Television
Television

The Enduring Appeal of 'Unsolved Mysteries'

Society is reckoning with Clinton-era "tough-on-crime" policies, law enforcement is no longer seen as the unambiguous good guys, yet true crime television thrives in Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries.


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Love in the Time of Coronavirus

How Aaron Sorkin and U2 Can Soothe the Pandemic Mind

Like Aaron Sorkin, the veteran rock band U2 has been making ambitious, iconic art for decades—art that can be soaring but occasionally self-important. Sorkin and U2's work draws parallels in comfort and struggle.

Film

The Cyclops and the Sunken Place: Narrative Control in 'Watchmen' and 'Get Out'

Hollywood is increasing Black representation but Damon Lindelof and Jordan Peele challenge audiences to question the authenticity of this system.

Television

'Tiger King' and the Post-Truth Culture War

Tiger King -- released during and dominating the streaming-in-lockdown era -- exemplifies in real-time the feedback loop between entertainment and ideology.

Television

What 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Taught Me About Unlearning Toxic Masculinity

When I first came out as trans, I desperately wanted acceptance and validation into the "male gender", and espoused negative beliefs toward my femininity. Avatar: The Last Airbender helped me transcend that.

Television

Why I Did Not Watch 'Hamilton' on Disney+

Just as Disney's Frozen appeared to deliver a message of 21st century girl power, Hamilton hypnotizes audiences with its rhyming hymn to American exceptionalism.

Music

Smells Like MTV: Music Video and the Rise of Grunge

MTV's central role in delivering grunge to a national audience in the early 1990s demonstrated the network's power as a creator and definer of culture.

Books

Unorthodox Storytelling

Deborah Feldman's memoir, Unorthodox, is more than a depiction, or even indictment, of the Satmar. It's an indictment of any patriarchal social system that shrinks young women's dreams to the size of a kitchen, and then blames them for it.

Television

How HBO Max's Ballroom Dance Show 'Legendary' Became Compelling TV in 2020

Not many knew what to make of HBO Max's initial reality competition Legendary when it first premiered, but the high tensions that ended Season 1, Episode 5 escalated the vogue-tastic and defiantly queer celebration of ballroom culture into the must-watch event of the year.

Television

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Television

Don't Let Roseanne Barr Ruin Roseanne's Legacy

Watching the Roseanne family's hopes and dreams dashed over nine seasons made the show highly relatable then -- and now.

Music

Eurovision 2020: Staging Political Identity

Eurovision contestants subvert the events' apolitical ethos simply with their identity, which is then subverted by performer and audience subjectivity. So who, ultimately, wins?

Books

The Young and the Superpowered in Isolation: Revisiting Anne Dyson's 'Writing Superheroes'

Dyson's seminal Writing Superheroes, and how children process violence and power, is considered in a new light as children consume media in this time of social isolation.

Television

To Watch a Predator: The Difficult Handling of 'RuPaul's Drag Race: Season 12'

While RuPaul's Drag Race remains a celebration of campy queer culture, Season 12 premiered as serious allegations against a contestant were quickly confirmed, forcing the producers to recut the episodes to diminish the influence of a now-known predator. Did the gambit work?

Television

Where's the Strong Woman in Netflix's Adaptation of 'Good Hunting'?

Contrary to the intention of Ken Liu's short story, "Good Hunting", Netflix presents a superficial arc of female empowerment, then allows animation and the role of male characters to undercut that message.

Books

'Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass Media' Is a Roadmap to a Peculiar, Disturbing Terrain

Tim Brooks' detailed research tells us how blackface didn't die, but found ways to multiply as the entertainment industry grew.

Music

Drag Queen Trixie Mattel Tells All

How the joke-telling, cosmetic-slinging country music star Trixie Mattel sees the world.

Television

What We Want vs. What We Need: How 'Twin Peaks: The Return' Resists Nostalgia

David Lynch and Mark Frost's seminal Twin Peaks is rich with insight as to how both people and works of fiction can age gracefully.

Television

Is 'The Alienist' a Critique of Capitalism or a Pro-Neoliberal Narrative?

Author Caleb Carr's The Alienist explores the 19th century psychiatric debate between free will and determinism. TNT's nearly identical adaptation of the novel, however, comes up with a completely different conclusion.

Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Books

Nazism Repackaged? A Closer Look at the "Fascist Subtext" of 'Attack on Titan'

Many fantasy writers have incorporated the visual footprint of the Third Reich into their fictional worlds. Few, however, have done so as extensively as the creator of Attack on Titan, who revisited this terrible chapter of history not to find inspiration for a fearsome antagonist, but to excavate the divisive ideas that lay buried there.

Television

It Does Happen Here in HBO's 'The Plot Against America'

The organic growth of everyday American fascism and the understanding that pogroms are not a uniquely European phenomenon is rendered in stark and terrifying detail in David Simon's adaptation of Philip Roth's alternate historical novel, The Plot Against America.

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