CITY OF ANGELS EDITION: things you should read this week
great criticism, personal updates, and an essay from the archives
if this blog suddenly seems more glamorous or somehow closer to the beating heart of western consumer culture, it’s for good reason — i’m coming to you from los angeles, baby (insider tip: locals call it “the big apple!”). i’m here because my best friend is famous and also because i really want to give charli d’amelio a copy of the communist manifesto. so far the second objective has been kind of a bust, but i’m holding on to hope… in the meantime, i thought i’d draw inspiration from my surroundings and do a very special L.A.-themed edition of things you should read this week.
i’m here on a stop-over trip while moving — permanently!! — from vancouver (my residence for the past three years) to toronto (my hometown; location of most of the bad things that have ever happened to me). so i’m mostly very happy but every time i’ve been alone in an uber i’ve burst into spontaneous sobbing tears for some reason and had to assure the driver i’m okay and i’m just going through a period of immense personal upheaval. also, here’s a list of the celebrities i’ve seen: p. diddy’s son; keke palmer; billy from stranger things; brett gelman, who plays martin in fleabag. this truly is a city of miracles!
this week’s reading and discussion topic lineup includes a viral essay about tiktok influencers, an analysis of the conflict between Hollywood’s liberal image and it’s conservative output, a criticism of the mindless churn of “intellectual property content”, one of my own essays about reality show Selling Sunset and its capitalist feminist ethic, and more. as usual, let me know what you think about any or all of these topics in the comments!
this essay articulates and analyzes a great contradiction that i’ve been quietly thinking about for quite some time: if Hollywood is as liberal as everyone seems to think, why are movies so conservative?
“…None of these stories can be said to reflect or advance the agenda of anything you might call the left. Mainstream American movies have, for decades, been in love with guns, suspicious of democracy, ambivalent about feminism, squeamish about divorce, allergic to abortion, all over the place on matters of sexuality and very nervous about anything to do with race… The dominant narrative forms, tending toward happy or redemptive endings — or, more recently, toward a horizon of endless sequels — are fundamentally affirmative of the way things are. What they affirm, most of all, is consensus, an ideal of harmony that isn’t so much apolitical as anti-political, finding expression not in the voting booth but at the box office.”
i like this (although personally i would say that the idea of politically expressing yourself at the voting booth is often a similar kind of symbolic fantasy to politically expressing yourself through media consumption). i think it nods towards a couple bigger ideas — first, that popular media aims to redirect and neutralize political malaise into non-threatening avenues, and second, that there is an ever-widening chasm between the things that powerful figures or institutions claim to believe and the things they actually do. once you start thinking about the political ethos behind popular movies, it’s impossible to stop noticing a deeply conservative trendline. i don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying conservative movies (i liked “top gun”, and i don’t think art should have to hold any kind of objective moral truth), although i think it’s important to critically analyze the messages we receive through the media we consume regardless of the direction in which it leans. i don’t know. maybe that’s kind of a pointless distinction.
this essay went viral on tiktok recently, which i was so happy to see because it’s one of my favourites — the kind of writing i’d love to do if i ever get to profile Addison Rae (which i seriously am planning on doing, not kidding. one day...). i’m really fascinated by the kind of gold-rush world that the internet has created for beautiful young people — i think it’s tragic and scary and fascinating and bizarre, and i think it more and more the more of them i meet. it’s hard to describe the world of influencers if you haven’t seen it firsthand. a lot of them are very sad. a lot of them — i would say a higher proportion than average — had very difficult childhoods. they’re desperate for attention and validation and money and many of them are being used for profit by powers that will discard them very soon, and everyone can feel it. there’s a very palpable ephemerality to this world, whether or not a lot of them are consciously aware of it; sometimes it kind of feels, even in observation, like a party at the end of the world.
it’s strange and alien to me, even though i suppose i’m much closer to operating within that world than outside of it. i spent a lot of time living on the poverty line before writing took off for me, and my boyfriend has worked 40+ hour weeks doing physical labour for the entirety of our relationship, and we’ve both dreamed of the kind of happiness and freedom that we imagined would come with easy, stupid money. a lot of people here have easy, stupid money, but very few of them think of themselves as free or happy. i’ve never been totally sure what to make of it. want to write more about this.
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