Chelsea Manning, Condemning Trump Affiliates, a ‘Carol’ Cult: This Week’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. This week, Trump was looking even more barefacedly inept and impeachable than usual; an Atlantic article by the late Alex Tizon about how his family owned a slave received an mélange of emotional praise and Social Media Condemnation™; Chelsea Manning walked free; Carol became a cult film; and more.

Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief: Articles about the failings of the Trump presidency — failings that were obvious and predictable from the earliest days of his candidacy — are dime a dozen these days, but even so, there’s something to be said for the idea of reiterating them again, and again, and again, because if nothing else, doing so means that when history comes to judge all those who were complicit in this disgrace, no-one will be able to claim that they were ignorant of what was happening. Condemnation of Trump’s allies and hangers-on is the focus of this excellent piece by The Washington Post‘s Richard Cohen, who starts off lambasting Mike Pence, and then methodically turns his fire onto Sean Spicer, Steven Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, and the Republican Party in general. It’s cheer-along-worthy stuff:

I don’t feel an iota of sympathy for Pence. He was among a perfidious group of political opportunists who pushed Trump’s candidacy while having to know that he was intellectually, temperamentally and morally unfit for the presidency. They stuck with him as he mocked the disabled, belittled women, insulted Hispanics, libeled Mexicans and promiscuously promised the impossible and ridiculous — all that “Day One” nonsense like how the wall would be built and Mexico would pay for it.

None of this, of course, is anything we don’t know. But nevertheless, it’s worth repeating it ad infinitum: these people are letting America burn, for the sake of their own selfishness, for the interests of their owners campaign donators, and because they are too craven to do anything else.

Moze Halperin, Senior Editor: For WIRED, Angela Watercutter writes about becoming immersed in “the internet’s most unlikely [cult of] fandom”: that for the movie Carol. Her piece examines how this masterful, subtle, visually-driven yet wrenching drama about two women falling in love with each other in the ’50s has the type of fervid following you might affiliate with the likes of so-good-they’re-bad B-movies:

Carol boosters (Carolinians? #catepeople?) exhibit the kind of devotion typically reserved for subreddits devoted to Dredd. These are the kinds of fans who start an in-joke about something a fan overheard an older woman telling her male companion during a screening (“Harold, they’re lesbians”). This is fandom of the sort you see with any under-appreciated futuristic sci-fi movie, but with a meditative queer drama set in the 1950s. It is, essentially, internet obsession for grownups.

I can certainly attest to the therapeutic wonders of blurting “Harge” with upper crust stuffiness, the pains of unmet desires, and a dash of old New York zeal at all points throughout the day.

TH: If you’ve seen anything on the internet this week, you’ve seen people going nuts about Alex Tizon’s story in The Atlantic about how his family, not to put too fine a point on it, kept a slave for five decades. Does this make Tizon a terrible person? Should the answer to that question affect the importance of the story? Honestly, this is one where you’re probably better off reading and deciding for yourself:

To our American neighbors, we were model immigrants, a poster family. They told us so. My father had a law degree, my mother was on her way to becoming a doctor, and my siblings and I got good grades and always said “please” and “thank you.” We never talked about Lola. Our secret went to the core of who we were and, at least for us kids, who we wanted to be. After my mother died of leukemia, in 1999, Lola came to live with me in a small town north of Seattle. I had a family, a career, a house in the suburbs—the American dream. And then I had a slave.

MH: 29-year-old Chelsea Manning was freed on May 17, six years into what was originally a sentence of 35 years — the “heaviest” sentence ever given to a whistleblower in the U.S., according to the ACLU. Former President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence last November, just before he left office. Mother Jones details the process behind the commutation, as well as the grueling struggle Manning faced transitioning within a military prison. (Manning publicly announced that she was trans a day after her sentence; after attempting suicide, she was put in solitary confinement, which led to another suicide attempt.)

Manning has had to fight for her right to live as a woman. During her early days at Fort Leavenworth, [her ACLU lawyer Chase] Strangio says, she was optimistic that if she made a formal request for hormone therapy, she’d get it. “One thing people don’t understand about Chelsea is she is an incredibly patriotic person who has a tremendous amount of faith in our democracy, and…she was very confident they were going to provide her the treatment she needed,” Strangio says. She was wrong. Though military doctors diagnosed her with gender dysphoria and recommended she live and be treated as a woman, the Army denied her hormone therapy. Strangio helped her sue to get it—and she became the first person ever to receive treatment in a military prison for a gender transition.

From yesterday:

MH: The Talkhouse — which publishes “writing and conversation about music and film, from the people who make them” — this week featured a review of Harry Styles’ debut solo album by Mitski. It’s hard to think of a more perfect artist to write about teen-sensation-making-attemptedly-adult-debut Styles than the musician who last year made an album called Puberty 2, which eloquently speaks to unfulfilled senses of longing and belonging (social, cultural, sexual) through the language of adolescent discomforts. Her review, though very aware of her subjectivity (the piece is headlined “One Projection”) as someone who has these things on her mind, is actually really even-handed, giving both praise and criticism when they’re due. She writes:

I’m stunned by the clarity of lyrics like, “We’re just two ghosts standing in the place of you and me / Trying to remember how it feels to have a heartbeat” in “Two Ghosts,” a description of people who’ve grown apart that is so specific, it’s universal. “From the Dining Table” is a picture of true loneliness like I haven’t heard from a pop star in a while—the second line of the opening verse is, “Played with myself, where were you?”…The central positioning of the lyrics also exposes their shortcomings, which might not have been as noticeable if they were masked in a 2017 Top 40 dance track. “Carolina,” “Only Angel,” and “Kiwi” find their themes in the clichés of the bad girl who’s innocent on the inside, or the good girl who’s so bad, it’s hard to tell—they’re like Matryoshka dolls.