1. “The Unbearable Whiteness of Indie.” Pitchfork’s Sarah Sahim sees God Help the Girl and it gets her thinking about whiteness in indie music.
“The price of being outspoken about race—the price of speaking their truth—for Heems or Dap, for M.I.A., is much higher than it is for any white musicians with a message, be it Kathleen Hanna or Kim Gordon’s mass appeal white feminism or Bono, whose career is foundationally built on his white savior complex. Heems’ work (both solo and with Das Racist) explores racial problems in both American and Asian society with a distinctly satirical slant, but the label of ’joke rap’ is one that has become difficult to escape, and one that invalidates and writes off the truth of their experience as Asian Americans. M.I.A. prefers to take a route that relies less on humor and blunty screams about her problems with both the West and Sri Lanka. The often casual dismission of her politics ultimately results in her having to scream even louder. M.I.A. or Heems’ assertion of their racial identities and experiences, becomes, at best, inconvenient, and often plays as badly in the underground as it does in the mainstream.”
2. “Kingdom Came.” Wesley Morris on Empire and the state of black television drama.
“What wins Empire the gold for both uniqueness and a kind of greatishness is that its struggles are not ones of race and class, of respectability and propriety, of how to be bourgie in the conference-room seats and ghetto between the sheets (for the record: No one properly uses sheets on this show). With Empire, struggles are absorbed into the world of the show and neutralized. Political upheavals are in the past. The show operates at an almost paradisiacal remove from capital-C concerns. Poverty, murder, anti-gay prejudice, sexism, snitches, bitches, and feds all exist. So do biracial gay Australian photographers, Latin men, and characters played by Naomi Campbell and Courtney Love. But the show is pitched at canted angles of normalcy. And that struggle-free normalcy creates the luxury you want from soap operas.”
3. “No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear.” Toni Morrison writes that, in times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent.
“The solutions gravitate toward military intervention and/or internment—killing or jailing. Any gesture other than those two in this debased political climate is understood to be a sign of weakness. One wonders why the label ’weak’ has become the ultimate and unforgivable sin. Is it because we have become a nation so frightened of others, itself and its citizens that it does not recognize true weakness: the cowardice in the insistence on guns everywhere, war anywhere? How adult, how manly is it to shoot abortion doctors, schoolchildren, pedestrians, fleeing black teenagers? How strong, how powerful is the feeling of having a murderous weapon in the pocket, on the hip, in the glove compartment of your car? How leaderly is it to threaten war in foreign affairs simply out of habit, manufactured fear or national ego? And how pitiful? Pitiful because we must know, at some level of consciousness, that the source of and reason for our instilled aggression is not only fear. It is also money: the profit motive of the weapons industry, the financial support of the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about.”
4. “Scared Senseless.” Mark Harris on the indie horror boom and what frightens us now.
“By contrast, the mainstays of horror—vampires, zombies, werewolves—are now mostly appropriated to bring drollery or meta-commentary to other genres. The recent surprise hit What We Do in the Shadows mines vampires for comedy; A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (an Iranian-language movie shot in Bakersfield about vampires in chadors, just in case you thought there were no new ideas) is more interested in merging Sergio Leone with Jim Jarmusch than in actually frightening you; and Jarmusch’s own Only Lovers Left Alive treats vampirism as European coffee-table-book stylishness and boredom advanced just one step further than his other movies have pushed it. If ’horror’ itself is now all but impossible to take straight, we’re left at an intriguing fork in the road: Horror that isn’t interested in scaring you, or non-horror that is.”
5. “An Imperial Romance.” Daniel Kasman on Max Ophüls’s From Mayerling to Sarajevo.
“This romance, then, is political. After a bravura sequence of scene-setting through royal palace prepping, scurrying, and pontificating around the absence of the Archduke, Ferdinand finally shows up and is introduced to us and to his Emperor, Franz Joseph, as a liberal radical. Speaking of desiring a ’United States of Austria,’ he inspires in the Emperor and his chief lackey a conspiracy of political marginalization with hints of more violent repercussions. Yet the crux of From Mayering to Sarajevo’s drama is not the Archduke’s radical political stance and the regime’s repression of its heir, but rather the embodiment of this counter-imperial stance in the figure of the beautiful Countess Chotek. Her brazen advocacy of Czech nationalism is the first thing that attracts Ferdinand to her. Their love, disapproved of and labored against as an affair by the monarchy, and then later their marriage, barely tolerated only because of the diminished status in court and impossibility of birthing heirs in their morganatic marriage, is a union of romance and politics.”
Video of the Day: And here’s Richard Brody on Ophüls’s Letter from an Unknown Woman:
Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org and to converse in the comments section.