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The Trend Report™: Meta Vision
Looking at what it means when television is about television and why you need to spend some time with Black fine art.
Welcome to The Trend Report™ where you get a capturing of what happened this week.
This week we’re talking about an incoming infrastructure storm, why television is increasingly about watching television, a great essay on Dolly Parton’s power, why Black art is having a moment, and the most important Cameo ever.
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"the US has more power outages"
…than any other developed country. This TikTok captures why the power outages in Texas weren’t an isolated incident but a signal of the upcoming horror show that is American infrastructure failing from the wind changing direction. If you want the more high-brow news version of this, the New York Times has you covered.
What I wish I’d had in Texas
What once sounded alarmist is now very real when it comes to having the basics prepared for survival, on-hand, in your home. Texas was proof that we all need to be preppers – and this story captured that stay ready vibe.
California’s Covid strain looks increasingly dangerous
New Covid Variant Is Spreading in New York
In case you haven’t heard, new strains of coronavirus are taking over the country – and are much deadlier. Now is not the time to slack off! Be like the 105 viral Covid survivor and eat some gin-soaked raisins.
Vaccine shame around a high BMI
BMI is a flawed way to measure health and, as with all things in American life, it was a hot subject this week as people with high BMIs are becoming eligible for vaccines –and some terrible people are calling in size-based stereotypes and hate as why they shouldn’t be eligible.
LGBT Identification Rises to 5.6%
An interesting recent study! And, surprise, Zoomers are an increasingly bisexual bunch. Love that for us/them.
Pigeon Guys Face Tough Times
This story captures how cultures die as a result of gentrification and the out-pricing of life and communities – all via New Yorkers who housed pigeons.
Twitter Has New Product Plans
Twitter dropped a bunch of (silly) new products. But an edit button? Still a no. Literally the one feature we all want! And no. Still a no.
TikTok Users Are Burning Snowballs
Why? Because they think that snow is a liberal conspiracy by Bill Gates. This makes my head hurt. We need to educate Americans so they can recognize, uh, sublimation.
Twitch Replaces Audio From Metallica With… This
Imagine Metallica rocking out to a rights-free Harry Potter theme and you have this hilarious copyright dodging video.
Restaurants struggle with a new dine-and-dash
We all know how bad food apps are and how they are slaughtering restaurants and gig workers. What they’re also doing is scamming restaurants by allowing customers to dispute charges and get refunds. This all ends terribly, like an internationally acclaimed Korean restaurant on my block being forced to closed because they kept getting scammed.
Something interesting is happening with television: the television is making television about the experience of watching television. Like reading a book about a book being read or watching a dance that is about the dance being danced, there’s a fascinating – and exciting – TV trend that sees the act of watching being questioned, to wonder what it means to be inculcated into a world of lulling viewership. What happens when the watcher watches the watching?
I realized this sensation when watching the trailer for a new show starring Schitt’s Creek‘s Anne Murray, AMC’s Kevin Can Fuck Himself. The show seems like a gritty-comedic take on being a housewife but it’s actually a character study of wives in shows like Kevin Can Wait and Everyone Loves Raymond, replete with a classic sitcom framing. These stupid dad shows being critique glorify dumb white men while neglecting to give anyone else substance, specifically the doting wives who are repeatedly the butt of men like Kevin’s jokes.
This wouldn’t so interesting if multiple shows weren’t collapsing the history of television: Disney+’s WandaVision is a time traveling delight that (selectively) folds the history of television; Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina concluded with a multi-verse that includes the old show with the new show; and both The Muppet Show and Muppets Now place what-we-watch as the form with which it constructs itself and, with disclaimers to disclaim what was once permissible to watch, the framing is less about the show itself and more about viewing habits. These shows get at the culture of watching – people-watching, being watched at work, Foucault’s panopticon, Elf on the Shelf, the new “deep nostalgia” videos – and our delight in voyeurism.
The name for this, as io9 so sagely observed, is meta-nostalgia. A show like WandaVision – and ostensibly Kevin Can Fuck Himself – is about a character’s tale told through the veneer of being lulled in the watch: for Wanda, television is a salve to ignore her real problems while, for Anne Murray’s upcoming character, television is where she becomes flat, one-dimensional, where people can ascribe specific attributes to her that are untrue. This all reminds of Adaptation in 2002, a movie about the movie you were watching being made that could stood tall on the infrastructure of viewership built up for nearly a century. As we approach the centennial of the sitcom, we can expect more shows to question what it means to be watch and be watched, particularly as post-ironic neo-dadaism continues to take hold. The earliest root of this in my mind are “mockumentary” style shows, particularly HBO’s The Comeback, because it challenge’s the assumptions made about how and who we watch – and acknowledges that the machine behind the TV always projects a manipulated truth. Although non-shows, two other classic examples are the movies-about-TV Pleasantville and The Truman Show.
So what does this all say about us as a people? The lens is now on us, to ask what we are doing with their lives other than vegetative watching. If Wanda uses television to escape her real life, why are you watching an infinite amount of televised content instead of living? The metaphor here isn’t that deep and, whether intentional or not, calls to mind cultivation theory and how the television from the outset cultivated a warped sense of reality, making a person believe that their real life is more like what they see in the television. It’s well past time to interrogate our cultural screen times.
Britney Spears Was Never in Control
The Lies Hollywood Tells About Little Girls
The #FreeBritney movement reached a new phase of the saga, via stories from child stars like Tavi Gevinson and Mara Wilson. They’re good reads that look at the work of child stars with an appropriately critical eye.
Take a Writing Class From Roxane Gay
My friend Lindsay chatted with the icon Roxane Gay and it’s a really good story that covers everything from pet ownership to making writing more accessible to people wanting to quit their jobs.
The Fox Is... Back
Bobby started a Substack to share design and art writing and posts like the old days of The Fox Is Black. It’s great! And includes weekly wallpapers that you can download.
The Other Serena
Serena Williams is the best living athlete and this story about an Australian Open ball kid named after the star is the sort of sports story that gives you the ~~fuzzies~~ because it’s so sweet.
The Dolly Moment
Literal genius Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote a long, long, long essay that unpacks, explains, and explores the power of Dolly Parton and why she is having such a moment now. I haven’t finished it but it’s this week’s must-read.
TikTok Hack Peels an Egg?
I haven’t seen this hack on TikTok but, after watching this debunking video, I am definitely going to try it.
Let’s Talk About YouTube "Prank" Culture
And what needs to be said? It’s bad. And a lot of family (“family”) channels and kid-leaning channels are guilty of this.
How The Descent Ended With Two Bleak Endings
Not sure why this perfect horror movie is getting the retrospective treatment but this interview with director Neil Marshall is one of the best artist interviews and horror examinations that I’ve seen in a long time. Guess it’s time to watch The Descent!
Virtual Art Book Fair
I mentioned this last week but: PMVABF is happening this weekend! Pop in for some artsy fun! (And, truth be told, it’s basically a very nice curation of small art-book websites. Be sure to buy from each site directly as PMVABF doesn’t collect a cart for you!) (Also: just push the dice and keep pushing the dice to travel the fair.)
2021 Best Performances Issue
Coach’s New Campaign
Juergen Teller had a viral moment this week with two new bodies of work that inspired Zoomers and the unfamiliar to skewer his aesthetic with jokes like this and this. I don’t hate either of the works but the Coach campaign is well done, considering it was shot remotely. (Also: show me any picture of Riz Ahmed and I will drool.)
FART History: Surrealism
My favorite YouTuber, Brittany “Kombucha Girl” Broski, has a seemingly basic art history (????) series where she waxes on about art movements. It seems rudimentary but it’s actually such an earnest effort that, even if you know a lot about these movements, you’ll slip right in and feel at home with the way she explains these subjects. The latest entry is surrealism – and what a time to explore this movement! I’d love it if a gallery like Hauser & Wirth gave her a little show, to bring the TikTok crowd to their white walls.
"Patti Harrison we salute you"
In case you missed it, in response to Oreo’s well-intentioned but very weird trans Tweet, the comedienne assumed various cookie brand identities to illustrate the madness of branded virtue signaling. Her account was suspended as a result but, damn, I support this troop.
A few days into February 2021, anti-racist scholar and writer Ibram X. Kendi made a proclamation: we are living in what we are calling the Black Renaissance. What Kendi is specifically speaking about is the respect and amplification and proliferation of Black art, Black creativity, and Black expression. This celebration of Black art is revolutionary because it will change the world, as Black art has done for centuries – but now? Everyone in the creative room is acknowledging the power of Black creators. “We are creating our immensity,” Kendi writes. “We are telling America to tone down its anti-Black racism; and its sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism and nativism; and all the ways those isms intersect; and all their violence.”
Kendi also seemed to have inadvertently created a funnel for a trend too: talking about Black fine art. There were many trends that seemed to emerge in February 2021 – calling out virtue signaling corporations, interrogating social media platforms for failing to protect Black users, placing pressure on non-Black persons to actually dig into Black history – but the acknowledging that, yes, we are in the throes of a Black creative renaissance was most resonant for me.
This is largely because of a concentration of documentary materials in and around the space of Black art and creative expression. HBO’s Black Art: In The Absence of Light and YouTube’s Black Renaissance: The Art and Soul of our Stories both log the recent history of Black art, one from a more fine art lens and the other from the multiplicity of cultural expression. Combined with various celebrations of Black artists new and old – Black abstract painters, landmark expressions of Black creativity, profiles of older Black artists – a map has been laid out for us all to see and feel and experience Black creativity on its own terms. This is less a capturing of a movement or spirit and more a claiming, a shouting out that Black artists and creatives deserve their due instead of being overlooked by history.
A canon is being question. Room is being made. The point of view is history is opening its eye wider, to see more. The result is a celebration of Black history and Black art. So, if you’re wondering how to celebrate the final hours of Black History Month, consider surveying the landscape of Black art. It’s beyond the right time to do that.
"y’all’s fav podcasts be sounding like this"
This reminds of something Roxane Gay Tweeted earlier this week: “Every time I read academic literature I think, ‘Why are we like this?’” (This also reminds me why I have never listened to podcasts because I get enough of this way of speaking from being around writers.)
3695 Primrose Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA
This week in weirdo Zillow posts, click on the first image and scroll. Do not skip ahead.
"Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush"
Move over, plastic bag from American Beauty: this weathered tarp is stealing your gig!
Um…………………………..a very good 2021 Tweet. (Which is a great time to remind that the Biden administration reopened a migrant detention center in Florida.)
"most batshit Cameo I've ever seen"
God bless Cameo!
And, finally, me every morning.