[Dietland 1×03] Oh God, THE SHAME.

Dear Adversion,

YOU HAVE TO HELP ME.

OK, so I took your advice from last week. I threw out all my meds, and I went back to this woman Verena Baptist and told her I was in for whatever her super secret happiness plan was. And she told me that her plan was all about being kind to myself, and wrote me the promised check for twenty grand ahead of time! So far, so good, right?

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A white woman (right) with plain makeup and hair opens her mouth as a pretty, well-coifed black woman (left) leans in and presses a red lipstick to her lower lip.

[Dietland 1×01-2] Should I Go Off My Meds For Twenty Grand?

Dear Adversion,

My name is Plum Kettle. Recently I’ve been trying to drop enough weight to qualify for weight-loss surgery. It took all I had just to lose a pound this week, and I still have fifteen more to go before I qualify for surgery. I’ve been working as a ghostwriter for an online advice column (solidarity, sister!) at a beauty website called Daisy Chain owned by a big conglomerate called Austen Media. The site’s run by Kitty, a gorgeous red-haired woman with terrifyingly taut biceps, who treats me like shit and has an inflated notion of her own brilliance. I like to write fiction on the side, but it’s not going anywhere, and I don’t date because guys never look at me because, as you probably gathered, I’m fat.

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Woman in dumb white pantsuit (Cristal) swaying on a petal-strewn wedding aisle. Two bridesmaids in pale pink behind her.

Dynasty Recap: 1×01 “I Hardly Recognized You”

The first people to appear onscreen in the series premiere of Dynasty, Josh Schwartz’s modernized remake of the classic show, are the Trumps: Donald, Ivanka, Tiffany, Trump Junior, and Eric are at a ribbon cutting ceremony. This is followed by a shot of the Kardashians.

I take this as a declaration of intent: Like Gossip Girl and The OC before it, the latest Josh Schwartz creation is going to be about rich people. But this time it’s not those quiet, repressed, Emily Gilmore-type rich people who seem to throw big parties precisely in order to avoid having scenes. These are rich people who throw parties in order to have more witnesses when they do make a scene. These are rich people for the age of reality TV! We aren’t on the Upper East Side anymore, baby.

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Women Upstairs: On Claire Messud’s The Burning Girl

“My mother assures me that it happens to everyone, sooner or later,” says Julia, the narrator of Claire Messud’s new novel The Burning Girl; “…everyone loses a best friend at some point.”

Julia is quiet, cautious, and sensitive; her soon-to-be-lost best friend is Cassie, a fragile-looking, “troubled” girl, much more daring and eventually more popular. As Dwight Garner observed in The New York Times, “This pairing is a familiar one”–so many other novels about female friendships, from my favorite YA novel Someone Like You to recent literary phenom My Brilliant Friend, seem to feature the same general contrast. And it seems to be the universal inclination of writers (many of whom are quiet and sensitive) to narrate from the point of view of the less daring, the less dynamic friend—the friend with less story to tell. The narrator then spends so much time looking at her friend, watching her, resisting her stories rather than driving forward her own, that the novel’s center of gravity rests between narrator and friend, rather than centering on the narrator.

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Screenshot from "Look What You Made Me Do" music video - Taylor Swift sits in bathtub, covered in diamonds, pointing fingers like a gun.

Eight Genres of Garbage Polemic About Taylor Swift

Cultural criticism is great, isn’t it? There are so many really smart pieces of longform writing floating around that present nuanced, enlightening discussions of our response to successful female businesswomen, the nature of celebrity, white feminine victimhood, the commercialization of feminism, the line between country and pop music, the role of authorial intent in interpreting art, the reasons why the colonialist fantasy of Africa as a giant theme park empty of humans still persists so strongly in the American imagination, and many other interesting issues as they relate to Taylor Swift.

WAIT JUST KIDDING. Some days it seems like the entire Internet is actually a Dumpster full of faux-intellectual schlock that stakes out a narrow yet vehement, take-no-prisoners position on Taylor Swift because somebody had a deadline that day and, well, Taylor was there. Here’s a tour of the trash heap.

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Subjectivity and the male gaze: in defense of that controversial scene in 13 Reasons Why

SPOILERS FOR 13 REASONS WHY ABOUND!

The controversies surrounding 13 Reasons Why have been numerous and well-enumerated; critics claim that the show glorifies teen suicide by presenting it as a suitable revenge for bullying, that portraying teen suicide at all (especially using attractive young actors) is irresponsible, and that Hannah’s rape scene is triggering for victims. But arguably the biggest point of contention is Hannah’s suicide scene, which is incredibly disturbing. It’s one thing to hear about a child slitting their wrists, it’s another thing altogether to see it happen in graphic detail.

But does the graphic nature of the scene automatically make it irresponsible? I’m not a mental health professional, so I can’t comment about whether the show is responsible about suicide on the whole. But in regards to this particular scene, I tend to agree with 13 Reasons Why writer (and suicide attempt survivor) Nic Sheff, who wrote in Vanity Fair that they included as much detail about the act of suicide as possible in order to shatter the “myth and mystique” surrounding suicide, and especially to “dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off.” For those who are worried that the show “glamorizes” suicide, if nothing else, that scene definitely showed viewers that there is nothing glamorous–or peaceful–about the act itself. Continue reading →

Everything new is old again

The Handmaid’s Tale, the novel written by Margaret Atwood, is a devastating and sui generis entry in the annals of dystopia, which stands alongside 1984 and Brave New World in the originality of its exploration of the psychology of a totalitarian society. The Handmaid’s Tale, the TV show being serialized on Hulu, is not.

The show so far is wonderfully acted, both from expected quarters (Elisabeth Moss) and… less-expected (Yvonne Strakovsky, Alexis Bledel). The direction is excellent, and the action is genuinely moving and traumatic. The third episode’s scene of a riot, filmed in slow motion, set to a vaporously slow cover of “Heart of Glass,” was truly haunting.

For all that, though, the show has lost the heart of what made the novel so brutal and revelatory.

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