Read This #7: MTV, Dawson’s Creek, and Beloved Public Libraries

Hello hello!

I’m putting together this issue of Read Thisfrom my desk, and I’m trying not to think about how this is the first day of my last week at a job I really, really love. I’ve already cried four times today. Maybe y’all need some distractions too, so here are a whole bunch!


Magic Can Be Normal, Nicole Chung for Hazlitt

As we watched actors of three different generations portray mother, father, daughter, and little son, I tried to remember the last time I saw so many Asian American women in a single work. After a while, though, I realized I was focusing less and less on the fact that they were Asian. It wasn’t that I stopped noticing or caring. But after the initial surprise wears off, seeing so many Asian American actors at once becomes utterly unexceptional. They simply are their characters, as all skilled actors are when performing; their presence makes a perfect kind of sense. As we watched not one but so many Asian American artists command the stage, feuding and scheming and falling in love as great characters do, it made me wonder why something so easy has to be so rare.

Everything about this essay is incredible, I couldn’t wait to include it on this list.


MTV Isn’t What It Used to Be, Scaachi Koul for Buzzfeed

MTV’s bread and butter has long been a mix of music videos, talk shows, awards shows, live shows, stripped-down live shows, docudramas, and competitive reality shows. Right now, however, it doesn’t seem to have one central signature franchise that’s still functioning as a highly profitable business for them, never mind a cultural force that people can’t stop talking about.

In many ways, there’s nothing new being said here in this article about the drawn-out death of MTV. But I thought the framing of how MTV works as an artifact of youth culture is interesting.


Creek Theses (New Notes on Dawson’s Creek), Justin Taylor for The Paris Review

Here’s a thesis: all of Dawson’s Creek makes infinitely more sense, and is significantly more enjoyable, if you stop thinking about it as a show “about” Dawson Leery and start thinking about it as a show about Pacey and Joey, and the grinding misery of growing up working-class in a snow-globe town where all your friends are well-to-do.

I’ve never watched an episode of Dawson’s Creek in my life, but I’ve read this essay three times, This is what I want from all of my television/pop culture writing. This, right here. After reading this, I was lucky to snag an ARC of Little Boxes: 12 Writers on Television, in which this essay appears. Review forthcoming!


Mapping My Body With Sewing Patterns, Haley E.D. Housman for Catapult

The world is a strange place for women who love their bodies. We are taught from a young age that there are acceptable ways to use it, to display it, to dress it. We are taught to shrink it, the bodies that are small and smooth and unobtrusive are the most desirable ones. The definition of desirable bodies is perpetually shifting and narrowing, an unwinnable contest no matter which body you walk around in. […]

I want the clothes I imagine, and not from some distant past. And I won’t wait for some distant future, where it makes economic sense for brands to grade their clothing patterns to the middle of the road, or somehow intuit my exact and perfect shape. I have the tools, and the skills, and I will do it myself. I’ll grade the patterns myself. I can do it. I’ll sew the garments myself.

I’ve always admired (plus size) people who sew their own clothes, and this essay is beautiful and sharp.


It’s Never Been About R. Kelly. It’s Always Been About Black Girls, Evette Dionne for Bitch

While R. Kelly is in the eye of the storm, as he should be, it’s never just been about the “pied piper,” the creepiest name he could’ve chosen. It’s about the vulnerability of Black girls, and an incessant need to deny them the protection they need from predators.

Required reading.


Rebecca Solnit on a Childhood of Reading and Wandering Rebecca Solnit for LitHub

The United States’s public libraries sometimes seem to me the last refuges of a democratic vision of equality, places in which everyone is welcome, which serve the goal of an informed public, offering services far beyond the already heady gift of free books you can take home, everything from voter registration to computer access. I’ve joked for a long time that if you walked up to people in the street and asked them whether we could own our greatest treasures collectively and trust people to walk away with them and bring them back, a lot of people would say that’s impossibly idealistic and some would say it’s socialist, but libraries have been making books free for all for a very long time. They are temples of books, fountains of narrative pleasure, and toolboxes of crucial information. 

If, like me, you are fond of either (or both) libraries or Rebecca Solnit, read this piece on LitHub.


The Men Who Never Have To Grow Up, Jennifer Weiner for The New York Times

If boys will be boys, then girls must be grown-ups, whose job it is to protect men from their worst impulses. Witness every administrative body, from middle school to Congress, that has decided that it’s easier and more culturally acceptable to police girls’ and women’s clothing than it is boys’ behavior.

Should one of these fine young fellows slip — inflamed, perhaps, by one bare shoulder too many — there’s probably a woman to blame, and it’s his punishment, not his crime, that becomes the tragedy. […]

When police officers shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, for the sin of playing in the park with a toy gun, their excuse was that they thought he was an adult suspect.

Grease 2 Is Actually Way Cooler Than The Original, Gwen Ihnat for The A.V. Club

Grease 2’s relative critical and commercial failure has earned it a legacy as one of film’s worst sequels. It’s undeserved. No one should be surprised that some people actually prefer it. Those people know a cool rider when they see one.

I have been saying this for  y e a r s. 

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