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Michelle Orange

Michelle Orange is a contributing editor to VQR and the author, most recently, of This Is Running for Your Life: Essays (FSG, 2013). Her writing has appeared in Harper’s, the Nation, the New York Times, Bookforum, Film Comment, Slate, and other publications. 

Author

Screening the World

Summer 2017 | Criticism

Television may be remembered, among other things, as having entered a “golden age” even as it ceased to exist. As a term, television feels increasingly inapt, vestigial, at risk of acquiring the air quotes that presage irrelevance. Still, it refers to a form—episodic, moving-image narrative—for which we have not yet found a better alias, beyond awkward talk of streaming content and on-demand services, and the shorthand that is Netflix, a brand name that suggests the merger of two media, neither of which is television. As good “television” proliferates, television as a medium and as an experience is in decline.

<i>Toni Erdmann</i>. Directed by Maren Ade. Sony Pictures Classics, 2016. 162 minutes</p>

Professional Lives

Spring 2017 | Criticism

“Career woman” is a term that enjoyed a certain vogue across the latter half of the twentieth century. An American idiom much bound to the eighties but coined in the thirties, under the guise of defining what a woman is, the phrase points emphatically to what she is not: “a woman whose career is more important to her than getting married and having children.” An archetype born of its time, the career woman is bound to that era’s signature medium: The movies helped midwife her into Western culture; on film she was made unruly (and almost always white) flesh, fed on drive and solo popcorn dinners, dressed in power colors, and sent into an unreconstructed world, where her success or failure typically depended on her willingness to obey a more natural order. There is, of course, no such thing as a career man.

Author: The JT LeRoy Story. Directed by Jeff Feuerzeig. Amazon Studios / Magnolia Pictures, 2016. 110 minutes.

Extras

Fall 2016 | Criticism

Disgrace is a public phenomenon, defined by public measures—of perception, opinion, consensus. To suffer disgrace is to arouse a collective sense of betrayal, bounds demolished, moral or social compacts violated. Reprieve from disgrace is also a public phenomenon, something a certain kind of documentary makes plain. Having suffered disgrace, occasionally a public individual will sit for a documentary portrait, as both former New York congressman Anthony Weiner and Laura Albert, the writer behind the literary persona JT LeRoy, have recently done. Weiner and Author: The JT LeRoy Story apply documentary means to restorative ends, where a kind of suspense attends the effort to marry a frayed reputation to a private self, disgraceful behavior to mitigating context, image to some more tangible thing. 

A scene from Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie, 2015.

Femme Verité

Spring 2016 | Criticism

In Chantal Akerman’s work the element of paradox is everywhere, fractal, supreme. In this she is an artist of her time and place and perhaps most emphatically her gender: Born in Brussels in 1950 to Polish Holocaust survivors, Akerman’s is a life emerged from the death camps. 

Beirut Rising

The view from Byblos castle. Stefan Sonntag / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 In my opinion, Lebanon is the scene of a historic test that will determine the future of humanity.”President Ahmadinejad, Iran, July 25, 2006Beirut’s hopelessness relies upon its resi [...]