Blackflix and Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

April Joyner | Marie Claire
“Just because I’m black—and even though I am keen to support black filmmakers—doesn’t mean every single movie or show I watch needs to feature black actors or be about ‘black stories.’ There are plenty of reasons I might want to watch Beyond the Lights.”

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone Is What Happens When Diversity Doesn’t
Damon Young | Very Smart Brothas
“Much of Simone’s work was specifically centered in her specific experience as a dark-skinned black woman who existed outside of America’s—white America’s and, sadly, black America’s—general standard of what’s considered beautiful. Zoe Saldana, on the other hand, doesn’t just exist within the standard. For many, she is the standard.”

The Weight of James Arthur Baldwin
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah | Buzzfeed
“Baldwin’s people have an old-world, sophisticated manner. They offer you three types of tea, whiskey, and their time. They’re patient and generous. They never ask me what I’m doing there. They are tolerant of my desire to find the quiet bibliography that he left behind in the small notations, brushes, and ephemera of his life.”

On Poverty
Alison Stine | Kenyon Review
“Making art is more than a leisure activity exclusively for the well-off. For some, including the poor, it’s a calling that cannot be denied. There is no stronger motivation than that. There is no brighter fire. There are other voices beyond professors. Other kinds of lives, other struggles that are real, vividly imagined, and deserving of time.”

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Get in Formation
Vann R. Newkirk | Seven Scribes
“Who says I can’t be fierce; that I can’t embrace the same kind of joyous, jubilant, dancing celebration of myself as her fans do? Who says that my journey to the Joy, that capital-letter rebellion of embracing freedom and liberation, has to be done through the cold, rigid lens of hypermasculinity? While some things may not resonate as deeply with me because my own struggles are already highlighted in our media, who says Beyoncé can’t be my musical liberator of choice?”

Letter of Recommendation: Vanderpump Rules
Naomi Fry | The New York Times Magazine
“I’d rather poke out my own eye with a stick than participate in a so-called opting out. But thinking of stasis as one possibility among others—even if just for limited periods of time, even if just in the sense of loosening the hectoring voice in your own head that urges you to always keep marching forward—seems a culturally viable, emotionally necessary option.”

Joe Cool
Alicia Eler | The New Inquiry
“But Joe doesn’t need to be your ‘friend’ online. He doesn’t want a Tinderized relationship. Trader Joe’s is counting on capturing successive generations of its target consumers by being the choice for no-choices, the place where generic brands can feel exclusive. You’ll know without having to be told. You’ll buy without ever wondering if you’ve made the wrong choice.”

Passport out of Regent Park: Mo-G on Life, Death, and Drake
Safy-Hallan Farah | MTV News
“We’ve seen many rappers come before him—just as eccentric and dynamic—but their stars tend to dim and fade out. Perhaps what sets Mo-G apart is all his grief, all his heart. He tells of the night he wrote ‘Mind Symphony’, and this crystalline moment around all of it. The uncertainty and fatedness of it all goes hand-in-hand for him—life, death, success, fame, the sacred and the profane.”

These Journalists Dedicated Their Lives to Telling Other People’s Stories. What Happens When No One Wants to Print Their Words Anymore?
Dale Maharidge | The Nation
“Many have changed careers and are doing well enough—on paper. Talk to them, however, and many say they miss the newsroom. Others soldier on, freelancing in a market of falling rates. Some drive for Uber; others lurch into early retirement, wondering if they’ll make it. Journalists often seek an emblematic person to illustrate a story. But sometimes there’s no single through-line character. Sometimes there are 22,000 of them.”

Brewers’ David Denson Hopes Coming out Paves Way to Achieving MLB Dream
Scott Miller | Bleacher Report
“Behind him are the shadows from which he emerged to declare himself to the world, finally brave and comfortable enough in his own skin to do something that no other active, affiliated professional baseball player ever has dared. Ahead are skies that have cleared for the first time in his memory, the dawn of an era that finally will allow him to continue pursuing a very old dream in a very new way.”