Pop Culture Mondays/2.17.20

Presidents’ Day Edition

Welcome to my brain…

by Brooke Hammerling on Monday, February 17, 2020

Happy Presidents’ Day aka a day off from work (some of you) and school…for those of you in the US at least! AND for those of you new to PCM, welcome! There are a lot of you this week, so a refresher — while today MAY be Presidents’ Day, we are President-free safe place away from all the drama. While SOME political stuff may make it’s way here, no matter HOW crazy and widespread the stories may be, we are Trump-free. You’re welcome.

So this was a chaotic week from airplane seat drama to fashionable face masks so grab a coffee and a sensible snack (or Haribo gummy bears which are sensible to me!) and dig in. To be fair, we were all over the place with more pop culture moments this week than I can write. I have started adding bonus stories at the bottom so be sure to check those out too. While I don’t get a chance to dive into them, at least you’ll be in the know. OK let me stop babbling and let’s get to it!

Are we human or are we dancer?


I am a frequent flier which means I have seen every plane configuration imaginable. Flying has become less awesome over time as airlines try to maximize space and pack people in like animals. It’s not an elegant situation (unless you’re flying JetBlue MINT which is incredible and they serve rosé!) but for the most part, all of us on planes are stress balls of anxiety and pent up anger and truthfully we all need to do a group meditation before taking off.

So here’s what happened this past week. A woman named Wendi Williams was on an American Airlines flight from New Orleans to Charlotte, North Carolina (flight time approximately 1 hour and 55 minutes). This is a REGIONAL flight, so smaller planes (operated by Republic Airways whatever that is). During that flight, Wendi reclines her seat back which she HAS THE RIGHT TO DO. Now, here is something we don’t know. Was the person in front of her reclined? Not that this matters, HOWEVER, we do know that even if you were not intending to recline, if the person in front of you does, you generally follow suit to give yourself more space.

It appears Wendi was in the second to last row on the plane. And a guy I have decided to call Misogynist Mike* (NOT his real name), has the unfortunate seat location in the last row. BUT an aisle seat so it’s survivable! Also, it is 2020, we can choose our seats if we plan ahead. And if not, you’re LUCKY to have a seat let alone an aisle so it really blows my mind that MM lost his shit this way, but lose his shit he did. Before I go further, let’s roll the video:

SO. Wendi films this, OBVIOUSLY. And seriously, I am impressed. If it were me, I would do the AGGRESSIVE AGGRESSIVE move of slamming my seat back right at him. So BRAVO Wendi for remaining cool and calm under pressure. Though apparently the American Airlines flight attendant threatened Wendi with ARREST if she did not delete the video, and the guy was not reprimanded in any way. So the video goes up, and then Twitter goes crazy as a tweet proclaimed people were divided on whether crazy dude’s reaction was right or not.

Guys. Let me explain. THERE IS NO QUESTION. THIS IS ASSAULT. Full stop. And I GUARANTEE you, if Wendi had been a dude, MM would have done no such thing. I mean look at the glee in his eyes…dude is enjoying it. Wendi did nothing wrong. If you don’t want someone reclining on you, pick a different seat when you book your flight! Or drive from NOLA to Charlotte…it’s 10 hours and 35 minutes and you are totally in control, clearly an issue for you.

OK, I am as sick of this topic as you are but before I close out, for some INEXPLICABLE reason, on Friday, the Delta CEO (not even the airline this drama was connected to!) inserts himself into this conversation. While he was on CNBC, Ed Bastian who was on the show to promote the really important and positive news that Delta was going to be CARBON NEUTRAL, fell into a regrettable hole when asked about the seat controversy taking the world by storm at the moment. NOTE TO PR PEOPLE — PREP YOUR CEOS ON POP CULTURE! Instead of deflecting the question, or answering it correctly, he says people SHOULD ASK FIRST BEFORE THEY RECLINE.

WHICH IS INCORRECT. I could write an essay on this psychology ALONE coming from a privileged white male, but that’s for another newsletter.

For more on this hot topic:

I would obviously do this

As of this moment, there have been 71,449 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and 1,776 deaths. This is obviously a growing number and a real health crisis. Also a a financial crisis as China has virtually come to a halt and this affects virtually ever industry you can imagine. Travel, fashion, manufacturing. And after living in airports this past week, I saw firsthand how empty the airports seemed and how so many people were wearing masks.

SIDE NOTE: If you are wearing a mask, please actually use it correctly and cover your nose too! Also, professionals say masks are actually useless UNLESS it is a personally fitted N-95 or a filtered non-rebreather (thank you DR. JEFFREY SWISHER, who is super nice despite his sister being Kara Swisher!). At any event, masks are like, now a thing. And obviously, the amazingly innovative people of China are outfitting their pets (apparently mostly their cats) with do-it-yourself masks. BECAUSE, this is a virus that can go from animal to people I think so they are trying to protect their babies which is noble and adorable.

BUT not to be outdone by cute pets…we are in FASHION WEEK SEASON and obviously it is the moment to make masks a THING so I present to you, MASK CHIC:

Coronavirus Chic

But you can also get your own face mask..meaning your face on a face mask, or the lower part at least:

Don’t do this..

And if you don’t follow me on Twitter, well then why are you even here?? But I asked a question I still don’t know the answer to and that is do you want to be close to the people in masks or far away from them?? STILL UNCLEAR.

For other creative face masks, DEFINITELY check this out:

Teen Queen Jalaiah Harmon



OK there is a lot to get your heads wrapped around here so I can only suggest that you read EVERYTHING EVER written by the incredible Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times, who is writing some of the most incredible stories looking into Internet Culture at the moment. Also, not sure if I should capitalize that but I feel like it’s an iconic moment in time so it DESERVES TO BE CAPITALIZED.

UPDATED — Actually, Rebecca Jennings of Vox.com initially uncovered the story of Jalaiah Harmon. And I learned since the initial posting of PCM that there are a lot of people calling BULLSHIT to the TikTokkers who have monetized this dance and the originator has not been able to so it opens up a lot of discussions so make sure to check out this story:

Where to begin? If you are a parent of a tween or teen, then you likely know TikTok. You may have even participated in a TikTok with the family (again looking at you MARK CUBAN) as it can be a really fun family activity that shows either you or your parents have mad dance skills…or you don’t and either way it’s adorable. But one of the HUGEST dance crazes that seemed to take over TikTok (a platform for short-form videos that generally involve music) is the RENEGADE dance. Renegade is from “Lottery” a song by K Camp, aka Kristopher Campbell, an Atlanta rapper and songwriter. And there is a piece of the song that every teen seemed to be dancing to and if you watched closely you realize they are all doing a variation of the same dance. Nicknamed the Renegade, there are what seems like a million videos depicting it or tutorials on how to do it. Even Lizzo and ARod have made their own.

Taylor got to the bottom of the trend and discovered that the person who created it was not a famous TikTokker (yes, there are actual TikTik celebs), but a 14 year old dancer from Atlanta, Jalaiah Harmon. And she has, up until now, not capitalized on this massive viral sensation she has created. Also, there are a few other very cool platforms kids use to showcase dance moves that are more OG than TikTok because apparently once it gets to TikTok its mainstream and suburban (I just learned this!) While TikTok stars like Charli D’Amelio who as of now has 27.4 MILLION FOLLOWERS, was capitalizing on this Renegade craze, the creator was not known at all.

Well, that has changed. After Taylor’s incredible story, K Camp filmed a video with Jalaiah in her house doing the dance and thanking her for helping make the song a massive hit. AND THEN, just last night, she got to perform it at the All-Star game in Chicago. But before she went out on the court, earlier that day she got to meet TikTok stars Charli and Addison Easterling (16.9 million followers) and they made a Renegade TikTok with Jalaiah (I think in a hotel ballroom) and I AM WARNING YOU it is addictive and I have watched it a thousand times. From Charli and her chewing gum, to the absolute fun they are having while being perfectly in sync, I am totally obsessed.

AND literally stop whatever you’re doing and read Taylor’s story and if you are not a subscriber to the NYT trust me just do it PLEASE.



Another week and another Bezos in the news story. THIS mid-life crisis is one we are ALL here for and watching unfold with fascination and amusement. I HONESTLY don’t even know where to start so let me first say this:

The above photo is NOT a picture of Bezos and his girlfriend/fiancée, Lauren Sanchez, in front of their new house. While several outlets USED this picture while talking about the new house so I can understand the confusion, this is from their India trip (which we all were included, on don’t forget the black and white jacket guys!) and was a cropped photo in front of the Taj Mahal. Don’t be silly guys, you know their new house is actually WAY bigger.

It was reported that Bezos bought the historic estate, built for Jack Warner of Warner Bros. fame in the ’30s, for $165 million from David Geffen, who also owns the boat (see, we say BOAT when referring to a billion dollar mega yacht) that Beefcake Bezos and friends are frequently photographed on having fun group trips to places like the South of France. Point being, I bet there was NO broker necessary — I am SO glad they got to save on the broker fees! Saving money is COOL. PS: The house looks beautiful and I want to go for tea.

There was some controversy to this news…mainly the one I created and that is BECAUSE in the ABOVE picture, Miss Sanchez is wearing a dress I own and that I covet and I am probably never able to wear again because this picture went EVERYWHERE and she also added this stupid black belt which destroys the line of this beautiful dress by Zimmerman…but I digress. We are living in a time where the extremely rich are being criticized for being extremely rich. Now personally, I don’t care what Beefcake Bezos spends his money on. Houses, trips to Disneyland, whatever babes you be you boo. I just THINK if you are going to publicly flaunt your Tony Stark life, then maybe your company should pay taxes and stuff like that. Call me crazy.

For more on the recent real estate purchase:

And while I know just above I told you all to subscribe to The New York Times, sometimes the NYT makes mistakes. WHICH is exactly what they did by allowing Amazon’s head of PR, Jay Carney, to write an Op-Ed about basically HOW awesome Amazon is. There was criticisms (not just of the paper but of the piece itself) which led to Mr. Carney having a total meltdown on the Twitter where he mocked a few tech journalists for daring to question him. So that was fun.

People tell me this is a broom


Normally before I write about something like this, I would test it out and report back on my personal experiences. But here’s the thing — and not a surprise to those who know me — I don’t own a broom. Brooms!!! JUST not my thing. We have DUST BUSTERS GUYS, it’s 2020!! But apparently many people do and this Broomstick Challenge took off this week due a prank that went viral on the Twitter. A student from Howard University tweeted that NASA said that February 10th was the only day a broom can stand on its own because of a gravitational pull. Followed by a video of a broom standing up ALL ON ITS OWN. Well a viral hoax was born and people filmed their own brooms standing up and were like OMG NASA. But guess what, OBVIOUSLY NASA never said this and apparently brooms can stand on their own any day of the week because…physics! Physics…a class I remember my friends had big cool looking textbooks that simply said PHYSICS on it, but was never a class I got to take because…well science and maths were NOT my thing. Neither were foreign languages nor sports for that matter. But this isn’t about me…

So if you OWN a broom, give it a whirl!

Rest in peace you beautiful soul


I know there are a lot of UK readers here, so forgive me while I bring some of the US people up to speed. Love Island is the biggest thing to hit the UK since the Beatles. I mean I have no idea if that is FACTUAL or not but the point is, it’s hugely popular. It is a British TV series, a dating reality show which I think airs almost every night or like 5 or 6 nights straight. People watch this show multiple nights a week.

And there is something really weird that happens when you watch people on TV in your house every night. They become familiar to you, like if you HAPPEN to see them on the street, for a second you’re like oh that’s my best friend before you realize no it’s a famous person from that show you watch all the time. The contestants — and hosts — become superstars. And Caroline Flack was the host for many years meaning she was in people’s homes and lives on an almost daily basis. When that meteoric fame happens to ANYONE it can be incredibly hard no matter how much love and support you have around you. Everything you do becomes public domain — every restaurant you leave, boy you date or fight you have becomes publicized. ESPECIALLY in the UK, where tabloid journalism is on another level.

My brief personal encounter with it was bone chilling — while being flung into a cab with a jacket over my head and a motorcycle with a photographer chasing my car, mistakenly thinking someone famous was in it with me, was the most terrifying thing to experience. So to experience that daily? It’s what killed Princess Diana, caused Megxit and now what is at the heart of this tragedy.

Caroline Flack was at the center of controversy due to a fight she had with her boyfriend, which went public due to the police being involved and leading to her arrest. She lost her job over it and just recently learned that despite her boyfriend not agreeing to testify, they were going forward with a trial which would have been public and traumatizing. ALL of this in the tabloids daily. It would be hard for anyone to deal with. And the Internet can be a dark and ugly place. And on February 15th, 40 year old Caroline Flack killed herself, a tragic end that has left a nation heartbroken.

I have friends who were close to her and loved and adored her and it is just heartbreaking for all. And has led to more public criticism on tabloid media and how far they go. But there are no real answers to what can be done.YET. I hope this changes. This beautiful and talented woman was a daughter, a sister, a dog mama, a best friend, who will be greatly missed.

GUYS. It’s a tough world out there. Doesn’t matter if you’re famous or rich or poor, young or old, in a relationship or single…everyone struggles. If you are struggling, please reach out to someone. Whether someone you love, or a stranger…I promise it will get better. THERE IS ZERO SHAME.



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Other stories to read up on that I couldn’t get into but I think are of note!!

Snoop Dogg apologizes to Gayle King. Last week’s PCM we covered his horrible verbal attack on Gayle but this week after his mom set him straight, Snoop does the right thing, and Gayle has accepted his apology.

CONDÉ NASTY: Crazy things went on at the magazine publisher in its heyday…

The Biebs dropped a single. It’s really good. People accused him of stealing someone’s sample. But NOPE he got it on Splice because Splice is awesome:

Until next week my Pop Culture Junkies….

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Brooke Hammerling

Brooke Hammerling

Talk to me about tech, pop culture, cheese or dogs.