Reducing the social stigma and starting conversations surrounding mental health is still a huge challenge, especially in this Instagram-curated, perfection-driven world we tend to live in. For those afflicted with mental illness, myself & many others included, reaching out or asking for help can be incredibly daunting. The least cool thing an anxiety & depression-addled brain can think to do is to be even needier; to be more of a burden on their loved ones.
When I started taking my writing & online presence more seriously, I was forced to consider the implications of brand, identity, and personhood on the Internet. How thin can the line be between private meditation and public presentation? Vulnerability is terrifying, alluring, humorous, but in most cases nevertheless brave. “Influencer Culture” is still in its infancy, and there are so many gross ways to go about, but I don’t believe it’s going anywhere because it’s always been around. The bizarre questions of whether my desires, impulses, or the things I wanted to share with my family, friends, and those who follow me are or are not ‘on brand’ is endlessly tiresome, but not new.
Even if you’re not on the social internet, perception and self-awareness are still useful things to consider (unless you’re a jerk), and opening up about your challenges can reveal that you’re not alone in them, and that the challenges, as big as they are, and as vulnerable as you feel, are not unsolvable. That’s part of what I really like about the Internet, why I lean into it instead of away and why I try to remember that tomorrow will be a better day.
Anyways, when you buy from TOMS.com, you can now select from an array of causes you want TOMS to donate to, including mental health. Join me as I #StandForTomorrow and use promo code: STANDFOR10 for $10 off your next pair of TOMS. https://toms.mvk.co/1fuzh #Sponsored @Toms
This Pride Month has been contentious as hell, and mostly for good reason. The amount of bloodsucking capitalists that think that their patronizing rainbow logos make up for horrible business and anti-LGBT practices is astounding. There’s continuing debate over intersectionality, experience, expression, activism and even as a member of the queer community myself, it can be exhausting and alienating to have these conversations daily, as crucial as they can be.
Every morning is a new Twitter battle, controversy, or aggressions both micro and macro and I’m just like, damn… it’s 7am.
Sporadically over the past year or so, businesswoman and occasional singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has taken to the Internet to voice her support for Democrats and progressive political policies to her hundreds of millions of fans via social media. Decidedly, this was not a platform she used during the 2016 US Presidential Election, and it wasn’t until she was proclaimed an Alt-Right Arian Queen for doing so that she decided that some fans might actually worth alienating. Between that, and getting caught in some Kardashian-West-related lies, it’s no wonder she leaned into the villain narrative with 2017’s Reputation, but even then the results ranged from annoyingly toothless (“Look What You Made Me Do” was a diss track?) to uncharacteristically tone-deaf (the gross gunshots in “I Did Something Bad”). She perhaps needed to calm down, and if we’re getting upset at Taylor Swift for making a gay pride anthem, maybe we do too.
There are so many meaningful conversations to be had on these things, and on art, but they’re not gonna get done on Twitter. Trust me, I know. Being Queer, conscious, and also Extremely Online, it can be exhausting and alienating to have these conversations daily, as vital as they can be, or potentially could be. Though, the fires that start between friends, colleagues, and internet cohabitors over art and its significance (or lack thereof) and how it could change the world is what politics is, no?
This has always been part of what I admire most about Taylor Swift; the way she paints a personally-branded portrait of her life experiences and shares somehow both deeply and broadly at once. At her and any other songwriter’s best, they’re able to reflect a universally lived experience with the intimate details of a single human soul. That may sound preachy as hell, but in an increasingly Personal Brand (TM) social media influencer hellscape world, isn’t that the honesty and ‘authenticity’ we’re longing for?
It’s what sells best, at least. Because in a post-” thank u, next” world, the balancing act required to be both intimately personal and social media personality is not apolitical. And if you have a social media account at all, you know the potential repercussions. Swift knows the ramifications of stirring shit in public. So when she writes a song telling people to “step off his gown” or proclaim that “shade never made anybody less gay”, that may sound vanilla to someone who reads Twitter all damn day, but she’s also joined in shoving the gay agenda down mainstream media’s throat, y’know, everyone else other than the 300mil people on Twitter.
Swift is obviously no stranger to Persecution Pop: the practice of performing hit singles as a response to media, the public, or ‘haters’ (you can thank Britney & “Piece of Me”). And while many, many, many of her songs are often pointed at one person in particular or someone she may have recently-squashed “Bad Blood” with, she shifts the “woe is me” narrative by the end of the first chorus in her new song & video “You Need to Calm Down.” Instead of making it exclusively about her and stuffy celebrity struggle, she takes the opportunity and her platform to lift up the LGBTQ+ community and points her aim squarely at Conservatives and Christian fundamentalists for the first time, even those who helped bring Swift into prominence in the first place.
Yes, there’s the “Want who you want / boys and boys / and girls and girls” line in 1989’s opener “Welcome to New York” from 2014, but vagueness and fence-sitting doesn’t seem to be something she’s comfortable with anymore, and an extravagant, lavish, and profoundly queer fashion takes the opportunity to send an overtly political message, and honestly? I’m here for it.
Unlike most artists, Taylor Swift’s business whims can shift the entire music industry, be it Spotify or record companies themselves, often using her ability to sell millions upon millions of actual, physical CDs in 2019 (something most other artists can’t achieve) as leverage for better deals for other artists. So when she hires a whole mess of queer people, pays them well, and uses her platform to enact positive change in the world, isn’t that what a White Cis Female Ally is meant to do?
She’s not a stranger to dorky, gross cash-grabs however, as one can tell from her decision to press 4 different versions of her gosh-darn rehearsal audio from the Billboard Music Awards on vinyl in hopes of getting “Me!” to dethrone “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X off the top of the charts, which failed. Not even she could compete with the indie Country-Trap sensation, but perhaps she also realizes that it's probably not, entirely, a competition.
Which leads me to believe that “You Need to Calm Down” is something a bit different. The focus is less on Taylor herself and more on the persecution of people merely trying to live their lives, explicitly queer and gender non-conforming ones. Seeing albeit mainstream gay icons scattered amongst a rainbow trailer park directly combating the “homosexuality is a sin” narrative is refreshing, even if it’s annoyingly just hitting the mainstream. “You Need to Calm Down,” asks not only bigots and haters to calm down, but to those who have forgotten that the public’s consciousness is shifting towards equality, not against it. I’d prefer Taylor Swift take a stance against injustice than remain quiet on the matter.
Yes, pre-orders for the album launched with the single, but that message comes second to the end title card in the video that reads “Let’s show our pride by demanding that, on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally.” and inviting her 24 million viewers (and counting) to sign a petition telling the US Senate to support the Equality Act to protect sexual and gender minorities’ rights.
For contrast, the recent finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11 pulled only about 700,000 viewers. So, despite our intimate knowledge of the many queens who made cameo appearances in the video, it’s still very new to Taylor’s core audience and millions upon millions of Americans. Maybe the message needs a Swift-sized platform to reach further than it would otherwise, and maybe for this one we need to calm down. balance
Tyler Scruggs is a writer, musician, and pop culture cosmonaut living in Atlanta, GA. @TylerScruggs on Twitter.
I got asked for some Netflix recommendations so I gave someRead More
Whenever I see a big-budget movie like Captain Marvel in theaters, I always try to see it in IMAX. The most obvious reason being that yeah, the screen is bigger and it usually takes over my entire field of view, which just makes it easier to get engaged in the film and enjoy it! But if I plan to leave the house for a movie these days, I’d prefer that movie offer some sort of experience or technology I can’t otherwise get at home.
And more often than not, blockbuster movies have IMAX releases that are essential to the intended viewing experience or even directorial intent, but it’s a coin toss whether that footage makes it to home video, so I try not to chance it. Especially with internet streaming, so many movies are often cropped now to make it easier for the viewer, because on smaller-than-IMAX screens the jump between IMAX cameras and standard cameras in shots can be jarring to experience on say, an iPhone.
So, in November of 2013, I drove out with my dad from Pendleton, Oregon to Boise, Idaho to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at the closest 70mm IMAX screen to me at the time, which was essential to experiencing the film’s whopping 50 consecutive minutes of IMAX footage, a filmmaking record that wouldn’t be beat until last year’s Avengers: Infinity War; the first film to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras. For the last 50 minutes of Catching Fire, the protagonist Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence is dreading the impending second Hunger Games she’s being forced to compete in. And at this point in the movie, the beautifully complicated and woefully timely themes of media, youth, celebrity, and economics the Hunger Games is all about goes out the window completely when (SPOILERS) Katniss’s confidant and friend Lenny Kravitz gets brutally murdered right in front of her moments before she competes in a fight to the death her government is forcing her to take part in. And director Francis Lawrence illustrates this turning point and new pressure on Katniss by composing one of my favorite shots of really, any blockbuster film.
It’s at this moment the film transitions from its constrained, standard 2.35:1 aspect ratio to IMAX’s full signature 1.78:1 ratio, and sustains it for the rest of the film, gripping us to the action right from Katniss’ perspective. And it’s not a coincidence that this perspective and shot is wider, grander, and more engrossing than the rest of the film. The stakes and scope in the second Hunger Games are somehow larger, and this shot and choice subconsciously show us that, visually.
It’s a really good movie, and you should rewatch The Hunger Games series sooner rather than later.
But I have a strong memory of going to that film, standing in line with my dad.
He couldn’t really understand why I said things like “I identify most with Katniss Everdeen” or “She’s my favorite character” when there are perfectly fine male characters to identify with, such as Peeta or Gale or Woody Harrelson, and I wasn’t really able to articulate at the time what I meant by those things beyond just being engrossed by the female lead. Regardless of the gender, as the protagonist, it’s essential that we care about Katniss and whether she dies in the Hunger Games or not. Otherwise, the film wouldn’t work.
For the past few years now though, around when people realized Star Wars was going to highlight women and people of color, and that Ghostbusters would be gender-swapped for the changing times, there’s this super gross flurry of angry white guys on the internet who want nothing more than to see these films fail, and eliminate the possibility for tempered discourse or criticism of these important, ultimately progressive, blockbusters. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes even went so far as to eliminate their “want to see” feature because minority-led blockbusters are suspectable to fake review campaigns.
Though, if you remove yourself from your own perspective for a moment, and check out the Top 100 Highest Grossing Films of All Time for example and look for films with female protagonists, you’ll see exactly why studios have made it a priority to reverse engineer their franchises into more inclusive, diverse, films that ultimately reflect the world we live in.
Because it makes money, yes absolutely.
But also because there are infinite worlds and stories left unexplored that can truly only come from people whose experiences and imaginations are different from the people who have made and financed Hollywood movies for the last 75 years or so.
Which brings me to Captain Marvel.
As a film, Captain Marvel carries a lot of narrative weight not just as an origin story, but as a franchise-launcher, a preamble of sorts to next month’s Avengers: Endgame, and as a quasi-Hollywood statement piece. There are a lot of moving parts that don’t always align, but one particular thing I admired was how it actually utilizes the technique in IMAX that I hadn’t seen since Catching Fire. The aspect ratio would ebb and flow fluidly at optimal times to make the widening of perspective as fluid as possible. Something the film itself often works overtime to do, just to make bold shots and images less jarring to a skeptical audience.
From a marketing standpoint, touting Captain Marvel as the first Marvel Studios film led by a female superhero is immediately enticing for, like, at least half of its audience and the population. And, through her cult indie appeal and recent Academy Award, Brie Larson seems to be one of the best women and rising actresses to lead the charge on changing how blockbuster movies get made and who they’re made for.
Which was all she was doing when she made the comments that made internet manbabies so angry!
In case you have misogyny stuck in your ears, there’s a stark difference between saying white guys shouldn’t watch or review movies, than what Brie Larson’s saying here. The fact is, there are a disproportionate amount of white male film critics and therefore, white male perspectives usually dictate how movies are viewed critically. Like on Rotten Tomatoes. And, while media itself becomes more reflective of what the world actually looks like, a similar change must occur in film criticism too so that more minority filmmakers get their movies reviewed by minority film critics, dramatically increasing the likelihood of getting seen by mainstream audiences.
It’s not rocket science.
You can get annoyed by whatever hokiness you’re still feeling about all the Oscars Black Panther won, but Disney makes up for 40% of the Box Office now. Disney is the mainstream and yes, they want to make the most money possible, but they’re recognizing that they set the precedent for the rest of Hollywood and even if you don’t care for the groundbreaking movies they’re making, that doesn’t make them not worth recognizing.
So no, I don’t think it matters what white guys think of Captain Marvel. There’s plenty of time to pick apart the film while it does its groundbreaking. Like, if you’re thinking of writing a bad review of Captain Marvel before you’ve seen it, or you feel that ‘boycotting’ over ‘sexism against men’ is a valuable use of your time and Twitter characters, try instead widening your field of view and make your perspective IMAX sized.
Because your boycott didn’t work, and they aren’t gonna work.
Pageant Material (2019), dir. Jonothon MitchellRead More
Earlier this week, Disney • Pixar uploaded the short film Purl to YouTube, a first for the company. Pixar SparkShorts are a series of shorts technically indistinguishable from their (mostly) masterful theatrical films, and the shorts that have classically preceded those.Read More
“I’m voting for Dukakis,” Maggie Gyllenhaal's character utters from the 80s set Donnie Darko’s dining table.Read More
Even in the face of grown-up formality and legitimacy after signing to Modest Aeroplane Records, and in turn their debut LP How Often Have I Been This Wrong?, Cleveland-based emo revival group Steadyfire persistently glow a refreshing youthful sheen.Read More
I love you. Be safe.