This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- That Chappelle special really is that bad.
- Please watch Maid on Netflix.
- Erika Jayne’s media strategy boggles the mind.
- New Adele is coming, and I am already weeping.
- Pooping for love.
In my years as an entertainment journalist and critic, I have passionately abided by the idea that art is a capsule of the mood and feeling of a certain time. And therefore I have no notes about the current television moment, which seems to be screaming: Wow, it really sucks to be alive, huh?
The Squid Game of it all is its own conversation. But we’re finally interacting with a real world in which systems make it impossible to be a human person. This all sounds casual and snarky, yet it’s real—and the reason we’re all returning to the dormant instinct of watching en masse, as a monoculture, and then unloading about it. That thing on Netflix isn’t just entertaining us, it’s speaking to us. And we need to speak about it.
There’s the ways in which we all, unfortunately, understand the motivations of the characters in Squid Game. It’s why those explosive moments in Midnight Mass have sat with us in the time since we watched, in a real, contemplative way. And it’s why Maid, I think, has become somewhat of a surprise hit.
It’s not genre at all, so there’s no “why the horror analogy of Maid gives me all the feels” BuzzFeedology to be argued. The series is so clear-eyed and raw that I’m shocked that so many people seem, in the week since it premiered, to have rallied around it.
Margaret Qualley stars as a twentysomething woman who had a child with her boyfriend (Nick Robinson, fantastic and unrecognizable from his Love, Simon days) during a period of bliss, but now is recognizing him as a violent and manipulative captor. The best thing about her is her instinct to escape, which she does. The horrifying thing is that society won’t let her.
Alex, Qualley’s character, is a person whose eyes are darting back and forth in a constant state of confusion, processing the overwhelming information she’s receiving and how she could possibly take it in while still giving attention to her 2-year-old girl. What makes Maid work is that it’s such a human story, but it’s also a story about systems.
Everything—the paperwork, the police protocol, the job market, generational influence, and, again, the paperwork—make it so that, at her most vulnerable and endangered, the only rational thing to do to survive is to go back to the man who she fled in the first place. It’s not a pedantic or patronizing “look at how we treat women in this society” diatribe, but an unflinching and harrowing look at how we actually treat women in this society. Specifically, poor women.
Maid is a superhero story, in that we watch Alex find the fortitude to navigate those systems that make it impossible for her to survive, let alone succeed. But it’s also a condemnation of those superheroes. Why should anyone need to be that great, that superhuman, in order to have a home, care for her daughter, find a job, and be without abuse in her life?
This is one of those “star is born” performances from Qualley, made even more potent that Andie MacDowell, her mother in real life, also plays her mom—and source of generational trauma—in this. It’s probably the best work of MacDowell’s career (spoken by a person who watches Four Weddings and a Funeral three times a year).
It’s trivializing to say that you can relate to this show, given the hell that women in Alex’s position are actually put through. But the ways in which you feel for her, I think, can only be good for us.
The Super Bowl-eventizing of the Erika Jayne-Tom Girardi saga has become increasingly grotesque as this season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills unfolds, documenting Erika’s reaction to being accused of complicity in her ex-husband’s fleecing of millions from widows and orphans his law firm represented.
That said, inject any and all Erika Jayne drama directly into my veins. I need it. It’s how I thrive.
The reason for this existential crisis is the just-released trailer for the four-part—as in four hours, across four weeks—cast reunion, in which Erika is, in moderator Andy Cohen’s own words, put “on a skewer” while he fires “up the barbecue.”
The trailer is delicious. It telegraphs that not only is Erika going to finally be asked seriously—not at a fancy dinner where castmates are more concerned about friend politics than the truth—what she knew about Tom’s misdeeds, but also seems to call her out for manipulating that truth on TV for damage control. Juicy!!!
I would be so into all of this, if not for how Erika shared the trailer on social media. “The champ is here. Me,” Erika posted on her Instagram. It echoes her reaction to the announcement that, for the first time, the RHOBH reunion would be four episodes: “Now what would make it four parts? Me.”
It’s the most fucked-up humblebrag in the history of social media.
Yes, the reunion is four parts because people whose family members died in a horrible plane crash were then robbed of their settlement money because the lawyer in charge took those millions and funneled them into a trash pop star’s glam budget and, now, viewers can’t tell exactly what that star is lying about while on a reality TV show talking about it. It is all because of you. Good for you, girl.
It is only a brief break I have taken to write this newsletter, following the release of about 15 seconds of Adele’s new song, after days of just staring out my window contemplatively.
People have been joking about not being emotionally stable enough to listen to what will surely be a devastating new album from the singer, written and produced following her divorce. But I wonder if this album will actually be uplifting. A track list of all club bangers? Adele’s disco era?
Because here’s the thing: As anyone who has gone through a traumatic break up knows, all you want is your ex to know that you are still talented and also skinny again. Adele has checked both those boxes. This new album? A generous gift to the rest of us.
These are the faces of two people who have pooped sitting next to each other.
Baby-Sitter’s Club: No snark, one of my favorite shows on TV. We should all be so pure! (Mon. on Netflix)
Buried: For all those addicted to being traumatized by true-crime docuseries, this is a good one. (Sun. on Showtime)
Good Timing: Comedian Jo Firestone manages the impossible: A hilarious comedy special that’s also heartwarming. (Fri. on Peacock)
Dopesick: For a series about one of the country’s most urgent crises, it’s strangely paint-by-numbers. (Wed. on Hulu)
No Time to Die: It’s time. (Fri. in theaters)