Creepy Crushes, Fictional QBs: 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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Veronica Mars and the Case of the Disappearing Movie
Veronica Mars exists as a movie because it can’t exist anymore as a TV show. (Ditto Firefly/Serenity, but bear with me.) And despite a feeble attempt to expand the frame to the cinematic sprawl of 2:35-1 anamorphic—as opposed to the show’s more modest 1:78-1—this thingamabob’s visual template hasn’t changed much from TV. (As my colleague Keith Phipps noted, “It looks and plays an awful lot like the TV show, reviving its darkened-rooms-and-Venetian-blinds and beach-noir aesthetic.”) So the Veronica Mars movie is a dead thing that fans have summoned back into existence, and to the tune of $5.7 million, which so reduces the risk on Warner Bros.’ end that Thomas likely didn’t have to take a single executive note. This sounds like a stirring triumph of democracy in action, with marshmallows liberating Thomas to go off and pursue the movie he wanted to make. But, in fact, what has actually happened is that fans have replaced studio bosses as the people for whom Thomas was making the “movie.” And for all the insider pleasures that result, it also fucks this Veronica Mars up badly.
How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You: The BeyHive
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
Like all superfans, the BeyHive to some extent thrives off the sense that their bond to the object of their affection is intimate and specific even when it is not. What is specific with someone like Beyoncé, the now equal-earning, if not out-earning, wife of a man worth a half-billion dollars, who obtained that money with her own blood, sweat and tears as a teenager in a girl group, and later out-Svengali-ed her looming, impresario father, broke off and eclipsed her groupmates to become one of the world's most top-selling solo artists, is that her fans feel like they have been there for her success. They are proud of her. They have watched her grow up and watched her win. Beyoncé's totemic status with the BeyHive is legendary. The Hive is fiercely protective of its Queen Bee. Besides Beyoncé's concerts, the foremost apiary of the BeyHive is on the Internet, on Twitter. On Twitter, you can find the Hive massive and worldwide: the bugged out French teenagers, the Brazilians tweeting from Rio, the white boys in the Midwest with Broadway dreams, connected by their love of Beyoncé, all speaking in a lexicon that makes them sound like both the forefront of the beekeeping movement and the ultimate Beyoncé fans. If you insult Beyoncé on Twitter, the Hive will insult you until you rue the day you were born, or regret the day you canceled your gym membership.
The Whitewashing of Pop Radio
Some may counter this argument by pointing out that 2014 is different, that it is the breakout year for black artists such as Beyonce, Aloe Blacc and Pharrell. But in each case, these artists have broken out despite pop radio, not because of it. Aloe Blacc used television commercial licensing, Pharrell dominated YouTube and Europe, and Beyonce won the PR and marketing wars, all creating their own hits and buzz. Broadcast radio simply accepted those artists’ hits once they were established in other mediums, further cementing its new role as a meek follower of buzz created elsewhere; the musical equivalent of Overstock.com. But for every Aloe Blacc, there are a dozen talented artists who are increasingly shut out from a pop radio world that appears to view them as a risk for reasons other than their music.
The New York Times
Arena's Meditation Room Raises Its Own Existential Questions
Very few Nets fans have heard of the room, and even fewer use it, at least not for meditation. It appears to sometimes double as a storage room; several pieces of luggage sat in the corner on a recent night.
The room has been mostly ignored since its official opening last week, but a few fans have stopped to puzzle over it.
“Why would you want to do that when you came here to watch a game?” Roger Kunch, a Nets fan from Long Island, said when informed of the room’s existence.
The meditation room counts essentially as an asterisk in the long list of promises that Forest City Ratner, the project’s developer, made to the borough after years of tense negotiations and bitter disputes over the 22-acre parcel of land near Downtown Brooklyn.
The Best (Fictional) Quarterback of All Time
Bill Barnwell and Shea Serrano
The best line ever delivered by any quarterback in any movie or TV show belongs to Matt Saracen from the Friday Night Lights series. (You can read Grantland’s oral history of the show here.) If you’re unfamiliar with Friday Night Lights, it’s set in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, and is mostly about Dillon’s high school football team. Saracen is the most unstoppably heartbreaking/charming character on the show. He’s built to be a forever backup (slight, humble, insecure), but gets shoved into the starting spot when the true quarterback gets his spine snapped during a game in the first episode of the first season. Saracen is a tragic figure. He exists to be pummeled. Every single good thing that happens to him—every tiny morsel of happiness he’s handed by the universe—is given to him only so someone can yank it away in a particularly crushing manner. His mom left him (for a better life), his dad leaves him (to serve in the military), his first girlfriend leaves him (for another guy), his second girlfriend leaves him (for another country), his coach leaves him (for a better job), his teammates philosophically leave him (for what they think is a better quarterback), and his grandmother unintentionally leaves him (she has dementia, which gets worse as the show moves forward). Which leads to the Best Line.
In the 14th episode of the much-maligned second season, Saracen gets into a drunken shouting match with his coach. (The coach has thrown him into a cold shower and begun berating him after a week or so of Saracen dodging practice and getting drunk.) Saracen finally cracks, firing through an inventory of the people who have abandoned him, ending it with a devastating, “Everybody leaves me … What’s wrong with me?”
The Full Boyle: Guys Who Don’t Hear “No” Just Aren’t Funny Anymore
Of course, plenty of good comedy features exaggeration of everyday ills—making light of the tragedy of life is the reason comedy exists. But dismissing the creeper dynamic when a guy won’t leave a woman alone downplays an often-dangerous real-life situation in a way that falling over a bunch of times in a yoga class doesn’t. And things played as textually creepy on Mad Men or Law & Order are being played for laughs in sitcoms with almost no change of context, except one: Sitcoms pretend there are no consequences for the woman being pursued. In most sitcoms, there’s an acknowledged comfort zone that allows us to enjoy what might be uncomfortable in something more realistic: We know these heroes are essentially harmless. The objects of their affection can turn them down a hundred times, and the gentleman will go right on as he has before, until sweeps week forces them into a locked closet together or makes them pretend to be married. She’s never punished at work for turning down the advances of a lovelorn superior. She’s never in danger of the behavior escalating into violence. Everything’s fine. It’s funny. (Also funny: Boyle’s behavior so far this season hits every single bullet point for the Romantic Stalker on this list of warning signs from the Network for Surviving Stalking.)