pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

I skipped last week’s link round-up, but I’m back this week with some stuff to think about while you digest whatever insane amount of food you ate yesterday.  Without further ado, these are the things on the internet that made me think this week:

Satire is Hard: Why Most ‘Onion’ Rip-offs Don’t Work  (SplitSider)

I’ve been having a sort of ongoing conversation with one of my friends about why people are the worst when it comes to checking sources on internet articles.  This week, she sent me this article and said, “THOUGHTS?”  And I have a lot of them, but many are what I’ve already expressed here and elsewhere.  People are so quick to hit “share” that they don’t stop and think about what they’re saying.

This article takes it a step further and examines actual satire, and how hard it can be to get it right.  Part of what makes the Onion such great satire is that the articles could almost be true.  That’s how ridiculous the news media is these days.  But this quote, from one of the websites that is like the Onion, was interesting:

While Daily Currant abdicates responsibility for public confusion, National Report cheerfully admits to courting it. “We play off of societal fears and follow fringe trends,” says founder Allen Montgomery. “We have found that people use news sources not for information but to confirm what they already believed…It is our opinion that if a person is too lazy to check for multiple references (or at least one other source), or think critically about the news they are receiving, and they spread misinformation around as fact, then they are to blame, not us.”

“Fit Mom” Lashes Out at Regular Women’s Selfies (Salon)

Look, I didn’t even know who Maria Kang was until I read this article.  I suppose I had heard the name when her stupid photo went viral, but I couldn’t be bothered to care.  There’s always been a certain amount of gloating attached to someone who looks amazing and has worked hard to get there, and I don’t necessarily fault them for that pride–but I also don’t feel the need to muster some misplaced outrage about it, either.

But this latest bit of news?  This is where I think Kang crosses the line, albeit in an ignorant way.  This piece from Salon talks about Kang’s non-apology for saying that an ad campaign showing real women’s bodies normalizes obesity, and it pinpoints where Kang goes completely off the rails:

But where Kang fails in both logic and, spectacularly, empathy is in her inability to distinguish the difference between her own family history and a photograph of a real woman whose health and circumstances she knows zero about, beyond the size of her body. She assumes that because a woman is bigger than Kang-size – and worse – isn’t ashamed to be, we’re “normalizing” something she assumes is, well, as she called her mom, “selfish.” She writes on Facebook, “No one should be ashamed of who they are, at the same time, in order to desire something greater, you have to – at some level – be uncomfortable with where you are at.” Which is fine if you’re the sole arbiter of everybody’s “greater,” or if you assume that being a certain size is automatically unhealthy and selfish.

Look, I lost a lot of weight in my early twenties and have worked to keep it off.  I understand that it’s not easy, and that it takes a great deal of sacrifice.  But my body still doesn’t look anything like Kang’s, and it never will, unless I give up everything that keeps me fairly grounded (personal relationships, dessert, sanity about food).  I applaud Kang’s dedication to being “healthier” but take SERIOUS ISSUE with her narrow, dangerous definition of what “healthy” looks like.

Also, non-apologies are bullshit.  If you aren’t sorry, don’t pretend to be.

Kendrick Lamar has a Right to be Mad at GQ (The Atlantic)

This is a relatively short, and incredibly interesting piece.  Even if you have no interest in hip-hop or rap culture, it’s worth giving it a read.  Here’s the gist: GQ named Kendrick Lamar one of its “Men of the Year” and put him on the cover.  They wrote a complementary piece about him, and then Lamar’s representation released a statement saying that the piece is overshadowed by the “racial overtones” and focus on “drama.”  If you read the GQ piece closely enough, you realize that Lamar is right.  And it’s really, really disturbing, because it’s completely well-meaning, but racist as hell.

This is from the GQ article:

Much of Kendrick’s music now is an attempt to transcend his ravaged world without separating himself from it in judgment, about somehow gaining control over his household’s chaos—some of his uncles were Crips, and his father was reportedly a Gangster Disciple in Chicago before moving to Compton—and over his neighborhood’s warped commitment to adolescent pride. It’s an ethos that extends to his crew. They have a seriousness of purpose, a rigorous discipline that can feel slightly monastic at times. Kendrick doesn’t smoke weed or drink booze.

Which, okay, fine.  Except, do you see how it reinforces the stereotypes about rap culture by acting essentially shocked that Lamar’s group doesn’t engage in those activities?  “Monastic,” really?

The article relies heavily on setting Lamar up against familiar rap cliches and then demonstrating how Lamar doesn’t fit into any of them, but the actual cliches are never questioned.  There’s an implied racism here, and it’s so ingrained in the author’s writing that it’s easy to miss.  But it’s there, and it’s indicative of the problem of writing about a black performer in a magazine that sits with a predominantly white audience: how do we make this person relatable to people who have no idea who he is?

Am I wrong?

A Tale of Two Lolitas (Vulture)

This one is lengthy, and deals with a great deal of historical content, so if you’re not particularly invested in the road to publishing that Nabokov’s “Lolita” took, or the fact that my favorite writer, Dorothy Parker, published a short story entitled “Lolita” right before his book came out, you can probably skip this one.

You can argue a myriad of different things about whether or not the stories mimic one another or who might have had motivations to “borrow” ideas, but what is interesting to note is how this article frames Parker as a desperate woman who was barely holding onto her career.  I don’t have much to say about this, myself, but the people in the comments sure do.  They are more interesting than the article itself, and the author’s fierce defense of her piece there is also sort of fascinating.

What did you read this week that had you thinking?

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