A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Tess is just a humble milkmaid when the local landowner has his wicked way. Her new beau, the smarmy Angel Clare, is none too pleased when he finds out she’s already been deflowered. What is a girl to do? Bloody revenge of course, and an ending to touch the hardest of hearts.

Pulp! The Classics is an inspired idea. Who wouldn’t want to read irreverent re-tellings of classic literature that highlight their universal–and therefore, potentially lowbrow–themes? After all, with slightly different execution, Hamlet is just a revenge story, The Great Gatsby is just a crime thriller, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a forebear to Pineapple Express.

And maybe one could argue that this Tess of the D’Urbervilles cover proves a similar theorem: without Hardy’s sensitive and socially conscious artistry, Tess is nothing more than exploitative erotica. But this cover isn’t just oversimplifying the book’s themes, as the other covers in the series do; it’s actively (and offensively) reversing them. “She’s no angel”?? Tess is about a compassionate, highly moral young woman who is raped, loses her child, and is unfairly ostracized (and then executed) as a result of hypocritical Victorian sexual mores. The subtitle of the novel is “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” It takes its name from “the D’Urbervilles”–the noble name Tess’ father vainly tries to appropriate for their family–rather than her actual name, Tess Durbeyfield, because she possesses nobility in spite of her social standing. The entire point of the book is that she is a goddamn angel, in all the ways that count.

Links We Loved This Week — 5/27/16

At We Minored in Film, Kelly Konda writes about the women involved in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising who made it surprisingly feminist — including Chloe Grace Moretz herself.

Mario Vargas Llosa published an excellent essay on the value of literature at the New Republic. Yes, a million essays have been published on this topic. But few of them were by Nobel prize winners who have written so generously and expansively about the human condition as Vargas Llosa, who writes:

Literature says nothing to those human beings who are satisfied with their lot, who are content with life as they now live it. Literature is the food of the rebellious spirit, the promulgator of non-conformities, the refuge for those who have too much or too little in life.

Vulture writes about how The Mindy Project responded to critiques of its representation with the “Coconut” episode — and how Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt didn’t quite respond as well.

Nashville ended this week, presumably, though the #bringbackNashville campaign is still going strong on Twitter. (It also ended on a cliffhanger, with an alternate happy ending filmed just in case, and Lionsgate sounds very confident it will come back on another platform.) The Internet bid it a contingent goodbye with some fun thought pieces:

Nashville Recap: 4×20 “It’s Sure Gonna Hurt”

 Previously on Nashville: Maddie emancipated from her parents; Deacon accused Frankie of its being Cash’s fault, and they got in a giant fight; Rayna was mad; Scarlett got a commercial without Gunnar and Gunnar got onstage on Autumn’s tour without Scarlett; Juliette hooked up with a former costar whose name I’ve forgotten, so I’m just going to call him Eyebrows; Will’s mom died; Luke fired Kenneth (yay!).

I’m very sad this show has been cancelled. It’s had moments of sheer brilliance recently, and the return of Juliette brought life back into an originally shaky season. Too bad this may be the second-to-last episode we recap!

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The Good Spinoff: Who CBS Should REALLY Have Paired Off With Christine Baranski

It’s official: The Good Wife’s Diane and Lucca will be appearing in their own spinoff, which will pick up a year after the date of the show’s polarizing finale.

While I couldn’t be happier at the idea of getting an hour-long dose of Christine Baranski’s steely, nuanced acting, I have to wonder: why Lucca? She was a character shoehorned in at the end of the show’s seven-year run to provide Alicia with someone to team up with, to bounce ideas off of. She had no significant arc of her own–when Alicia wanted to rejoin her old firm, Lucca capitulated after about five minutes’ protest, and when Lucca was unhappy at the firm, her unhappiness functioned as the spur for one of Alicia’s plotlines instead of one that truly revolved around Lucca. And most of her conversation, especially in the last few episodes, revolved around her mistaken notion that Alicia and Jason were true loves pining over each other.

While Cush Jumbo did her best to inject some form of personality into Lucca, the truth is, we haven’t even seen a Lucca-centric episode on the original show and yet I’m already desperately bored by the thought of watching her in her own spinoff. Here are some spinoffs CBS should have considered.

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Feed the Beast a Strong Addition for AMC

The pilot of AMC’s new show Feed The Beast screened today at the Vulture festival, followed by a conversation with David Schwimmer. Despite some potential political issues, it looks like an excellent addition to AMC’s lineup.

Tommy Moran, played by a ferociously (dare I say, determinedly) dark David Schwimmer, is a former sommelier drinking away his sorrows over the hit-and-run that killed his wife Rie and left his son TJ, who witnessed the death, completely silent. Dion is a talented cook whose coke problem has left him in jail for eight months, and he’s being followed around by a wrench-wielding bad guy in a black van named The Tooth Fairy.

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Links We Loved This Week — 5/20/16

Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love, died last week, so this is a bit late, but Vogue reprinted a magnificent essay by Dunn on the bad girl. “Women who pay their own rent don’t have to be nice,” Dunn wrote. “They can afford to be real.”

The Belle Jar has A List Of Things In Literature, Music and Art That Are Actually Metaphors For Women, including “The sea is a good metaphor for women because it’s always wrecking shit that men love” and “Look, I don’t know who decided that cats are feminine and dogs are masculine, but someone did and that idea has stuck and now we all just have to live with it.”

At LA Review of Books, Graham Daseler writes about whether there has ever been a truly great Hollywood Novel.

The Times Literary Supplement writes about the benefits of pretentiousness: “cultural eclecticism, and an attendant willingness to take risks even if it makes one look foolish or over the top, has always been an essential driving mechanism in the arts.”


The 100 Recap: 3×15 “Perverse Instantiation pt 1”

“Perverse instantiation,” in Nick Bostrom’s A.I. superintelligence theory, is a “malignant failure,” or a failure that involves human extinction. This specific type of malignant failure involves an A.I. interpreting an unfortunately-worded instruction in the most destructive way possible, like a real-life vengeance demon.

The obvious parallel is A.L.I.E.’s decision to make the world a better place by nuking the human population, but it can potentially refer to any and all of A.L.I.E.’s throwing-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater decisions. Bostrom gives the skin-crawling example of an A.I. interpreting the directive to “make everyone smile” as “freeze their facial muscles into permanent smiles like even creepier Jokers.” That’s A.L.I.E. 1.0’s world domination plan, and the theme of the third season of The 100, in a nutshell.

(P.S. I’m sorry I’m so far behind, I will do my best to fill in the gaps. But here’s what you need to know from the last few episodes: Bellamy’s plotline was somewhat redeemed by the show’s meta-commentary that he’s sort of always been an asshole; Monty and Harper are a random, but adorable pairing; Raven is a bad-ass, and Lindsay Morgan is the best actor on this show; Pike got infinitely more likable once he was placed in an underdog position, but I still hate him; and Ontari is pointless and literally the worst, now and always.)

All right, let’s get on with the recap: Continue reading →

Nashville Recap: 4×19 “After You’ve Gone”

Previously on Nashville: Scarlett and Gunnar gave an awkward interview to Rolling Stone about how they’re exes; Juliette got nominated for an Oscar, but was sad that Avery chose Layla; Maddie got emancipated; and Deacon punched Frankie in his obnoxious face and got himself hit with a restraining order.

Rayna’s on tour in Atlanta, according to the title cards, singing a song about being strong. What do you think that’s about? I hate when they make you work to figure out the song’s relevance!

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The Pleiades by Ivan Bunin

It’s dark. Not caring where I go, which path I follow,
Past sleepy ponds I stroll.
Of autumn freshness, leaves and fruit the fragrance mellow
Drifts over all.
The garden’s almost bare, and through the branches whitely
The stars of evening show.
Dead silence reigns. Murk clothes the paths. It’s nighttime.
My steps are slow.

They’re slow, but wake the hush… High in the sky’s cool
A princely diadem,
The icy Pleiades blaze diamond-like and sparkle,
Each one a gem.

On its face, “The Pleiades” by Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Ivan Bunin (translation from All Poetry) contains an inspirational (and somewhat unoriginal) message: when life seems dark, confusing, and/or pointless, look at the stars, and their transcendent light will lead you to your spiritual home. Continue reading →

Links We Loved This Week — 5/13/16

Last week we rounded up some of the pre-finale coverage of the end of the The Good Wife, one of the shows we’ve been recapping since we started this blog in September. Here are some of our favorite reactions to the finale:

  • Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker, like us, thought it was a flawed episode but liked the“rich, dizzy darkness of the last few minutes.”
  • The NYT wrote that Julianna Margulies’ acting saved any flaws in the finale.
  • The Fug Girls hated the ending: “Instead, I wondered, both of this hour and of the last seven years, ‘Is that all there is?’”
  • The Atlantic analyzed all the ways in which the show came full circle at its ending–not just The Slap, but that too.
  • At EW, Melissa Maerz asks, “Does wanting closure from The Good Wife make you dumb?” (I’d say no, maybe not, but I do still disagree with the dismissal of the ending.)

Someone has been telling a surprisingly well-written cosmic horror story (more like SCP than anything else) in comments to mostly-unrelated reddit threads. This is a page that collects and organizes the story so far.

Huffpo summarizes the legacy of Jane Jacobs, who would have turned 100 this week.

The Emily Dickinson Museum is resurrecting the poet’s infamous orchard and gardens, via the NYT.