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The Engagement Phone Cover and The Wedding-Industrial Complex

Let’s start with some statistics. READ MORE

Internet Work and Invisible Labor: Suri's Burn Book and the Celebrity Offspring Economy

This interview series aims to make the “invisible labor” of web production visible. Over the next few months, I’ll be talking with a wide variety of content producers, exploring the dynamics of their own form of web production, how they mix that production with their “real” lives, and the various forms of gratification they receive from the work that they do. In short: how do you do what you do, and why do you do it? Talking about the realities of labor isn’t narcissistic. It’s political, it’s progressive, it’s feminist. It’s also totally fascinating. READ MORE

Internet Work and Invisible Labor: An Interview With a Virtual Assistant & Publisher

This interview series aims to make the “invisible labor” of web production visible. Over the next few months, I’ll be talking with a wide variety of content producers, exploring the dynamics of their own form of web production, how they mix that production with their “real” lives, and the various forms of gratification they receive from the work that they do. In short: how do you do what you do, and why do you do it? Talking about the realities of labor isn’t narcissistic. It’s political, it’s progressive, it’s feminist. It’s also totally fascinating. READ MORE

The Real Fantasy of Downton Abbey

Warning: light spoilers.

Bitching about Downton Abbey has become a new cultural pastime: It’s horrible, it’s melodramatic, Julian Fellowes is a hack, if they kill one more person I’m quitting for good…..

….and yet we don’t. It’s like the Valentine’s Day candy corn I’ve been devouring for the past week: so cute, so sweet, so makes me want to barf. But I can’t resist! Here I am, even paying for episodes so that I can watch at the gym, even though they’re available on public television. Usually, we watch a show once it’s gone bad for one of three overarching reasons:

1) Emotional investment in the storyline;

or

2) Really hot guys;

or

3) Escapist fantasy.

I guess some people might be invested in Downton’s storyline, but it’s hard to get invested when it’s now possible that any character—even foundational ones—might be unceremoniously killed or become victims of unspeakable violence, with the sort of narrative motivation that 8-year-olds construct when writing plays to put on for their parents. I’m not emotionally invested in any of the characters because Downton has so unequivocally signaled that if I do, that character will then be narratively punished.

And as for hot guys, let’s be honest: we liked Matthew because we liked the romance. There hasn’t been a legit hot dude on Downton since Mr. Pamuk, and clearly Lord Dimples is going to do something horrible to Mary and/or be secretly super poor and/or actually be gay (keep quiet for now, Brits and Bittorrenters).

So we watch for Escapist Fantasy, but it’s not the dress and posh porn that most people think. I mean, it’s those things in spades, but that’s not enough, frankly, to sustain the voracious global audience. But I think the fantasy is much more complex—and somewhat more subtle—than most understand.

Consider the cast: it’s soap opera-esque in its breadth, but there’s no single character with whom we’re invited to closely identify. Any attempt to argue for Lady Mary is nullified by her sheer inconsistency: she’s neither a legit bitch nor a palatable Mary Sue, but she’s not a “complex” or “human” character so much as three different ones depending on Fellowes’ mood. Downton might not have a main character, but it has loads of interesting female characters: they may not all merit their own spin-offs, but I find Mrs. Patmore, Mrs. Hughes, Daisy, Anna, Gwen, Lady Sybil, Lady Edith, Lady Mary, Lady Cora, the Dowager Countess, and even Aunt Rosamund interesting, even if their storylines are often a bit too pat.

You have a bunch of interesting women whose lives are almost entirely circumscribed to the domestic sphere—planning/making dinner, making beds, doing hair, taking care of children. They may not be rich or privileged, but Downton suggests that life for these women is rewarding one.

Then you have an entirely separate set of interesting women who may spend a lot of time in the home, but whose lives are thoroughly un-domestic: their primary concerns are being beautiful, being social, and maintaining relationships. All leisure, all the time—even if that leisure is slotted into “work”-type activities like “having luncheon with the men who farm our land” and “hosting a fabulous soiree.” And these women are also all happy (save when in unfortunate mourning)—even Edith!

But what the narrative elides is that these women might be happy, no matter their class status, because no single one of them has to “have it all.” In this way, the characters of Downton, like the characters of any upstairs/downstairs drama, represent the fantasy of a pre-integrated domestic/social lifestyle—the beautiful, simple days before women had to be perfect mothers, housekeepers, beauties, sex objects, and career women all at once.

Each woman of Downton has part of it all; they’re parts, in other words, of a have-it-all whole. 

Take Lady Cora, for example, whose primary duties are talking with her family, sleeping in the same bed as Lord Grantham, worrying over her daughters’ marriages, gossiping with her ladiesmaid, going to luncheon, dressing for dinner, and party-planning. She’s got the social component of having it all down.

Add in Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore, who run the house, execute the dinner plans, and delegate tasks. They fill in all the remaining domestic components of “having it all,” and do it with flair, extreme competency, and authority.

You can do this for the rest of the female characters with ease:

Lady Mary + Anna + Nanny = One contemporary soccer mom

READ MORE

Internet Work and Invisible Labor: An Interview With Summer Anne Burton

This interview series aims to make the “invisible labor” of web production visible. Over the next few months, I’ll be talking with a wide variety of content producers, exploring the dynamics of their own form of web production, how they mix that production with their “real” lives, and the various forms of gratification they receive from the work that they do. In short: how do you do what you do, and why do you do it? Talking about the realities of labor isn’t narcissistic. It’s political, it’s progressive, it’s feminist. It’s also totally fascinating. READ MORE

A Tribute to Top of the Lake's Robin Griffin, Made of China and Steel

Warning: Spoilers. Top of the Lake is on Netflix. READ MORE

Internet Work and Invisible Labor: An Interview With Danielle Henderson

This interview series aims to make the “invisible labor” of web production visible. Over the next few months, I’ll be talking with a wide variety of content producers, exploring the dynamics of their own form of web production, how they mix that production with their “real” lives, and the various forms of gratification they receive from the work that they do. In short: how do you do what you do, and why do you do it? Talking about the realities of labor isn’t narcissistic, per se. It’s political, it’s progressive, it’s feminist. It’s also totally fascinating. READ MORE

Internet Work and Invisible Labor: An Interview With NPR's Linda Holmes

This interview series aims to make the “invisible labor” of web production visible. Over the next few months, I’ll be talking with a wide variety of content producers, exploring the dynamics of their own form of web production, how they mix that production with their “real” lives, and the various forms of gratification they receive from the work that they do. In short: how do you do what you do, and why do you do it? Talking about the realities of labor isn’t narcissistic, per se. It’s political, it’s progressive, it’s feminist. It’s also totally fascinating. READ MORE

A Requiem for Molly, The "Archived" American Girl Doll

I’m not, strictly speaking, a Molly. I had a Samantha and a Kirsten, and both of them spoke volumes about who I wanted to be (privileged, so well dressed, urban) and who I was (Scandinavian, solidly built, rural). Chiara Atik has already written the definitive statement on what your doll says about you, and I don’t disagree with her assessment of Molly-owners: READ MORE

Internet Work and Invisible Labor: An Interview With the Fug Girls

When I started writing on the internet, I found it so liberating: I could master Wordpress; I could figure out how to post and promote, I was in control. Whenever even one more person happened onto my blog, I felt like the work I was doing was somehow worthwhile. When I moved from writing on my own blog to writing Scandals of Classic Hollywood (and, later, for other sites), the production changed, but so did the size of the audience. The gratification levels exploded accordingly. READ MORE