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, the last word on the Best Picture, and fascinating profiles of a legendary investigative reporter, a comedy icon, and a beloved feminist novelist.
Justin Chang on Green Book.
The week started off with a bang thanks to the Oscars — a fast-moving, vibrant, and surprisingly enjoyable ceremony, right up until Julia Roberts handed the Academy Award for Best Picture to the makers of Green Book, a creakily antiquated piffle in which a racist discovers racism is bad. Within moments of the ceremony’s conclusion, Los Angeles Times film critic Chang (who had a feeling, apparently) filed his definitive explainer for why the win is so distressing:
I can tell I’ve already annoyed some of you, though if you take more offense at what I’ve written than you do at “Green Book,” there may not be much more to say. Differences in taste are nothing new, but there is something about the anger and defensiveness provoked by this particular picture that makes reasonable disagreement unusually difficult. Maybe “Green Book” really is the movie of the year after all — not the best movie, but the one that best captures the polarization that arises whenever the conversation shifts toward matters of race, privilege and the all-important question of who gets to tell whose story.
I’ll concede this much to “Green Book’s” admirers: They understandably love this movie’s sturdy craft, its feel-good storytelling and its charmingly synched lead performances. They appreciate its ostensibly hard-hitting portrait of the segregated South (as noted by U.S. Rep. John R. Lewis, who presented a montage to the film on Oscar night) and find its plea for mutual understanding both laudable and heartwarming. I know I speak for some of the movie’s detractors when I say I find that plea both dishonest and dispiritingly retrograde, a shopworn ideal of racial reconciliation propped up by a story that unfolds almost entirely from a white protagonist’s incurious perspective.
Molly Ball interviews Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Veep returns on March 31 (thank God) and TIME‘s Ball visited its star and producer — and certified national treasure — Julia Louis-Dreyfus on the set of her forthcoming Force Majeure remake to talk about the state of the show, politics, and comedy:
Comedian Amy Schumer, who grew up watching Seinfeld, remembers finding the character of Elaine Benes revolutionary. “She didn’t do the things that we’re all taught, as women, to do: be selfless, control your impulses,” Schumer says. “She had no interest in filling that role we’d all been sold about how women were supposed to be. That probably contributed to my development as a person as well as a comedian.”
In comedy as in politics, everyone these days is trying to figure out the boundaries of acceptable behavior. The White House is occupied by an insult comic whose routines are laced with racism and sexism; meanwhile, comedians like Jerry Seinfeld grouse that they can’t crack a joke without rousing the PC police. Louis-Dreyfus professes little tolerance for this kind of complaint, noting that Veep has spent plenty of time satirizing sensitive political topics without causing controversy. “I think as soon as people start bitching about ‘politically correct,’ it’s a term for something else,” she says. “I’m in favor of political correctness. I’m suspicious of those who have a problem with it. I think it is language for something else–for ‘It’s O.K. to make racist jokes,’ or ‘It’s O.K. to make violence-against-women jokes.’” And yet, at a time when jokes are political and politics is a joke, America’s reigning queen of comedy is telling us it’s still O.K. to laugh.
Molly Langmuir interviews Jane Mayer.
It’s not hard to argue, as Langmuir does in this profile for Elle, that The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer is the best investigative reporter in the country — and has been for decades, from her reporting on Iran-Contra and the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hall hearings to, most recently, her exposés of Brett Kavanaugh and Eric Schneiderman. Langmuir’s profile digs deep into her methods, drive, and years in journalism (including the wonderful tidbit that she was one of the inspirations for Holly Hunter’s Jane Craig in Broadcast News):
Beyond any of this, it didn’t take long for Mayer to become frustrated by the limitations of the White House correspondent job, which felt to her like stenography. Once the Iran-Contra affair leaked, “it was as if it were written on a billboard: You are wasting your time,” she says. She took a six-month leave to cowrite Landslide, then got reassigned to a position that let her roam the world, following her instincts. In 1989, she traveled to Germany and, prompted by a radio report, made it to the Berlin Wall in time to watch a wave of human beings breach the barrier.
By then Mayer was professionally established, but like Broadcast News’s Jane, she found that her love life still delivered setbacks. In the early ’90s, she returned from a reporting trip to discover that the lawyer she’d been living with had taken up with her “polar opposite,” Laura Ingraham, now a Fox News host. The new couple refused to return Mayer’s dog, so one day, when they weren’t home, she and Abramson drove over, and Mayer climbed through the pet door to retrieve it. (“She’s a lot of fun,” Abramson tells me. “I don’t want you to make her seem deadly serious.”) The house, incidentally, was also the site of a delicious piece of DC gossip: After the guy and Ingraham broke up, Ingraham supposedly flooded it by sticking a hose through the mail slot.
Molly Jong-Fast on her complicated family.
If you spend a fair amount of time in certain literary and/or political circles on Twitter, you’ve probably encountered Molly Jong-Fast, whose quick wit and unapologetic candor makes her a must-follow. This user had followed her for month before realizing she is the daughter of Erica Jong, the feminist writer and personality whose 1973 novel Fear of Flying became an essential Second Wave text. In this entertaining piece for the New York Review of Books, Jong-Fast writes about the singular experience of being in that family — a reflected prompted by the discovery, during an interview for a documentary, that her parents had an open marriage:
Perhaps it was wrong of me to assume that the self-proclaimed queen of erotica wouldn’t have an open marriage. After all, she’d written Fear of Flying, the book that launched a thousand affairs and gave women of the Seventies the right to fuck whomever they wanted or leave their husbands or join a primal scream group or go live in a commune. I was very much not a product of that world, and while I understood some aspects of that particular paradigm shift for women, I didn’t really understand my mother’s cultural significance to these women: these starry-eyed women who spotted her in restaurants or foreign hotels, these women who came up to her and touched her dreamily and told her that her book had changed their lives. I had lived a different shift.
Later, my mother took the flustered German filmmaker to see her elderly shrink and I snuck into the bedroom and called my father who had recently moved to Palm Springs, California. “Did you know that you and mom had an open marriage?” I asked him. We had a sort of jovial relationship; we shared the experience of having a crushingly powerful parent and it was a sort of bond.
“Oh, is that what she’s calling it now?”