Emma Watson to the UN last month on the importance of making men part of the conversation when it comes to feminism, it feels like I’ve been overrun with stupidity in the fight for “equality.”

First example is of course, the “Catcalling” video, which if you haven’t seen it, here it is:

My issue with this is simple. This was a video taken over the course of TEN HOURS, and cut down to 2 minutes. I feel almost certain, that any woman or man of any gender or race for that matter walking around a city, alone, for TEN HOURS, would probably have at least a few interactions or attempted interactions whether they like it or not. Is that wrong? Are the people who are trying to sell her something as she passes their store doing something offensive to her? Is someone who says “Hi, how are you!” really trying to get in her pants? Because referring to all 100 (again, not in 2 minutes but over TEN HOURS) attempted interactions as “catcalls” seems just plain untrue.

Now the person who followed her for 5 minutes is pretty absurd, I will say that, and that would make even the strongest of women uncomfortable. That is a legitimately creepy situation. But as a woman who lives in a city, who walks around a lot, and who sometimes has been told to “smile” or “Hi, how are you” or “you look beautiful,” IT’S REALLY NOT THE CRISIS SITUATION THAT THIS VIDEO PORTRAYS. Has a legitimate “catcall” ever led to a robbery, a rape, or even a sexual assault? Should all women be walking around in fear of catcalls? I feel as though living in a city you build a thick skin, and these are the types of things that happen sometimes. Maybe it’s not right, maybe it’s not just, but as I said, I would bet that a man would have interactions not all that different from some of these in terms of strangers trying to talk to you. Being friendly, or forward, or a salesman on a city street is not a crime nor should it be (though I wish some salesmen on the streets could be arrested for being so annoying).

I would like to see this same video if it were a woman walking through the suburbs. She probably would not have even 10 interactions, let alone “100 catcalls” and that’s just a sheer example of the difference in terms of just population and location. The same way she has the right to walk around alone looking pissed off, the people around her have the right to talk to whoever they want. And above all, the media conversations and backlash for this have been so absurdly extreme from some groups, it’s like they’re the ONLY voices that matter. I bet there are some women who appreciate catcalls, or getting attention in public like this. Does that make them bad people? Should we explain to all men that only certain women like that, and you have to find those women and catcall ONLY them?

Once again, I don’t support catcalling and I certainly don’t support the man who followed her around for 5 minutes. However, it seems like the whole procedure of this video is misleading, and really isn’t proving anything in terms of social issues. Rather, the fact that “if you walk around the most populated city in America for 10 hours, people on the street will try to talk to you.”

And now, for a hilarious and spot on parody of this video from Funny or Die:

My second feminist issue this week is the backlash from this Victoria’s Secret ad that reads ” The Perfect ‘Body'”

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The reason I mostly am annoyed by the “feminist” backlash about this is because it’s based on a misunderstanding. Apparently a group of young girls and whoever else, have made a petition wanting Victoria’s Secret to apologize for the ad where they are portraying lingerie models as having perfect bodies. I will admit that the first time I saw this ad, I thought “Well that’s a bit much.. a little presumptuous.. a little unnecessary… they’ll probably get in SOME hot water for this..” and I was correct. And good for a group of young women who don’t want these “values” placed on their young minds, they are smarter than most girls their age. HOWEVER…

The ad is a play on words, because they are advertising (remember, this is an AD not a researched article about bodies) the “Body by Victoria” collection of lingerie. Hence, the quotations around Body. Now, I know how it looks, but technically, that is what’s happening. And if the issue everyone has is with these women who have bodies like this existing in general, why not take issue with the whole catalog? Or any lingerie ad? The whole thing seems rather misguided, and once again every-crazy-feminist-ever shows up on comment sections, message boards, 24-hours news channels talking about all the injustice.

And now for the hilarious and spot on parody of this.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/victorias-secret-under-fire-for-perfect-body-campa,37354/

To me, it just feels like we’ve lost sight of what are really feminist issues, or what are really assaults to womankind. I can think of about 10 other insulting-to-women videos/tv shows/movies/ads that are more of a legitimate issue than both of these. It seems like every week there’s another ridiculous “anti-women” thing popping up that is propelled into “news” by networks looking for something to fill airtime, and as a result, blowing it out of proportion. The more stories like these blown out of proportion “in the name of women!”, and the more overly aggressive people we have bitching about these things in public spheres, the more we as women feed the stigma we want to fight. Why can’t every “feminist” be like Emma Watson, who instead of arguing over a lingerie ad or faux catcalling, chooses her moment to address that equal rights should be a concern for everyone? Focusing less on the current faults, and more on future progress? I feel like getting that message across might lead to less of the other. And there will probably always be sexualization of the female body (and there has been for EONS) because there will also always be women who want and enjoy a career that perpetuates that too.

Hate what I’m saying and think I’m a complete idiot? Agree that these were a little blown out of proportion? Let me know! Thanks for reading!

EMMY 2014 highlights (for me anyway)

I’m riding the Emmy’s train all week this week and I wanted to post about my favorite moments, so here we go!

1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brian Cranston – This bit was AWESOME. There’s not a time that I watch that episode of Seinfield with Bryan and I don’t think about whether the two of them are friendly now. They both really went for it, and it was worth it, one of the best moments of the night.

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2. Seth Myers as host – Because I am a complete nerd for and lover of Saturday Night Live, I do love Seth Myers. However, following Jimmy Fallon’s late show hasn’t been great for him, and the show has been sort of lacking and VERY slow IMHO. It’s getting better but still – eh. So I was very nervous for how he would do as the Emmy’s host, but he knocked it out of the park. His monologue was really funny, and not uncomfortably mean to anyone in the audience. His bits with his friends in the audience – Jon Hamm, Melissa McCarthy, Fred Armisan and of course Amy Poehler – were really funny worked well. And his introductions were great, especially the MESSING PARSONS joke. Overall, I think a job REALLY well done.

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3. Matthew McConaughy and Woody Harrelson – Even if they look like they just stepped out of the Roxbury, they were charming and adorable, and who cares about the pot jokes?? They were perfect together and it made me so happy and then furious that A) They won’t be in season 2 of True Detective and B) TRUE DETECTIVE DIDN’T WIN ANYTHING, considering it was SO much better than the stupid finale episodes of Breaking Bad, which were just more and more of the same.matthew-mcconaughey-woody-harrelson-night-at-the-roxbury

4. Billy Eichner’s on the street with Seth – I usually don’t find “Billy on the Street” that funny, but this was really great.

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5. And of course, Andy Samberg just in general, making that face, as the poisoned King Joffrey.

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Some other thoughts – 

What was with all the wins for Sherlock?? And none of those people were even there!

I’ve ranted about Breaking Bad before – and how I found it to be very misogynistic, repetitive, and overhyped – but were they just giving it awards because it was the last season? Because realistically, it wasn’t all that great or different from the other seasons and on top of that, True Detective was SO much better!

Won’t even get in to “Modern Family‘s Reign of Terror” (as NY MAG Matt Zoller Seitz so affably coined it), but it’s getting ridiculous. It’s good, but it’s not THAT MUCH BETTER than everyone other show nominated, 5 years in a row.

Anyway what did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Emmy Noms 2014!!

I may have mentioned this before but I LOVE TV. In the past few years, TV shows have surpassed movies for me in terms of what is most entertaining and worth spending my time watching. I love all award shows as I know I’ve talked about, but I especially love the (Primetime) Emmy’s. And the fact that they aren’t the same time of year as the other major award shows is like a big mid-year bonus!

Apparently there were tons of gripes and jeers from various press outlets on this year’s nominations and snubs, but I’ll recap my own thoughts on the matter.

66th Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations

First of all, can we please acknowledge Mindy Kaling? For anyone who saw the Emmy nom announcements as they cut in to whatever ridiculous thing Lara Spencer was talking about on Good Morning America, you know that Mindy Kaling and Carson Daly were the ones bringing us the big news. And Mindy, read both categories that snubbed her and her show – best actress in a comedy and best comedy series. THEY COULDN’T HAVE WORKED THAT OUT BETTER?? I mean she wasn’t visibly angry or anything, but what poise in acting like she was not phased.

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Second, I’m going to make a controversial statement – Orange is the New Black isn’t that good. DON’T GET ME WRONG, it’s entertaining enough, and the plethora of characters and personalities brings so much material and interesting plot lines to the table for the viewer. However, it’s just not THAT good. Taylor Schilling as Piper is so boring and sad to me, I almost stopped watching the show. It just felt like most of the first season was spent watching her staring in to the camera with dead eyes, or looking half asleep, or looking fake angry, or just generally STARING. I prayed for times when she wasn’t on screen but those are few and far between. I love all of the other characters around her (except Pensultucky, who as a character has passed just being the antagonist, and instead becomes comical in how irritating she is. It’s just TOO much). I haven’t watched a ton of the second season, but I know that I was not in any way chomping at the bit to see what happens next at the end of the first (like I was with House of Cards). At the end of the first season, I just couldn’t get over the deep hole of shit that Piper had dug for herself, so much that I just stopped caring. If they could make the show with her as a minor character, it would be great. But I feel like it gets all of this support and all of this praise because it’s another product of Netflix, when that alone does not make it good. I mean, certainly not House of Cards good, anyway.

Also, why does this continue to be categorized as a comedy? I understand that there is not a “dramedy” category and it has comedic elements. But Taylor Schilling is in no way a comedic actress in this show, and the show itself is not consistently funny enough to be calling a comedy. For god’s sake its an hour format! Are there any other hour long comedies? No, because they don’t exist and this shouldn’t either. This show should be listed for sure in dramas, and Piper above all is much more drama character than she is comedy character. And again, the fact the Mindy was snubbed for this category but Taylor Schilling gets nominated just makes no sense. Great for Kate Mulgrew though, Red is awesome and she really owns that character, so good for her! But, why are the other very central characters like Nicky, Sofia, nominated as “guest actors in a comedy” ? I mean the way these nominations are organized is just all over the place.

MOVING ON…

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Why is anyone up in arms about Brooklyn Nine-Nine not getting more nominations? The fact that it won any Golden Globes had to be a fluke, or an attempt at Fox trying to boost it’s ratings. I’ve loved and adored Andy Samberg since his pre-SNL Lonely Island days and I can still quote all of their very early videos to you right now, but I do not think he really deserved that Globe for a show that at that point in time had JUST started 4 months before. And then for the whole cast to win, it was even more bizarre. We hadn’t even seen them really BE a cast for a whole season yet! So it seems like the fact that BK99 didn’t get that much attention from the Emmy voters is what actually makes more sense. Again, don’t get me wrong, I like the show and it’s funny and all. But Andy is basically playing himself and every other character he’s been, not really breaking any molds, and the first season felt like it still needed a little bit of tweaking and improvements before being given nominations. IMHO, anyway.

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I normally love Girls, and Lena Dunham, but this past season was painful. I mean it took me a month after it aired to watch the finale, so when a big fan of the show feels that way it’s saying something. I understand that after Charlie up and left when they were about to start shooting the third season, that probably threw a few wrenches in to things. But this past season was pretty solely about Hannah and her self-centered idiocy. There were very few actual girlS, in the show Girls. It was mostly “Girl,” and it was torturous, with the exception of the Beach House episode which reached practically unheard of levels of perfection (that episode made me cry and laugh and cry again and so beautifully and wonderfully portrayed the experiences of young women and our relationships. It was just simply flawless in every way). But I do think Adam Driver really deserved some props finally and I am glad he got them. However, why no supporting guest actor whatever to Andrew Rannels?? Or Gaby Hoffman as Caroline? And why no mention whatsoever of Zosia Mamet? She was beyond a scene-stealer this season, I was basically only watching the show in the hopes that either of the three of them would have a larger part.

Instead, Joan Cusak who’s been on Shameless as a very central character for four full seasons, is given a “Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series” nomination? IT MAKES NO SENSE, and on top of that that show is DEFINITELY a drama.

Other random thoughts – So happy for Anna Chlumsky in VEEP, Reg E. Cathey as Freddy in House Of Cards, and Silicon Valley!!

What did you guys think? Favorites or mad about what was left out? I could clearly go on all day.

Thanks for reading!

Amy Schumer’s speech at the Gloria Awards

As a big fan of comedy and comics, and as a woman, I always feel compelled to support any comediennes as much as possible. My preference skews more toward Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling… the very self-deprecating and witty ladies, who do more of the writing/acting and less stand up. But from having friends in the stand-up comedy biz, I know exactly how hard it is and how much confidence is needed to be successful, and that needs to be multiplied by 100 for women stand-ups.

I first saw Amy Schumer ten years ago or so, on a Comedy Central half hour special, and even at my younger, less comedy-seasoned age, I thought she was hilarious. I thought, “remember that name Amy Schumer, she’s funny.” At this time, she dressed more casually on stage than she does now, I want to say jeans and shirt with pulled back hair, and had some jokes about men and relationships, but it wasn’t the overall majority.  Fast forward to now – her comedy is usually much more sex centered, and she wears cute little dresses and heels on stage. The thing that more recently has bothered me about her is that even down to how she dresses on stage now, she sometimes perpetuates this ideal that comes up for female comics, which is “a pretty woman saying things she shouldn’t be saying and making off color jokes, isn’t that crazy!”

Like, what the is that about? Why is a woman in a dress saying things about sex with guys, such a spectacle? Male stand ups do this constantly, and for them it’s totally normal. But when Sarah Silverman comes along and talks about poop and sex, HOW OUT OF THE ORDINARY AND WILD IS SHE! A woman who’s pretty and can say the word “taint” too??? This is impossible! (‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ did a perfect episode about this phenomenon called “The Gang Broke Dee,”  if you aren’t familiar or grasping what I’m getting at, please check this out). Granted,  this whole idea may also be part of the networks or agencies marketing for these women and their respective TV shows. And more and more, I understand how doing this is an attempt at breaking down this stereotype – I do see and appreciate that. But still, I’ve been critical. Found it funny, and laughed out loud several times watching her stand up on Comedy Central, but It’s not altogether my favorite brand.

However, I have a new respect for her after the speech she gave this week at this Gloria Awards and Gala, hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women. I encourage any fans of women and comedy, or anyone who’s been a teenage girl trying to find their place in the world, to read it. It’s about being who you are, and it’s really inspiring. http://www.vulture.com/2014/05/read-amy-schumers-ms-gala-speech.html

Airbrushing Controversy

So if you’re a fan of either Lena Dunham, Vogue, Jezebel, or if you generally read Twitter a few times a day, you may have seen something about this controversy.

Lena Dunham (whom I love and adore, and do feel she is the voice of a/my generation) is appearing on the cover of the February 2014 issue of Vogue magazine. This is sort of a big deal, because it means that A. Editor Anna Wintour has approved of her and B. that Lena has made enough of a splash in her career (and style choices) that she is qualified for a Vogue cover (if you’re unfamiliar of the politics behind Vogue or Anna Wintour I suggest watching the Devil Wears Prada, which is based on the book written by a former Vogue employee).

However, Lena has made a name and career for herself semi based around not caring what people think about her appearance, and doing what she wants with it – aka, she’s naked a lot on her show. I respect and love this about her, and I’m so thrilled that she’s made a voice for girls who don’t have bodies that would typically be on the cover of magazines.

In light of this fact, Jezebel, a feminist leaning blog/site that describes themselves as “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing,” offered up $10,000 to anyone at Vogue who would release the unretouched photos from Lena Dunham’s Vogue shoot. And Vogue did. Here is the resulting review of all pictures, with gifs showing both versions.

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So, a few things have  happened here. Initially, I get what Jezebel is trying to do. In a way, it seems like they wanted both Vogue and Lena, who again encourages the normal-looking-woman on her show and in the media, to put their money where their mouth is. Jezebel has many articles about airbrushing and retouching photos in magazines, movie posters, advertisements, etc. it’s sort of their thing as a feminist publication to write about and “out” this kind of stuff. But the problem with this situation is the target. First, Vogue touching up photos isn’t new news, and at this point, is assumed. Yes it’s very unfair that women in magazines can’t have pores, or wrinkles, or smile lines, and especially not an ounce of fat. However, this is very much the status quo when it comes to women’s magazines, and the results of the photos were most likely not at all in Lena’s creative control, and ultimately not even THAT touched up anyway. Second, if anyone is confused as to what exactly Lena looks like naked, they can see her real, true body (in often ill fitting clothing) every Sunday in her show Girls. She is naked quite frequently, and has already accomplished anything she is trying to do in promoting the image of the real woman in that medium. So taking those two things into consideration, Jezebel has come off in this case like a big, mean, frivolous bully. Lena does so much showing her body and encouraging acceptance of a normal one, that this was really a situation that everyone could have just let her have.

Lena had a similar reaction as Mindy Kaling did to her  criticized Elle cover a month ago, and it was perfect –

I understand that for people there is a contradiction between what I do and being on the cover of Vogue; but frankly I really don’t know what the photoshopping situation is, I can’t look at myself really objectively in that way. I know that I felt really like Vogue supported me and wanted to put a depiction of me on the cover…. I know some people have been very angry about the cover and that confuses me a little. I don’t understand why, photoshop or no, having a woman who is different than the typical Vogue cover girl, could be a bad thing…. A fashion magazine is like a beautiful fantasy. Vogue isn’t the place that we go to look at realistic women, Vogue is the place that we go to look at beautiful clothes and fancy places and escapism and so I feel like if the story reflects me and I happen to be wearing a beautiful Prada dress and surrounded by beautiful men and dogs, what’s the problem? If they want to see what I really look like go watch the show that I make every single week.

I think the opposite of the intention is happening when we criticize the “fat girls” magazine covers. Instead of celebrating one of our own normal looking people being on a cover, we are tearing apart each aspect of it. There is an argument for why Lena and Mindy are only shot from the chest up on the cover, and why retouching is ever necessary, but when it results in making a negative, bigger deal of the whole situation, and making that person feel bad? It seems completely redundant.

The Importance of Being Earnest (or Quality Customer Service)

More and more often these days, major retailers are forgetting the importance of good customer service. And at the same time, smaller retailers like online only or local businesses are making it their biggest priority. In a world where you can buy groceries and a new outfit in the same place, or have them both delivered to your front door without having to leave the house, I think the latter group may doing things right.

Lately I am finding myself drawn to the stores and websites that I know will do me right, should I need to return or exchange or have a problem. It’s just a safer bet all around, and especially when you are someone who doesn’t have an unlimited spending account. I am someone who can’t deal with having things around that I’m not using or don’t like, so I always check out the return policy before purchasing, and if I am unsatisfied I always return.

After Christmas this year I heard from many friends and family about stores making the process of returning increasingly difficult for the consumer. This inspired me to highlight some of my favorite retailers with impeccable customer service, places where I’ve always had great experiences, not felt taken advantage of, and feel I can confidently spend my money (should I choose to).

The Good

1. Nordstrom – I’ve primarily shopped at Nordstrom online, and each time has been better than the last. They don’t force you to create a profile, and hold your credit card information and email address in order for you to buy something. They have free shipping and free returns all the time, without any other hooks, and with return labels included in the package. They will take back anything. They have a live online chat feature, where you can immediately and easily talk to a knowledgeable customer service representative about anything relating to your order or items on the site. And in my experience, all of these ideals hold up for shopping in store as well. It’s always been a win-win for me there.

2. Target – I am a huge fan of Target, even though it’s a touchy subject right now after their recent security breach. But despite that, I still have to say I’ve never had problems with their customer service. They take back pretty much everything, and they can look up the purchase through your credit card so you don’t always need the receipt on hand.  Plus, they can give you a credit even without a receipt, by scanning your ID. Anyone I’ve dealt with in store has always been pleasant and willing to help, and the same can be said for anything related to my Target Redcard. And also with the Redcard, shipping and returns are free, or can be mailed and return to a store.

3. Victoria’s Secret – VS has always boosted quality customer service, and rightfully so. As a loyal VS shopper, and again primarily online, I’ve contacted their customer service several times in order to use in store only coupons or find out about product availability. They’ve honored coupons that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to use, issued credit, and accepted returns after the date they were supposed to. Dealing with their customer service in store or online has always been a  breeze.

4. Modcloth – Modcloth isn’t a place where everyone can shop, but if you can it’s worth it. This is an example of a retailer that is online only, and works hard to make sure their customer service is one of their major assets. They always have free returns and exchanges, on some beautiful one of a kind items. They have detailed information about about their items, with in-depth information on the fits and quality. They also have a live chat feature similar to Nordstroms, with very helpful customer service reps.

5. L.L. Bean – A family company based out of Maine, this is a place that has always stressed their care for their customers. Though it might not be somewhere you need to shop all the time, as they have a lot of cold weather and outdoor wear, its a great place for those and many more. They offer free shipping on everything all the time, and though they no longer have completely free returns policy, they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all products with no limits.

UPDATE:

I can’t believe I forgot this in my original post 6. Piperlime –  but during the holidays I had multiple packages from Piperlime get lost or incorrectly delivered. Now, this may not have necessarily been their fault, it was likely an issue with Fedex during the holiday chaos. But each issue I had the Piperlime customer service was extremely helpful, in one case they shipped out the same order the next day, in another case they immediately refunded my purchase.

The Not So Good

1. Amazon – Amazon likes to boast their quality customer service and in some cases (if you’re a prime member spending $80 a year for membership) it’s true. However, when it comes to returns, refunds, or buying from anyone in the Marketplace that is NOT specifically “Amazon.com”, it’s a very different story. As a “Marketplace,” Amazon hosts items from many, many retailers and providers. Some of which are coming from various countries in Asia, and sometimes otherwise illegitimate locations. This might not seem like a huge problem, until you realize that that is where you have to return the item, or until you realize you’re waiting 22 days for a shipment, or until you realize the quality of the item is not what you assumed it was because you didn’t know that it wasn’t the actual item you were looking for, just a good look alike. On these purchases, Amazon makes it clear they are not held accountable. Each retailer within the Marketplace is allowed to have their own policies for returns, and many times just display vague information about their company. And all of this, you might not find out until you’ve already given your money over. For these reasons, for one of the biggest retailers on the internet (if not the biggest), Amazon is a lot less transparent about how they work, than they should be.

In addition, Amazon used to offer free shipping and returns on certain items when spending over $25 or if you’re a Prime member. Now, the minimum for free shipping on certain items is $35, and they no longer offer free returns (I learned this the hard way, when I was refunded $7 less than I had paid for an item). And even when you are specifically purchasing from Amazon.com as the retailer, they no longer offer free returns on all items like they did before (with Prime or for spending over $25).

Finally, if you haven’t picked this up already, Amazon does not monitor much of the activity that goes on on its pages. The reviews for an Amazon listed item could make or break the product’s sales, but in many cases the reviews are fabricated or coming from multiple bogus accounts from the seller/company itself. There is no legitimacy for where or who the reviews are coming from (similar to the advertised quality of the product itself), and whether or not you should trust any of it.

2. H&M – terrible quality clothing, and terrible return policies. Basically, won’t refund anything or issue any credits if you don’t have an exact receipt, and they have no other way of looking up a purchase or the item in general. They also don’t issue gift receipts at all, which make things even more difficult if you were given a holiday gift you didn’t like.

I will add to this list as I recall more of each. Please feel free to leave your own favorite retailers with good customer service (or otherwise) in comments.