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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Wonder Woman holds a shield in one hand and a sword in the other, with a gleam of sunlight behind her.

See Wonder Woman. It’s “neat.”

I didn’t see Wonder Woman in an all-female screening. In fact, I was with Keets, and we were sitting near at least two groups of men who had come with no women at all. Which was a good thing, from my perspective; it’s nice to live in a city where people’s appetite for cliché-ridden action movies seems to depend more on their quality than the gender of the top-billed actor.

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Links We Loved This Week — 4/28/17

The internet is super excited about Hulu’s new adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (as are we, and not just because Rory is in it, we swear).

We missed this when it first came out a couple weeks ago: Brian Edwards penned a nuanced exploration of Homeland‘s attempts this season to interrogate and perhaps undo the Orientalism it hath already wrought, and the “double bind” it faces by still needing to play on our suspense and anxieties. Very worth reading. (at the LA Review of Books)

The SCP Foundation just wrapped its contest for writing SCP-3000. If you haven’t come across the Foundation before in your Internet itinerations, you can think of it as a collaboratively-written X-Files—the contest is a particularly interesting way to see how something like that comes together.

Previously.tv summarizes season 1 of ER in one headline per episode. There are many gems, but my favorite is “Oh My God We Get It Jen And Mark Like To Fuck (Not That The Interminable “Ma Benton Needs To Go In A Home” Arc That Starts Here Is Much Of An Improvement).”