5 Best Arts Pieces of the Week

Liz Lemon, Homer Simpson, Michael Bublé, and that movie about the hot tub

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  • Sady Doyle on Liz Lemon's Watered-Down Politics  Doyle, who blogs about gender and pop culture at Tiger Beatdown, offers a nimble, hilarious evisceration of Liz Lemon, Tina Fey's character on 30 Rock. Though Liz pays lip service to feminism, Doyle says, she's really more interested in "Liz Lemonism": she cares about identity politics only to the extent that they affect her and women who agree with her. This is only one of the show's feminist shortcomings, Doyle points out. Why doesn't Liz have any close female friends? Why are we constantly told she's ugly when "Tina Fey is, by any reasonable standard, hotter than fire"? Doyle finds a strain of "anti-feminist, anti-girl" sentiment in the way 30 Rock handles its female characters, and she's not comfortable with it.
  • Noel Murray on Pop-Culture Namechecking  In a far-ranging, infectiously geeky column, Murray, a critic at The A.V. Club, uses a 1997 episode of The Simpsons as a launchpad for interrogating the time-honored tradition of artists referring to other artists, from the iconic to the obscure. "One value of a good reference is that it can send fans of one pop-culture artifact on little expeditions, tracking the secret history of the shows, music, and movies they like by digging through their footnotes," Murray writes. "We become archaeologists of pop." The late 20th century was revolutionary for its focus on "rewriting the canon, and making sure that all the junk of the past got preserved alongside the classics"--a trend, in Murray's view, that reached a kind of apotheosis in the genre-hopping, reference-stuffed episode 22 Short Films About Springfield.
  • Alice Echols on the Disco Revolution  During a lengthy interview with Salon's Thomas Rogers, Echols, author of the new book Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture, explains how dance-floor music precipitated social upheaval in the '70s. Echols contends that disco culture empowered the marginalized in too many ways to count: it "permitted gay men to become sexually legible"; it "made nightlife much less segregated"; it "foregrounded female pleasure in a way that most rock 'n' roll didn't." Building off the notion that what's personal is political, Echols concludes that "it's very hard to disaggregate dancing from protest."
  • Dana Stevens on a Hot Tub Letdown  The new comedy Hot Tub Time Machine has a number of admirers; Stevens, Slate's film critic, breaks ranks with all of them in a zippy dismemberment that might be wittier than the movie itself. Stevens quickly tires of the screenplay's antic scatology ("Here, catch this dog poo! Oops, the contents of my catheter got sprayed in your face!") and can't find the humor in a scene where "mob violence and coerced sexual assault [are played] for laughs." Most of all, she wishes the movie had more of a "spirit of generosity. Instead, even the scenes in which the four friends are ostensibly bonding seethe with hostility and aggression."

  • Stephen Holden on a Blossoming Bublé  In a New York Times concert review, Holden offers a thoughtful take on the jazz singer Michael Bublé, an artist often dismissed by pop critics as an adult-contemporary cheese-peddler. Watching Bublé work the crowd at Madison Square Garden, Holden sees a strikingly assured performer, one comfortable with his populist role and increasingly able to find new emotional colors in age-old standards. He continues to improve technically, too: Holden notes that Bublé has "developed the breath control of a deep-sea diver," and there were times during the Garden show when "his singing approached the majestic."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.