Things I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

As per usual, these are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  It’s YA-heavy this week, but that’s kind of where my passion is, so it is what it is.  Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Unplugging from John Green and Rob Thomas (Persnickety Snark)

vmI was so happy when Adele from Persnickety Snark started blogging again after a fairly long hiatus.  I love her posts and her thoughts about books and pop culture, and I was particularly struck by a recent post in which she talks about fatigue from being deluged by a creator’s updates about their process.  Because I agree.

Like Adele, I was a Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter Backer, and also like Adele, the updates from Rob Thomas got to the point where another one would appear in my inbox and I would think, “Seriously?”  She gets to the heart of it here:

At this point in time, Thomas has sent out 92 updates on his highly successful Kickstarter initiative to revisit the world of Neptune High.  92 updates, a media eclipse of content, a mediocre film and nowhere to run.  Even in unfollowing every cast member and creator, I was still inundated with information about the script, the casting, the production, the team working on it, the media appearances, Rob’s new VM related projects, the premiere, and now I am getting news on an unrelated Thomas driven project via the Kickstarter updates*.

I’m with her, and I’m also with her about the updates we’re now being subjected to about iZombie.  I can’t tell you how much I don’t care about iZombie.  Actually, I can.  I don’t even know what it is, apart from the fact that Thomas is working on it.  I can’t even be bothered to Google it, so irritated am I that I’m receiving updates about it.

This part of her post also stuck out to me, because it’s exactly how I feel about it:

But in a world where we are becoming increasingly interlinked, escape is becoming less probable.  I want some mystery back.  I love hearing about the process, and the creators’ emotional journey etc after the end result.  If the process is intensely detailed as it’s happening – I need to disengage.  I don’t want to be over the book/film before it has even made its way to the public.  I am then robbing myself of some great storytelling with the added benefit of surprise.

Just something to think about.

Why the Eleanor and Park Movie is so Important (BookRiot)

If you follow YA news at all, you probably already heard that Rainbow Rowell’s excellent (seriously, seriously excellent) Eleanor & Park has been optioned by Dreamworks.  Although it’s a long road to actually becoming a film, because of the book’s intensely vocal (and wide-ranging) fanbase, it seems pretty likely to do so.  Of course, this movie news is influenced by the recent surge of other realistic YA novels being optioned for film.  But this one feels particularly important in a way that other YA lit movie news doesn’t.

For one, it doesn’t include Shailene Woodley in the lead role (is she in everything, or is she in everything?) This Book Riot post gets to the heart of it pretty quickly:

But when it comes to casting, it’s not a surprise that we’re seeing the same faces over and over again…by using the same actors over and over again are telling movie audiences: “These are people whose stories are worth telling. If you look like this person, your story is worth telling. If you don’t…um… it’s like… I don’t know what to tell you, dude.”

The argument here, of course, is that this won’t work with Eleanor & Park, because Park is half-Korean and Eleanor is not a waif.  This means, if the movie hews closely to the book, casting directors are going to have to go outside of their comfort zone, at least a little.  Maybe?

No One Wants to Discover New Music? Ridiculous. (Salon)

Books might be my first love, but music is a pretty close second.  I’m an audiophile, and I’m obsessed with discovering new music and tracking what’s being released when.  Most of my music discoveries happen through music blogs, but I definitely use things like Pandora to help discover new stuff, especially when I’m hanging out with people and we want background noise.

This article appeared at Salon this week, and takes issue with another article (linked at the site and not here, because I kind of feel like the original article is troll-y click bait) that purports that streaming services like Pandora and Spotify are fighting an uphill battle that they will never win.  Essentially: music listeners don’t want to discover new music, because they are comfortable with what they know they like.

Which, what?  This is true of some music listeners, sure.  It’s impossible to make a blanket statement one way or the other, but the original article attempts just that.  And it’s super ridiculous.  The article from Salon agrees:

What’s so astonishing is that, now, more than ever before, it simply doesn’t have to be that way. When I was an impressionable teenager it was logistically difficult to get exposed to new music outside of the narrow confines of Top 40. It required money and transport (or, at the very least, a good FM DJ). But today it’s the easiest thing in the world. For the last week or so, I’ve been occasionally listening to a Pandora station seeded by the Broken Bells, and I’m continually amazed at just how much creative, interesting music is out there that I’ve never heard of.

So maybe for casual music fans, there’s a certain truth to the original argument.  But for people who actually love music and are interested in discovering new bands and sounds?  Streaming sites like Pandora are a mecca.

The Hazards of Book to Film Adaptation: Further Thoughts on Attempted Rape in Divergent Divergent  (Stacked)

I finally got around to seeing the Divergent movie last week and was surprised that there was a divergentscene in which Four attempts to rape Tris during one of her fear simulations.  I didn’t remember it from the book, but I sort of brushed it off because I read the book years ago and the details of the plot are hazy at best.  But then I started reading articles on the internet, and I realized that I hadn’t forgotten the scene–it had been added.

Which is disturbing for a lot of reasons.  But this piece by Kimberly Francisco at Stacked gets to a lot of what makes that decision so uncomfortable.  She wonders why the filmmakers decided to fundamentally alter Tris’s fear landscape to include an attempted rape:

The kindest answer to my question may be that the filmmakers thought it would be too difficult to communicate Tris’ fear of sexual intimacy – or just affection in general – on the big screen.

So if that’s the case–and I agree with Francisco, that’s likely what propelled the decision to change the scene from one in which Tris is afraid of sex because of how scary sex is when you’re a teenager to one in which the fear is of actual rape–it sends a completely different message to viewers:

Perhaps they did not intend to explicitly tell readers and viewers that they felt Tris’ fear of sexual intimacy was equivalent to fear of rape, but by making the choice to exclude the book’s scene and create the attempted rape scene, that’s exactly what they have done. 

Which is, of course, completely alarming.  Francisco is not the only person who takes issue with this choice in the movie.  Melissa Montovani at YA Bookshelf has some great pieces about this movie and how it fits into rape culture, and I encourage you to take a look at them.

At any rate, I’ve been thinking about this since I saw the movie, and I think I’ll be thinking about it for a good long while still.

What got you thinking this week?


What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

The Long Summer of Not-Reading (BookRiot)

I’m not a parent, but this was still an essay that has application in my life.  Frustrated with what a fight reading to his children became every night before bed, author Peter Damien gave it up for the summer.  In a house where books ruled and where he himself was a voracious reader, this was an immensely difficult thing to do.  But he did it for his kids, because:

Because reading should not be a chore…Reading should be approached willingly and happily, because you want to. It should be done when and how you want to, and that’s it. It’s as simple as that. It should not be fought over.

His son who struggled the most with reading has since come back to it naturally and is now keeping a reading journal.  I think there’s some interesting stuff here to think about, especially that this doesn’t just apply to kids: I think we as adults are allowed to have cycles with our own reading.  I’m a voracious reader and even I tire of it sometimes, preferring to get lost in a TV show or movies or, much more rarely, crafts.  But I always come back to reading, and it’s largely due to the fact that I allow myself breaks.

Is All of Twitter Fair Game for Journalists? (Slate)

Probably the most thought-provoking article I’ve read this week, this article, written by Amanda Hess, takes to task the concept of things like Twitter, social media, and journalism in the age of the internet.  It focuses on a woman (with a following of about 13,000 Twitter users) who tweeted about a recent rape case in the news and asked followers to share bits of their own sexual assault stories.  She received a great deal of response, which is what she wanted.  But when Buzzfeed picked it up, she got angry, because she didn’t give consent for that.

What had started as a story about consenting to sex had turned into a story about consenting to viral news.

Here’s the thing, though: Twitter is public.  When you tweet something out on your account, you are consenting for it to be picked up by your followers or by other people.  It’s easy to forget this, I guess, but I find it sort of weird that people don’t seem to fundamentally understand this.  That being said, the article doesn’t look at this issue as black-or-white:

The journalistic landscape has changed so much in such a short period that it feels a little square to harken back to traditional ethics codes. The Society of Professional Journalists’ version, which was established in 1926 and updated most recently in 1996, instructs journalists to “use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects” and to “recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention.” If reporters view all statements on Twitter as equally quotable—who among billions of Twitter users couldn’t be accused of seeking “attention”?—then the divide between public and private is rendered meaningless. On the one hand, news is being created and shared on social media, and journalists cover those platforms like a beat in order to keep their readers informed. On the other hand, the obliteration of the private sphere is very convenient for journalists, and not just because it enables us to exercise the right to a free press in service of the public good.

So, journalists play a role, too.  I’m not a journalist; I don’t have to decide what my ethics are here.  But I do firmly believe–and I teach this to my students all the time–that what you put out on the internet matters, and you have to be able to understand that it’s public and it’s published.  A lot to think about here.

How to be a Good Bad American Girl (The New Yorker)

A lengthy and fascinating piece about being an audacious young girl in America, this excellent piece traces a line between Lisa Simpson to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and Harriet M. Welsch in Harriet the Spy.

The entire piece is excellent, delving into the author’s lives and their fierce female protagonists, but this bit stuck out to me:

The idea that survival requires impersonation, and that artifice is sometimes necessary, is especially charged for girls who are gender nonconforming. But, in recognizing this, both Scout and Harriet are further humanized. The lesson that they themselves may sometimes have to hide makes them more aware that everyone has secrets, and everyone has a complex inner life.

At any rate, go read it, guys.

What things got you thinking this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

After taking a hiatus last week (and generally feeling apathetic about the internet), these are the articles I’m reading and thinking about this week.  I don’t have a ton of stuff for you, but I do have a couple of links.

May the Box Office Be Ever in Your Favor: How Divergent and the Hunger Games Avoid Race and Gender Violence (Bitch Magazine)

Sarah McCarry wrote this guest piece for Bitch, and it’s well worth taking a look at.  In it, she gets at something occurring in all sorts of dystopian tales that is both really disturbing and really important to think about:

As violent and militarized as these books are, the violence in their worlds bears little to no resemblance to the violence of the real world we live in. In DivergentTris is, briefly, sexually assaulted (an experience that she later, somewhat disturbingly, describes as not “really” being sexual assault), but otherwise women, while they’re executed or beaten up on the regular, do not seem to experience gendered violence of any kind. There is no overtly racialized violence. As readers, we can be horrified by the bloodshed—nobody wants to see kids die—without being implicated in it.

The brilliance doesn’t stop there, though:

And, of course, our dystopian heroines are certainly not teenagers of color. While there are numerous great dystopian young adult books that center on characters of color, the ones that have so far caught Hollywood’s eye all center on white characters (or, in the case of “olive-skinned” Katniss, characters imagined by movie producers to be clearly white). These stories present whiteness as a default and a universal, their heroines accessorized enough with a few generic hopes and desires that we can see them as human, but never so marked by difference that we cannot see them in ourselves. The “we” in the audience is presumed to be white and straight or so trained by our own exclusion that we automatically read outside our own experience. 

It is difficult to read articles like these that criticize the books and movies that are widely beloved, but it is also incredibly important.  I very much loved The Hunger Games and I mostly liked Divergent, but that doesn’t mean that these things are without fault.  Reading articles like this makes me a better reader, it makes me a more critical thinker.  And McCarry’s article is excellent, and stirring, and upsetting:

People criticize dystopian YA for being too violent, but let’s face it, these books are not violent enough; these books cannot even begin to approximate the violence of a world in which a white man can shoot a black teenager in the face as she stands on his porch and asks him for help; in which a man can shoot a black teenager carrying a bag of Skittles and walk away free; in which a white man can open fire on a car full of black teenagers whose music he does not like; in which a man beats a young black woman to death solely because she is transgender and, again, walk away; and the list is so long. Every day, the list gets longer.

Look, there is going to be no perfect critique of society when it comes to dystopia, especially when it becomes a commercial Hollywood vehicle.  But this is important stuff to think and talk about.  I know I will be thinking about this one for a while.

I Can’t Deal with Sociopaths in Non-Fiction (Book Riot)

This is an interesting think-piece about how much crazy a person can deal with in their books, essentially.  Although Steinkellner focuses on non-fiction, she also mentions fictional sociopaths, too.  The entire thing raises some interesting questions about reading in general, though.  Do we have a harder time with a concept if we know it’s grounded in reality?  Is it easier to deal with hard stuff like sociopathic, destructive characters if we know it’s fiction and therefore not real?

I don’t have to like the characters to get through the book, but I definitely agree with parts of this article.  Like, I get this entire paragraph:

I hope I’m not coming across as too much of a corseted 19th century lady in desperate need of a reclining sofa and smelling salts. I want to read about complex people in complex situations- that’s one of my favorite things about reading! But I have very thin skin when it comes to consuming media. I gasp while watching movies. I get so angry at certain television characters I’ll wake up the next morning still upset about an injustice that happened on an episode the previous night (Good Wife, you are my favorite show and at the same time, you haunt my nights). I have returned more than one tearstained book to the library…and by more than one, I mean, like, maybe 8. Media affects me deeply. And when I read about a human that is unthinkably cruel to other humans, and I know that all those humans existed, that these events happened, it’s just a lot for me. Sometimes it’s almost too much, and sometimes it actually is too much.

My nickname around the house is “Waterworks” because I’m a crier.  I react to media in much the same way.  I cry at the drop of a hat when I watch movies and TV, and regularly cry when reading a book, if it’s done well.  It happened the other night when I forgot how one of the early Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor ends, and that is a book meant for children.  So I understand this worry about how real life things can be too much, but I also worry about the implications of that.

Like, a lot of things in life upset me (see all the links to real-life murders in the article above this) a great deal, but I still need to know about them.  Not knowing about them doesn’t make them any less real, and it certainly doesn’t do me any good as a person.  I get there’s a line between making sure that you’re informed about the world and also allowing yourself to enjoy entertainment that won’t rock you to the core, but where is it?  I don’t know.  I’m rambling.

The Veronica Mars Movie is More of the Same, and That’s a Beautiful Thing (Slate)

I don’t have a lot to say about this review of the Veronica Mars movie except to say that it sounds pretty much like what I expect the movie to be.  Here’s a pretty telling snippet:

I don’t know how much money Veronica Mars will make, or how much money it has to make to be deemed a success, but as means of fan-satisfaction it is a needle to a major vein. Unlike the new, structurally complex Arrested DevelopmentVeronica Mars’ only ambition seems to be to deliver a product of the same quality as the incisive, quippy show—not at all a low bar. By unapologetically being an extended TV-episode in movie form, Veronica Mars keeps on keeping on with its major theme: taking things that are assumed to be adorable and unserious and safe and complicating the hell out of them.

I literally can’t wait to see the movie this weekend.

What things did you read this week that got you thinking?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

I’ve got some heavy stuff for you this week.  Without further ado, these are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

‘I Don’t Want My Children to Go to College’ (The Atlantic)

So, okay.  So.  Back in 2013, during a public conversation between Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, New America Foundation President Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Buzzfeed president Jon Steinberg, the topic of the flaws in the traditional college model came up.  Steinberg, in a moment of sheer unadultarated genius (one I’m sure he’ll never regret at all ever), said that he doesn’t even want his kids to go to college.  Wait. It gets better:

Said Schmidt: “The purpose of college… has a lot to do with, not learning about education but learning how to live on your own and so forth…. The core question is what to do with 18-year-olds and the best thing to do is to put them in college until they’re 22. We’ve [got] sort of a warehousing problem.” …Slaughter mentioned that her son, a junior in high school, is mulling college but has also “learned more from the [free educational site] Khan Academy, in many ways, than he has in class.”  She adds it’s becoming more common for students to take time off before attending college. “These kids are sort of thinking, ‘But I can learn what I need to learn online.’ … That sense that, ‘If I don’t go to college between 18 and 22, I won’t make it,’ is really changing.”

Is this a conversation about privilege, or is this REALLY a conversation about privilege?  The dilemma (if you can even call it that) for the children of THESE INCREDIBLY WEALTHY, PRIVILEGED, AND IVY-EDUCATED PEOPLE is whether or not they should go to college at all.  The idea that this “mulling” process is the norm for 99% of America (and the world) is so utterly ridiculous that it makes me physically angry.

Luckily, Stacia L. Brown (yes, the same woman whose blog I linked to above), seems to understand where I’m coming from:

In the larger country in which we live, however, first-generation college students still make up about 30 percent of freshman classes each year. First-gen college students find it difficult to adjust to most post-secondary learning without dedicated mentorship. Low-income first gens are four times more likely to leave college after the first year than their multi-generation peers…Students like mine could not be tossed into the deep end of MOOC without having first spent whole semesters sitting at shared desks, raising their hands, and exchanging their writing among teachers, tutors, and peers.

Imagine how it must feel for them, hearing that this pinnacle toward which their families have urgently and hopefully pushed them is now considered all but obsolete by the titans of industry they believe are stakeholders in their future.

That last part is what made me actually tear up in frustration.  Because those are the student populations I have been working with my entire professional career, first as a high school teacher and now as an academic librarian.  Because this idea that a person can learn everything they need to know online is so privileged and ignorant that it makes me CRAZY.  Because learning online means that students lose out on so many other important things that come with the traditional college model.

What is Rape Culture? (Buzzfeed)

I have definite BuzzFeed fatigue, but this compilation about what rape culture is is too good to pass up.  I’m not going to stop talking about rape culture until we don’t live in one, guys, so you might as well get used to it.  If you only ever read one piece about what rape culture is, this is it.  It’s accessible, it’s short, and it’s on point.  It’s also really, really important for us to keep talking about this and what it means.

Yes, this list of what rape culture is includes “gray rape,” victim blaming, slut shaming, anti-rape wear, and street harassment.  No, I’m not going to argue with you that some of these things aren’t part of rape culture, because they are.  Read the article.

The Rapist Next Door (CNN)

This is really interesting long-form journalism from CNN about the prevalence of rape in Alaska, and why its numbers are so much higher than other parts of the country.  It tackles the case of one rapist, an indigenous man who is undergoing a great deal of cognitive behavioral therapy as well as continuing to live in his community. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking and well worth your time.  Here’s a snippet:

There was a time when politicians in Alaska argued rape survivors were simply reporting rape more often in this state than elsewhere. Those arguments, however, have been largely abandoned as the scope of the violence has become clearer. If anything, the taboos surrounding rape here would suggest that the crime is underreported in Alaska, relative to other states.

There’s so much at play here: economics, social class, race, imperialism, alcoholism, systemic abuse.

We Have Known Boys But None Have Been Bullet-Proof (Stacia L. Brown)

I’ve been following the news coverage of the murder of Jordan Brown pretty obsessively this week, and this is the most beautiful, haunting piece about racialized violence in America that I’ve seen in a long time.

If you don’t know who Jordan Brown was or what happened to him, I encourage you to do some reading about it.  Get angry.  Get angry about the fact that it happened two years ago and is only really seeing news coverage now.  Get angry about the fact that Florida’s fucked-up, COMPLETELY AND UNAPOLOGETICALLY RACIST “stand your ground” law is KILLING PEOPLE.  YOUNG PEOPLE. TEENAGERS.

In Praise of Disregard (NYT)

One of the friends with whom I regularly dissect articles on the internet sent me this one in response to some other stuff I sent her this week, and I’m trying to adopt it as my new philosophy.  The premise is simple:

In the past, it was easier to avoid what you didn’t need to hear. Today, it requires a concerted effort to do so, and it still isn’t possible to sidestep troubling views altogether. In addition, most public speech can now be commented on, and often is, thanks to the web. Recent years have confirmed that when things can be commented on, especially anonymously, people often become the worst versions of themselves. The opinions of others washing over us is the inescapable state of things today.

But it is possible to subdue those ideas that do violence to us. Ideas are given credence only when they are entertained. By disregardingthem, we can erode much of their influence.

As I was reading it, I started to worry a little bit.  “What about the things that actually matter?  Do I ignore those, too, even if people are being totally bigoted ignoramuses?”  But, no.  That’s not the point.  The point is to tune out the garbage so you can care about the stuff that matters to you.  And that is something I can get behind:

It is important to be sure that the ideas you want to eliminate from existence aren’t those that would have spurred you to action in your actual life. For example, if getting angry about the retrogression of women’s rights or about the increasing margin between rich and poor could impel you to get involved in your community to change these things, then, by all means, let the negative feelings fuel you. But many of the ideas we encounter, especially when rehashed in ever more amplified ways, serve only to distract us from the real issues. In a gesture of good faith and honesty with yourself, identify what you know you will never actually do anything about and eliminate it from your field of thought.

So, I’m working on it.  That stupid BuzzFeed video about being ladylike that irritated me this morning on Facebook? Letting it go.  A couple of people on Facebook who literally post every article whose headline they have read but CLEARLY DID NOT READ THE ACTUAL CONTENT who make me RAGEY? Letting it go, because they are dumb, insignificant, and possibly functionally illiterate, given their regular status updates.  I’m going to try to let things go, because damn do I have a lot of feelings about a lot of things.

What articles got you thinking this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  Let’s get to it.

The Gaslight District: The Dangerous Precedents Being Set By the Woody Allen Molestation Case (Pajiba)

Honestly, guys, I don’t care if you’re sick of hearing about it, because like this article states, you should be sick over this issue.  You should, because it’s disgusting what’s happening.  We need to be talking about this, because when we don’t talk about these things, we set the precedents talked about in this article, and we reinforce everything that we allow in a rape culture.

There’s a lot at play here, and there’s a lot to unpack.  Biological vs. adoptive parents, victim blaming, the concept of a vindictive mother, etc.  All of these things are worth talking about, but by wanting to quickly move on, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and the victims of sexual abuse.  This is an accessible article and it tackles all of those things.  Read it.

#SochiProblems is More of an Embarrassment for America Than For Russia (PolicyMic)

I’m not watching the Olympics because I literally don’t care and also because I don’t think we should be in Russia.  But my best friend sent me a link to a compilation of the best hashtags about the problems in Sochi, and my immediate response was, “This is fascinating because cultural privilege.”  And this article, whether you agree with it or not, is worth taking a look at.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone created a novelty Twitter account called @SochiProblems to document all the perceived mishaps that are happening in the city during the Olympics, but it is worth it to take a minute and think about the larger implications of that.  It’s malicious glee, and while I’m certainly guilty of feeling that way about certain pop culture events, it’s important to reflect on what that says about me (and the culture at large):

As faves and retweets on @SochiProblems explode, it’s clear that the meme is based on cultural misunderstandings borne out of sheltered ignorance: The posts reflect actual issues that directly impact the quality of life of Russia’s 143 million people…Most Russians don’t drink water from the sink due to fear of illness, and the ones who can’t afford bottled water just boil it and hope they don’t get sick. Only around half of Russians had access to drinking water that met reasonable health standards in 2002, according to Jean Lemierre, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. And the situation is still so bad that Putin himself admittedlast May that even he has dirty water running from his sink.

This article is definitely on the earnest side, but hopefully it also makes people stop and think for a second.  The #SochiProblems trend makes me super uncomfortable, and this helps me pinpoint why that is.

J.K. Rowling Did Make a Mistake, But it Wasn’t the Ron-Hermione Pairing (Book Riot)

Apart from sort of wishing that Rowling would stop talking about things that should have happened in her books that are already published in a series that is (probably) complete, I’ve stayed pretty far out of the latest reveal that Rowling thinks Harry and Hermione should have ended up together.  Mostly because I DO NOT CARE.  But this article is interesting, because it doesn’t really care about that, either.  Instead, it tackles one of the biggest issues that even hardcore fans have with Rowling’s books: that epilogue:

I still remember when I turned that final page and saw for the first time that Rowling had added an epilogue to Harry’s last book. It didn’t take more than few sentences for me to develop a sinking feeling in my stomach. What?, I thought, 7 books of plot twists and suddenly everyone marries their high school boyfriend and has adorable moppets who become friends with their high school friends’ similarly aged moppets!??! Even Draco Malfoy is there?

There’s also this:

It also feels like cheating. If you want to decide what happens to your characters, Rowling, you have to actually write it. It’s no fair summarizing all that time in the middle. You have to make it happen.

Whatever, this piece isn’t going to change the world or anything, but she definitely has a point.  It’s a fun diversion.

The 15 Most Hated Bands of the Last 30 Years (Salon)

I’m really good at hating things, so there’s no doubt that I’d love a list like this.  It’s totally silly and fun, but there’s also a kernel of truth to it.  Some highlights:

Nickelback, Creed (aka “Nickelback before there was Nickelback”), Lana Del Rey, etc. etc.

However, not including U2, my MOST HATED BAND PROBABLY EVER, feels like a great oversight.  You best believe they’re mentioned in the comments (and not by me, because they ARE THE WORST).

Does Length Matter? (Dear Author)

I include this not only because it’s a thoughtful, well-written piece, but because I think about this all the time.  One of J.s jokes about me is that my biggest and most frequent complaint about nearly every movie we watch together is that it’s “too long.” And in my defense, this is mostly true: movies are more bloated than ever before, and there are stats to back it up (you can Google this.  I’m too lazy).  I’m a firm believer in taking the amount of time you need to tell the story, but I often feel like movies, books, and even TV shows could be tighter in how they do this.  So yeah, I believe length matters.  Which is why this piece struck a chord with me.

Obviously, this is different for every reader, but there are some good reasons put forth here, and it’s worth a read if you like to read–no matter what the length of the book.

What did you read this week that got you thinking?



Movie News and Randomness

Time for another installment of movie news and blather! Who’s ready for the five movie-related things I’m most excited about this week?

1. Bad Words Redband Trailer

This movie, starring Jason Bateman, is about a guy who exploits a loophole in an elementary spelling bee so that he can compete.  Hilarity, I assume, ensues.  I’m not entirely sure about this one, but Bateman is a critical darling and so I’ll probably see this one, just to…you know…see it?

2. Gone Girl will be scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Let’s just give them the Oscar preemptively, yeah? (THR)

  • As they did for The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon TattooTrent Reznorand Atticus Ross will score David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl.

3. Maleficent Trailer

I’m not a huge Angelina Jolie fan in general, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but I am excited about this Maleficent movie, and the latest trailer is pretty awesome.  The background song is appropriately creepy (what up, Lana Del Rey), the cinematography looks beautiful, and Jolie looks like she’s having a lot of fun.  I’ve always found Maleficent to be one of the scariest, most compelling Disney villains, so I’m excited for what they could do with this one.

4. Wonder Woman gets three-picture deal

I feel like Wonder Woman projects get started and scrapped every year, but it looks like this one might actually be happening?  Maybe?  Possibly?  Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman, and it includes an appearance in the Man of Steel sequel, a Justice League movie, and her own Wonder Woman film.  I’m taking bets on which one of those is least likely to happen. (Variety)

5. Better Living Through Chemistry Trailer

This dark comedy stars Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde, so I’m already there.  He’s a pharmacist in a small town that’s always done the right thing, and she’s pretty much a sexed-up vixen.  It looks to be trippy fun.  I’m in.

What movie news are you excited about this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About this Week

Here’s what I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  I don’t have a ton of stuff for you today, mostly because I’m lazy.  But here are a few things to read and think about this week.

Choosing Comfort Over Truth: What it Means to Defend Woody Allen (The Nation)

Look, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Woody Allen/Dylan Farrow sexual abuse allegations, and no matter what you think about the whole thing (and I hope you are thinking about it, and being critical about how the media portrays it and how people react to stories like this), you need to realize that despite what people say, we are not in the midst of an epidemic of false rape accusations.  We are in the middle of an epidemic of quiet sexual assault with a culture that condones rape.  We are.

This article is brief but thought-provoking.  Whether or not you agree with Jessica Valenti’s article (she’s a bit polarizing, I guess), you should take a minute to think about what all of this means–and how you feel about it.

Finally, a Bachelor Contestant Exposes the Show’s Weird Sex Issues (Slate)

Let’s start this by saying that I don’t watch The Bachelor.  I have seen the show, but not in years, and I don’t generally care about what happens on it, because it’s a step up from the worst kinds of reality TV, in my mind.  I think the show is icky and gimmicky and completely ridiculous.  But this article caught my eye because it touches on so much of what I find appalling about the show and its bizarre, backwards ideas about sex.  Take this quote:

The show assembles a harem of attractive women who attempt to woo one man not just with their charm, but their bodies, their insecurity, and their willingness to suppress any part of their personality that might make them seem difficult—in particular, their innate discomfort that this man is availing himself of numerous other women as he speaks to each of them about feeling a “real connection.” To distract from the ickiness of this setup, The Bachelor plays the prude, only ever speaking of sex in the most coded, vague terms, like a pimp who blushes at the word “vagina” and claims his clientele are just playing cards.

There’s not much else to say, but this Slate article tackles the issues head-on and provides some interesting things to think about, whether you watch the show or not.

Mean Girls Director Spills 10 Juicy Stories 10 Years Later (Vulture)

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Mean Girls came out?  I’m feeling super old today.  At any rate, this is some fluffy entertainment reading to get you through your Friday.  I’ve always liked stories about what happens behind-the-scenes, and this is the perfect example of that.

What Happens When You Tell People You’re Reading Only Women (The Toast)

Some of the things you’d probably expect: people lauding the effort, people following suit. Others aimed accusations, calling the project sexist, reverse-sexist (uh, okay), misandrist, etc.  But that’s sort of missing the point, isn’t it?

But the point of the reading project was to raise awareness about the way that female writers are still seen as less important, less literary, and less canonical than male writers, and even some of the coverage about my work hasn’t changed that.

Case in point: when The Guardian launched its #readwomen2014 project, they interviewed one writer/critic who had vowed to read only female authors in 2014 …Even when it comes to promoting books by female authors, it’s evidently still more important to ask men what they think in order to legitimize something that might reek too strongly of feminism.

There’s some great stuff here, about reading and experience in general:

Reading is so much more than looking at words on a page. At least they’re reading, as if a grocery list and a poem could be the same, could each weigh as much as the other. I wanted my reading, a pastime I enjoyed for its quietness and solitude, to also be a declarative statement. Women have always understood that there is more than one path to revolution. Quite simply, I would not be the human I am without having read My Antonia when I was sixteen years old.

At any rate, there’s a lot to unpack and think about here.  I really liked this article.

What got you thinking this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  Let’s go!

Revisiting the Reductive Approach to YA Revisited: Contemporary YA and Generosity to Readers (Stacked)

There’s a lot to unpack in this excellent piece by librarian extraordinaire Kelly Jensen, but it’s worth a read if you’re at all interested in how YA gets written and talked about, and the rise of the bogus concept of the “YA Savior.”  In it, Jensen takes issue with a New York Times review of A.S. King’s book Reality Boy, written by the polarizing (but mostly beloved) John Green, and then expands upon Green’s influence in the media these days:

Article after article from publishing insiders talk about how contemporary realistic fiction is on the rise. That it’s the next trend to really hit YA fiction. While I disagree that it’s the next trend — it’s always been a staple of YA fiction as much as being a teenager has been a staple of being between the ages of 13 and 19 — I think the actual trend is the rise in YA fiction that reads like or can be sold as being a John Green alike.

That’s not all that this article covers, though.  Jensen talks about Green’s position of power in the world of books, and she talks about the fact that while he doesn’t abuse that position, he also makes grand pronouncements and doesn’t back them up.  Recently, he tweeted this:

Fascinating to see responses to Allegiant because I think many of the book’s readers are just, like, wrong about what books are/should do.

He goes on to talk about the fact that readers have an obligation to be “generous” to the books they read.  Jensen has some questions about all this:

So what is it that a book is or what a book should do? And more than that, why does the reader owe generosity toward a book? He doesn’t offer a suggestion here, but rather a platitude that doesn’t dig deeper into the implications of what being a generous reader means.

I’m not doing a very good job of summarizing this post, but that’s because there’s so much here to think about.  Jensen is very fair to Green–much more fair than I probably would, but she raises some really good questions.  It’s worth a read.

Why TV Wives are Always Way Hotter than Their Husbands (Alternet)

It’s no secret that there’s a double standard in Hollywood when it comes to the attractiveness of men and women.  Men are allowed to be much more ordinary-looking than women are.  It’s much more common to find a kind of schlubby dude paired up with a much hotter, fitter (and often younger) woman.

Across the board, audiences today are subjected daily to female characters who are not, for lack of a better word, ordinary. They are almost always gorgeous, fit, sexy and dating or married to someone not nearly as attractive as they are. Men can be all shapes and sizes on film; women must be hot.

In this article, the author, an actress herself, took a look at a bunch of different character descriptions that casting directors use to fill spots on TV shows.  The message is clear: what a woman looks like matters.  It’s worth reading the different character descriptions (how many euphemisms can we find for “hot”?), but it’s also so, so discouraging.  With fewer and fewer roles for women, why does it always come down to what they look like?  And wouldn’t everyone benefit from seeing more representation onscreen?

My So-Called Life Set the Path all Teen Shows Would Follow (AV Club)

Wasn’t My So-Called Life the most amazing thing, like, ever?  Can you believe it’s been nearly 20 years since it aired?  Does that make you feel as old as I do?

My So-Called Life felt utterly and completely unique when it aired, and it feels utterly and completely unique now; if this show somehow found its way onto the schedule in the fall of 2014, it would almost certainly be just as hailed as it was in 1994, and it would almost certainly feel as fresh as it did then. It is an oasis in the history of television, but like all oases, its presence was far too small.

This article is such a beautiful love letter to a show that was pretty much flawless.  I think I have to rewatch the series now.

Don’t Hate Macklemore Because He’s White. Hate Him Because His Music is Terrible (Slate)

I’m including this article not only because I think it raises some good points, but because the title made me laugh.  Look, I’m sure Macklemore is a nice person, mostly.  I don’t think about him a lot, but when I do, it’s usually because he’s done or said something that’s well-meaning but sort of awful.  He’s been in the press a lot this week after his (completely undeserving) wins at the Grammys, and that’s to be expected, I guess.

This article is pretty great, though, for a lot of reasons.  This is one:

No, I hate Macklemore and Ryan Lewis because I think their music is terrible at best, and worse than terrible at worst. It’s the lowest sort of middlebrow, an art-like commodity that shallow people think is deep and dull people think is edgy…This is rap for people who don’t like rap that makes them feel proud of themselves for not liking rap, and for buying Macklemore albums, and as such it moves from bad music into immoral, bleached-out hucksterism…

It gets better when it starts to dissect Macklemore’s music, and why, exactly, it’s so awful:

As Jon Caramanica noted in a Times piece far more levelheaded than this one, Macklemore apologists and detractors alike often argue that his music is more pop than hip-hop, and that to compare him to Kendrick and Kanye and any number of other artists who were up for Best Rap Album on Sunday is an unfair equivalence. This is bullshit. For starters, from a musical standpoint both Kanye West’sYeezus and Drake’s Nothing Was the Same are easily more genre-straddling works than The Heist, a conservative record in every sense other than its politicsSecondly, and much more importantly, Macklemore claims himself as a hip-hop artist, proudly, at every opportunity.

I mean, whatever.  In the scheme of things, he won some Grammys, and people are either in on the fact that the Grammys are kind of a joke or they’re not.  People either understand that there is white privilege at play here or they don’t.  I’m not trying to be a social justice warrior and I’m not trying to rail against people who think his music is good (it’s not, guys) or fun (I guess I’ll allow this).  I’m just trying to engage in the discussion about what Macklemore’s wins mean, and how it relates to the pop culture machine.

I’ll leave you with this:

And this is when I wonder: Who does this dude think he is? The number of lazy elisions and smarmy misdirections buried in here are confounding. In what asinine, addled universe is “hip-hop” reducible to YouTube comments? Hip-hop is certainly a culture “founded from oppression,” but what might you know of that, Macklemore? It quickly starts to feel like the white kid in the front row of the Af-Am Studies class, droning on about his own radicalism, convinced he’s the only one in the room with Dead Prez on his iPhone.

Okay, I’m done now.

What did you read this week that got you thinking?



What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

Here are the articles that got me thinking this week:

Why the Snub of Fruitvale Station Hurts Most (Slate)

I wasn’t surprised when Fruitvale Station didn’t get nominated for any Academy Awards, but it still stung.  It’s one of the best movies of the past year, without a doubt: powerful and affecting, and I think it’s also incredibly important statement about the current world we live in.  Director Ryan Coogler did an amazing job with the small, quiet film, and Michael B. Jordan is absolutely riveting as Oscar Grant.  But it didn’t get nominated.  Neither did Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and this piece at Slate asks some hard questions about why it seems that the Oscars will only honor one “black” film at a time.

There are any number of reasons why these films may have failed to garner the Oscar love that was at one time expected. But I can’t help but wonder if the biggest reason is the cultural juggernaut that is 12 Years a Slave—or, more precisely, what that movie means to some of the people who voted for it. That film, an utterly haunting portrayal of slavery, has maintained a hold on the public’s consciousness for months now, as it should. But there appears to be an unspoken quota of how many black films can capture our cultural attention at once. And it seems telling that while Fruitvale andThe Butler are Oscar-baity in many ways, neither movie turns its narrative about black history into a heroic moment for white people—like, say, Mississippi Burning, the 22nd-most Oscar-baity movie ever, which was nominated for seven Oscars and took home one.

I don’t know, guys.  I’m so tired of how white these award shows are.  I’m so tired of 2013 being hailed as “the year of the black movie” and then seeing the disconnect when ONE black movie is being recognized.  That’s not to say that 12 Years a Slave isn’t deserving, but isn’t anyone else tired of how whitewashed all of this is?

The Ghost of V.C. Andrews (BuzzFeed)

Did you guys know that BuzzFeed publishes content outside of lists and quizzes?  Me neither, until this week.  I stumbled across this piece about V.C. Andrews and felt compelled to include it in this week’s link round-up, mostly because it’s interesting.  Why else, right?  What amounts to BuzzFeed’s version of longform journalism is all about V.C. Andrews’ brief life as a writer and the decision to continue publishing novels in her name after her death in 1986.

I never actually read Flowers in the Attic, which is the one this article talks a lot about (to coincide with last week’s airing of the new Lifetime movie version of the book), but I know the story well and read a bunch of Andrews’s other novels (or, rather, Andrew Neiderman’s novels).  As a pre-teen, these novels were totally salacious and shocking.  As an adult, they are totally bonkers.

At any rate, this is an interesting, in-depth piece about the peculiar life of Andrews and the state of publishing in the late 1980s.  It’s worth your time if you have any nostalgia for the books of your youth.

Esquire’s Astoundingly Homophobic “Looking” Review Expects Gay Men to be “Mincing” (Salon)

The Salon article links to the article in question so I don’t have to, but have you guys read or heard about this piece of homophobic drivel?  It’s like something out of a satire newspaper, except it’s totally for real.  Not only does this douchebag totally miss the mark when it comes to the show’s point, but he’s so callously homophobic it’s unreal.  From the Esquire review:

It’s a big deal because it features gay men being gay and doing whatever without resorting to stereotypes. But instead of, say, funny, mincing guys with witty one-liners and put-downs, Looking introduces three ho-hum characters you wouldn’t hang around with if they were on SportsCenter.

Are you fucking kidding me? Setting aside the completely TERRIBLE writing quality, what, exactly, does this guy think he’s contributing to the conversation?  The Salon article sort of eviscerates the Esquire one, and it’s worth reading just for that fact, but this was particularly entertaining:

Leaving aside the sympathetic magic by which Stingley imagines himself a friend to sportscasters inside his television, the idea that “funny, mincing guys” are somehow better is ludicrous on two counts: one, that gay people ought to exist for straight men’s entertainment even when Stingley himself acknowledges that that entertainment generally relies on stereotypes, and two, the use of the incredibly coded word “mincing.” The term is a nasty, homophobic put-down when used onstage at the Golden Globes by Michael Douglas, and is one, too, when used in the pages of a magazine that needs to reassure itself about its heterosexual bona fides even though they run pictures of Chris Hemsworth on the cover.

I mean, I guess the original piece is supposed to be funny, but it isn’t.  Should we be surprised that a piece from Esquire was homophobic?  Probably not.  Does anyone even read Esquire any more?  I mean, outside of hate-reading link-bait articles like this?  Whatever.  I’m already over it.

No, I Won’t Read Your Book if I Think You’re a Monster (Book Riot)

This is something I think about a lot.  I stopped seeing Roman Polanski movies a long time ago because his history made me super ragey.  I’ve long had a problem with Woody Allen myself because I think he’s a creepy, fucked-up old man.  I avoid certain authors because I think their political views suck, and I don’t need that kind of bigotry in my life, implicit or not.  It seems that the author of this great post at Book Riot feels largely the same way:

How can I say an “uneasy yes” to all these authors? And why do I feel this insidious pressure to say yes? Is it because we’ve elevated these authors, all men, all white, to a legendary, almost-god-like status? I feel this pressure to “not agree with the author’s beliefs or actions, but still like the book because it’s a great book.” Does this palpable pressure apply to any authors or artists who aren’t super-famous white men? Let me know if you have an example, I can’t think of a single one and I’m DIGGING. Why do we put these men in ivory towers, why do we protect them, why are we afraid of challenging their hatefulness, and why are we afraid of pushing their work aside and replacing them with books we love written by authors we can support?

What I really like about this post is that she doesn’t have any easy answers. She doesn’t attempt to make a blanket statement for all of us.  She’s talking about herself here, and she’s talking about self-selection.  Which is great, because that’s what I’ve been doing–and will consciously continue to do going forward–when it comes to media.  This self-selection doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the creations of these people or that they aren’t valuable entries into the world–it just means that I choose to not partake.

There’s too much great stuff out there to get bogged down with feeling the need to support people who are kind of terrible human beings.  Or am I crazy?

What did you read this week that got you thinking?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things on the internet I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

Why Women Aren’t Welcome On the Internet (Pacific Standard)

Look, I don’t care how you feel about rape culture because the fact of the matter is that it exists.  The fact of the matter is that women are more likely to be targeted with threats of violence, both sexual and otherwise, and the Internet makes it easier than ever for these threats to escalate and increase in occurrence.  This piece by Amanda Hess delves into her own experiences with threats as well as those of women all over the world, targeted simply because they are women:

But no matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment—and the sheer volume of it—has severe implications for women’s status on the Internet. Threats of rape, death, and stalking can overpower our emotional bandwidth, take up our time, and cost us money through legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages.

This piece is lengthy, but it’s thought-provoking and deeply disturbing.

Unlikable Characters (Slate)

I love Girls, guys.  I think it’s a really smart, funny show, and I think Dunham is doing something on TV that pretty much no one else is.  Do I think it’s a perfect show?  Of course not, but that’s part of what makes it so fun.  Dunham has made a point of sort of tackling the criticism of the show head-on and putting that criticism to work.  The characters are narcissistic and awful?  Let’s ramp that up to 11.  The show is racist?  Let’s have Hannah say awful, horrifically ignorant things to a black boyfriend.  You get the idea.

And I think it’s brilliant, and I don’t watch the show to like the characters.  Jesus, could we just stop with the “likable characters” thing all together?  People don’t need to like the characters to enjoy a movie or a book or a TV show, so why do we keep getting tripped up on this?

 It’s the sharpest show out there about the self-justifications of the self-obsessed and the immense power even of decaying friendships. That’s the price Girls paid for beating the haters at their own game: It learned to hate.

Ending “Gone Girl” Differently: The Dangers of Alternate Last Acts (Salon)

Okay, I read and mostly enjoyed Gone Girl as much as the rest of America.  I thought it was a little long, and I didn’t think that any of the plot twists were that shocking, really, but it was an enjoyable read, and there was some good, scathing criticism about relationships in there.  I’ll see the movie because it will be a big film event.  But this week, I read the feature in Entertainment Weekly about Gone Girl, and I came away with a couple of takeaways, one being that changing the ending of the book–in what sounds like a pretty major way–for the film might be kind of a mistake.  And by “kind of,” I mean awful.

This piece tackles that same issue, and like me, has some of the same issues with it:

The ending of “Gone Girl” strikes me as perfect, in that I can’t imagine any better one. No wonder Flynn had to tear up the whole “third act” in order to work her way to an alternative. But just knowing that Flynn thinks it might all have turned out otherwise takes some of the pleasure out of it.

For me, it’s deeper than that: why bother telling the story in the first place using a different medium if you’re going to fundamentally alter the story?

Manic Pixie Dream Mom (The Awl)

Well this is amazing:

Lost your mom, sad, trendy movie guy? It’s not all bad. You can make a new mom with a new woman. No, don’t just paste in a copy of the same old peevish lady—the one with her own job, your laundry, and your stupid, needy dad in her face. This time, make your perfect mother. You’ve already got the fantasy, lying latent somewhere in the depths of your childhood lizard brain. Trot it out. Show us your dream mom scaled up to the dimensions of a dream girl. And don’t stop the fantasy at actually getting to smooch your dream mom—er, girl. Go ahead and create the ultra-attentive, indefatigable, sparkly fairy you deserve. You can even suit her up in the vintage dresses your mom used to wear—or that someone’s mom must have worn.

Pages Ain’t Nothing But a Number (Book Riot)

Because I read a lot and like to track that reading, I love articles that talk about what that looks like for other people.  This short, interesting piece at Book Riot is interesting because it talks about how people set goals for themselves, but it also talks about what complete assholes book lovers can be to one another.  Largely about the numbers of books that people read in a year and how that’s tied to whether or not someone is a good reader:

Because 20 books in a year? It’s a good goal. 100 books in a year? Good goal. 5 books? Good. 200? Why not.

You can literally read any amount of books you want to and still be a good reader…

If someone reads fewer books than you do, it does not make them less intelligent than you. It does not even make them a worse reader. If someone reads different types of books than you do, it doesn’t make them a bad reader, either. It just means they are a different human being than you.

This isn’t completely new information, it’s just something to keep in mind.  I’m guilty of being kind of a pain in the ass about how much I read, and it’s stuff like this that helps me check myself.

What got you thinking this week?