books and reading · pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

Here are the articles that got me thinking this week:

Why the Snub of Fruitvale Station Hurts Most (Slate)

I wasn’t surprised when Fruitvale Station didn’t get nominated for any Academy Awards, but it still stung.  It’s one of the best movies of the past year, without a doubt: powerful and affecting, and I think it’s also incredibly important statement about the current world we live in.  Director Ryan Coogler did an amazing job with the small, quiet film, and Michael B. Jordan is absolutely riveting as Oscar Grant.  But it didn’t get nominated.  Neither did Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and this piece at Slate asks some hard questions about why it seems that the Oscars will only honor one “black” film at a time.

There are any number of reasons why these films may have failed to garner the Oscar love that was at one time expected. But I can’t help but wonder if the biggest reason is the cultural juggernaut that is 12 Years a Slave—or, more precisely, what that movie means to some of the people who voted for it. That film, an utterly haunting portrayal of slavery, has maintained a hold on the public’s consciousness for months now, as it should. But there appears to be an unspoken quota of how many black films can capture our cultural attention at once. And it seems telling that while Fruitvale andThe Butler are Oscar-baity in many ways, neither movie turns its narrative about black history into a heroic moment for white people—like, say, Mississippi Burning, the 22nd-most Oscar-baity movie ever, which was nominated for seven Oscars and took home one.

I don’t know, guys.  I’m so tired of how white these award shows are.  I’m so tired of 2013 being hailed as “the year of the black movie” and then seeing the disconnect when ONE black movie is being recognized.  That’s not to say that 12 Years a Slave isn’t deserving, but isn’t anyone else tired of how whitewashed all of this is?

The Ghost of V.C. Andrews (BuzzFeed)

Did you guys know that BuzzFeed publishes content outside of lists and quizzes?  Me neither, until this week.  I stumbled across this piece about V.C. Andrews and felt compelled to include it in this week’s link round-up, mostly because it’s interesting.  Why else, right?  What amounts to BuzzFeed’s version of longform journalism is all about V.C. Andrews’ brief life as a writer and the decision to continue publishing novels in her name after her death in 1986.

I never actually read Flowers in the Attic, which is the one this article talks a lot about (to coincide with last week’s airing of the new Lifetime movie version of the book), but I know the story well and read a bunch of Andrews’s other novels (or, rather, Andrew Neiderman’s novels).  As a pre-teen, these novels were totally salacious and shocking.  As an adult, they are totally bonkers.

At any rate, this is an interesting, in-depth piece about the peculiar life of Andrews and the state of publishing in the late 1980s.  It’s worth your time if you have any nostalgia for the books of your youth.

Esquire’s Astoundingly Homophobic “Looking” Review Expects Gay Men to be “Mincing” (Salon)

The Salon article links to the article in question so I don’t have to, but have you guys read or heard about this piece of homophobic drivel?  It’s like something out of a satire newspaper, except it’s totally for real.  Not only does this douchebag totally miss the mark when it comes to the show’s point, but he’s so callously homophobic it’s unreal.  From the Esquire review:

It’s a big deal because it features gay men being gay and doing whatever without resorting to stereotypes. But instead of, say, funny, mincing guys with witty one-liners and put-downs, Looking introduces three ho-hum characters you wouldn’t hang around with if they were on SportsCenter.

Are you fucking kidding me? Setting aside the completely TERRIBLE writing quality, what, exactly, does this guy think he’s contributing to the conversation?  The Salon article sort of eviscerates the Esquire one, and it’s worth reading just for that fact, but this was particularly entertaining:

Leaving aside the sympathetic magic by which Stingley imagines himself a friend to sportscasters inside his television, the idea that “funny, mincing guys” are somehow better is ludicrous on two counts: one, that gay people ought to exist for straight men’s entertainment even when Stingley himself acknowledges that that entertainment generally relies on stereotypes, and two, the use of the incredibly coded word “mincing.” The term is a nasty, homophobic put-down when used onstage at the Golden Globes by Michael Douglas, and is one, too, when used in the pages of a magazine that needs to reassure itself about its heterosexual bona fides even though they run pictures of Chris Hemsworth on the cover.

I mean, I guess the original piece is supposed to be funny, but it isn’t.  Should we be surprised that a piece from Esquire was homophobic?  Probably not.  Does anyone even read Esquire any more?  I mean, outside of hate-reading link-bait articles like this?  Whatever.  I’m already over it.

No, I Won’t Read Your Book if I Think You’re a Monster (Book Riot)

This is something I think about a lot.  I stopped seeing Roman Polanski movies a long time ago because his history made me super ragey.  I’ve long had a problem with Woody Allen myself because I think he’s a creepy, fucked-up old man.  I avoid certain authors because I think their political views suck, and I don’t need that kind of bigotry in my life, implicit or not.  It seems that the author of this great post at Book Riot feels largely the same way:

How can I say an “uneasy yes” to all these authors? And why do I feel this insidious pressure to say yes? Is it because we’ve elevated these authors, all men, all white, to a legendary, almost-god-like status? I feel this pressure to “not agree with the author’s beliefs or actions, but still like the book because it’s a great book.” Does this palpable pressure apply to any authors or artists who aren’t super-famous white men? Let me know if you have an example, I can’t think of a single one and I’m DIGGING. Why do we put these men in ivory towers, why do we protect them, why are we afraid of challenging their hatefulness, and why are we afraid of pushing their work aside and replacing them with books we love written by authors we can support?

What I really like about this post is that she doesn’t have any easy answers. She doesn’t attempt to make a blanket statement for all of us.  She’s talking about herself here, and she’s talking about self-selection.  Which is great, because that’s what I’ve been doing–and will consciously continue to do going forward–when it comes to media.  This self-selection doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the creations of these people or that they aren’t valuable entries into the world–it just means that I choose to not partake.

There’s too much great stuff out there to get bogged down with feeling the need to support people who are kind of terrible human beings.  Or am I crazy?

What did you read this week that got you thinking?

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