Recommended Reading: Serena Williams, Lenny Kravitz, and Linda Bloodworth Thomason


Modern online media is all about the signal boost, so every Friday here at Flavorwire, we take a moment to spotlight some of the best stuff we’ve read online this week. Today, a scathing takedown of disgraced CBS head Les Moonves, Rebecca Traister’s insightful take on the Serena Williams controversy, a fascinating peek at the failure of Warren Beatty’s comeback movie, and a theory on the enduring popularity of Lenny Kravitz.

Linda Bloodworth Thomason on Leslie Moonves.

The entertainment story of the week was the long-overdue ousting of CBS chairman and CEO Moonves, whose accusations of sexual harassment were first detailed by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker last month; he published a follow-up this week with accusations from six more women. On the heels of Moonves’ exit, The Hollywood Reporter published a guest column from Thomason, once one of the network’s biggest moneymakers, thanks to her long-running sitcoms Designing Women, Evening Shade, and Hearts Afire. In it, she details her own interactions with the network head, and revels in the opportunity to “dance on his professional grave.”

I had planned to make this a lofty piece about how we women in entertainment can draw strength from our shared historical DNA as we slowly dig our way out of Hollywood’s darkest places. I could have easily referenced Peg Entwistle, the young actress who jumped to her death, supposedly rejected by a number of powerful men. Bette Davis had gone to see her portrayal of Hedvig, inspiring Bette that very day to pursue a career in acting — thus giving new purpose to the dead girl, lying at the base of the Hollywood sign, who never knew she had already passed the torch to arguably the greatest actress to ever grace the silver screen. I wanted to offer this story in stark opposition to all the women-hating, slimeball men like Harvey Weinstein, James Toback and Les Moonves to say, “This is how we, in the face of them, continue to lift and inspire one another.” But I don’t feel inspired anymore. I just feel angry. The truth is, Les Moonves may never be punished in the way that he deserves. He will almost certainly never go to jail. And he has already made hundreds of millions of dollars during his highly successful and truly immoral, bullying, misogynist reign.

Rebecca Traister on Serena Williams.

We don’t cover sports much on these pages, but what happened at the US Open women’s final Saturday night wasn’t just a sports story. Serena Williams’ forceful objection to an unfair call by a chair umpire cost her $17,000 in fines, and she was penalized a game; she ultimately lost the match to Naomi Osaka. At The Cut, Traister analyzes the deeper implications of the conflict, and the public reaction to it.

But it’s not simply that those who are angry at the kinds of things Serena Williams is angry about are “too inhibited” to disclose their fury. It’s also that they are told all the time — like when they watch a tennis final — that if they do permit themselves to rage, even if that rage pales in comparison to the rage of their male peers, their white predecessors, that they will face reprimand. Women are made to understand, all the time, how their reasonable expression of vexation might cost them the game. Women’s challenge to male authority, and especially black women’s challenge to authority, is automatically understood as a threat, a form of defiance that must be quashed. As Sally Jenkins put it about Ramos, writing in the Washington Post on Saturday night, “He couldn’t take it. He wasn’t going to let a woman talk to him that way. A man, sure. Ramos has put up with worse from a man.” Recalling that just last year, Rafael Nadal had told off Ramos without it costing him a match, Jenkins went on, “But he wasn’t going to take it from a woman pointing a finger at him and speaking in a tone of aggression.”

Inside the fight over Rules Don’t Apply.

Warren Beatty’s 2016 Howard Hughes movie Rules Don’t Apply was a big deal to film fans; it was his first onscreen appearance in a decade and a half (since 2001’s Town & Country), and his first directorial effort since 1998’s Bulworth. But that anticipation didn’t translate to box office – it grossed a measly $3.8 million, a huge loss even for its modest budget – and reviews were mixed at best. Postmortem finger-pointing has resulted in lawsuits between the film’s investors, and Variety‘s Gene Maddaus dives into those conflicts to paint a fascinating portrait of a much-ballyhooed project gone sideways.

Regency ordered two test screenings at the Arclight in Pasadena. The results were alarming. Moviegoers complained that the film dragged in the middle, and most of those under 40 had no idea who Hughes was. According to a report from the testing company, viewers described Hughes’ eccentric behavior as “frustrating,” “disturbing,” “distracting”, “repetitive,” “annoying” and “boring.” But Beatty dismissed the feedback. According to Yariv Milchan, Arnon’s son and a top Regency executive, Beatty argued that the test audience — which was 25% Latino and 19% Asian — was “too ethnic.”… Yariv Milchan contended that Beatty refused to hold additional test screenings, preferring to show the film to “friends and family,” who tended to be more positive. The film was also screened extensively for magazine writers, who raved about it. Holly Millea, who would profile Beatty for Elle, “loved, loved, loved” the film “and thinks Warren will get an Oscar nomination,” according to a screening reaction memo drafted in July 2016. Devin Gordon, executive editor of GQ, said “it was WILD and I had so much fun watching it — especially Warren’s performance.” “It was great!” said Cara Buckley, who would later do a six-hour interview with Beatty for the New York Times. “I laughed out loud many times.”

Steven Hyden on Lenny Kravitz.

Kravitz’s eleventh album, Raise Vibration, was released last week, and you probably won’t buy it, or hear much from it. Yet in spite of the low quality of most of his work, Kravitz endures as an old-fashioned Rock Star, and over at Uproxx, Hyden has a theory as to why.

I eagerly sought out Raise Vibration because I wanted to confirm an idea that I’ve long had about Lenny Kravitz’s career. It’s called the “Three Beats 80” theory and it goes like this: Lenny Kravitz has three great songs: “Always On The Run,” “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over,” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” I could listen to those tracks all day long. They are perfect ear candy — unrepentantly retro rock and soul that stops just short of being blatantly derivative of any specific song or artist. In each instance, Kravitz was able to create a fully realized homage to the greatest classic-rock station in the world, co-mingling the power of Zeppelin and Hendrix with the velvety swing of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. Lenny Kravitz also has 80 bad songs. “Fly Away” might be the worst song ever written. (“I wish that I could fly / Into the sky / So very high / Just like a dragonfly.” So, you want to fly… like a dragonfly? GTFO.) And his interminable, bombastic cover of “American Woman” almost certainly had a special place of honor on the jukebox at Abu Ghraib. I could go on for (at least) another 78 tracks, but you get the idea.