Samantha Bee and Barbie's New Body: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days about reading about entertainment

Jason DeCrow / AP

Smirking in the Boys’ Room
Rebecca Traister | New York
“Bee is trying to become a (humorous!) feminist voice we trust on topics outside (though certainly relating to) the female condition, like, you know, electoral politics and public policy and global warming and immigration. But to succeed at producing a weekly show that slices headline news to the quick, she must be two things that women are not always embraced for being—very funny and a little angry—and she must be those things while exuding a quality almost never afforded women: authority.”

Barbie’s Got a New Body
Eliana Dockterman | Time
“As much as Mattel has tried to market her as a feminist, Barbie’s famous figure has always overshadowed her business outfits. At her core, she’s just a body, not a character, a canvas upon which society can project its anxieties about body image.”

The Nostalgic Science Fiction of The X-Files
Joshua Rothman | The New Yorker
“Today, pop culture worships badasses. Everyone cultivates a fashionable, skin-deep vulnerability; underneath, they’re superheroes with jujitsu skills and heads full of put-downs. The X-Files pre-dates this trend. Often, Mulder and Scully were confused and powerless; in the end, the bad guys got away, slinking back into the woods (or the Pentagon) to lurk forevermore. In that sense, The X-Files was pretty realistic, when you think about it.”

Why Are Americans Ignoring Trevor Noah?
Willa Paskin | Slate
“But if you watch The Daily Show night after night, you get the sense that the writers have adjusted their tactics for a very different kind of host—a Potemkin Jon Stewart, someone smooth and ingratiating who is reaching for unconverted viewers, instead of an inveterate political satirist preaching to the deeply informed.”

DJ Khaled’s Journey of Success Started Long Before Snapchat
Ryan Pfeffer | Miami New Times
“On paper, Khaled’s career doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He’s released eight full-length albums but doesn’t actually rap on any of them. He’s perhaps the most quoted figure in hip-hop, able to create viral catch phrases with an ease that marketing executives dream about ... He’s a human pop-up ad who, to many, is known simply for shouting his own name like a hairy brown Pikachu.”

Zinger! Kristaps Porzingi Is Silencing Doubters and Taking Over New York
Lee Jenkins | Sports Illustrated
“It is an act of contortion almost as acrobatic as a lefthanded floater in a crowded lane. The NBA is populated by outsized humans, but there is something especially supernatural about the length of Porzingis, which can’t simply be characterized by wingspan measurements at predraft workouts.”

I’m So Damn Tired of Slave Movies
Kara Brown | Jezebel
“When movies about slavery or, more broadly, other types of violence against black people are the only types of films regularly deemed ‘important’ and ‘good’ by white people, you wonder if white audiences are only capable of lauding a story where black people are subservient.”

Up the Anti: How Rihanna Rewrote the Rules of Pop
Peter Robinson | The Guardian
“The timing of her arrival and rise sidestepped the tailing off of the Perez Hilton-type celebrity culture of the mid-2000s and centered on direct-to-fan communication that allowed artists to control their own image. For some acts, this requirement to let the world into their affairs was far from ideal, but nobody on the pop landscape has defined their image as well as Rihanna.”

Letter of Recommendation: Cracker Barrel
Jia Tolentino | The New York Times Magazine
“The nostalgia sold by Cracker Barrel alongside every plate and trinket requires no previous emotional stake in the South as an institution … The aggression in Southern culture is heightened by the fact that it often passes as gentility. But Cracker Barrel makes the South seem, just briefly, like the front-porch paradise it believes itself to be.”

Why is Martin Shkreli Still Talking?
Allie Conti | Vice
“Echoing comments he made to the Wall Street Journal, Shkreli tells me he regrets playing a ‘character’ on TV and Twitter ... But at the same time, he realizes that the villain people love to hate gets more airtime. And attention is something he desperately, achingly craves. ‘A great bad guy is your best act,’ he says.”