A full bodied Bachelorette spoof, woke magical realism, the life and legacy of RBG, and more.
Digest #15, September 22nd 2020
I am sending this week's digest later than I have before for a few reasons. Leo was unwell (he's fine now!), I have decided to study economics via MITx in my spare time (who have I become?) and I've been wildly busy at work. The core reason though, if I'll be honest with myself, is that I was reading a book so addictive that for the last few nights I quite literally couldn't put it down. One To Watch is a romantic comedy that spoofs The Bachelor franchise. After an alcohol-driven takedown of the show's lack of body diversity goes viral, plus sized fashion blogger Bea Schumaker finds herself cast as the lead of the show. The book has all of the kinds of crazy twists and turns you'd expect if it was an actual season of The Bachelorette. It is such a guilty pleasure plot-wise, for anyone who loves trashy reality television. But for those of us who are also social justice minded, it features diversity and flips tropes in a completely natural and unforced way, weaving a depth of human experience into the plot and characters. Highlights for me included an Asian American male love interest, an incredibly wealthy and elite Black family, asexual/aromantic representation, and a gender nonconforming character. Full disclaimer: if you sign up to Book of the Month using my review link, I'll get a free book from them (sounds like a win-win to me!)
My copy of the book, from Book of the Month.
Hulu's latest original series Woke centers on Keef, a Black cartoonist who has a popular illustrative series and a successful career. Played by Lamorne Harris (or as I knew him, Winston from New Girl), Keef doesn't like to get "political" and actively avoids talking about race, thinking that hard work and success makes you an exceptional person in a post-racial America. That is, until he's held at gunpoint and slammed face down on the pavement by the police for "fitting the description". Once he has this shocking experience, he's changed, and well, woke. The show is witty, well written, and brilliantly acted by an ensemble cast. The icing on the cake for me is the use of magical realism. Once he has his wake up call, Keef sees his cartoons coming to life and speaking to him at the most hilarious times. Highly recommend to anyone looking to unwind the complex realities of living in America today, Black or not.
A promotional poster for the show.
The monumental weight of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's loss, particularly at this moment in history, is pressing on many of us right now. Instead of focusing on a future out of my immediate control, I have chosen to reflect on all the incredible and unparalleled good that she did. This tribute episode of The Daily podcast is a beautiful way to celebrate her life's work, and the progress she made for women (and men) in the United States. As a lawyer, advocate and justice, she completely transformed gender roles in American society. We can't know what America, and much of the Western world, would look like today without her influence. I encourage you to listen to her life's story and honor her legacy by making a donation.
A still from the film RBG. Training in her 80s, after a long day's work, in a sweatshirt that says 'Super Diva'. Icon.
My lovely friend Max (yes, this is your fourth mention Max, keep the fabulous links coming!) sent me this fantastic data visualization by The Pudding. It shows how the genders of a film's writers, directors and producers affect its results on the Bechdel test. The test, for those who don't know, is a measure of women's representation in film. To pass, a film must contain at least two women as characters who speak to each other about something other than a man. Ideally, the women should also have names. Simple, right? Apparently not. About 40% of major films fail. So do the genders of filmmakers matter? Well, yeah, it definitely looks like it. But don't take my word for it, check the results out for yourself.
A screenshot of the tool, on The Pudding.
I absolutely love Violet Chatchki. I was elated when she won season seven of RuPaul's Drag Race, having shown tremendous growth despite being given the villain edit and not getting along with a lot of the other queens. She oozes charm and talent, and was utterly exceptional at only 21-years-old when she won the show. It was clear even then that like a great red, she would only get better with time. Watching this Vogue Paris video of her getting ready for a Jean Paul Gaultier show Couture Fashion Week brought me such delight. Come for the stunning looks, stay for the cute quips and the "vamp, glam, luxury".
A screenshot from the video. Violet getting into drag. She says her makeup process takes a full three hours. Worth it.
When I'm super busy and creatively sapped, I'm not ashamed to admit I turn to meal kit services as a stop gap. It's a very competitive space, particularly here in the US, so I've had some very hit-and-miss experiences with recipes they've come up with. The best meal kit dish I ever had was this incredible saffron and yellow tomato risotto with zucchini and olives. The flavors combine in a completely unexpected way to make a dish so moreish you'll wish you'd made a larger pot. It turns out that canned yellow tomatoes are a very difficult ingredient to source here in Atlanta (without insane shipping costs), so I've never been able to recreate this. If you know where to buy them, please tell me. If you have access to them, make this for yourself! You won't regret it.
A photo from the Blue Apron website.
So the weirdest thing that happened to me this week was John Cena following me on Twitter. I don't understand why he would follow me, since all I post is work stuff, literary things, and then random angry thoughts occasionally. But really, how am I supposed to know what he's into? My husband Alex thinks he probably reads this digest. If you actually do, hi John! Welcome to The Seven fam 😂 In honor of this weird development, let's watch John Cena surprise Sho Madjozi on stage while she sings "John Cena". It's JohnCenaCeption.