- Living for Lizzo
- John Travolta, LOL
- Turns out: I love puppets!
- If you thought I’d ever shut up about Designing Women…
- I laughed so hard at this. You may not find it funny at all.
I had another great check-in this week with my therapist, Lizzo.
Yes, it was in part because of her songs, which play on constant loop through big-ass headphones I wear at the office all day so that no one will approach me. Her music doubles as aural antidepressants—instantaneous mood lifters—carrying me through the most difficult parts of the week. (I spent all Wednesday thinking it was Thursday.)
But there’s something about Lizzo, her music, her celebrity, her success, her specific talents, her humor, her style, her message—her entirety—that makes her the perfect pop star for this moment in time. That much was more clarifying than ever this week at the MTV Video Music Awards, where she performed and delivered a sermon in front of a massive inflatable twerking ass. (Watch it here.)
She began by singing her hit single, “Truth Hurts,” a capella, before melting into a dance move I can only describe as “feeling yourself.” Soon she was making her ass clap in unison with her background dancers, before exploding into a particularly ebullient rendition of “Good as Hell.” As the anthemic joy threatened to shatter the arena roof, she mounted a hot pink platform and, with her ensemble of fabulous, inclusive dancers flanking her and the 17-foot-tall butt looming behind her, preached to the people.
“Let me talk to you all for a second,” she said. “I’m tired of the bullshit. And I don’t have to know your story to know that you’re tired of the bullshit, too. It’s so hard to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back, am I right? So I want to take this opportunity right now to just feel good as hell. Because you deserve to feel good as hell!”
At that moment, I did. I did feel good as hell. I’ve felt that way again the 47 times I’ve watched the performance this week.
I don’t know if it will rank among all the gimmicky, shock-value VMA performances of legend—though, what with the assless costumes, house-sized billowing booty, and expletives, it would still have fallen squarely in the all-important category of “things on MTV my mother would not have allowed me to watch as a kid.” But it is a spectacular, important performance, and one of the most rewatchable award show sets I’ve seen in recent memory.
After the show, Lizzo posted a clip of the performance on Instagram with a caption that summed up its importance better than I could:
“Every woman on that stage had a story of either why they shouldn’t have been on that stage or why they didn’t believe they deserved to be on that stage, including myself. ‘Imposter syndrome’ is a privilege to the most marginalized group in America. Not only were we taught to believe we didn’t belong in the spotlight, but when we finally get to a place [of] self-worth the world tries to knock us down. Not this time. The world smiled with us. The world sang us. The world saw our beauty last night. The world saw black women feeling Good As Hell and cheered us on.”
I don’t know about other people, but Lizzo resonates with me, yes, because of her message of self-love and positivity, and the refreshing humor and vulgarity with which she wields her affirmations. (My favorite tweet on the subject: “I’m so done with being insecure I cannot be letting Lizzo down like this anymore.”) But it’s not a tunnel-vision mindset.
She’s not saying that the things about her, about ourselves, that we are insecure about or feel dismissed because of, don’t matter. She’s acknowledging that they do, that it registers constantly what people say, think, or judge about us, and overcoming that is a daily, moment by moment decision. That we make that decision is worth celebrating, because we deserve to make that decision.
What’s so great about Lizzo and her songs being so cheeky and playful is that she has the indisputable talent to back it up. Her lyrics are genius wordplay. (“Why men great until they gotta be great” is *chef’s kiss* brilliant.) Her vocals are fantastic. She has exceptional instincts for stage presence and wit. (Calling it the “Tiny-ass Desk Concert,” I mean…) Oh, and she’s a classically trained flautist. (If you don’t follow her flute, Sasha, on Instagram, you are missing out.)
I’m not sure that, in a vacuum, I could have known, or certainly not articulated, that the pop star I would want most in 2019 is one able to pause a dance break to riff on her flute while twerking. But, oh my, is it that exact thing.
John Travolta, for some reason, presented at the awards this year. Gen Z: Huge fans of Welcome Back, Kotter. In any case, He Who Birthed Adele Dazeem continues to be the most tragic celebrity award presenter when—and this is so good you just can’t make it up—Taylor Swift won an award for her “You Need to Calm Down” music video and he tried to give the trophy to the drag queen that plays her in the video instead.
It’s just the most wonderfully embarrassing thing ever, but also the most uplifting. Good for you, Jade Jolie! Swift reportedly laughed it all off. I mean, with such CONFIDENCE, Danny Zuko tries to give this drag queen the award. He is so certain that it is Taylor Swift. Or, as he likes to refer to her, “The talented and lover-ly, Trudy Schrump!”
I have never seen The Dark Crystal, the cult 1982 film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz that takes place in some dark fantasy Lord of the Rings-meets-aliens world and stars a bunch of puppets. When Netflix announced a new prequel series to the film that sees the Jim Henson Company revisiting The Dark Crystal universe but this time with all the modern advancements in puppet and CGI technology that 2019 affords, I thought, “Hm. Sounds great. Not for me though!”
Well, based on word of mouth from critics I respect, I watched advanced screeners of the first half of the new show. It turns out: Very much for me!
I’m gonna use some hyperbolic words now. Know that I recognize this. That said, it is one of the most astonishing technical achievements and most visually wondrous television series I have ever seen. The puppets, people, the puppets! There is gorgeous CGI, of course, for the scenery. But the characters, the puppets, are all real and practical. The world-building is so smart and creative that it made no difference at all that I had never seen the movie and had no idea what the hell I was getting into when I started watching.
More, this prequel, titled The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance, boasts a stirring, resonant story, one with themes of oppression, fascism, the hubris of power, gaslighting, and the abuse of the marginalized that are, ahem, PRETTY TIMELY. That something this whimsical could still be so dark without losing an ounce of tenderness or spectacle is admirable. Then again, that’s Jim Henson for you.
Everyone keeps asking me what my Labor Day plans are and I’m offended, taken aback that not only are my plans not obvious, but that everyone else does not have the same. I will not be moving from my couch until I have finished bingeing every single episode of the seminal ’90s sitcom Designing Women, which has finally been made available for streaming on Hulu.
If you have not seen this show before—HOMOPHOBIA!!!—it stars Dixie Carter, Delta Burke, Jean Smart, and Annie Potts (aka the four women who will be meeting me when I cross through the pearly gates of heaven) as headstrong steel magnolias working at the fictional Sugarbaker design firm in Georgia.
You have not lived until you have seen Dixie Carter torpedo her way through a righteous, hyper-feminist monologue; or marveled at how Delta Burke humanizes a ditzy pageant queen; or lost your breath laughing at Jean Smart’s beleagured line deliveries; or felt seen, regardless of age, gender, or the thickness of your southern accent, as Annie Potts triumphs through life as a hardworking, fast-talking working mom.
The show is responsible for two of my favorite episodes of television ever, “Killing All the Right People” and “The Beauty Contest.” If you’re not sure if the show is for you, start there. Happy Labor Day.
You’re either going to die laughing and rewatch 100 times, or have no clue what the hell anyone who made this Twitter video go viral is thinking. (Watch here.)
What to watch this week:
The Dark Crystal: Did you not read my review?
Wu-Tang: An American Saga: The story of the greatest rap group ever, now available for your bingeing desires.
What to skip this week:
Carnival Row: Great fairy wings, beautiful wings.