On Art that Ages Poorly

Sunday Content #20: January 3, 2016

So, Transparent.

I enjoyed watching the first season. I like its theme song (and enjoyed this episode of Song Exploder about it). I like a lot of the acting on the show. I like that it’s a show about a Jewish family, one that reminds me of the Jewish families I grew up around in California. I like when it reminds me of Six Feet Under, which I loved, and which is unsurprising given that Soloway wrote for that too, and that it’s about three adult siblings living in LA who are open-minded and self-obsessed and kind of dumb. (Sarah Pfefferman is always reminding me of Brenda.)

I thought this Ariel Levy story about Soloway and the show was interesting, but like of course it was because she’s such a great writer. She writes well about what Soloway and her team believe themselves to be accomplishing politically, culturally, with this project.

On the other hand: I’ve read a lot of stuff—this critique in particular, which Merritt Kopas tweeted—that make me like the Whole Soloway Thing a heckuva lot less.

I’ve only seen the first few episodes of the second season. Am I an asshole if, having read those critiques, I finish it? Or am I an asshole if I’ve written about the show here and I haven’t actually seen the whole thing? Because that’s something I think—and try to take seriously myself—that critics or cultural commentators should always actually have consumed whatever it is they’re farting about.

Or take Trainwreck, which you’ll perhaps recall I mentioned finally seeing late last year. I laughed so hard at parts of that movie. I adored some of what Amy Schumer was up to, the things she was calling bullshit on, to borrow a phrase from Anne Helen Petersen, who wrote this essay about the movie and what she believes it accomplishes. It’s a smart piece.

But I just plain didn’t understand why Trainwreck had to be so homophobic. And I wasn’t always convinced that its ‘play’ on a rom-com was actually a play. Like it was still a movie that went ladybad→man →ladygood.

After I wrote about the movie here, and praised it, I wondered whether I shouldn’t have, given that this is how I feel. I wondered too if how I felt about the movie made me feel about her other work. Does it make me love this sketch less? Early last year, I saw Amy Schumer do standup and she was fire; does this change that memory too? What can we forgive cultural creators for and what errors of judgment, hapless or not, can we not?

I think about this a lot. About how most art, lowbrow or high, is mostly in conversation with its time. Most things, comedy especially, won’t age well. (A friend recently pointed out that Arrested Development, its portrayal of Mexican people especially, is really racist. I tried to disagree for about two blocks and then shut the fuck up.) Most things are flawed, and that’s because most people who make them are too. Most people aren’t following all the right people on Twitter.

I don’t write about most things I watch or listen to or contemplate or read. When I do write about artworks, I try to be mostly positive, and to critique only occasionally and with cause. But it’s inevitable, I think, that I’ll write about something here that I will later regret. Or I’ll myself make art that in hindsight is bad. It’s totally possible that the things I’m saying are wrong in all sorts of ways.

Sorry in advance.

I really liked this essay that Rachel Syme published on Matter called “Pay Women the Money They Need to Make the Culture.” She discusses, for example, the ways in which tracks by female artists end up with a lot of male names aside them:

I adored Andrew Marantzprofile of Leslie Jones at the New Yorker. It was full of great scenes like:

(Do not miss this piece’s ending.)

Finally, and for no reason whatsoever, I wanted to recommend this excellent essay by Rob Dubbin, which was published at The Awl. It’s about a new game called Secret Hitler, one that just earned the dinguses who made Cards Against Humanity over a million bucks on Kickstarter. It’s a story of how not to act if you’re a cultural creator and you’ve been called out for your stinky bullshit:

You might 😎already know this😎 but a lot of The Awl’s year-end stuff was super. I recommend browsing through it.

Here’s another episode of Song Exploder with Björk.

Here’s a good idea.

Here’s a good feature story.

Here’s a comic about friendship.

Here are some good words about love.

Here’s a useful list of facts about women.

Here’s an extension that helps them say sorry less.

Here’s an obit you should read about a man named George T. Sakato, who died in December at age 94.


I did it. I spent two weeks in a cabin in the woods and birthed a book. Last Monday evening it really began. I started typing—and it came easy, which it never does—and for three days I continued typing, sometimes pausing to sleep a few hours, and eating only when a bowl of something was handed to me.

Anyway I did it. I feel great, and it’s finally downhill running from here, I think.

Things we cooked that I’d recommend: these unfuckwithable scones. Baked ziti. We roasted two chickens, ate one, and then turned the second into these. I tried baking bread for the first time in like a decade, because I want to get into bread this year. It went just okay. We ate it for days with a bunch of this. On New Year’s we bought half a pound of cheese and put it in one of these.

Fill out tha paperwork,

p.s. Having no phone for ten days was freaking great.

p.p.s. Speaking of ladies kicking ass: my friends in Iowa City are in a band called Younger and their debut album got some rad year end recognition. Check ’em out.

p.p.s. Here’s some great content:


Author of A KIND OF MIRRACULAS PARADISE (Scribner, 18) | Host of podcast MAD CHAT (www.madchatshow.com) | www.hellosandyallen.com | they/them

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