@voyou The first two episodes of Ms Marvel were great, it's a shame it's been derailed by inordinate amounts of plot 1 Jul 22 Reply Retweet Favorite

Austerity TV

I hadn’t heard of Yellowjackets until I saw people sharing the Vox post calling it “prestige Pretty Little Liars. If by that they mean it’s not as good as Pretty Little Liars, I agree. But Pretty Little Liars is tremendous, a classic of 00s TV, a Klute for the early smartphone era, etc., so there’s lots of space to be good while not being as good as PLL. Still, I think that post also gets to something about why Yellowjackets isn’t as good. Much has been made of the way in which Yellowjackets mixes genres, but there’s one genre that dominates, to its detriment: prestige TV.

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The official chart of 2021

My favourite songs of 2021. Check out the gratuitously long Spotify playlist of basically everything I liked this year (with the best first, more or less), or carry on reading for some explanation of why I liked them.

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Trump’s neoliberal melodrama

Jon McNaughton paints Trump threatened by a crowd of Democrats carrying Mexican, European, and Soviet flags, while they stand on the US flag.

I recently noticed Elisabeth Anker’s Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom on my bookshelf, and that’s a title that resonates at the moment, as the emotional register of politics ramps up, especially in the US. But the book, although advancing a theory of melodrama as a general political mode, is primarily about the Bush administration, which a certain segment of liberal opinion is currently attempting to retroject as a period of reasonableness. This revisionism is probably itself a version of melodramatic politics, which, as Anker argues, requires positing history as a period of innocence to dramatize our current politics in terms of dastardly assault and heroic response to it. What’s interesting about re-reading the book now, though, is the continuity between the post-9/11 period and today, which I think shows some interesting things about supposedly post-neoliberal politics, and potential responses to them.

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Better things aren’t possible

A recent (recent in actual time, if not in internet time) review of Sophie Lewis’s Full Surrogacy Now has led to a steady stream of moderate leftists acting scandalized at Lewis’s suggestion that abolition of the family should be at the centre of left-wing politics. This response, when it isn’t just incredulous scoffing, generally emphasizes the family as an institution that embodies qualities of caring that should be maintained and extended in a socialist society. As the critical review of Full Surrogacy Now puts it,

While abolishing the family is obviously fraught with problems, providing it with the resources to reform its pathologies has much to recommend it…. Any viable progressive vision of a postcapitalist future cannot look like an experiment in social engineering, but as a project that recognizes the ties, both within the family and without, that often underlie the everyday struggles of working people.

This genre of “don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses” propaganda seeks to counter the view that socialism is impossibly radical by asserting that people are already socialist, they just don’t know it yet, finding instances of putative socialism in things people already agree with. I’ve come to think of this approach as an attempt to trick people into being socialist, because, in taking the (obviously reasonable) point of beginning agitation where the audience already is, it dissembles about the genuinely radical changes that socialism requires.

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The fascism of Baby Yoda’s face

Obviously, The Rise of Skywalker is not a good film. A ton of stuff happens, none of it’s developed, and much of it is stupid. One of the stupidest things is the return of Emperor Palpatine, which undercuts the ending of The Return of the Jedi in order to avoid developing a new antagonist for the sequel trilogy. Stupid, and yet….

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If We Could Feel Beale Street

In his review of If Beale Street Could Talk, Mark Kermode praises the film for finding universality in its presentation of a story of a very specific time and place. Kermode suggests that it is this very specificity which allows the film to be universal, or, rather, a particular sort of specificity, the detailed drawing of the characters’ specific emotions. The idea that emotions have a universality that allows them to transcend the positions of the individuals experiencing them is a common one (I’ve used it myself), but we should be wary of erasing the specificity of experience in the supposed universality of emotion.

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