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7 Movie Villains Who Had Ridiculously Complicated Missions

A hero is only as good as their villain, but what is that makes a villain good? Some will say that it’s the motive, which can help make the villain more sympathetic and well-rounded. Most villains will sink to any means to achieve their mission, and this usually involves a master plan, a grandiose chain of events that the villain has sketched out to a tee to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The smarter the plan, the better the story — because it’s a disaster when no one in the audience can actually follow the logic.

There’s nothing better than when an airtight plan comes together, but sometimes villain plots are way too complicated to follow. More often than not, this happens in comic book movies and blockbusters with larger than life characters. These antagonists love coming up with the craziest scheme they can, even if it means they could have achieved their goals in much simpler ways. Here are a few villain missions that might have been a bit more complicated than necessary.

Loki’s Avengers Battle Plan

Loki is the God of Mischief and loves concocting schemes, but maybe he should have stuck to turning into snakes instead of leading a war. In The Avengers, Loki wants to bring the Chitauri to Earth and conquer it. Simple enough, right? However, Loki takes a major detour to tear apart the Avengers, the only people that can feasibly stop him. The problem with that is the Avengers aren’t a team at that point, and they only come together because Loki announced his intentions theatrically to Nick Fury right at the beginning of the movie. Then he kept pushing buttons (instead of, you know, killing them), until they were all pissed off enough to unite under one flag. Loki’s a diva, so it plays to his character, but with Thanos breathing down his neck, he probably shouldn’t have gone the complicated route.

Voldemort in Goblet of Fire

Through the first half of the Harry Potter series, Voldemort’s mission is cut and dry: come back to life. After that: take over the world. I don’t think he ever really thought out that second part, but he sure had time to plan the first half. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Voldemort finally achieved that goal, and all it took was a mix of intricate planning, luck, and sheer happenstance. Voldemort’s resurrection depends on a magical ritual that requires Harry’s blood. He decides the best way to get this is to manipulate the Tri-Wizard Tournament into letting Harry compete, cheat so that he makes it to the final round, hope that he wins the tournament, and then teleport him via portkey to a graveyard. There was no guarantee Harry would reach the portkey first or that he would survive the tournament — even with help. Voldemort had a man on the inside the entire time (Barty Crouch disguised as Mad-Eye Moody), so why couldn’t Barty just kidnap Harry? Voldemort lived IN Hogwarts for years on the back of some guy’s head, so Hogwarts security isn’t the best.

Lex Luthor And His Granny’s Peach Tea

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is almost legendary now for how overcomplicated it is, and a lot of that falls on the shoulders of Lex Luthor. Luthor likes to say he’s the smartest guy around, but complicated does not equal intelligent. In order to get Batman and Superman to destroy each other (the reasons for which are just as complicated), Lex is revealed to in some way be responsible for almost everything that happens prior to them fighting. It’s hard to list every detail of his plan but some of the highlights include: Framing Superman for the murder of an African village; hire criminals to kill people with bat-brands in prison; bribe an African villager to give a false testimony so Congress will call Superman to testify; blow up the courtroom by smuggling in a bomb in a wheelchair he gave a disgruntled WayneCorp employee who wasn’t receiving his disability checks because Luthor blocked them; invite Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne to the same gala and introduce them; kidnap Superman’s mom; manipulate a senator to giving him access to the Kryptonian ship; turn Zod’s corpse into Doomsday JUST IN CASE none of the above works out. It’s insanely convoluted with tons of holes in it, but it makes BVS one unique movie.

Joker, Agent of (Planned) Chaos

For a guy who likes to say that he doesn’t have a plan, the Joker sure thinks things through. The Dark Knight’s take on the classic villain was an instant revelation, but that doesn’t make the character’s plan in the movie any less convoluted. The Joker just wants to watch the world burn, but he’ll do everything he can to make that happen. For one thing, he plans to be captured by the police, having planted an escape route through a cell phone stitched into a prisoners stomach. He also sends all of Gotham into a panic though intricately timed attacks against city officials with the ultimate goal of forcing citizens to blow each other up. (He even has a backup plan should they not play by his rules.) To cap it off, he manipulates Harvey Dent into becoming Two-Face, which was like a whole mini-plan hiding inside his main one. It’s a lot to keep track of.

Lex Luthor Again

Lex Luthor just loves a complicated plan. In 1978’s Superman, Lex Luthor (played by Gene Hackman) set out to achieve the most villainous goal of them all: real estate. Yes, all Luthor cares about is buying up a ton of land and profiting from it as much as possible. His big plan is blowing up the San Andreas Fault Line, causing a chunk of the country to fall into the ocean so that land he owns becomes the new West Coast. It’s delightfully over the top comic book stuff, but one can’t help but think that there are other ways to make a buck. In Luthor’s defense, his unnecessary get-rich-slow scheme actually works. Superman fails to stop the missile and has to turn back time in order to stop Luthor. Luthor would go on to have real estate-themed schemes all the way to the soft reboot of Superman Returns, where he created an entire continent with little concern for the vast geographical impacts that would have on the planet he lives on.

Zemo’s Master Plan

Zemo builds a very complex plan to take down the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War. Zemo’s plan is proof of just how hard it is to find a VHS tape in this day and age. Much of Zemo’s plan relies on hoping things work out and taking advantage of what’s out of his control. To find the location of this tape, Zemo needs to speak with Bucky and the “best” way to do that was to frame Bucky for bombing the UN, hoping that someone can find and capture Bucky. He then has to replace the chosen interrogator — without wearing a disguise — and hope that no one knows what this guy looks like. After a timed-EMP attack helps him escape, it’s off to Siberia where Zemo lucks out super hard when Captain America, Bucky, and Iron Man all arrive together. I think Zemo was mostly adapting to things that happened after he bombed the UN, but he still went above and beyond to track down 30 seconds of raw footage.

Skynet Sends John Connor To Kill John Connor

It’s almost a given that any movie involving time travel is going to get out of hand, but Terminator: Genisys really pooped the bed. The reboot/sequel/prequel was playing fast and loose with the Terminator timeline by jumping between three different time periods, but it also gave zero shits about logic. In the movie, Skynet turns resistance leader John Connor, the man its been trying to kill for years, into a Terminator. This advanced supercomputer then decides the best use of its new creation is to send him back in time to kill his parents, thus preventing his own birth. That’s dumb on a few different levels, but how does something like this not break the universe in half? If John Connor was never born, then the evil John Connor isn’t sent back to kill his parents… which means that he WILL be born. Then again, John Connor sends his own father back in time to impregnate his mom, so time travel has never exactly been crystal clear in Terminator.

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Is Boston Cream Pie the World’s Most Delicious…Cake?

Is Boston Cream Pie the World’s Most Delicious...Cake?
Illustration: Kendyll Hillegas

HAVING GROWN up in Massachusetts, I am no stranger to Boston cream pie. Indeed, it was a fixture of my childhood. In local supermarkets, there they’d be, stacks of Boston cream pies on a table in the bakery department, protected in see-through plastic containers and slapped with a sticker proclaiming a great deal ending in .99. True to its classic form, the dessert consisted of two layers of sponge cake, a thick center of yellow cream and a chocolate-frosted top. Sometimes, there would even be a single crowning cherry—a nontraditional touch that, to me, suggested a lack of restraint in an otherwise elegant dessert.

Boston Cream Pie

Is Boston Cream Pie the World’s Most Delicious...Cake?
Photo: Kendyll Hillegas

Description Layers of buttery sponge cake filled with pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze

Habitat Home kitchens, bakeries, supermarkets, restaurants

Range Throughout Massachusetts, Boston in particular

Cherry or no, I lusted after all those Boston cream pies, though I intuitively understood that my fascination lay more in the promise inherent in the dessert than in the belief that these commercially-baked specimens would blow my mind. What those Star Market and Stop & Shop versions did do was raise my awareness of this captivating cake (yes, cake—more on that below). I was sure a platonic ideal existed somewhere.

The Boston cream pie is actually cloaked in mystery as well as chocolate frosting. For starters, there’s the obvious conundrum of why it’s called a “pie” when it’s clearly a cake. The general consensus is that the name is derived from the Washington pie plate, a straight-sided tin prevalent among 19th-century home cooks, in which both pies and cakes were baked. That would include the Boston cream pie, as well as the simpler Washington pie, a split sponge cake with jam in the middle and powdered sugar on top that, in later years, was often filled with cream. (In this iteration it acquired the aliases “cream pie” and “cream cake.”) “Like muffins were called muffins because they were baked in muffin tins, by virtue of baking in a Washington pie plate, they were creating a pie,” writes pastry chef and dessert historian Stella Parks in her book “BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts.”

The cake has been the official dessert of Massachusetts since 1996, but at what point the moniker “Boston” attached itself to “cream pie” isn’t entirely clear. It could be a reference to another 19th-century dessert, the Boston cream cake. According to food writer Greg Patent, author of “Baking in America,” the cream cake was (to further confuse you) more like a cream puff than a cake. Or, the Boston cream pie name may reflect the claim by the Parker House Hotel in Boston that the dessert was invented there by its first chef, one M. Sanzian. Ms. Parks squarely rejects that bit of lore, based on her distrust of corporate histories coupled with a lack of any documentation of a Boston cream pie at the Parker House Hotel before 1946.

According to Ms. Parks’s research, recipes called “Boston cream pie” have been well documented around the country since the 1870s, though back then they didn’t include chocolate frosting. That development took off in 1934, when a Pillsbury ad plugged a Boston cream pie with a shiny chocolate glaze. This, according to Ms. Parks, was the first definitive appearance of Boston cream pie as we know it. Its new chocolate-coated identity was further affirmed when yet another recipe appeared in 1945, in ads for Softasilk cake flour, a General Mills product. The company’s fictional homemaker-whisperer, Betty Crocker, recommended the recipe, which stoked the cake’s popularity among home cooks and cemented its reputation as an iconic American dessert.

A tender sponge gives way to satiny cream, and a not-too-sweet chocolaty glaze lends gravitas.

Last summer, when I stopped by Flour Bakery + Cafe, an excellent pastry shop with multiple locations in Boston, I noticed rectangular slabs of Boston Cream Pie packed to go in the refrigerator case. My mouth started to water almost immediately—it was the first Boston cream pie I had seen at a fine bakery. Of course I purchased a slice.

Here was the ideal I’d dreamed of all these years. Flour Bakery owner Joanne Chang makes her Boston cream pie in an unorthodox shape, yet she manages to capture the essence of what you want out of the dessert. Her cake features four delicate layers of sponge moistened with coffee syrup. She cuts her pastry cream with whipped cream, which gives you the best of both worlds—the luscious, eggy flavor of custard with a lightness that leaves you contemplating how such a rich dessert can be so airy. The chocolate icing, which dribbles seductively down the sides, is a glossy ganache. The result is a compulsively edible cake, with a tender sponge that gives way to satiny cream, and a not-too-sweet chocolaty glaze that lends gravitas. The boxy shape and whisper of coffee flavor hint at tiramisu, which seems appropriate in a historically Italian city like Boston. Like any culinary emblem worth its custard, Boston cream pie has adapted to accommodate different times and tastes. Though a pie in name only, this crowd-pleaser would make a welcome addition to the holiday table.

Best Boston Cream Pie

At first glance it may not resemble a typical Boston cream pie, but this multi-layered creation, from Boston’s own Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Cafe, comes close to being the platonic ideal. The thin sponge layers are light as air, yet sturdy enough to bolster lush vanilla cream. A thin coating of ganache ensures chocolate with nearly every bite. And the unusual addition of a moistening coffee syrup gives this Boston cream pie the whiff of tiramisu—appropriate for a namesake city with such rich Italian heritage. The ganache and pastry cream can be made ahead of time if you want to spread out the process of making this cake, which is admittedly an undertaking but so worth the effort.

ACTIVE TIME: 2 hours TOTAL TIME: 10½ hours (includes freezing and chilling) SERVES: 6-8

For the pastry cream:

1¼ cups milk

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup cake flour

½ tsp kosher salt

4 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

For the sponge cake:

4 large eggs, separated, plus 3 egg whites

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of kosher salt

For the cake-soaking syrup:

½ cup hot brewed coffee

⅓ cup granulated sugar

For the ganache:

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (56 to 62% cacao), chopped, or ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup heavy cream

1. Make the pastry cream: In a medium saucepan, heat milk over medium-high heat until scalded (that is, until small bubbles form along sides of pan). While milk is heating, in a small bowl, stir together sugar, flour and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in flour mixture. The mixture will be thick and pasty.

2. Remove milk from heat and slowly add it to egg-flour mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly. When all milk has been incorporated, return contents of bowl to saucepan and heat over medium heat. Cook, whisking continuously and vigorously, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil, 1-2 minutes. At first, mixture will be very frothy and liquidy; as it cooks longer, it will slowly start to thicken until frothy bubbles disappear and it becomes more viscous. Once mixture thickens, stop whisking every few seconds to see if the mixture has come to a boil. If it has not, keep whisking vigorously. As soon as you see it bubbling, immediately go back to whisking for just 10 seconds, and then remove pan from heat. (Boiling mixture will thicken it and cook out any flour taste, but if you let it boil longer than 10 seconds, mixture can become grainy.)

3. Pour, push and scrape mixture through a sieve into a small, heatproof bowl. Stir in vanilla, then cover with plastic wrap, placing wrap directly on surface of cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, or until cold, before using. Cream can be stored up to 3 days in an airtight container.

4. Make sponge cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place a rack in middle position. Line a 13-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Use an electric mixer to beat together egg yolks, ¼ cup sugar and lemon juice on high speed until thick and doubled in volume, 8-12 minutes. Stop mixer once or twice during mixing and scrape down sides of bowl and whisk to ensure that sugar and yolks are evenly mixed. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

6. Clean bowl and beaters (they must be spotlessly clean). Use electric mixer to beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form, for 2-6 minutes. Keep beating until you can see tines of beaters leaving a slight trail in the whites. With mixer on medium speed, add remaining ¾ cup sugar very slowly, a spoonful or so at a time, taking about 1 minute to add all sugar. Continue beating on medium speed until whites are glossy and shiny and hold a stiff peak, 2-3 minutes.

7. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold about one third of whipped whites into yolk mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in remaining egg whites. Sift flour and salt together over top of mixture and fold in gently until flour is completely incorporated. Pour batter into prepared baking sheet.

8. Use an offset spatula to carefully spread batter evenly to cover entire baking sheet. Concentrate on spreading batter toward corners and edges of pan. The center will be easier to fill once the edges are filled with batter. Don’t worry about the top being perfectly smooth; it is more important that the batter be spread evenly so the cake is the same thickness throughout. Bake cake, rotating baking sheet back to front about halfway through baking, until top is pale golden brown and springs back when pressed in center with fingertips and cake doesn’t stick to your fingers, 18-24 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on a wire rack about 5 minutes.

9. Line a large cutting board with parchment. Run a paring knife around edge of still-warm cake to release it from the sides of baking sheet. Invert cake onto parchment. Carefully peel off parchment and allow cake to cool completely. Use a chef’s knife to cut cake in half crosswise and then in half lengthwise. You should now have four cake layers, each about 5½ by 8¼ inches. Cut a clean piece of cardboard so that its dimensions are just slightly larger than layer cake dimensions.

10. Make the soaking syrup: In a small bowl, stir together coffee and sugar until sugar has dissolved.

11. Use a pastry brush to brush top of all four cake rectangles evenly with soaking syrup, using up all syrup.

12. Place one cake layer, syrup-side up, on prepared cardboard rectangle. Use an electric mixer or whisk to whip heavy cream until it holds very firm, stiff peaks. Fold in pastry cream until well combined. Use an offset spatula to spread about one third of cream mixture over cake layer. There is a tendency for the cream to mound in the center, so be sure to spread cream out to edges of cake, so the cream layer is slightly thicker along the edge than in the center.

13. Place a second cake layer, syrup-side up, on top of cream layer and press down gently so cake layer is level. Use offset spatula to spread about half the remaining cream mixture over the cake layer, as you did in previous step.

14. Place a third cake layer, syrup-side up, on top of cream layer and press down slightly to level the cake. Use offset spatula to spread remaining cream mixture over cake layer, as you did in the previous step. Top cake with final cake layer, syrup-side up, and press down gently so top layer is flat. Lightly wrap cake with plastic wrap, and freeze until it is frozen solid, about 8 hours or up to overnight.

15. At least 3 hours before serving, remove cake from freezer and place on a cutting board. Use a chef’s knife dipped in very hot water to trim edges of cake so that they are neat and even. Dip and wipe knife clean several times as you trim to make sure you get a neat, sharp edge on the cake. Trim cardboard underneath is so it is flush with cake. Place cake on its cardboard base on a cooling rack set on a baking sheet.

16. Make the ganache: Place chocolate in a small, heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat cream over high heat until scalded. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit 30 seconds. Slowly whisk chocolate and cream together until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly. (The ganache can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.)

17. Pour warm ganache over top of cake. Use offset spatula to spread ganache in an even layer. It will begin to firm up right away when it hits the cold cake, so work quickly to even the surface. Let excess ganache drip down sides of cake, leaving some parts of cake exposed. Let ganache set for several seconds, then transfer cake to a serving plate. Let cake thaw at room temperature before serving.

Boston Cream Pie

Stella Parks’s recipe for this American classic takes each element extremely seriously. She uses a 1934 Pillsbury recipe as the inspiration for her yolk-rich yellow sponge cake, models the milky vanilla filling on her favorite stove-top pudding and tops it all off with a dark chocolate ganache that makes each slice that much more irresistible. Since this is an intermediate recipe, Ms. Parks recommends using weighted measurements for best results. If using cup measures, lightly spoon your ingredients into the measuring cups and level with a knife.

ACTIVE TIME: 1¼ hours TOTAL TIME: 4½ hours (includes steeping and chilling) SERVES: 12 people

For the pudding:

1½ cups (12 ounces) milk

1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, preferably Tahitian

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

Scant ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

¼ cup (1¼ ounces) cornstarch

4 large (½ cup or 4 ounces) egg whites

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake:

2 cups (8 ounces) bleached cake flour, such as Swans Down

2 teaspoons baking powder

1⅓ cups (9 ounces) sugar

¼ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

¾ cup or 7 ounces egg yolks (from about 12 large eggs), at room temperature

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

1 cup (8 ounces) milk, at room temperature

For the ganache:

⅓ cup (2½ ounces) heavy cream

½ cup (2½ ounces) roughly chopped dark chocolate, about 62%

1. Make the pudding: In a large stainless steel saucepan, bring milk and cream to a simmer over medium heat. Split vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife and scrape the seeds. Add empty pod to milk-cream mixture, and rub seeds into sugar. Once milk-cream mixture begins to bubble, turn off heat. Cover and steep 30 minutes, or cool to room temperature and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

2. Whisk together vanilla-sugar, salt and cornstarch in a medium bowl, followed by egg whites. Return dairy to a simmer, fish out vanilla pod and scrape its pulp back into pot. Ladle ½ cup hot milk-cream mixture into egg white mixture, whisking to combine. Repeat with a second and third ladleful, then add warmed whites to pot, along with butter. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly but not vigorously, until custard begins to thicken and bubble, about 3 minutes. Set a timer and continue whisking for 1 full minute more. (This ensures the custard gels without a starchy mouthfeel.) Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in vanilla. Let cool about 5 minutes. Pudding can be refrigerated up to 1 week in an airtight container.

3. Make the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two 8-by-3-inch round cake pans with parchment and grease with cooking spray. Sift flour into a medium bowl (if using cup measures, spoon into cups and level with a knife before sifting) and whisk in baking powder.

4. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, salt, nutmeg, vanilla, and yolks. Use an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to mix on low speed to moisten, then increase to medium-high and whip until thick and roughly doubled in volume, with a clear pattern left by the whisk, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and drizzle in butter, followed by milk. Once you’ve added the last drop, shut off mixer. Use a whisk to gently incorporate cake flour. Fold batter with a flexible spatula once or twice from bottom up, and divide between prepared pans.

5. Bake until cakes are lightly browned and firm, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes for 10 minutes, then loosen from pans with a knife and invert onto a wire rack. Leave pans on top and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

6. To assemble the cake: Fold a 26-inch-long sheet of foil in thirds lengthwise to create a 4-inch-wide band. Trim top crust from cakes with a serrated knife and place one, cut-side up, on a serving plate. Wrap foil band around cake to form a snug collar and secure with tape. Stir chilled pudding until creamy, then spread over cake in an even layer. Add second cake, cut-side down, cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 12.

7. Make the ganache: In a small stainless steel saucepan, bring cream to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Pour into a glass measuring cup and refrigerate until thickened but still quite warm, about 25 minutes.

8. Finish the cake: Discard foil. Stir warm ganache and pour onto dead center of cake. Spiraling outward from center with the back of a spoon, spread ganache toward edges, nudging it over here and there so it drips down in a few places, but otherwise leaving sides of cake exposed. Let cake stand at room temperature until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

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The Walking Dead Showrunner Finally Confirmed What Happened To Heath

Spoilers below for the latest episodes of The Walking Dead, so reading on without catching up would be ill-advised.

When The Walking Dead came to a close with “What Comes After,” the entire fabric of the show had changed, thanks to a time jump and a helicopter ride. According to showrunner Angela Kang, the latter is indeed the answer to one of the zombie drama’s biggest overarching questions: what happened to Corey Hawkins’ Heath? It turns out Heath actually was part of Jadis’ trade system with the helicopter pilot. Kang says that’s been the plan all along, for the most part.

Fans will remember back when Season 6 started up, The Walking Dead introduced Corey Hawkins as the comic fan-favorite Heath. It was a pretty big deal at the time, since Hawkins was coming off of a big win with Straight Outta Compton. But the actor’s career boom was detrimental to The Walking Dead overall, with his casting in 24: Legacy throwing a giant wrench into the works.

In the episode “Swear,” one of the series’ more reviled installments, Heath straight up vanished during Tara’s untimely voyage to Oceanside. It hadn’t made much sense at the time, since he hadn’t been shown coming into contact with anyone. Plus, other than the “PPP” key card that Tara found at the scene, Heath’s disappearance never got addressed within the show itself, without any characters voicing concern or questioning what happened.

Now, Angela Kang has confirmed a line of theorizing that some fans had latched onto as soon as it became clear what Jadis’ connection to the helicopter was. As someone who got into the habit of trading survivors for supplies, Jadis technically had a major impact on the show’s events more than a season before we actually met her. (Kinda like Negan, but not quite.)

But now that we know how Heath disappeared, we only have more answers for The Walking Dead‘s creative team. Such as, “Is Heath an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ in terms of his helicopter labeling?” Also, “Where was Heath taken?” The one that everybody really wants to know, probably, is “Will we ever see Heath again?”

That answer is just as up in the air as everything else, but Angela Kang definitely wants to make it happen. Here’s what she told Business Insider.

Thanks to that last-minute capper introducing Magna and her comic book crew, The Walking Dead TV narrative took a massive six-year leap forward. As such, these characters are 180 degrees from where they were in those early Alexandria days, and it’s extremely unlikely that Heath will just pop back around looking for his RV. Yeah, that’s the very same RV that Jadis was driving around in, which was a major clue.

If Rick is indeed heading to the same place that Heath was taken, then we might end up seeing an aged-up Corey Hawkins walking around whatever location that will be. (And possibly Georgie and Maggie and others.) But let’s not rule out Heath’s entire ordeal getting showcased for a single standalone special, or even a short-form miniseries.

At this point, the live-action character isn’t viewed nearly as favorably as his comic counterpart is, so it’s hard to say how happy and excited fans would be to see Heath return in some way. But even if we never see him again, at least we finally have some confirmation about what happened.

Could Heath get addressed on the show soon? Find out when The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Our fall TV premiere schedule will loop you in on other shows that may have disappeared from your primetime viewing in recent months.

Why Mayonnaise is Magic

SPECIAL SAUCE A combination of mayonnaise and blue cheese adds up to a rich topping that more or less makes itself.
SPECIAL SAUCE A combination of mayonnaise and blue cheese adds up to a rich topping that more or less makes itself. Photo: Kate Sears for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Jamie Kimm, Prop Styling by Carla Gonzalez-Hart

The Chef: Alex Raij

Why Mayonnaise is Magic
Illustration: Michael Hoeweler

Her Restaurants El Quinto Pino, Txikito, La Vara, and Saint Julivert Fisherie, all in New York City.

What She’s Known For Regional-Spanish cooking that honors tradition while embracing creativity. Flavor over frippery.

ENDIVE IS the most elegant chicory. It has enough bitter bite to distinguish any dish it’s part of and sufficient subtlety to play well with other ingredients. In her third Slow Food Fast recipe, New York chef Alex Raij makes it the base for a beautiful fall gratin.

Ms. Raij calls for slicing the endive heads lengthwise so the leaves remain intact at the base, then spreading them across the bottom of a casserole. A thick topping of mayonnaise and blue cheese performs in an almost alchemical way in the oven. The mayonnaise puffs and sets in much the same way a béchamel would, fusing with the blue cheese, bubbling and browning on top while preserving the moisture of the luscious endive beneath. A final sprinkling of marjoram, parsley, red pepper flakes and lemon juice provides color and punch.

Store-bought mayonnaise will work perfectly well here, though Ms. Raij always makes it in-house. It’s integral to a number of the Spanish dishes on her menus. “Spaniards, in general, love mayonnaise,” she said. “One thing they are really good at is oil and fat.”

This recipe also happens to come together remarkably easily and quickly. A 15-minute high-heat blast in the oven ensures that the endive retains its toothsome structure and doesn’t collapse into mush, even as its flavor sweetens and deepens. And the mayonnaise helps to make the recipe foolproof. “I think it’s one of the most important sauces,” said Ms. Raij. “When baked, the emulsion breaks and it turns a bit custardy. It’s magical.”

TOTAL TIME: 25 minutes SERVES:4

4 large heads Belgian endive, outer leaves discarded

Kosher salt

1 cup mayonnaise

1½ cups crumbled blue cheese

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons marjoram leaves, roughly chopped

Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Trim bases of endive heads, making sure to keep stems intact so leaves hold together. Cut each head lengthwise into thirds. Season cut sides with salt. Arrange sliced endive, cut-sides down, in a baking dish large enough to hold slices in a snug single layer.

2. Spread mayonnaise evenly over endive and scatter cheese on top. Sprinkle red pepper flakes and marjoram over cheese.

3. Bake gratin on center rack of oven until bubbly and golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Remove gratin from oven and sprinkle lemon juice, zest and parsley over top. Serve hot, with a green salad and sliced Serrano ham on the side, if you like.

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A New Breed of Innkeepers for the Airbnb Era

The Woodstocker Bed and Breakfast in Vermont is owned by Isabelle Chicoine and Karim Houry.
The Woodstocker Bed and Breakfast in Vermont is owned by Isabelle Chicoine and Karim Houry. Photo: Oliver Parini for The Wall Street Journal

In March, Isabelle Chicoine and Karim Houry spent $1.2 million on a circa-1830s bed-and-breakfast in Woodstock, Vt., that’s so quaint it could have been painted by Grandma Moses. But to make it their home, they needed a business plan, a marketing strategy and internet savvy.

“Developing the website, doing the marketing takes a lot of our time,” said Ms. Chicoine, 52, who had been working as director of communications for a private school in metro New York before she decided to ditch it all for a life of changing sheets, scrambling eggs and composing picture-perfect yogurt parfaits. “If you present something really pretty, you have a good chance of making it on Instagram,” she said.

After investing $400,000 in a full redesign—complete with faux deer head mounts in plaid flannel—the couple reopened the B&B over the summer, having won key approvals from town authorities. “My PowerPoint skills came in handy,” said Mr. Houry, 54, a former executive with a Wall Street financial-services company.

Inside Some B&B Real-Estate Investments

A look at bed-and-breakfasts in Connecticut, Vermont and Maryland purchased as a “second act” for these innkeepers.

A guest room with a four-poster bed at the Woodstocker Bed and Breakfast, a circa-
1830s home in Woodstock, Vt., with nine rooms.
Oliver Parini for The Wall Street Journal

To compete in the Airbnb era, a new breed of innkeepers are ditching the needlepoint pillows and potpourri in favor of free Wi-Fi and vegan breakfast sausage. “Bed-and-breakfasts were getting a bad rap for the doilies. The modern B&B doesn’t look like grandma’s house,” said Heather Turner, marketing director for the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.

There are about 17,000 bed-and-breakfasts nationwide, according the Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals, a nonprofit trade group with 625 members that was founded three years ago—partly in response to the rising number of mid-career professionals who have taken up innkeeping.

“They’ve had another career as a teacher, lawyer or doctor—they want to be in the hospitality business,” said Rob Fulton, the group’s CEO.

The couple purchased the inn in March for $1.2 million and spent another $400,000 on improvements.
The couple purchased the inn in March for $1.2 million and spent another $400,000 on improvements. Photo: Oliver Parini for The Wall Street Journal

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Getting into the business takes money. Stately homes come with hefty carrying costs—taxes, insurance, utilities, staffing and upkeep—which can slice into profit margins. And unlike home-sharing setups such as Airbnb, bed-and-breakfast proprietors often face a host of additional regulatory requirements. Innkeepers must take out extra liability insurance, become certified in safe food-handling practices, submit to health and safety inspections, and install fire-rated doors and alarm systems.

Before taking the plunge, Mr. Houry and Ms. Chicoine attended a three-day course for aspiring innkeepers and served a brief internship at a B&B. They don’t see themselves in competition with vacation-stay websites; in fact, they have listed three of the Woodstocker’s nine rooms on Airbnb. “We are trying to use it in our favor,” Ms. Chicoine said.

Rates at the Woodstocker range from $159 to $399, depending on the room and season. At the height of fall foliage in October, the inn’s occupancy rate was over 70%.

“The idea is to cover our business expenses and living expenses—not to make more money,” said Mr. Houry.

The couple, who married last year, live in a 1,600-square-foot carriage house on the property—with walls of distressed wood and corrugated metal, high ceilings and concrete floors with radiant heat.

“It was one of the selling points,” Mr. Houry said. “The owners’ quarters in a lot of B&Bs are very dark and dingy.”

To stand out from the competition, innkeepers must produce well-designed websites along with fresh muffins.

Jeff and Maryan Muthersbaugh own the Nehemiah Brainerd House Bed and Breakfast, a 1765 post-and-beam Colonial home in Haddam, Conn.
Jeff and Maryan Muthersbaugh own the Nehemiah Brainerd House Bed and Breakfast, a 1765 post-and-beam Colonial home in Haddam, Conn. Photo: Julie Bidwell for The Wall Street Journal

“Our guests find us through Facebook or our web page,” said Jan Smith, who opened the Maple Cove Bed & Breakfast in Leonard, Mich., with her husband, Mark, in 2016. The 1890s farmhouse was in disrepair when the Smiths bought it for a little over $200,000 in 1994. After raising four children there, the couple embarked on a major remodel in 2012, which cost over $200,000. Nightly rates range from $125 to $165.

“We always said, ‘Someday we’d love to do a B&B with this house,’ ” said Ms. Smith, 60. The Smiths’ primary source of income is their pet-food distribution company. “Mark and I never intended for the B&B to sustain us—as a secondary income it has exceeded my expectations,” she said.

Jeff and Maryan Muthersbaugh didn’t plan on becoming innkeepers when they bought their Haddam, Conn., 1765 post-and-beam colonial for $535,000 as a weekend retreat in 2002. Over seven years, the couple invested about $550,000 in improvements to the 5-acre property, including remodeling a cottage and building a carriage house. Then in 2009, Ms. Muthersbaugh, who is 66, lost her job as director of human resources for a manufacturing company.

“I thought, ‘I just don’t want to sit behind a desk anymore—this is a great house, I want to share it with people,’ ” she said.

Rachael’s Dowry Bed and Breakfast occupies a historic 1798 home in Baltimore and is owned by Linda Smith.
Rachael’s Dowry Bed and Breakfast occupies a historic 1798 home in Baltimore and is owned by Linda Smith. Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Wall Street Journal

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The Muthersbaughs didn’t have to do much to transform their home into an inn, which they dubbed the Nehemiah Brainerd House Bed and Breakfast after its first owner. Nightly rates range from $140 to $400.

“We entertain a lot—always did,” said Mr. Muthersbaugh, 63, who also owns an executive-search firm. “Before we opened it as a B&B we used to have family and friends here, and then it was bed-and-breakfast, lunch, drinks, snacks. Now it’s bed-and-breakfast—and they pay,” he said. Contemplating retirement, the couple have listed the B&B for $974,900.

It can take two to three years or longer to sell a B&B, says Rick Wolf, co-owner of the B&B Team, an inn brokerage in Maine and Virginia. His firm currently has listings for about 70 inns and B&Bs, a number that has stayed fairly consistent in recent years.

After Linda Smith acquired Rachael’s Dowry Bed and Breakfast, a regal 1798 brick house in Baltimore, one of the first things she did was get rid of the doilies. “My approach is more casual,” said Ms. Smith, 58, who bought the inn for just under $1.2 million in 2016 after 30 years in the telecommunications industry.

“I wanted to buy a company—a bed-and-breakfast showed up as one of the options,” she said. “I fell in love with this place and thought, ‘Yes, I could call this home.’ ”

Ms. Smith bought the inn, complete with most of its antique furnishings, for just under $1.2 million in 2016.
Ms. Smith bought the inn, complete with most of its antique furnishings, for just under $1.2 million in 2016. Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Wall Street Journal

Before the purchase, Ms. Smith took a class for aspiring innkeepers, then shadowed the sellers before taking over. She moved into a loft apartment in a circa-1850s brick annex, which overlooks the inn’s courtyard.

She rises at dawn to make carrot-cake pancakes or peach-and-blueberry French toast. Occasionally she is roused at midnight by a guest who can’t figure out the television remote. “Millennials—I’ve had to teach them B&B etiquette,” said Ms. Smith, whose rates range from $149 to $249 a night. Antique tables and bureaus have had to be refinished after guests spilled nail polish or left greasy pizza boxes.

“Some guests are high maintenance—I have to make them understand I’m not their waiter, I’m their host,” Ms. Smith said. “But by the time they leave, we’re friends.”

Breakfast Is Served
A New Breed of Innkeepers for the Airbnb Era
Photo: Maya Stepien

Leonard, Mich.

Cinnamon buns

Fruit cup with fresh berries, melon, kiwi and pineapple

Savory galette of soft-boiled eggs, sausage, cheese and greens



Haddam, Conn.

Banana-nut bread

Fruit compote with Greek yogurt and granola

Cinnamon french toast with stewed apples

Maple sausage



Oat muffins

Roasted strawberries over Greek yogurt and homemade granola

Mediterranean frittata with sundried tomato, spinach and feta, served with prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe and a roasted tomato with a
parmesan crisp.

Bacon or sausage


Woodstock, Vt.

Fresh brioche

Yogurt parfait with berry coulis

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and sautéed zucchini

Vegan sausage

Appeared in the November 9, 2018, print edition as ‘Going All Inn.’

The Girl In The Spider’s Web Review

It’s been a decade since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was first published in English, and eight years since the first attempt at an American adaptation of the characters created by Steig Larsson. In that time, Larsson has passed away and the responsibility of writing future stories for Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist has passed to another. Now, the first of those novels, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, has received its own adaptation, and it turns out a lot more than just the cast has changed.

The degree to which the tone has changed is clear from the outset. Our opening sequence sees a man having assaulted his wife, clearly not for the first time, after having just beaten the rap for assault on two others. The lights in the apartment go out, and when they return, Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) is there, as if from nowhere, like a Swedish Batman. She takes the man off his feet with a rigged up snare and proceeds to steal all his money via her hacking skills, making sure he knows she has blackmail material in case he wants to try revenge. And then, she’s off into the darkness on her motorcycle.

While the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a gritty noir thriller that reviewed well, it wasn’t a box office smash. It seems clear The Girl in the Spider’s Web is looking to fix that problem by essentially turning this into an action franchise. Lisbeth Salander, the traumatized loner, has become a superhero vigilante. She’s still a loner and the trauma is still there, but it takes a backseat to the rest. It’s more “character description” than actual character. This doesn’t mean The Girl in the Spider’s Web isn’t a worthwhile film in what it is, it just may not be what many are expecting.

The bulk of the plot deals with a former member of the NSA (Stephen Merchant) who developed a piece of software capable of hacking, well, pretty much anything. He’s lost control of the software to the Americans, who he doesn’t trust, so he hires Lisbeth to steal it, because luckily, this piece of software can’t be copied. However, Lisbeth isn’t the only one after the software, and so her stealing it sends not only the NSA after her in the form of Agent Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield), but also the Norway police and a criminal syndicate known as the Spiders. Salander must turn to her old partner Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) in order to help her protect the one thing keeping the software from becoming active.

Even the plot, following a rogue piece of super hacking software, feels like something that belongs in a James Bond movie. And there are other elements that reinforce that. Outside of the always entertaining, but rarely realistic, Hollywood “hacking,” the film has its supply of necessary gadgets and a supervillain with a personal connection to our hero. It’s a long way from the atmospheric murder mystery that made up the bulk of the plot of Dragon Tattoo. There’s really no mystery element at all in the new film. There are a couple of minor twists, one of which I spent the bulk of the movie thinking was a glaring plot hole until it gets filled in at the end as an attempt at a “reveal” moment, but even the movie doesn’t make too much out of either of them.

However, once you settle in and accept the sort of movie that The Girl in the Spider’s Web is going to be, it’s an enjoyable adventure. The action sequences are tight and fun. One sequence in an airport where Lisbeth gets to really show off her hacking skills, is particularly well paced, just don’t think too hard about how ridiculous it all is.

The supporting actors, while not given much to do, do fine with what they have. Make no mistake, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the Lisbeth Salander show, which means it’s the Claire Foy show. As it turns out, Clair Foy puts on a pretty damn good show. She transforms in the role of Lisbeth and is an engaging action hero. It’s true that many of Lisbeth’s rougher edges, which made her an interesting and dynamic character, have been smoothed over here, and that’s a shame, but seeing a woman take on a major action role like this is still a rare enough occurrence that we’ll celebrate it for what it is. If we are going to get more of these, as seems to be the intention, we could do a lot worse than more Claire Foy.

Director Fede Alvarez has shown he’s a capable director handling this sort of material, which will probably cause the numerous other action franchises to put him on the short list for a future job, if he wasn’t there already. This isn’t what we expect from the helmer of Evil Dead or Don’t Breathe, though this movie does include one significant body horror moment that will probably have the more squeamish in the audience getting uncomfortable in their seats.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is a better than average action adventure with a compelling lead actress. Sometimes that’s all you need.

movie reviewed rating

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Meredith and Derek’s Relationship on *Grey’s Anatomy* Wouldn’t Happen in 2018

Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek’s (Patrick Dempsey) relationship is one of the most iconic in the Grey’s Anatomy universe. Their romance was as embedded into mid-2000s culture as Paris Hilton, Juicy Couture tracksuits, and chunky highlights. However, if Grey’s Anatomy were to premiere in 2018—in light of #MeToo and Time’s Up—their relationship would look completely different. In fact, it might not even exist.

That’s what GA showrunner Krista Vernoff told the Los Angeles Times in a new interview from this week.

“If you look at, for example, Meredith Grey [Ellen Pompeo] and Derek Shepherd [Patrick Dempsey] through the lens of Time’s Up and #MeToo, he was her boss, she was an intern, and she kept saying, ‘No, walk away from me,’ and he kept pursuing her, and that is probably not a story we would tell on the show today, and it’s a beautiful reflection of the changing times,” she said.

Vernoff says the show is taking active measures to ensure the on-screen romances mirror the changes in our culture. Look no further than Meredith’s relationship with resident Andrew DeLuca [Giacomo Gianniotti] for proof of that.

“This season, we’re doing a little bit of a reversal as we begin to build this love triangle that’s emerging with DeLuca as one the people in that triangle, and he is a resident and Meredith is an attending, and we’re having to address it differently than we ever would have before,” she said.

Vernoff continued, “We’re having to talk about and look at power dynamics. It is an ongoing conversation in the writer’s room. How do we tell that story in a way that feels honest and romantic and sexy and yet proactive and progressive?”

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursday nights at 8 P.M. ET on ABC.

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First Once Upon A Deadpool Poster Is All About Rudolph And Fred Savage

An early publicity image sent out by Ryan Reynolds showed Deadpool sitting in a chair reading a story to Fred Savage, who played the sick kid being told a story in the classic The Princess Bride. The poster shows that will likely be more than a one-note joke, as Fred Savage join Deadpool astride Rudolph for the poster. The movie may be eliminating all of Deadpool’s naughty language, but it certainly isn’t going to be any less hilarious based on this poster.

The tagline that joins hte poster says there will be zero F’s given, a reference to fact that one of the major changes that Deadpool 2 will need to make is eliminating all F-bombs. Ryan Reynolds shared the poster on his own Twitter account saying, “The only F word in this movie is Fred Aaron Savage.” I can’t help but think that this won’t be entirely accurate. Traditionally, the MPAA will allow one, non-sexual, F-word in a PG-13 film and it seems to be that’s just the sort of thing that Once Upon a Deadpool would take advantage of, and make a point of mentioning they’re going to use it at an opportune moment.

The fact that Once Upon a Deadpool is going so all-in on the Princess Bride joke that it will use a, now very much adult, Fred Savage, as the “kid” being told a story is hilarious. You know if Peter Falk were still around he’d be part of this too. A lot of us who grew up watching The Princess Bride are now the adults enjoying Deadpool movies, and bringing the two together is strangely perfect.

Since the framing device for this PG-13 version of Deadpool 2 will parody The Princess Bride, that means that we’re not simply getting a toned down version of the movie. The film will clearly include some new scenes of the story being read just as The Princess Bride did, along with some all-new narration. Fans of the Deadpool movies will certainly want to check out this new version just to see the new material. Just because the merc is going to watch his mouth doesn’t mean he won’t still be hilarious.

As the poster announces, December 12 will be the day that Once Upon a Deadpool arrives in theaters. It will be interesting to see if this film does box office on par with a new release or a re-release, it’s sort of both things, making this a somewhat untested idea, though it’s probably one other movies will consider if it works.

Victoria Secret Fashion Show 2018: What’s Holding It Back From Size Inclusivity?

When the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show taped on November 8, there are some things we know to expect: pink satin robes, glossy air kisses, bedazzled push-up bras, elaborate angel wings. If the casting announcements are any indication, we can also expect to see the usual army of 5’10, size-two models—not surprising for a runway show, perhaps, but a far cry from the direction much of the lingerie industry is headed.

During the past few years, Victoria’s Secret’s competitors—including Aerie, ThirdLove, and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty—have built their brands on messages of self-acceptance and body positivity, touting diverse casts of models, Photoshop-free campaigns, and (relatively) broad size ranges. And they’ve reaped rewards in the form of sales and social media accolades. Nearly every new startup in the lingerie space has “inclusivity” baked into its mission statement. And at the mass level, retailers like Target and J.Crew now cast non-sample-sized models in marketing materials as a matter of course.

Victoria’s Secret appears to be holding their ground, a fact that some of the brand’s rivals and critics have seized upon as a marketing opportunity of their own, calling for boycotts and staging campaigns with pointed hashtags like #ImNoAngel (Lane Bryant) and #weareallangels (ThirdLove and curve model Robyn Lawley). Ashley Graham—perhaps the most obvious candidate for a spot on Victoria’s Secret’s roster, with her 7.5 million Instagram followers and ample runway experience— skewered the brand on social media last year, posting an image of herself in a lingerie set by plus-size brand Addition Elle and a Photoshopped set of angel wings on the same day VS taped its show. The caption: “Got my wings! … #thickthighssavelives.”

Graham’s post racked up nearly 775,000 likes, putting it on par with some of the most popular images from the show itself, according to an analysis by Instagram marketing firm Dash Hudson.

If Victoria’s Secret was still the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that it was throughout most of the 2000s and 2010s, then the old argument that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might apply. But since early 2016, parent company L Brands has reported quarter after quarter of declining sales and shrinking profits. And CBS, which had aired the annual fashion show, said that ratings in 2017 were down 30 percent from the year prior among viewers aged 18-49, with just under 5 million people tuning in to the broadcast. (In 2018, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has a new network home: ABC.)

2017 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show In Shanghai - Hair & Makeup

PHOTO: Matt Winkelmeyer

There could be many factors at play here—new competitors in the lingerie space, changing viewership habits and shopping behavior… But the consumers Victoria’s Secret needs to connect with in order to sustain itself in the future—younger millennials and generation Z—tend to respond to brands they perceive as authentic and values-driven, and shun the hyper-sexualized imagery that appealed to previous generations, according to research firm PSFK. Gen Z, roughly defined as teens and young adults born between 1997 and 2010, will account for 40 percent of all consumers by 2020, ad agency Barkley predicts, together holding up to $143 billion in direct spending power; younger millennials, meanwhile, are now exiting their college years and generating income of their own, making them an increasingly enticing demographic for brands.

Victoria’s Secret has done an exceptionally good job at meeting these shoppers where they spend a significant portion of their time: Instagram. It has cast celebrity models like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, who boast 97 million and 44 million followers respectively, in its annual fashion show. The brand’s Angels, the select group of models on long-term contract, make frequent appearances on its social media channels. But while this online reach helps ensure the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is seen by hundreds of millions around the world, that doesn’t necessarily translate into sales.

“There’s a difference between buzz and buyers,” explains Jeetendr Sehdev, New York Times bestselling author of The Kim Kardashian Principle and celebrity branding authority. “And while Victoria’s Secret continues its buzz, it’s suffering on the buyers front.”

Body positivity, meanwhile, is “one of the key movements within the lingerie industry,” says Jo Lynch, lingerie editor at trend forecaster WGSN. Take the acclaim of Savage x Fenty, which closed New York Fashion Week with a runway show-performance art hybrid starring an exceptionally diverse cast of models and dancers, as “a good example of a sexier brand sending out a clear message about who the lingerie is for, and who should enjoy it: the women who wear it.”

Can Victoria’s Secret thrive with the same old formula? The brand doesn’t normally comment publicly on the lack of body diversity among its models. But decisions about its annual runway extravaganza can’t be taken lightly: The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show takes a full year of planning and can cost upwards of $20 million to produce, L Brands’ Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek told the New York Times in 2016.

In a statement provided to Glamour, Monica Mitro, EVP of Public Relations at Victoria’s Secret, said: “The women in this year’s show are from all over the world. They represent many stages of a modeling career and each has her own story to tell. Scrutinizing women’s bodies of any size related to the Victoria’s Secret brand is unfortunate because it puts judgement on women of any body type. Victoria’s Secret believes the body positivity dialogue should be positive. It should not be done by putting other women down, including the 60 women that are excited to be in our Fashion Show. These women represent so many important aspects of diversity that should be celebrated beyond solely focusing on their bodies.”

PHOTO: Getty

PHOTO: Getty

Razek and Mitro also sat down with Vogue this year, and, in a story published the day of the show’s taping, responded to some of the criticisms it has faced. “I think we address the way the market is shifting on a constant basis,” he said. “If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus-size model in the show, we have. We invented the plus-size model show in what was our sister division, Lane Bryant. Lane Bryant still sells plus-size lingerie, but it sells a specific range, just like every specialty retailer in the world sells a range of clothing. As do we. We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world.”

In terms of its fashion show casting, Victoria’s Secret puts heavy emphasis on physical fitness, messaging it’s ramped up in the past few years with its “Train Like an Angel” campaigns, which push the brand’s activewear offerings and might serve to silence critics who contend that Victoria’s Secret’s idea of “what’s sexy” is all about being thin. Models frequently talk about the intensive training regimes they embark on months before the show.

But the brand would hardly have to give up its fitness-first narrative in order to add a few curvy models to its lineup. Graham, for one, trains at New York’s Dogpound gym, where many of the Angels are regulars. Candice Huffine is a runner with her own line of size-inclusive activewear. Marquita Pring can swing a set of kettlebells with the best of them. If the show is the modeling world’s Super Bowl, as it’s often called, then a size 8 or 14 can train just as hard for it as a size 0.

And while any change is sure to bring out some haters, the praise will almost certainly drown them out, if the runways of New York Fashion Week are any indication. In recent seasons, brands like Christian Siriano that have made diversity a priority have not only been celebrated in the press, but have ultimately boosted their bottom lines.

Casting director Hollie Schliftman, who helps bring Siriano’s vision to life every season, declined to comment on Victoria’s Secret directly, but she says she understands why some brands are still holding out when it comes to their casting. “I see how people just love to do what they’re used to,” she says. “It’s hard—this industry is a really hard [one] and people are very critical and very judgmental. So it is taking a risk going out of the norm of what people are used to, but it’s so nice to see that people… that there are some designers that really just believe in what they believe in and they take the risk and they do it.”

PHOTO: Getty

PHOTO: Getty

PHOTO: Getty

Any change, though, has to come from the top, according to casting director Gilleon Smith, whose work with New York brand Chromat has also earned widespread accolades for its radical inclusivity.

“I’ve always said this a lot, but fashion is not a progressive industry,” Smith says. “It’s very traditional, which people don’t really get, but people kind of stick with who they know—what photographer, what stylist—and nobody really goes outside of that in terms of working with different creative teams unless something bad happens. So I think that Victoria’s Secret has had this formula that they use, and they have the same people continuing on the legacy and the tradition of what they’ve always done, and that is their barometer or metric for success.”

And the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show has made significant strides in terms of racial diversity in recent years, with models of color making up close to 50 percent of the cast of 2017’s Shanghai program—that’s a vastly higher number than the 32 percent average of the Fall 2018 shows. Natural hair has also become a normal sight on the runway, after years of uniform beachy waves, to much fanfare.

Size, however, seems to be a more challenging frontier. One hurdle may be the fact that Victoria’s Secret simply doesn’t carry sizes larger than a 40DDD in bras and an XL (equivalent to a size 16) in panties and apparel, meaning many, if not most plus-size models are already sized out of the line. That could create another problem: If the brand were to cast someone like Graham, who wears a size 16, it could come off as disingenuous if Victoria’s Secret didn’t also commit to expanding its size range—more a ploy for press than a genuine desire to reach an untapped market.

Perhaps it’s a commitment to the promise of “fantasy”—an adjective it uses in its marketing materials, and to describe the multimillion-dollar bra one lucky model wears every year—over reality. This fantasy, to hear the brand’s executives tell it, is the idea that every girl can aspire to be like a Victoria’s Secret model: “It’s a celebration of powerful women by powerful women who work very hard at what they do, live a healthy life and inspire legions of admirers,” Razek told the Times in 2016.

PHOTO: Getty

Chromat’s Smith, however, has a somewhat different take: “It’s kind of like a Christmas special. It’s this whimsical fashion cartoon that everybody’s watching.” The show, in this sense, is more like pageantry than a reflection of the real world (though even Miss America dropped its swimsuit competition this year).

But does fantasy still resonate with today’s shopper? According to YouGov, a market research and data analytics firm, 70 percent of U.S. consumers between the ages of 18 and 34—Victoria’s Secret’s prime demographic—say they like seeing “real looking people” in ads.

“Consumers more than ever connect to the product through those people presenting them, so if the models are not engaging the customer or they feel like they can’t somehow relate then the casting has failed,” say Drew Dasent and Daniel Peddle, casting directors and co-founders of The Secret Gallery, who declined to comment on Victoria’s Secret’s casting choices.

“If you’re looking at Victoria’s Secret and the people who shop there, it’s people completely across the U.S. and beyond,” says Smith. “And I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to have representation of all kinds.”

Sehdev, the brand marketing expert, says Victoria’s Secret will need to act fast and decisively if it wants to hold onto its place at the top. “It’s a highly competitive market, so it’s great that they have made some movement [in terms of racial diversity], but they have truly got to make some radical changes moving forward,” he says. “They have to really reinvent and reimagine the brand in a way that is fresh, provocative, bold, and brazen for a new generation of consumers that think, act, and feel very differently.”

Despite its recent challenges, Victoria’s Secret is still a multi-million brand with the power to make supermodels’ careers and broadcast its image of what sexy looks like to countless women around the world. It’s a mall staple, and, with its teen-geared Pink brand, the first lingerie store that many American girls shop at. With a broader range of sizes, it might be fair to say that its clientele would be nearly as diverse as the country itself.

“The brand has a specific image, has a point of view,” Razek told Vogue. “It has a history. It’s hard to build a brand. It’s hard to build Vogue, Ralph Lauren, Apple, Starbucks. You have a brand position and you have a brand point of view. The girls who have earned their way into the show have worked for it… And all of these things that [other brands] ‘invented,’ we have done and continue to do.”

The question now is what will the lingerie giant do with the influence it still wields?

Michelle Obama Reveals She Had a Miscarriage and Underwent IVF With Both Daughters

In her new memoir, Becoming, Michelle Obama reveals that she suffered a miscarriage in her 30s and experienced fertility issues while trying to have children with her husband, former president Barack Obama. Ultimately, the couple conceived their daughters, Sasha and Malia, through in vitro fertilization—something Michelle dealt with largely on her own as Barack was away serving the state legislature. As the former First Lady details in her book, she had to administer the shots that are a part of in vitro fertilization many times herself.

Michelle opened up more about this experience to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America Friday (November 9). “I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were because we don’t talk about them,” she said. “We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.”

She continued, “That’s one of the reasons why I think it’s important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen.”

In the interview, Michelle says she realized the “biological clock is real” around age 34 or 35 and that “egg production is limited.” “We had to do IVF,” Michelle told Roberts.

Ultimately, Michelle hopes opening up about her struggles will help other women going through similar experiences. “I think it’s the worst thing that we do to each other as women, not share the truth about our bodies and how they work,” she said.

Becoming will hit bookstores and E-reader platforms everywhere on Tuesday, November 13. Click here to look at tickets for Michelle’s upcoming book tour in support of the project.

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