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The Trend Report™: Getting Heated
Exploring why we hate climate change protesters and nerd culture's dominance.
Our Third COVID Winter Is Coming. America Isn't Ready
Is there really a ‘nightmare variant’ spreading? What COVID experts say
a variant swarm could fuel a winter surge
Good morning! Chase this down with videos from 2020 Halloween newscasts.
Liz Truss Is Out. Could Boris Johnson Get Back In?
The Crown | Season 5 Official Trailer
It was so shady of Netflix to drop this trailer the day Liz Truss went down – and also very Black Mirror of them, that this streamer is “bringing down” a dynasty. In any event, long live the lettuce and the shady ass British media and the memes. (Which is also to say: it’s impressive to see the meme-ficiation of news reportage as the BBC shared this. It’s incredible but represents internet brain rot leaking into the real world, becoming life-canon. File this next to Ukraine’s war memes.)
An anti-racism movement protests colorism in Mexico
Overdue, honestly! And the term “whitexican” is so good, speaking to the runoff of racism that emerged from Spain and post-colonial attitudes in Latin cultures. (Related: this Rosalia TikTok.)
Americans Reclaim 60 Million Commuting Hours in Remote-Work Perk
Remote work may have fueled a baby boom among U.S. women
Remote work changed their lives. They’re not going back to the office.
Remote work leaves support staff behind
The Best Cities for Remote Work
Lots of stories about remote work this week, for whatever reason. Also: while I don’t disagree with the first story, both the jobs I’ve worked in the past two+ years from home have taken extra time from commuting and transformed it into…more work. I’d like more sleep and more time to write though! This may also be more of a me thing than a them thing.
Documents Show Meta’s Flagship Metaverse Falling Short
Now this is the content I crave. This is really embarrassing!
“They’re grasping at straws.”
Kanye West plans to acquire conservative social site Parler
Elon Musk plans to cut 75% of Twitter staff if he takes over company
This week in tech flop news. (Also good for George Floyd’s family for suing Kanye, who definitely has demons in his kneecaps.)
The conversations around the climate activist soup throwers has been very interesting. Let’s look at a few of the more “buzzy” reactions.
“I find this nightmarish iconoclasm Taliban-like,” the art critic Jerry Saltz Tweeted. “I love beauty & hate the destruction of the earth.”
NFT artist Beeple Tweeted an image of two persons with selfie sticks kneeling, hands to wall, faces reimagined as the clown emoji. The caption reads, “PROBLEM SOLVED!! 👍.”
Ross Douthat of The New York Times wrote, “this tension has always lurked beneath the surface of left-wing climate activism, whose vision often imagines rich societies accepting a certain austerity, a retreat from the growth mentality of capitalism, a simpler, more ecologically wholesome way of life.”
“There are hard limits on how much theatrical agitation against fossil-fuel extraction can accomplish,” Eric Levitz of New York’s Intelligencer wrote.
You’ll notice these are all men. You’ll notice they all “hate” the activism, criticizing the act as something that was useless and a joke and not actually productive before pointing to the “actual” problem, be it attention-seeking or failing to address the “real” issues. You’ll notice, in many ways, how this group all seem to be parroting a bigger trend, regardless of their political standing: hating climate activists, particularly women, for speaking up about the destruction of the planet.
This line of thinking recurs every few years, the target of such discomfort and anger currently shifted to Van Gogh soup throwers, Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland. What this echoes is someone like Donald Trump making fun of Greta Thunberg, best exemplified by his repeated Tweets about her, in one instance saying, “Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!” Trump’s vocalness captured a way of thinking that was trendy, to hate the young woman who is trying to save the world. These situations are the same, the circumstances different in that the recent was literally splashier.
Why do we (or old white men) hate these protesters so much? Is it misogyny? Is it that we’re lazy and don’t want to change? Is it that they’re ruining art? Is it that they’re reminding us of something we’re trying to ignore? Is it that they’re getting in the way of our comfort? The answer doesn’t really matter, because it shows that we’re not listening to them as these demonstrations have been going on for months. Protest and unrest, from marching in the street to support Black lives to using trucks to stop traffic to lift pandemic restrictions, is the language of the unheard as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so wisely said almost sixty years ago. These are situations to stop and reflect and try to see these protesters, these people, where they are. It’s easy to shrug off concerns as complaining or whining but the reality is someone, somewhere, is experiencing a problem. Whether you agree or not is a different story: there is a problem that can be fixed.
Over a week since this protest, the conversation still remains sour even though the words of these protesters are being amplified. From Vox to The Guardian, the conversation is about the semantics of protest, on the binary of if this was “a success,” as if this were a new startup launching to spray tomato soup on art. This is all missing the point and, in so many ways, the bickering about this plays into the ongoing hate of the environmental protester and issues of the environment: the chatter is the point, playing into our need to “give a take” and our inability to pay attention to problems. As Johann Hari wrote in his book Stolen Focus, which was emphasized in the book’s promotion, the issue of something like climate change and the discussions around climate change are less about examining the issue and more about how we’re too bothered to pay attention, to mono-task on the biggest problem facing us. Instead, we zoom in on how “fun” it is to pick apart. Why take something seriously, why do the work everyday and for the future, when you can offer a “take” that’s momentarily pleasurable?
Of course, not everyone hated the protest. Of course, some views have changed. Art has a huge audience! These protesters are real people! The painting wasn’t even harmed! Jerry Saltz apologized (but not)! Either way, we’re missing the point. The hate, the takes? All temporary, trendy. The issues are not.
⬇️ COME GET YOUR TRENDS ⬇️
BTS members will serve in South Korea's military, agency says
I feel like this is a much bigger story than anyone talked about this week!! (Somewhat related: only help real K-Pop fans.)
'The Real Housewives of New York City' Reboot Cast Revealed
Just so you know: Jenna Lyons is now in the cast of Real Housewives of New York. Very conflicted!
"Let me give you a real and authentic review."
One day I will watch Bros and, while I don’t love Billy (Who does?), this TikTok does capture why it’s actually good quite well.
‘You Don’t Look Anorexic’
One of the most fascinating stories of the week, about atypical anorexia which is seen mostly in persons who have larger bodies. It’s super interesting and feels like we’ll be hearing a lot about this! (Related and unrelated, as far as trends: anorexia in general feels primed for a breakout moment, given Jenette McCurdy’s I’m Glad My Mom Died.)
Her sisters say she was an ethnic fraud
A very searing story about how noted “Native” activist Sacheen Littlefeather was…actually Mexican! And an aspiring actor! Love a good scammer story!!
Girl Scouts Receives $84.5 Million from MacKenzie Scott
My queen is at it again.
My Journey to the Booth as a Black, Autistic DJ
I love this essay about the intersectionality of DJ life, when you’re autistic, Black, and non-binary.
“a master class in using your platform”
This is incredible. (And, while Kim de l’Horizon made similar news this week, Anuraag’s effort was less literally performative and seemed a better use of a platform. But this is just the semantics of protest, a la me falling into the trap I just bemoaned in the essay above!)
Meet Caitlin Covington, The Woman Known as “Christian Girl Autumn”
The profile of the week, on the perpetually endearing fall meme queen.
World's fattest parrot can't compete for New Zealand's 'Bird of the Year'
JUSTICE FOR KĀKĀPŌ!!!!
Sandbag sculpture: how Kyiv is shielding statues
These images, like the movement, to save sculptures in Kyiv are yielding spectacular visions of life (that is as awful as it is searingly “funny”).
Nerd culture is all culture. Every type of nerd – the theater nerd (Lea Michelle, Wicked, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ryan Murphy), the comic book nerd (Literally any Marvel or DC anything.), gamers (Mainstreaming of the culture, huge profitability, triumphing over NFTs), Disney kids (Literally any Disney anything.) – is having a moment. Gone is the bookish and socially awkward stereotype, in are those extremely interested in one subject, creating a feverish pop culture of (ironically) low-intellect, high-emotion creations. This is all to say: everyone’s a nerd now.
What’s come of this is an identity crisis. Those who consider themselves “nerds” still view themselves as outsiders, counter-cultural, on the edge of something non-mainstream, when they’re actual right in the center. Sure, those who we juxtapose the nerd against – The jocks. – are making a good amount more money, as the NFL alone sees $17B in profits while the film industry sees just under $5B in profits. Even though the industry is smaller, the conversations in and around “nerd” items capture a cultural monopoly.
Let’s specifically think about the “comic book nerd” to examine this as they are the ultimate of nerd cultural normalization. Looking at films from 2019, four of the top ten movies were comic book movies: Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Captain Marvel, and Joker. (This, of course, doesn’t mention Disney nerdom – The Lion King, Frozen II, Toy Story, Aladdin – or the distant-but-close Star Wars nerdom with Star Wars: Episode IX.) This captures nerd dominance in so many ways, along with literal financial and metaphorical cultural monopolies. The idea of being a “nerd” (a la, straight white man of a certain taste) then gets carried forward as a continued cross, a badge of oppression, where people like Kevin Smith have to take stances on Spider-Man getting snubbed by the Oscars. This is a gross exaggeration: it’s an underdog routine to underscore success, a performance of being at the bottom when you’re at the top, which in turn makes the audience feel like they’re supporting a small business, an up-and-coming talent, something niche when that’s as common as it gets. (See also: Taylor Swift and the cult of the sore winner.)
I don’t mean to sound rude but I think all of this – the franchisization of Hollywood, the pervasiveness of nerdom, the profit-as-punishment routine – has to do with all parties involved lacking critical thinking. It’s not just that entertainment is now built upon rehashes and reboots but a confusion of identity in so many ways: it’s the Reaganomic allowance of capitalist children’s entertainment that has caused generations (Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z) to grow up with products instead of stories; it’s the unplugging from religion and into One Direction, swapping spiritual communities for fan communities (which, in so many ways, is a nerd culture unto itself, that fan-driven businesses – a la Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, The Beatles – are where you tithe); it’s companies like Netflix framing themselves as saviors for niche cultures, building a relationship and comfort via cornering communities as if they are “their voice” (only to stereotype them and let them go when money gets tough); it’s the rise in “comfort entertainment,” where people watch the same things over and over and over to effectively dwell in their pasts, replaying nostalgia versus seeking out new experiences.
While seemingly disparate, I can see a line to the recent story of an NYU professor who was fired because his class was too hard. That seems to be a wild “Kids these days aren’t tough enough!” story but it’s a searing representation of the decline-of-education in America, that we’re failing to think critically or expansively, that we’re progressively unable to be challenged. There’s also “diploma divides” which are reshaping how places like America work and think and come together (or do not come together). “Nerd” culture isn’t about being niche or interesting anymore, but a façade for complacency: a failure to challenge the self, opting instead to indulge the “comfort view” and adaptations and nostalgia, all dog whistles for you’re not thinking that deeply. This doesn’t mean you or I or all or any of us are dumb, but instead that we’re desiring the bare minimum in our lives as far as culture and entertainment.
At this point, to be a nerd about anything is less a desiring for genre and more about finding comfort in the familiar, be that something adapted from the past or another movie that feels like the ten other movies you already seen and already loved. This is the indulgence of monoculture. There are no challenges here. There are no edges. Everything is soft and that’s very bad.
"i just suffered more than jesus watching this"
This isn’t funny: it’s painfully sweet.
I was killed and now I'm reincarnated as a boy — and I can prove it
Is the New York Post okay?
“you gotta do the ba ba ba’s in Sweet Caroline”
Perhaps this is why I’m not as successful in the world as I could be?
“when you wait forever in Lisbon”
Seagulls in Europe are no joke. For example: I have seen too many seagulls feasting on pigeon carcasses. They don’t fuck around here!!
“ash sees porygon”
This is so dumb and I keep coming back to it.
“I’m chasing my true love”
Every time I see one of these ads, I get closer to playing this game.
“America took a wrong turn”
For the record: I would eat this disgusting pot pie.
”for all the Avatar fans”
The only review of this movie that matters.
"new conspiracy theory: George Washington didn't have toes"
Obsessed with the American toe flag map.
“DID MRS PEPPER CHEAT ON MR SALT”
This is not Blue’s Clues theory but Blue’s Clues canon. Some of the best reporting I’ve seen in a long time!!
And, finally, me showing you all these little funny things.