Hipster R&B, Eli the Un-Manning: The Week's Best Pop-Culture Writing

The most intriguing articles about entertainment we've come across in the past seven days

Click the links in the article titles to read the full pieces, and let us know what we've missed:

Gravity Is Going to Be a Camp Classic
J. Bryan Lowder

Camp lives in those random moments at which you can’t help but say, “Girl. Come on.” When you are momentarily knocked off narrative course by a piece of wild aesthetic debris that simply won’t be ignored. If you think you didn’t experience a few of these unintentional detours in Gravity, you’re either lying or were just too stressed out to notice. The latter is a fair excuse: I’ll allow that my argument may only be vindicated on a second viewing, once the shock-and-awe has worn off. But, mark my words, this movie will be midnight screening fodder in no time.

How could it not be? Here comes a Sandra Bullock (campy enough by itself) in a high-budget “Hanes Her Way” commercial that ends with a delightfully gauche SYMBOLIC tableaux of a fetus in utero. And then she starts talking to herself in a poorly written “I choose to live!” speech straight out of some black-and-white melodrama. Oh, and did you know (because, MORE PATHOS!) that she has a TRAGEDY in her past that she deals with by driving (“driving, George, just driving…”) a lot, presumably all the way to the Hubble Space Telescope? No worries if not, because Cuarón has included the sympathy fail-safe of a middle-aged white lady shaking a lot and mumbling in some kind of space capsule—a technique originated unforgettably by Jodie “OK TO GO” Foster in ContactAnd then, finally, more Hanes (and thigh muscles!) in a closing struggle with some seaweed and an unbearably heavy “Dawn of Man” metaphor as we cut, with ridiculously overwrought and loud scoring, to credits. GRAVITY. Get it? Because Cuarón’s thoughts about the universe and humanity have a lot of that.

AP / Virginia Mayo

Simone Biles Vs. The Racists: Are Black Gymnasts The New Black QBs?
Dvora Meyers

That's where Ciaralli's remarks about artistry come in. They are part of a larger ongoing conversation amongst coaches, athletes, judges, and fans as to the direction of the sport, on whether it moves in a more artistic direction or towards power and tricks, as though those are mutually exclusive categories. Most of these debates usually end with artistry supporters reminding everyone that the sport is called "artistic gymnastics," never mind that no one can agree what "artistry" in gymnastics means.

Last year, I wrote about how "artistic" or "artistry" is coded language for body type. Lithe and flexible gymnasts are routinely called "artistic" regardless of how well they dance or engage with the music or audience. Short, muscular gymnasts such as former Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson or Biles are not considered "artistic" regardless of how they move or connect. (I've seen Biles perform live twice now—she can really sell a routine.) This, however, is the first time I've seen "artistry" brought up in the context of race. He's pitting the "European" (read: white) body types on the "artistic" side against "powerful" and black. And given that many fans feel that increasing difficulty demands are destroying the supposed artistic nature of the sport, Ciaralli's statements, for those who follow the sport closely, essentially turned Biles into the powerful bull in the elegant gymnastics china shop.

AP / John Shearer / Invision

I Started a Joke: "PBR&B" and What Genres Mean Now
Eric Harvey

I have mixed feelings about being linked to such a phenomenon. Don't get me wrong—it’s cool to have my name on Wikipedia, but I’d rather such an honor be for something I put a bit more time into, or, well, am actually proud of. I still think "PBR&B" is silly-if-not-catchy, though misleading yes, and even offensive to some—particularly the artists forced to suffer the indignity of having their music classified under the heading of a snarky joke.

If someone else came up with "PBR&B", I would resent them. I "coined" it for the simple reason that it's a pun, and I love puns. But I didn't exactly coin it to describe the music itself. (Its grandfather genre, "Rhythm and Blues", is another story. That was coined by Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler in 1949, to replace "Race Records", the offensive name of a chart used at the time to rank the popularity of music made by African-Americans.) Instead, it’s one of those genres that describes an imagined fanbase. As Fennessey claimed in that article, there was a brief moment a few years ago when a handful of artists who nominally made R&B were doing so in a way that allowed certain observers to group them together. This happens regularly with any type of popular music, and R&B is no exception. The difference with "PBR&B" is that I cobbled together three artists who were doing drastically different things, more or less because they were making music that had the capacity to "cross over," in old industry parlance. In more modern terms, it’s music rooted in African-American traditions that…well, to put it bluntly, might sell to young white people for whom other types of more rhythm-focused or bluesy modern R&B might not.

AP / David McNew

Why Is No One Talking About the Fact That Chris Brown Was Raped?
Tom Hawking

It’s hard to imagine Jezebel (or anyone else, for that matter) being so trite about this quote if it came from… well, pretty much anyone apart from Chris Brown. But they’re not alone in this — neither the original profile nor any subsequent commentary made even the briefest mention of the fact that the encounter was a crime. Instead, writers have either described it as boasting, or said things like, “Chris doesn’t drop that fact as if it’s a crutch or a sign of a rough upbringing — instead the R&B singer totally owns it!,” or used it as an excuse for another clickbait hatepiece.

Let’s just say again: we’re talking about someone having sex with an eight-year-old here. Isn’t that worth stopping and thinking about for a bit? Apparently not — after all, it’s much easier just to pull out the quote and use it as the excuse for a bit of pageview-wrangling “CHRIS BROWN IS THE WORST” sensationalism than to think about its implications.

Presented by

Nolan Feeney, Ashley Fetters, Spencer Kornhaber

Ashley Fetters and Spencer Kornhaber edit The Atlantic's Entertainment Channel. Nolan Feeney writes for and produces The Atlantic's Entertainment Channel.

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