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The Trend Report: Desperate Darlings
Mapping the fall of Hollywood and the arc of gatekeeping in art.
Protests over woman’s death claim more lives in Iran
“#MashaAminid died in #Iran”
“The bravery of Iranian women”
"The scenes in Iran are astonishing."
"Iranians are fighting back"
“grwm in iran”
The biggest story of the week is an international reminder that all cops are bastards: in Iran, a young woman named Masha Amini died in relationship to being punished for “bad hijab” (a la, not wearing her hijab properly), which has led to subsequent protests by women – and attacks on women. Hopefully this yields some progress! And protections for women.
“The situation between #Armenia and #Azerbaijan”
The deadly clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, explained
In case you were wondering, another war is brewing.
Ukraine War Comes to Russia as Putin Imposes Draft
“leave the country or go to jail”
This is…bad news for a lot of reasons.
Energy crisis sparks air pollution fears
Because of, say, wars in Europe, energy concerns are yielding pollution concerns. Going to be an interesting few months!
Mixing Christianity With Nationalism Is a Recipe for Fascism
“Meanwhile, at the Texas Youth Summit”
“the TikToks write themselves”
A big talking point this week was on the mixture of American nationalism with Christianity, which seems to be propelling fascism. Who is surprised? This isn’t new either. (Related: the “new Tennessee license plate choices” seem to be creating a culture of outing the godless.)
Trump’s unhinged rage in Ohio shows the danger of a GOP Congress
Video undercut Trump elector’s account of alleged voting-data breach
Republicans in battleground races refuse to say they will accept results
"these are human beings"
A roundup of recent GOP insanity. Also: you know shit is bad for you (Ron DeSantis) when the worst person (Jared Kushner) can’t defend you. (Also: Texas is investigating DeSantis for what he did.)
Pentagon opens review of clandestine psychological operations
Wild. (And this is a great TikTok about it.)
Americans think the government is too old
“There's near consensus among age groups —– both the oldest and the youngest voters —– and by party on all the political leaders being too old, or that being some problem.” This study is fascinating.
Biden Calls Trump ‘Irresponsible’ Over Mar-a-Lago Documents.
This title is a diversion but Biden says that Covid is “over” in this interview. Things do feel “good,” yes, but I’m not holding my breath!! This is an ongoing trend, to gaslight us further into “Covid isn’t a big deal anymore!” as lots of people continue to die.
Common Side Effects Of The New Bivalent COVID Booster
Speaking of! Learn about and get your omicron booster!
Fox poop alters forests in one surprising way
A good circle-of-life nature story, about the importance of underground fox poop and food scraps from dens helping trees above thrive.
The Emmys were on a Monday. There is new Netflix reality show inspired by Squid Game. Tom Cruise is doing commercials for movie theaters. “National Cinema Day” was September 3, which featured $3 tickets. Both HBO and CW are dramatically shifting their programming. Netflix is in decline.
What do all these things have in common? These are the dying gasps of Hollywood.
I have been logging this phenomena for some weeks and months now but I wanted to devote time to highlight that all of these things individually are “interesting” but, when placed together, capture the existential and financial crisis for a business aging out of relevance. Why? How? The answers are everywhere: video games and digital media, free venues offering more thorough, original, ongoing, and interactive forms of storytelling, are gripping audiences, especially younger audiences; audiences are less interested in eventized, out-of-home movie viewing for myriad reasons; Hollywood very clearly represents a rich caste who are often nepotized and privileged, something that is out of fashion in progressive cultures and younger cultures; films and shows have become dynasties of redundancies, built on “brand equity” franchises, safe and familiar movies that rehash old content because they’re simplistic cash grabs; real life has become more interesting than what we watch. I can keep this list going but I will stop there.
When looking at Hollywood as a business trying to distract you from seeing their desperation, things start to click into place. Why else is the Don’t Worry Darling press cycle consuming the tabloids? Because it’s a movie that needs to make money, so the drama needs to cover for a movie being bad. The biggest takeaways from awards shows aren’t the movies or shows but the big and small dramatics that stoke gossip. This is also why very shitty franchises like Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show are leaching into worlds like Fortnite because the show is in dire need of younger audiences, while effectively coming in and killing the venue via Gen X and Millennial stank. Hollywood and audiences’ true crime obsessions also fall into this pattern, less because it’s “interesting material” and more because it has a different sort of real-life shock equity, which people are starting to call out, pointing to the theater of trauma mimesis underlying an industry grasping for new stories.
Look: this is not a new observation. What is new is the desperation, the “PICK ME!!” energy that Hollywood is giving. The Emmys losing out their showtime to football is bad news. Netflix cribbing Mr. Beast is very sad. Tom Cruise copying Nicole Kidman, all to beg people to sit in a dark room and not-talk to each other – for $3 or $30 – is a low. HBO and CW and Netflix all getting retooled because investors don’t think they are profitable is a red flag. It’s becoming more and more apparent that this industry, known for being so buttoned up and elite, is actually an insider scam surviving on crumbling myths and gatekeeping practices. I know this, having worked in the industry for over a decade: it’s all façade – and the façade is crumbling, as audiences get smarter and trend toward better options.
Your weekly capturing of what’s what.
Karen O on ‘Cool It Down’
We all know this but: it’s so great getting to see Karen O venerated like this! This article is super interesting, specifically the idea of “Gwenomics.”
Bad Bunny - El Apagón - Aquí Vive Gente
Puerto Rico to Finance Bros: ‘Go Home’
Here’s some homework for you: catch a history of Puerto Rico, via this music video/documentary combo from Bad Bunny. It’s very well done and touches on the current culture of “finance bros” that has been building for years. This captures a bigger trend of international gentrification: moving somewhere and taking a culture, versus moving somewhere and joining a culture! (Also: this music-video-as-documentary is a genius way to communicate information from artists to audiences.)
The Second Coming of the Appletini
“Gen Z will be like”
Something weird is happening and has been happening with nostalgia, mostly that it’s less about “Remember this?” and more about reinventing something that is exactly the same as it was and pretending it’s “new.” Maybe this point of view is what we call “aging”? A working theory.
Grand Theft Auto VI Leak Is a Shock to Rockstar Games
This was a big story this week! Big because people had doubts the game was going to happen, nor that it was as forward thinking as it appears to be.
Can Tattoos Be Reproduced in Video Games Without an Artist's Permission?
A story at the intersection of art, tech, and legality!
AI Art Is Here and the World Is Already Different
The Best Free AI Art Generators, Ranked
AI art is having a moment, which I think is overblown. The thing to remember is: the people who care – which are most people who employee artists, illustrators, and the like – will continue to support working artists, just like they shop at farmers markets. Those who do not think this way will employee AI.
Judge Vacates Murder Conviction of Adnan Syed of ‘Serial’
This was major news for podcasts, true crime, local news, and a lot more. This will be in some history book!
Meteorologist Erick Adame Pens Apology
“How is this a fireable offense?”
Signs that America is more conservative than they say they are: a New York meteorologist was fired after footage of him participating in consensual, on-personal-time sex acts leaked. Why are we giving this person – and similar persons – scarlet letters for having sex in their personal lives? Absurd.
Kanye West Says He’s Never Read A Book
“brother at least open a good cookbook”
“I’m going to have to take Mr. West at his word”
Kanye saying he’s never read anything is…a major self-own. I, too, hate reading – but I do it! Because it makes me a better person! (And, as LeVar Burton points out, not the thing to say when you’re running a shady school!)
Canadian school backs trans teacher with giant prosthetic breasts
Tucker Carlson misidentifies and attacks Canadian high school teacher
"Man what the fuck is going on?!"
“viral photos of a transgender teacher”
This story has gone very viral in conservative arms of the internet and, as you’ll see by the latter two items, represents how right wing, anti-queer digital media takes new forms these days: joke memes that dehumanize. It’s a slightly absurd situation, yes, but come on: mind your own damn business.
FDA Statement Caused NyQuil Chicken To Trend On TikTok
This week in viral Streisand effects.
Mom in Utah Pregnant with Her Son's Child at 56
Maybe I am in the wrong but this is extremely weird.
In another time, I ran an art website called Los Angeles, I’m Yours. It was a celebration of LA’s diverse arts culture, created at a time when few publications – locally and beyond – were amplifying the city’s creatives. It was a big success (The site was featured in Vanity Fair!) but I had to end it in 2015, because my job-job was too demanding. This platform and my writing “worked” so well because it was dedicated to explaining and sharing often dense art in an approachable way, to show that the arts are for everyone, that the only barrier of entry is curiosity. So much of my writing, from Playboy to Cool Hunting, carries this spirit of breaking down the gates that I always felt locked me out of the arts because I didn’t study the subject or have a foot “in the art world”: if I felt this way as someone who was able to make it in that field, I couldn’t imagine how the casually curious felt. Art should never isolate people.
What was striking then, as it is now, is that people hate this approach – but the hate has changed. Then, the hate came from the art world, which seemed to prove my point. A specific example was in reaction to an essay I wrote about MOCA’s 2012 efforts to make the museum more welcoming to non-art persons through tech and brand tie-ins, via Jeffrey Deitch’s progressive direction. I was a vocal defender of their practices, as a fan of making art accessible – and people were pissed. Even if the comments on the post are long lost in a Facebook plug-in mess, the 17 comments and editor’s note (“If you disagree or have something to add, please don’t bitch in our comments as we will not share them.”) show how divisive this story was. Do I stand by what was written? More or less, mostly because corporate ties to art are very icky, which my youth did not understand. But was it more upsetting that the high-art squad from East of Borneo bombed the post, saying that these efforts lacked sound pedagogy, effectively proving a lot of people in art don’t want art for everyone? Yes. It was a huge look into how a business like art and art education worked and is perceived, both from the inside and outside. To attack someone on the outside hopeful of entering the mix? That is the definition of gatekeeping.
Now, the approach is hated from the other side: those on the outside. I’ve been thinking about this in relationship to the work of one of my favorite TikTokers: Seema Rao, an art industry veteran whose account connects viral posts to contemporary and classic art. Her posts are informative and fun, breaths of knowledgeable fresh air in a forest of mindless content. Seema often addresses replies, which have started to take on a different strain similar to the aforementioned gatekeeping: people are sharing that they often feel isolated from or stupid in relationship to art – and that’s why they don’t like art as a result. “I like to make art accessible,” Seema says. “In our society, we take art to be an intellectual pursuit, something that is exclusive. When someone brings it to you in a way that feels inclusive, a lot of people feel threatened.” In a similar post, Seema speaks to how people see her posts as “negative” because they are critical thoughts, that anti-intellectualism has turned people off to both art and content explaining art. This thinking reinforces a disconnect between people and art, that art can be in everyone’s life, which is something I tell friends time and time again: support your local artist! Message a smaller or emerging artist and ask about buying their work! Go on social media, to Etsy or Depop or ebay, and buy art! Do anything but buy a mass-produced print! Seema has been drawing these connections too, urging those who think they cannot access art to support local artists. That support helps everyone.
These discussions of who-is-allowed-art and who-is-allowed-to-understand-art captures how times have changed and not: those on the inside make those on the outside feel stupid, even if those on the inside need those on the outside to survive. My situation, in a pre-Trump, pre-anti-intellectual time, has paved the way for Seema’s situation, where people seem to be repelled by the arts and institutions because of elitism. These are classic feelings, yes, but they speak to the work that has to be done between communities and people to understand each other. This gets at two different ways of speaking and understanding the world, putting advocates at the center, to do the work that neither institutions or audiences are doing well. No wonder Seema’s channel is booming! No wonder Los Angeles, I’m Yours was a success: the message is the medium here, as they allow people to enjoy art without having to deal with the obnoxiousness of the institution all while feeling validated in their intelligence. Times change but, apparently, some issues become more and more exaggerated.
“morning thoughts on parenting”
“humor is a survival mechanism”
“my confidence imitates you”
This has been months in the making but it’s official: Julia Fox has reclaimed her narrative via TikTok, with videos that muse on really mundane things while getting quite deep, all while recognizing that we’re finally recognizing her. She is a genius and I love her. This is how you do a second act!!
“You shouldn’t be allowed to do this”
If I had seen these wild horror balloons whilst high? I literally would have jumped out a window.
“they yassified the panopticon”
"this opticon is pan!!"
Queer panopticons are trending, which Foucault would have hated and somehow feels connected to the Lockheed Martin drama. (Speaking of panotics: surveillance is having a moment, in the sense of people realizing that social culture is often surveillance culture, while also “celebrating” questionable surveillance discoveries.) (Not to mention Christian “shameware” technology that my friend Justin pointed out!)
“shot -> chaser”
TEAM TRAINS ALL THE WAY!!!
“bus service has unveiled its new mascot”
Every gayborhood needs a Bussi mascot.
“needless to say, we’re no longer friends”
This is the best iteration of the people-tell-wild-stories-to-that-new-Nicki-Minaj-song trend.
“don’t think i want a goat”
This makes me want a goat.
“what are you willing to do?”
This is so fucking funny. I can’t believe we just let Jamie Lee make these yogurt-helps-you-poop commercials like it was nothing.
“straight women leaving a hookup”
“when the devil asks”
Boys: you need to seek help!!
“training my face muscles to stop working”
More people who need help!!
“robbing my roommate”
Giving this poor woman PTSD!! But also: this is very funny!!
“we need an e-girl martin luther”
The aesthetics have gone too far.
“Jane Fonda with a possibly inadvertent but still nuclear burn”
This is a wait-until-the-last-second payoff, that had me crying laughing.
“hello venom from venom”
Favorite meme of the week.
And, finally, a look at how I sleep.