I expected some backlash for this one — and I got it — but I also discovered that plenty of people agree. Take her VMA turn in the context of current pop music – with its astoundingly retro set of gender relations — and what Miley did, tongue and all, looks a little more impressive:
At the VMAs, Cyrus shared the stage with Robin Thicke, whose “Blurred Lines” is a throwback in every way to the days when girls were seen as mere tools for boys’ pleasure. And yes, in a reference to the women in Thicke’s video, Cyrus was almost naked, while Thicke was fully clothed.
But in her tongue-wagging way, Cyrus turned the script around. Unlike the women in the video, she didn’t just prance past him or — oy, Marlo! — allow herself to be pet. She sang with him, teased him, challenged him, and proved herself the bigger star.
Read the rest of the column — including nostalgia for “Free to Be You and Me” — here.
A FEW MONTHS after the last presidential election, at a forum at Harvard’s Institute of Politics, a group of seasoned political consultants were discussing what makes a good candidate — someone voters will respond to and connect with. The answer, one said, was “authenticity.”
This isn’t necessarily a trait that voters — or campaigns — would name. Candidates like to pitch themselves as people with grand passions, brilliant ideas, noble backstories, or all-American values. (Not all necessarily at the same time, but hey, we can’t have everything.)
But this different and slightly subversive idea — that voters want, most of all, to know precisely what they’re getting — goes a long way toward explaining why there’s hope for Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer.
They are destined to be paired in headlines all summer: the testosterone boys, recovered from their sex scandals and bidding to be New York City’s mayor and comptroller, respectively. And the standard political narrative puts them in the framework of downfall and redemption: sinners, tapping into America’s grand willingness to forgive….But maybe the public isn’t rewarding these guys’ repentance so much as their honesty. Maybe voters don’t need to forgive, or even forget; they just have to wrap it all into a credible big picture.
Read the rest of my Boston Globe column here
I wrote two columns for the Globe in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. The first — which I later read aloud on Australian radio — was about the jarring task of telling a child what happened. The second was about the quest to understand why a young man – not much older than a child – could do something like this.
Why do so many people want to understand Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? To find within him some speck of humanity?
That’s not an accusation; it’s a statement of fact. In the weeks since the Boston Marathon bombings — in columns, in tweets, in hushed and guilty conversations — there has been a widespread urge to get inside the suspect’s head, to imagine him somehow brainwashed, bullied, regretful. Not everyone feels this way, of course. But it’s not hard to view Tsarnaev differently from the 9/11 bombers, or from Jared Lee Loughner or Adam Lanza, two other young men who committed mass murder in recent months.
Those men, the common narrative goes, were sick. Distant. Separate. Tsarnaev was different. Before the mayhem, he seemed to be one of us.
This is a pressing mystery of the bombings, and the fact that we’re hunting for answers doesn’t mean we’re going soft. It doesn’t mean we aren’t angry.
It has to do with unanswered questions, both general and specific, and the hope that somehow, answers could prevent further attacks. How do small numbers of young men grow radicalized? How do they lose their humanity? How do they evolve from boys — with friends, parents, social lives — to killers?
Read the rest of the column here.
Manti Te’o and Katie Couric have the same publicist, which goes a long way toward explaining how Couric — as opposed to, say, Oprah — landed the first on-camera interview with Te’o yesterday on her syndicated talk show, “Katie.” It was an unmitigated success for Couric, whose ratings soared to their highest levels since her show’s debut. She has been praised for her willingness to ask follow-up questions, and for the fact that she seemed tough, channeling a nation’s skepticism about the world’s weirdest supposed love-story hoax.
Couric wasn’t Oprah, so she didn’t have that grand bearing, that Oprah-esque way of suggesting that someone has Wronged The Nation and Must Be Set Right.
But then, Te’o didn’t wrong a nation so much as he confused and unwittingly entertained it. So Couric’s demeanor fit: She was more like your high school friend’s nice-but-nosy mom, who would sit you down at the kitchen table and pour you a Coke and ask you probing questions about your life. With Te’o, she couldn’t believe the answers — not because she’s a journalist with a killer instinct, but because she’s a human being with a normal amount of sense in her head.
(Read the rest of my post from Boston.com’s The Angle blog here.)
SO I just watched the trailer for “Gangster Squad,” and it goes something like this: Gun, gun, shot of phallic-looking building, Ryan Gosling, gun, firefight, is that Nick Nolte?, firefight, guns getting handed out like candy, someone getting hit with a gun barrel, guy pointing gun in other guy’s face, gun, gun, firefight, explosion, raid involving guns, casings falling cinematically to the floor.
It’s two and a half minutes long, so I left out a lot of guns.
Less than a month after the Newtown tragedy, this is what Hollywood is peddling, without shame: A firearms-glorifying culture that competes, inside our brains, with the impulse to stop the spread of actual firearms. A few weeks ago, the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns posted a video featuring outraged-looking movie stars, urging the public to rally for gun control. Someone soon reposted it on YouTube, spliced with images of those actors shooting guns onscreen.
The blanket charge of hypocrisy wasn’t entirely fair. Some of those scenes were actually trying to spoof gun culture. Sometimes violence is used in the service of art. And studios wouldn’t make these movies if the public didn’t want them, right?
Well, maybe, maybe not.
(Read the rest of my Boston Globe column here.)
YOU’VE GOT to hand it to Oprah. She has established herself as America’s confessor, which, in a way, makes life easy for her interviewees. Oprah’s not going to absolve you or coddle you. She’s going to raise her eyebrows with majestic skepticism and speak grandly, for the nation. And so the person in her crosshairs — this week, Lance Armstrong — is freed to play his own expected part: the relieved confessee.
That’s how Armstrong tried to present himself for the last two nights, criticizing himself while displaying scant emotion, declaring — unconvincingly — that he’s happier now, with the truth laid bare, than he was when he was winning all those races.
The substance of his confession isn’t really news: He doped for years, lied about it, and vilified anyone who told the truth. That’s why the most instructive thing he said came Thursday night, when he offered a damning explanation of why he did it: not because he wanted to win, not because everyone else was doing it, but because he was too weak to put an end to the story he’d helped create. His was the “perfect” tale, he said, the athlete who beat cancer and went on to win the Tour de France seven times.
“Behind that picture, and behind that story, was momentum,” Armstrong said. “And I lost myself in all that.”
It was a clever statement, because it implicated the rest of us, too.
(Read the rest of the column from the Boston Globe here.)