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.
- Hopefully the last pandemic content we’ll ever review.
- Remember when Hilary Duff solved homophobia?
- You need to be watching Hacks.
- Behold the French unauthorized Céline Dion biopic. (Really.)
- Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Baker is gay rights.
It’s the wonderfully awful time of the year, when everything from my toothpaste to my toilet paper to my nightly burrito—you try living above a Chipotle—are festooned with rainbow packaging and maxims about pride, equality, love, and acceptance. Thank you, Charmin.
Twitter accounts for snack crackers are sentiently proclaiming their activism in support of the LGBT+ community, and my bank has sent several mass emails about how much I matter, which is certainly a different tune than they were singing last month when I missed a credit card payment.
Streaming services and content platforms have curated film and TV series spotlighting LGBT content, as if I don’t know where to find an episode of Golden Girls at all times, in a pinch. It is the one month that I get to check out at Duane Reade and see a bona fide, real-life gay person on a magazine cover. Representation!
Listen, I would rather weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than get embroiled in the annual, insufferable discourse about the cynical commercialization of Pride Month, the brief tokenization of visibility, and who, what, and how much leather bondage belongs at marches and parades. Let me drink my roadie of vodka soda, dance to a cacophony of Lady Gaga songs booming from various speakers, and get sunburned while scrolling through thirst traps in peace, as the revolutionists intended.
That is all to say there is exactly one piece of inspiring LGBT content that matters to me, and, like many queer millennials, I revisit it fondly once a year. Let us never forget when Hilary Duff told us it’s not cool to call things “gay” as an insult.
Back in 2008, the community’s one true ally, Lizzie Maguire, filmed a PSA for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) campaign to eradicate the phrase “that’s so gay” from casual conversation. (Watch it here.) The spot features Duff clothes shopping and overhearing two girls trying on clothes. One says the other’s top looks “so gay.”
“You know, you really shouldn’t say that,” Duff, the first LGBT superhero, no matter what Marvel says, interrupts. To say something is gay when you mean it’s bad “is insulting,” she schools them. “What if every time something was bad, everybody said, ‘That’s so ‘girl wearing a skirt as a top?’”
You see, not only was the girl casually problematic, she was wearing a skirt as a top. Anyway, she quickly disintegrated into a pile of humiliated ashes, and Hilary Duff defeated homophobia then and there.
The thing is, I’m only writing all this with a hint of sarcasm. Back in 2008, a PSA like this was huge. And while there have been noble, emotional, and incredibly effective campaigns over the years tackling things like anti-gay violence, the startling LGBT suicide rates, and trans rights, the attempt to raise awareness about an issue that seemed so mundane but was so harmful in its mainstream existence was profound.
It turns out that growing up with “that’s so gay” as an insult sucks. Who’d have guessed?
The phrase integrated into accepted conversation to the point that even the least homophobic among us—even the gayest among us, to be honest—used it with abandon, completely unaware that each time it was said, it fortified an environment for more extreme anti-LGBT harassment, bullying, and violence to perpetuate.
So Happy Pride to Hilary Duff, and Hilary Duff only.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that something you watch or see can “turn you gay,” except for the fact that I firmly suspect watching four women in skirt suits with shoulder pads that would protect them against the Atlanta Falcons’ defensive line delivering feminist monologues in between interior decorating gigs as an impressionable middle schooler did, in fact, turn me gay.
To now see the actress who played the inimitable Charlene Frazier Stillfield earn the best reviews of her career for the one-two punch of her scene-stealing work on Mare of Easttown and then the most vibrant showcase she’s ever had in Hacks? That’s Pride.
The HBO Max series about a Joan Rivers-esque comedian in the sunset of her career—but who will run to the damn horizon herself and heave the sun back into the air if that’s what it takes to stay working—has morphed from a funny and enjoyable series buoyed by Smart’s electrifying performance into, genuinely, the best comedy currently airing on TV.
Last week’s strange and surprisingly poignant duo of episodes—co-star Hannah Einbinder as Ava in a thrilling, almost elegiac whirlwind Vegas romance, followed by her dam-breaking bonding session with Smart’s Deborah at a convalescence spa—elevated the show to a whole new level. They injected unexpected humanity and pathos into what had been a comedically caustic (in a good way!) series.
The two episodes that were released this Thursday continue that nimble threading of emotion into the show’s dark comedy. There’s nothing better than bingeing a show as it’s just hitting its stride. You want to be an ally? Support Jean Smart for Pride.
The lineup for this year’s Cannes Film Festival was announced this week, and, wow, what a jaw-dropping assemblage of filmmakers, creative talent, and hotly anticipated projects. And none of them matter, because screening out of competition is the French film Aline, the Voice of Love, a biopic of Céline Dion that uses her songs and her life story, but not her name, and is the only piece of cinema I can possibly imagine caring about in the next year, if not decade.
The trailer for this is insane. (Watch it here.) I was so convinced I was suffering a stroke while watching this, I started psychosomatically smelling burnt toast. A true return to normalcy means a return to mess, and for that, I’m so grateful to my singing idol, who is apparently now not Céline Dion, but Aline Dieu.
This is a photo of Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Baker in an upcoming biopic, and it’s taken all the willpower I can muster to not print it out and walk the streets of New York City shoving it in people’s faces and screaming, “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?!?” Attention must be paid.
Kennedy Center Honors: The best tribute event of the year honors Debbie Allen, Garth Brooks, and Dick Van Dyke. (Sun. on CBS)
Loki: You’d all watch this new Marvel series even if I didn’t recommend it, but I am actually intrigued by this one. (Wed. on Disney+)
Vanderpump Dogs: Every reality-TV obsessive has his limits. (Wed. on Peacock)
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It: AKA the excuse Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson used for doing this second sequel. (Fri. in theaters and on HBO Max)
Lisey’s Story: Turns out the rocky track record of Stephen King adaptations stays rocky even when King is adapting his work himself. (Fri. on Apple TV+)