A great year for writing, a trash year for the world in general – here were our most popular essays in 2017:
“Lucky for You, That’s What I Like”, Molly McGowan
The full title of this essay is “Luck For You, That’s What I Like: Bruno Mars and His Emotionally Intellingent Subversion of Heterosexual (Hyper)Masculinity”, which wins the award for longest essay title, too. Molly McGowan explores the music of pop icon Bruno Mars while dissecting the gender politics of his lyrics.
“‘Bruno Mars sings about women like a lesbian.’ It is rare for straight men to so thoroughly adore both their own partner and women in general, notice and remember the accoutrements of femininity, and be sensitive to specific internalized misogyny-related insecurities. Men describing flirtation, courtship, and/or sex per se as a conquest or a chore has always been alienating to me as a woman who likes women, because it is so far removed from how I conceptualize it, and as a woman who likes men, because I would never want someone to think of me that way. Bruno Mars loves women in a way that I would want to both emulate and experience.”
“Pitching the Voice: Programming Women and Machines“, Kat Sinclair
Kat Sinclair wrote several incredible pieces for us this year, but this one got the most love. Here she takes on labor, tech and feminism through the lens of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and Amazon’s “Alexa”. The essay ends with a haunting final image:
“In the novelty of Alexa’s first few days as a resident in their home, Dad printed off a list of ‘Easter Egg’ questions; You can ask Alexa to ‘Set phasers to stun,’ and she will respond with a Star Trek reference in kind. I roll my eyes, thinking of those who programmed her, but am charmed all the same. When I visit, I like to try and come up with questions not on that list, like verbal cheat codes in a game. There was one I thought of about an hour after making her acquaintance.
“Alexa, can you pass the Turing Test?”
In a soothing, consistently helpful voice, unfazed by my asking such a personal question, she responded. “I don’t need to pass that. I am not pretending to be human.”
I think of coffee, and of money, and of smiling.”
Jacqui Deighton introduced her GIRLisms column in July with this piece on gothic girlhood in Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015). In this essay, she traces the film’s lineage as a gothic narrative, and takes a close look at Edith Cushing, one of the film’s central female characters.
“Crimson Peak, and Edith herself, originate from books. Books, in particular, written by women. Young women. Girls, almost – girls like Edith. Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe, Daphne Du Maurier, and of course the Bronte sisters; Gothic romance has, since its conception, been the arena of female imagination. Of course men have written in the Gothic mode, but they tend to write a different type. In fact, scholars of the genre consider the line between Gothic romance and Gothic horror to be a gendered one. Where women tend to write stories of social oppression and interpersonal horror, men write ones where the supernatural is actually real, and actually the sinister force at work.
There are many theories as to why this is the case. I favour a simple one: women have long had a great deal of very real things to fear; they do not need to make up ghosts and monsters to menace them.”
“WOMAN / CRAZY / FUCK / QUEER“, Alice Lesperance
A series of micro-essays about sitting on the edges of experience in film, music, and even language. This piece, written by Shakespeare and Punk‘s editor-in-chief, tackles everything from She’s Gotta Have It (Spike Lee’s original film) to the word “fuck”.
The first time I ever hear a woman say “fuck”, it’s while listening to Liz Phair. She has that really great song, “Fuck and Run” when she talks about getting fucked and abandoned at age twelve. But that’s not the first time I hear Liz say “fuck”. In 2003, Liz Phair releases the single “Why Can’t I?” It’s on the soundtrack for the film 13 Going On 30, that really mediocre rom-com, with that scene where Jennifer Garner does the “Thriller” dance in a miniskirt and 4-inch stilettos.
“A Beast of a Different Gender“, James Scott
What do werewolves have to do with the transgender experience? James Scott connects the dots between Teen Wolf , An American Werewolf in London, and Hemlock Grove in this essay about his own transformation.
“For a long time, I tried to outrun the wolf. Scraped knees and long nights flanked me as I barreled through a dark forest of my own making. But there’s no outrunning a wolf. Soon I was overtaken by the truth I’d always known— that I was a beast of a different gender. Not a cis-gender girl but not a cis-gender boy, I live as a werewolf lives on the edge of human, the edge of an animal.”
I’m torn. 2017 was a hell of year, in every sense of the word. Globally and nationally, it was literally hell, filled with transgressions and tragedies I can’t even begin to describe. Personally and professionally, for me and the ones I love, 2017 was, and I say it this time with a jubilant tone, a hell of a year. As countless “Best of 2017” lists show, this year gave us some fantastic stories. Fiction, nonfiction, short stories and albums – 2017 was a year for creating, for dreaming up art and watching it manifest. This year, Shakespeare and Punk came into its own, too. We published essays on tech, film, religion, girlhood and travel catalogues. We introduced two new columns: Jacqui Deighton’s GIRLisms and Samantha Pearson’s Fandom Love Letters. I am so proud of the work that we’ve done, which is a work of love. I can only hope 2018 is filled with creating and fighting and surviving, but still love, always love.
Founder, Editor-in-Chief Shakespeare and Punk