Buster, Ballet and Balls

No Complaints #140

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Things to read

“It was two more months before we could meet in person. I sat on her faded carpet for the first time and heard about life as a live-in servant at the age of 14 (there was little hope of anything better after her dad died when Edna was four). ‘You see, I didn’t like being in service. I was owned, really.’ I thought of my own childhood in the 70s and 80s. My mother, arms akimbo, standing on the landing, staring down at her defiant daughter and telling me: ‘Darling, the world is your oyster. You can do whatever you like!’ I grew up energised by the rash of possibilities that were finally available to young women. Edna shook her head: such bravado and self-belief were unimaginable.”

There are so many heartbreaking, apparently throwaway, sentences in this short piece. Email to Pocket.

“One of the assumptions that goes along with our culture’s continued, if souring, mythologising of powerful men is that to be uncompromising is a show of strength which inevitably requires others to conform to their will. The other, of course, is that it’s up to the people who want to be with those men to comply to the romantic terms they set out, or be replaced, because he has earned the right to do as he wants. Reynolds and Christian are revered as singular, essential figures, but their lovers get treated as anything but. Replaceability haunts both stories in the suggestion of the (mostly unseen) women who've come and gone before. The women we do see are hurt and unhappy because they want more — the distraught former submissive who turns up with a gun in Fifty Shades Darker, the soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend at the start of Phantom Thread who asks Reynolds ‘There’s nothing I can say to get your attention aimed back at me, is there?’”

A fascinating piece comparing the central male roles in the Fifty Shades films and Phantom Thread. Email to Pocket.

“And yet. . . it’s important to understand that it was Linton’s fantastical idea of what a political wife should act like that got her into this mess to begin with. Like so many dozens of people circling the president of the United States, Linton is a show-person who’s constructed her understanding of political behavior from a Hollywood fantasy. ‘When I look at the photograph of her stepping off the government plane, that image definitely looks like something out of a movie. It looks like a set piece,’ says Robin Givhan, longtime fashion critic and writer at the Washington Post. ‘For a lot of people coming into Washington, their understanding of this world is based on Hollywood and television, and that’s the only touchstone they have.’”

You will read this whole piece between your fingers, it’s like a horror film you can’t stop watching. Email to Pocket.

“Spotify goes a step further than its competitors in attempting to soundtrack not just general human experiences but the specific cultural zeitgeist. Its playlist descriptions are littered with Twitter catchphrases like ‘reclaiming my time’ (for a Black History Month collection) and ‘Yas, queens’ (for a playlist simply called ‘Fierce’). A playlist called ‘NYC Strong’ was assembled in response to the October terrorist attack in Manhattan. A collection of lists called ‘Be the Change’ urges listeners to ‘shake up the status quo to these revolutionary sounds’. There’s something a little rapacious about the whole endeavor, though it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why it makes me cringe.”

I am not kidding, there is an actual playlist genre just called “Woke”. If you ever see anyone on public transport selecting it, get off at the next stop and just walk away, you can’t take any chances. Email to Pocket.

“This is where my investigation ends, and I turn the question to you, dear reader. What color is a tennis ball? We’ve reported, now you decide. I must warn you that pondering this may lead you, as it did us, toward an existential cliff where we were reminded, once more, though we all live in the same world, it can look completely different to different people.”

This is basically The Dress all over again, and I wasn’t prepared for how strongly I would feel about it. (Tennis balls are yellow, for the record.) Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

I never manage to keep up with Desert Island Discs on a weekly basis, but I do like to check the recent archive periodically and see what I’ve missed. Recently, I’ve enjoyed listening to Chi-chi Nwanoku, Christina Lamb and Bruno Tonioli. Also, don’t forget you can get decades of past interviews as podcasts here.

—Related: as of this week, paying subscribers will be receiving a themed podcast playlist in their inbox every Sunday. Sign up here if you want in. I am also taking requests, so if you have a genre/niche you love but don’t know of enough good shows in it, this is your opportunity to fix that.

Things to watch

If they still had this, I might actually want to watch the Winter Olympics.

My heart.

I’m finished.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

Queer Eye, but in the Middle Ages.

The guest gif

Me vs my deadlines.