Serena Williams and Okja: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Dita Alangkara / AP

Serena Williams’s Love Match
Buzz Bissinger | Vanity Fair
“Serena plays a sport that requires the mental focus of instantaneously letting go of losing points and moving on because there are a lot of excruciating ones no matter how great you are, continual regrouping and re-inventing: Dwell on them, you lose confidence; lose confidence and you lose. She is also superbly conditioned, given that a female tennis player may run about three miles in a match without the luxury of coming out of the game because you feel winded or lost too much money gambling with teammates the night before on the charter and would rather mope on the bench.”

Paddington Bear, Refugee
Rebecca Mead | The New Yorker
“Paddington’s story is, like Mr. Gruber’s, an immigrant story, conveyed through the beguiling mishaps that he endures in his journey of assimilation. How do faucets work? (You need to turn them off.) What is meant when an attendant at the theater asks if you would like a program? (You are supposed to pay for it.) This theme—of the immigrant’s arrival, and the natives’ initially wary but ultimately wholehearted embrace—was accentuated in the story’s excellent movie version, from 2014.”

How the Women of Summer 2017 Are Changing Hollywood
Darren Franich | Entertainment Weekly
“The important thing to remember, of course, is that this isn’t just some hiccup in female-centric big-screen entertainment. Taken all together, it feels like Hollywood has reconsidered what it means to produce feature film entertainment: who can star in a blockbuster, and how audiences will enjoy those stars. That’s the core message brewing in other upcoming high-profile projects.”

The Bachelorette Has Confused Racism With Entertainment
Gabby Bess | Broadly
“I became somewhat addicted to the Bachelor franchise because it’s a fascinating human experiment, not in love, but in social behavior more broadly. The show’s true premise is cruel—how do people react when ostensibly trying to make a human connection despite only getting to spend a total of, like, 24 hours with the object of their affection and countless more time with their rivals?—but usually it's benign.”

How Okja Produced the Best Korean American Character in Film History
Donnie Kwak | The Ringer
Okja is the most memorable film I’ve seen in a long while. The Koreans, led by the unforgettable Ahn as Mija, are the most developed, intricate, and layered characters; the Westerners, for a change, are the exaggerated stereotypes. In the middle, most authentic of all, are a couple of hyphenated Koreans trying to make sense of everything.”

The Guilty Pleasure of Reading Hollywood Memoirs
Carolyn Kellog | The Los Angeles Times
“Memoir is another matter. Idiosyncratic and biased, obfuscatory and boastful, even unctuous and vain, the Hollywood memoir is not going to portray the past in a clear light. But like Sriracha on the table, it’s going to bring the heat and make the meal better. So much better.”

Monocle’s View From Nowhere
Kyle Chayka | The New Republic
Monocle views the world as a single, utopian marketplace, linked by digital technology and first-class air travel, bestridden by compelling brands and their executives. Diversity is part of the vision—the magazine’s subjects are from all over the world, and its fashion models come in every skin color—but this diversity is presented, in a vaguely colonialist way, more as a cool look to buy into than a tangible social ideal. Cities and countries are written up as commodities and investment opportunities rather than real places with intractable problems that require more than a subsidy to resolve.”

Lena Waithe Is What the Future of Hollywood Looks Like
Tomi Obaro | BuzzFeed
“Waithe belongs to a new breed of Hollywood star: the multihyphenate. Writer, director, producer, actor—combining these titles is no longer the preserve of big-name celebrities for their vanity projects. Increasingly, they’re the way people traditionally locked out of the Hollywood system—queer women of color certainly among them—can make the television and film that they want to see. Like her peers Issa Rae and Donald Glover, Waithe recognizes the necessity of being able to do it all”

The Art World Needs a Jolt
Jerry Saltz | Vulture
“We all have to admit that the art world isn’t the definition of radical right now. There’s still too much inbred art about itself or otherwise so specialized that it takes reams of explaining in almost unreadable texts just to say why it’s relevant at all—and those things that might feel relevant, or radical, in another context often get so buffered and wrapped in the wealth of the system—fancy museums, big biennials—that they cease to offer anything truly new-seeming.”

The Academy Is Expanding, but Meaningful Diversity Is a Long Way Off
Aja Romano | Vox
“While the Academy is eager to tout its growth rates, its overall membership is still woefully homogeneous—and despite the record numbers, the Academy’s push toward greater diversity may actually be slowing. Specifically, last year, 46 and 41 percent of the Academy’s 683 newly issued invites went to women and people of color, respectively. This year, those percentages are significantly lower, with just 39 percent of the total invites going to women and 30 percent going to people of color.”