Highlights: We are treating celebrities as aesthetic objects, Living Single aired 25 years ago, everyone is in love with Tessa Thompson, Tracy K. Smith gets to think for a living, Crazy Rich Asians is obsessed with accents, Sandra Oh is The Protagonist, #MeToo exists in opera, we need better reproductive education, women’s pockets are a joke, and Americans are buying too much stuff!
1. BuzzFeed: Nicki Minaj’s Recent Behavior Shows How Toxic Album Promo Is Now
To say the past few weeks have been a hot mess for Nicki Minaj would be an understatement. Her new album missed out on a No. 1 debut, she started a feud with a baby, went after Spotify, and the VMAs allegedly had to make a new seating chart because of all the drama. Sadly, “she is still a central conversation point as her album finishes its second full week of being out, but the topic of conversation is her, and not what Queen has to offer musically or lyrically.”
One of the interesting things this article and Minaj’s past week brings to light is the shift of contemporary criticism to treat the artist as the subject of critique and not the artwork, even when the article tries to convince the reader otherwise. Minaj’s presence has always been hyper aestheticised with constantly changing colorful hair, fantastical music videos, and a flow that gives her the “ability to morph into and out of vocal flourishes in the same song, or same verse. She [is] singular in this way — armed with a nesting doll of characters, all of them capable of enhancing a song.” But over the years she and the changing media landscape have taught us that the image of artists and celebrities is just as important as the work they create. The separation between artist and creation is eroding on all fronts—regardless of if that is the creators intent or not.
2. The Atlantic: How the ’90s Kinda World of Living Single Lives on Today
I have never watched Living Single, but I have heard about the show for what seems like my whole life. Mention Friends to any middle-aged black person and the rest of the conversation will be about Living Single. The show, which first aired in 1993, was created by Yvette Lee Bowser and followed the lives of 6 main characters living in a Brooklyn brownstone.
“After Living Single went off the air in 1998, a slew of shows replicated the classic big-city-livin’ ensemble formula; the show’s fingerprints are visible, however light the touch, on productions including Mara Brock Akil’s Girlfriends, Marta Kauffman and David Crane’s Friends, Lena Dunham’s Girls, and Issa Rae’s Insecure.”
It is 25 years after the show first aired, and its cultural impact is still being seen. As with many 90s shows there are “rumors of a reboot” which “are both exciting and far-off.”
3. The Cut: Tessa Thompson Knows People Can’t Stop Thinking About Her …
This is one of the strangest profiles I have read in a while. Tessa Thompson articles are kinda turning into Rihanna profiles where “they are basically just fangirl pieces where the authors say that they are trying not to fangirl.” Thompson is quick to catch this and when the author of this piece decides they should meet at Frank’s Cocktail Lounge, which has “always sort of been a pickup spot,” she asks “did you low-key bring me to a pickup spot?” …like really?!?! I know the bar probably comped everything for the namedrop in this article, but really?!
Anyway, this profile gets kinda weird when it starts comparing Thompson to a pop culture census because “all of us in this cultural moment [are] drawn to Tessa Thompson’s magnetism but unable to hold on to it [ourselves]. She seems engineered for contemporary stardom, checking off several boxes at once: beautiful, a woman of color, sexually fluid, socially conscious, politically aware, using her social-media platform for good but also for our entertainment.” There are other ways this could have been said.
4. Financial Times: Q&A with poet Tracy K Smith
My favorite line of this week is Tracy K. Smith’s response to the questions “What’s your biggest extravagance?” Smith, the current Poet Laureate, answered: “It’s such a luxury to earn my living by thinking.” I dream of being able to say that one day.
5. Vulture: Who Really Owns the ‘Blaccent’?
I saw Crazy Rich Asians on Friday and it left me doing a lot of thinking. The film is largely being praised for its representation of Asians and Asian-Americans but critics are pointing out that at times this is being done at the expense of other marginalized groups.
In Crazy Rich Asians accents, amongst other things, are used as class indicators. The protagonist, Rachel Chu, an Asian-American professor, speaks differently than that of her posh boyfriend’s crazy rich Singaporean family who all have British accents. Then there is the comedic character of Awkwafin’s Peik Lin who’s “flirtation with black vernacular, along with the character’s general swagger, clinches the case, and another buzzword enters the frame: appropriation,” something she has been accused of before. Appropriation is “not just an interracial matter, revived whenever a white rapper hits the Billboard charts or Nicki Minaj dips into Orientalist aesthetics, but an intra-racial, intercultural, cross-cultural, cross-regional, and diasporic one as well.”
Further, Throughout the film, South and Southeast Asians are only portrayed as servants and guards. And as Mark Tseng-Putterman writes for The Atlantic: “The film’s glamorization of Chinese-Singaporean wealth is particularly troubling given the country’s own racial inequalities… Explaining the Young family’s old-money origins, Peik Lin tells Rachel that when Nick’s ancestors settled in Singapore in the 1800s, the country was nothing but ‘jungle and pig farmers.’ The line is played for laughs, but its colonial mentality betrays the film’s inability to imagine Asian and Asian American grandeur beyond simply swapping Chinese for whites at the top of the racial hierarchy.” Crazy Rich Asians is a complicated movie, to say the least.
6. Vulture: The Protagonist
I was too young to watch Grey’s Anatomy when it first aired, but sometime in high school I found the show, and since then rewatch the entire series each December—although sometimes it takes longer than a month to complete. At this point, I have probably watched the first 3 seasons at least 8 times each. My favorite character is Cristina Yang, played by Sandra Oh, because she changes the least throughout the series. This is not to say that Yang does not have to overcome many things—having multiple abortions, being left at the altar, getting married, getting divorced— and grow throughout the process, but that from the beginning she strong sense of herself, and always finds her way back when she is lost. Oh left Grey’s Anatomy after 10 seasons. Although she was not killed off in the traditional Shondaland fashion, her absence is devastating.
Oh brings unbound magnetism to every character she plays, and after years of supporting roles, she is finally becoming the protagonist again in Killing Eve. “The psychosexual thriller centers on Oh’s character, an MI5 agent named Eve Polastri, and a female assassin code-named Villanelle (Jodie Comer)… after a number of high-profile killings across Europe, something shakes loose inside [Eve]… and she becomes obsessed with catching her, in part because she recognizes her as a kindred spirit.”
7. The New York Daily News: Singer claims he was drugged and raped in 2010 by classical music power couple
This has been blowing up the classical music internet this week. Samuel Schultz, a rising tenor, claims he was raped by David Daniels and Scott Walters, a classical music power couple, in 2010. Schultz did not speak out at the time over fears of repercussions and the impact they could have on his career. “Emboldened by both the #MeToo movement and upon learning that Daniels had made tenure at the University of Michigan — where he’d be in close personal contact with young aspiring singers — Schultz filed a complaint with the U-M Police Department’s special victims unit in July.” Daniels has taken a leave of absence since Schultz has spoken out.
Sexual harassment is everywhere, and “sexual abuse is the most open secret in classical music and involves some of the world’s most famous male opera singers, conductors and company directors.” In a discipline where many of its most lauded works center on abuse on manipulation, this is no surprise.
8. Aeon: The macho sperm myth
When I met one of my med student friends she was in the middle of her reproductive unit. She told me that they spent roughly 3 times longer on how men get pleasure from sex and treatments for ED than medical issues that impede women from getting pleasure during sex.
Most people, if they have any reproductive health/sex education at all, get it from a male-centric perspective. I, as many, learned that sperm race to the egg like in a swimming race but “sperm passage is more like a challenging military obstacle course than a standard swimming race.” In truth, reproductive health is much more complicated than most of us are taught.
9. Pudding: Pockets
Everyone knows that the pockets in women’s clothes are a joke. And the worst thing ever is finding the perfect pair of pants only to find that it doesn’t have pockets. Part of the reason I wear the same kind of pants all the time is because they actually have functioning pockets.
This article goes ALL OUT in its quest to define just out inferior women’s pockets are and how they became to be this way. In medieval times, both men and women had “pockets” that were tied around the waist, hidden underneath clothing, and more akin to highly embellished fanny packs. But in the 17th century, men’s jackets and pants were adorned with pockets sewn directly into the garment… Toward the end of the 18th century, women’s fashion changed: waistlines crept up, silhouettes slimmed, and pockets shrunk, sometimes becoming nonexistent.” Now “only 40 percent of women’s front pockets can completely fit one of the three leading smartphone brands. Less than half of women’s front pockets can fit a wallet specifically designed to fit in front pockets. And you can’t even cram an average woman’s hand beyond the knuckles into the majority of women’s front pockets.”
I am currently in the process of moving and it is my least favorite thing ever. Whenever I buy something I ask myself if I want it enough to move it in a year, or will I end up getting rid of it. Asking myself that has definitely helped me buy less stuff, but sometimes I still indulge myself—mostly in books which are the worst to move.
Like many people today, most of the stuff I get comes from online shopping. Where people used to have to “browse the aisles of a physical store, which was only open a certain number of hours a day” “now, we can shop from anywhere, anytime—while we’re at work, or exercising, or even sleeping.” Last year, “Americans spent $240 billion—twice as much as they’d spent in 2002—on goods like jewelry, watches, books, luggage, and telephones and related communication equipment, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which adjusted those numbers for inflation. Over that time, the population grew just 13 percent.”
*All images taken from reference articles*
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