Recommended Reading: Thinkpiecing Culture, P.E. Class, and Lorena Bobbitt


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 profile of a tabloid mainstay, a look back at an early Hollywood #MeToo story, thoughts on knowing about culture you haven’t consumed, and an indictment of a villain we can all agree on: gym class.

Amy Chozick on Lorena Gallo Bobbitt.

Joshua Rofé’s excellent docu-series Lorena premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week (it debuts on Amazon Prime on February 15), and — much like O.J.: Made in America, Slow Burn‘s Clinton season, and I, Tonya — it reframes what seemed a simple tabloid story into a broader indictment of our culture’s response to uncomfortable issues and questions. At the New York Times, Chozick talks to its subject.

“They always just focused on it …” — as in her husband’s detached and reattached and then, a couple of years later, surgically kind-of enlarged penis. That was all the media, before now, before the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement, when we were all less evolved as humans, wanted to talk about. “And it’s like they all missed or didn’t care why I did what I did,” she said. Lorena is correct, of course, that most people forget that before she was tried for what she did, John was charged with marital sexual assault. (He was acquitted.) At the time, marital rape only recently had been made a crime in all 50 states and was nearly impossible to prove in Virginia. Many in the media, including Ladies’ Home Journal and Gay Talese on assignment for The New Yorker, questioned whether it was an oxymoron. (“Wife Rape? Who Really Gets Screwed?” an earlier column in Penthouse read.) Al Franken, as the character Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live, implored Lorena to apologize to John’s penis. And, she is correct, that people forget that a jury found her not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. We forget about the string of witnesses at her trial who testified that they had seen bruises on her arms and neck and that she had called 911 repeatedly and that John had bragged to friends about forcing his wife to have sex. In the years since the trial, he was arrested several times and served jail time for violence against two different women. (He denied the allegations.) “This is about a victim and a survivor and this is about what’s happening in our world today,” Lorena told me.

Glenn Kenny on the Hollywood exposé that wasn’t.

Mr. Kenny, one of our favorite film critics (and a friend of the site) was a senior editor at Premiere in 1998, when the movie magazine ran a piece called “Flirting With Disaster.” It detailed the culture of sexual harassment and abuse at New Line Cinema, the studio behind Boogie Nights, Glengarry Glen Ross, Menace II Society, and Seven; unlike the revelations about Harvey Weinstein two decades later, the piece did it not have change that studio or the industry. At Columbia Journalism Review, Kenny revisits the reporting, and the controversy surrounding it.

Two decades ago Harvey Weinstein’s name sat comfortably at the top of many publications’ annual power lists. David Pecker was not the publisher of the National Enquirer, cooperating with federal prosecutors on a criminal case that points to his friend Donald Trump, but the (admittedly controversial) chief executive of a prestige media company. Bryan Singer was a filmmaker with enough PR and legal clout that he was able to maintain a high public profile while addressing allegations of sexual misconduct. It is a world that feels very far away now, in the midst of #MeToo, and its cascade of seismic scoops. As I have watched it unfold, I have returned to thinking about one particular story—an early attempt to hold powerful film-industry figures accountable for abuse that met with a very different response. Twenty years ago, when I was a senior editor at Premiere magazine, I worked with reporter John Connolly on “Flirting With Disaster,” an article about sexual abuse and harassment involving powerful executives at New Line Cinema. Its primary subjects were founder Robert Shaye and his partner Michael Lynne, who ran the company until its parent company, Time Warner, absorbed and restructured it in 2009. A story about sexual harassment, assault, and a skewed power hierarchy, it had a good deal in common with the journalism that inspired #MeToo. But it didn’t have the impact we had hoped it would at the time.

Alia Wong on the failure of P.E.

Hey, did you hate P.E. class? I sure did — and according to a recent working paper on a Texas Phys Ed initiative, it also didn’t help us any. At The Atlantic, Wong takes a look at the results of that paper, and how they point to new thinking in how to effectively work a curriculum of physical activity into the lives of young people.

The paper posits that by subjecting participants—namely low-income kids, as the Fitness Now grants targeted campuses serving disadvantaged populations—to these circumstances on a daily basis, the P.E. requirement made students less inclined to go to school. “These adolescents were not enjoying the daily P.E. requirements and would’ve rather skipped school,” suggests Packham, who as an economist has focused her research on the outcomes of health programs. The Fitness Now program required that students participate in at least 30 minutes of physical education every school day. Schools that took part in the grant received $10,000 on average to help improve their P.E. programs by adding classes, for example, or hiring coaches and fitness instructors. They also used the money to purchase equipment such as stopwatches, jump ropes, and free weights. According to the study, the program resulted in a roughly 16 percent increase in the number of disciplinary actions for each student. The study also found that the proportion of misbehaving students went up by more than 7 percent.

Steven Hyden on experiencing culture via thinkpiece.

If you haven’t seen Green Book, count yourself lucky — it’s terrible! But if you spend enough time on Twitter, or reading cultural criticism, it may feel like you’re seen Green Book, so thoroughly have its retrograde racial politics, ham-fisted storytelling, and culinary missteps been summarized and analyzed. And Uproxx‘s Stephen Hyden thinks that’s just fine:

Okay, fine, I admit it: I’m just regurgitating things I’ve read about Green Book, a movie I haven’t seen yet. In fact, “yet” is wildly optimistic, as I will only ever see this movie if I’m on an extremely long flight with extremely limited in-flight options. (Please, our nation’s airlines, don’t ever take away Crazy Rich Asians or American Made.) I have nothing against Green Book, it’s just that there’s only so much time in the day, and carving out two hours to watch a prestige film made by the co-director of Me, Myself & Irene isn’t a priority for me. However, I will make time to read about Green Book. Ironically, I’ve spent more hours processing words about this film than it would take to actually watch it. Any time a link to a new thinkpiece about Green Book comes across my social media feed, I instantly click on it. I have little interest in the actual film, but the takes about Green Book by some of our finest and most eloquent cultural critics continue to hook me in. The result is that I vaguely know the narrative basics of a movie I don’t plan on seeing, while also being intimately aware of Green Book‘s media narrative, i.e. it’s an old-fashioned Hollywood liberal movie about race relations that seems patronizing and even somewhat racist in our current context. Are you thinkperienced? Have you ever been thinkperienced? A thinkperience is when you “see” or “hear” something strictly via the rhetorical filters of others, informing your view of that something you haven’t personally seen or heard. There are many things that I (and probably you) have consumed this way, whether via social media or critical essays.