books and reading · pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

The Tortured History of Entertainment Weekly (The Awl)

This is a piece of long form journalism, and it is really long, but it’s also incredibly interesting.  In the piece, Anne Helen Peterson details the rise and decline of Entertainment Weekly (a magazine I still subscribe to, and have, for more than a decade).  It’s incredibly interesting for anyone who has ever perused the magazine, but it’s especially fascinating for those who like entertainment journalism or have (or had) a vested interest in the magazine itself.  The parts that worked especially well for me were about the late 90s-early 00s, as those were my adolescent years.

The article focuses a great deal on the tension between the magazine’s journalists and the industry at large.  Because EW originally started as a magazine unafraid to take a critical eye to Hollywood, the relationships between it and studios and Hollywood folks has been a strained one.

The editorial maxim was a simple one: Write the best story. Don’t worry about who owns the product, or even if it’s a popular one—just cover it in a way that’s compelling. That maxim was what gave EW its unique critical voice and, more importantly, its incredibly loyal readership. Over the course of the 90s and early 2000s, protecting that voice engendered more and more conglomerate animosity.

At any rate, it’s a really interesting piece and well worth your time if you have about 20 minutes or so.

A Meditation on Britney’s “…Baby One More Time” (The Toast)

If you aren’t reading The Toast regularly, you should be, because it’s pretty much my favorite thing on the internet.  At any rate, this interesting, thought-provoking and melancholic piece has stuck with me, and will, I think, continue to stick with me for a while.  Part dissection of Britney Spears’s most iconic song and part meditation on the author’s life, it’s a piece I could relate to while also being completely riveted by the prose.

But to my mind, “…Baby One More Time” speaks as keenly about the loneliness of love as any other artifact of our culture—it’s not about losing someone but the impossibility of ever really having them. “When I’m not with you, I lose my mind,” Spears sings. “Give me a sign.” Romantic love doesn’t lessen the opacity of other people’s thoughts and motivations; it heightens it, because the desire to know and inhabit the beloved’s mind is so great…I’m convinced that I’m not reading too much into the song or overcomplicating—pop music can speak deep truths because it is simple, because the truest truths are simple.

Probably why this works for me so well is because I love any writing about pop culture that also intertwines personal experience.  It’s my kryptonite.  All the same, this piece is excellent.

“Game of Thrones” Fails the Female Gaze: Why Does Prestige TV Refuse to Cater Erotically to Women? (Slate)

I don’t have  a ton to say about this one, but I will say that this article gets to the center of what I find so frustrating about TV and movies when it comes to issues of “male gaze” versus “female gaze.”  It’s a smart piece.



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