Archie Comics and Jazz-Rap: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Bikas Das / AP

Archie’s Long, Dark Journey to Riverdale
Abraham Riesman | Vulture
“The characters are also a romantic vision of another time, though not in the way you might think. Sure, there’s a way in which the Riverdale gang harkens back to an invented, Pleasantville-esque period of American consensus and stability. But the time that we seek through Archie and his pals isn’t a historical time, but rather a personal one: adolescence. When you’re a child, you thumb through an Archie digest and, like the young Aguirre-Sacasa, dream of how great it’ll be to be a teenager. When you pick up one of Goldwater’s revamped Archie comics as an adult, you’re dreaming of how great it was to be a teenager. Either way, you’re pining for those axial days of high school.”

The Future of Abortion on TV
Julie Kliegman | The Ringer
“For an abortion plotline that’s both entertaining and destigmatizing, look to Jane the Virgin, the third-season CW show with the premise that Jane (Gina Rodriguez) brings a baby into her Catholic family—rather than getting an abortion—after she’s accidentally artificially inseminated at 23. But in Season 2, Jane’s mom, Xiomara, gets pregnant and decides to have an abortion at the beginning of Season 3. To be blunt: That’s important, since TV generally underrepresents people of color getting abortions.”

Grave New World
Josephine Livingstone | The New Republic
1984 does not pastiche a world ravaged by capitalism and ruled by celebrities—the kind of world that could lead to the election of someone like Trump. Instead, it depicts suffering inflicted by state control masquerading as socialism. Remember, the banned book that opens Winston’s mind is called The Theory and Practice of Oligarchal Collectivism. That book, mixed with Winston’s own memories, supposedly reveal the true history of his world.”

Rebooting Queer Eye and Will & Grace Is a Mistake
Tom Vellner | BuzzFeed
“The producers are right: America stands divided as it approaches an uncertain future. It’s also true that gay men are brave and laugh and have hearts. But the fact that television producers are still using the words ‘moisturizer,’ ‘fabulous,’ and ‘pink’ to define gay men is flagrantly out of touch. Ten years after Queer Eye ended its popular run in 2007, gay men are apparently still being reduced to neutered sidekicks—portrayed as if they do not have complex interior lives of their own, because they’re too busy improving the fashion habits of straight men.”

Going Solo: Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth Steps Outside the Frame
Mike Powell | Pitchfork
“Here’s a guy who once wrote a concept album that in his words juxtaposed ‘the Aztec Empire with contemporary America and this idea of the destruction of place,’ who seemed strenuously, almost angrily opposed to making art that might humanize him in the eyes of his audience. Now he’s writing about lovers lying silently in each other’s arms and how heartache can turn even a brick wall inside out. Reality—the mundanity of it, but also the way those mundanities accrue into something remarkable—is the grail now.”

Aminé and the Politics of Jazz-Rap
Tirhakah Love | MTV News
“Why should Aminé’s political coda be such a surprise? Even as hip-hop begins to embrace positive-leaning comfort music in trying times, there’s a very real need to ground that optimism within the realities of the Trump era. The words that Aminé added on The Tonight Show ended up overshadowing the rest of his performance—but that’s not a dis. In this case, working backward toward protest was exactly the right move. Aminé’s performance was a potent symbol of the way that urge will continue to seep into even the most seemingly apolitical music. White, mainstream audiences matter, not only in determining how well a song charts but in building up a national consensus across racial and class lines against fascism, racism, and xenophobia.”

What Does Trainspotting’s Opening Speech Mean Today?
Stuart Jeffries | The Guardian
“What both [Irvine] Welsh and [Chuck] Palahniuk were addressing as the last millennium hobbled towards its end was not just consumerism’s existential void, but a crisis in masculinity, wherein men bridled at the domesticated half-lives they were leading and dreamed of a wild transvaluation of prevailing values. (Whether women were similarly bridling wasn’t considered in Fight Club or Trainspotting. Not really.)”

Reading the Game: Red Dead Redemption
Jason Sheehan | NPR
“If we take as fact that Westerns are the American literary counterpoint to the samey-sameness and circular repetition of the Campbellian Hero's Journey in European high fantasy—that, like jazz or cubism, the Western exists to turn classical form inside out in an attempt at telling a truer story by beginning with the hero, broken by his labors, and attempting (almost always) to get a fresh throw of fate's dice—then Red Dead is a bonafide masterpiece.”