Recommended Reading: ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Music and #MeToo, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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, we’ve got a deep dive into the writing of A Christmas Carol, a look at #MeToo’s impact (or lack thereof) on the music industry, and pieces on the impact of women in movies and politics.

Rebecca Traister on the power of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The incoming congresswoman from the Bronx terrifies the men (particularly the Republican men) of the political establishment, and if you don’t believe me, watch how at least once a week, one of these boneheads comes for her on Twitter and ends up making ratio history. What is it about this freshman legislator — who is not, in the great scheme of things, terribly powerful — that makes these men nuts? At The Cut, Rebecca Traister has a theory.

It’s this very possibility that’s exhilarating for some, chilling for others: that women, and in this case, progressive women of color, newly elected in historic numbers, might team up in defense of one another, come to each other’s aid, exact political revenge on those who would vanquish their allies in ways they have never been capable of before. Because it’s not that women in the past haven’t had the will or desire to respond to the affront of having been stepped over by powerful men; it’s that they have not had the numbers, the voice, or the chutzpah that comes with those things, until very, very recently. What’s scary to so many about Ocasio-Cortez is that she’s acting like a politician with power.

And apparently, that provokes an almost primal fear. Like The Power, like the #MeToo movement, like the rising activism of women around the country in the years since Donald Trump’s victory, Tuesday’s story elicited a kind of shiver down the spine. We live in a world in which some people are used to being able to ascend without obstacle, without recrimination, without challenge: What if, suddenly, that changed? What if men were taken to task for sidelining or kneecapping women on their way to greater power? What if there was a price to be paid?

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst on the making of A Christmas Carol.

Christmas is but a week away, so chances are pretty good that you’re either reading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or enjoying one of its many film and television interpretations. But the story itself didn’t magically appear; it was the result of a specific moment in Dickens’s life and career. In an excerpt from his Dickens collection, excerpted at Lithub, Douglas-Fairhurst provides that historical background.

As he set to work on the Carol, Forster records with what “a strange mastery it seized him,” laughing and crying aloud as he wrote, sending himself abroad with each movement of his hand across the page. And then, once he had finished his work for the day, he would be off, pacing the city streets through the night, sometimes covering ten or fifteen miles at a time. Perhaps he was attempting to wind himself ever tighter in the coils of the city. Perhaps he was attempting to pick up enough speed to escape its gravitational pull. All that can be said for certain is that motion and emotion were curiously tangled together in Dickens’s mind, and that if at the start of the Carol Scrooge is something of a self-parody of Dickens’s fears about himself—the solitariness, the unhappy childhood, the desire for money—by the end Dickens had successfully brought him into line with a far more optimistic view of himself, as he bursts out into the street ready to send himself abroad imaginatively as well as physically, as light-hearted as he is light-footed.

The Carol took Dickens a little over six weeks to complete, and he wrote the final pages at the beginning of December, following it with “The End” and three emphatic double underlinings. Then, he said, he “broke out like a Madman”: a whirl of parties, conjuring performances and dancing, as if he secretly worried that there would be something unhealthily Scrooge-like about staying in one place for too long during the festive season.

Marc Hogan on #MeToo in the mainstream music industry.

As part of Pitchfork’s “Year in Music 2018” series, Hogan takes a look at why the #MeToo movement’s giant shifts and accountability haven’t penetrated a music industry that still gives cover to the likes of R. Kelly and has bestowed considerable posthumous success upon XXXTentacion. Part of it, he explains, is that we’re dealing in very different industries:

One common argument for why #MeToo has failed to take hold in the music industry is because the line between business and pleasure isn’t always clear, thanks in part to the myth of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll; Dorothy Carvello, an Atlantic Records exec in the late 1980s, recently likened the workplace of that era to “a porn movie.” Another contention is that it’s a small industry that only got smaller throughout most of the 2000s. The Big Six major labels that ruled between 1988 and 1999 are down to the Big Three of Universal, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group, while overall sales, though up recently, are still down sharply from their late-’90s peaks, creating an environment where people might feel less inclined to potentially risk their jobs by calling out misconduct.

Yet another running theme about the industry and #MeToo is almost paradoxical. The industry, though downsized from what it once was, is still more fragmented than Hollywood or the media, where many men accused of abusive behavior have been fired in the wake of the Weinstein revelations. The music industry isn’t really a single industry, but a sprawling ecosystem that encompasses live shows, merchandise, sound recording performance royalties, composition performance royalties, and beyond.

Manohla Dargis on how movies see women.

This one is a couple of weeks old, but it came when this column was on hiatus, and it’s just too good not to spotlight due to silly timing concerns. In this sprawling essay (beautifully rendered into multi-media presentation), the New York Times chief film critic looks back over a lifetime of what movies taught her about being a woman — how she’s had to reconcile the regressive sexual politics of so many classics with her own views, without discounting the artistry of those films wholesale.

Of course, if movies were all bad, we wouldn’t love them; I couldn’t love them. One of their miracles is that despite everything, they bring us sublime female characters who surmount often degrading stereotypes and lavish, punishing abuse. This ambivalence fuels the 1937 weepie “Stella Dallas,” in which Barbara Stanwyck’s good-time gal suffers for being her. But Stella is indomitable, like many memorable female characters, and her strength of will connects her to later heroines like Ripley in the “Alien” franchise. Stanwyck’s performance along with her radiant charisma and her humanity convey a fullness of female life that many movies have tried — and still try — to deny.

A few years ago, I reread Molly Haskell’s 1974 book, “From Reverence to Rape,” which remains relevant as a guide for how women can love the movies without surrendering their politics or self-respect. Haskell observed that although the male-dominated industry did its part to keep women in their place, female writers and editors continued to shape cinema, as did female stars. These “love goddesses, mothers, martyrs” embodied stereotypes that they also at times transcended. I had already learned this lesson from watching the movies, which I passionately loved, grew to hate and had to learn to love again.