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.
I’ve been binge-watching the new season of Sex Education on Netflix at night after my boyfriend’s gone to bed—truly curious what has been going through his mind when, seconds after he shuts the bedroom door, he hears loud sex noises coming from the TV in the living room—which means that I’m a few weeks behind fans who sped through the new episodes of the remarkably smart and heartfelt series when they came out last month.
It also means a few weeks behind openly weeping at a scene in which six girls ride a bus.
If you’re unfamiliar, Sex Education stars Gillian Anderson and Asa Butterfield as a sex therapist and her awkward son, who discovers crucial social capital by doling out sex advice to classmates that he gleans from her work, despite his own sexual inexperience.
The show takes place in a bucolic English countryside town where it is somehow both 1994 and 2020. Episodes cover consent and contraception and agency and queerness and pleasure, but also puppy love and crushes and teen drama and hormones and adolescent pressure and insecurity.
It is somehow utopian and glaringly reflective of modern teen life. The best example of that is the way season two handled a delicate plot line about sexual assault, trauma, female rage...and a bus. (Light spoilers ahead.)
Aimee (Aimee Lou Wood) is eternally sunny and maybe a little daft, a disposition she is wearing when she boards the bus to school one day, smiles at the nice-looking man next to her, and then discovers that he was masturbating to her, finishing on her jeans. She initially brushes it off, annoyed that her friend Maeve (Emma Mackey, who is Margot Robbie’s doppelganger) is telling her that she’s been assaulted and needs to go to the police.
But despite her own attempts to shrug off what happened, Aimee starts seeing visions of the man from the bus everywhere she goes. Her body physically stops her from boarding the bus, meaning she starts walking miles to school, to her boyfriend’s house...everywhere.
During a plot device that plays like a mash-up of Mean Girls and The Breakfast Club that has six of the school’s girls being forced to figure out something that bonds them together so that they stop tearing each other down, Aimee interrupts the arguing by breaking down in tears, finally ready to admit to how affected she’s been by the bus incident. One by one, the other girls share their own experiences with assault and harassment. Each one has a story. That, of all things, is what bonds them.
The next morning, despite not all being friends or particularly liking each other, they rally together to take the bus with Aimee, so that she can reclaim her agency and triumph over the fear. It is incredibly moving, and one of the more powerful depictions of a #MeToo storyline I’ve seen on a teen drama, which so often tend to sensationalize or exploit graphic violence in order to make a statement. (Ahem, 13 Reasons Why.)
Anyway, I cried. If you read this newsletter, you’ll gather that I do that a lot.
In the wake of my rapturous review of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s sensational Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, I was sent many (many) complaints from people who felt that the duo had degraded and objectified themselves by dancing in leotards and crop tops during the show.
In the Year of Our Lord 2020, we are still having this debate over female pop stars’ sexuality—and having it a year after Adam Levine came out on the Super Bowl stage completely topless and none of these morality policemen and (mostly) women blinked an eye. (Most were too busy drooling and—oh, hey there!—objectifying him.)
I said this already on social media, but I’ll say it again here: I PERSONALLY THINK CHEERING ON MEN TO VIOLENTLY INFLICT LIFE-ALTERING BRAIN TRAUMA ON EACH OTHER IS INAPPROPRIATE FOR A ‘FAMILY-FRIENDLY’ EVENT, BUT GO OFF ON TWO SEXUALLY EMPOWERED GROWN WOMEN DANCING IN BATHING SUITS, LINDAS OF THE WORLD.
Alec Baldwin was on The View this week and briefly talked about when he co-hosted the Oscars in 2010 in this exchange flagged by writer Evan Ross Katz on Twitter. “When I did the show 10 years ago with Steve…” he begins, when Joy Behar interrupts to clarify for the audience that he is referring to Steve Martin.
Baldwin goes into aggro smug mode—shocking, I know!—and snides, “I think my audience knows when I say Steve, they know who I mean.” Behar’s perfect response: “My husband’s name is Steve. Maybe they think it’s him.”
Game. Set. Match.
Marveling at the wildly one-percent-skewing—or perhaps escapist fantasy—of the Town & Country cover lines is one of the Media Twitter’s favorite monthly traditions. This month’s version is truly something.
What to watch this week:
The Sinner: Matt Bomer and Chris Messina stage a Kevin’s Crushes Convention.
High Maintenance: It’s always so good.
Birds of Prey: In this house we support Margot Robbie!
What to skip this week:
Tommy: Someone send our condolences to Edie Falco.
Horse Girl: This movie is truly wild. You might like it more than I did.