books and reading · pop culture

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  Without further ado!

The Failure of Tom Cruise 2.0 (Buzzfeed)

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m linking to a Buzzfeed piece by Anne Helen Peterson (because that’s basically the only Buzzfeed stuff I link to, right?).  This is a really interesting piece about how Cruise was once the greatest movie star of all time, and now, even though he still has staying power in Hollywood, they’ve had to completely change how he promotes movies:

You could argue that Cruise, especially Cruise in Mission Impossible, doesn’t need promotion: That product sells itself. But the strategy also highlights just how scarce Cruise has to make himself, and his personal opinions in particular, in the post–couch-jumping world. Any onscreen relationship, any medical theory, any comment, really, on anything that isn’t his role in the film, the greatness of his co-stars, or his stunts — all of it has the potential to remind you of a Cruise that both he and the studios that pay him many millions of dollars would like you to forget.

As is AHP’s strategy, she goes deep into the publicity management throughout Cruise’s stardom, and it’s an interesting and enlightening read.  But she wonders if it’s too late for Cruise, in terms of making sure that people forget about the couch-jumping, nonsense-spewing he’s done in the past.  (For the record: Cruise has always creeped me out, even before he went balls-to-the-wall, and I will always see the crazy in his eyes and I will NEVER forget.)

Which is convenient, because that’s what Cruise’s public appearances have become: pure, well-practiced, promotional robotry. He smiles, nods, looks good in a suit, and answers the never-altering questions about doing his own stunts, giving each project his all, how much fun it is to be on set.

Maybe he IS a robot? I don’t know.

Committing to Diversity When You’re White: A Primer (Stacked)

Kelly Jensen lays out some super accessible and tangible things you can do as a white person committed to diversity.  She contends that she recognizes her own privilege, and that as a “gatekeeper” of sorts, she has a responsibility to read diversely and promote books accordingly.  This is my favorite part, and a practice that I also employ:

I do not buy books by white men.
I read them, absolutely, but I make a point to only check them out from the library, rather than plunk down $20 or $30 for one of their books.
Instead, when I go out to buy books, I make sure I am only buying the work of people of color or women. This is because that $20 or $30 makes a much larger difference to their career than it does to the career of a white man, already benefiting from a system where he’s a winner.

At any rate, there’s plenty to unpack in her accessible and awesome list of ways to be committed to something important.

On For Such a Time by Kate Breslin and Writing the Holocaust (Bibliogato)

I tweeted some jokes about Kate Breslin’s “romance” novel about a Nazi commandant and a Jewish woman who fall in love during the Holocaust this week, but it’s actually not funny at all, especially because Breslin’s book was nominated for some awards and has a lot of good reviews and people seem to be just accepting this as a romance and not as a deeply problematic piece of Holocaust-denying crap.  Bibliogato has a great piece compiling some of the reasons it’s so important to know about this and speak out about it:

What happened here is that Kate Breslin stole a tragedy that wasn’t hers to promote her own personal agenda. And in doing so, she contributed to the erasure of both victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Her book is anti-Semitic, violent, and dangerous. It glorifies and redeems a Nazi, while removing all of the Jewish woman’s agency and forcing her to convert to Christianity in order for her arc to be considered redemption…

…And as a Jewish woman who writes romance, I feel betrayed. Betrayed by my fellow romance readers. Betrayed by the people who published this. Betrayed by the judges who allowed it to get past the first round much less onto the ballot. Betrayed by the organization whose silence was support. Betrayed by everyone who has remained silent on this, who hasn’t called it out.

It’s a super important piece.

UnREAL Turned The Bachelor into Literature (The Atlantic)

Does anyone else watch UnREAL and love it?  I want to talk about it!  It’s such a great, entertaining show and it showcases such an incredibly complex female anti-hero.  This piece about the show and about how it’s subverted a genre of television is really entertaining.  It posits that the show sets up all sorts of questions about the characters and their motivations but doesn’t answer them:

The show doesn’t say. It does, instead, what the best literature does: It leaves itself open to interpretation and argument. It asks its audience to think, and analyze, and come to their own conclusions. It makes a point of its own ambiguity.

The show can be streamed on Lifetime’s app if you haven’t checked it out.  The first season just finished its 10-episode run and is WORTH IT.

What got you reading and thinking this week?


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