While the world remains heavily trash, this week has been so rich in delicious online culture that we have not one but TWO lead subjects for you!
It's possible... for a plain trashy internet to become a golden treasure!
FIRST, over at ShondaLand, there is a deliciously thorough oral history of the ICONIC 1997 adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, starring Brandy Norwood (Disney’s first black princess!), Whitney Houston (the ONLY Fairy Godmother anyone could ever need), and introducing us to this dreamboat, Paolo Montalban:
Truly, the CHARMINGEST Prince Charming.
..who is just the kind of beautiful human that-- TOPIC 2-- #Damespiration Bim Adewunmi’s new podcast, Thirst Aid Kit, is dedicated to celebrate. Cohosted with the equally brilliant and insightful Nichole Perkins, the show is dedicated to examining worthwhile objects of lust and the myriad ways we perform that lust and it is EXCELLENT-- as is the #ThirsyThursdayGifParty they threw on Twitter to commemorate its launch. Feast your eyes and your ears and let's all drink to Whoopi Goldberg and her
absolute unwillingness to settle for costume jewelry.
Dame Sophie’s Enthusiastic Check-Ins On A Slew of Past Topics
EXCUSE ME WHAT THE GUCCI IS GOING ON HERE
Our Extra Gucci Prince Harry Styles announced the release of a music video for his latest single, “Kiwi”, with the above photo of himself standing ramrod straight with a very serious, “no, I don’t have any comments on my students’ appearance, they definitely did not just finish a raucous food fight before reporting to the gymnasium for picture day, why do you ask?” look on his face. I have so many questions. Is the video for a song about his sexual obsession with a very intense succulent-lover going to be a School of Rock-style kidfest? Is he quitting his day job to become the most sartorially splendid music teacher Alexander Hamilton Elementary ever hired? Is the video going to be in the School Picture Day-style of the credits of Freaks & Geeks? Did he buy Gucci outfits for all of these children???? There is a lot of great suiting & knitwear happening here. Oh my god, the little girl in the middle of that photo wearing a REPLICA of his suit! Is she the star of the video?! Guys. What if this little girl shouts “IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS” in Harry’s face? It occurs to me *deep breath* that we may see a vast line of Gucci-clad children all doing the Kiwi lean en masse? I just. Farewell, I am a ghost. I’m sure there are a million theories about this photo and the artistic vision of Our Goofiest Highly Gifted Semiotician, kindly come share your interpretive hypotheses & observations with me on Twitter. I’ll be the one taking deep breaths out of a paper bag.
In equally splendid sartorial news, I am in raptures over how amazing Constance Wu & Henry Golding look in this cover feature for Entertainment Weekly for Crazy Rich Asians. The stylists went all out to create the unabashedly opulent looks the book (which is heartily endorsed by both of Your Dames) conjures on every page. You have never SEEN so much lamé, organza, and velvet. I hope you’ll forgive my linking to the gallery, infested as it is with a zillion ads & pop-ups. Trust me, it's worth it.
Oh, hey, friends, yes, I am still very sad about Tom Petty’s death, and I know my local classic rock stations are trying to help me through this grief by reincorporating his many gems into their heavy rotation playlists, and I am just about ok with needing to dab away some tears from the old eye when the chiming, hopeful chords of “Listen To Her Heart” ring out unexpectedly. But now future friend of the newsletter Chris Molanphy has gone and released a wonderful hour-long extravaganza of celebration & sorrow in Le Petty Prince episode of his music charts storytelling podcast, Hit Parade. Honestly, I was fine until the final minutes, when I had a good little sob. It hurts, but in a good processing way, I guess? I got the same set of feelings reading this appreciation of Tom in The Bitter Southerner & thank darling Dame Margaret for sending it my way.
Have you seen our DamesPal Rosie Fletcher’s brief video essay on rest and the important role it plays in keeping her going each day of her life living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis? In it, she illustrates perfectly the bone-deep need for daily rest and another solid case for remembering that our value as humans isn't tied to our profitability or productivity. Of course, making a video about rest is itself work, and the irony woven into the video is a big part of what makes it so good.
A few months back, I started work on a playlist of songs featuring women’s names and in a moment of either maximal cleverness or utter obnoxiousness (or maybe both?), named it Hey, Ladies, after a favorite Beastie Boys song. It’s ready to share, sooooo here you go! If you’re in a suggesting mood, I’m open to adding other songs, but only if a) they actually incorporate a woman’s name in the title and b) I like it.
I want to leave you on a high note this week, so here’s an honest-to-goodness piece of good and easy-to-implement advice on letting the girls in your life be funny. I’ll never forget the first time I made my parents laugh, after they taught me to mimic perfectly Graham Chapman’s denunciation of Michael Palin as a “vacuous, toffee-nosed, malodorous pervert” in the Argument Clinic Sketch. At age 6 or so, I didn’t have the vocabulary for either that line or my dawning understanding that being funny was a superpower, but I definitely liked the feeling of using changes in my voice & accent to surprise people & make them laugh. And thus, a monster was born, sorry everyone. But seriously, folks, encourage your daughters to be as silly and witty as they wanna be! Let them take up space with their goofs & voices! What the world needs now, among other things, is better jokes. A global generation of girls cracking wise and mastering the art of storytelling like Tiffany Haddish has done could very well save us all.
Bossy Spotlight: Dame Margaret on her One True Victorian Love, Elizabeth Gaskell
As if I could ever look anywhere else, Mr. Thornton.
It feels like a vicious falsehood to call 2017 my year of Elizabeth Gaskell, as I really fell in love with her in 2006 (when I wrote my senior history thesis on her first novel, Mary Barton) and every year since has been enriched by her work in ways big and small. But I do feel like 2017 could be the year Elizabeth Gaskell enters your life and brings you some comfort.
Her work hits, for me, the perfect midway point between Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Where Austen’s work is focused on the parochial almost the point of claustrophobia, Gaskell took advantage of the broader scope and larger page count common to mid-19th century writing, allowing herself to address both the intricacies of female social interactions AND the plight of disenfranchised mill workers. And where Dickens’s characters and moral lessons frequently lack shading, relying on either Impossibly Noble or Cartoonishly Villainous characters, Gaskell never shies away from complexity in either the people or the issues she depicts. Her books are about basically decent but definitely flawed people trying their hardest, misunderstanding one another, and learning, very slowly, to do a very little better. Gaskell depicts almost no disputes where one side must wholeheartedly capitulate to another-- there is a sympathetic human impulse driving even in the worst actions of her most unscrupulous characters.
The current political climate has alienated me from that understanding of the world, and it’s right that it should-- it’s not that imagining sympathetic reasons why individuals might have voted for Donald Trump is impossible. It’s that determining why they might have made that choice will do nothing to protect the vulnerable populations endangered by it, and that’s where I need to invest my energy. But being able to step into a fictional world where people are mostly good, where change happens because good people take time to listen and understand one another, where ingrained prejudices can be overcome by new lived experiences, and ones that are funny and warm and romantic to boot-- I find it restorative, and centering, and I hope you will, too. With that in mind, here is my Guide on How to Gaskell:
The Classic Microscope Head Bump Meet Cute
As a reader, I typically recommend starting with books BUT, in this case, the BBC miniseries that have been made out of Gaskell’s novels are SO EXTREMELY GOOD that I actually want to recommend that you start there. Victorian novels can sometimes be a tough sell if you aren’t used to the circumlocutions and preponderance of parenthetical clauses that mark their style. I often have an easier time enjoying them if I’ve seen a really good adaptation first-- knowing the plot in advance allows me to relax into the pacing, and having heard the lines of dialogue spoken gives you that needful idea of where the emphasis will fall, and what some of the coded terms mean, both of which can be essential for finding the wit in the writing.
So, in that spirit, if you have ever enjoyed any costume drama, I’m going to strongly recommend that you go right ahead and buy the complete Elizabeth Gaskell Collection on DVD. This set contains adaptations of Gaskell’s three best novels: North & South, Cranford, and Wives & Daughters (her final novel). All three adaptations are among the strongest that the BBC has ever produced-- in fact, North & South might be their best adaptation of all time, including the 1995 Pride & Prejudice (FIGHT ME). You will be REALLY GLAD to own them.
You, running to buy these DVDs as if FINE FRENCH LACE were at stake.
But if you want to ease your way into things, you can watch North & Southstreaming on Netflix THIS VERY EVENING. Plotwise, it is basically Pride & Prejudice & Labor Relations-- Margaret Hale, the daughter of an ex-Vicar, moves from the sleepy, agricultural south of England to the smoky, coarse, manufacturing north, where she meets John Thornton, a self-made titan of industry. Misunderstandings ensue, sparks fly, labor riots and unions are grappled with in way that’s very advanced for the 19th century. It is exquisitely filmed and one of the rare adaptations that I actually prefer to the original source material-- which is also excellent, incidentally! Just more mired in 19th century respectability politics than this gently but perfectly updated adaptation is. Really, the perfect gateway drug to Gaskell.
AND THEN, once you’re all the way in, please please please read Wives and Daughters or-- if you can absorb a Victorian novel effectively via audiobook-- grab Prunella Scales’ unabridged performance of the text. But really, start wherever-- with Gaskell, it’s hard to go wrong.