Politicized Tunes, the Anne Brontë-ishness of ‘Happy Valley,’ and More: Today’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘net are doing, too. Today we’ve got an examination of Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s playlists, an anti-war cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays, an article on the climate of the comedy world for women, and a piece about reading Wired at the dawn of the Internet age.

In Pitchfork, Zoe Camp examines the processes through which Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders’ campaign playlists were put together, and what certain tracks reflect in either candidates’ desired public image:

Like lighting, seating, flag-colored decor, music is just another cog in the staging machine. But there’s also more to it than that. When executed properly, the musical lead-up to a candidate’s speech unifies the crowd under a common cultural experience, allowing them to transcend their demographic and idealistic differences, and seemingly come together as supporters. A killer playlist can provide a voice for the candidate in their absence, underscoring the ongoing ideas and identities associated with the politician at hand.

At the Guardian, Michael Billington goes in depth on Barbara Gaines’ Tug of War: Foreign Fire, a cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays Edward III, Henry V “and parts of” Henry VI in Chicago, that uses his works about war — alongside Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen’s music — as the director’s expression of anti-war sentiment:

Amid the carnivalesque surroundings, Gaines makes no bones about the fact that she has approached the histories with a political agenda. “I am angry with my country,” she says, “because of our record of invasion of foreign countries, because people like Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz are not held accountable for their role in this, and because violence has proliferated like a horrific virus. I admit I’ve always been haunted by the horror of war, which is why I’ve directed Troilus and Cressida three times, and why I’ve spent four years planning this Shakespeare history cycle.”

David Sims spoke to comedians Aparna Nancherla and Sara Schaefer and wrote for the Atlantic about how the mainstream comedy climate is beginning to shift towards being less of a “boy’s club”:

But in recent years, there have been detectable—if uneven—efforts across all levels of the entertainment industry to feature more women. Comedians like Kristen Wiig and Amy Schumer have broken onto Hollywood’s A-list, and film franchises like Ghostbusters are being rebooted with all-female casts. This year, Samantha Bee left The Daily Show to host her own talk show on TBS, and both Maria Bamford and Chelsea Handler had new series debut on Netflix. Comedy Central’s recently announced slate of half-hour stand-up specials—a reliable indicator of which performers are on the verge of major stardom—featured five women out of 17. There’s a lot more work to be done before the comedy world reaches real gender parity, but as more paths to recognition have opened for stand-ups around the country, there have already been heartening results.

For those who like to read unexpected literary/historical influences into contemporary television series, The Millions has a long piece about the Brontë-ish, and particularly Anne Brontë-ish, vibes of the British crime series/character study, Happy Valley:

Happy Valley has a curiously Victorian quality that goes beyond its soot-stained setting. Class and women’s roles, those 19th-century preoccupations, loom large. Sarah Lancashire lends a certain atmosphere, known for corseted appearances in BBC period dramas like Oliver Twist and Sons and Lovers. And Yorkshire has 19th-century badlands pedigree; Charles Dickens made it the home of the dreadful Dotheboys Hall school in Nicholas Nickleby, for instance. But the show also echoes the works of the county’s native daughters, the Brontës. Haworth, their hometown, is mentioned more than once. Catherine has a Jane Eyre-like stoicism, and Tommy Lee Royce’s schemes to gain power over his son and those he sees as having harmed him aren’t far from Heathcliff’s machinations. However, it’s the least-known Brontë’s vision that is clearest here.

Anna Wiener writes for The New Yorker about her recent interest in early forecasts of digital advances in Wired from 1993 to 1995. She details the history of the publication, the nostalgia factor for the excitement over technologic unknowns that so quickly became obsolete, and what it’s like to immerse oneself in the oddly recent roots of Silicon Valley’s command of our everyday lives:

As people were beginning to figure out how to integrate technology into their lives, Wired raised new possibilities for the cybernetic future. In early Wired, technology wasn’t just entertaining; it was a tool, meant to liberate and enlighten. Products were positioned as socially transformative (“We’re Teen, We’re Queer, and We’ve Got Email”). I was strangely moved by an article about Santa Monica’s Public Electronic Network, an online town hall used by the city’s homeless and wealthy alike. And then there were the regular contributions by members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation—a civil-rights nonprofit that is effectively cyberculture’s answer to the A.C.L.U.—advocating for digital freedoms including online privacy, encryption, and free speech.