Ghost in the Shell and Avatars: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment

Bandai Visual Company

Ghost in the Shell and Anime’s Troubled History With Representation
Emily Yoshida | The Verge
“But I never had to visually deal with the fact that these magical girls and teen soldiers and melancholy robots were Japanese—€”culturally, yes; racially, no. It was enough for me to hear Japanese being spoken and Japanese culture being referenced to. But Japanese people—€”flesh-and-blood humans—€”had long since been removed from one of Japan’s chief cultural exports.”

What Do Our Online Avatars Reveal About Us?
Amanda Hess | The New York Times Magazine
“But as I traverse the Web, I naturally scan for subtle clues in the avatars chosen by friends and strangers, reading their U.S.A.-themed scrapbooks and cat GIFs like leaves at the bottom of a teacup. On Twitter, an avatar flipped to Beyoncé in Lemonade or Prince reads like a pledge to a newly materialized online club; a bizarre cartoon points to a person who tweets frequently and with open self-loathing; an unhatched egg that appears automatically upon profile creation has become its own anti-avatar avatar.”

How Air Jordan Became Crying Jordan
Ian Crouch | The New Yorker
“For those of us who were sentient when Jordan was winning championships, seeing his face become a mocking emblem of sadness and incompetence has been jarring. Jordan never lost when it counted, and even during his strange baseball interlude, few dared call him incompetent. But today, Crying Jordan is one element in a much broader repositioning of Jordan’s place in the culture.”

Fame Is Other People
Elspeth Reeve | The New Republic
“Social media takes the plebs behind the wall. Even better than getting into a celebrity’s house, they can get into their brains through their phones. The flood of famous trivia—favorite smoothies, waist-cinchers, bathroom décor, best friends—has spawned fandoms that act like amateur detectives. Think CSI: Instagram. But while social media seems like a mirrored window that lets us glimpse famous lives, it’s two-way.”

Through the Looking Glass: How Children’s Books Have Grown Up
Byrd Pinkerton | NPR
“Gleason says these books were part of a shifting sense of what childhood really meant. In the late 1800s, a child, or, at least, a middle-class Anglo-American child, was becoming less of an economic unit and more of an emotional one. Childhood was seen as a space of protected innocence. So Alice embraced childhood curiosity and wonder, reinventing children’s books.”

Moving Beyond Pain
bell hooks | bell hooks institute
“Viewers who like to suggest Lemonade was created solely or primarily for black female audiences are missing the point. Commodities, irrespective of their subject matter, are made, produced, and marketed to entice any and all consumers. Beyoncé’s audience is the world and that world of business and money-making has no color.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Chance the Rapper: Men of Steel
Nadeska Alexis | Complex
“Drawing parallels between a Founding Father and a Detroit rapper may seem like a stretch for most, but for these two, it’s easy to see the connection. Both, they point out, were driven by an urgency to create, innovate, and rewrite the rules in order to win. Our cover stars share that same sense of obligation, along with the faith that success is within reach if you’re prepared to put in the elbow grease.”

Delicious Is Disgusting: How One Word Conquered Food Porn
David Andrew Stoler | Aeon
Delicious. With nary a plosive in sight after that first soft ‘d’, the syllables slush together somewhere in the jowls before being … ejected … by a mouth that maybe sort of expected them but was by no means a voluntary partner in their arrival. Phonaesthetically, it’s like biting into an apple neither crisp nor cold but mealy, like a sock full of sawdust. More than anything, it’s gross.”

Radiohead Burns Itself Clean With a Tense and Pained New Album
Alex McCown | A.V. Club
“Many of the tracks contain only one theme, of which the ensuing musical journey explores various permutations of that dominant concept. Songs expand or contract a single melody—or, more often, merely a motif—as though seeking to tease out the most compelling variant, before subsiding. Things like verses and refrains are mostly absent, so if the mood-music refinements of the last couple albums struck you as unsatisfying, there’s little here to intrigue.”