Britney Spears and Sad Girls: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment

Matt Sayles / Invision / AP

Is Britney Spears Ready to Stand on Her Own?
Serge F. Kovaleski and Joe Coscarelli | The New York Times
“The disturbing images seem so distant now: the pop-star-turned cautionary tabloid tale—head shorn, face twisted, umbrella gripped like a police baton as she bashed a paparazzi SUV window. More than eight years after her meltdown, Britney Spears, at 34, appears to be thriving.”

Why Do These White Women Look So Sad?
Laura Barcella | Pacific Standard
“You don’t have to be an expert on the trend to see that most Sad Girls are a pretty homogeneous bunch. Often white, young, and waifish, many of the more visible Sad Girls are conventionally beautiful. Though not all are women of means  ... their look does telegraph a leisure-time fantasy about people with depression that isn’t necessarily accurate. Most women who are clinically depressed do not, it turns out, look like 19-year-old Urban Outfitters models.”

If You Are What You Eat, America Is Allrecipes
Nicholas Hune-Brown | Slate
“And at a time when readers of aspirational food websites are used to images of impossibly perfect dishes—each microgreen artfully placed by some tweezer-wielding stylist—Allrecipes offers amateur snaps of amateur meals ... It is all, Kimball and his ilk would agree, extremely disappointing. It’s also perhaps the most accurate, democratic snapshot of American culinary desires.”

The Self-Conflict Zone
Hua Hsu | The New Yorker
“In the past, the impassive outlaw rapper and the gushing doe-eyed singer crossed paths only as a way of combining their genres’ respective charms for a hit single. Drake cracked the code: He collapsed the distance between these archetypes, seeming equally comfortable rhyming about dodging bullets and baring his insecurities in a come-hither hook.”

The Complete History of ‘Becky With the Good Hair,’ From the 1700s to Lemonade
Jennifer Swann | Fusion
“Some of us recognized it as the ultimate dig, a critique that is ambiguous yet sharply acute. Becky is white. Becky is basic. Becky is bitchy. Nobody likes her. We don’t need to know exactly who Becky is to understand the weight of the insult. Maybe she’s Rachel Roy or Rita Ora, as the tabloids have suggested, or maybe she’s a combination of women, or pure artistic fiction.”

Meet the First Superstars of the Beyoncé Generation
Jada Yuan | The Cut
“Chloe and Halle are a little new to the rhetoric—they pause when I ask if they consider themselves feminists, before Chloe answers, ‘Well, we’re women, so yeah!’—but perhaps that’s because they’ve grown up so soaked in the declarative independence OF Beyoncé that they don’t even recognize it. They are the first wave of young women raised with that believe-in-yourself-and-make-it-happen swagger. For them, female empowerment isn’t a choice they have to assert, and the record industry’s historical sexism feels like NBD. “

Why Jazz Will Always Be Relevant
Greg Tate | The Fader
“Because critics were so quick to label the album a black protest psalm, Butterfly hasn’t yet been fully recognized as the Bitches Brew of our time—an artist’s nuclear meltdown of this era’s dominant musical tropes into a definitive abstract-expressionist statement—one that We The People can feel, call and respond, rally around, freely quote, space out, get our wiggle on to, etc., etc.”

I Love Serial Entertainment and So Can You
Juliet Lapidos | The Awl
“The most demanding part of any narrative art form is the beginning, when everything—the style, the plot, the characters, perhaps even the universe in which the characters operate—is new. You must ask yourself: ‘What is this place? Who are the people? What are they after?’ Series minimize that period of difficulty relative to the total experience. You do the work once, and then you’re free and easy for aforementioned dozens or hundreds of hours of entertainment.”

California Notes
Joan Didion | The New York Review of Books
“I see now that the life I was raised to admire was infinitely romantic. The clothes chosen for me had a strong element of the Pre-Raphaelite, the medieval. Muted greens and ivories. Dusty roses. (Other people wore powder blue, red, white, navy, forest green, and Black Watch plaid. I thought of them as ‘conventional,’ but I envied them secretly. I was doomed to unconventionality.)”

A Witness for Abbie: How Genre TV Systematically Lets Black Women Down
Angelica Jade Bastién | The Village Voice
“But in genres that rely on imagination and fresh perspectives the way that science fiction and fantasy do, what does it say that writers can’t imagine the interior lives of their black female characters, even when they’re the leads of the show? Television has the appearance of greater diversity than Hollywood films, but what’s going on behind the scenes in terms of who is writing, directing, and running these shows is instructive as to why this pattern persists.”