#Problematic: Patton Oswalt Is A Jerk, Madonna Swallows Drake & Gwyneth Paltrow Goes Hungry
How’s it hanging, guys? “Game of Thrones,” a show that I have never seen past the opening credits of episode one, is back. I am told this has made everyone really fucking happy. I am told it’s got some badass female characters. I’m told that there is more than one dragon. I am told that it has made Peter Dinklage the star he was born to be, a sex symbol even.
It’s not that I don’t want to watch “Game of Thrones.” And I’ll admit, I’ve fallen back on lame excuses before like there not being enough time, or enough weed. Tax day just passed though, and I’m feeling a little hungover and broke after making out a check to the coffers of power, so I’ll level with you. When it comes to “GoT,” I’m just scared. It’s like when you’ve had your heart broken. After enough nights blacked out, screaming to your friends, “Surfbort!” while the bartender uses a broom to kindly sweep you out of the closing bar, or enough mornings waking up next to definitely not your future husband, you feel okay again. Your heart open, you meet someone new and in the words of poet and philanthropist Carrie Bradshaw, “spark.” “But then the the trauma of all of the evenings you spent eating bacon for dinner, watching “Buffy” and softly weeping into your cat’s fur flash before you because you might feel something real again. Well, “Game of Thrones” might be real. It might be that one. But I’m too scared to take the leap.
Now that you know that, I also want to put a little disclaimer on this week’s edition of #Problematic. One of this week’s issues didn’t sit well with me—even more than the usual reactionary vitriol of the internet doesn’t sit well with me. It’s not necessarily that this particular issue is worse than the others, but that it felt a little personal, and I think it speaks to a problem that doesn’t get enough attention. So I’m going to lean in, and get a little in depth. I’ll go on to briefly get into some other problems this week, but the first will be the most extensive. Hey, variety is the spice of life, sometimes you have to mix it up.
1. Patton Oswalt Is A Jerk
Let’s rip the Band-Aid off, for this is the aforementioned rant you saw coming. Last Friday evening, all seemed calm while the citizens of the world shook off their slacks and shook up some vodka shooters to christen the weekend. Some people played The Weeknd, some people threw on their favorite Beyonce vinyl, some people turned up the Vivaldi because everyone deserves their own kind of chill. That chill wasn’t going to last long though, because Salon was about to publish an innocent-seeming think piece titled, “HBO’s ‘Silicon Valley’ leans in: The bro-tastic startup culture confronts its woman problem in season 2.”
With a positive enough standpoint on an already loved show, typically this sort of piece would do fine and enjoy a tepid reception. A few feminists would vote in approval of the author’s opinions, a couple feminists would rip it to shreds because it’s not good enough, and a few dudes would pipe in with a “what bro problem?” or “I’m so sick of everything having to be nice to girls. Amirite? #brosforbros.” Unfortunately anything that writer Sonia Saraiya could have added to a conversation about how a show portraying the male-dominated tech community handles women was overshadowed because she mistakenly confused “Silicon Valley” actor Kumil Nanjiani with “Big Bang Theory” actor Kunal Nayyar.
I will skip the part where I bore you with how this is indicative of our persistent, very serious problems with race (especially because Nanjiani is Pakistani, Nayyar is British-Indian), and a huge fuck up on the writer’s part. I will not get into that, because so, so many people already have.
What is more overlooked in our knee-jerk reactive society is what happened next. Obviously all of the Twitter and all of the blogs went after Saraiya, and among them were some celebrities and Nanjiani himself. Nanjiani tweeted a screen cap of the screw up, and his wife, Emily Gordon, tweeted a side-by-side comparison of the two actors. But, in a moment of kindness, the couple also realized that this writer was probably underneath her bed hiding from the erupting volcano of hatred coming her way. Gordon deleted her original tweet replacing it with a post that reads, “I deleted my tweet. There is no point in piling on. The article has been changed and that’s what I wanted. Fuckups are fuckups.” Nanjiani also posted, “Please don’t tweet at the author of that article. I’m sure she feels horrible as it is.”
Never one to be Twitter-shy, Patton Oswalt decided to chime in, because apparently he cares deeply/was bored or hungry/is a voice of reason when it comes to journalism and race because of his distinguished position as a privileged, white male actor. Oswalt and Salon have a history that the publication even referred to as “caustic,” when they addressed the tension in an interview with him. Granted I don’t always disagree with his criticisms of the kind of hyper politically correct, stern and prudish journalism prevalent in today’s internet world—critiquing said mumbo jumbo is the very basis this column was founded on, with the title “Problematic” being an ironic wink at the very kind of writing that relies upon that word.
A somewhat tedious, but necessary rundown of what happened: Oswalt began his attack with three tweets: “Oooooh, @salon. Guys. Admit you just massively fucked up, laugh if off, and move on. And accept the shit Twitter’s about to send your way,” “And take a bow, @salon. You just out-Onion’ed @TheOnion,” and “Dear @salon: Use the headline “Wrong Brown Guy” in the thinkpiece. OWN IT. We all fuck up. Not trying to be mean, seriously.” He then goes on to get in a pissing contest with one of Saraiya’s friends, Dennis Perkins, who took to the web to defend her from the self-righteous trolling Oswalt was up to with “I know Sonia—she’s a great writer & person. She owned it. Stop.” Oswalt tried to throw some kind of internalized patriarchal fairer sex bullshit at Perkins, that his mere defense of a friend was “condescending & infantilizing.” Sonia then added, “Dennis is my friend, I did not find him to be condescending or infantilizing. He’s sticking up for me.” Obviously Oswalt wasn’t going to let her have the last word, he wouldn’t want to infantalize her. He very condescendingly concluded, “You don’t need defending from anyone. You owned your mistake. Dennis was ‘mansplainfending.’”
Let’s all take a deep breath, and sigh it the fuck out. We are in the beginning stages of an unprecedented breakdown of how cultural conversation used to be had. The internet and social media has thinned the veil between all parties involved, from the writers, to the media heads, to the actors, to the fans and readers. The ability to let someone know what you think of their work or opinion has become unfettered. The option to do so anonymously has also added a layer of ugliness that is not productive, and goes unchecked. The negative results of all of this can be seen in the many celebrities who have publicly given up on the internet, or in even worse cases like Mary Louise Parker, their careers.
As a person who writes things on the internet, I can say first hand that as thrilling as this shift in discourse can be, it can also be very scary. Perfect strangers telling you that you deserve to be raped over your opinion on a music video or a Super Bowl commercial, and without having the balls to put their name on said vile threats, has become a reality of being a writer. The fact that people think it’s okay or necessary to troll like that is one problem, but it’s an even bigger one that it’s become expected. The best advice I got in college from any writing professor was, “Don’t ever read the comments.” And they’re right, but we’re all human, and you can’t help but want to see if people are having a discussion about your ideas, lest it perhaps even be a productive one that you as the original author might want to participate in.
Anyone who creates any kind of work consumed by the public has to have thick skin, and I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to respond to creative work. But threatening writers for their opinions, or even just trying to break them because you don’t like what they said with insults like “stupid cunt” and “dumb little girl” are the crutches of a weak society of humans eating frozen meals behind their computer screens, lazily masturbating to the thought of putting someone down. Plenty of magazines have had to take time out from actually doing their jobs to publish editor’s notes defending their writers from an army of trolls who didn’t like a particular piece.
What a lot of people also don’t take into account, is that the resources available to writers have greatly diminished in our hot bed of click baiting, trending and churning out responses to everything almost as they happen. In the much cushier, more well-paid, insulated journalism climate of yesteryear, writers had more than twelve hours to skip sleep and write a review of a television premier. They also had whole teams behind them of fact checkers and editors, meaning a lot more eyes went on something before it was published. Journalistic integrity and responsibility are real things, and I’m not saying that any writer should get a free pass on doing their homework because media has changed. But if you think that calling someone names is a successful way of diminishing their opinion, or sending mean tweets is a productive form of dialogue, than enjoy your hot pockets assholes, nitrates look good on you.
As #Problematic … as roid rage (also this is how I picture internet trolls):
2. Gwyneth Paltrow Is Hungry
This past week everyone’s favorite waif to hate, enticed by celebrity chef Mario Batali, endured Food Bank for New York’s SNAP challenge. The campaign is meant to prevent budget cuts to the already limited Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The challenge requires people who can afford to eat whatever they want, or in Gwyneth’s case, a lot of things she doesn’t want, to live on the SNAP budget for one week of $29. Gwyn (I bet she hates being called that, lol) gooped up social media, posting a picture of her meager grocery haul, which prominently featured seven limes among other useless foods to any person below the poverty line trying to fucking live.
The real problem here is that no one saw this coming. The challenge itself, although successful in drawing attention to the cause, is a little bit of a gross kind of Hunger Games-ian first world giggling at the poor shit. The irony of a celebrity chef leading the charge is also deeply missing the point. But what’s really problematic is that Gwyneth has surrounded herself with so many team members who must never climb out of what I’m sure are their very necessary Klonopin hazes to tell her to get a fucking clue, or grip or anything that might make her a little more likable.
As #Problematic as … the fact that people still even read Goop:
3. Madonna Mouth Raped Drake
Trigger warning: I’m about to say not nice things about Madonna. The last time I did that people got very mad, and called me a cunt. I can be kind of a cunt sometimes. And people really still fucking love Madonna. Those are the facts.
During Drake’s set at Coachella on Sunday, Madonna came out and put her maw on Drake’s maw, and proceeded to make sure his esophagus was still there with her tongue. Once she released him from her talons, he recoiled and gave a shudder seen round the world.
Now let me clear the air. I fucking love Madonna. I think she’s earned the right to do whatever she wants, is a great role model for female sexual empowerment and is just generally badass. But let’s call a queen a fucking queen, and admit that she is well known for saying some weird shit. Drake has gone to Instagram to clarify that his immediate reaction was out of shock, not disgust. What’s problematic is that Madonna felt the need to kiss him like that. She could have sufficiently tongued him, and it would have made the same headlines, but seemed a little less desperate. And equally problematic is that Drake is clearly on some PR nonsense, because that is the shudder of disgust if I ever saw one.
As #Problematic as … festival fashion:
4. Justin Bieber Got Kicked Out of Coachella
And that’s actually not a problem at all. Other than being a general brat who hasn’t really done anything musically in four years, I don’t really understand what is so hateable about him, though. His persistence in getting handsy with other people’s girlfriends, loving some drugs and general douchbaggery is kind of performance art in itself. I will be the lone ranger standing up for the Biebs this week.
As #Problematic as … being secretly sexually attracted to Justin Bieber:
5. “The Hunger Games”’ Roo Has Grown Up To Be Cool AF
Which also isn’t a problem at all. I just thought I would end this week’s rant on negative vibes with some positive vibes. The actress who played Roo in the “Hunger Games,” Amandla Stenberg, is now 16 years old and putting social issues far older than her into humbling perspective. In a video for her history class, she does an excellent job of summarizing cultural appropriation. Give it a watch.