Monday, January 26, 2015
In the early autumn of 1994, fuelled by a kind of defanged hubris, my friends and I dyed our hair Angela Chase red. To be fair, the particular shade was probably called something like Bordeaux Whimsy or Garnet To Hell. But when, moments into the pilot episode of My So-Called Life, Claire Danes’s 15-year-old Angela Chase looked up from the sink—bewildered and brazen with rivulets of Crimson Glow running down her neck—we found our lodestar.
Over the next 18 episodes, we lived My So-Called Life by proxy, parsing every lingering exchange, every painfully awkward faux-pas, every elbow-bruising, shearling-swaddled boiler-room makeout session between Angela and Jordan Catalano (to this day, the single greatest contribution Jared Leto has made to humankind—pace 30 Seconds to Mars fans), with manic zeal. Today, I can still recite from memory lines like: “People are always saying you should be yourself, like ‘yourself’ is this definite thing, like a toaster.” Whatever, roll your eyes—during our days of Bordeaux Whimsy, these were our koans.
So when the show was unceremoniously cancelled a mere five months into its so-called life, we were understandably devastated. We were swept up in the tide of the MSCL web community, reportedly the first such online movement. In the end, it wasn’t enough: They killed our psychic proxy. No Chase-ian koans could help us come to terms with this grievous wrong.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of that cruelest cut: On January 25, it will be two whole decades since My So-Called Life went dark, leaving a vibrating nexus of possibility and plot points in its wake. All these years later, even now that I have a kid, now that I have a job, now that I’m—ugh—basically the same age as Patty and Graham, the lovable but maddening Chase parents, Angela and Rayanne and Sharon and Ricki and Brian and Jordan hold an exquisitely dear place in my heart. What I find strange, though—what I never could have explained to myself back when I was a 13-year-old Gordian knot of anxiety and Crimson Glow-stained earlobes— is this: my love for these characters and their stories endures because of their short-lived tenure on the air, not in spite of it. READ MORE
“When I tell my daughter stories at night, inevitably, a few things happen. Number 1, I use my imagination. I always start with life, and then I build from there. And then the other thing that happens is she always says, ‘Mommy, can you put me in the story?’ And you know, it starts from the top up.
So I'd like to thank Paul Lee, Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, Bill D'Elia and Peter Nowalk for thinking that a sexualized, messy, mysterious woman could be a 49-year-old dark-skinned African-American woman who looks like me.”
Last night's SAG Awards was able to be a glimmer of hope amidst all the bullshit that is the Oscar nominations; the film winners were a [white]wash, but multi-cultural rainbow Orange is the New Black won for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, and Uzo Aduba (who has one of the tightest red carpet games of all time why are we sleeping on her) won for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actress in a Comedy Series.
The above quote, though, is from Viola Davis, who won for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actress in a Drama Series. Davis' anecdotes prove that yes, one and for all, representation matters, whether it's through the eyes of her daughter or her own. It is crucial and necessary to have people who look like us in the stories that we consume. (Davis also wore her hair in its natural state last night, and, no lie, it made me feel more confident about my own.)
But then...that's it. That's where the awards won by POC end. And here's a fun fact: in the 21 years that the SAG Awards have been held, only three women of color have won the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actress in a Drama Series award, and they all came from Shondaland.
It's Monday and it's still a little early, but let's start this week off feeling grateful— grateful for shows like Orange is the New Black and showrunners like Jenji Kohan and her commitment to diversity even if it does mean bringing in a Trojan horse, grateful for Viola Davis and Uzo Aduba for holding it down, grateful for Shonda Rhimes for blessing this earth with her existence. Because sometimes that's all we've got.
This was a pretty snazzy week at Ye Olde Hairpinne: we interviewed Aisha Franz, brilliantly recast Working Girl, fainted while posing nude, protected ourselves from some fashion don'ts, experimented with some placenta (or 'centa, if you're cool), asked Baba Yaga, took a surprisingly difficult quiz, considered five moments in the life of a black mother, got to midsummer, and discovered that Drake is totally a Charlotte.
What'd you do this week??? I put placenta in my hair (you know this) and Haley dropped half a pizza facedown on the floor. She ended up firing herself. So long, Haley.
Meanwhile, across town: Scaachi Koul on Naheed Nehisi, Arabelle Sicardi on queer beauty, hair goddess Jenna Wortham on hair goddess Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelli Korducki on manspreading, Laia Garcia on fashion dicks, Monica Heisey on how an abortion should be, and Marie Lodi on snacks of the zodiac.
Don't be like this broad; make ALL THE TIME for sleep this weekend, and we'll see you back here Monday morning.
I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn't love clothes. As a teenager, I sought out fashion wherever I could: collections, editorials, movies. I poured over fashion magazines and blogged about what clothing meant to me until I started writing about fashion for websites as an actual job. But like many other women writers I know, I’ve tip-toed at the gate of certain realms of writing because I just couldn’t think I could do it. I only wrote about clothes; my voice wasn’t right; I was, well, a girl. The truth is, I don’t think I would have known I could write about anything until I saw a woman doing the same. And while writers such as Ellen Willis, Linda Nochlin, Pauline Kael opened doors for me as a writer, their careers would have been significantly different without the work of the late film critic Cecelia Ager.
A month or so ago I was reminded of Cecelia Ager. I was making notes for an essay on women in film and racking my brain for critics I liked; writers who searched with craned necks for multi-faceted women on screen. I thought about what it was like to be a teenager obsessed with fashion but possessing a wandering eye for writing about film and culture, writing that seemed just out of reach because of these invisible lines I thought were drawn between fashion and art.
Ager was a fashion writer who transcended her beat. Born Cecelia Mayer 113 years ago today, Mayer would go on to marry the songwriter Milton Ager of “I’m Nobody’s Baby” fame. She enjoyed a fairly significant freelance fashion writing career, chronicling what celebrities wore for publications like the New York Times and Harper’s Bazaar. But it wasn’t until 1933 that Ager landed her first real film criticism gig, after pressing publisher Sime Silverman at a party to include a woman’s voice in the pages of Variety. When I heard this story I thought about all the women I know today who falter when it comes to pitching, the writers who have trouble selling their voices in professional settings against established male writers. To know Ager was so ballsy, so aggressively hungry, in the year Nineteen Thirty-Fucking-Three makes me want to step up my game currently. READ MORE
There are a few observations critics almost always make about Simon Rich: how young he is, how much younger he looks, and how much he’s accomplished regardless. The next move usually is to list his accolades: when Rich graduated from Harvard (having served as president of the Harvard Lampoon) he already had a two-book deal from Random House as well as an offer to be the then-youngest writer on Saturday Night Live. After four years working at SNL, Rich spent the next two at Pixar. During this period, he published a total six books — the most recent a short story collection, Spoiled Brats, that features an alternate history narrative in which Herschel Rich is preserved in a pickle vat long enough to meet his great-great-grandson “Simon Rich.” Herschel is a little miffed to learn that his legacy has resulted in no medical doctors, but only a (to be fair to Herschel) misleading termed “script doctor.” More and more, you see Rich explore the trajectories that lead him to where he currently is — a 30 year-old writer with a resume so astonishing that he’s frequently been accused of nepotism (his father is notable theater critic Frank Rich). But one glance at his work and it should be clear to even the worst cynics: Rich’s talent and, moreover, sheer work ethic is undeniable.
These days, Rich is focused on his new comedy series, Man Seeking Woman (loosely based on Rich’s 2013 collection The Last Girlfriend On Earth), which premiered last week on FXX. Among its creative team are individuals such as Lorne Michaels, Jonathan Krisel (Portlandia), Ben Berman (Jon Benjamin has A Van), Tim Kirkby (Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle), and writers Sofia Alvarex, Dan Mirk, Ian Maxtone-Graham, and Robert Padnick. In many ways, serial television comedy seems almost a perfect medium for Rich’s approach to narrative, where loosely related premises are collected under the arc of a shared theme. In this case the theme is — what else — love in your 20s.
I spoke to Rich over the phone last week, during which he was visiting Los Angeles where he was promoting Man Seeking Woman while also — what else — hard at work. READ MORE
1. “The game ain’t always fair and that’s the thing though. You can play your heart out, everybody don’t get a ring though."
2. "The universe may not always play fair, but at least it’s got a hell of a sense of humor.”
3. "I love em all, I just love me more."
4. "I love you...but I love me more."
5. "I'm the type to have a bullet-proof condom and still gotta pull out." READ MORE
My favorite line in this National Geographic piece about how slow-moving cone snails kill fish by trapping them in a cloud of insulin, putting them in a sugar coma, and then consuming them, is this:
"It looks like the fish is completely narced," says Christopher Meyer, a cone snail specialist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, who wasn't involved in the study.
(If you click the word "narced" in the piece, it links you to the yourdictionary.com definition)
I like to think that Christopher Meyer has been biding his time since the seventies for the moment when slow-moving cone snails made the news so that he could give his prepared quote to the media using what was then the coolest slang, and now that moment has arrived. I predict 2015 will be the year that the word "narc" and slow-moving cone snails will be cool.
Abercrombie & Fitch went public in 1996. It had about 125 stores, sales of $335 million, and profits of almost $25 million. Jeffries wrote a 29-page “Look Book” for the sales staff. Women weren’t allowed to wear makeup or colored nail polish. Most jewelry was forbidden. So were tattoos. Hair had to be natural and preferably long. Men couldn’t have beards or mustaches. The only greeting allowed was: “Hey, what’s going on?” Store managers spent one day a week at their local college campus recruiting kids with the right look. They started with the fraternities, sororities, and sports teams. Managers forwarded photos of potential employees to headquarters for approval...
...In 1997, Jeffries started the A&F Quarterly, a magazine and catalog that sold for $6. Sales staff went on casting calls for the shoots with photographer Bruce Weber. Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, and Channing Tatum modeled. There were guides to group sex, getting it on in movie theaters, and drinking games. Abercrombie eventually agreed to check the age of potential buyers. When Jeffries shut down the magazine in 2003, he said it was because it was getting boring.
Alisa Durando joined the company in 1996 as a designer. “We could influence Mike about product but not marketing,” she says. “He was phenomenal. He was always creating the movie, the lifestyle story he wanted to project.”
Jeffries’s home looked like an Abercrombie store, with dark wood floors and arty skin pictures. Male models helped out around the house. Jeffries and Smith hosted parties for executives at bonus time or to celebrate a good quarter. Mostly, though, Jeffries worked. He once conducted an earnings call while he was recovering from plastic surgery, his voice hoarse, according to a former executive and an analyst on the call. He would return to work with his face still swollen from a procedure, former executives say. When he traveled, he sent an advance team to make sure his car and hotel looked and smelled the way he wanted. On West Coast trips, he’d call meetings in his hotel room at 5 a.m. Models in Abercrombie outfits were there serving coffee.
*a single tear falls from my eye as I solemnly start singing the Canadian national anthem.
butterflies with translucent orange wings
make kissy faces at my half liquid turd
the only reason I shat in the grass
is because I feel combative and entitled
I would seek romance at every turn
but I’m too entitled READ MORE
1. At library storytime, the white librarian comes up to you and says that she has the best picture of your son making a craft, and, excited, you ask her to show you. So the white librarian flips through her iPad and then finally, triumphantly, shows you a picture of the only other black boy who has ever been to storytime who looks nothing like your son, who is two years older than your son. And you realize that, to this white educator, all black boys look alike—are to be equally, interchangeably, dismissed in the classroom—and you suddenly understand that the preschool to prison pipeline is very real and just how many black boys in prison are there because they have been falsely accused, misidentified as someone else. READ MORE
a) "I’m taking my gloves off now, which could be a sign of danger."
b) "Words are just words. But to some people, they’re not just words. When they’re very fundamentalist, and whether it be Christian or Islamic or whatever it is, some people can not take jokes."
c) "I really wanted to flip my entire world upside down, have heaven upside down instead of hell. I just wanted to change things completely."
d) "I just pack a fucking can of whoop-ass with me in my pocket at all times. And it’s simple. You tap the cobra, you’re gonna get the fangs. You kiss the cobra, you get the venom. That can be sexual, however you want to take that. But I don’t fuck around. When people mess with anything that I care about, then I get pissed off. And I’m not someone you want to piss off, because I’ve got friends that are in really low places. Not saying Hells Angels, not saying MS-13 gang, not saying any of those…but I’m not somebody you fuck with. "
e) "A switchblade makes any panties crotchless. That’s Victoria’s real secret."
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