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.
- Pamela Adlon’s genius soothes me.
- The Dixie Chicks are finally back.
- I can’t with rich people.
- Love Is Blind has broken me.
- The tweet that is me.
When we talk about “cancel culture”—which we’ve done insufferably, constantly, and in circles over the last few years—we’re really discussing nothing. We’re debating a fallacy, a figment, a meaningless buzzword that purely exists as a piston in the think-piece engine.
Nobody we’re talking about has ever been canceled. They’ve been criticized and called out, and sometimes professionally punished for something that some might think has been blown out of proportion or unfairly policed. But nobody’s been canceled, at least not in the way we talk about it now.
The only entertainers who have ever truly been canceled are the Dixie Chicks.
The trio, single-handedly responsible for me realizing that country music wasn’t all heinous, were among the biggest music acts in the world in 2003 when, at a London show, lead singer Natalie Maines denounced the Iraq War and said the group was ashamed that President George W. Bush was from Texas. Proving my inclination that country music fans at the time were pea-brained imbeciles largely out of their boot-scootin’ damned minds, these people flipped the hell out.
They burned, trashed, and steamrolled over the band’s CDs. Their music was blacklisted from country radio. Sentient goatee in a stetson hat, Toby Keith, started performing in front of a photoshopped picture of Maines cuddling with Saddam Hussein. Three women expressed a—turns out pretty valid!—public opinion, and these people stopped singing “Friends in Low Places” karaoke for five minutes just to go absolutely apeshit on them.
You know how people talk about how Google Images pretty much exists because of J. Lo’s green Versace Grammys dress and YouTube basically came out of people desperate to see Janet Jackson’s nip slip at the Super Bowl? Well internet mob culture essentially exists because people wanted to tar and feather the Dixie Chicks.
They are, to this day, the only celebrities who have ever been canceled for their opinion, a reality so haunting that Taylor Swift cited it as the reason she was too afraid to come forward with her own political thoughts and endorsements. (Though now what’s the reason for your Democratic primary silence, Miss Americana, hmmmm?)
They released the 2006 album Taking the Long Way and the documentary Shut Up and Sing in response to the experience. Their Grammy Awards performance of “Not Ready That Nice” that year was one of the most powerful musical moments I can remember, even trumping my fire-throated belting of the song in my Toyota Corolla driving home one night from the seafood restaurant where I worked summers in college after yet another fight with that trash nightmare of a bully waitress, Amy.
ANYWAY! The reason for recounting all this is the glorious occasion of the group’s first new music in 14 years, the new single “Gaslighter” off of their upcoming album of the same name. It is so good. It is as if the spirit of me sitting on my couch watching a YouTube video and screaming “Yaasss!” at the topic of my lungs was an actual song. (Have I painted a clear enough picture of how I first watched this music video?)
The title is pointed, a reference to another buzzword of the moment—only, unlike “cancel culture,” this one is very real. “Gaslighting” is a popular way of referring to a practice employed by people in power positions who manipulate someone into questioning their sanity or believing things that aren’t true, i.e. the viral essay, “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America.”
“Gaslighter” isn’t explicitly political, outside of the suggestion of its title and its message of militant women seizing revenge against the shitty men who have it coming to them—which is to say it is entirely political. Listen more closely to the lyrics, and it also becomes clear how personally inspired the song is by Maines’ tumultuous divorce from ex-husband, actor Adrian Pasdar.
This is a lot of think-piecing to say that the song is effing good and the line “You made your bed, and then your bed caught fire” deserves a Pulitzer.
There is a New York Times article that came out this week detailing how (incredibly rich) investors and clients of facial recognition start-up Clearview use the app and it’s technology. Would you BELIEVE that it is to creepily spy on people in public?
Here is the story’s lede:
One Tuesday night in October 2018, John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the Gristedes grocery store chain, was having dinner at Cipriani, an upscale Italian restaurant in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, when his daughter, Andrea, walked in. She was on a date with a man Mr. Catsimatidis didn’t recognize. After the couple sat down at another table, Mr. Catsimatidis asked a waiter to go over and take a photo.
Mr. Catsimatidis then uploaded the picture to a facial recognition app, Clearview AI, on his phone. The start-up behind the app has a database of billions of photos, scraped from sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Within seconds, Mr. Catsimatidis was viewing a collection of photos of the mystery man, along with the web addresses where they appeared: His daughter’s date was a venture capitalist from San Francisco.
If I was allowed to touch my face, I’d be face-palming my forehead. I have nothing to say. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, RICH PEOPLE??? OK, now I have nothing more to say.
We are in an unprecedented age of television, with more content than ever available to us instantaneously, at our command, and more of it than ever is truly spectacular, among the best the medium has ever produced. So naturally the entire nation is instead watching Love Is Blind.
It cannot be stressed enough that this show is very bad. It is horrifically produced, unforgivably paced, preposterous in concept, and cast with people who couldn’t more glaringly be performing for the cameras. And yet I couldn’t stop watching it. I wrote many words about why that was earlier this week—give daddy his page views—ahead of the reunion special that debuted on Thursday.
I know everyone has their favorites and villains and whatever; the show is too terrible for me to really want to debate who is which. But the fact of the matter is that, especially after this reunion, I can’t stop thinking about Jessica. I think I love her and I am terrified about what that says about me.
The fabric of my entire being is in this tweet.
What to watch this week:
Hillary: The new Hulu documentary series is, in my opinion, incredible—if obviously a bit one-sided.
The Way Back: I guess we like Ben Affleck again.
Dave: It’s not the first time I’ve spent an entire TV show thinking about the lead actor’s penis. But it is the first time that’s entirely the point.
What to skip this week:
Onward: Further sign of the apocalypse: Pixar made a meh movie.