Michelle Obama and L.A.’s Cool Girls: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment

Rich Fury / Invision / AP

Hustle Is a Political Act: Michelle Obama’s SXSW Keynote Shifted the Spotlight
Ann Powers | NPR
“Selecting two of hip-hop’s most beloved and influential female artists as her peers, Obama quietly suggested that a problem usually viewed as still to be solved can be recast, at least somewhat, by taking a different historical view. For a couple of hours, a different vision of music and popular culture dominated, one with women of color at the absolute center, and it didn’t feel unrealistic.”

Inside the Elite, Super-Secret World of L.A.’s Coolest Girls on Facebook
Kristen V. Brown | Fusion
“If you get invited into ‘Girls Night In,’ it will probably change your life. It’s like joining a sorority—a digital sisterhood where women vent, fight, offer advice, trade tips, crack jokes, and critique each other’s selfies. It’s an interactive, communal diary, and a support group for womanhood.”

Wesley Morris | The New York Times Magazine
“The deployment of ‘bro’ as a means of disparagement is part of a generalized expression of fatigue with the wielding of white-male power, a feeling that has emboldened Clinton supporters. We’re no longer talking about the classic bro. We’re talking about trolls and, in lieu of a less printable word, jerks.”

Authoritarian Hold Music: How Donald Trump’s Banal Playlist Cultivates Danger at His Rallies
Chris Richards | The Washington Post
“And while the pundits have enjoyed some high-quality giggles over the quirkiness of Trump’s song selection, what matters far more is how this music shakes the air, how it shapes the psychology of the room … If anything, this is an important reminder that once a tune leaps off a singer’s lips, it becomes a sort of public utility, a container that can be filled with opposing ideas. Ultimately, a piece of music represents whoever’s listening to it.”

Why Better Call Saul Is the Anti-Breaking Bad
Matt Zoller Seitz | Vulture
“Money, status, satisfaction, and the possibility of behaving ethically in an unethical world are always at the heart of the characters’ choices … But it works because we have such affection for this world and these characters, and because every character struggle is ultimately about self-discovery, affirmation, and the unrelenting difficulty of surviving in a brutal, 21st-century economy.”

All Hail Comedy’s Takeover of TV
Maureen Ryan | Variety
“There’s a beguiling friskiness percolating through the TV comedy world right now: Dozens of shows feature open-hearted curiosity, a quiet devotion to craft, a willingness to break form, and an excitement when it comes to subverting expectations and trying new things. Comedies go to sad or even tragic places, and everywhere you look, there’s great physical comedy, sharp wordplay, weird sex, buoyant silliness, understated despair, and a sense of wonder. ”

Making Museums Moral Again
Holland Cotter | The New York Times
“It could wake people up; compel them to stop, look, and read when they might have passed by; and prompt them to see that art isn’t just about objects—it’s about ideas, histories, and ethical philosophies that they may have a stake in, and an opinion about. It seems to me that one point of museum programming is to get people to think, as opposed to endlessly snapping selfies.”

I Want You Still: Celebrating 40 Years of Marvin Gaye’s Sensual Classic
Jason King | Pitchfork
“Like no other record before or since, I Want You captures the distilled feeling and aesthetics of black sensuality, sex, and simmering erotic desire—right down to the seductive bump ‘n’ grind cover art by the late great Ernie Barnes. With its ambient soundscapes, yearning melodies, experimental tempos, elegant chord changes, and haunting lyrics, the album is, for my money, the sexiest rhythm and blues record ever made.”

Historical Fiction and the New Literary Taboo
Pauls Toutonghi | The Millions
“Walter Benjamin wrote that it is ‘more arduous to honor the memory of the nameless than that of the renowned.’ And there are a number of novels, right now, that are balancing these antipodes—that take significant, well-known historical moments, and show them through the lens of nearly powerless, ‘nameless’ protagonists. Through individuals buffeted by the afflictions of their age.”

Krisha: How a Home Movie Became an Indie Film Sensation
David Ehrlich | Rolling Stone
“It was also perfect for his highly autobiographical portrait of addiction that would rather examine raw wounds under a microscope than pretend that they aren’t still bleeding. Taking ‘write what you know’ to the next level, Krisha not only digs up a tragic episode from Shults’ recent family history—it stars the actual people who survived it.”