Darling subscribers, please buckle in. It is time for We Your Dames to Rave about a Fav. Specifically, it is time for us to rave about NBC’s most existential sitcom, The Good Place.
There's no cussing in the Good Place, but your Dames aren't bound by the FCC's profanity rules, so please imagine us hollering the full-fat version of this line every time we watch a new episode of this forking amazing show.
We have avidly consumed all 26 existing episodes, some multiple times. We have cackled over screencaps and gif-sets. We have, per Noelle Stevenson’s viral prompt, figured out which combination of two characters from The Good Place we are (Dame Sophie: Good Janet + Michael; Dame Margaret: Good Janet + Tahani). And now, in the wake of the series’s excellent Season 2 finale last night, the time has come for us to make sure that you,our loyal and beloved subscribers, have come along on this journey with us. If you have not yet watched the show, you’re in luck! The 13-episode first season is streamingon Netflix, and you can buy all of Season 2 on Amazon or anywhere else Fine Media is sold. There is a dramatic reveal at the end of Season 1, so tread carefully around coverage of the show if you’ve managed to avoid spoilers so far, but here are some spoiler-free incentives for viewing: the show’shilariously intricate point system that determines your status in the afterlife:
Tag yourselves. We’re “attended cousin’s friend’s child’s jazz dance recital.”
This incredible collection of food puns that showwriter Megan Amramgenerated for the Good Places’s businesses:
These images of the shows unreasonably attractive cast (which also includes Kristen Bell and Ted Danson):
h/t to Katie "Lady Bird" Minard on Twitter for this perfect assessment of these perfect humans
And this paragraph, from James Poniewozik’s assessment of the show for The New York Times:
In “The Good Place,” morality is not something you have; it’s something you do. It’s a muscle that requires exercise. The show shares with dramas like “Breaking Bad” the belief that being good is hard. But it doesn’t believe that being good is futile.
The series feels like part of a wider reaction against the dark TV view of human imperfection, something that was once groundbreaking but has become a commodity.
And THEN come back-- or enjoy right now, if you’re already up-to-date on the show-- these spoiler-full pieces on its excellence: the remainder of James Poniewozik’s excellent column “How The Good Place Became an Antihero Antidote” from which the above was excerpted; this deep dive on the full moral implications of The Good Place's divine justice system; the GQ profiles of D’Arcy Carden (Janets Bad, Good, and Other), William Jackson Harper(Chidi), Jameela Jamil (Tahani), and Manny Jacinto (Jason) which accompanied the aforementioned sexuality-template-resetting photos; this additional GQ profile with the show’s costume designer, Kirston Mann (also responsible for Leslie Knope’s ICONIC wedding dress); and, last but by no mean’s least, this episode of the podcast Don’t Get Me Started on whichD’Arcy Carden describes her obsession with One Direction.
We hope that whether you start the show now, on the strength of our recommendation, or whether you’ve watched it already, on the strength of like… literally everyone else’s, that you love it with the same unrelenting intensity we do. Come tell us your two Good Place characters over on Twitter as soon as you’re done with the rest of this newsletter, which starts……. NOW!
FEBRUARY LIVETWEET ANNOUNCEMENT: Join us forSTRICTLY BALLROOM on Sunday, 2/18
Both the shoulders and the billboard featured in this gif are among the Greatest of All-Time.
DAMES NATIONALS, it’s time for our first livetweet of 2018. Since it’s ~Valentine’s Month~, we’re highlighting one of our mutual favorite swoony romances-- Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 directorial debut, Strictly Ballroom. This movie is campy as all get out and there could easily be bits of it that have not aged well, but it’s also hilarious, full of great performances, incredible chemistry, stunnnnnnnnnnning dance sequences, and more sequins than you could possibly imagine. We are very excited to revisit it and we hope you’ll be excited to join us, whether it’s your first time or your 50th. The details:
WHEN: 7:30 PM Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, February 18th, 2018
HOW: Streaming on Netflix or by DVD-- whichever suits your fancy.
WHERE: On Twitter, with the hashtag #StrictlyDames
NOTE: Sadly, like a lot of the best independent and foreign movies from the 1990s, Strictly Ballroom was distributed by Harvey Weinstein’s production company, Miramax. We still think it's worth sharing, but we want you to be able to make an informed choice about joining us.
Dame Margaret's Draggy, Left-Sharky Links
Who but Ru could look this great with a tulle tumor sprouting out of their left shoulder? Not a soul.
First, thanks to its mention on this week’s episode of Still Processing, I devoured Jenna Wortham’s remarkable profile of RuPaul Charles, America’s Drag Queen Sweetheart, and invite you to join me. It contains both glorious anecdotes like this-- “The story of Charles’s name goes like this: His mother, Ernestine — friends called her Toni — was thumbing through the July 1960 issue of Ebony Magazine, where there was a spread of the singer and piano player Fats Domino’s new $200,000 home in New Orleans. A photograph of Domino enjoying a cocktail with the architect who designed his new home, Albert J. Saputo, as well as his wife and Domino’s friends Louis Diamond and Ripoll Roberts, caught Toni’s eye. She drew an arrow to Ripoll’s name and wrote 'boy' underneath. Ernestine was Creole, and she wanted her next child’s name to reflect her heritage. She changed 'Ri' to 'Ru' to symbolize roux, the base of Louisiana dishes like gumbo. A psychic had told her that her unborn child would be famous, and she was determined to give the baby a name meant for a marquee. A few months later, in November 1960, that boy was born. His full name was RuPaul Andre Charles." -- and deep, meaningful analysis about just what drag means in a world where gender identity is simultaneously so fluid and so rigorously catalogued. It also led me to dig out an old episode of one of my other favorite podcasts, Bullseye, that features incredible interviews with both RuPaul and Terry Crews.
In the wake of a very half-baked “take” on how our current cultural obsession with skincare is one big con (to which I shall not link), Sady Doyle wrote a thoughtful, nuanced, and excellent piece on her own relationship with skincare and how to critique capitalism without engaging in misogynist stereotypes. It goes extremely well with Lilil Loofbourow’s essay, shared by our guest editors last week, on the relationship between male pleasure and female pain. If you missed either, please jump to and read both.
British author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless has founded a new literary prize that I suspect will be of great interest to all in Dames Nation: the Staunch Prize, to be awarded to the best mystery or thriller that does not depict any women being beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered. As an enthusiast of puzzle-box problems and page-turning suspense who prefers to see women solving crimes rather than being crimes, I cannot overstate my eagerness to see which books win, and hope fervently that this will be an award where a shortlist of honorees is shared.
This profile, which focuses on Reese Witherspoon’s burgeoning career as a blockbuster TV-producer, is great in its own right, and well-worth your time. But I am mentioning it cheifly because it led to me revisiting Caity Weaver’s immortal paean to the two Reeses of Witherstone’s Instagram profile: “I Am Terrified of Reese Witherspoon and a Little Bit in Love with Her.”
And finally! NPR’s Morning Edition landed one of the most important interviews of all time: A sit down with Bryan Gaw, the dancer better known as the iconically ersatz Left Shark of Katy Perry’s Super Bowl performance in 2013. I challenge you to be unmoved by Gaw’s blithe confidence. May we all follow his brazen example.
Oh, Left Shark. Shine on, you crazy diamond.
Dame Sophie’s 1-Year 1D-versary PLUS Some Fun Odds & Ends
One year ago today, I sent the following DM to a group of friends who’d been group-texting in an effort to prop each other up since the disastrous 2016 election: “Having a tearful driveway moment with The Story of My Life, so that’s how my day is going.” And maybe you’re thinking, “ok, but Sophie, pop songs make you cry all the time!” That’s true! In fact, I had a little sob listening to the transcendent opening riff of “Where The Streets Have No Name” just this afternoon. (I mean, the way “All I Want is You” bleeds into it here is just...guys, my tear ducts & I need a minute.)
Yeah, so the thing about One Direction is that in the early days of 2017, I needed to know I wasn’t alone with my post-grief, and at that moment, in my driveway with those luscious harmonies cocooning me in their message of devotion, I heard the reminder I needed: friendship is magic. I mean, obviously, but I needed to hear it, and lo, there it was, thanks to some radio station algorithm! That profound & silly serendipity really kept me afloat all year long. Well, that and listening to “Girl Almighty” 5000 times, and playing a long-running “caption the gif” game with Alicia, and writing a Harry Styles Primer for Young Olds, and marveling at how a group DM that started out as a continuation of a giddy riff about Harry Styles, Gentle Alien Spy grew into a set of international friendships that continue to sustain me daily. I feel really lucky.
Throughout this journey, Dame Margaret has been keeping a gently watchful & lovingly amused eye on it all, and then pulled off a master stroke by surprising me with the embroidered hoop above this past September. Now, this newsletter is a weekly, wordy embodiment of the idea that There’s Nothing Like Loving The Things You Love With People You Love (alternately & equally true: there’s nothing like being drawn involuntarily into caring about things you have previously blissfully ignored, thanks to your friends being really enthusiastic about them), and to be handed a handmade visual reminder of that was quite literally too moving for words. I unwrapped it & burst into tears & belly-laughs at its thoughtful perfection, and then had to sit quietly with it for like 15 minutes. I haven’t been able to write about it for months because I found it so moving! I love to see it perched above my bedside table each day, because it reminds me that 2017 didn’t win. It came close, but we’ve made it this far, and we’re going to keep on going, thanks to the everyday magic of friendship.
On to the fun odds & ends!
Two of my most significant Great British Bake-Off faves, Ruby Tandoh and Tamal Ray, are alternating fortnightly baking columnists for The Guardian! Ruby wrote about vegan desserts that look quite delicious and Tamal provided a honey-almond cookie recipe that is exactly the hit of sweetness I need to carry me through the gloom of February.
In other food news I am eating up with a spoon (thank you, I’ll be here all week! Try the veal & tip your waitress!), Cheryl Mitchell, the food scientist who developed rice milk is now pioneering nutritious, protein-packed beverages made of oats, hazelnuts, and and other plants. The peanut-chocolate milk sounds like a tasty dessert to me! My favorite detail in this story is that this intrepid carbohydrate chemist, who left California for New York with nary a backward glance, is also the daughter of the food chemist who created Tang, Cool Whip, and POP ROCKS. What I wouldn’t give for a seat at their dinner table.
US readers, have you heard the good news that all of ER is now streaming on Hulu? If you were not among those who plighted their troths to this medical drama back in the 90s, you might not realize how innovative it was. The walk & talk made famous on The West Wing? Its genesis is in ER. Those super-gross-(yet-hugely-compelling)-complete-with-limbs-spurting-blood medical cases that you love so much on Gray’s Anatomy? You can thank ER for those, too. If you’re daunted by the prospect of 13 seasons, our pal Kathryn VanArendonk has you covered with The 27 Best ER Episodes to Stream on Hulu If You’ve Never Watched.
Some other TV news I am watching with interest: Kiernan Shipka will star in the title role in a horror-themed Sabrina The Teenage Witch adaptation of some comics I’ve been meaning to read. Netflix has ordered two seasons already, which makes me wonder how or if there will be any crossover episodes with Riverdale, which is in production over at the CW. I’m also cautiously hopeful about Pose, Ryan Murphy’s forthcoming series about a variety of facets of life in New York in the 1980s. Most appealing to me right off the bat is the plan to place drag ball culture alongside downtown literary circles & the planning of a large building owned by the current occupant of the White House. This provides a great opportunity for me to remind you that the classic drag ball documentary Paris is Burning is streaming on Netflix & to mention that the Slate Culture Gabfest included a good conversation about the history & present of drag aesthetics a couple of weeks ago.
Your Dames are waiting on bated breath for the US release of Black Panther, out in just two weeks. Have you seen the photos from the purple-carpeted premiere? I mean, have you SEEN them? Run, don’t walk! We continue to celebrate Black History Month with delights such as Jason Reynolds’ month-long thread on lesser-known black women (off to a great start with an inventor & a librarian with a gift for literary promotion), Overdue’s February schedule of books by Black women, and the glorious return of Jenna Wortham & Wesley Morris’ brilliantly incisive pop culture podcast, Still Processing.
And finally, here is a perfect, perfect thread capturing some instantly iconic withering remarks about Justin Timberlake's new album, paired with joyous-to-wackily-celebratory images of Britney Spears. She's probably too sweet to gloat, but we sure are not.