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💖 this Barbie is a capitalist 💖
What the Barbie movie says about the movie industry right now and brief look at some problematic country songs.
Eli Lilly's Alzheimer's drug slows progression
Some good news! This is fantastic to hear.
Extreme weather grips the globe
Heat index reached 152º in Middle East
Georgia is out of peaches.
Delta passengers ill in Vegas heat
"Oil CEOs after the hottest week ever"
Some stories about the suffocating heat. We dying out here! It’s only July and this sucks. (On the flipsideC tourists are flocking to Death Valley to experience 130° heat. Y’all are stupid.
The world is burning, GOP shrugs
Climate Denialism Heats Up
A theme this week: the GOP “ignoring” climate realities. The second story is from The Righting, one of my favorite non-Substack newsletters about trending right-wing stories, explores how Republican outlets are abiding by the “Try Not To Say Climate Change” challenge. When will they or their followers break?
Trump Plans to Expand Presidential Power
Trump's vision on executive authority is growing
If elected, Trump wants to make the president more powerful by ruling over the FTC and FCC. This is among a few things the GOP is pushing with Project 2025, an effort to have any right-wing president expand power.
2024 Is a Fight Over America’s Way of Life
To that! This is a very good story about the state of the GOP and how, in so many ways (which we know), the party has become ruled by trying to win the culture wars – not politics. This is why they’re attacking liberal ideals because those ways of thinking have permeated life, as opposed to theirs. The last dying gasps of boomer dominance, y’all!
Wesleyan University Ends Legacy Admissions
Now this is what I’m talking about!! Having graduated from a school with lots of legacy admissions, moves like this truly even the playing field – and could be great at kneecapping intergenerational privileges.
Italy removing lesbian mothers' from birth certificates
Are LGBTQ+ rights at stake in Spain's election?
I have a theory that, as Europe drifts further right, they’re going to do what America wants to do: make being queer more stigmatized as they tie a society’s “success” with having kids, which they’ll tie to the “sacredness” of heterosexuality. This will collide with Europe’s issue with an aging population.
But let’s zoom out, inviting in some objectivity, because I was thinking about the movie and “what Barbie means” (which…every publication did this week.) and I have landed on it being…a gnarly representation of culture and the lack of original culture: this is a movie about a sextagenarian kids product designed to appeal to not-kids. Like Transformers, like Legos, like GI Joe, this is a movie by and for business opportunities. It is not that different from when the army sponsors pro-military movies to create something like Top Gun: Maverick.
The economy is supposedly good right now but, like certain industries (tech, retail, cars, media), toy sales – particularly doll sales – are down (despite projections for growth). Consumer products like Mattel have been down for years and are reaching for miracles with an “IP” strategy, a la creating cross-cultural items outside of toys that can jumpstart sales. What better way to do this than with a movie? Enter Barbie, pink painted lobbying to remind that a movie is no longer an art form but a sales opportunity. Just ask Gap, AMC, Zara, OPI, Pacsun, CHI, Canada Pooch, and so many more brands.
To say Barbie captures the zeitgeist is an understatement: everything in entertainment is an advertisement now, with product placements in co-starring roles because the advertising industry is down. If you squint even a little and slide out of the hype, you see that Barbie is yet another commercial directed by an Academy Award nominee and starring two Academy Award nominees. A questioning of what society wants of women, yes, and an attempted skewering of capitalism, sure, but it is designed to get people to buy dolls despite what Mattel executives tell you. It doesn’t matter how intersectional or funny it is: the movie, like the doll, is a product. It is capitalism and, gripe as we do, capitalism is very much in: this is a long-term trend that movie manifests, following a pattern of product-based and Hasbro films. Barbie is a hall of mirrors, bending you back so shamelessly to buy, buy, buy.
Are you surprised that Hollywood could be so shameless? This is an industry that prunes trees to bake its workers. This is an industry that creates local environmental disasters with productions. This is an industry that takes advantage of young people, particularly women. Barbie is in no way immune but instead gussies up what has always been, arriving at a time when the movies are particularly bruised. While the mega-success and mega-fun of the film is “good” for audiences and people like Greta Gerwig, the long term view will mean more pro-capitalism projects like a similar Barney movie and an UNO movie (not to mention ): when businesses and the movies become such close friends, we get really good sponsored content. The audience loses while claiming a win, as we’re fooled into thinking how great this is for culture. The pink paint is on us.
A gay-owned Virginia restaurant in dispute
This was my pick for best “news” story of the week: it’s the story of how a gay restaurant in a small town has thrived as a local community's hub for decades – that is, until a far right wing couple moved in next door. The story is fascinating and certainly captures how complicated our culture is right now. (Skip paywall here.)
People Love Apple’s Most Hated Product
I won’t lie: I’ve been using Apple Maps more, mostly because of more integrated and easier-to-follow cycling and walking directions.
Hollywood’s Future Belongs to People
This is a great story on how things like the writers strike and being mad at Ticketmaster capture the end of an economy that profits off of people. Tides are turning! Time to get paid, people!
Bethenny Frankel Calls for Reality Strike
As someone who worked in reality television for years, she’s right: reality stars and workers are taken advantage of and not-compensated. They deserve the same respect! (I…have a book in me about this. And I will write it one day!) (Working title: The Devil Wears Knockoff Lacoste From Target.)
'Suits' Leads Nielsen Top 10
I don’t know if television is dying but looking at the “most watched” list of streamers is wild. Like. The USA show Suits (which stars Meghan Markle) was watched for 2.3 billion minutes. That’s equivalent to 4.3K years. Yes, actors should get paid – but this is what audiences crave? Oy. (Granted…it’s probably peak ambient TV.)
The Lyst Index: Q2 2023
This is the best “What’s happening in fashion?” trend report that comes out quarterly and looks at which things are the “trendiest.” Loewe’s on top and, surprisingly, Uniqlo isn’t on the list anymore.
Mall of America
I want everyone to read this recent One Story short story by Suzanne Wang, told from the point of view of a mall’s AI system that befriends an elderly man. It is very cute and very sad and it…really captured the loneliness of now. At least that was my experience!
Is there a more American music genre than country? Most definitely not, and I mean that in the sense that it captures the white nationalism and anti-inclusiveness woven through the fabric of our flag.
Two examples of this recently, one more obvious than the other.
The singer Jason Aldean’s “Try That In A Small Town” music video controversy, which features “real” American news footage of political agitation in the United States set against lyrics to “try that in a small town” (and you’ll get the boot). It’s painfully simplistic and tribalist, while embodying an anti-intellectualism that has gripped a generous portion of the population: the video features him performing at the site of a lynching and the news footage in question isn’t actually American. The clips used, according to excellent research by TikTok’s @destineestark, feature “American” (leftist) misbehavior which are actually from protests in Berlin and Montreal. The video has since been banned by CMT and very intentionally is a dog whistle for both the right and left: it’s a rallying cry for division, the musical equivalent of a rage baiting post.
More subtle is Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” which has become one of the most successful country songs of all time. This is bittersweet, given that the song was written by and is about the Black queer experience in a time when such experiences were incredibly maligned. Chapman’s song is a heart-wrenching yet hopeful guitar strum of a story told in the second person to an assumed lover, about escaping to the city where they can be themselves, in love and unencumbered. It feels like a gay right of passage to listen to that song and cry. Enter Combs, who could be seen as Chapman’s opposite: a white straight country man with kids. Is that a problem? Not necessarily, since the cover is good. Where this gets complicated is the context: Black and queer artists like Chapman do not get the opportunity to succeed in country. As Emily Yahr explores in a fantastic piece for Washington Post, the hit doesn’t feel right to everyone: is it appropriation? Or does it speak to cross-cultural experiences? Either way, Chapman has thanked Combs for the cover.
The first is obviously more egregious than the second. But the second, in so many ways, captures the frustrating identity politics nightmare of America right now: yes, a song like “Fast Car” can be seen as universal – but it’s extremely specific context is why the song exists to begin with. To call it something that “everyone can relate to” because everyone has felt isolated is painfully simplistic and will never be understood by certain “I don’t see color.” types. Both of these examples capture the minimization tactics that ignore the experiences of others. The most macro of micro-aggressions.
(I will not get into this but related in this is the $100M success of the Christian thriller Sound of Freedom, which stokes right-wing conspiracies and which many audiences will take for fact. I discussed this in March, but this plays into the larger trend of Christian blockbusters quietly colonizing Hollywood. Only a matter of time before the stupid billionaires upstairs more directly appeal to right loons.)
"GOP presidential candidates as glass bottles"
Finally a good post by the Democrats. 10/10!
"needa report this guy"
I’m sure you saw it, but here’s how a furry joke turned into finding an insurrectionist.
"most famous voice of Italy"
In case you were wondering what the “attenzione pickpocket” person looks like.
"they both some dumbasses"
Best grammar-related post of the week.
"effortless uncle/cousin in 2005"
The kids need Jesus.
"The way she switches"
I am team Pinkydoll and love how she can code switch from NPC to tough mom. That’s range!!
"the same quote was also his tinder"
We can all hope for Aaron’s confidence.
“CVS’s automated voice”
Someone please call CVS and see if this voice blooper is still up.
“new mothers talking about”
I meant to share this last week because…this is how some new parents talk. I don’t need to know about what happened to your parts!!
"it’s not a real robot"
To be this dumb. To be this simple. To be a child. (There’s a metaphor for AI in here somewhere.)
This kid screaming over a microphone went very viral. Funny and…a little emotional??
And, finally, a look at how work feels now.