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TikTok stars are NOT REAL 😤
Why TikTok is about ideas instead of stars, and investigating a new aspirational type of parenting.
Questions about Israel-Hamas, answered
The Hamas-Israel conflict is just awful. Bad and sad, a tragedy upon a tragedy. If you need context or an explainer, this Vox story lays everything out.
X adds to fog of war
“the amount of misinformation”
“IDF already walked back”
"If I thought anyone was waiting, maybe I’d offer it"
Have We Learned Nothing?
A Left That Refuses to Condemn Murder Is Doomed
Top take of the week is how all the takes on Hamas-Israel are too much, often bordering on content creation. There’s a lot of noise when most people are…not well-versed in the situation! Myself included! We love to TALK TALK TALK!!
Trump Share Intelligence from Israel to Russia
"the documents Donald Trump had"
Speaking of noise around the conflict, one item that has stuck with me is how Trump’s intelligence spills – one of which was about Israel security – may have played a hand here, stoking conflict to heat the political atmosphere. But, at this point, it’s a glorified conspiracy theory.
Australia rejects Indigenous referendum
Feels like ~a lot of publications~ missed this, but big bummer for Indigenous representation in Australia as the country voted against recognizing the community in their constitution. It’s a complicated item but the rejection may be based in confusion on what was being voted for.
Who Runs the Best U.S. Schools? The Defense Department.
This story is fascinating, particularly in light of school choice and the decline in education. I attended a few DoD (Department of Defense) schools because my dad was in the army and they are indeed legit. No, they are not “military schools” like West Point nor are there soldiers in the classroom as is happening with the teacher shortage.
Google Insiders Question AI Chatbot
So Far, AI Is a Money Pit That Isn't Paying Off
Some lol news about AI this week. Like? I could have told you this!! AI don’t do that much at this point, and is a plug-in at best. It’s not that deep or lucrative, people!
UAW launches strike against Ford
Writers Guild Ratifies Strike-Ending Contract
Talks Between Actors and Studios Suspended
Movie theaters workers are unionizing
Kaiser Permanente reaches a tentative deal
This week in STRIKES. Meanwhile, airlines are boo-hooing because strikes hurt travel business. You know what? You should go away too, polluters. Business travel is so whack!!
Footprints suggests humans in Americas 5K years earlier
Apparently people lived in the Americas thousands of years before previously believed, at least according to these fossilized footprints. Also? Them feet look wild. Spread toes, severe arches: okay, neanderthal hunties!!
The beauty of TikTok’s For You Page (FYP) is that it is an algorithm personally crafted to appeal ✨to you✨ and ✨only you✨ How I’ve described it to people who aren’t on the platform is that it’s like having a television where every channel was designed for you. You change channels repeatedly, looking for something to watch – and you always “find something” crafted for you as if you dreamt it up. No matter your interest, no matter your niche, your FYP discovers who you are and reflects back content you didn’t know you needed. That is the beauty of TikTok.
Whereas television and the movies and even books have very specific, intentional cultural products, TikTok does not. Earlier this summer, it was Barbie, Barbie, Barbie in media: everyone knew about the concept and the stars, the summer-of-Barbie representing the increasingly rare moment of collective consciousness, where everyone knew about something and participated in it. But on TikTok? Breakout moments happen every few hours. The problem is we as viewers and participants don’t have a language or ability to talk about it.
This is a logistical problem. Let me explain: over the past few weeks, I’ve had multiple conversations with people where popular TikToks come up, where we’re all familiar with the idea but have no specific attribution for it. “All I’m thinking about is the oyster lady,” a friend said. To which I said: THE OYSTER LADY OH GOD. She, of course, is someone who did some antics on a date this week. “You know that kinda gay pumpkin?” someone asked me. “Lewis! It’s so funny,” I said. “Yeah! Lewis!” Who is Lewis? A giant talking Halloween decoration with an effeminate voice, that went so viral that he was interviewed by Good Morning America and now has friends. “Did you hear about the Tabis?” someone asked. “Yes, the Tabi thief.” If you missed this, this was the TikTok about the woman whose hook up led to her shoes getting stolen. “I heard about this guy who got woke from reading,” a friend texted. “The dude who readThe New Jim Crow in jail?” I asked. “Yes!” they said, referring to someone who was incarcerated who no longer supports Trump. “ATTENZIONI! PICKAPOCKET!” my friends joked for weeks (if not months), before realizing that the TikTok person behind the voice is basically in the Italian far-right.
You may have noticed a pattern: the world of TikTok – and watching TikToks – is about watching shows without stars. You ingest ideas, you circulate catchphrases, but there aren’t any “stars.” Yes, there are stars – Brittany Broski, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Simone Umba, Tanara Mallory – but they rarely are the ones driving these conversations: what everyone who watches TikTok “is talking about” are the catchphrases, the food items, the dances, the pranks – all things that are divorced from a specific person, ideas adopted by the community via stitches. This is why TikTok stars don’t have cross-platform success (Remember Charli D’Amelio? This is her now.) because the key difference between Hollywood and TikTok is that, ironically, one is driven by personalities and the other is driven by ideas. That might sound backwards but, to continue using Barbie, we talked a lot about Margot Robie and Greta Gerwig and Ryan Gosling in tandem with the film’s ideas whereas on TikTok we talked about the myriad ways in which girlhood is manufactured.
What complicates this (or a storyline for us all to watch) is that Hollywood’s dying breaths don’t automatically mean internet entertainment rockets into space: social media is becoming neither social nor media as these digital spaces head toward technology without agency, passive activities that you have to pay to participate in. While TikTok took reimagined the idea of a digital third spaces, where ideas are exchanged and celebrated in a way Twitter once did, we’re wandering into a time where the idea exchange will be gatekept. A cultural chasm will follow suit, as Hollywood is simply devoid of the power to shape how we talk at this quick a clip.
Jada & Will have been separated since 2016
This is so fascinating, since they’ve been theorized to be not-together for so long. This also plays into a Gen X and Boomer trend: staying married but living different lives, as my mother has told me about (and has…maybe wanted to try). While consciously uncoupling sits in the distance, this version of gray divorce awaits its moment. We’re going to hear a lot more about this phenomena, not to mention having to relive the slap!!
Aquaman 2 Drama
I don’t give a f about DC movies or Aquaman 2 – but I love drama and, well, this is drama. Jason Mamoa cosplaying as Johnny Depp? Elon Musk threatening the franchise? Spokespeople pointing fingers? Obsessed.
Bobbi Althoff, explained
“death of the rude YouTube interview”
"landing an interview with a white woman"
This week Bobbi Althoff – whose schtick of being a disaffected star accessory and industry plant – had her bubble burst, thanks to rapper Offset recontextualizing her snark as blatant rudeness, if not potential racism.
Floral Storefront City
An interesting story about NYC storefronts and fake flowers, which is funny because last summer when I was in Paris I noticed the same thing. It’s a new urban epidemic!
Netflix Is Planning Permanent Retail Outlets
Cue the Blockbuster jokes, but this is a good idea – for two to five years ago. In the heyday of Instagram and the Museum of Ice Cream/Van Gogh experiences, this would have killed. Now? I think people are disenchanted with commercial immersion and with Netflix.
2SLGBTQ+ needs 'visible allies'
“banned the use of rainbow flag tape”
In weirdo sports news, the NHL is banning any expressions of LGBTQ+ pride this season, in both practice and games. Seems like this will end badly, considering players and teams are about that support!!
The Church of Group Fitness
"moving together opens you up"
I missed this from the middle of the summer but, building on one of the trends of the 2020s, Jessica Grose wrote a great piece on how sports and organized exercise has become a worthy replacement for church community. I love this! Having done competitive sports, it completely makes sense: you have to be vulnerable and trusting to push yourself in the presence of others. It’s very special!
The sculptor on making art from waste
I love this interview with artist El Anatsui, who gives a peek inside how he creates his massive tapestries out of metallic waste. He has a huge piece up at the Tate now, if you’re in London!
Perfect Picture | Hannah Diamond
In the bubblegum hyper pop universe, Hannah Diamond is a superstar who literally created girly pop. Most of her songs are intentionally simple (boys being blue and girls being pink), her new album turns her themes and interests into a compelling analyses of adult
womangirlhood and what it means to be alive now. The album reaches transcendent territories rivaled by that of Sally Shapiro, touching on concepts like performative girlness to Millennial aging. I cannot say enough good things about “Affirmations,” which is a ridiculous but nourishing song to workout to.
There is an effortlessness to parenthood. There is a crisp-white-sheets and barn door chicness to parenthood. There is a Restoration Hardware-core sublimeness to parenthood. There is a marble countertop, khaki and navy accents, Thom Browne cardigan-wearing, white-and-black checker-print tiled floor magic to parenthood.
Of course, I’m talking about a specific consumable parenthood: the parenthoods of gay (white) men, which all seemed to start from the hypocenter of Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent’s Instagrams. This is a parenthood where toned biceps “occur” from lifting children up and down, where there are never messes and there are always branded products within reach. It’s aspirational anti-parenting, where things just “happen” and it’s all beautiful, where you have time to drop kids off at school and go horseback riding and host a television show or design a homewares collection, with enough time to be back home by 6PM, so you can have dinner and watch a movie with your kids. Related but different and the same are Tom Daly and Dustin Lance Black, Joseph Altuzarra, Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen, Lance Bass, Adair Curtis (and Jason Bolden), and Chasten and Pete Buttigieg.
Obviously none of this “is real,” all Instagram performances that combine lifestyle PR with celebrity. This playbook is also very solidly 2010s. What do we have now? A more ordinary-but-extraordinary version perfect for TikTok, where this effortlessness is captured in vlog form and multiplied by both toplessness and the content-ification of parental theatrics. There is always exercise, always a day in the life, always ads, always a Taylor Swift reference, and always a semi-exotic animal (usually a farm animal).
This universe has been defined by creators like Stuart and Francis, Jake and Sean, Barkan, Terrell and Jarius, Dustin and Burton, Bryan and Chris, mrvaughntrainor, Mr. Dubois, Jeffrey and Bryce, and Sterling and André, among others. At the center are PJ and Thomas, whose vlogs (exhibit A, B, C) always do numbers. Why? There’s an interesting interplay between reality-style familial voyeurism, a rated PG, “Love is love!” expression of (dressed) sexuality, and an almost impossibly beautiful type of parenting. Ideas of queer exceptionalism and respectability politics swirl, colliding into an overly-saccharine family situation that seems to advertise both gay (white) (male) parenting and procreation. While DINKs and childless culture get all the attention, these TikTok families are selling you something different a decade after gay marriage became legal: the beauty of being young, hung, and the proud parents of at least two children.
While the content is all benign and cute, some of them leave you asking a lot of questions about their popularity. Is it because it’s all so beautiful? So clean? So without the worries of finances? That it seems to ignore how content affects kids while tiptoeing toward and away from the state queer rights? Is this why they all end up on the Today show? If we zoom out, the answer is probably simple: these are the men that the world wants (and the type of men men want to be). Compassionate, nice, very attractive, great dads, all of whom have great taste. You want to be married to them or be them or fuck them, all of which stands in contrast to how straight men today are.
If you love this trend and love these men, you’re in luck – because another genre is emerging, serving as a trailer for the family vlogs that are to come: gay men sharing their IVF and family planning journeys. Meet Taylor and Jeff, Alec and Mike, and Michael and Matt, a few of the next generation’s stars in this budding genre.
“most evil people you’ve ever met”
I just know they’re Gen X/Millennial “alt” people too. Which reminds: I heard someone this week say that all politicians “just suck” and that politics are useless. Same energy, which I thought died in 2010.
“new boot goofin”
Closing the loop on last week’s Ron DeSantis #bootgate.
Biden's brother is hung
This is for the girls but…did everyone hear about Joe Biden’s younger, maybe-queer brother being well endowed and conservatives being mad about it??
“that is so crazy”
”i don’t know if i can top that”
A great TikTok trend over the past few days is stitching this video of a woman saying “Call me crazy if you want, but I’ve never liked store bought pesto.” only for people to share legitimately wild stories.
Something is happening around the comments on Instagram and the introduction of GIFs, which has created a new culture of what-you-were-thinking jokes that are shared on TikTok.
“Trying Indian Food”
This very wholesome food reviewer is having a moment for looking at very common food through a critical lens – and his review of Indian food doesn’t disappoint. The top comment – “butter chicken in a car is insane” – took me tf out.
“Old Greg didn’t like this”
We should all do this Trisha Paytas prank on our parents.
This queer Scooby Doo TikTok has extreme Vine energy.
“Seasons of Love but I forgot the number”
Musical theater is bad, but this is good.
“(white) millennial core”
Makes me sick to my stomach!
“how it feels”
Speaking of Millennials, this is what it feels like being in your thirties right now.
And, finally, how I feel getting any new subscribers.