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The Cartoon History of ‘Cosmos’

Neil Degrasse Tyson’s remake of the 1980s series tries to explain how early-modern thinkers began to discover the wonders of the universe. Its history is as cartoonish as its graphics.

Cosmos, Fox’s much-anticipated remake of Carl Sagan’s classic wonder-of-science series, is drawing attention for an unexpected reason. The middle of the premier episode features a long segment on Giordano Bruno, an early-modern friar and philosopher who was burned at the stake for his outlandish theological views. Bruno’s heresy was partially related to his hypotheses about the universe, some of which were astonishingly correct: that the cosmos is infinite, and that the sun is just another star. His proto-scientific inquiry and his clash with the Catholic Church made Bruno an Enlightenment hero, lionized by modern historians and even by figures as celebrated as the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel.



That’s more or less the story that gets told in Cosmos. Bruno is introduced as “only one man on the whole planet” who suspected that the universe was larger than everyone living in the year 1600 thought. Neil Degrasse Tyson ambles through alleys in the Vatican, explaining that there was “no freedom of thought in Italy,” and Bruno’s theories brought him “into the clutches of the thought police.” Bruno, according to Cosmos, wandered around Europe, arguing passionately but fruitlessly for his new explanation of the universe, only to be mocked, impoverished, and eventually imprisoned and executed. Catholic authorities are depicted as cartoon ghouls, and introduced with sinister theme music. Tyson explains that the church’s modus operandi was to “investigate and torment anyone who voiced views that differed from theirs.”

Ultimate Feminist

Miss Piggy Leans In

Miss Piggy

Paul Drinkwater/NBC, via Getty

Miss Piggy is confident, driven, and fights for what she wants. She embraces her "extra fabulous" looks and is unapologetically outspoken. And she doesn’t care what you think about it.

Over the years, Miss Piggy has been faulted for her clingy, seemingly obsessive relationship with Kermit the Frog. His unwillingness to marry her and settle down has only increased her fervor. Miss Piggy is so desperate, many think. So how does this longingness for acceptance and attention by a male figure a true feminist make?

Since her emergence on the television screen in the mid-seventies, Miss Piggy has been one of Hollywood’s reigning divas, overcoming and surpassing her years as a nameless swine in a male-dominated group. Her roots were humble and tinged with tragedy. “She grew up in a small town in Iowa; her father died when she was young, and her mother wasn't that nice to her,” Frank Oz told The New York Times in 1979. “She had to enter beauty contests to survive, as many single women do. She has a lot of vulnerability which she has to hide, because of her need to be a superstar." But Miss Piggy persevered, transforming her culpabilities into a successful career and becoming an icon to countless generations.  

It was her confident and aggressive personality that first earned Miss Piggy a reputation as the Gloria Steinem of the Muppet world. She is the perfect dichotomy of strength and femininity—she doesn’t take any shit from anybody (either physically or mentally), all the while still maintaining an incredibly glamorous persona. She’s a working woman, with a career ranging from acting as the face of a M.A.C. Cosmetics campaign to serving as a bonafide journalist and a fashion magazine editor in The Muppet Movie. In 1981, Miss Piggy penned her own self-help/advice book, Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life, which, naturally, was a New York Times bestseller for 29 weeks. Her words of wisdom are as sharp and to-the-point as she is: on style, “Style comes in all shapes and sizes. Therefore, the bigger you are, the more style you have”; on dating, “There is only one gift you should accept on your first date—diamonds”; and on beauty, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

Artful Erotica

A Sex Doc Diagnoses ‘Nymphomaniac’

Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” portrays the story of a young woman with an incurable case of insatiable lust. So is this textbook sex addiction or overblown eroticism?

It’s been nearly a year since Lars von Trier first teased Nymphomaniac with a series of titillating trailers released on the Internet—a marketing ploy that generated predictable shock, awe, and hype about the Danish filmmaker’s explicit two-part sex epic.


Magnolia Pictures

The legendary puppets have a conversation about ‘Muppets Most Wanted,’ Oscar bait, and love tapping Tina Fey.

KERMIT: Hi ho, I’m Kermit the Frog, here today to interview Miss Piggy for The Daily Beast!

MISS PIGGY: Kermie, who are you talking to?


Gregg DeGuire/Getty

The Week in Death

You Didn’t Mess With This Fat Lady

The chequered life of Clarissa Dickson Wright, the larger of the two stars on the eccentric cooking show ‘Two Fat Ladies.’

Clarissa Dickson Wright, who has died aged 66, sprang to celebrity as the larger of the Two Fat Ladies in the astonishingly popular television series.

Clarissa Dickson Wright

Brendan O'Sullivan/Photoshot, via Getty

Clarissa Dickson Wright was a recovering alcoholic, running a bookshop for cooks in Edinburgh when the producer Patricia Llewellyn was inspired to pair her with the equally eccentric Jennifer Paterson, then a cook and columnist at The Spectator. The emphasis of the program was to be on “suets and tipsy cake rather than rocket salad and sun-dried tomatoes,” the producer declared. Hence bombastic tributes to such delights as cream cakes and animal fats were mingled with contemptuous references to “manky little vegetarians.”


Hollywood’s Major Muslim Problem

A planned ABC Family show about a kidnapped American teenage girl, has been canceled. But can Hollywood confront its offensive stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims?

What transpired this week regarding ABC Family’s TV pilot, Alice in Arabia, was in a word: astounding. I say that for two reasons.


Svetoslava Madarova/Getty

First, because ABC Family announced on Monday the outlandish and arguably racist premise for its pilot of the show. And secondly because ABC Family canceled the pilot on Friday after a backlash erupted. While I objected to the premise of the show, I don’t rejoice over its cancelation.

Sweet Music

Can Bach Make It on NYC Subways?

On Friday, musicians took to underground train platforms around the world for the fourth ‘Bach in the Subways’ event, playing the composer’s music. How charmed were harried New York commuters?

All kinds of things happen on subway platforms. People meet, argue, commit criminal acts, suffer accidents and fall in love (I should know; a decade ago I met my wife on the London Underground). But even set against the regular entertainment to be found riding the New York City Subway, the scene just after midnight on Friday at the 96th St 1,2,3 stop was surreal.

A crowd of around 15 people were gathered to watch a cellist play a suite by Johann Sebastian Bach next to a sign reading: “We do not want money but ask simply that you listen with your heart and soul.” The audience shifted as people caught their trains, the announcement, arrival and departure of which loudly interrupted the music.


Rogen & Franco Vs. Kimye (Again)

The longtime pals have stuck it to their favorite targets once more.

They've gone and done it again.

Perennial pranksters (and real-life pals) Seth Rogen and James Franco seem to harbor a unique fascination with superstar couple Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. First came their outrageous shot-for-shot parody of Kanye West's music video for "Bound 2," featuring Franco (as West) straddling a shirtless Rogen (as Kardashian) on top of a motorcycle.


The Kimye 'Vogue' Backlash


It’s finally happened. Kim Kardashian has gained Anna Wintour’s approval and, along with her beau, graced the cover of 'Vogue.' But the Internet, led by Sarah Michelle Gellar, has spoken.

“There’s no way Kim Kardashian shouldn’t be on the cover of Vogue, she’s like the most intriguing woman right now. She’s got Barbara Walters calling her like everyday.”

None other than Kanye West, the loudest—and most innovative—voice in hip-hop, made this proclamation to Ryan Seacrest in an interview late last year.

West finally got his wish.

Maybe Not Do That?

Beyoncé Bows Down to Anne Frank

Anne Frank inspired millions with her indomitable spirit. Beyoncé inspired a generation of spring breakers to caption their Punta Cana selfies with the hashtag #surfboardt.

Beyoncé and Jay Z took a break from raising a child, building a media empire, and running the Illuminati to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam yesterday. While visiting the site where the Holocaust victim hid for two years is one of the classier things a celebrity can do in Amsterdam, it comes with its own unique set of potential PR pitfalls. After all, pot is practically legal these days, while being a jerk at the Anne Frank museum is still highly frowned upon.



Justin Bieber learned this lesson the hard way when he decided to write his own entry in the Anne Frank House guest book. Unsurprisingly, the man-boy behind the great egging prank of 2014 didn't exactly approach this occasion with a sense of tact or gravitas. Presumably after ruling out "I'd totally tap that" and "I just hot boxed Anne Frank's hiding annex," Bieber finally landed on "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber." #neverforget


Enrique's Album Drips With Nothing

Just in case you get confused, the Spanish pop superstar wants to be straightforward about what his new album is about. But is it going to bring sexy back?

Enrique Iglesias is the guy who dated tennis siren Anna Kournikova for more than a decade. He sang “Bailamos” and told you to let the rhythm take you over. He fondled Jennifer Love Hewitt with wads of cash while asking, “Would you tremble if I touched your lips?” The sensual 38-year-old Spaniard knew exactly why we would buy his new album, lest we forget or get confused.


So let’s make it perfectly clear. “I wanted to be straightforward,” Iglesias enlightened the Daily Mail. “The title describes exactly what the album is about. From day one, I knew that I was going to call it Sex and Love.”

Hey, Hodor

Game of Thrones Invades Brooklyn

Fans at a special New York event to celebrate season four of Game of Thrones obsessed over Arya Stark and sexy new character Oberyn Martell.

"So, Catelyn pulls back Roose Bolton’s tunic, and she sees chain mail, which is, like, not good, so she screams ‘ROBB!’ and then–"

Game of Thrones

Rob Kim/Getty

Catching someone up on the entire third season of Game of Thrones is not easy.  Catching someone up on the entire third season of Game of Thrones in one subway ride between Wall Street and Barclays Center is less so. We, along with 7,000 fans, were en route to “Game of Thrones: The Epic Fan Experience,” the centerpiece of which was a screening of the first episode of season four.


Kimye Covers ‘Vogue’


America’s “royal” couple finally receives Anna Wintour’s seal of approval.

He did it. Kanye West finally got Kim Kardashian the Vogue cover he/she/they have been waiting for. Following months of speculation—fueled by news that West dined with Anna Wintour at The Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge in January, and an unnamed source who shared details of Kim’s Los Angeles shoot—the reality TV star and her rapper fiancé are officially fronting the glossy’s April issue.

Forget Kim’s previous “feud” with Anna Wintour. On Friday, revealed the couple’s cover, which features Kim in a billowing, strapless Lanvin wedding dress with a slicked back, low bun, smoky eyes, and au natural make-up. Kanye stands behind Kim (of course) in a blue suit, hands wrapped around his fiancé’s waist. In a behind-the-scenes video, Vogue seemingly recreates the couple’s infamous “Bound 2” music video, with Kim and Kanye walking longingly into the sunset.

This is true love, people. They’re the #WORLDSMOSTTALKEDABOUTCOUPLE. [Vogue]


Her Armpits Are Hairy. So What?



It’s hard to say if Madonna’s selfie is a true call for body positivity, or simply the grown-up version of Miley sticking out her tongue and posing with a sex toy.

These days, your average CW-approved teen heartthrob is bound to have more followers scanning his Instagram selfie than viewers watching his subpar vampire drama. In order to stay current, stars now need to have the social media savvy of a young Mark Zuckerberg in order to compete for headlines, YouTube views, and concert sales. Celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber have clearly internalized the importance of the sensationalist selfie, posing with blunts, booze, and even nearly nude. But refusing to Instagram even a single boring shot comes at a price, as these stars have to consistently up their selfie game in order to garner likes and hold our attention.

To create a truly newsworthy selfie demands a break with convention—to boldly selfie where no celeb has selfie’d before. This week, Madonna beat the kids at their own game, effortlessly raising the bar of social media sensationalism. Madonna’s selfie features the pop icon in a black bra and bow tie, raising her arm to reveal a thick patch of armpit hair. The image is captioned “Long hair...... Don't Care!!!!!! #artforfreedom #rebelheart #revolutionoflove.”

The artificial policing of female body hair has long been considered a feminist issue. After all, body hair is natural—a whole lot more natural than grown women who have been waxed to look like Barbie dolls. Images from porn, advertising, and celebrity culture all teach us that body hair just isn’t sexy. A picture of a glamorous woman like Madonna sporting a swathe of pit fuzz is more than just a shock to the system—it’s a deliberate challenge to an artificial standard of beauty. The language that Madonna uses in her caption shows that she is tapping into this feminist movement— her invocation of revolution, rebellion, and freedom makes it clear that she didn’t just accidentally skip her morning shave. But the issue of whether Madonna is truly advocating for women’s liberation or merely courting a TMZ headline is, for lack of a better term, hairy.


Jaap Buitendijk

In the frightening, dystopian world of ‘Divergent,’ Shailene Woodley’s character, Tris, manages to fight her way through the film in some seriously on-trend leggings.

In Divergent’s dystopian society, clothing plays a large role in exhibiting one’s identity—factions are divided by color, with Candor (the truthful) sporting black and white ensembles, Amity (the farmers) donning natural, earthy hues, Erudite (the intelligent) wearing different shades of blue, and Abnegation (the selfless) somber in grey.

The fifth faction, Dauntless (the fearless), may wear all-black clothing that’s hardcore and designed for intensive and rigorous movement, but, somewhere in the violent world of a futuristic-Chicago, Tris (played by Shailene Woodley) was able to find extremely durable, yet still very on-trend, leather pants. As seen in the majority of the film, Tris, a new Dauntless initiate, sports black, jegging-like bottoms with decorative leather stripes detailing the outermost part of the leg.

“The patterns are very functional with many pockets to contain the objects needed for the training (knifes, ammo, etc.),” costume designer Carlo Poggioli said of the faction’s ensembles, “and all the fabrics for Dauntless were custom-made." Like the other thousand pieces of clothing present in the film, Tris’s high-fashion pants were crafted from “special elastic,” allowing the heroine to fight in the most glamorous way. 

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