The Week in Pop-Culture Writing: Barbie and Rose Gold

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

The Semiotics of “Rose Gold”
Rebecca Mead | The New Yorker
“Deliberately adulterated, it is gold that has an inclination to be something else. Rose gold is perverse. Unlike yellow gold—but like its cooler cousin, white gold, which is an alloy with nickel or manganese that has also risen and declined in popularity throughout the years—rose gold is subject to the vagaries of fashion.”

Barbie Wants to Get to Know Your Child
James Vlahos | The New York Times Magazine
“We have arrived at a ‘robotic moment’—a milestone that is as much about cultural acceptance as it is technological achievement. ‘It’s not that we have really invented machines that love us or care about us in any way, shape, or form,’ Turkle says, ‘but that we are ready to believe that they do.’”

The First-Person Industrial Complex
Laura Bennett | Slate
“But this is an inevitable feature of today’s first-person essays: the push to ensure that every story, no matter how narrow, will find an ardent audience of cheerleaders (or hate-readers) and a corresponding number of clicks—to dress up the personal in the language of the political.”

The Complete History of the NFL
Reuben Fischer-Baum and Nate Silver | Five Thirty Eight
“How do you rate an NFL team across decades of play? One method is Elo, a simple measure of strength based on game-by-game results. We calculated Elo ratings for every game in league history—over 30,000 ratings in total.”

Dodging Stereotypes, Pushing Down Walls, and What’s Really at Stake When There’s “Just One” Like You On TV
Sonia Saraiya | Salon
“There is a way in which the markers of identity serve to broaden our collective understanding of the multiplicity of experience that makes up the world. There is also a way in which the impulse to draw lines and establish categories can be used against our best intentions. Representation isn’t an end in and of itself; it’s a mile marker on the journey to a more just world.”

Jerrod Carmichael on His Plans for Season Two of The Carmichael Show and Why Diversity Isn’t His Ultimate Goal
Maria Elena Fernandez | Vulture
“So just to throw in a character for their skin tone would do a disservice to that actor. On any set, no one should be there to fit a demographic. It just doesn’t work. Don’t do it for the sake of diversity. This is art. And it’s our obligation to stay true to our world.”

The Tiger Beat Lives On
Anne Helen Petersen | Buzzfeed
“Then as now, the magazine provides an outlet toward which young girls (and boys) can funnel their often overwhelming feelings of desire. It’s not sexual desire, at least not exactly — it’s obsession, the need to want something, to think about it constantly, to feel deeply. Tiger Beat not only validates those feelings, but also gives them shape — often in the form of a teen boy’s angelic face.”

The Hound of Basketville: On Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Detective Novel
Brian Phillips | Grantland
“When you spend your days in floating fluorescent cubicles staring at glowing screens, it’s maybe only natural that you would want those screens to have bodies on them; on the other hand, a society that considers Tom Brady a more significant cultural figure than just about any artist, scientist, philosopher, or poet is pretty obviously hell-bent on going down a perilous cul-de-sac.”

The New Drug War Cinema: On Netflix’s Narcos
Christopher Looft | The Los Angeles Review of Books
“The inclusion of these distinctly Latin American elements in a production as well publicized as Narcos may announce the maturity of a new film and television subgenre: the Hollywood drug war story. Of course, drug cartels have long been fodder for crime drama, and Mexican narco-cinema dates back to the 1970s, but until recently Hollywood has depicted the narcotics trade so superficially as to invite ridicule.”