Action Proust! Film Footage of Marcel Proust Surfaces for the First Time

The author would probably have appreciated the way a few seconds of footage has conjured up a wedding he attended more than a century ago: The opening section of his life’s work, the sprawling novel Remembrance of Things Past, has a celebrated passage about the way smells and tastes can bring long-forgotten worlds back to life:

… when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring , more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, hoping,  amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection. Proust scholars believe the author was most likely rushing out of the wedding in order to scarf down as many madeleines as possible at the reception before the other guests could arrive. A man believed to be Marcel Proust walks down the stairs at 37 seconds into the clip. The film, which can be seen above, was taken at the 1904 wedding of one of Proust’s friends, Armand de Guiche, to Elaine Greffulhe. Proust, who was 30 at the time, was known to have attended the wedding, and, being gay, was one of the only guests who came alone. The first, and almost certainly last, film footage of author Marcel Proust has been discovered in the French national film archives, France 24 reports. “The silhouette and the profile match him, although it is always difficult to identify for certainty with a film of this type,” professor Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan told Le Point. The bowler hat and grey suit match descriptions of his wardrobe, plus the man looks exactly like Marcel Proust.

The Misunderstood Ghost of James Baldwin

A proliferation of recent essays, films, and books haunted by Baldwin—from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me to Jesmyn Ward’s recent essay collection The Fire This Time—attests not only to his renewed relevance, but also to his particular usefulness for challenging the logic of perpetual trauma. Each moment fundamentally resembles our forefathers’, and historical change amounts to window dressing. But much of the criticism that’s been written been written about this cohort of contemporary black writers illustrates a general tendency to mischaracterize Baldwin’s influence. These bonds always threaten to become chains for Baldwin, and lineage seems coextensive with numbing repetition. Told me I was a human being. The younger James—named, crucially, after his writer uncle rather than his father—must shirk Oedipal logic if he is to slip white supremacy’s grip. For writers like Coates, Ward, and Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Baldwin is a specter that elicits an ambivalent mix of veneration and trepidation. If some contemporary black writers are drawn like moths to The Fire Next Time, it’s because they sense something important in this exit from repetition, this call to fashion the black self anew. In “My Dungeon Shook,” the first essay from The Fire Next Time, Baldwin pens a letter to his nephew and namesake James. If we’re just talking literary form, such criticism ignores these texts’ striking aesthetic feats. Coates is not just repurposing an old literary conceit; he’s also employing the skepticism toward lineage that the conceit implies. We might think of these writers as among a school of black nonfiction writers for which Baldwin is a problem as much as an interlocutor, a specter to which they return cyclically—almost compulsively—to both honor and decline. The very act of writing the letter to his son Samori represents a conscious break from the past, or at least an attempt to feel for possibilities beyond it. Toni Morrison—whose classic novel Beloved popularized the notion of a traumatic black history—unambiguously cast Coates as Baldwin’s literary son. Reading this sentence, it’s easy to be reminded of Baldwin’s letter to his nephew. The past should no longer be thought of as an inert, constricting burden, but a malleable resource. But by discussing these texts mostly in terms of how similar they are to Baldwin, or whether or not they’re deserving of Baldwin’s mantle, certain critics have committed the exact mistake that these works struggle to avoid—collapsing distinct historical moments into one. I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and chained me in the next.” This is the threat that Coates strains against throughout this book: not only the threat of being chained to outmoded and myopic assumptions, but also of passing his own wounds on to his son. If the grandfather “was defeated long before he died because, at the bottom of his heart, he really believed what white people said about him,” Baldwin arrives on the scene to teach his namesake that he must craft an identity separate from the caricature—the nigger—that white America has reserved for him. White supremacy might have swapped guises, but its power remains interminable and total. Peck’s decision to have Samuel L. Nothing is new.” For Ward, every aspect of contemporary life has a corollary in the Jim Crow past. It’s no surprise that, in the aftermath of Martin’s death, Ward returns to Baldwin with an eye toward the same cyclical regularity of racist violence. “I wanted you to have your own life, apart from fear—even apart from me,” he tells Samori. With Baldwin as the centerpiece of their inquiry, a generation of black thinkers are contesting this assumption. According to this thesis, black Americans exist in a moment of foundational violence—slavery—that repeats ad infinitum. But rather than erasing distinctions between the past and present, I Am Not Your Negro gestures toward a disjunction between Baldwin’s moment and our own. What does it mean to claim a man who disdains the very notion of descent as a father? This idea challenges a thesis that writers such as Michelle Alexander have made into a commonplace in contemporary analyses of black life: Black people are merely living through endless repetitions of slavery and Jim Crow, which white supremacists massaged into subtler forms of control. Having a life apart from history’s wounds necessarily entails a life apart from the father and his assumptions, and while Samori might take up the fight against white supremacy, his fight will not be Coates’. Jackson narrate the movie, for example, points to an antiphonal ethos: It structures its relationship with Baldwin as a conversation that might produce new knowledge. “I am wounded. Such writings amount to well-written paternity tests concerned with a single, tabloid-worthy question: Who’s the father? Rather than taking that thesis as a given, they interrogate it, forcing us to consider how black people can learn from the past without uncritically accepting our ancestors’ fears, assumptions, and intellectual legacies. We hear Jackson reading Baldwin’s unfinished project, as if Jackson and Peck were helping the dead writer finish a thought he couldn’t quite complete. Coates later returns to Paris, this time with his son in tow. I had the sense, while watching I Am Not Your Negro—based on notes that James Baldwin prepared for an unfinished memoir titled Remember This House—that Peck had borrowed Baldwin’s stance. The letter framing speaks to Coates’ hope that his son’s past will be fertile ground to cultivate, a valuable resource we may tap in order to better perceive our present, carrying forward what is useful and laying down what is not. He stages an encounter between the past and present, an exchange between two voices that produces something new. “I keep seeing your face, which is also the face of your father and my brother,” he writes. “Like him, you are tough, dark, vulnerable, moody … You may be like your grandfather in this, I don’t know, but certainly both you and your father resemble him very much.” From the essay’s beginning, Baldwin weights his language with a sense that the paternal relationship means incessant reiteration. In his entry to Alain Locke’s 1925 The New Negro anthology, Arthur Schomburg described the black American past as a patch of untilled soil that the “Old Negro” had been content to stand upon rather than cultivate. Peck isn’t alone in disputing this theory. I saw Trayvon Martin’s face, and all the words blurred on the page.” On the one hand, Ward’s citation of Baldwin’s enduring prescience becomes a measure of America’s static racial politics. They want to acknowledge the long shadows that slavery and Jim Crow cast on our present without standing in them. Reflecting on his time in Paris (Baldwin’s echo abounds), Coates recalls a “wholly alien” sense that he is finally “far outside of someone else’s dream.” This experience awakens him to a state of flux that he recognizes as life’s defining fact, a fact that he realizes only when he leaves America behind—and begins to glimpse a life that isn’t shot through with the perpetual sense of anxiety, fear, and anger that white supremacy has imparted to him. To write in Baldwin’s wake means to displace the father-teacher in a Whitmanesque act of parricide—not to dutifully shoulder the same historical burdens, but to comprehend one’s own historical moment more clearly. It’s this blurring that informs Ward’s act of writing and her impulse to gather a generation of writers in whom readers might find not fathers, but “a wise aunt [or a] more present mother.” This is an exit from Oedipal logic, a break in the chain, and Ward goes to Baldwin because he allows for this. As Ghansah writes in her contribution to Ward’s collection, “The Weight,” Baldwin left no heirs—only spares, people who might one day take his place. Her litany of substitutions creates a time warp, casting the reader into a perpetual moment of oppression. In her introduction to The Fire This Time, for example, Jesmyn Ward describes the experience of Trayvon Martin’s death as the latest episode of a recurrent nightmare. This is what is missing from the attempts to verify Coates’ status as Baldwin’s heir: The turn to Baldwin is not an act of reverence or restatement of knowledge that Baldwin already gave us. Taking, perhaps, another chance to needle West, Michael Eric Dyson delivered a precise analysis of Coates and Baldwin’s prose styles, concluding that “if Baldwin couldn’t be Baldwin now, he’d more than likely be Coates, or somebody like him.” Meanwhile, Vinson Cunningham marshaled eloquent close readings and a strong command of American literary history to argue that Baldwin and Coates diverge over their investment in religion, with Baldwin playing the committed Christian preacher to Coates’ clear-eyed atheist rapper. Rather than turning Samori into an heir, Coates wants his son to take stock of what has changed between their two historical moments—not because white supremacy has evaporated, but because taking account of change allows one to cast about for the hollows and gaps that black struggle has hacked into white supremacy’s edifice. Rather, it is a practice we always conduct in the present tense, reshaping the past in order to imagine desired futures. He continues to be necessary because the conditions he describes still exist, and his writings become immutable truths. His essays propose a queered definition of reproduction, one loosed from the Oedipal rhythm embedded in the question of lineage. History is the present. Near the end of Raoul Peck’s new documentary I Am Not Your Negro, James Baldwin (via the voice of actor Samuel L. Baldwin’s writing often looks askance at biological family ties, with language that figures generational bonds as a problem, laden as they are with oppressive histories. Perhaps this is why, even as Ward honors Baldwin, his words must recede into the background, blurring on the page as Trayvon Martin’s face takes precedence. Reviewers greeted Between the World and Me, for example, with an Oedipal wave hellbent on adjudicating whether or not Coates is Baldwin’s legitimate heir. The problem here is that Baldwin—a gay man who had no children—is the last writer one should turn to for an answer to that question. Told me I was something in the world. Though Coates knows that he is too close to America’s racist past to ever move beyond the behaviors it has instilled in him, the literary form of the letter becomes a space wherein this interruption in racist violence’s damage might persist—and be passed on to his son in lieu of a traumatic inheritance. It’s certainly intended to disrupt James’ otherwise inevitable inheritance of his forefathers’ passive acceptance of received roles. This is a traumatic model of black history whose hallmark is a deadening, Oedipal regularity. Read all the pieces in the Slate Book Review. In finishing that thought, Peck also allows a new, composite voice to come to the fore. We wouldn’t be wrong, but I suspect that Baldwin intended that statement in the same spirit that moved Schomburg: History is not immutable, a fate to which we must all eventually succumb. The film asks us to ponder what we can know about our contemporary moment when we stop ventriloquizing our ancestors, and begin to speak in our own voices. No matter what particular arguments they were making, they were all operating on the premise that Coates’ formal proximity to Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time demands an answer to the question of literary genealogy. His letter is an interruption in this line of descent, a familial relation not premised on the paternal. “Replace ropes with bullets,” she says. Cornel West, contrarian as ever, wrote that Coates is merely a “clever wordsmith with journalistic talent” who doesn’t live up to Baldwin’s revolutionary legacy. These feats enact a tortured ambivalence toward Baldwin that simultaneously instantiates and interrogates the history he represents. The same acknowledgement motivates Coates’ use of the letter conceit in Between the World and Me. He launched his career via literary patricide, turning on forefather Richard Wright in a cold-blooded (and unfair) display of literary bravura, and his oeuvre betrays a singular skepticism at the very idea of familial lineage. But Ward’s fantasy of Baldwin as father throws a bit of a wrinkle into her explicit pessimism. “Hound dogs with German shepherds. Baldwin intervened in the Oedipal cycle because he feared that generational bonds would become mental chains, and Coates has learned the lesson. To think otherwise, as Baldwin might say, would be criminal. Reading The Fire Next Time’s first essay, “My Dungeon Shook,” she finds such solace that she inserts Baldwin into her family tree, literalizing his status as a literary ancestor: “It was as if I sat on my porch steps with a wise father, a kind, present uncle, who … told me I was worthy of love. Titled “The Negro Digs Up His Past,” Schomburg’s essay argued that black America’s arrival as a modern people—and a new generation’s decisive break from the stereotypes associated with its forefathers—depended upon a new relationship to the past. The past and present are drawn into such a claustrophobic embrace that it seems pointless to draw distinctions between the two. We carry our history with us. Baldwin insinuates that there’s a queer aspect to the very act of writing, a self-fashioning that cuts against history’s necessities. To think otherwise is criminal.” Speaking as he does through Jackson, we might think that Baldwin is describing history’s inescapable purchase upon black life. The film interweaves archival footage of the Civil Rights Movement and Baldwin’s television appearances, contemporary images of protests and police violence in Ferguson, and original material into a volatile collage. This ambivalence is an occasion to strain against a traumatic model of history. Jackson) also speaks of the past, intoning that history “is not the past. A gray uniform with a bulletproof vest. Surviving as a black boy in America means shedding your father’s assumptions and taking up the burden of self-fashioning.

Milo Yiannopoulos Will Appear on Real Time With Bill Maher. What Fresh Hell Will it Be?

“Free speech should be something [liberals] own.”
Maher’s vehement opposition to “politically correct” culture will certainly be a main topic of conversation between the two, seeing as it’s something Yiannopoulos has often used to excuse his extremist behavior. The two are very much on opposite ends of the spectrum ideologically, but Maher has proven to have surprising crossover appeal with right-leaning thinkers—most notably, perhaps, with regard to his views on Islam. Bill Maher has booked alt-right favorite Milo Yiannopoulos to appear as the top-of-the-show guest on his HBO series Real Time this Friday, according to Deadline. Real Time With Bill Maher airs live Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. “I’ve been a longtime critic of colleges shutting people up,” Maher said last Friday in relation to the Berkeley protests. The news comes a week after Maher expressed interest in speaking with Yiannopoulos (whose racist provocations had him banned from Twitter last year) after his scheduled appearance at UC-Berkeley was shut down by protesters. Yiannopoulos will not appear on the show’s panel segment—which typically includes a mix of liberals and conservatives—and instead go one-on-one with the show’s aggressively opinionated host. Given his past history of bigoted, inflammatory statements, it could get ugly. No matter what direction their conversation goes Friday, this should provide one of the rare instances where Yiannopoulos will engage with a sharply liberal public figure before a wide, likely unfriendly audience.

Alvin Ailey’s Tribute to Moonlight Captures the Film’s Haunting Beauty Through Dance

On a bare black box stage lit blue, dancers Jamar Roberts, Christopher Taylor, and Jeremy T. Though three different actors embody the character of Chiron in three different periods of his life (tween, teen, and young adult), the spirit and direction of the actors’ performances are so powerful as to feel almost as if they are one. This gorgeous tribute to the Oscar-nominated film perfectly embodies that oneness. As choreographed by Robert Battle, artistic director of New York’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and directed by Anna Rose Holmer, who broke out last year with the critically acclaimed indie The Fits, Chiron’s emotional arc is rendered balletic. Villas perform to Nicholas Brittel’s signature score. One of Moonlight’s many cinematic feats lies in its casting.

Disney’s Live-Action Mulan Remake Taps Whale Rider’s Niki Caro to Direct

(Ava DuVernay, director of the upcoming A Wrinkle in Time, is set to be the first.)
Caro’s breakout film was 2002’s Whale Rider, which stars Keisha Castle-Hughes as a Māori girl who defies gender stereotypes to lead her people, while North Country features a woman fighting for equal rights in the workplace. The Reporter also announced that Bill Kong, who has produced notable crossover wuxia films such as Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has also boarded as executive producer. In light of hiring a non-Asian director, the studio seems eager to assure fans that the film will in fact cast Chinese actors in the lead roles, despite an early spec script that had added a white lead as a love interest for Mulan. Let’s get down to business: Disney’s Mulan remake has finally found its director. Previous reports suggested that Disney was seeking an Asian director and had spoken with Ang Lee (who passed for scheduling reasons) and Jiang Wen about the project. That makes Caro well-suited for a movie like Mulan, which is based on the Chinese folk tale about a woman disguising herself as a man to take her father’s place in the army. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news on Tuesday that the studio has hired New Zealand-based director Niki Caro, whose credits include Whale Rider, North Country, and upcoming drama The Zookeeper’s Wife, to direct the new live-action adaptation of the 1998 animated classic. The announcement, according to the Reporter, makes Caro the second female director ever to helm a (live-action) Disney movie with a budget over $100 million. Mulan is just one of a slew of live-action adaptations of the studio’s most popular animated films, which include Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast, which comes out in March. The Mulan remake, a blend of the original legend and the 1998 animated movie, is scheduled for release in November 2018.

Trevor Noah Reveling in Michael Flynn’s Resignation Is All of Us

In the cycle of the Trump Administration, a delay of even a few hours means you’re bound to be working off of old news. (On Kellyanne Conway’s starkly contradictory Today Show segment, Noah asked, “How does she say that with a straight face?”)
Yet by the time 11:00 p.m. Daily Show host Trevor Noah could barely contain his glee at the irony of it all. Drain the swamp—down the previous levels!” The story was big enough for Noah to spend two segments on it, later transitioning to Republicans’ laughably evasive responses to Flynn’s lies and subsequent departure. “President Trump is a genius, people—he hires a cabinet full of terrible people, fires them one-by-one, looks like he’s a man of action. rolled around, late-night comics were already far behind on the shocking information dumps. It was the latest blow to the Trump Administration, which has seemingly turned terrible decision-making into an art form. The New York Times and CNN broke major news well after Noah’s show-taping that it wasn’t just Flynn talking with the Kremlin—several “high-level officials” of the Trump campaign reportedly engaged in “constant” communication with Russian intelligence officials. Tuesday started off with a bombshell in the political world as Michael Flynn resigned amid swirling scandal, becoming the shortest-serving National Security Advisor in modern American history. Tuesday night’s Daily Show thus provides an illuminating reminder that as these revelations continue to pile up, it’s getting harder and harder—or perhaps a little easier—to make sense of it all. “Donald Trump [is] finally draining the swamp of the people he brought to the swamp,” he quipped.

Rap Is Less Homophobic Than Ever, But It Has a Long Way to Go

I thought all the other kids knew every breath and beat of Lisa Stansfield’s “Been Around the World.” They … did not. It upsets rap’s streetwise hypermasculinity to have a cherubic, eccentric drug dealer turned cosmetologist turned rapper crooning and rhyming his way through songs about drugs and women. My first sense of being “different” arrived at age 6, when I showed up to the first year of grade school months younger than everyone else, quiet and bookish, and picked up slang and mispronunciations I had no practical use for, to keep from coming off as a smart-ass. It’s a request most rappers don’t field in a lifetime, this urge to have him qualify his sexual identity beyond what he presents to listeners on record, and a curiosity borne out of a set of standards for manhood that are unique and, I maintain, injurious to rap. (The only rapper I remember standing up for his gay fans before everyone got suspiciously “woke” was Kanye West. This lines up with early interviews where Makonnen talks about first dabbling in rap during a seven-year house arrest. As off base as they were in their interview, the Migos were right about a few things: The world is fucked up. At one point, the group praises the diversity of the Atlanta rap scene, and the interviewer brings up Makonnen coming out, news the Migos had not been privy to beforehand. Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet includes “Meet the G That Killed Me,” which, in under a minute, posits gay sex as a slippery slope toward intravenous drug use and AIDS. Every few months I’m reminded that my old dream of normalcy, or at least persecution-free eccentricity, is a lie. The urge to be more like the other boys would drive me through a string of feigned interests—I still keep tabs on the exploits of players for sports teams I don’t care about in the slightest—that never quite seemed to fit. Travis Scott called a hometown audience “a bunch of queers” for being too quiet at a show and explained that he was just “a li’l turnt up.” The Migos quickly issued a sizable note of apology after the Rolling Stone flap—“We are all fans of Makonnens music and we wish he didn’t feel like he ever had to hide himself”—leaving the dart about Makonnen’s sexuality undermining his credibility, the very remark they’re in hot water for, unchallenged. You never feel weird as a child. “A lot of times, we hear a dude going to cosmetology school, we think … he’s gay,” Hot 97 morning-show host Ebro Darden ineloquently remarked in an early interview. They are clinging to flawed hegemony because the alternative—twisting out in the wilds all alone—is a fate far more frightening than dancing with the devil they know. True to form, 50 snapped back with gay jokes about him too.)
The party line among the present generation of rap fans is that we’re a more accepting community now, but I think we’ve been lulled into the illusion of progress we haven’t quite made yet. It’s public record. (This mindset is not specific to rap; it also rears its head in a dozen guitar-based music scenes, although hip-hop shoulders more of the burden for being more pridefully brutal about it on record.) Old-fashioned homophobia provided easy targets even our most righteous minds had a go at: A Tribe Called Quest’s vile anti-gay track “Georgie Porgie” narrowly missed inclusion on the classic Low End Theory. Eventually, we meet him as a surly adult with a short temper and gold grills, and he explains the transformation to a childhood friend with a simple, “I built myself hard.” It wrecked my week. I did this too! The answer is that rap is better about homophobia than ever before, but still a long way from great. The same community buzzed for years with speculation about Atlanta rapper Young Thug’s sexuality—even though he’s a father of six with a fiancée who has been the subject of more than a few songs—because of his peculiar slang and flamboyant fashion sense. They are protecting something by attacking something else. This stuff shouldn’t be up for review. I got by on trash talk and fistfights, as one did in those cagey Dinkins and Giuliani years, and the notion that soldiering through the end of high school with my own tribe of weirdos would get me to a point where it didn’t matter what the masculine norms were, or at least keep toxic ideas about manhood out of my line of vision. Many fans have welcomed Makonnen coming out … while refusing to believe a gay cosmetologist could sell drugs. The feeling never left. This article originally appeared in Vulture. The rapper-singer beat a murder rap in 2008, after a tussle with a loaded gun in a younger friend’s car accidentally left the young man shot dead. Clayton News Daily, acommunity paper in Jonesboro, Georgia, covered the case, and a few stories made it online. They don’t catch the irony of weaponizing a culture created by young people who America left behind against another group still struggling for acceptance. Rap blogs ran both items as news, giving voice to hate speech best left to wilt unnoticed, while the question of whether the community is still homophobic in the 2010s surfaces year after year, as if the need to keep asking it doesn’t prove a lack of resolution. I punched my way out of whatever scraps I didn’t joke my way out of, lashing out through elementary and middle school and landing a short career as a self-hating high-school bully. Moonlight made me realize how much I’d let other people’s opinions alter the very fabric of who I am, and how little was won for the effort. I thought everyone obsessed over Prince’s, Janet Jackson’s, and Bobby Brown’s outfits and dance moves. (Thug continues to be lauded as a keen mind on gender fluidity, but I swear he’s just having a puckish good time with the press.) Just a week ago, Memphis rapper Young Dolph sent hometown heavyweight Yo Gotti a diss track called “Play Wit Yo Bitch,” whose biggest takeaway seemed to be that Gotti can’t be gangster because he argued with a lesbian once. Makonnen should never have had to hide who he is. They don’t see how this puts masculinity in a box. It’s work. When J. Atlanta rapper iLoveMakonnen came out as gay late last month in a series of tweets that fought back years of speculation about his sexual orientation in the press and elsewhere. Cole uses “faggot” three times in a song, he says he did it to “spawn better conversations” about homophobia in hip-hop. The same thoughts have been rattling around my own head ever since I finally caught Barry Jenkins’s brilliant Moonlight last month. This week, a picture of a young man performing fellatio blew up on Twitter among rap fans falsely purporting it to be Chicago rapper G Herbo. After the movie, I didn’t know what else to do but hang out in the dark with my old Janet and Bobby favorites, mourning the weird, sweet kid I couldn’t allow myself to be. The overwhelming fan response to Makonnen’s revelation has struck the same balance of acceptance and brutish prejudgment. Artists accept your patronage, but twist the knife by peppering music with insults and slurs, and interviews with attempts to create distance from hate and discrimination even as they flirt with the very linguistics of the stuff. An industry witch hunt for closeted mainstream rappers would last as long as the mid-2000s, but the tone and texture of homophobia in the business began to change as record sales dwindled, and with the rise of lucrative endorsement deals that laid A-list rappers’ millions at the whim of corporations sensitive to the slightest hint of consumer backlash. If your manhood was all you had, the worst thing you could paint anyone else out to be was something less than virile, less than strong. Rap masculinity is equal parts machismo and tower defense; it has to be. The story of Chiron, a quirky but perceptive little boy who struggles to come to grips with his sexuality as his schoolmates give him hell for it, felt like rolling back footage of my own awkward childhood. Rolling Stone recently ran a lengthy profile on the Migos, Atlanta rap peers of Makonnen’s and guests on his triumphant “Whip It (Remix),” following the trio through a hectic January studio day. They swear they knew he was gay all along because they buy into the idea that certain styles of dress, speech, and movement; certain interests; and certain professions differentiate straight men from gay and bisexual ones. I’m trying to get back to that. This line of thinking is unfortunate and unsurprising, but above all, goofy, since Makonnen’s record was once a point of terrible controversy in his home state. To be a rap fan that identifies as anything other than male and straight is to wade against a current pushing back at your very being, to be constantly driven by your heart to decisions your mind ought to reject. See also: Migos Finds Its Purpose on Culture Quavo suggests that it’s a knock against his credibility to come out as gay after blowing up behind trap anthems like “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” and “Look at Wrist,” echoing a cruder wing of the response to Makonnen’s announcement that posited him as a liar and a fake, since he simply can’t have been a gay criminal. I was a weird kid growing up—or so I was told. It’s true that Frank Ocean was welcomed with open arms when he came out, and Brooklyn rapper Young M.A.’s summer 2016 smash “OOOUUU” soared with boasts about sex with other women, but there’s still room for growth. It rose up from burned-out, bombed-out 1970s New York City, where young Black and Latin men denied opportunities and even simple infrastructure rerouted their pride through ostentatious dress and braggadocio. They don’t get that this is bigotry. The culture of hip-hop is a haven for castaways. Suddenly, 50 Cent, who famously told Playboy, “I don’t like gay people around me, because I’m not comfortable with what their thoughts are,” is a supporter of same-sex marriage; and T.I., who snarked, “If you can take a dick, you can take a joke,” after Tracy Morgan was blasted for a stand-up bit about stabbing a fictional gay son to death in 2011, changed his tune, too.

This Is Us Is TV’s Biggest New Hit. Sterling K. Brown Makes It Human.

This Is Us has a pattern of presenting comfortingly recognizable conflicts before complicating and subverting them, but there’s still the sheen of engineered melodrama, that sense of the gears churning behind the scenes. The show stitches together resonant insights into weight-loss struggles, commitment issues, and class inequality, in addition to racial tensions. That’s what makes Brown’s presence so valuable: His textured portrayal seeps into the other characters’ scenes as well, extending Randall’s hard-earned authenticity to the rest of the show. In the broader context of This Is Us, this is merely one storyline among many. O.J. Once again, he’s not only stealing scenes with a strikingly layered performance, but emerging as the key to its success. and This Is Us, Brown plays characters negotiating their racial identities in predominantly white environments, but where the former is realistic and mostly confined to the public sphere, the latter is a heavy-handed domestic drama, taking moments of devastation and uplift to equal emotional extremes. O.J. This Is Us is built around the history of the Pearson family, jumping between time periods as it follows Randall (Brown), his adopted twin white siblings Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley), and their parents, Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia). The subsequent reveal that Jack died while Randall was just a teenager gives new dimension to Brown’s initial performance—revealing it as a searing and tender reminder of grief’s long, dark shadow. The challenges Randall faces are, on paper, more obvious than Chris Darden’s: the betrayal of a mother, the stresses of work-life balance, the return of an estranged parent. As an adult, Randall is ostensibly living the American Dream, residing in a wealthy, mostly white suburb with his wife and two daughters, but his relatively stable existence is marked by an emotionally messy past. In scenes with Rebecca—Randall’s adoptive mother, whom he learns secretly kept William out of his life—Brown forcefully unveils the character’s buried resentment; it gets to the point where a make-up scene between them feels less like the magical healing fix it’s written as than well-intentioned patchwork for a very deep wound. A tearjerker fueled by smartly timed narrative twists, it’s vastly dissimilar in intent and execution from People v. As a prime-time broadcast drama, This Is Us doesn’t have the artistic latitude of a prestige cable miniseries; while creator Dan Fogelman skillfully plays with the requirements and restrictions of network TV, they’re an unavoidable influence on the finished product. His character arc jumpstarts with the unexpected arrival of his dying birth father, William (Ron Cephas Jones), which forces a painful but worthwhile reexamination of his life choices and familial relationships. Last year, Slate’s Aisha Harris hailed Sterling K. Brown elevates This Is Us above being a timely escapist weepy, lifting it towards something more ambiguous, realistic, and thought-provoking. O.J., but Brown’s value to the new show is no less immense. Brown’s performance as Christopher Darden on The People v. When Randall learns that his birth father is bisexual, Brown silently conveys nearly a dozen emotions in a few takes, even as the script limits his reaction to explicit, digestible surprise. Simpson: American Crime Story for its powerful embodiment of the “double consciousness” involved in being a black man prosecuting one of black America’s greatest heroes. The ingenuity of Brown’s work is how he transcends any and all constraints, taking a simple, neatly delinated scene and muddling it with a stare or a stutter. Brown is now a regular cast member on NBC’s runaway hit drama This Is Us. We watch him grow up without knowing his birth father, and as part of a family who, whatever their intentions, can’t fully relate to his experiences as a person of color. He makes it human. In both The People v. Yet despite the gifts of the other cast members—especially Chrissy Metz, who’s outstanding when not saddled with exploitative material—it’s Brown who imbues This Is Us’ saccharine family portrait with the depth and nuance it’s otherwise lacking. Like the show, Randall is defined by his complex conception of family. Ryan Murphy’s anthology series boasted bigger names and flashier performances, but Brown’s portrayal was essential for the way he, through Darden, so fiercely and carefully complicated the dichotomous nature of the series’ conflict. In the show’s Thanksgiving episode, Brown plays Randall’s obsessive maintaining of his adoptive father’s holiday traditions with an intensity that veers between endearing and troubled.

Conan Looks Into the La La Land Subplot No One’s Talking About: The Cursed Fedora

In retrospect, it’s strange that La La Land’s brief excursion into Trilogy of Terror territory hasn’t gotten more attention. Conan’s best defense against La La Land fanatics is simultaneously his best offense: At least someone’s trying to flesh out the black characters! La La Land turned out to be a surprisingly polarizing film for what is ostensibly a sweet, good-natured homage to classic musicals. Fortunately, Conan went where no other commenters dared, taking a look at the film’s most problematic scene and its bloody aftermath. But, as Saturday Night Live astutely pointed out weeks ago, criticizing La La Land is a fast ticket to a run-in with the taste police. But while the film has drawn praise for its references to Old Hollywood and opprobrium for its clichéd treatment of jazz, there’s one aspect no one has been brave enough to address: the cursed fedora Ryan Gosling pawns off on a hapless black couple on the Hermosa Beach pier.

Philip Pullman’s Follow-Up to His Dark Materials Is Finally Coming Out

The new series will focus on Lyra Belacqua, half of the duo at the center of the original books (and New Line Cinema’s not-very-successful film of the first book, The Golden Compass). Philip Pullman, the author of His Dark Materials, the (excellent) kids’ fantasy trilogy about overthrowing God and organized religion—really!—is finally releasing a follow-up: a forthcoming trilogy called The Book of Dust, Random House Children’s Books said today. The first thing to say is that Lyra is at the center of the story. Events involving her open the first chapter, and will close the last. Martin). Pullman is being close-lipped with the details, but said he thought of The Book of Dust as neither a sequel nor a prequel, but an “equel.” Here’s what he had to say about the story:

What can I tell you about it? As for the third and final part, my lips are sealed. I’ve always wanted to tell the story of how Lyra came to be living at Jordan College, and in thinking about it I discovered a long story that began when she was a baby and will end when she’s grown up. Slate’s Katy Waldman tried to get further details from Pullman in this great 2015 interview, to no avail. This volume and the next will cover two parts of Lyra’s life: starting at the beginning of her story and returning to her twenty years later. The engine of the plot, according to Pullman, will be a struggle over dust, a mysterious substance featured in the first series, and what Pullman describes as “the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organization that wants to stifle speculation and inquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free.” In other words, it sounds like Pullman’s cooked up an extended allegory about Milo Yiannopoulis getting banned from Twitter, and frankly, we are here for it. Pullman announced he had begun work on The Book of Dust more than a decade ago, so this is great news for his fans (and a valuable example of an author actually finishing a book for George R.R. The first book, whose title has not yet been announced, will be released on October 19, and is available for pre-order now.

Google and Disney Sever Ties With YouTube Star PewDiePie Over Anti-Semitic Videos

One of the videos in question, which has not yet been taken down, is a prank video in which Kjellberg pays two men to hold up a sign that reads “Death to All Jews” via the freelance website Fiverr. Felix Kjellberg, the Swedish YouTube star better known by his alias, PewDiePie, has lost contracts with Google and Disney after a Wall Street Journal report pointed out anti-Semitic language and imagery in his videos. The Wall Street Journal flagged nine videos, three of which have reportedly since been pulled from the site, as having anti-Semitic or Nazi-related comments and imagery. “As laughable as it is to believe that I might actually endorse these people, to anyone unsure on my standpoint regarding hate-based groups: No, I don’t support these people in any way.” A spokesperson told Variety: “Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”
Google-owned YouTube followed suit, cancelling the second season of Kjellberg’s reality show, Scare PewDiePie (which is produced by The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman) and removing him from Google Preferred, an aggregate program that connects advertisers with YouTube’s most popular channels. I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary,” he wrote. Disney-owned Maker Studios was the first to sever ties, according to the Journal, apparently in response to the publication’s inquiries. Kjellberg’s channel, which features a mix of humor, opinion, and gaming videos, has the most subscribers on YouTube with more than 53 million. Google had previously removed ads from some of the videos. Kjellberg responded to the controversy in a Tumblr post. “I make videos for my audience. “I didn’t think they would actually do it,” Kjellberg says in the video, after the men display the sign and begin dancing.

Stephen Colbert Is Now the Most Popular Person in Late Night

Given the anticipation surrounding Colbert’s launch a year and a half ago, The Late Show’s initial ratings drop made clear that audiences weren’t connecting with him. They’re looking, quite specifically, for a smart, calming, and nuanced voice like Colbert’s. The initial buzz around his transition to a broadcast network died down quickly, and Late Show’s ratings dropped with it. It’s been a long road to success for Colbert since taking over for David Letterman. His daily tackling of Trump’s endlessly scandalous presidency remains sharp, to be sure, but it can also be cleverly light-hearted in execution. But where other comics like Seth Meyers have built esteem through forceful daily denunciations of the new administration—and where Fallon’s stridently apolitical approach suddenly feels insufficient (and disingenuous) already—Colbert offers a different brand of resistance: relief. According to Nielsen ratings data, the CBS late-night staple averaged a little more than three million viewers per night last week, 134,000 greater than Fallon’s average and the largest margin of victory for Colbert’s Late Show since it premiered in Sept. 2015. But the show improved over time, with Colbert emphasizing his political savvy and bringing a uniquely intelligent sensibility to the rote late-night routines of celebrity interviews and throwaway bits. The beginning of the new Late Show was marked by an awkward balance. Stephen Colbert’s Late Show is now the most popular show in late-night, besting The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon in total Live+same day viewers for two weeks running. Colbert’s increasing strength in the late-night space speaks, undeniably, to his critical focus on President Trump. He doesn’t convey anger so much as he does bemusement—and in turn, he offers a distinctly comforting experience for viewers of his political ilk already overwhelmed by the news of the day. That’s why the news of Colbert’s nosing ahead is so significant. Indeed, three months into Colbert’s tenure, The Late Show was in a virtual tie for second in the ratings with ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, with NBC’s Tonight Show consistently running the table. Viewers aren’t merely ready for more aggressively political content. In a firm signal of the change in direction, The Late Show brought in new leadership in April 2016, naming CBS This Morning’s Chris Licht as showrunner, and it’s been on an upward ratings trend roughly since then. Over its first 12 months, Colbert’s show averaged nearly a million viewers less than Fallon’s. Colbert’s muted comedic approach resonated with neither his left-leaning fanbase nor the relatively apolitical CBS viewers he was vying to reach.

Rachel Lindsay Will Be the First Ever Black Bachelorette

The Bachelor has also never had a black lead and has had only one lead of color, Juan Pablo Galavis, in 2014, making Lindsay’s appointment even more historic for the franchise. “Honestly, it’s not going to be that different from any other season of The Bachelorette.” It’s official: For the first time ever, we’re getting a black Bachelorette. “I’m ready to find love, find a husband,” said Lindsay. And Dungey’s plan seems to have been successful, since Lindsay is a fan favorite on the current season with Viall, the most diverse ever. “I’m happy to represent myself as a black woman in front of America and I’m happy for America to rally behind me and see what it’s like for me to be on this journey to find love,” Lindsay told People of the historic casting. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey told Deadline in August that the show was laying the groundwork for a woman of color on the Bachelorette by diversifying the pool of candidates on The Bachelor, since the lead for one is usually chosen from among the other’s runners-up. Reports that current Bachelor contestant Rachel Lindsay would be the next lead on the reality dating competition were confirmed on Monday night, with Bachelor/Bachelorette host Chris Harrison helping make the announcement on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Even UnReal, the fictional Lifetime series about a Bachelor-style reality show, beat The Bachelorette to the punch last year when they put a black bachelor at the center of their fake dating competition, Everlasting. In 2012, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against ABC and the producers of both Bachelor shows alleging that people of color were being deliberately excluded from the casting process and eliminated earlier than their white counterparts. “I guess it’s safe to say your hometown date with Nick [Viall] did not go as planned?” asked Kimmel, to which Lindsay shrugged. Lindsay will not only be the first black woman to lead the Bachelorette, but the first black lead on either of ABC’s reality dating competitions. “So if you know anybody out there who needs to apply, sign up.”
Lindsay says she was approached for the job shortly after exiting The Bachelor and joked that she originally thought the offer was a consolation prize “for the heartbreak.” The decision to announce Linday’s casting weeks before the finale of the current Bachelor season, while she is still on the show, is an unusual one, with the urgency perhaps motivated by the show’s controversial history with lack of diversity. Lindsay, a lawyer from Texas, is currently a contestant on this season of The Bachelor, which is still airing, so the announcement means she’s not this season’s winner.

Accusing NBC of Censorship, Nick Cannon Quits America’s Got Talent: “I Will Not Stand for It”

But I can’t say that. The television personality’s departure comes in the wake of controversial comments he made in Stand Up, Don’t Shoot, his recent Showtime comedy special, where he went long on a bit about feeling censored—as a black comic—by executives at his own network. I can’t talk like that. I will not stand for it.”
A replacement for Cannon has not been named, and the series’ judges—Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, and Mel B.—are all expected to return. “My soul won’t allow me to be in business with corporations that attempt to frown on freedom of speech, censor artists, and question cultural choices,” Cannon wrote early Monday morning. “Sometimes I wish I could say the stuff I really want to say,” he said on stage. “Not to get too detailed but this isn’t the first time executives have attempted to ‘put me in my place’ for so called unruly actions. Like, This next crazy motherf—er coming to the stage gonna be juggling blindfolded with knives and shit, so n—as be careful! “Y’all see my face on America’s Got Talent? That would mess up the white money.”
Cannon announced his decision in a lengthy Facebook post, where he implied that he chose to get out ahead of the rumor that NBC was considering terminating his contract for his disparaging remarks. After eight years of hosting, Nick Cannon has abruptly quit NBC’s long-running competition series America’s Got Talent.

30 Years Later, RoboCop Is More Relevant Than Ever

After a rocky period as a warrior against criminality, he turns on his masters and regains his individual dignity. Alas, it lacks any of the visceral criticism of its forebear, opting instead to celebrate generic cop work done with fancy toys. That is, in a way, the tragedy of RoboCop—you really do have to pay attention to get it. Such overcompensating intensity feels especially chilling in the Trump era. Now, that’s barely an extrapolation—it’s a serious proposal made by a startling number of America’s most powerful industrialists. The Peter Thiels and Tim Drapers of the world have, in their infinite wisdom, concluded that government more or less doesn’t work and that folks would be far better-served if they were part of an entirely private polity that values entrepreneurship above conventional citizenship. He bursts into an attempted convenience-store stickup and viciously beats the gunman, then, without attending to him medically, bids the owners a calm “Thank you for your cooperation” and walks out. They could not give less of a shit about the actual police, who are planning a strike, and when one of the boys in blue gets shot to pieces by an OCP-allied gangster, his brain is surreptitiously harvested to make a cyborg cop with a computer-driven consciousness. The new president frequently depicts the “inner cities” as hellholes rife with murder, gangs, drugs, and (his favorite term) carnage. That said, if you do pick up what the film is putting down, you’ll see a remarkable degree of significance for the world of 2017. The core algorithms, so crucial to countless users’ businesses and lives, are opaque and will remain so until the sun dies. As the saying goes, if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product, and Facebook and Google—as well as a bevy of other digital entities—make their billions by mining users’ personal information. He reads a thug his Miranda rights while punching him bloody. This becomes a running bit in the film, especially as the uncaring OCP chieftains start to favor their shiny RoboCop over the concerns of the actual folks on the beat. In 1987, Verhoeven and writers Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner were extrapolating Reagan-era greed and enthusiasm for privatization by imagining a corporate takeover of public services. Like OCP, Facebook and its ilk exempt themselves from the things they do to everyone else. Indeed, if we had collectively heeded its warnings, America might not be in the dire situation it finds itself in today. I will notify a rape crisis center.” She looks terrified. It’s time to listen to what the movie screams at us, to reengage with a movie that is simultaneously funnier, more thrilling, and more socially astute than most ever made. We eventually learn that the last directive prevents him from arresting or attacking any employees of OCP, thus exempting them from the very law enforcement they make it their business to enact. The irony is that he’s also in favor of unrestricted access to guns, which is another essential point of critique in RoboCop—everyone has firearms, and they accomplish nothing but mayhem and dismemberment. But the plot is only half the story of RoboCop. Each takes our secrets and our intricacies and auctions them off, but in a cruel irony, they themselves are black boxes. More important are the tone and stylistic flourishes, which are astoundingly good ventures in pitch-black comedy. Newscasters announce nuclear armageddon and accidental presidential assassinations with ignorant cheer; folks use comically oversize guns to shoot at their victims for 20-second stretches, unrealistic blood squibs firing left and right; everyone watches a TV show in which buxom ladies hit on a hideous old man who incongruously shouts, “I’d buy that for a dollar!” at random; an elementary school is named after Lee Iacocca; and so on. So, too, is the way Verhoeven and his collaborators confront actual police work. Sure, it makes the obvious critique that the profit motive drives people to carry out obscene miscarriages of justice like, well, using a near-dead body to secretly build a super-robot that can be shopped around to the highest bidder. Even then, though, there has to be a society-wide appreciation of unionization, as RoboCop points out—when the strike is put on the table, an OCP exec gets stoked about the idea of using it as an opportunity to put more robots on the street. If you haven’t seen RoboCop, you could be forgiven for assuming the movie is an earnest thriller, given its basic plot outline. In a nod to the robo-fiction of Isaac Asimov, RoboCop has to obey three hard-wired laws, along with a classified fourth. But there are even wiser points, as well. The show borrows much of its basic premise from the 1987 masterpiece: A corporation privatizes a police force and puts advanced machinery on the streets to combat soaring crime. In other words, RoboCop was talking about the tension between automation and working people well before it became a topic at the highest levels of political and economic debate. If they’re socially biting at all, their criticism is mild in comparison to their carnage. RoboCop is a metal personification of extrajudicial police violence, destroying bodies and lives with casual aplomb. In both tales, the impulse to fuck other people up and over leads only to empty souls and dead bodies. A RoboCop renaissance? This article originally appeared in Vulture. RoboCop teaches us that a private service, be it a police force or anything else, will inherently lack the transparency and accountability that (at least in theory) is built into an entity beholden to the public through elections, recalls, impeachment, and the like. Unfortunately, the mayhem and dismemberment is all that some people enjoy about the film, the ultimate insult to RoboCop’s teachings. In this, the movie is a spiritual sibling to Verhoeven’s other tragically misinterpreted masterwork, 1997’s antiwar satire Starship Troopers. Some people are banned without explanation; others are allowed to remain, despite ostensibly breaking the terms of service. Unfortunately, we can now add another faux-boCop clunker to the steel pile: Fox’s new police procedural APB, which wears its admiration for RoboCop on its high-tech sleeve. It’s not unreasonable to think the man in the Oval Office would love to see RoboCop put on the streets, fighting violence not with any kind of structural reasoning or community improvement, but rather the simple language of brutality. It’s hard to imagine these ideas coming up in a sci-fi film today, largely because union membership is so passé, free-falling at a rate that makes 1987 look positively communist. RoboCop’s pro-labor message was powerful then, but it’s vitally urgent now. He also has no idea how to interact with the community—after stopping an attempted rape, he holds the victim and, in his inhuman, metallic monotone, declares, “Madam, you have suffered an emotional shock. Not everyone has a tin exoskeleton, but everyone can create the collective armor of a picket line. Today’s techno-utopians may prefer Jobsian asceticism instead of the coke-addled sneers of Miguel Ferrer’s Bob Morton, but their ideology is closer to Bob’s than they may like to admit. OCP dreams of throwing off all government control in its Delta City community, and it’s hard to watch the movie now and not think of it as a kind of land-bound seastead. If you’re not laughing, you’re not paying attention. The vulgarity of television and interpersonal conduct leaves everyone debased and pitiful. I’d buy that for a dollar. Has there ever been a movie more misunderstood than RoboCop? Our present moment is one in which the ability to take what you want at all costs, without the slightest bit of empathy, is espoused at the highest levels of society—in other words, a moment that RoboCop prefigured three decades ago. It’s a victim of its own success, insofar as what makes it hilarious is how straight-faced everything is. See also: 26 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Original RoboCop We trust free-market libertarians at our own risk. The female lead (Natalie Martinez) is named “Murphy,” a near-certain homage to the real name of Verhoeven’s titular super-cop. It depicts a fallen world where tragedy long ago faded into farce and we’re supposed to ridicule virtually everything that goes on. That’s a goddamn shame, because RoboCop is more relevant today than it’s ever been. That plot point echoes current controversies over Facebook and Google. RoboCop makes a profoundly good case against privatizing the police force and, by extension, any public necessity. In a near-future version of Detroit, a sleazy firm with the delightfully over-the-top moniker Omni Consumer Products (or OCP, for short) buys up the police force—ostensibly to fight crime more efficiently, but really to test out brutally violent hardware to sell to the military. We’re supposed to laugh at and loathe the use of violence. There are no winks to inform you that it’s time to giggle, so if you’re only half-watching, you’ll miss all your cues. Paul Verhoeven’s hyperviolent dystopian cybersatire was released 30 years ago and almost immediately joined the likes of The Prince, Watchmen, and Wall Street in the great pantheon of works whose points have been completely missed by legions of fans and imitators. RoboCop was intended to be a viciously hilarious attack on police brutality, union busting, mass-media brainwashing, and the exploitation of the working class by amoral corporate raiders. Early on, we learn that the overstretched and underfunded cops, who receive not a whiff of the cash that OCP is stirring into its R&D division, are contemplating a strike. Alas, all too many people only noticed the viciousness, not the targets thereof. (To Verhoeven’s credit, the force has a substantial number of tough women, not just dudes.)
An officer who’s acquiesced to OCP control muses that “we’re not plumbers, we’re police officers—and police officers don’t strike.” The guy is, of course, totally missing the point: The fact that cops don’t usually strike makes a potential strike all the more potent. As a result, the film’s subsequent sequels, spinoffs, and 2014 remake have been generally straight-faced. What’s more, RoboCop teaches us that, when the forces of corporate overreach are at work, we have to retain power against them—power that comes not from robot suits, but from unions.

How Donald Ruined the Word “Trump”

Trump. Seems the bidding and gathering of tricks continually grinds to a halt whenever the new president’s name is uttered. Simpson. On the other hand, the Simpson paterfamilias is lovable and sympathetic despite himself, and usually winds up doing the right thing, if often by accident. I can sympathize. My mother lives in a south Florida retirement community, where the bridge season is in full swing. For example, I came across a stray reference in the local paper the other day noting participation in a school fundraiser had “trumped all other recent civic activities.” A nice moment for our community turned sour by an unfortunate grammatical choice. “Donald Trump” is the reality TV huckster and failed casino magnate. I own a mansion and a yacht,” which is doubtless how Trump introduces himself to people (certainly women), with the difference being he overestimates his net worth to ten digits instead of seven. Unfortunately, she reports that lately the games are taking an eternity to complete. This is a problem that is muddying social situations worldwide, but it’s particularly vexing in bridge quartets, as the word “trump” is so endemic to the game. And he’s as hilarious a character as has ever appeared on television. It may be not be at the top of his long and growing list of crimes against humanity, but ruining Looney Tunes and The Simpsons is in and of itself an impeachable offense. “Donald J. The associative conundrum even extends to the newly common usage of his middle initial when referring to him. Be it card play, an overriding factor, or even the old-timey use as a shorthand for trumpet, the word “trump” simply cannot escape its newly political overtones. The initial also serves to grant a modicum of authority. JFK and FDR were just Jack and Frank before being elected to the highest office in the land. This is ironic, for the use of “J.” as a middle initial has a long, quite specific history of use in ridiculous cartoon characters. Perhaps the most immediate figure to come to mind in this capacity is Elmer J. Since the election of the heir to the Drumpf family fortune, using “trump” in any of its forms, noun or verb, has made me wince. Even otherwise positive usages are tainted. Two, in particular, have now been soiled by proxy. Then there is the bloated, blustery, bumbling, buffoonish Trump, perfectly encapsulated by another cartoon antihero: Homer J. You know, Donald J. Fudd, millionaire. Donald John Trump doesn’t roll smoothly off the tongue—the repeat single syllable at the end doesn’t scan, as I suspect the entertainer-in-chief understands. Sad as it is, I can’t think of either Elmer J. these days without drifting over to Donald J. For example, here’s how the contract bridge auction process sounds in 2017. This usually results in delays from a couple of minutes of chuckling (Trump staffers are unable to turn on the White House lights) to nearly half an hour (immigration ban, Supreme Court nominee), depending on the seriousness of the offense. Trump” is the president. Homer is often depicted to be at war with his own brain (“Shut up, brain, or I’ll stab you with a Q-Tip!”), which couldn’t be a better metaphor for Trump’s early foray into governance. N: “One heart.”
E: “Two spades.”
S: “Pass.”
W: “Three No Trump.”
ALL: “I wish!!!”
According to mom, the real competition now comes from trying to get in the punchline first. My mother reports that at the mention of the “trump suit,” there is much muttering of epithets, with “deranged,” “madman,” and “asshole” being the most popular. In bridge parlance, the trump suit, should there be one, will rank above the others in any particular hand. Homer is crude, quick to anger, easily suggestible, a questionable speller, possesses an unusual skin tone, has a controversial set of fingers—stop me if any of this rings a bell. The middle name/initial is a key part of the presidential mystique, bestowing a certain dignity and separating the man in the oval office from the rest of us schlubs, who are content with mere Christian and surnames. or Homer J. Hence, “Donald J. (Trump is fortunate he didn’t build his career in the U.K., where “trump” is juvenile slang for passing gas.) Whatever else he accomplishes, for better or worse, Trump has had an impact the English language itself. He is also “Elmer J. Alas, none of these positive characteristics have yet to emerge from the Oval Office. Fudd, the endlessly unsuccessful hunter of wabbits and daffy ducks. My mom usually plays thrice a week, meaning there are always ample fresh outrages to catch up with. Unfortunately, it also means that my mother and her poor friends, who merely seek a few hours’ diversion, inevitably have their oasis sullied and their thoughts jolted back to the ever-worsening horrors of real life. Trump,” which ever-so-slightly softens the ballpeen bluntness of that last name.

Colbert Proves Stephen Miller Really Will Go On Any Show to Rave About Voter Fraud   

The joke comes from hearing the same sound bite over and over, past the point it has any meaning (not that it had much to begin with). It may just be his fondest dream. Campus conservative columnists like Miller are a very particular breed, who build an identity around gleefully provoking and annoying with what they consider inconvenient truths. (If you don’t know the type, this column by Miller serves as a great introduction.) In other words, this is not a guy who will be stung by the thought of popping up on HBO like a racist jack-in-the-box. Colbert simply takes Stephen’s boast that he is “prepared to go on any show, anywhere, any time” literally, inserting the man and his blathering into The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and more. Stephen Colbert had a little fun with dead-eyed Trump advisor Stephen Miller on Monday, releasing a video that responded to Miller’s weekend ravings about voter fraud. It’s unlikely to provoke the kind of response Saturday Night Live gets from Trump, however. There’s not really much more to the gag: it’s just Stephen Miller ruining your favorite shows with the kinds of voter fraud fear mongering that is usually safely locked away on Fox News.

What It’s Like for People Named Donald Who Aren’t Donald Trump

Normally, “Even a deadly hurricane can make the name of the hurricane spike up in popularity.” But Wattenberg thinks the presidency is unlikely to revive the flagging Donald. Citing the vogue for presidential last names becoming first names—Reagan, Kennedy, and the like—he said, “I’d be curious to see whether Trump as a first name ever made it onto the top-1,000 list.” Imagine that—a bunch of little Trumps running around your local playground. As Bell put it, “I feel like all the best-looking, most famous versions of Donald out in the world usually go by Don.”
According to Wattenberg, “The full name Donald and the nickname Don are far apart in the impression they give, kind of like Rodney to Rod, just a very different image.”
“I think he probably prefers the most impressive-sounding version of his name, which is Donald J. “I absolutely hate to be called ‘the Donald,’ ” he said. “I can’t think of a single case where anyone’s ever raised it,” he said. Now there’s a branding opportunity. Whether that’s because they too did not want to be associated with Trump, we’ll never know.)
“To modern ears, the full name Donald, all those consonants weigh it down,” Wattenberg said. Given the amount of attention one particular Donald has commanded, the past year or so has been a tough time for anyone else who shares a first name with the president. This is not to say it’s been a picnic for Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, women, veterans, journalists, the judicial branch, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, or any Americans who care about civil liberties and spelling. It’s not gotten so bad yet. It’s like Voldemort.” That hasn’t stopped Burke from giving a little thought to the possibility that things get so bad that he has to abandon his given name: “In that case, I’ll just start going by my initials, or I don’t know, I’ll figure it out when that happens.”
Moynihan isn’t quite ready to give up. “You can call me literally anything else, but that’s just one thing I never liked, and now even more so, it’s kind of, ‘Please, just don’t put a the in front of my name because someone already ruined that for us.’ ” While he allowed that “it’s not like we’re all part of some secret society of Donalds or anything like that,” that doesn’t mean he can’t assume the the is annoying for all Donalds. But before I could request his long-form birth certificate, he handed off the phone to his press secretary, aka my mom. Other than Don Draper—“the Mad Men Don Draper years were the heyday of being a Donald,” Donald Bell lamented—most of the Donalds in popular culture are elderly, and any lingering Donalds—Glover, for example—tend to be named after older family members. The equivalent of Donald, Ronald, Gerald, Harold today would be Aiden, Hayden, Jayden, Kayden. “Most of the people at least in my particular circles don’t want to make any reference to him. At this point I tried to clarify the lifelong mystery of why his name is actually not Donald, just Don. “The style today is very much about vowels. His firm, MacroTrends, was by his estimation one of the earliest predictors of a Trump win. “Donald’s just not all that unusual. “I still have my own affection for my name. (I reached out to Donald Sutherland and Donald Glover for this piece, but they both declined to comment through representatives. “The one noteworthy feature of the president’s name is that both nickname and given name score extremely high on my dimension of success,” Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology who has studied names, told me in an email. But let’s think, just for a moment, of the Donalds. According to Social Security data, Donald peaked in popularity in America in 1934, the year Donald Duck was introduced, and it’s been downhill ever since. In the course of my hunt for Donalds, I happened to connect with Donald Luskin, a Chicago-based economic strategist who supported Trump in the election. “No matter what, it’s bad news,” he said. These days, he said, “I’m more sensitive about my name when I say it out loud to people. I think it’s less weird than if my name happened to be Barack.”
While Luskin is right that “Donald” is not exactly Pilot Inspektor, experts say the name has long been in serious decline. “It’s an incredibly obvious thing to say, but there are so many other things to say about this president that people tend to default to that first.” Burke agreed. It’s kind of like a depressing view of the world.”
Donald Burke, a 29-year-old in Washington, D.C. “It’s remarkable that no one in my social circle has ever explicitly made that association,” Moynihan said of sharing a first name with the president. “Thank God.”
Still, there is something about Donald. “Rational people know that everybody is their own individual.”
No one is moreso his own individual than Donald Trump. So does Luskin love all the attention he’s getting just because of his first name? We have a lot of long vowel sounds, not a lot of voiced consonants together like that -ld.”
According to both name experts and Donalds themselves, most Donalds don’t use the full name. There’s probably a group of people named Adolf somewhere who are in worse shape than I am.”
Speaking of things that have fallen off, do baby name experts expect any spike in the name Donald given his “unpresidented” victory? I’m just going to Starbucks for a cup of coffee, they ask me for my name, I have to say my name and then kind of apologize for it.”
In sum, “It’s a bit of an embarrassing time to be a Donald right now.”
Bell, an early adopter, happens to be the owner of the handle @Donald on our president’s favorite microblogging platform, and for the past few years his mentions have been full of words for that other Donald. “It’s always Donald Trump, first and last name, or it’s just Trump. Maybe Burke should get out of his bubble. You can tell that people will flinch almost, not even meaning to, but just hearing the name, it produces such an emotional reaction in people. They’re usually Dons, maybe Donnies—not Trump, however, a fact the Donalds I spoke to found notable. “Donald is likely to be a nonstarter on style grounds.”
“The traditional baby name dictionary lets you look up the linguistic origins in Old High German or tells you what proto-Celtic root was behind Donald, but that’s not what we hear when we hear names,” Wattenberg went on. who goes by “Don,” can relate. “Even Donald Trump was born on the down slope of Donald,” said Laura Wattenberg, the name expert behind BabyNameWizard.com. “The meaning of the word Donald in certain name meaning books is ruler of the world,” Burke was quick to note, “which terrifies me!” A brand strategist by profession, Burke also sees the lack of nickname as a calculated move. ‘Trump did this, Trump did that.’ ” This may have at least helped minimize any negative impact on the name Donald, he surmised. Take it from Donald Bell, a 38-year-old in Alameda, California, one of several Donalds I recently spoke with after requesting that my friends and colleagues connect me with anyone they know named Donald and then also searching Twitter. Still, he’s worked it into a few jokes, sure. “It’s either I’m looking at people who are supporting Donald Trump or are violently against Donald Trump. Trump, as opposed to Don John Drumpf, which sounds I think a little less imperious,” mused another Donald—Donald Moynihan, a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  Would he ever considering selling his coveted @Donald handle to Trump? “We’re all constructing the meaning of names every day as we live, and there’s no question the meaning of Donald has changed dramatically over the last year.”
Mike Campbell, who runs Behindthename.com, agrees that the name Donald is unlikely to see much of a resurgence, but he did mention another possibility. Wattenberg thinks it’s unlikely. And the sui generis nature of our president may have actually kept Donald-smearing to a minimum. I don’t deceive people,” he said, summarizing some key differences between himself and his name twin. “I don’t think it sullies his name,” my mom offered. He wasn’t wild about the comparison. “I think I can say this for the collective of Don or Donalds across the world, which is: We hope our name does not go down in infamy.”
For his part, Bell also hasn’t let the Donald problem ruin his good name. According to his research and surveys, Don scored an 88 and Donald a 95 out of 100 in terms of “impressions generated by the name in the general population.”
I was interested to hear the opinions of one more Don, the one who happens to be my dad, on the matter, so I called him up. “It’s a firm ‘never,’ ” Bell told me. “Part of my work is to talk about political developments, so I’ll say something like, ‘I just want to make it perfectly clear that I am only a Donald, I’m not the Donald.’ ” And that’s really it. “I’m not a crook.

Upcoming Thriller A Cure For Wellness Was Using Fake News in Its Ad Campaign

Spreading lies to sell a movie is shockingly irresponsible, but it’s also just bizarre. But the marketers for A Cure For Wellness went further, creating sites for modern day newspapers that don’t exist: the Sacramento Dispatch, the Salt Lake City Guardian, the Houston Leader, and so on. “Utah Senator Introduces Bill to Jail, Publicly Shame Women Who Receive Abortions,” says another. Another story, about President Trump denying California federal aid for the Oroville disaster, attracted an audience of liberals ready to believe anything bad about Trump. The news sites have been taken down since Buzzfeed’s story ran, but we’ll all be hearing about the “facts” from these stories for years to come. These sorts of sites, done well, can be part of a film’s mythos (The Blair Witch Project) or even fascinating in their own right (The Beast). Thanks for ruining Thanksgiving, Hollywood. Reporters Craig Silverman and Jane Lytvynenko uncovered a network of five fake news sites that were being used to promote the movie, leading the filmmakers to take the sites down. They’re the kind of pieces that play to people’s worst beliefs about their political opponents despite being completely made up—in other words, real fake news. A lot more probably didn’t get past the headline and were left with a piece of misinformation that confirmed their existing biases—and brought them no closer to buying a movie ticket. There’s even less reason to think that people looking for something new to hang their anger at liberals or at Trump on are going to be particularly receptive to a pitch for an unrelated horror film, if any of them even penetrate the campaign’s mysteries and realize that’s what the fake news site is about. Reportedly, they went to the pros—in a statement provided to Buzzfeed, Regency Enterprises, one of the film’s producers, said they had “partnered with a fake news creator to publish fake news.”
And the fake news worked: Buzzfeed reports that the Lady Gaga article went viral on Facebook and slightly-less-fake conservative blogs. Part of the campaign for A Cure for Wellness relies on the sorts of fake sites that have been commonplace for decades: websites for made up companies and organizations that tie back to the film. For example, HealthCureGov.com looks at first glance like Healthcare.gov—the same color scheme, similar fonts—but it’s plastered all over with branding for A Cure For Wellness, including a link to the trailer, front and center.  It’s hard to imagine who’d be fooled, even before getting to the creepy disclaimer:

HeathCureGov.com is not an insurance marketplace and is not affiliated with any exchange, and is not a licensed insurance agent or broker. How did filmmakers craft such exquisitely shareable headlines? There is a sickness inside of us, rising like the bile that leaves that bitter taste at the back of our throats. A Cure for Wellness, Gore Verbinski’s upcoming thriller about a horrifying Swiss health spa, was using an even more horrifying method to advertise, Buzzfeed reports: fake news. “LEAKED: Lady Gaga Halftime Performance to Feature Muslim Tribute,” says one. A Cure for Wellness isn’t about Trump or Lady Gaga or fake news; there’s no reason to draw that connection. Maybe some people who saw those headlines clicked through, realized it was an ad, and learned about A Cure For Wellness. (Since the publication of Buzzfeed’s story, the fake news sites seem to have all been changed to redirect to the film’s main website). Some of the stories on the sites were also relatively unobjectionable: a headline reading “PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER SCREENING LEAVES SALT LAKE CITY MAN IN CATATONIC STATE” has a William Castle sort of charm to it. But the people running the ad campaign for A Cure for Wellness definitely crossed a line with the other fake stories they promoted from these sites.

Ricky Gervais’ New Netflix Series Is So Bad That It Shows Exactly What Made The Office Great

Soon after, another female colleague tosses a cup of water in the bully’s face. I was amazed by the episode—I found it to be amazingly realistic, amazingly awkward, amazingly embarrassing, everything but amazingly funny. But after going through David’s cringe-inducing, failure of a journey, David Brent: Life on the Road soft-pedals the ending. The band realizes they’ve over-stated what a jerk David is, and besides, they’ve got some good stories: they have a drink with him for free. His old-fashioned stabs at relevance—radio, battle of the bands, a publicist— almost seem to be the show’s idea of reasonable gambits. He wants to be famous. David Brent: Life on the Road begins relatively gently, which is to say, with a David so puffed up on himself and the prospect of another shot at fame that he almost seems to deserve the failures coming his way. In an interview with the New York Times last weekend, Gervais said of David Brent, “He wants validation. Gone is the well-calibrated balance of The Office, wherein laughing at David was simultaneously punching up and punching down, replaced by a David so down on his luck that chuckling at him is akin to scoffing at a really irritating version of Job. Now it’s insatiable.” I was expecting, then, for David Brent to encounter some of today’s narcissists. Maudlin and unrealistic, it’s also a lot less funny than what came before. He’s no longer the boss, and, now “the world is worse.” She chastises David’s nemesis for being such a bully. While all of this is excruciating, it does feel real enough: David would be an abject failure on the road, despised by everyone he encountered, even though he’s just a loser, not an evildoer. David caps it all off with a fortune-cookie lesson: “I can live without being a success, but I couldn’t have lived without trying.” Shortly thereafter one of his nice female colleagues expresses interest in David and he walks off frame with a date. Gervais’ performance was so exact that David was instantly recognizable as a quasi-unbearable bully and occasionally pitiable loser who doesn’t understand that his only chance of acceptance is hiding out in the banality of nice. The tour is an abject failure. The Office was a scathing, furious send-up of the hollow desires undergirding reality TV, still a relatively new phenomenon when the show premiered in 2001, and it did not go gentle on those involved. He was the ordinary guy on the cusp of getting his 15 minutes of fame. I was at a screening of The Office Christmas Special, the series’ finale. The first time I saw the British The Office, it was with an audience, a group of seemingly normal people I became convinced were sociopaths. The tour manager begs David to stop spending money and tells him they’re friends, just to make him feel better. He’s singing mortifying if well-intentioned songs (“Please don’t make fun of the disabled” and “Black people aren’t lazy/black people aren’t crazy/ and dwarves aren’t babies” are two sample lyrics), while refusing to let Dom Johnson play any of his own stuff, but making him dress up like a Native American to cameo on a song David wrote about their nobility. Since The Office aired, Gervais has made Extras and the saccharine-fest Derek, the vibe of which takes over this series at its rushed ending, in which David’s journey is given sentimental meaning. Is it funny to watch a wounded kitten get pounded on because it has a strange meow? As with tragedies, so with David Brent: there is such a thing as laughing too soon. He’s going broke to pay their salaries, and they’ll only have a drink with him if he pays them by the hour. David was a despot: laughing at him was what he deserved. He’s paying for a tour bus he can’t ride in, because the band hates him so much. And yet each time David Brent let loose one of his nerve-shearing giggles, I sucked in my breath, and everyone around me laughed hysterically. There he is, making racially insensitive jokes with the one colleague who really likes him, and then bringing the rapper Dom Johnson (Doc Brown) by the office just to prove to HR he has black friends. I was barely familiar with David Brent, Gareth, Tim, Dawn and the other employees of Wernham Hogg, and even less familiar with the show’s cringey tone. His desperation to be cool, to be seen, to be recognized, to be famous perverted a basically decent idiot into an engine of humiliation, unleashed daily on underlings whose only defense against their excruciating boss was a deadpan stare. Laughter seems like it could be on the horizon. He’s a narcissist, but we see that, actually, he’s an old-fashioned narcissist. No one comes, when they do, they leave. Worst of all, underneath his bluster, David knows it’s going badly: he calls his one friend and explains what an abject failure the tour is, before making him promise not to tell anyone, even though the call is already on speaker phone. Fourteen years later, David Brent is back in David Brent: Life on the Road, which premieres on Netflix this Friday. There David is telling the studio producer whom he uses for his “demos” (really Dom’s) that he’ll pay him double whatever he makes to go on tour, only to discover double is way more than he can afford. In time, I too became one of these sociopaths, but it took extended exposure. David has decided to raid his pension to pursue his dreams of becoming a rock star, and the financially and emotionally disastrous tour he embarks upon constitutes the movie’s plot. (I was thinking particularly of the episode of Atlanta where Paper Boi runs into snapchatting, instagramming brand whirlwind Zan) but he never does. He can’t compete with today’s narcissists. Social media is never mentioned and we never see any young performers out-faming the fame-hungry David. Following the events of The Office, David suffered a nervous breakdown, attempted suicide, and went on Prozac, but is now more or less on stable ground; he’s a salesman at Lavichem, a toiletry supply company, where he sells Tampons and is barely put up with by his colleagues. Ricky Gervais’s David was a buffoon longing to be a big man. David goes on a radio station to promote the tour and is ridiculed for having been famous and forgotten as one of the original docu-soap stars. But now fame is different. (He’s too abashed to change his mind.) He visits the therapist he’s been seeing since his breakdown and when she asks him what happens if the tour doesn’t go as planned, if it fails, he’s too embarrassed in front of the cameras to reckon with this honestly, only digging himself deeper into his fantasy. A stop at a college campus has him playing on “shite night.” He gets a tattoo to be cool, but faints in the middle, and so is stuck with the half-word “Berk” on his bicep. His female colleagues rally around him: one tells the camera, tearing up, that she worries about him doing another reality show. And then it all really goes downhill.