Lesbians won the world cup, R. Kelly was arrested, and the internet was interesting this week. Highlights: The history of mirrors, maybe David Attenborough should have narrated The Lion King remake, the importance of pop culture, celebrities profiling themselves, Rihanna took beautiful pictures for Harper’s Bazaar China and the internet is trying to figure out if she is partaking in cultural appropriation, the 200 best words I read all week, a seahorse haven, preschool politics, and New Coke.
1. Longreads: The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Mirrors
The history of mirrors is WILD. Maybe more accurately the history of the cultural significance of mirrors is WILD. The oldest known mirrors were crafted some 8,000 years ago in present-day Turkey out of obsidian. Named “from the Latin mirare and mirari (‘to look at’ and ‘to wonder at, admire,’ respectively), a mirror can be any reflective surface created for the purpose of seeing oneself.” Many “cultures across the globe have, independently of one another, built their own mythologies around reflective surfaces” because “if they can let you see something you normally can’t — yourself — maybe they can permit you to see other things beyond your vision.”
While mirrors were once an object of the elite, we now carry them around with us everywhere as “there’s both a power and a survival necessity in seeing yourself the way the world sees you.”
2. Vulture: Disney’s The Lion King Feels Like an Unusually Good Nature Documentary. Is That What We Wanted?
Disney made an animated live-action remake of The Lion King that was released this week and the whole internet seems mildly confused. When the trailer first appeared people were upset that it was animated and Disney somehow didn’t figure out how to train real lions to sing, but now that the movie is out in all of its realistic glory, “it’s hard to imagine that this has all been created in a studio, and that almost none of it is real,” leading audiences confused about what to make of the film.
The animals are less anthropomorphized in this film than its animated predecessor “but they’re still talking, and singing, only now their faces are inexpressive” creating “a weird disconnect.” Further, this disconnect “creates an unfortunate hierarchy among the actors, allowing some to shine while leaving others to drift” and iconic song’s like Can You Feel the Love Tonight performed by Donald Glover (Simba) and Beyonce (Nala) can be “as a piece of audio, utterly glorious, and yet it has little impact onscreen (where, for some reason, it’s performed in total daylight), because neither Simba nor Nala has come through as an engaging character.” If anyone would have watched the 2013 fairy movie Epic they would have known this about Beyonce.
Anyway, I am not paying to see The Lion King.
3. Lit Hub:How Beyoncé Revolutionized the American Political Landscape
Pop culture is often my favorite form of culture and it “is so much more than a guilty pleasure, it’s an ‘access point’—for education, entertainment, critical inquiry, politics. One that is available and accessible to most everyone in one form or another, unlike often exclusionary academic theory or biased formal education,” and it usually holds more cultural capital. Celebrities and pop culture “[teach] us, and sometimes pop culture can stop our world. Those electrifying and sometimes suspenseful moments are when pop culture gets powerfully translated into politics, when what entertains us also educates. And if we’re paying critical attention, they’re when we, as an audience, change too.” So many yeses!
This is a lovely article and all and Serena Williams is amazing, etc… but what is with this new trend of celebrities profiling themselves? Maybe it has just been Beyoncé in Vogue last year and now Serena, but it seems like it is growing in popularity and I am not about it. There are already enough ways via social media for celebrities to share their opinions of themselves with us. I want to know someone else’s perspective from a person that has spent time with them, is a good storyteller, and is doing a formal analysis of the celebrity and their impact—at least that is what I think good profilers do.
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6. TeenVogue: Social Media Is Divided Over Whether Rihanna’s Harper’s Bazaar China Cover Is Cultural Appropriation
While no one is denying how beautiful Rihanna’s shoot for Harper’s Bazaar China is, she is drawing criticism for cultural appropriation. Many are coming to the singers defense as the photographer and her design team were Chinese, emphasising that this is a case of cultural appreciation–not appropriation. In an Instagram caption accompanying a photo, Harper’s Bazaar China denied the shoot was an “Eastern meets Western aesthetic.” The internet will be split on this for a while.
7. Virginia Quarterly Review: The Best 200 Words I Read All Week
This is one of my favorite series on the internet. Unlike most weekly listicles, including this one, The Best 200 Words I Read All Week isn’t bound by time. Each week a selection of VQR staff and writers share the best words they read. The excerpts range from poems, to classic novels, to articles published earlier in the week.
My favorite pick this week is an excerpt from We Need New Names, by NoViolet Bulawayo, in which the problem with speaking English is defined as “you usually can’t open your mouth and it comes out just like that– first you have to think what you want to say. Then you have to find the words. Then you have to carefully arrange those words in your head. Then you have to say the words quietly to yourself, to make sure you got them okay. And finally, the last step, which is to say the words out loud and have them sound just right.” I’ve had a hard time explaining my thoughts recently and this excerpt definitely described exactly how I’ve felt.
8. LA Times: A retired teacher found some seahorses off Long Beach. Then he built a secret world for them
This might be the most endearing story I have read on the internet all year. Retired school teacher, Rog Hanson, began to build “an underwater city he called Littleville out of discarded toys he found” while scuba diving in Long Beach. After he discovered seahorses living in his city in January 2016 he became more dedicated to its upkeep and started to take field notes on the creatures living in Littleville. Hanson has gone on 997 dives to visit his ‘kids’ and although he is not a scientist, experts say he “probably has spent more time with Pacific seahorses, also known as Hippocampus ingens, than anyone on Earth.”
This whole story is just so wonderfully unadulterated.
9. The Cut: The Battle of Grace Church
Grace Church School is the oldest nursery school in Brooklyn. Located in Brooklyn Heights, it is a favorite among the one-percent and is known for getting its students into competitive elementary schools. The school was also favored for its “warm bubble bath” atmosphere but after “one of the school’s 3-year-old charges walked several blocks to her home, surprising her parents” in 2015, “loosey-goosey started to seem like a liability.” The school hired a new director, Amy Morgano, who immediately started making changes that seemed to favor celebrities and eschew longstanding Grace families. After all, “money can shield people from a lot of things, but no amount stops parents from worrying about their children.” This story is fascinating because it shows you what happens when the richest and most entitled of us must battle each other because of scarcity, and is an informal study on the values of the 1% that supersede money.
10. Mother Jones: New Coke Didn’t Fail. It Was Murdered.
As I was born in 1995 I have never had New Coke, which was released in April of 1985 and promptly canceled. I have heard urban legends about the drink but I have never, in fact, tasted it.
When New Coke was released, its greatest competitor was nostalgia, and in the end, that is what it lost to. The first few weeks New Coke was out things seemed to be going well, “the company’s weekly telephone surveys of 900 consumers consistently indicated high favorability. Even people who preferred the old soda seemed okay with the switch. New Coke was good! At worst, New Coke was fine.” Soon, news began finding those opposed to the new formula and some, like Andy Rooney, even formed an opinion before tasting the drink. People’s pathological obsession with the soda lead both sides to compare their struggle to D-Day, and this story is ridiculous.
*All images taken from reference articles*
Have a suggestion for next week? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”