Ghostbusters and Barbershops: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

The highlights from seven days of reading about entertainment


Ghosts From Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively
Elif Batuman | The New Yorker
“If the original Ghostbusters was about the thrill of the free market, the new one is about its consequences—about the people it disenfranchises, and the possibility that they will try to take violent retribution. To get anything, in the new New York, you have to take it from someone else.”

Goodbye to the Barbershop?
Kristen Barber |The Conversation
“In some white gentrifying neighborhoods, the barbershop is actually making a comeback. These new barbershops primarily act as places where men can channel a form of masculinity that supposedly existed unfettered in the ‘good old days.’ Sensory pleasures are central to the experience: The smell of talcum powder, the cool burn of aftershave and the site of shaving mugs help men to grapple with what it means to be a man at a time when traditional definitions of masculinity are in flux.”

Nickelodeon Grew Up and Blew Up in 1996
Erik Adams | A.V Club
“On Kenan & Kel, anarchy reigned within the confines of an old-fashioned sitcom. Like Pete And Pete and Doug before it, Hey Arnold! was reverent toward the mysteries and joys of youth, but also aware of its profound melancholy. Before Blue’s Clues conquered the world and spawned an undying urban myth, it channeled the spirit of every great Nickelodeon production: play.”

Meet Lil Uzi Vert, The First Rockstar of Post-Obama Rap
Jason Parham | The Fader
“You know it when you hear it: the seesawing beats; the gliding hooks that feel like they’re rising out of some dark, hazy hell; the erupting bursts of lyricism that twist and turn before suddenly dissolving; the tales of endless nights and lost loves and unpardonable fuck-ups. Uzi has a wunderkind-like proficiency for this particular style, and he knows it.”

Did Fast and Furious Star The Rock Just Hand Vin Diesel His Candy Ass?
Marina Hyde | The Guardian
“I can’t even imagine the strain of living in that type of paranoia-inducing closed environment, let alone shooting a scene where a car has to head-butt a Chinook, and you daren’t even ask what your motivation for screaming NOOOOOOOOOO is, in case you’re being scoped. That set can have been nothing less than the panopticon of candyassery.”

Teju Cole’s Essays Build Connections Between African and Western Art
Claudia Rankine | The New York Times
“[Cole] lays bear the relationship among sentimentality, ignorance, corruption, pillage and complicity within our global communities. Under Cole’s watchful eye the world shrinks into a network of countries, communities, and individuals influenced by, dependent on, and affected by other countries, communities, and individuals.”

Is Andre Ward the Last Great African American Boxer?
Sunni Khalid | The Undefeated
“The confusing alphabet soup of more than a half-dozen rival sanctioning bodies, each with its own title and divisional rankings, has diminished the title of champion. Ironically, it is the mythical ranking of the best boxer, pound-for-pound, that carries the most relevance. By whatever metric, it is clear that change is here.”

No More Good Time in the World For Me
Max Nelson | The Paris Review
“One can imagine younger prisoners wanting to repudiate the music of their predecessors, but it’s also not hard to imagine that the songs themselves might have struck younger black prisoners in the sixties as defeatist or resigned. ‘The songs,’ Jackson wrote in the introduction to Wake Up Dead Man, ‘concentrate on the devices and forms of control, and the manifestations of impotence. The language of the songs is highly concrete, but the themes are not; the themes are negatives: things like unlove and unfreedom and unimportance.’”

Stranger Things, Ghostbusters, and the Value of Less Advance Hype
Jen Chaney | Vulture
“In the age of overhyped everything—from tentpole movies to second seasons of HBO series—there is something satisfying about finding a piece of pop culture that’s intended for mainstream consumption but somehow hasn’t been discovered yet. Our culture and certainly our media outlets, including this one, are super-thirsty at all times for information. Studios, creators, and marketers of films and TV shows are constantly figuring out how to feed the beast in a way that keeps their projects at the front of consumers’ minds.”

Nonsense, Cartoons, and My Post-Soviet Adolescence
Naré Navasardyan | Electric Literature
Apparently, my favorite childhood cartoon involved a manic, suicidal chain-smoking screenwriter; a pill-abusing film director; endless bureaucratic delays; the most obnoxious girl actress in the animated world; and a finale in which the entire crew weeps over their reward, a scrawny and unsightly bouquet. Once again the intended message is clear: filmmaking, as with much else in life, is a great deal of hard work in return for the superficial prize of fleeting applause.”