Master of None and Authenticity: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment


Can a Trip Ever Be ‘Authentic’?
Pico Iyer | The New York Times Style Magazine
“Our notion of places—which is to say the romances and images we project onto them—are always less current and subtle than the places themselves. That’s why we work to screen out the many shopping malls and signs for McAloo Tikki in Varanasi as we search for dead bodies near the ghats.”

2015: The Year Asian Americans Finally Got a Shot on TV
E. Alex Jung | Vulture
Master of None, in particular, has deftly tackled the issues of race: Its easy, conversational tone belies how cleverly it dismantles racial tropes. Moreover, it manages to acknowledge systemic racism toward people of color while refusing to be defined by it ... It could just be fine—mediocre, even—and we don’t have to agonize over whether the show was worth defending because it was ‘the only one.’ It could simply be left alone, and that, in some ways, might be the biggest gain of all.”

I Analyzed 10,000 Craigslist Missed Connections. Here’s What I Learned.
Ilia Blinderman | Vox
“That there exists a digital town square where lonely hearts can declare their feelings without fear of public rejection is both lucky and improbable, but the hit rate, by all accounts, is low ... Still, if it seems strange that a quirky section of a website that prides itself on an aggressively dial-up-era design has gained such traction in popular culture—all in spite of the scarce likelihood of finding love—look no further than the motivations of gold miners or oil prospectors.”

It’s Raining Menswear
Joshua Rothman | The New Yorker
“How plausible is it that, a few years from now, men on the streets of New York will be wearing capes designed by Antonio Banderas? The answer is ‘very’; it’s easy to name the combination of factors—heritage marketing, Game of Thrones, Kanye—that could make it happen.”

Scandal Has Turned Olivia Pope Into TV’s Best Anti-Hero Since Walter White
Alan Sepinwall | Hitfix
“But Rhimes and company have instead turned the show’s crazy history to their advantage. They’re not running away from every wild plot twist from prior seasons, but turning that into the very subject of the series ... Scandal isn’t sprinting away from its over-the-top past, but diving right back into it, and asking how those events would shape the people who endured them.”

The Inside Story on What Makes Spotlight So Extraordinary
Mike Ryan | Uproxx
“Cynicism aside, filmmakers often have a problem with falling in love with their subjects, especially if that subject is still living and breathing. It’s human nature to trust that the person they’re making a movie about is telling the whole story ... this isn’t journalism. But what happens when a filmmaking team doesn’t just take its protagonists’ word for it?”

Peak Inequality: Investigating the Lack of Diversity Among TV Directors
Maureen Ryan | Variety
“When it comes to the issue of diversity in Hollywood, non-white women are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine. A meaningful commitment to inclusion will mean they are hired regularly, along with white women and men of color. Their near-absence hints at much deeper institutional problems in the TV industry.”

The New Cool Girl Trap: Why We Trade One Set of Rigid Rules About Who’s “Likable” For Another
Arielle Bernstein | Salon
“If the ‘cool girl’ performs a fantasy for men, the ‘fuck likability girl’ performs a fantasy for other women: the idea of a female creature so fabulous and free that she just doesn’t care if other people like her at all. Like ‘no makeup’ selfies and the trend of supermodels raving about how much junk food they eat, the anti-likability moment is a layered performance, one part critique of social norms, one part buying right back into them.”

Why Is Othello Black?
Isaac Butler | Slate
“It’s an understandable question. Shakespeare’s writing mostly predates the transatlantic slave trade and the more modern obsession with biological classification, both of which gave rise to our contemporary ideas of race. When Shakespeare used the word ‘black’ he was not exactly describing a race the way we would. ”

You’re the Worst Is the Realest Cartoon on TV
Eric Thurm | Wired
“What’s much more realistic, and more interesting, is forcing the characters to contend with the many projections of themselves, then giving up and going to snort more cocaine. We’re all going to die, and no matter what we won’t stop distracting ourselves with pointless trivialities like ‘connecting with other people’ and ‘happiness,’ something the show prods us with once or twice an episode. What could be more realistic than that?”