Today, I feel optimistic about the future, and that’s because of the sex Aidy Bryant is having on TV.
Sex on TV has changed a lot in my lifetime alone. For one thing, we are regularly seeing male frontal nudity on HBO - thank you, High Maintenance! Even more importantly, Issa Rae’s Insecure celebrates the sexiness of black women through its (frequent, hot) sex scenes without any kind of white mediation or approval. I didn’t even realize until I found myself in the thrall of that show how rarely - if ever - I had seen black people having sex onscreen, especially emotionally satisfying sex. And now, thanks to Hulu’s Shrill, we get to see a fat woman have good and fulfilling sex onscreen, and no matter what you think of the rest of the show, that all by itself is a really big deal. Read More
Pete has wanted to belong here ever since we first met him. One of the central questions the show has confronted is precisely that of belonging. What is comedy now, and who belongs in it? What do we owe guys like Pete, who might be very talented but who might also, in truth, not be talented enough to be essential? In the words of Estee Adoram (playing herself), the holder of the Comedy Cellar keys: “who are you, why are you, and why now? I’ve got a lot of white guys up here talking about nothing.” She has a point, and even though Pete is understandably crushed, Crashing isn’t asking us to feel that he’s been denied some kind of rightful place. Read More
Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, and the writing of Tina Fey gave us the expression “mean girls” in the early 00s, and we have so internalized it that we barely even think about it when we use it. Without a doubt, Mean Girls was a huge phenomenon for a reason: it speaks some real truth (and it holds up extremely well 15 years later). Middle-school and high-school girls have the ability to behave in horrifying ways to each other. PEN15 doesn’t hesitate to show us how, nor does it exempt its two main characters from the pettiness and cruelty that we so commonly associate with tween girls. But what you will remember of this show if you watch the whole season is the unbridled generosity and fierce love of their friendship. Read More
I am a consistent crier at movies. I somehow cried all the way through Moana even the third time I watched it - as in, starting at minute one! There are, no doubt, explanations for this. I am overly empathetic, my emotions lie too close to the surface, and motherhood has likely exacerbated both things. I tell you this because a piece of media making me cry, whether it’s Oscar bait or a Superbowl commercial, tells you nothing about its quality or its emotional honesty. My tears are not a standing ovation; they’re more like the polite applause you get from golf spectators even when it takes you seven strokes to sink your putt (not that I would know anything about that).
Maybe it’s not so strange, then, that the standout movie of my recent past is the one that has lodged itself in my brain without making me shed a single tear. That movie is Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk, which I’m tempted to say should have been nominated for Best Picture, but given how that race turned out, I’m almost glad it didn’t run. Read More
I’m not going to spoil any of the fun surprises this show has in store for you - really! But even if I told you how it ended, you’d still love watching it from start to finish. As soon as I saw Russian Doll’s opening shot of Natasha Lyonne staring at herself in a mirror, I didn’t really care what was about to happen; I just wanted to watch her. I wanted (and always, still, want) to hear and see a story about someone like Nadia, but not just about her. It’s not enough to create a story about a woman without also creating within it an endless fascination that goes beyond sex appeal or a desire to “fix” her. We’re not going to figure her out by watching her for eight episodes; that’s not how people work. But we’re going to dive in because even if we never get to the bottom, the experience will be worth it. Read More
The key to the success of the Saturday morning snuggle, of course, is the quality of a given week’s library stack, and the key to a good library stack is a good, leisurely library visit, preferably one which allows plenty of time to choose some non-tiresome books to go along with the inevitable Pete The Cat and Disney garbage that we can’t go home without. I am not saying that all the Disney princesses are necessarily garbage - that’s a whole other not-uncomplicated conversation - but the books that feature them are basically pretty-princess-picture-delivery devices rather than actual works of prose where anyone gave any thought to readability or efficiency of language. If I’m going to read Princess Elena and the Secret of Avalor (which frankly needs to drop at least 500 words) over and over again, I better have some goddamn Mo Willems to chase it with. Read More
I’m a little sheepish about the fact that I chipped away at John Le Carré’s A Perfect Spy for…let’s see…two months and even got 3/4 of the way to the end before throwing in the towel. I should have seen the signs much sooner that I was wasting my precious reading time with The English! The Americans (ugh, no class, those Americans)! The wives and their prattle! The Czechs! What’s the deal with Pym anyhow - is he running away because he’s sad about his father or because he’s been double-crossing the English and spying for the Czechs, or has be been double-crossing the Czechs the whole time, or is he really only loyal to the one Czech guy, the father-figure who loved him the way his asshole of a real father never could? Magnus Pym writes through all of this, addressing himself to his own son, but is he really a reliable narrator? WELL? IS HE? Read More
I finally managed to write a thing about what I consider the best show on TV right now. And I did it without spoilers! Even though it’s in its final season and it just keeps getting better, and even though I would love to write about what’s happening right now, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had the goods starting with Season 1, Episode 1. It knew exactly what it was doing the whole time, and while we were busy laughing at its near-constant jokes, it was setting itself (and us) up to become a masterful exploration of mental illness and the damage people are coping with in their lives from a joyfully feminist perspective. It’s still really, really funny, too. But the point is, if you haven't seen the whole series, or any of the series, this essay was written for you. Read More
The Frozen aesthetic is powerful, and it should come as no surprise that Disney would package and sell its sparkly ice-castle exterior while conveniently ignoring its turbulent and emotional insides. Enter the sequels, the spin-offs, the Frozen expanded universe, courtesy of the Frozen industrial complex. Elsa and Anna having a carefree slumber party in Frozen: Ghost Hunt makes me think to myself, “do you people remember anything about the actual movie you made?” More likely, what you’re going to have is two women who will need some serious time to rebuild their relationship after a couple of decades of forced emotional distance! I mean, really! Before slumber parties, let’s see the one where Elsa and Anna go to family therapy, maybe. I don’t know how you package that and sell it to a three-year-old, but wouldn’t anyone like to try? Read More
I’m a woke millennial feminist critic who lives in Somerville Massachusetts, but goddamn it, I still love Alfred Hitchcock movies. Why can’t things ever be simple? Read More