Recommended Reading: Tucker Carlson, John Krasinski, and ‘What Can A Citizen Do?’

The sharpest, funniest, and most thoughtful writing of the week.

Modern online media is all about the signal boost, so every Friday here at Flavorwire, we take a moment to spotlight some of the best stuff we’ve read online this week. Today, insightful analyses of Tucker Carlson and John Krasinksi, a peep at the second season of “The Deuce,” and a peek at a timely new picture book from Dave Eggers.

Lyz Lenz on Tucker Carlson.

Once upon a time, Tucker Carlson was considered one of the “intellectual conservatives” — a smart, thoughtful guy who leaned right but was nonetheless tight with his prose and sharp with his wit. Now he hosts what amounts to a White Power Variety Hour on Fox News. What happened? At the Columbia Journalism Review, Lyz Lenz tackles this question, with a cynical but straightforward approach that should serve as a guide to journalists reporting on these, ahem, “provocative” figures.

So is he a racist? “My god, I’m not a racist. I hate racism. Tell me how.”

He kept going, mimicking the debate he believes his accusers/liberals/me are having about him. “It’s like ‘Oh, creepy people like your show. Therefore, you shouldn’t have a show.’ What? How could you go along with that? I don’t understand. Like, that’s the lowest form…that’s so contemptible. And it’s, it’s amazing to me that that kind of goes on uniformly. Shut up. You’re a bad person. Go away. You’re fired now. What? Tell me what he did wrong. Speak slowly so that I can understand. What did he say that’s untrue? What did he say that’s not allowed? What’s the right position? Why don’t you explain it to me? Shut up, Nazi.”

His publicist calls after our interview to make sure I know that Carlson is not a racist.

Alison Willmore on John Krasinski.

In a masterful analysis of Krasinski’s metamorphosis from smirking Office nice guy to buffed-out, red state action star, Buzzfeed’s Willmore looks at how the actor (and sometimes director) works in, and promoted, his films 13 Hours and A Quiet Place and his new Amazon series Jack Ryan, and comes up with some fascinating conclusions.

Krasinski has sidestepped readings of A Quiet Place as a metaphor for the country’s political turmoil, telling the Hollywood Reporter, “That’s not what I was going for, but the best compliment you can get on any movie is that it starts a conversation.” When preparing for Jack Ryan, which starts with his character working as a mid-level CIA analyst, Krasinski shared some similar-sounding observations with Entertainment Weekly regarding getting to go to the actual agency: “I was blown away by a lot of things with the CIA — how incredibly diverse the place was and how apolitical. There was no politics being discussed, it was about objectives of protecting people and getting to the truth of the matter, which I thought was really interesting.” On one hand, you can’t blame the actor for wanting to avoid quotes that could possibly be lifted out, aggregated, and result in him dealing with a news cycle and the now-standard round of anger and apologies. On the other, presenting the CIA or a movie about Benghazi as somehow existing separately from politics is either a willfully oblivious or astonishingly convenient way to see the world.

Krasinski is too smart to believe that things are only political when actual politicians are invoked (which was one of the defenses of 13 Hours — that it couldn’t be political, because Hillary Clinton wasn’t mentioned by name). It’s more likely that he is simply opting out of engaging with the optics of the choices he’s making because he doesn’t feel he has to acknowledge them. It’s awfully advantageous to not see politics even when, say, starring in a story about one of the most divisive and politicized events in recent history. It’s a selective sight that allows him to be adjacent to potentially inflammatory choices while ankling any responsibility to address them himself.

Lara Zarum on The Deuce.

Flavorwire alum Zarum, one of the best damn TV writers in the game, was (much to this fan and friend’s chagrin) hit by the recent folding of The Village Voice. But on her way out the door, she filed this review of the new season of one of the finest shows on television.

Like GLOW — and Mad Men — The Deuce is a show about how things used to be, but it’s also, inadvertently, a show about how little things have changed. The number of women directors working in Hollywood today compared to men continues to be dismal; exploiting or harassing women at work continues to yield few consequences for men. (Including James Franco, an executive producer of The Deuce, whom five women accused of “inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior,” as reported by the Los Angeles Times back in January.)

And, like those other series, The Deuce suggests that systemic barriers keeping women from achieving their full potential at work are relics of the past. The show’s writers are not totally blind to this irony; in one scene, at a porn awards ceremony in L.A., the camera catches a woman describing a film to her companion: “It’s a parody of Westworld, but instead of cowboys and Indians, it’s sex robots.” She’s referring to the 1973 movie Westworld, but this porn version suggests the series you can catch on Sunday nights on HBO.

Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris ask, “What Can A Citizen Do?”

And finally, a special Friday treat: a few images from What Can A Citizen Do?, a new picture book from Chronicle Books in which Eggers and Harris ask what citizenship – good citizenship – means to us all. Eggers was prompted to create the book, he tells Flavorwire, by the same things that have pushed so many of us into action over the past couple of years:

For some reason, in the fall of 2016, civics was on my mind. I don’t know why. But it occurred to me that fall and winter that as a nation we had largely forgotten what it meant to meaningfully participate in a democracy. Right or left, it was the same thing, really — different forms of apathy, rage, and self-interest. So one way I thought to address that would be to speak to the very young, kids under 10, who might appreciate a rhyming book that might insinuate radical ideas about society to them — ideas like notion that we’re better off when we work together with a shared vision than we are when we act from a place of fear, solipsism or entrenchment. That said, the book is really supposed to be kind of fun, too. There are ideas about community and democracy there, but there’s also a bear wearing a dress.

Here’s a quick peek at What Can A Citizen Do?, which hits bookshelves on Tuesday.

(Chronicle Books)

 

(Chronicle Books)

 

(Chronicle Books)