The French Election, ‘Happy Days,’ a ‘Scandal’ Parody/Homage on ‘Dear White People’: This Week’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing excellent content, but also keeping an eye on other great writing from around the web. This may be a predominantly arts/culture-centric website, but given the immediate gravity of U.S. politics, we’ve also been focusing this outward-looking post on indispensable political writing, as well as the occasional culture piece.

Following a great segment by John Oliver earlier this week, the New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson parses whether Ivanka Trump really has the intent to do anything besides elevate her father’s agenda by very eloquently espousing vague nothings:

In Berlin, when NBC News asked her about admitting Syrian refugees to the United States, she said that it should be “part of the discussion, but that’s not going to be enough in and of itself.” The resulting headlines suggested that this constituted a break with her father. But how, exactly? Refugees are “part of the discussion” when he rails against them; and “not going to be enough” could just as easily refer to what the President sees as the need for “extreme vetting,” or letting in only Christians.

Jessica Wolf writes for American Theater about coaching Dianne Wiest for the role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, which just opened at Brooklyn’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center. The part demands that the performers stand still from the waist down for the first half of the play — in which Winnie is half-buried in the earth, and fumbles through random belongings, imbuing objects with the weight of human friendships; reading the branded print on a toothbrush can be her saving grace for hours on end. In the second act, Winnie doesn’t even get to move her arms — everything but her head is buried. Wolf writes:

For me, one of the most arresting moments of Dianne’s performance occurs right after the curtain rises to begin the play. Winnie is asleep in the blazing heat, with her upper body extended over the mound. After a loud bell, she awakes and exclaims, “Another heavenly day.” Dianne initiated this movement from her head: turning toward the sky, opening her arms and spiraling upward. She used the subtle swivel of her ankle and hip joints to achieve a full extension of arms and an open chest, as though she were embracing the entire world.

As the film world continues to mourn the loss of Jonathan Demme, director Katherine Dieckman writes for NPR about the director’s use of music beyond his famous concert docs like the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense. She focuses on Something Wild, which she argues “most brilliantly telescoped Demme’s gleeful fusion of song and subject matter.”

There’s something so particularly evocative about the way Something Wild operates – it’s partly generational, but it’s also dispositional. The movie feels born of a time when you could stroll into a record store and flip through bins of vinyl, or buy a used album off a dirty blanket on the sidewalk for a buck, or hook into a track as you heard it float past you on a boombox. Life at that time invited you to find songs in public if you wanted to find them, and those songs were an invitation to a certain way of living.

Dear White People creator Justin Simien — who based the series on his own 2014 filmspoke with Vulture about an aspect of the series derived from another work: Defamation, the show’s hilarious Scandal spoof. The discussion extends from Shonda Rhimes shows to the limits of satire on TV to Dear White People‘s mining of racism — both institutional and personal — on college campuses. Here, Simien talks about getting the Defamation actors to hit the right Scandal-homage-spoof tone:

Within the world of Defamation, I have to say the actors came in on point. The great thing is the actors who play the president and Olive Bishop [DWP’s version of Olivia Pope] are good actors, so they are playing something real. The performance style is just so over the top. It’s fun when you’re in the director’s chair and all you have to do is push people further. Pulling someone back and finding nuance where there isn’t, that’s hard work. But being more insane is just really fun. There’s no craft there. It’s just, “Do more of that! Scream at him!”

In a review/essay of Adam Kirsch’s The Global Novel for The New Republic, Siddhartha Deb emphasizes his own questions about the very notion of what constitutes the “global” label in America’s mindset:

Rather than view the global novel through a Western lens, it is important to ask what allows certain books to be perceived as global in the first place. What are the mechanisms of selection and rejection, of publishing and publicity? How much does the emergence of an anglophone global elite, its tastes largely in accord with those of New York and London, have to do with this process?

Robert Mackey writes for the Intercept about Jean-François Jalkh — Marine Le Pen’s recent appointee to take her place as the leader of the National Front while she continues her presidential bid — and the recently unearthed fact that he once cited a known Holocaust denier in his claim that he didn’t believe Nazis used Zyklon B on their victims in death camps. After this came out, Jalkh was replaced, but Mackey writes about the new pick to take his place — and the fact that Le Pen is campaigning, in the name of protecting secularism, to ban Halal and Kosher meats on top of hijabs and yarmulkes:

Unease over Jalkh’s past led to his sudden replacement on Friday morning by another party member, Steeve Brios, who is the mayor of Hénin-Beaumont in northern France. Brios has no record of Holocaust denial, although he is due to stand trial soon in a French court for inciting racial hatred by making the false claim on Twitter last year that the absorption of migrants has led to “an explosion in sexual assaults” in Germany, Sweden and Austria.

Speaking of which, Le Pen was also the butt of one of Clickhole’s best pieces this week.