TV Review

Silicon Valley on HBO:

Martin Starr

Ladies of Habit Book Club

 

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I have heard a very good review of this book compare The Goldfinch to Harry Potter (a boy alone in the world embarks on epic life, has magical objects), but I think it might actually borrow more from the show Scandal. Like Shonda Rhimes, Donna Tartt is excellent at creating juicy tension and improbable scenarios that you still feel committed to seeing through to the end. This gives the book a pulpy feel, which sometimes is overwhelmed by her literary bravado ripped straight from Dickens. I like the Scandal parts of this book a lot more than the Dickens parts of this book. In other words, when Tart embraces the idea that people who do morally questionable things are more glamorous and thus more fun, I am with her. When morality itself is discussed and debated abstractly in the book (ala’ Dickens) I kind of wanted to give up on the book.

If you loved early Tartt, you will appreciate the delicious and immersive quality of her writing, but with The Goldfinch she is trying to write a BIG book (literally 700+ pages) and it kind of makes me miss the lack of pretense in her early work. I was bored in parts of this book, and I am not always sure my boredom was worth it.

 

–D

Even Introverts–Connie to the Wonnie

Will GOOP be OK?

After receiving the traumatizing news of Gwynnie’s divorce, I raced to GOOP for the full BE newsletter. Unfortunately GOOP had crashed and I had to wait a full night to read the newsletter on “Conscious Uncoupling.” My devotion to the the cultural formation that is Gwynnie runs deep, and if you are a real GOOP defender you need to really put the announcement of the divorce in the full context of the rest of the newsletter, which is basically a guide to enlightened divorce.

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I was very worried about the state of my own marriage when I read the headline about the divorce (if she can’t make it work, who can?), but upon completing the lengthy BE newsletter I feel much better. My marriage might not make it, but GOOP style divorce actually sounds great.

The basic principles of GOOP divorce are: you gain an internal support system through the time you spend with a partner, whether or not you stay with them. With not a bit of snark I can actually fully get behind this. It is kind of a lovely sentiment.

GOOP is not only going to be fine post divorce, I think we have some amazing BE’s, GO’s, and DO’s ahead. Here are some suggestions:

1. BE on how to have all your girlfriends move in with you after you get a divorce. Cameron Diaz, Stella McCartney and Jessica Seinfeld will all be featured in this article, which (fingers crossed) includes a video of them cooking tacos together. Beyonce will stop by for drinks.

2. GO on traveling by yourself with expert advice from Elizabeth Gilbert.

3. DO on how Tracy Anderson and Gwynnie put together the perfect single lady dance play list.

 

The future is bright.

 

-D

 

Three Cheers for JLo

Do we celebrate JLo enough? NO!

I accidentally watched an episode of the new version of American Idol and was blown away by how entertained I was by the new JLo infused version. They have substituted everything that was terrible about American Idol for some lovely ribbing between JLo and Henry Connick Jr., a variety of genres within the song selections, and a general condemnation of runs. This all confirms what I had already suspected about JLo. She has a firm grasp on what is important: treating women of color like human beings, high-waisted booty shorts, expertly applied highlighter, the film Out of Sight, Greek god-level celebrity charisma, and Professionalism.

Without realizing she is the executive producer, I also recently fell in love with The Fosters on ABC Family (the most recent show on the network that seems to now be producing what I can only describe as HBO if HBO was run by John Waters).

JLo is a weird new species of pop star that seems to actually be better now than she was when she was 22. She refuses to wither away into a perfume hawking shadow of herself and thus I will buy all the things she wants to sell me.

-D

No more “accessibility”!

A lady who has a PhD and successfully publishes think pieces on pop culture is leaving academia. Why? Well, Buzzfeed is hiring her. But also, she points out, because academia is broken. I applaud people pointing out the structural inequality of the university and I love when people write critically about pop culture so why do I kind of despise this lady?

Here is why: “Oh man, this is a sensitive subject, and I might burn some bridges with it, but here goes: much of academic writing prides itself on being as inaccessible as possible, and I mean that both literally and figuratively—you can’t understand it unless you’ve had at least five years of graduate school, and you can’t actually get your hands on it without affiliation with a major institution.”

First, her point about the pay wall on academic articles and books is well taken, but . . . on the “figurative” front . . . hmmm.

I strongly believe in a more democratic diffusion of culture criticism, but this is not the same thing as thinking academic writing should be more “accessible” as she argues.

There should be room for many different kinds of writers: people who model critical but accessible criticism in newspapers and magazines, people who write history books that tell a compelling narrative that both college freshmen and the history-curious can enjoy, and listicles that help me remember the best parts of the 90’s. But none of these genres replace the “hard” academic writing that people love to hate on. Just because it takes a graduate education to understand a book or article does not make it useless jargon. Good academic writing is complicated/rich/generative and useful to advancing our understanding of BIG THINGS like language/beauty/domination/materiality.

The good thing about having complex accounts of these ideas is that they are MORE TRUE.

This person did not miss an opportunity to write an accessible deconstruction of Scandal just because he wrote this incredibly valuable sentence:

“Simply put, ‘race’ is the consequence and not the cause of racial ascription or racialisation processes which justify historically asymmetrical power relationships through reference to phenotypical characteristics and ancestry: ‘Substituted for racism, race transforms the act of a subject into an attribute of the object.'”

Let’s stop pretending that getting rid of inaccessible academic writing is the only way to have more accessible writing.

-D

National Most Important Day of The Year Day

Those of you who know me well already have heard about the year that I rented the cheapest motel room in town so that I could watch the Oscars. As I sat on the bed of that Motel 8, basking in the fumes of stale cigarettes and bleach, I realized this is how prostitution works.

This year I actually live with a TV and thus my Oscars experience was really excellent. Keeping the traditions of my family, I watch all of the arrivals (including the less famous people who have to come in two hours ahead of the telecast), I cry during the in memoriam, and I cheer very loudly when someone wins who was in an okay movie.

The Oscars are not:

about movies (even good ones only seem like a stale version of themselves when addressed during the Oscars)

about comedy (even funny hosts will be unfunny)

about “issues” (thinking about slavery or the AIDS epidemic through the prism of an acceptance speech is not good for anyone)

The Oscars are about:

Dresses

Celebrities displaying their “humanity”

Mass catharsis

So in the spirit of these revised expectations. Here were my best dressed:

PREGNANT LADIES WERE LOOKING GREAT!

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I love everything about this look: the color of her dress against her wine colored 90s mouth, the way it kind of looks like it could be a sheet that she picked up on the way out, the delicate non-platformed shoe. It all frames what is essentially a set piece for her gorgeous cheeks.

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This dress w/ baby was also smoke’n.

Next theme, STRUCTURE STRUCTURE STRUCTURE:

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There is a reason men look good in tuxes–there is so much tailoring and structure. This dress gives Glenn all the same benefits but also shows off her beautiful body. Also I love that the only skin she is showing is her armpit.

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It is a little unfortunate that his cape-dress was worn by someone I don’t care about, because personality + dress = narrative. Whereas famous man’s wife + dress = a kind of walking mute dress form. But capes are the best and I kind of love the idea of a pale pink cape dress because it is less obvious than a regal color.

Now the dress of the evening was of course Lupita’s, but this is a perfect example of dress + personality. Her narrative that night was so strong that the dress was almost overwhelmed by her actual movie role, amazing speech, and poise. I guess that’s a good thing. This dress was also a little overwhelmed by her own dress history–which is so great that it set an unfair bar.

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Now, the best dresses of the evening are always at the Vanity Fair party, but they don’t invite us to that party so I deduct 20 points automatically for all the dresses. But if they had the courage and sense of justice to air the Vanity Fair Party red carpet, Allison Williams  would have received a high score:

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The only thing I love as much as the Oscars is the endless slide shows of dresses organized by color and theme that come out the week after. Thanks for stepping up celebrities and momentarily drenching my eyes with sparkly diamonds and silky draping. I really appreciated it.

-D

Passing the Bechdel Test

D’s recent post on lady culture got me thinking about some of my favorite depictions of female friendship in popular culture from the past couple of years. A few weeks ago, I saw The Heat and while it disappointed me overall, I love the idea of exploring the buddy cop dynamic between two women:

Paul Feig, of course, also gave us one of the best recent representations of girlfriendom in Bridesmaids:

One of the most charming parts about Parks and Recreation is the relationship between Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins:

I’ve also fallen head over heels for the women of Broad City. I think the web series might be funnier than the Comedy Central version of the show, but I’ve only seen one episode of the latter, so it might be too early to tell.

(In)defensible Lady Culture

Ladies are very powerful in culture right now, particularly between the ages of 22 and 32. Or so we would think from the End of Men and the rise of Lena Dunham. But if you grew up between women getting the franchise and Riot Grrrl feminism, you might be mildly uncomfortable with the boy-obsessed, nail art loving, and “like” dense speaking habits of ladies dominating our cultural landscape. I don’t think we have to give this mildly self-hating new version of lady power a total free pass, but let me defend some of my favorite iterations:

The Mindy Project

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Mindy Kaling has brought a woman of color into a starring comedy role on network television. Amazing. But Kaling has basically failed to have any other women on the show. After early attempts at Mindy having a best girl friend, the show really found its groove when it dropped all other lady characters and made Mindy’s male co-workers the center of the show. Like the New Girl, the show is most funny when it explores the friendships between Mindy and her boy buds. But unlike the New Girl, Mindy is a strong center to this dynamic. Mindy is unabashedly “girly” and competent and she is the heart of the comedy rather than the foil.

Girl Code

This show is based on the premise that girls have a code that helps them navigate the troubled waters of dating, boozing, and shopping. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any place in the code for figuring out how to get a raise or decide between engineering or chemistry as a life path. But despite this narrow focus, this show features more young female comedians than ANY other show on tv. Cast from UCB and the stand up circuit in NYC, the young and diverse cast is both funny and sisterly. I actually would feel pretty okay about my daughter learning about drinking from these ladies because they describe “partying” as a pretty boring box of wine that you drink with your girlfriends while talking about your butt sweat.

Taylor Swift

Taylor is not as impressively calculated as Beyonce, or as authentic as Kacey Musgraves. But Taylor is totally and completely devoted to honestly describing the experience of being an emotional and deluded young woman. And that is all you get. She doesn’t dance, she is not an amazing performer, nor does she have much of a voice. But Taylor writes the kind of songs that are both sweet and stupid enough to actually express how ridiculous young women feel about themselves and the world. And these perfect pop/country songs are expertly crafted (if that category makes you cringe, you need to take a long hard look at your love of Patsy Cline, ’cause that was some pop country if I ever heard it).

 

–D

Hauls

One of the many fascinations of contemporary blogging/vlogging culture is the extreme amount of money that it takes to share your personal style with the world whilst not being paid. The “haul” is a fantastically strange beast, in which young women share on youtube their shopping haul–unloading their overflowing bags from topshop, nordstroms, and sephora. In some ways the haul seems to be a product of the arrival of “fast fashion,” or extremely cheap stores like H&M that allow people to buy many products for very little money. But the really popular people on youtube are showing off very expensive purchases. One of my favorite youtube people seems to be a nanny, so how she spends hundreds of dollars every month on makeup and clothes is a bit of a mystery. I guess people also have credit cards, so maybe in haul videos we are just watching Americans spending more than they have in real time. And the really successful ones are just given stuff.

There is another answer that makes me a little uncomfortable. Some of these women just make a reasonable amount of money and choose to spend between $100 and $500 a month on frivolous things. This is hard for me to imagine, because I think even if I made $60,000 a year I would be slightly embarrassed to show the world my $700 Chloe shoes on youtube. And that’s without any of the caveats of debt, dependents, or lack of job security.

But at the same time, I think that we as a culture are very weird about women spending their own money. As women become more and more dominant in the workforce, it is obvious that luxury purchases will also be increasingly consumed by women. But I think there is still a way in which we assume that men can more rationally assess the difference between a want and a need and make their consumer choices accordingly. As the “chrissstinne” in the above video says, “I work 70 hour weeks” as she is justifies her very expensive shoe purchase. However, I think she tells us that because it seems a little wrong that a 25 year old should buy herself $700 shoes.

I guess my real question is whether there is actually something liberating about young women with large incomes (a category that I would love to be in), saying “I have a $500 a month budget for beauty.” Or is this merely the feminization of white collar work catching up with the feminization of consumption?

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