The Week in Pop-Culture Writing: Sugar Daddies and Do-Gooders

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Breaking the Waves
Holly Anderson | Grantland
​“Living in New Orleans,” said Bubba Terranova, a senior receiver on the 2005 team, “you’ll go to sleep thinking a hurricane’s gonna hit in the morning, and then you get up in the morning and the storm’s gone.”

Gallows Humor: The Carmichael Show Takes on Police Brutality and Racism
Pilot Viruet | Flavorwire
“These jokes are important, and sometimes even necessary for survival, and telling them is a way for us to connect with other black people going through similar situations and feelings. A shared joke, no matter how bleak it is, is cathartic for all involved, a necessary break in tension — similar to drum circles or impromptu dancing that breaks out during protests. It’s a form of healing.”

How Did a Show Like Mr. Robot End Up on USA?
Josef Adalian | Vulture
Mr. Robot … may be TV’s most beautifully byzantine mystery-thriller since the first season of Lost, a show that encourages its audience to debate subtext and obsess over detail. It’s all very much off-brand for USA, and as execs at the network see it, that is exactly the point.”

As Much As I Can, As Black As I Am: The Queer History of Grace Jones
Barry Walters | Pitchfork
“She was as queer as a relatively straight person could get. Her image celebrated blackness and subverted gender norms; she presented something we had never seen before in pop performance—a woman who was lithe, sexy, and hyperfeminine while also exuding a ribald, butch swagger.”

Little Boxes
Emily Nussbaum | The New Yorker
“[David] Simon’s shows are unashamed of their mission to educate and to illuminate, and, if advocating for them can make a critic feel as if she were hawking a standing desk, so be it. But Simon is wrong to suggest that, for viewers, the choices are Yonkers or zombies. The truth is, progressive politics are experiencing a TV boom these days—a revival of the medium’s do-gooder legacy—but they’re often nested in genres taken less seriously: comedies, shows aimed at women and teens, sci-fi.”

Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why it Matters
Amy Wallace | Wired
“In a genre defined by curiosity, by the question ‘what if?’ and by yearning for a sense of wonder, even left-leaning fans acknowledge that modern science fiction can sometimes feel infected with a certain academic torpor.”

Searching for Sugar Daddy
Taffy Brodesser-Akner | GQ
“Sugar dating is the oldest dynamic around: Rich person contracts poorer but younger/hotter person into some combination of obligations that includes but is only rarely limited to straight-up sex. As long as people have had money and other people have wanted money, this has been a thing. But technology has affected this mini-economy twofold: First, as with any Etsy shop, anyone with a good to sell can now easily intersect with someone who wants this good; and second, it has created a culture of righteous entitlement, in which a fringe thing feels mainstream when you find enough people who participate in it.”

Netflix, Binging, and Quality Control in the Age of Peak TV
Maureen Ryan | The Huffington Post
“As many writer/producers head to what they perceive to be greener pastures, executives are doing whatever they can to lock down talent, and the end result of this whole process can sometimes be self-indulgent and lazy television.”

The Politics of the Curation Craze
Miya Tokumitsu | The New Republic
Blogs are curated. So are holiday gift guides. So are cliques, play lists, and restaurant menus. “Curated,” a word that barely existed forty years ago, has somehow come to qualify everything in our lives. .... How did our world become a venue for curation? And how did curating, a highly specialized line of museum work involving the care, accessioning, and exhibition of artworks, come to mean, as cultural policy scholar Amanda Coles puts it, “just picking stuff?”