pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

It’s Time to Take the White Savoir out of Slavery Narratives (Salon)

I haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave yet, but it’s on my list of things to do in the next few weeks.  The main point of this article is something that I struggle with often when I read books, watch movies, and think about the state of racial politics in America today.  The crux of this article is:

About three-quarters through the movie, Brad Pitt suddenly shows up and, essentially, saves the day. Never mind that Pitt is also one of the film’s producers (an interesting contrast to Quentin Tarantino, who cast himself as an Australian slave trader in “Django Unchained.” But that’s a whole other essay). In this otherwise monumental and groundbreaking film, written and directed in the age of stop-and-frisk and “stand your ground,” of Trayvon and Aiyanna and Marissa and Renisha, did we really need yet another white savior narrative?

We absolutely did not.

Now, do I understand that in this case, the story being told is remaining true to its historical roots?  Yes, of course I do.  But the thing is, this is more indicative of the kinds of narratives we choose to tell than anything.  What stories we are selecting to tell reveals much more about the state of racial politics than people are willing to admit.  See also: last year’s overrated and kind of racist award-winner Lincoln.

At any rate–you guessed it–an interesting read.

The Problem with Masters of Sex (Slate)

One of the only shows that J. and I watch every week without fail is Masters of Sex.  I love it, he loves it–it’s rare that our interests in television overlap so perfectly, so it’s kind of a delight to behold–and we watch it, usually without any laptop distractions.  But I’ve had a problem with the character of Masters himself, and this article nails it so perfectly, it would have been terrible not to include it in this week’s link round-up.  Why aren’t people talking more about this great show?  This is why:

The writers on Masters of Sex gave themselves a particularly difficult challenge by choosing an antihero who isn’t sexy or charismatic. He has no swagger, really—even his brilliance is boring. They eventually gave us a storyline about how Dr. Masters’ father was an abusive jerk. But this is not accompanied by the vulnerability or insecurity on the part of Dr. Masters himself that we need as viewers to make us care. He’s demeaning to every single woman he comes into contact with, as well as some men. He doesn’t appear to have any friends. When his overbearing but well-meaning mother turns up, he yells at her and scowls like a little boy. Convincing his assistant to sleep with him as part of the study lends his personality an extra layer of oil.

And it’s true.  We’re obsessed, as a culture, with the concept of the antihero right now, but Masters fails as one because of all this.  It’s nearly impossible to be sympathetic to him, because we haven’t ever had a chance to view him as someone who deserves sympathy.  He might be brilliant, but he’s a total douche.  And while it might be historically accurate, it’s still kind of a bummer to watch.

America’s Best Hate-Reads, 2013 (Mother Jones)

I haven’t read everything on this list, and I’m almost loathe to click on some of the articles linked, but it is interesting to see what exactly it was that we hate-read this year.  I’m a big fan of the hate-read, because I think it can spark interesting discussion and open up dialogues, but I also understand that often, these articles are written with link-bait in mind.  I was surprised to see that the stupid, misogynistic blog post/open letter to girls about not taking pictures of themselves without proper clothing on didn’t make the cut, because that was probably my least favorite read this year.

However, I do find it hilarious that so many Thought Catalog posts made the list.  Oh, Thought Catalog.  Keep trying.

What did you read this week that got you thinking?


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