Frozen's Anthem, Barbie's Sex Life: The Week's Best Pop-Culture Writing

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

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David J. Phillip / AP

What Is Virgin-Shaming?
Hunter Schwarz

Virgin-shaming often occurs with public figures who are open about their religious beliefs. At a 2009 SEC press conference, then-21-year-old University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was asked if he was “saving himself for marriage.” The room nervously laughed before Tebow answered that he was. It’s a question other athletes are not asked.

“I think it’s totally unfair,” Craig Gross, founder of XXXchurch, a Christian group that helps people overcome addictions to pornography said. “If you say, ‘I’m not religious and I’m single,’ people aren’t going to ask you if you sleep around.”

Public figures have also been asked how they “deal with temptation,” as the Jonas Brothers and Jordin Sparks were in separate interviews following the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards where comedian Russell Brand made light of the band’s promise rings symbolizing abstinence until marriage. It’s a question that typically invites awkward answers (“Isn’t it hard?” Barbara Walters asked the Jonas Brothers. “Of course, um … it’s hard … doing that … for sure,” Kevin responded) and again, is not something that would be asked of someone who chose to have sex before marriage.

Disney Editions

The Endangered Art of the Movie Novelization
Will Sloan

According to a 2012 article in the Houston Press, “When you want a science fiction movie adapted into a novel that might be better than the original source material, you don’t fuck around. You speed dial Alan Dean Foster and send the check pronto.” The opening scene of his novelization of Alien depicts the crew members in “hypersleep” on the way to Earth. Foster takes the opportunity to describe their dreams and flesh out their backstories—when they finally wake, the reader has more background on them than the film could provide. Embellishments like this have made Alien and its sequel among the few novelizations that have been consistently in print (a reissue from Titan Books is coming next month).

Foster has written dozens of science fiction novels and hundreds of stories of his own. He had several original novels to his credit in 1974 when Judy-Lynn Del Ray, his editor at Ballantine Books, commissioned a novelization of Luana, an Italian film about a female Tarzan, on the basis of his film degree from UCLA. “Being a young, eager writer [I] said, ‘Sure,’ without knowing what I was going into. I said, ‘Send me the script, I’ll work from the script.’ She said, ‘There is no script, but we’ll arrange a screening of the film for you in Los Angeles.’ So I went to this little dinky walk-up office on the third, fourth floor, someplace off Hollywood Boulevard. And they screened it for me and it was all in Italian with no subtitles. That wasn’t terribly helpful because I spoke no Italian.” The artist Frank Frazetta had been commissioned to paint promotional posters for the film, none of which bore much relation to the film itself. “So I novelized a Frank Rosetta painting, essentially,” Foster continues, and wrote his own female Tarzan book. A Disney representative called his publisher to see if the film rights were available.


The One Literary Reference You Must Know to Appreciate ​True Detective
Michael M. Hughes

The King in Yellow is a fictional play within a collection of short stories—a metafictional dramatic work that brings despair, depravity, and insanity to anyone who reads it or sees it performed. Chambers inserts only a few selected scenes from the play into his story collection, and all of them are from the first act. This act, we are told, is a bit of a honeypot, luring readers into the cursed text. If they read even the first few words of Act II they are driven insane by the revelation of horrible, decadent, incomprehensible truths about the universe.

Anyone familiar with Lovecraft's "cosmic horrors" should see the thematic similarity. For his unfortunate protagonists, the ultimate truths of the universe are too much for their overloaded minds to handle. It should not be surprising that Lovecraft incorporated Chambers's The King in Yellow into his overarching Cthulhu mythos, embellishing the elements of the story and adding the fictitious play to his growing bookshelf of equally fictional mythos tomes.

The New York Times
How Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Inspired a Disney Princess
Melena Ryzik

To reconfigure Elsa from her villain role, they wrote “Let It Go.” “When we first penciled it in,” Mr. Lopez said, they called it something which, to our chagrin, we cannot print here. “Elsa’s song of empowerment,” Mr. Lopez suggested as a replacement. “Elsa’s fierce song,” his wife added. Mr. Lopez: “Elsa’s kick-butt song.”

(Especially accurate since the script at the time called for Elsa to come down from her mountain hideaway and attack her village, Mr. Lopez said, “with her army of snowmen.”) But the Lopezes saw the sisters – a Disney first, in terms of lead heroines – in a different way.

“I said, ‘You have a chance to make the first really funny Disney princess,’” Ms. Anderson-Lopez said. “I’m so exited about the potential that Anna has to sort of bring in the world of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, the goofy self-deprecating female heroines that are in our culture” now.

Rick Bowmer / AP

Why Do So Many People Hate Lolo Jones?
Justin Peters

And yet it isn’t Lolo Jones’ fault that people want her to endorse their products or pose for their magazines. If Jones declined these opportunities, it’s not as though the corporations seeking her services would rethink their marketing strategies and refrain from using attractive athletes as spokespeople. They’d just find some other attractive athlete to make famous.

Should we blame Jones for accepting these opportunities when they arise? Should we blame her for leveraging her looks into checks that her athletic abilities can’t cash? Maybe. But why should we blame Jones for choosing to make some money during the brief window of opportunity when she’s marketable? And why should we blame her for profiting off of her tragic backstory? It’s her backstory! She lived it. She’s free to do whatever she wants with it—exploit it, bury it, whatever.

Flickr / JeepersMedia

The Cut
My Barbies Had So Much Sex. It Was Great.
Ann Friedman

Anti-Barbie arguments have a tired ring to them — even among feminists, we’re in backlash-to-the-backlash mode. There’s also some research to back up the claim that Barbie affects girls’ body imageand their views on gender roles. Yet when I look back at my own Barbie-influenced youth, I have a hard time pointing to anything but positive effects. “The feminist perspective is she has this unattainable figure," McFadden says. "But Barbie was the only doll that had breasts, the only one to create a space where girls could start to fantasize about that.”

And fantasize we did. “My Barbie was a WHORE,” one friend told me. Another said her dolls “had the most active sex life ever. I rubbed their little flat fronts together almost every time I played.” Like the spectrum of adult sexuality, there was a lot of variety in Barbie’s sex life. “I definitely remember making them lay-down make-out,” said another friend. “I don't know if full sex was on my mind yet.” Just like real sexuality doesn’t exist in a vacuum (or in a perfectly posed photo on a magazine cover), it’s usually just one aspect of how girls are playing with Barbies. McFadden explains, “You have a little girl who’s starting to, step by step, day by day, grow into herself. The way that girls grow into themselves sexually is no different than the way they grow into themselves academically or creatively.”


After Normal
Wesley Morris

Looking’s lack of gay sass (Dom shares an apartment with a brassy straight woman) and fabulousness — the absence of what a good friend calls “A-gays” — feels like a conscious challenge. This is a show trying to see the men in gay males without forsaking their gayness. But you can feel Haigh and Lannan asking what else they can do with characters. The show in some ways is about that conflict with comfort — how, until the arrival of Patrick’s new boss, he was the only gay male at his game-design company and chose to overcompensate with self-deprecation.

The concern about the risks of gaining acceptance and losing your identity — or an aspect of it — is legitimate. I think Jack and Max are equally real and equally subversive characters. But you do long for greater indecency and deviancy to tell you where the standards and proprieties are. John Waters owes his career to fixed ideas of normalcy that had nothing to do with him. His brilliance grew out of opposition. It’s just that now the standards keep moving, enough for Hairspray to become a Broadway musical.