On the (Rest of the) Net.

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The new generation of wrestlers are addicted to PlayStation more so than partying. [CNet]

And that’s a good thing, because so many wrestlers that have come before have been chewed up and spit out by the gruelling lifestyle, which I wrote about in the wake of Chyna’s death for The Big Smoke.

I also ponder whether you can be a feminist and a wrestling fan (which I’ve written about before) for SBS Zela.

Have you noticed all the headless women on movie posters? [Buzzfeed]

Of over 105 trans female characters portrayed on TV since 1965, only 20 of them were actually played by trans actors, mostly Alexandra Billings, Candis Cayne and Laverne Cox. [Autostraddle]

Why is the tampon tax getting so much attention? [The Cut]

In praise of the angry woman. [LA Times]

Panels like Sunrise‘s that ask if feminism has negatively impacted men “lends a false form of legitimacy to misogynists like [Mark] Latham”. [Daily Life]

“An ethically carnivorous life is possible so long as we ensure the animals we consume have lived and died without unnecessary suffering.” [The Guardian]

Image via Twitter.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

chyna women's championship

I wrote about competitors to watch on the women’s wrestling scene and Chyna’s untimely death for SBS Zela.

I’m at The Big Smoke writing about the women of American Crime Story: The People VS. OJ Simpson.

Speaking of, pop culture is portraying some of the ’90s most reviled women in a more sympathetic light. [Fusion]

Confirmation largely forgets the contributions of black feminists. [Elle]

This season Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is railing against niceness. [The Atlantic]

Celebrating Prince’s unbridled sexiness upon his passing. [NYTimes]

What Prince meant to strippers. [The Cut]

On mourning problematic celebrities. [xoJane]

Why are black erotic thrillers considered guilty pleasures while white ones get Oscar noms? [MTV]

And why do we only see black actors in top roles when their skin colour is altered or faces obscured completely? [Vulture]

Our pop cultural obsession with “girls” in books and film. I also wrote about the phenomenon here. [Bitch Flicks]

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What Beyonce’s LEMONADE and wrestling have in common. [Cageside Seats]

How LEMONADE is reclaiming the black woman’s place in rock music. [Rolling Stone]

The response to “Becky with the good hair” from the song “Sorry” reduces Beyonce to her desirability and undermines LEMONADE. [Daily Life]

Images via The Bleacher Report, Clique.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

marilyn monroe kim kardashian

I’m at The Big Smoke asserting that Kim Kardashian is our modern day Marilyn Monroe.

Following on from my piece last week, I wrote about how World Wrestling Entertainment got from the Divas era to the women’s wrestling renaissance. [SBS Zela]

What happened when a WWE Superstar sicked his Twitter followers—inadvertently or no—onto a trans woman. [Harlot]

Why famous male wrestlers need to stop being the deciding factors in women’s matches. [The Spectacle of Excess]

*Spoiler alert* Olivia Pope may have killed the man who set her up to be kidnapped but Scandal has missed an opportunity to address her PTSD with therapy. [WaPo]

Why are white tank tops still called wife-beaters? [Mic]

Why I don’t want my daughter to be a footy fan. [Daily Life]

Road-testing alternative menstrual products. [The Vocal]

The history of cats in bookstores. [Lit Hub]

ICYMI: The rise of self-indulgent comedy.

The Rise of Self-Indulgent Comedy*.

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*The following contains spoilers for Master of None, Girls and Trainwreck.

The past year has been a banner one for alternative voices in comedy.

Hannibal Buress refocused the spotlight on Bill Cosby’s history of alleged sexual assault during a stand-up gig in Philadelphia at the end of 2014. The Mindy Project was cancelled by Fox but found a new, more risqué home at Hulu, while Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish and Master of None are changing the historically white male face of comedy. Closer to home, Black Comedy and The Family Law are making similar strides, and we can’t forget the success Amy Schumer found in 2015.

But despite comedy’s newfound diversity, not all of it hits the spot.

A common theme many of these shows share is that they’re created, directed and/or produced by their stars which, while it’s an answer to the paucity of women and minorities both on screen and in positions of production power, it can also lead to self-indulgent storytelling that pigeonholes its creators into catering to a niche audience.

Master of None debuted on Netflix late last year to rousing success, becoming the streaming service’s most popular show. Several of its episodes were met with critical praise, particularly “Parents” and “Indians on TV”. Creator and star Aziz Ansari’s musings on children, race and sexual harassment were true to life, but they can be considered sporadic standouts amongst a largely self-indulgent experiment filled with bad acting and rambling jokes.

Take, for example, the 1:16 minute interaction between Ansari’s character Dev and Arnold (played by Eric Wareheim) about the meta dynamics of the Eminem movie 8 Mile and its theme song, “Lose Yourself”. I, too, have often wondered about the specifics of where Marshall Mathers ends and Eminem begins, but the bit’s backstory is something only die-hard comedy fans might be privy to and therefore could be alienating to a casual audience. The character of Denise (Lena Waithe), who has sat, off-camera, opposite the two throughout the duration of this exchange shares many audience members’ feelings when she says, “Can we please talk about literally anything else?”

When I asked stand-up comedian Martin Dunlop, who’s currently performing in his Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Murder, He Spoke, for his thoughts on this flat transaction he said, “Like so much of the show, [this scene] doesn’t function as comedy. They’re not playing off anything… But it doesn’t really work as a slice-of-life scene either. Wareheim’s character is particularly ill-defined, an odd drifter who’s role in the series as a whole never becomes clear, though a lot of the blame for that falls on Wareheim, who doesn’t seem to be a very strong actor. That describes my problem with the series as a whole. Where something like Louis functions as a drama or a comedy at different times, Master never really worked for me as either.”

Osman Faruqi, Sydney-based writer and broadcaster, agrees, telling me that he “found the 8 Mile scene pretty jarring and lazy. Non-sequiturs can be funny but this came across like something two 15 year olds would have joked about in school. It was pretty self-indulgent and out of place… I think Master‘s comedy worked best when it reflected on aspects of contemporary society the audience was familiar with. When it deviated from that and inserted random jokes that had nothing to do with the story, it fell flat.”

And while I haven’t seen Ansari in much of anything else, I found his acting to be less-than-stellar, always coming across as if he’s been taken by surprise or an extra in one of those poorly acted insurance infomercials. His character acts primarily in commercials in the show, but I’m not sure it was Ansari’s intent to also give off this vibe himself. The use of Ansari’s real life parents in the roles of Dev’s elders may be an indictment of , but I found Fatima Ansari as Dev’s mother to be grating. Ansari’s the showrunner and what he says goes but the use of his parents seemed selfishly at the detriment to the show.

For all the things Master gets right, on the whole it’s a thought experiment about an unlikeable bad actor rife with rambling jokes and poor casting that left me wondering how far removed from Ansari his character is.

 

Whereas Ansari is struggling to come up with content for a nonetheless greenlit second season of Master , Amy Schumer almost had too much material for her runaway box office hit, Trainwreck. Schumer’s character of the same name works at a misogynistic men’s magazine as a plot device to introduce her to her love interest, a sports doctor played by Bill Hader she’s writing a profile on, but she could just as easily have been a freelancer who works from home, sparing us the drawn out office scenes. Professional wrestler John Cena was hilarious as Amy’s muscle-bound meathead boyfriend but his scenes were a good twenty minutes of homophobia that could have been reserved for the director’s cut DVD edition.

As with some of Schumer’s stand up work, a lot of her shtick didn’t land,and for some inexplicable reason, the funniest jokes made it into the trailer but were absent from the theatrical release.

Trainwreck felt more like a rough draft of a film with far too many incidental storylines that came across as pandering to its writer and star (are we seeing a common theme amongst these comedies?). In refusing to make these edits, producer Judd Apatow does a disservice to Schumer as Trainwreck really did have all the attributes to become a different kind of rom-com, both from the Kate Hudson fare of the ’00s and Apatow’s own gross-out anti-women bro comedies such as Knocked Up and This is 40.

Another rom-com of sorts, Lena Dunham’s Girls, also produced by Apatow, is perhaps one of the most criticised comedies on air today. Dunham has been accused of everything from racism to exhibitionism to sex worker-exclusionary feminism to child molestation, with her responses to some of these appraisals coming through on Girls, now in its fifth and penultimate season.

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Of the three comedies discussed here, Girls’ Dunham is perhaps the least able to be extracted from her character. Dunham shot to mainstream notoriety with the release of her HBO show in 2012 whereas Ansari starred in Parks & Recreation for seven years prior to Master and Schumer had been going viral with her Inside Amy Schumer sketches long before Trainwreck. Perhaps her rapid success influences the oftentimes “painfully narcissistic [and] shockingly tone deaf”, as Ray puts it in this season’s opener, themes Dunham chooses to deal with in her show. Her repetitive nudity, though refreshing from a body-positivity standpoint, and the inclusion of a token black lover (played by Donald Glover) as a response to an unrealistically white Brooklyn she chose to portray in Girls’ first season come across as childish trigger responses to larger issues, which Dunham is normally open to discussing.

The argument could be made that criticisms are only foisted onto Girls and, indeed Master and Trainwreck, because they’re not made by white dudes. Do we hold Louie and Seinfeld to the same standard?

I asked fellow Girls devotee and freelance writer Camilla Peffer what she thought of the show’s self-centredness and whether objections to it can be boiled down to the fact that it’s for and mostly by women. “I think the self-indulgent shtick gets thrown around because society values high impact stories, not stories that rehash the minutiae of everyday life,” she told me. “To a man, the heartbreak of falling out with a best friend might hold no resonance. Neither does creating meth to save your family from poverty, but stories like that create a sort of prosthetic experience, much like playing a video game.

“Is Girls more self-indulgent than the work of Ansari or Woody Allen? It’s just as self-indulgent. But why is that a dirty word? All art is self-indulgent. Creating relies upon a certain level of introspection, so without that self reflection, it’s impossible to make anything that can truly have an emotional impact on an audience.”

Girls, along with Dunham, can be “painfully narcissistic”, as Ray put it, but it has moments (a lot in this season alone) when it’s one of the more realistic portrayals of young, white, New York millennials in pop culture today.

To some degree, the same can be said about Master of None, Trainwreck and other self-indulgent comedies. Self-indulgence doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of self-awareness: the two go hand in hand and are needed for a true-to-life portrayal of these undoubtedly personal stories. Just because they’re not necessarily speaking to me, an upper-middle class white chick who has the luxury of voicing her opinion on this platform, doesn’t mean there’s no value to them. It’s important to have diverse voices speaking about the myriad of topics Master, Trainwreck and Girls do, such as family, race, sex, dating, “finding yourself”, urban life, and what’s acceptable behaviour for women and minorities. It’s also important that these diverse voices have the opportunity to fail which, in some respects, I think they have.

Elsewhere: [USA Today] The 8 Mile Debate on Master of None Has a Surprisingly Emotional Backstory.

[THR] Will There Be a Second Season of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None?

[OUT] Trainwreck‘s Homophobia Puts John Cena in a Headlock.

[HuuPo] Lena Dunham, Girls Creator, Addresses Race Criticisms on Fresh Air.

Lead image via Your Movies in Mind.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

charlotte wrestlemania 32 women's championship

I wrote about World Wrestling Entertainment’s new Women’s Championship and the renaissance of women’s wrestling. [SBS Zela]

In praise of the “ugly cry”. [New Republic]

“She just wants attention”: the insult du jour. [Slate]

What we can learn about clapping-back from Beyonce. [Elle]

The toxic relationship between masculinity and meat hinges on the “factory farm industry that makes billions of dollars insisting that men are the strongest when they have the most muscle, the least amount of feelings, and ingest the most ‘manly’ protein, like bacon, steak, and sausage.” [The Establishment]

Why millennials love music about work (work, work, work, work, work). [The Vocal]

Amber Rose’s MuvaMoji is an alternative—not an answer—to Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji. [Good]

Hillary Clinton said feminism and being pro-life can co-exist. Here’s a reminder of what being pro-life actually means. [Daily Life]

And Jill Filipovic unpacks it in a practical, US-centric sense. [Cosmopolitan]

Melissa Harris-Perry interviews Anita Hill 25 years after testifying that Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her. [Essence]

More feminist goodness at the 95th Down Under Feminists Carnival. [Sacraparental]

Image via WWE.com.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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It’s WrestleMania season and Chyna’s been blackballed from being inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame yet again. I’m at Harlot writing about her audacity to have a sexuality separate from the one WWE deems acceptable.

My feminist connectivity piece from last week, originally published at The Vocal, is now over at Daily Life.

The Nina Simone biopic is a racist issue. [The Atlantic]

Donald Trump’s core philosophy is misogyny. [Slate]

A deep dive into Jennifer Garner’s status as celebrity mum du jour. [Buzzfeed]

Is Justin Bieber an introvert? [Mel Magazine]

Is the rise of “no kill” about the welfare of animals or our feelings? [Aeon]

The homoeroticism of Batman V. Superman: “The passion between men is expressed as violence.” Sounds a lot like wrestling. [The Establishment]

Image via Harlot.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

I wrote about Twitter as a tool for feminist connectivity. [The Vocal]

The objectification of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau isn’t sexist:

“You may be disturbed or annoyed by the shirtless photos and swoony responses to our new PM, but that concern shouldn’t come from a sense of worry that Trudeau will be hurt—socially, politically or personally—by this so-called ‘sexist objectification.’ Because that is simply not what is happening. It’s not as though Canadians will now see him as a vapid, slutty, airhead with nothing to recommend him but his pecs or as someone who got ahead through either fuckability or literal fucking. The reality is that these sexy pics and the fact that so many find him physically attractive serves to enhance his power rather than diminish it. This is because he is not a woman. He is a man. And a powerful one at that.” [Feminist Current]

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Presidential race, toxic masculinity reigns supreme. [Elle]

“Why aren’t we seeing more images of Kim Kardashian in business meetings or changing her kid’s diaper?” [Time]

The inherent sexism of emojis. [NYTimes]

The sexual politics of the “brogressive” and the Manic Pixie Dream Feminist. [Daily Life]

Why are so many white people identifying as Native American?

“One of the biggest reasons it’s been acceptable for white people to posture as Native is due to a certain romanticism about Native culture and people. ‘If you go back to the journals of Christopher Columbus,’ [Taté Walker, editor of Native Peoples magazine] said, ‘it references [Natives as] these free-spirited nature sprites who dance naked in the moonlight and their kids are running wild, and it just sounds so savage, but savage was a term for free.’ As colonialism spread across the continent, so did that idea of freedom, and ‘the idea that ‘Natives have it great, so let’s take it’ has become “Natives have it great, so let’s take it as an identity,”‘ Walker said.” [Fusion]

In praise of Vin Diesel’s Facebook page. [NYTimes]