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Solar Eclipses and Solar Powered People

The solar eclipse happened last month, and it has changed all of our lives. I didn’t have solar glasses and I wasn’t in the path of totality, but I watched CNN’s coverage of the eclipse and the eclipse wedding and I am sure it was glorious, as I imagine a camera captures a solar eclipse about as well as some capture the sunset. But seeing the eclipse is not synonymous to being affected by it. Rather it’s the exposure to the idea, the moon passing over the sun and achieving its own distinction. The sun, which we know to be enormous, is a deceptive pinky ring in the sky and numbers are hard to comprehend but we still try, and I love us for it.

The thesis of the thing is that everything affects us. I think I’m different after the solar eclipse, and I think everyone else is too. For some people there is a pre and a post, a before and an after, but, like the eclipse, things don’t change quite so quickly. I think the moon is the shadow we’ve all had, something(s) looming and malicious. The creature skittering in the night, the blink-or-you’ll-miss-it of it all, except we all bore witness to this menace. The sun saw it coming, and it passed over her, and she remained through it. It was real – I was there as much as anyone was. And its realness stuck with us, I think, or at least it stuck with me. Take it as a lesson from nature: Prosper, and if you face an obstacle, don’t despair. See yourself through your dark time and you will glow as strongly ever.

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The Why of ‘Look What You Made Me Do’

The first thing you must acknowledge to understand Taylor Swift’s song ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ – the most important thing, really – is that she has transcended typical musical stardom and become, for all intents and purposes, a legend. But while other so called legends such as Michael Jackson have been largely lauded, Taylor Swift has been uniquely targeted in a way few other celebrities have, inspiring multitudes of both love and hate. That is to say, while her large fan base may be loyal, the general public loves to villainize her, from dramatic descriptions of beef with people ranging from Katy Perry to Kim Kardashian to any one of her ex-boyfriends to smaller pejorative phrases ridiculing her greedy, ‘money-mongering’ actions in protecting her brand and in her methods of selling her music. If there was a microscope of every celebrity in the United States, hers is at the 1000x power, because not only is she the subject of such scrutiny, but so is anyone who associates with her. Her friends, who she, logically, oftentimes hangs out with in a group, were dubbed her ‘squad’, a moniker neither she nor they chose to foist upon themselves. But not only did the media and public create this squad – they villainized it, calling it cliquey and reporting on the most minor of infractions: “So-and-so didn’t attend Taylor’s 4th of July party, are they still friends?” is just one of many attempts to sensationalize a life that seems mostly the product of their own minds.

Relatedly, this is the second thing you must recognize: much of the backlash against her is unfounded. Like any human being, Taylor Swift is not a perfect animatron who always speaks up when they should, or, more importantly, says the right thing in the right way. But the thing that makes her a phenomenon of the worst kind is that she receives a disproportionate amount of hate for simply existing. And for those who protest this, I recall a moment some weeks after the release of ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’. I was at a family friend’s house where they were hosting a party and this song came on. The daughter, a One Direction fan, announced she didn’t like the song, and later mentioned she didn’t like Taylor Swift because she dated a lot of guys (one notable one: Harry Styles). Some statements are so absurd it’s hard to know how to react to them, or if one should react at all, and so, other than saying that I liked the song, I let it lie. To this day, I wish I had asked why Swift being a ‘slut’ made her reprehensible, disregarding the fact that she had not, in fact, publicly dated very many men. I wonder who the conversation would’ve revealed more about: Taylor Swift or the girl? But I suspect we all know the answer to that question.  

However, I sincerely doubt everyone knows the answer to my next question: What, or who, is ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ even about? The answer is plain and simple. The song is about everyone. It’s about the world sensationalizing her and turning on her at every perceived slight which was anticipated to make headlines. It’s about her complete inability to have any impact on the shade being thrown at her from all angles, with no way to shield herself. She, in her very essence, became a public commodity, except the public didn’t want her, they wanted a version of her they could manipulate and love one second and hate the next, they wanted the ability to go inside her house and admire all of the pretty colors and then ransack it and all she wanted was to make music.

This is the genius part, guys, the one that makes me and Grace Helbig and every one of her fans look at her and say ‘Man, she is smart.’ She used her music, what she could control, what she made and turned it into her weapon against the world. Where ‘Blank Space’ was coyly satirical, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ blasts the shiny veneer of sweetness off of the record and into outer space. Its anti climactic, hypnotic chant is her ironic thesis statement. Taylor Swift transformed from Regina George to Janis Ian, unrepentantly calling everyone out, owning the villain the world created and making it in her image, because what else could she do? The short answer is, a lot of things, and that’s where the irony comes into play, because in order to tame the monster you must first control it, and that’s exactly what Taylor Swift is doing. And for everyone who’s criticizing her new song? She doesn’t care. She’s owning all of the versions of herself and winning the game. Her reputation may be ‘dead’ but she’s still alive and kicking, and she’s going to rule the world.

sylvia plath

Lack of Boundaries in regard to Sylvia Plath

Two new Sylvia Plath poems were announced to have been deciphered recently, and I don’t know how I feel about it. I love Sylvia Plath, I’ve read halves of her unabridged journal and have half memorized “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus” and “Mad Girl’s Love Song” and “Three Women”. She is the leading lady of my heart, the one who got me into pain and poetry and their beautiful amalgamations, and “The Bell Jar” has never felt as sweet as when it was hovering over my head, as Esther’s depicted suicide attempt is one I felt in my bones, her discontent in New York City a balm to my wounds, and when she threw all of her clothes off of the roof of her hotel my heart leapt out with them.

However, after excitedly clicking on the The Guardian article describing this new development, I felt a bit of discomfort. The article reported that scholars had uncovered these poems from a piece of carbon paper Plath had typed over, in the midst of “a convoluted strangle of typewritten words”. This should make you uncomfortable as well, because this is work Plath explicitly did not publish, or want published. Furthermore, unlike “Ariel”, this was not published by a loved one of Plath’s. Scholars intruded, took, and shared, Plath’s lack of agency blatant.

The thing is, what right do we have to her words, full of personal emotions and stories? Why is this considered art, a discovery? Sylvia Plath is not a vehicle for our public consumption, and she had a right to her privacy, even posthumously.

I believe intent, in all things, is important, and Plath’s conspicuous lack of intent to publish these two poem says something about them, or her. In fact, it states nothing about her, or it should, because the world was never supposed to see it.

The fact is, while Plath’s suicide seems to make boundaries blurry, in this instance it makes things startlingly clear. Regardless of her mental state at the time, Plath died with no intention to publish these poems, or she would’ve stuck a note on it or went and published them. Just because a poem is ‘complete’ doesn’t mean it desires to be published, and I think most people would benefit from knowing this.

Some poetry is written for the self, some is written and is false, some is choked and angsty and vulnerable, and some are all of the above, and no poetry should be shared without the consent of the author.

This funny, blurry boundary line is one that I find is common in people who work in the arts, and while I want to expound more upon people’s alarming feelings of entitlement in regards to the lives of celebrities (mainly actors and musicians), I will simply state one more fact: Despite their apparent (real or feigned) vulnerability, artists do and should only share what they choose to, and in that regard, shape their audience’s perceptions of them as they choose, and this is their right. Do not try to deprive them of that.

[Image credit to https://litreactor.com/columns/culling-the-poetry-classics-sylvia-plath]

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Sing and the unreality of reality tv

I have never been emotionally hardy enough to embrace competition reality television shows as easily as the rest of America has. Watching more than 10 minutes of American Idol always had me clenching my jaw to the point of pain, as the show evoked exactly the reaction it strove for: sympathy and investment. I detested Simon Cowell ragging on the desperate and the hopeful, as my (overextended) empathy and projection (onto the victimized contestants) made each rejection hit me harder than who it was aimed towards.

On paper, Sing was perfect: a faux reality show, built on carefully constructed backstories and, of course, ending triumphantly, with all, or almost all parties satisfied, because, unlike reality, this movie was allowed to provide a plethora of happy endings.

However, while I did enjoy this movie, this ability stunted the movie because it allowed its unreality to become unbelievable rather than simply alternative, and therefore its message came off a bit too easy, too simple, too expected.

I can sum Sing up in four words: Everyone achieved their dreams.

And it’s a nice sentiment, and there are moments when everything feels all too real, largely relating to Buster Moon’s storyline, but ultimately ends up falling flat with a larger than life ending.

Buster Moon, simultaneously the protagonist and antagonist, is the driving force of the movie. He, like all of the other main characters, start the movie in a rut, and his action of starting a music competition gives rise to mass reaction, as the prospective competitors form a line around the block for a chance to win $100,000. Ash, Johnny, Rosita, and Mike, and Meena are such competitors, as they audition their way out of their respective dissatisfaction with their lives and begin a new stage, whether it be an upgrade from backup singer to soloist or gang member to entertainer. And while Buster does not actually have the promised $100,000, he is certainly determined, as the Moon Theatre is not only his life but also the product of his father’s efforts, as it is his unceasing efforts to save it which drives the plot. These efforts, this unrelenting pursuit of his passion is reflected in the competitors’ efforts to redefine their status quo and pursue their own ideal realities.

However, as inspiring as this appears, it falls flat in that there is no lasting repercussions of this drive, no true sacrifice made for any of the characters, which takes away from the meaning. After all, if nothing is lost how can something be gained? While I’m not saying morals of stories must purport to be realistic, it is their truth which is supposed to resonate, and there is a tangible lack of truth in relation to our current reality present in Sing. Father and son and husband and wife are on better terms than ever, girl is better off without guy, girl can sing in public. This artificiality is reflected in that there is no true victory in terms of Buster Moon. He does not raise his money through all of the people paying to watch his show, his theater isn’t successful, he is given the money because he proved to one person he had potential.

Therefore, while the movie was enjoyable, it proved why faux reality tv shows are an oxymoron. The base of all reality tv shows, reality, however fake they may be in the context of real life, was unavoidably removed in Sing. And don’t even get me started on its lack of real and sustained storylines for the female characters.