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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 4/11

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Art AND: Chris Bathgate

The internet was sad, but also hella funny this week. Highlights: DMX, The Isley Brothers vs. Earth, Wind & Fire, touch, Prince Philip (and the memes), TikTok and digital blackface, and the MonsterVerse. 

 

1. Pitchfork: DMX Has Died at 50

The rapper DMX, born Earl Simmons, died on Friday. He was “hospitalized on April 2 after suffering an apparent drug overdose and subsequent heart attack at his home in White Plains, New York. He was 50 years old.” A statement from the family reads, in part, that “Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end. He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him. Earl’s music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever. We appreciate all of the love and support during this incredibly difficult time.”

 

2. Instagram: Verzuz Presents The Isley Brothers vs Earth, Wind & Fire

The Isley Brothers and Earth, Wind & Fire battled on Verzuz last weekend and it was maybe more iconic than one could imagine. Hosted by Steve Harvey clad in a purple suit and white hat, and with DJ D-Nice, the battle was more than three hours long. HIGHLY recommend this for all of the reasons. 

 

3. The Audacity: Haphephobia by Olly Nze

I categorize people. Many of my categories come in pairs: people who like olives and people who don’t, people who can drive and those who can’t, people who like pets and those who don’t. The categories continue almost infinitely. In non-COVID times, one of the main ways I organized people was around touch. There were people I had a rapport with whom I could touch and those that I couldn’t. 

I’d never heard of haphephobia, or the fear of being touched, before reading this. People who have haphephobia “experience immediate fear, anxiety, or panic attacks when touched and tend to avoid situations where they are likely to be touched,” and writer Olly Nze believed for years that he did, but “that was not the fear I was dealing with.” At 16, the only consistent form of touch Nze received stopped when his mother confronted him about a video she found on his phone of two men having sex. Nze writes through his experience of touch: of his mother’s touch, of losing touch, of relearning to touch and be touched.

There are many reasons for these two categories around touch, one of which was respecting that some people don’t like to be touched. I’m a person who appreciates touch—I love affection, but am very particular about who I receive it from. Generally, I don’t like being touched by members of my family. I’m not exactly sure why, but I avoid almost all contact with them. Another reason for these dichotomous categories is that I’m not very good at maintaining boundaries, and sometimes the only way I know how to have them is through stark contrasts. I’m not a person who’s good at shallow hugs, where one leans in just close enough to gently wrap one arm around the top of someone’s back. When I hug, I embrace—I pull people in and hold them. If we wouldn’t be comfortable snuggling, you are in the no-touch category. I’ve known that I’ve had these rules about touch for a while, but reading this made me consider why more deeply. 

 

4. BBC: Prince Philip has died aged 99, Buckingham Palace announces

On Friday, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, died at age 99. They were married for 73 years. 

People have had very different reactions to his news, some of which are outlined and contextualized in the following articles. Generally, some people are mourning the prince’s death with reverence, and others are critically and comically commenting on his history of racist remarks and behaviors. 

 

5. Al Jazeera: The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

On the occasion of Prince Philip’s retirement from his royal duties in 2017, Hamid Dabashi wrote about the countless moments in which the prince was racist and how the media diminished their impact. Dabashi focuses his critique on the BBC’s characterization of Prince Philip’s remarks as “memorable one-liners that can make some people chuckle and others cringe” or that “Prince Philip is renowned for speaking his mind – often explained as his attempt to lighten the mood – and that outspoken nature has at times led to controversy with some of those remarks teetering on the edge of being offensive.” Dabashi writes that “such vintage BBC phrases ought to be studied at Columbia School of Journalism and other such reputable places as exercise in sheer charlatanism.” 

Dabashi most succinctly writes of Prince Philip in the following paragraph:

Prince Philip to European aristocracy is what Donald Trump is to American liberal democracy: an embarrassment – the men who flaunt the ugly truth from under the thin veneer of their bourgeois etiquette. The racist provincialism of both Prince Philip and Donald Trump is irresistibly charming to their admirers and embarrassing to their detractors, but identically revelatory to the world at large. Their racism is so against the grain of recently manufactured liberal “tolerance” that they don’t know where to hide it. 

There are a lot of people celebrating the Prince’s death (memes to follow).

 

6. Vox: The British media narrative of Prince Philip’s death is about Meghan Markle

One predictable rightwing conspiracy theory that has arisen from Prince Philip’s death is that Meghan Markle is somehow to blame for it because of her recent interview with Oprah. This, of course, is baseless, and “the fact that memes anticipating precisely this kind of news coverage preceded the coverage itself suggests that racist press coverage of Markle has been both transparently flimsy and largely ineffective as a form of persuasion to the average media consumer — whether they’re thoroughly informed or only half-paying attention on social media.” These claims “reveal far more about the state of the media than about Meghan Markle.”

 

7. Daily Dot: People are celebrating Prince Philip’s death with mocking memes

I feel like memes have taught me so much about British history this week. A celebration of someone’s death might “seem shockingly callous. But Prince Philip’s unpopularity really can’t be underestimated.” I’ve never paid much attention, apart from watching Netflix’s The Crown, but “even among fans of the royal family, [Prince Philip] was a rather unpopular figure. And for people who oppose the monarchy, he represents everything bad about British imperial patriotism and the institute of royalty itself.” 

Some of my favorite memes are the ones that include Princess Diana, many of which aren’t included here, but this one might be my favorite from that genre. 

It should also be noted that there have been so many memes about Prince Philip over the past few months, and what is currently taking place is, in some respects, a continuation of that tradition. 

 

8. HipHop Wired: Black Twitter & Irish Twitter Cook Prince Philip After News Of Passing

I honestly considered making most of my picks this week’s memes because there are so many that are SO GOOD! 

The prince’s death hasn’t only inspired many memes, but the memes are getting memed! Largely, Black Twitter and Irish Twitter are roasting the late prince the most, and it is honestly so funny.

 

9. BuzzFeed: Who’s To Blame That Black TikTok Creators Are Not The Ones Invited To Perform On Late Night Shows? Everyone.

I first learned of the term digital blackface from Lauren Michele Jackson’s 2017 Teen Vogue article “We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in Reaction GIFs.” Jackson describes how “digital blackface uses the relative anonymity of online identity to embody blackness… Digital minstrels often operate under stolen profile pictures and butchered AAVE. Quite often it comes in the form of an excessive use of reaction GIFs with images of black people.” Over the past few years, and with the rise of TikTok, conversations around digital blackface and online culture have become more present as the video platform has seemingly perfected the form of minstrelsy. 

Over the past week or so, two major events have occurred that highlight the ways in which white social media influencers have used and profited from Black creators. In one instance the second-most followed person on TikTok, Addison Rae, performed a series of dances, largely choreographed by Black people, on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon without attributing their creators. 

In a second instance, Rachel Hollis, a “toxic positivity enthusiast and Instagram self-help queen,” went on a rant in which she appeared to compare herself to a number of “unrelatable” feminist icons including “Harriet Tubman, RBG, Marie Curie, Oprah Winfrey, Amelia Earhart, Frida Khalo, Malala Yousafzai, [and] Wu Zetian.” While “[t]he rant is pretty consistent with Hollis’s usual message: that the only reason women are not reaching their full potential is their own lack of imagination and drive,” it also struck many as strange as Hollis’ brand has largely been based on presenting herself as relatable to her followers. 

Tanya Chen and Stephanie McNeal explain the implication of these two instances and the ways in which digital spaces reinforce systemic inequities. 

 

10. Vulture: My Heart Belongs to the MonsterVerse

I love sci-fi action movies—especially ones that are part of a series. I was PUMPED to watch Godzilla vs. Kong. I rewatched the previous three films in the series, marked my calendar, and made my roommate (who hadn’t seen any movies in the series) mark her calendar as well. When the movie was finally released and my roommate and I watched it, I was a bit disappointed; she thought it was good for what it is. 

I don’t usually spend too much time theorizing about action movies as I typically use them for escapism, and resigned myself to the fact that I would forever be disappointed in Godzilla vs. Kong—that is until I read this piece by Matt Zoller Seitz, which has me rethinking the whole franchise. Apparently, “this is the only major American movie series (The Fast and the Furious included) whose central recurring cast is devoid of cops or characters that perform a coplike function,” as the central characters are monsters and humans only play supporting roles. While perhaps didactic at times, Godzilla vs. Kong “fully commits to the notion of kaiju as extensions of human ambitions and desires” and “stays focused on the series’s core message that humans must take responsibility for neglecting or exploiting nature.”

I wouldn’t have made this theorization on my own, but I’m glad Seitz did. 

 

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