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The Trend Report™: Branded To Hell
A survey of recent sponcon nightmares.
Welcome to The Trend Report™ where you get a capturing of what happened this week.
Today we’re talking bad sponcon and why Mariah Carey’s agelessness matters now, Kamala Harris making history and confronting Zoombombers, how little league enables Covid and wonderful potato head disasters, weird underwear sleeping and an incredible, unbelievable, nonfiction telenovela.
Xbox Series X,
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Given the closing yawn of 2020, I thought it’d be a good time to check in with brands, with sponsored content, to see what’s going on. Here’s a look at a recent examples of brands gone wild that seem to capture this moment.
First, the pro-child labor story. Last Friday, The Guardian posted some sponsored (“supported,” in their words) story from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation currently titled “Child labour is exploitation – but the household work I did as a child gave me life skills.” That wasn’t always the title: when the story was published, on November 6, the title was “Child labour doesn’t have to be exploitation – it gave me life skills.” Huge yikes. This made the rounds earlier in the week, likely swallowed by election hullabaloo, but the pro-child-labor lede was made and, boy, is this bad. Keep that capitalist machine running because we got some kids to toss into it!
Related to kids and capitalist nightmares is a recent study of kidfluencers, children with large social followings, which found that 90% of them promote unhealthy foods like french fries and milkshakes to their young peers. Obviously this is not great and, if you aren’t sure about how this manifests, one video by Ryan’s World – a kid’s toy play channel with over 27 million subscribers – is titled “Ryan Pretend Plays with McDonald's Toys and Power Wheels” and has accrued 91 million views in three years. “This is just a skit, a funny kids video!” the caption claims. Cool! Thanks! Naturally, the next evolution of this is someone like Charli D’Amelio pushing sugary drinks. Talk about child slavery! Oy. Oy. Can’t wait for Ryan’s insulin endorsement.
Speaking of questionable medical amplification, it wouldn’t be a branded conversation without a Kardashian: this week, Khloé “Please sponsor me!” Kardashian has created one of the strangest branded bids by promoting pharmaceuticals. Literally: in a post where she smiles, promoting migraine medicine, Khloé conflates lifestyle with health while living in the Kardashian clouds where the reality of financial and health precarities do not exist. This isn’t anything new (Especially for the Kardashians.) but this is one of the more egregious crossovers between social media influence and lack of healthcare, two very American items. No, thanks!
To keep them capitalist hits coming, the sponsored content is now coming from inside the brands: companies are recruiting employees to become brand influencers as a part of their job but with no extra pay. From the recent TikTok dancing for shifts to the old employees as social media audience, this is all quite gross because it handcuffs a person’s personal lives and personal outlets to their job, making the two synonymous. Talk about bondage! It’s quite dystopian and reminds of those stories about people in other countries who post concerns about their employer on social media only to end up in jail. This happens again and again, while people get fired for sharing how the sausage is made at a job. Sigh. I hate it here.
Finally, for the horny set, Ritter Sport – a European chocolate brand – posted the decidedly ridiculous Instagram post declaring “No Nut November” while promoting a milk chocolate bar. Cute! But, if you know what NNN is, you know this is bad. Why? “No Nut November” is a meme-cum-real-thing where dudes try to not-masturbate for the penultimate month of the year. Sure, there’s nanowrimo sponsored by Amazon. Yes, there’s Movember sponsored by Pringles. But “No Nut November”? Ritter Sport is sponsoring that jizz.
Monitoring the change in political direction.
Kamala Harris made history with quiet, exquisite power
Criticism royalty Robin Givhan’s coverage of Kamala Harris’ victory speech is, truly, one the best ways to mark the momentous occasion.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Biden’s Win, House Losses, and What’s Next for the Left
One of the hottest stories of the week, AOC gives her thoughts on President Biden and the myriad issues he may face. My takeaway here, which I have been saying to many, many friends, is that we need a lot more younger elected officials like AOC. Giving octogenarian long-term politicians more of the same power is going to land us exactly in the same place. We need change.
What a Biden-Harris administration should prioritize on its first day
My president, Elizabeth Warren, has her thoughts on what Biden-Harris need to get to work on – and I don’t agree. In this op-ed, she highlights the need to cut student loan debt, lower drug prices, raise minimum wage, center race and climate, and end monopolies. Swoon.
The Danger in White Moderates Setting Biden’s Agenda
Tressie McMillan Cottom’s take on the Biden win, which traces the obvious and relates to what AOC is saying: white moderates aren’t going to save us – and we have too much on the line here.
The Trump Presidency Is Ending. So Is Maggie Haberman’s Wild Ride.
A look at the woman who was constantly looking at Trump for the past four years. Bless her soul.
Melania Trump has not reached out to Jill Biden either
Hey, Melania: fuck you too.
Trump expanded his support in Beverly Hills, rare red in blue L.A. County
An interesting look at how the past four years seemed to have openly reddened Beverly Hills. It’s the rich people, y’all.
Trump Will Have His Own ‘Deep State’—and His Own #Resistance
Trump Won’t Accept Defeat. Ever.
These stories – and many more – seem to say what we all know, that Trump is going to drag his feet and will remain a very vocal figure even while out of the White House. In my opinion, the real fireworks aren’t going to begin until January. Shit’s gonna be bad.
New Boston Resident May Have Cast Vote That Switched Webster From Red To Blue
This story is a great reminder that literally every vote counts.
An Architecture Critic Looks at Four Seasons Total Landscaping
I’m honestly shocked by how much traction the Four Seasons bit got this week, trending from Saturday well through Tuesday. I guess we all need distractions.
"#FourSeasonsTotalLandscaping is now part of the #Trump story."
Adding to this, here’s an interesting post-op analysis of what happened at FSTL from the BBC, who give you intel into what it was like to be at the site.
Before Harris, This Vice President Broke a Racial Barrier
I saw this being claimed by right wing news outlets so wanted to highlight this: Harris is following in the footsteps of another VP who was not-white.
US photojournalists getting the shot of Trump golfing.
A look at how the images of Trump golfing get taken. It’s not what you expect. Paparazzi ain’t got nothing on these people!
"absolutely nothing will prepare you for the tone shift in this video."
The Tiffany Trump LGBTQ+ event got posted on here weeks ago but, somehow, one of the best parts didn’t get shared so, please, indulge.
Some strange, silly things happening in tech.
The incredibly bizarre Dean Browning and “Dan Purdy” Twitter drama
Arguably the biggest story of the week, this almost made it into the politics section but, as Astead W. Herndon said, the Patti Labelle connection may make this one of the top ten Twitter scandals of all time.
The Digital Nomads Did Not Prepare for This
This was one of the funniest stories of the week, about rich tech people who tried to escape the country to “work remotely” but, due to a lack of planning, almost all of their attempts ended very poorly. Rich people are dumb!
"He’s just trying to be helpful... 😏😂 #zoombombing"
This was quite interesting: a teacher confronted his Zoombombers, finding out that they’re mostly kids. There are many parts to this TikTok but this first one is the most informative and revealing.
Lil Nas X to hold a concert experience in Roblox
One day, I will write an essay dedicated to Lil Nas X as he is one of the most important online figures right now. Playing a concert on Roblox takes what Travis Scott did on Fortnite and Selena Gomez did on Animal Crossing and turns directly toward their real audience: children. He’s a genius and this shit is the future. (Also: STREAM HOLIDAY)
Google warns Google Drive users: Use it, or lose your files
I use Google Drive literally all day, every day, but this is a good PSA for anyone who may not use the service that often.
Elon Musk Is Kind of A Dick
We all know this but the source of this new claim is that he’s disbanded all his public relations help, doing it all himself, adding on to the male noise we hear from Trump and Kanye. When will our torture end?
Virgin Hyperloop Has Invented The World’s Crappiest High-Speed Rail
This story is funny but I’m also bummed by it because I want high-speed rail to happen in America!!
Simple Invention Helps You Sober Up by Exhaling Alcohol
The short of this is that it helps you “breathe out” alcohol, because the lungs play a role in intoxication. Interesting stuff!
McDonald’s to launch a McPlant vegetarian option
Unsure if I will ever eat this but “good.”
Deutsche Bank calls for a 5 percent 'privilege' tax on people working from home
This is…………….really monstrous rich people bullshit.
Battle for control: why the age-old console wars show no sign of stopping
In light of the console releases this week, here’s a great look at the ongoing, never ending, very necessary battle between game companies over consoles.
Destiel (Sort Of) Became Canon And "Supernatural" Fans Are Shaking
For those of you who were too busy making Four Seasons jokes, this was the biggest item happening on the real internet: Tumblr, which is still the best website.
‘Benadryl challenge’: What pediatricians need to know
lolwut kids are dumb.
Tool-Using Macaques Could Drive Shellfish Extinct
Come for the interesting animal technology, stay for the metaphor for climate change.
I recently read the book The Meaning of Mariah Carey. It’s not bad! But it isn’t great. The book documents Carey’s tumultuous life, her ups and downs, in her own words. If you read the book via audiobook, you’re treated to the star’s raspy and (surprisingly) lispy voice with random moments of song.
So what is the meaning of Mariah Carey? That she is the ultimate counter program – and a lesson in time.
As she explains throughout the book, particularly at the start of the book, she doesn’t keep track of time. She is trying to “keep alive” the child inside of her, to be timeless, because thinking about time is a waste of time. The irony here is that much of the book, much of her legacy, is so steeped in time, that she is almost inextricably linked to the nineties and early aughts: what was this era without her? Does it exist? I mean, she pervaded every moment this period, even sliding into 9/11’s history.
Much of the book details the many problems of her life – being biracial, being in an abusive marriage, navigating familial users, advocating for herself – while never firmly dwelling in her own culpability or personal issues, as the book questionably leaves out her more honest truths like living with bipolarity. It’s all butterflies and white roses, perennial holiday cheer and diamond encrusted smiles. Mariah Carey has problems but she doesn’t have a problem in the world.
The other timely item that is impossible to not-notice is Mariah’s play at legacy planning with this book. We’re living in an era where no one famous ever dies, where their voice and brand live on via family and fans who keep the (brand) story going. Think the countless posthumous releases around Michael Jackson and Aaliyah, how Dolly Parton has extended her namesake to a Netflix franchise, the upcoming Selena series, the Cher and Tina Turner and Carole King broadway musicals, movies like Rocket Man and Respect and the upcoming Madonna biopic: these are all bids to extend the life of a musician, to keep their music (Brand.) playing for decades to come.
Mariah is too young to be old and too old to be young: writing a book, when she doesn’t have any “new” music to come out, is a way to recontextualize her past and build her legacy, offering a tool for someone to adapt into a movie or musical or any other hot item. The book sets her on the cultural couch of the diva, to wait for people (Younger stars, that is.) to rub her toes. She is inviting people to kiss the ring because she has yet to truly be given her diva crown. Unlike Beyoncé, who doesn’t need to write a book, Mariah has to stake such a claim. This book is estate planning, firming a legacy before her relevance disappears.
And what a year to do this! In the year of Peter Pan psychology becoming pandemic popular, Mariah is a model of living agelessly, reclaiming your inner child, looking forward instead of at the past – or even the now. As Christmas approaches, as “All I Want For Christmas” rises from the snowy ash, Mariah is here for us as she tries to be there for herself. Who cares if the world is ending? It doesn’t have to end in your mind. That is the meaning of Mariah Carey.
A brief reminder that there is no end in sight.
Casual American life is fueling the coronavirus surge
I’m going to keep this section short but Covid is up like woah. A big problem is, obviously, items like the Strurgis Rally and the Rose Garden – but also the quieter, indoor, intimate events that are emblematic of normal life like dinner parties and sleepovers. All this is to say: the home isn’t a safe space when you bring in outsiders. That is exactly what is spreading this problem. One surprising twist is the correlation between rising rates and youth sports.
One in five COVID-19 patients develop mental illness within 90 days
In case you need another reminder to be very, very safe, here you go.
How Excited Should You Be About the Pfizer Vaccine News?
An interesting dive on the vaccine, to understand what it means and where it came from. The big takeaway here is the company chose not to work with the US to create it. That says something.
Fauci says all Americans could have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by April
In case you’re wondering about timeline, we still got months. And, even then, we’re not out of the woods.
Jason Blum Reveals How Coronavirus Is Changing Movies
One of the smartest producers on how the virus is going to repave the film landscape. I’m listening, my dude. I’m listening.
The CMA Awards Are Already a Hot, COVID Mess
This is the drama of the week – and Covid is a big part of it.
"Irvin Baxter—who blamed the #coronavirus pandemic on sex—DIED"
Of what? Covid 19. Again, not funny but funny. BE SAFE MORONS.
A few high-end distractions.
"An inside look at KehindeWileys painting process"
Any video of someone painting captures my attention but watching the truly hand-done process of Kehinde Wiley is mesmerizing. A true icon.
Kara Walker kicks Donald Trump to the curb
A survey of different artists and how they reacted to Joe Biden’s win, featuring Walker’s iconic silhouette work.
Behold The 'Potato Head' Of Palencia
God bless Spain and their terrible, terrible, terrible art restorers.
'She made music jump into 3D': Wendy Carlos, the reclusive synth genius
Wendy Carlos is an electronic music icon and she’s getting a lot of coverage given the recent release of a biography. It’s a must-read and this feature gives a taste of her story.
Tune out with a live Kylie Minogue stream that is basically a stream of her music videos playing at all the time. (And her new album? Just fantastic.)
Nick Cave’s Truth May Be Writ Large, but Is It a Sign?
This work by Nick Cave was covered last week and the new development here is that the neighbors of the museum aren’t fans. To which I say: fuck off.
She dressed Cardi B in crochet. Next up: Yarn vending machines.
Now this is the type of crafting and success story that I’m talking about!
John Waters, Droll Bard of Baltimore, Promises Art to Hometown Museum
Once the icon passes away, I guess we all need to take a trip to Baltimore to see his work on display. It’s moves like this that speak against the current trend of institutions selling off works, which – Ironically. – the Boston museum is participating in.
A ‘Jeopardy!’ champ remembers Alex Trebek
A fabulous memorial of the beloved host, from a friend and writer that I adore.
Who is Gritty, and why is he Donald Trump’s mortal enemy?
I’ve said this for years but we need more Grittys in the world – and I’m not just talking about Grittney. This meme seems to sum up this story though (and, if you need it in French, here).
"This holiday, everyone’s secrets are coming out."
I cannot wait. I’ve been looking forward to this trailer all year considering the movie is directed by horror icon Clea Duvall!
Silly things, mostly making fun of politics.
The Internet Responded To "Four Seasons Total Landscaping"
I’m very over this meme but I need to highlight it, in case you’ve been offline (Somehow!) this week.
"Reporters ain't takin your shit anymore!"
"this is a reoccuring nightmare"
No one – No one. – should have to do math on television without warning.
"SO ITS IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW HOW MANY VOTES WERE LEGAL"
This seems to sum up this week.
"ok fine i called the trump voter hotline"
A true patriot.
"who made this bruh"
This is destined to happen to such a homophobe who loves The Village People.
"tbh a ton of you sound like this constantly lolol"
Truly obsessed with this take on the seemingly always critiquing star who really, really needs to be critiqued herself.
"So long, Alex, and fuck 'em."
Refreshing footage of Alex Trebek cursing up a storm.
"bring him in governor"
Because you really needed to see a raccoon herd goats.
"how do yall sleep at night?"
18 (And any 5, 10, or 15s are insane.)
"Leta Powell Drake, the greatest interviewer of all time."
This went viral late in the week and...it’s worth watching several times.
But imagine if this were Elon and he didn’t survive.
THANKS I HATE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"El plano, el guion, los giros de trama... este vídeo lo tiene TODO"
This is literally a telenovela, in real life, and you do not need to speak Spanish to “get it.” The cinematography!! The performances!! The ending!!!!
And, finally, me trying to look cute for you.
Next week, we’re talking wholesome realities and an unlikely Millennial sage.