The Week in Pop-Culture Writing: Miley Cyrus and Female Rebels

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

Miley Cyrus’s Quest for Realness
Amanda Petrusich | The New Yorker
“The ambition here is Cosmic Underdog: a blissed-out, spirited, live-and-let-live scamp pogoing through Los Angeles, insisting upon justice, insisting upon total candor, insisting upon—in the parlance of the day—endless, unmediated ‘realness.’”

In Lorde’s Wake, a Groundswell of Female Rebels in Pop
Jon Caramanica | The New York Times
“Pop, though, is largely the story of commodified dissent. Outsider sentiment has long had a home at its center. That’s sometimes the case in country, too, but just as often, if not more, rebellion is snuffed out quick, especially for women.”

Kanye West’s VMA Speech, Decoded
Todd VanDerWerff  | Vox
“But as with everything West does, there was a naked emotionality to the speech, a throbbing heart that the sloppiness seemed almost to exist to hide. The speech was filled with brilliant, off-the-cuff asides and turns of phrase … And underneath everything, there was a kind of internal structure that made sense once you learned how to tap into it.”

Why Mr. Robot Is Not a Great Show (Yet)
Matt Zoller Seitz | Vulture
“I want it to be great. That means less Cinema de Dudebro and more of other kinds of cinema, and maybe more literature and history, while we’re at it. Less cool, more school. Less mystery-box puzzle-making, more poetry.”

Letter of Recommendation: Fanny Packs
Jaime Lowe | The New York Times Magazine
“To the unenlightened, fanny packs are synonymous with the ugly American: the perfect accessory for extra-large, convenience-obsessed people. But to me they promote the greatest of our nation’s ideals: freedom.”

PC Comedy and Paul Revere
Sady Doyle | Matter
“But even if all you do is make them laugh, even if all you do is entertain them, there is that one, lingering problem. There is the power of art to inspire. You don’t want to be the victim of Christopher Archer or someone like him. But even if you were physically safe, could you ever entirely forgive yourself if you knew that you were the voice running through his head?”

We Are Not Your Friends
Jia Tolentino | The Awl
“The movie’s structured like a comedy, but no one is having fun. They are in constant pursuit of fun, but they can’t get on top of it, or recognize it, or are too drugged out to remember. The only moment of tangible good emotion comes directly from festival molly; otherwise, everyone’s too nervous, too sure that there’s something better, always on their way up or down.”

My Book Is Not My Baby
Stephanie Feldman | Electric Literature
“The cliché may say something about creativity, but it says even more about how we view work and how we validate ourselves; it’s another glimpse into our culture’s hybrid of reverence for motherhood and revulsion for women’s bodies.”

The Ruthless Capitalism of Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
Alexander Kriss | Kill Screen
“Mario is Nintendo’s consummate protagonist, and so it is significant that he is disinterested in money, despite its abundance throughout his world. How does he keep up the payments on that castle of his? What keeps the lights on? Good deeds, Nintendo seems to suggest. Mario saves the day, and the rest takes care of itself.”

Hillary Clinton’s Taste in TV Is so Uncool, It’s Charming
Esther Breger | The New Republic
“‘Hillary Clinton loves to watch television shows about Hillary Clinton,’ the Free Beacon gleefully pointed out yesterday, and they are not entirely wrong ... While our current president appears on ‘WTF’ and ‘Between Two Ferns,’ there is something refreshing, even charming about Clinton’s unpretentious pop-culture consumption.”