Introducing “While You Were Out,” a Friday feature of short notes and commentary from the week. Whether it’s something you’d discuss at the water cooler or at happy hour, you’ll find it on our grid, together with our opinion as to whether it’s praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week!
Not So Good2Go
The Mattress Heard 'Round the World
New York Magazine tells of “a very different kind of sexual revolution on campus”—and the story of why Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz is carrying her mattress around campus until her alleged rapist is expelled.
You Don’t Have to Try … to Make Us Love this Dance
Video blogger Bethany Mota and dancing pro Derek Hough killed it in a rumba to the song “Try” by Colbie Caillat this week. In the package before the dance, Mota, who as a YouTube personality has been described as "relentlessly upbeat and bouncy," showed a more somber side as she described what led her to start video blogging in the first place—her being called “fat” and “ugly” in school. The result is a bittersweet dance, while Caillat sings live the song we already know by heart.
Get Your Tickets Now … No, Really
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor star on Broadway in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, a critically acclaimed play exploring love, adultery, reality, and fiction. Stoppard, the Tony Award- and Academy Award-winning playwright, is also known for writing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and for co-writing Shakespeare in Love. Catch The Real Thing at the Roundabout Theater between October 30 and January 4, 2015.
Playboy Tries and Fails at Feminism
Is it really surprising that a magazine focused on making women into men’s playthings is not succeeding at sounding feminist? Playboy recently received attention for its flowchart as to whether a man should catcall a girl, including questions like “Is that booty bangin’?”; “Does she look sad?”’ and “Are you sexually frustrated?” as questions along the way that should influence a man’s decision toward making a catcall. Then it surprises readers with its last question: “Do you know her, and have you both consensually agreed to shout sexually suggestive comments to each other in public?” Unless that’s answered “yes, in explicit terms,” the reader is told “Nope. Don’t do it.”
Tactics like these, with what some think is a clever feminist twist at the end, are Playboy’s latest attempts to stay relevant in an era that cares increasingly about respect for women. But what may look like a nod toward feminism could just as well be a mocking joke. Besides, what good is saying “you shouldn’t catcall her,” if the Playboy site still has a “Girls” tab where it suggests “you should click on her?”
Gwen and Gavin in Musical Collaboration
Don’t get too excited—they aren’t doing a “Runaway” tour together. But Gwen Stefani, who I love as the latest addition to the singing competition show The Voice, will be collaborating with her husband Gavin Rossdale of the nineties grunge band Bush on next week’s episode. Gwen says, “We have only collaborated on babies before.”
Speaking of Babies
Blake Lively and her husband Ryan Reynolds are expecting! Lively, who recently launched a commerce-slash-editorial-website Preserve, has decided to mark the event with a pregnancy-themed special on the site: Falling for Family.
A Reminder to Appreciate the Little Things
Are you the kind of person who likes an audio guide at a museum? Then you might like the audio stories of 99 Percent Invisible for your daily commute. As its title suggests,99 Percent Invisible is about the millions of little and big things we walk by, walk on, and even in without taking much notice. Consider the humble fire escapes that adorn old row houses in most American cities; in the Good Egress episode, 99 Percent Invisible tells the story of how the fire escape first became standard—replacing systems of ropes, baskets, and slides—and how it was in turn replaced by the more effective fireproof stairwell. I commend to you as well, the story of Busta Rhymes Island, a “very small little island, with rope swinging, blueberries, and stuff Busta would enjoy” and the totally unfair tale of how we came to cherish cuddly Teddy Bears, while Billy Possums are, well, just creepy.
Actor Dropped from Ted 2
Stephen Collins, the pastor-dad from 1990s family TV show Seventh Heaven has allegedly been molesting children for years, according to a confessional audio tape TMZ got its hands on. While the actor has yet to make public comment, his resignation from the Screen Actor’s Guild board this week reads like a loud statement. At this news, Collins was also fired from the forthcoming film Ted 2, a sequel about a bawdy teddy bear. I guess it’s good they draw the line somewhere, but when it comes to what influences child molesters, mixing children’s toys with hyper-sexualized content doesn’t exactly help.
American Horror Story … Not Again!
As a huge fan of the horror genre, I was stoked about the the fourth season of American Horror Story this week. But where the show is entertaining with its fright factor, I think it’s crossing a line mixing sex and violence. In season one, we regretfully witnessed a rape scene in which a woman who thought she was having sex with her husband was actually having sex with a disguised monster. Viewers are left thinking, “Oh wow, she’s being raped and she doesn’t even realize it.” In my opinion, rape should not be thrown into movies and television unless they are expressing how horrendous it is.
This ugly sex-and-horror theme returned in this week’s season premiere, when we see a “lobster boy” from the carnival Freak Show advance on a girl sexually. This time it’s less rape-y and more creepy but, really? Gore, fine. Creepy nightmare-creating, killer clowns, awesome. Rape, no.
In other creepy TV news…
Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s show of nineties acclaim is returning for a third season in 2016, twenty-five years since its last.
What Does it Mean When “Learned” is in Scare Quotes?
Lena Dunham writes that her book Not that Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned,” is worth it if: “I could take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine was worthwhile.”
The problem is I can’t tell what she’s learned. I’m not sure she can either. Where she brings up the important subject of her rape, her memoir-confessional tone allows readers to grasp the reality of how sex crimes can bring with them an evolving understanding of what happened—from blaming oneself to realizing one was violated. But the problem is that Dunham couches these important stories with ones that make sex out to be no big deal, ultimately making it hard to learn anything.