The internet had my attention everywhere this week. Highlights: Elon Musk now owns Twitter, #FreeBrittneyGriner, remembering Brangelina, Daniel Radcliffe, Taylor Swift and fat-phobia, Rihanna is back, Ashanti, Leslie Jordan and Mike Davis passed, and the Mississippi.
Elon Musk, currently the richest person alive, officially bought Twitter. The $44 billion deal has been in the works since April. Since taking over, which was confirmed Friday morning, Musk has “reportedly ousted several senior figures, including the chief executive, Parag Agrawal; the chief financial officer, Ned Segal; and the head of legal policy, trust and safety, Vijaya Gadde.” A self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” Musk also intends to reinstate Donald Trump’s account, and many users are concerned that misinformation and harmful content will increase under Musk’s ownership. This is of particular concern in the US as midterm elections are just over a week away.
WNBA player Brittney Griner’s sentence was upheld in a Russian court on Tuesday. The star is serving a nine-year sentence after being convicted of allegedly smuggling hash oil into the country while playing abroad. The US government has been trying to negotiate a prisoner swap, and “U.S. officials on the scene in Moscow were quick to assail Tuesday’s court ruling as ’excessive and disproportionate’”—Griner “was given very close to the maximum sentence during her previous trial” for a very small amount of oil. Further, “Griner’s arrest and subsequent trial shadowed the conflict in Ukraine and cratering U.S.-Russian relations that her supporters say have informed the trial.”
Activists in DC staged a “smoke out” at the Russian embassy on Thursday in the nation’s capital in support of Griner, and there has been a show of support for her across social media. However, it should be noted that much of the support is coming from Black queer people.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie became a couple in 2005, right around the same time I started paying attention to pop culture. Because of this, I’d always known the stars as a couple, and it wasn’t until Jolie announced that she was filing for divorce in 2016 that I learned the couple met on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 2005.
Brangelina debuted before social media, when tabloids still ran supreme, and their coupling “offered what all great stars do: a fantasy, as out of reach as it is alluring. In their decade-long union, they transformed from a lasciviously adulterous, sexed-up power couple to a more gently constructed, philanthropic team defined as much by their capacity for good as their astounding beauty and talent.” With the ongoing divorce reentering the public discourse, the “proceedings aren’t just a story of assets divided — they will test their respective places in the popular imagination. Because Brangelina was always just that: an enchantment that was shored up in the media, and that Pitt has been far better at maintaining in the long run.”
I find Daniel Radcliffe endearing. I can’t definitively say I’ve seen him in any roles outside of the Harry Potter series, but every time I read about him, he seems like a genuinely nice person. The way Jeremy Gordon portrays Radcliffe in this profile is no exception. While this piece promotes the upcoming film Weird, in which Radcliffe portrays Weird Al Yankovich, all of Gordon’s observations are rooted in Radcliffe’s portrayal of Harry Potter from such a young age (the actor was 11 when he was cast over 20 years ago). Gordon continuously returns to Radcliffe’s “excessively normal way of thinking about the lifelong permanence of his context,” with Radcliffe stating that “sometimes if you’re denying the reality of what’s going on, that can actually make your life harder to live.”
CW: Fatphobia, Eating disorders.
Last Friday, Taylor Swift released her new album, Midnight, in addition to a video for one of the album’s songs, “Anti-Hero.” The song has been praised for its musicality and lyrics that portray a “deep self-loathing and doubt,” and what it’s like to “have what looks like everything you could want, and still feel depression’s insidious whispers,” as Juliet James, who identifies as fat, writes. However, the video for the song features a sense in which “the ‘Anti-Hero’ version of Swift, who clearly represents her worst inner critic, has her get on a bathroom scale. When the real Taylor looks down, the scale reads ‘FAT.’”
Fat activists have noted that Swift is not fat (and has never been), and criticized her use of the word in a negative context instead of a neutral descriptor, noting how “someone who looks like Taylor will never understand how actually being fat feels. They might ‘feel fat,’ because our culture has turned body size into feelings, and because even thin women are harmed by our society’s insidious and painful messaging about bodies, but it is not the same as actually being fat.” Many of these critics, including James, are cognizant of Swift’s admission of issues with her body image, accusations of being “too skinny,” and “comments speculating about her maybe being pregnant, and how those comments have resulted in her not eating.”
In the article James, along with many other critics, asks Swift to remove the word from the video—which the singer has since done. Disseminating fatphobia, as this video did, hurts skinny people too, and James writes that she “[dosen’t] want anyone to suffer from an ED, but fat people have eating disorders, too, including anorexia. We already struggle with getting treatment for these potentially deadly conditions ― our pleas for help are unheard, lost in the clamor of voices screaming about how our fatness itself is a disease. We’re celebrated for losing weight, even if we’re ― as Taylor said she did ― effectively starving ourselves, skipping meals or engaging in other harmful behaviors.”
Rihanna has finally released new music after YEARS! The lead single for Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, “Lift me Up” is the first new music we’ve gotten from the pop icon since her feature on PartyNextDoor’s 2020 “Believe It.” Before that, we hadn’t gotten any music from Rihanna since 2016’s ANTI. Co-written by Tems, Ludwig Göransson, and director Ryan Coogler, the song is a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020 from cancer and played the Black Panther/King T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I’m curious to see what she will perform at the Superbowl. The hype is very real.
Singer Ashanti has been in the news a lot over the past few months, and not at her own behest. In August, BET released its Docuseries on Murda Inc, Ashanti’s former label. During a Drink Champs interview with N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN promoting the series, label co-founder Irv Gotti alleged that Ashanti was his girlfriend and sexualized the singer, spoke of how he was upset that she was dating rapper Nelly, and comes off as jealous, bitter, and spiteful. Ashanti declined to be in the series.
In this sit-down interview with Angie Martinez, though, Ashanti addresses everything, explaining how “Irv was telling everyone not to record with me” because of her relationship with Nelly. Ashanti said of Gotti’s recent behavior that “it’s a little sad to see a grown man conduct himself in that manner,” and described him as a “selfish” and “narcissistic” person, suggesting that he is “hurt” because he no longer has “control” over her.
This interview is really a prime example of how a man in power used his position to halt the career of a woman.
8. Variety: Leslie Jordan, ‘Will & Grace’ and ‘American Horror Story’ Star, Dies at 67 in Car Accident
Actor, singer, writer, comedian, and LGBT icon Leslie Jordan died on Monday morning when his car crashed into the side of a building. Reportedly, “it was suspected he suffered some sort of medical emergency.” He was 67.
An Emmy Award winner, Jordan worked on a host of shows and movies, most notably Will & Grace, American Horror Story, and The Help. Jordan’s social media videos were also incredibly popular at the onset of the pandemic, providing a hilarious reprieve during uncertain times. Since news broke of his death, videos of Jordan have flooded social media as fans mourn his tragic death.
Marxist historian, activist, and organizer Mike Davis died this week of esophageal cancer. He was 76. Davis was most known for his work on Los Angeles, a city he wrote of “as a totality—from the real-estate deals of the mega-rich to the waste-treatment plants, the power brokers to the unhoused and dispossessed, from the glamour of Hollywood to the cryptic graffiti of street gangs,” writes Hua Hsu. The impact of his work can be found across disciplines, and while he was is “often misread as a ‘prophet of doom,’ Davis was actually an optimist and a dreamer. He wasn’t gloating about the end of the world, so much as he was compelling us to imagine a new one.”
The Mississippi River is nearing record lows. Caused by lower rainfall across the country, “the situation may not significantly ease anytime soon for the waterway that drains 41% of the contiguous United States and carries 60% of the country’s grain exports.” Low levels further north in the river could affect shipping, while in the south, drinking water is a concern as “the New Orleans area uses the river as its source, but when the Mississippi is this low, saltwater moves upstream from the Gulf.” To help assuage the problem, “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE is constructing a sill on the river bed near Myrtle Grove, La. to block the [saltwater] wedge from moving upstream.”