This is no “Best Of” List. It’s no Top Ten. Rather, it’s a highly subjective list of the most compelling media objects, broadly defined, that I’ve encountered and endorse in my capacity as a media studies professor-doctor of celebrity gossip-Twitterphile-VQRcontributor. We welcome your own endorsements in the comments. Happy exploring!
- Tressie McMillan Cottom, “When Your (Brown) Body is a (White) Wonderland,” Many people wrote many things about the Miley Cyrus VMA performance, and you are no doubt fatigued with its coverage. This is piece is not only the best but rendered in a way that shows exactly what an engaged academic can do. It is heartstoppingly good.
- Jia Tolentino, “I Just Wanted to Fly Solo: A Night at the Sugar Ray Festival,” The Hairpin: “The Under the Sun tour has unexpectedly turned into a reminder of what often happens when you are a girl and you go someplace alone: you are (at the very least) objectified, which leads to being (at the very least) underestimated, and the times that that has served me well as a writer are far outweighed by the times I have been harassed, roofied, groped in public, followed or forced to hide in foreign grocery stores as the person who’s been stalking me lopes ominously by.
- Michelle Chihara, “Reading Katy Perry,” Trop: What if “Teenage Dream,” a la Judith Halberstam, is both appealing to actual teenagers and deliberately engaging in a kind of temporal drag? Bear with me. You make me feel like I’m living a teenage dream. She puts her hands up into golden California air, at a beach party, one with the young people. But the video is shot in a grainy Hipstamatic fade, awash in nostalgia for empty backroads and old convertibles. Is this a celebration of being young and getting it on, or is this about longing for the impossible, because it’s impossible? Adolescence is always already a lost golden state. For just one song, she lets you taste teenaged freedom, in part by making that freedom seem so elusive.
- Courtney Queeney, “Modern Love: The View from the Victim Room,” The New York Times: “On my last day, the judge made me laugh by mocking the Respondent’s death-threat love letter for being so terribly written. Which was only funny because the Respondent called himself a writer. I dated a terrible writer who beat me and sent me death threats that were more terribly written than some child’s diary. I dated a violent substitute yoga teacher. It seemed like a huge joke, except it was my life.”
- Sarah Mesle, “The Unbearable Awesomeness of Lululemon Pants,” Avidly: “I mean it’s hard, right, because you want these $88 pants, and you know you could get $22 pants and then donate the remaining $66 to fending off global apocalypse, and it’s tough to admit you’d rather spend that money on your ass. It’s so much easier to ventriloquize this abstract logic that ‘it costs four times as much because it will last four times as long.’”
- Mary HK Choi, “My Mom,” Aeon Magazine: “When I was small I thought I was just cooler than my mom because of how foreign she is. She’s really foreign. You’d think it would kill her to get store-bought snacks, she’s that foreign. She grew up in a Korea filled with Koreans, married a Korean and then moved to Hong Kong in her mid-30s. I was 11 months and my brother was two years old. This was back when Hong Kong was a British Crown colony, which meant we were living in Asia with heaps of Australians and bronzed Europeans who dated Filipino women. It was all very James Clavell and linen shirts. In any case, I speak four languages and am a ruthless assimilation ninja. I will renounce all kin in the name of camouflage because everything is a contest and I am a disgusting sell-out.”
FILMS YOU MISSED IN THEATERS
- Mud. There’s an obvious indebtedness to Terrence Malick in everything about this Arkansas-set film–the dialogue, the directing, the gorgeous use of light. But that’s not to say it’s a bad thing: in fact, Mud is further proof that Matthew McConaughey is one of the most underrated actors today. And the performances by the two children are both revelations.
- The Imposter. A stunning puzzle of a mystery–and a meditation on identity and what we allow ourselves to believe. No documentary will make you think more this year.
- Drinking Buddies. With Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson (Nick on New Girl), and a surprisingly good Olivia Wilde, this mumblecore gem is currently out on very limited release–but also available On Demand in your living room right now. It’s quietly funny, true to life, and very smart on what it feels like to be in your early thirties and figuring things–including love and friendship and drinking–out. On its surface, a trifle–but with an iceberg of feeling beneath.
- Top of the Lake. This six-episode series was directed by Jane Campion, best known for The Piano, and stars Elisabeth Moss of Peggy-on-Mad-Men fame. And it is absolutely stunning–without question, one of my favorite shows of the past year. Mysterious, tragic, moody, beautiful, and incisively feminist.
- Call the Midwife. It’s like Downton Abbey, only in the 1950s, in the East End of London, with midwives and nuns. At times a bit saccharine and obvious, but consistently fulfilling. I’m a special sucker for the charming subplot of Chummy.
- The Fall. Gillian Anderson back in the detective role that suits her so well, this time in Belfast, Ireland. Perfectly executed genre fare.
- Patricia Lockwood, “The Rape Joke.” There’s a very good reason this poem has been shared nearly 40,000 times. Stunning and incisive.
- Frank O’Hara, Mediations in an Emergency. I’ve been revisiting these poems in preparation for a course on Mad Men, and they’re as vital and piercing as ever. It’s so nice to have an actual book of poems to hold in your hands.
- The Paris Review Instagram Account. Filled with fragments of exquisite poems, forgotten and remembered–a perfect way to insert a snatch of poetry into your everyday.
BEAUTIFUL DOGS OF INSTAGRAM
- Goldenjays. I’m no sucker for animal photography, but if you like dogs, you’ll love these images of three beautiful ones swimming in their very blue backyard pool.
- Momo the Border Collie. Find Momo! Whimsical and adventurous.
- Harlow and Sage. Very big dog + Very little dog = Constant amusement.
About the author: Anne Helen Petersen writes Scandals of Classic Hollywood for The Hairpin, blogs at Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style, and teaches media studies at Whitman College.