#Problematic: Jon Hamm Was Once A Frat Bro, Kylie Jenner Does Blackface & Jaden Smith Dons A Dress
This past week was punctuated by some stark reminders that our world still needs a lot of shaping in order to be a fair, just and loving place. I know this is a pop culture column that exists as a tongue-in-cheek internet roast, and is not an ideal platform for a civil liberties chat. But it’s important to take a moment and realize that our pop culture obsessed society provides just the kind of mirage necessary for the social ills to get swept under a rug of warp speed media inundation. That same media-driven society we live in can also be an incredible platform, that on the other side of clicks, likes and page views also gets used for good. I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that pop culture is escapism, and a time stamp of our current culture, and indicative of a kind of campy collective consciousness, and it’s those aspects that give it merit in a world that can be far more bleak than we expect sometimes. So on to some things that are problematic, but definitely not problems.
1. Jon Hamm Was Once A Frat Bro
Jon Hamm is liberal white America’s dream boy. He’s both classically and devilishly handsome. His career took off at middle age, so there’s a lot fewer backlogged tabloid stories and poor project choices to cloud our idealization of him. He brought to life one of the most beloved existential anti-heroes of our time. He’s humanized his resume with a great deal of choice comedic roles. And to round out his gilded reputation, he’s been committed to unmistakably darling Jennifer Westfeldt for almost 20 years.
I guess it would be a little presumptuous to think that any actor would be exempt from lecherous gossip rag scrutiny, but their new focus seems to just be because “Mad Men” returned last Sunday to round out the second half of its final season. First they revealed that he had completed a 30-day stint in rehab for alcohol, which really only served to bolster fans’ loving equation of him to Don Draper, and also to prove how badass he is for pulling a detox off without anyone knowing until it was over. We all need to dry out every now and then, who fucking cares.
Well, now the inky greedos of cheap paper creed have used their journalistic prowess to dig up a dusty scandal from Hamm’s collegiate days. In 1990, he was involved in a hazing ritual at the University of Texas that got dreadfully out of hand and resulted in a pledge pressing charges against his fraternity, which ultimately disbanded due to the scandal. Hazing is obviously wrong, and just another hormone-fueled social ill ruining America’s college campuses. But is it really relevant? Is the fact that John Hamm was a mean frat bro 25 years ago supposed to make us boycott the final six episodes of “Mad Men”? What’s problematic is that you’d be hard pressed to not believe that every good looking, white American dreamboat with a preppy past and great filmography hasn’t done something incredibly dickish before. Pour a drink and give your pearls a rest from being clutched.
As #Problematic as … the phrase “age appropriate”:
2. Scientology Truthers Are Out For Elisabeth Moss
HBO’s release of Scientology exposé “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” rocked our true crime minds. That is if you can see a cultish institution bullying their way into tax exemption and terrorizing members as criminal—the debate continues however on whether or not Scientology is evil. I’ll give it to them that they haven’t done anything that any other evangelical religious faction hasn’t tried. At least they have some badass fake science behind their weird ways, rather than a bunch of Puritan hell fire threats. Beyond the organization itself, its prominent celebrity members are under intense scrutiny for (how they could ever believe in alien ghost possession) participating.
Anyways another human whose star rose in great part due to “Mad Men,” Elisabeth Moss, has been a known Scientologist for quite some time. There’s been a lot of critical response to celebrity Scientologists, because they’re allegedly one resource the organization relies on to maintain its image and indoctrinate newcomers. If anything it typically hurts those celebrities’ reputations, rather than help Scientology score new thetan-ridden mongoloids who want to ride that magic bridge to wherever the fuck. What’s problematic is that anyone thinks that those celebrities should have to discuss their involvement. In cases like the very publicized ones of John Travolta and Tom Cruise, the issue is more proof that they’re being silenced by the church. But in actors’ like Moss’ case, she’s guilty by association.
Anna Silman rebuked journalists avoiding asking Moss about her involvement in Salon this week, “Still, it seems like it would be in the public’s interest, and that it could serve a public good, to at least ask Moss about the outcry over the controversial revelations…” Silman is just working off the accusations of “Going Clear” writer Lawrence Wright who equates the silence of celebrity believers as being complicit in Scientology’s unsavory behavior. What’s problematic is that as fucked up as Scientology may be, it’s no one’s duty to report them. Moss doesn’t have to be a vigilante for “public good.” Scientology is also an inherently privileged belief system, and they may brainwash people, but you still have to walk in that door on your own. It’s not our favorite secretary’s job to save us from lord Xenu.
As #Probelmatic as … Flava Flav not picking New York:
3. Kylie Jenner Does Black Face
The Jenner/Kardashian clan isn’t necessarily known for exhibiting a great deal of discretion or class. But they conceived the holy grail of guilty pleasure, and in turn we hate love them and give them ratings high enough to renew their contracts for millions. Youngest of the fame mongers, Kylie Jenner is fated to forge her own path to relevance. As each Kardashian/Jenner has done before her, she must find her niche. She must focus her energies and riches into crafting her own personal brand of nepotistic and useless media sludge. Her sisters have already eliminated the options of sex tape, marrying people famous for athletic or musical talents, having lots of babies with a total weirdo, or in Kendall’s case, actually cultivating a valid career (albeit as a super model). That doesn’t leave a lot of room for Kylie to be original in making her own stamp on the family’s rich traditions of fame whoring.
Kylie in turn has just kind of settled in to just being. She’s living in the moment, present in all things. She tweets, she selfies, she meditates on world peace—another day passes. She did take a page out of Kim’s book, cultivating her own body part conspiracy. Kylie owns the pout of legend that launched a handful of memes, and some drunken googling of “Kylie Jenner’s Lips.” She attributes her lips’ sudden and drastic fullness to the magic of makeup. If that’s the case, I would like to put whatever lipstick she’s using on my ass to make it bigger. The real problem though is that Kylie’s new look has gotten her some attention for perhaps appropriating black culture through her own personal aesthetic.
Cultural appropriation is a sticky subject, perhaps most succinctly summed up by the poet Miley Cyrus when she said “We can’t stop. We won’t stop.” The lines are incredibly blurry between what kind of appropriation is a commentary or meant to promote integration, and what is mockery or exploitation. Kylie apparently crossed that line this week when she posted some photos to Instagram of herself (duh) in a deep bronze body paint. Granted Kylie and Kendall are a lot more fair than their Kardashian sisters, because they’re not part Armenian, but that’s easy to forget because the whole family is very friendly with spray tanning. Honestly, the photo isn’t anything a high fashion ad or Tyra Banks wouldn’t pull in reverse. Angry Twitter commenters did make some valid points like how the photos could easily spark a bronzing trend for white women. Ultimately I’m pretty sure Kylie wouldn’t know cultural appropriation if it danced at her like one of Miley’s backup dancers. That’s no excuse for doing so, but honestly I think she was going more intergalactic sex doll than black face, and body paint is a real aspect of makeup artistry. What’s really problematic is that Kylie’s contribution to society is a bunch of superfluous photo shoots of herself.
As #Problematic as … cupcake vending machines:
4. Jayden Smith Wears Dresses
Let’s sum this up quickly. If ever there were a born soothsayer it’s Jaden Smith. It’s abundantly clear that he has his finger on the pulse of the universe. He knows where the black holes are. He knows where the worm holes are. He can show us new worlds. He also has started wearing dresses occasionally. He’s been photographed in a few choice pieces, and pulls it the fuck off like Lady Gaga pulls off alien cheek prosthetics. Which is to say, he looks great.
Some people don’t think Jaden looks great. Some people on Twitter want to call him gay, and say other variations on mean things. And those people will be cursed to wearing pants for the rest of their lives, just like a bunch of members of the glaring patriarchy should have to. Balls crowded and sweaty. Leg hair getting matted in thick corporate suit fabric. Have fun in your pants, to the victor goes the dress.
As #Problematic as … when Sarah Jessica Parker talks to the camera in the first episode of “Sex and the City”:
5. Tidal Continues To Suck
At this point we’ve all heard of Tidal, the music streaming service equivalent of wall street. Heck, some people have even shelled out the 20 bucks a month to see what the hell Jay Z’s been on about. In short, the answer is not a whole lot. Apparently the interface isn’t very intuitive (which all media platforms need to get together asap—I’m looking at you Hulu), and there’s been a general consensus of its ugliness. I’ve never really found Spotify to be pretty, but beauty is in the eye of the monthly fee payer (and if anyone could make an ugly app it’s probably a bunch of deluded celebrities).
Tidal’s belief system seems rooted enough in some kind of desire to actually do good. Reinstilling core values, or any values at all, back into the music industry is noble enough. But they’re doing it at the expense of the fans. Granted fans have been illegally downloading music for about ten years now, but greedier record labels, junky internet pirates and corporate structures that have allowed and perpetuated this are the real problem. And as we discussed last week, a contingent of music’s most filthy rich success stories replacing corporate earners of streaming services doesn’t really provide a clean alternative.
Another attempt for Tidal to appeal to listeners over Spotify was the promise of exclusive content. Last week, Beyonce made good on that promise, releasing exclusive to Tidal a new single and video, “Die With You,” in honor of her and Jay Z’s seventh wedding anniversary—in theory. What it really seems to be honoring is their blatant insistence that they “run the world.” When you are a top selling artist with millions of fans and you release a new single through your husband’s new company that requires us mere plebeians pay $20 a month just to hear it, well it seems more like you’re honoring your right to not have to play the game anymore. It’s absolutely problematic, but it also seems like Tidal isn’t the big wave they thought it would be, so it won’t last long anyways.
As #Problematic … as flip flops: