Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Feb. 25 2015 6:27 PM

Why Do We Keep Comparing Empire’s Female Characters to Real Housewives?

Since its premiere, Empire has drawn many comparisons to female-centric, deliberately trashy reality soaps in the vein of the Real Housewives franchise. Some critics have deemed this a good thing, as when Dave Schilling, in Grantland, wrote about Cookie’s inspirational debt to reality TV: “Bravo reality shows offer a view of femininity (especially black femininity) that was rarely expressed in the popular culture.” Others have dismissed Cookie as little more than a “nicely wrapped up” stereotype of the loud, abrasive black woman.

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Feb. 25 2015 6:20 PM

Watch Kanye West Debut New Song “All Day” With a Mob and a Flamethrower

Tonight’s BRIT Awards in London featured performances by the likes of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, and Pharrell, but in the end they were all upstaged by the mayhem Kanye West caused when he took the stage with (no joke) a humongous, Mad Max-esque flamethrower.

Needless to say, while West’s other recent singles and performances (“Only,” “FourFiveSeconds,” and his debut performance of “Wolves” on Saturday Night Live) have shown off a more easygoing Yeezy, his debut of the long-anticipated single “All Day” was a more raucous affair. Abandoning the auto-tuned croons for the brash raps that made the man famous, West came complete with (in addition to the pyrotechnics) a mob dressed in all black. (While the new songs have mostly avoided any extended poltical messages, all the hoods and all-black outfits have shades of the Black Lives Matter movement and the “hoodie protests” over the death of Trayvon Martin.) So much for the idea of a new, “humble” Kanye, which is something I’ve never seen any need for anyway.

Feb. 25 2015 5:16 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Yaka Meat Stew

On his Fuse reality show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, Freedia strives to share the unique and vibrant culture of New Orleans with the world. This usually involves raucous performances of “bounce” music and dance, the spicy riff on hip-hop that features high-energy hooks and twerking galore, whether on television or at a club venue near you. But Freedia also likes to eat and cook, and when Slate asked him to share a favorite local recipe, he immediately suggested yaka meat stew.

A creation unique to New Orleans, yaka meat stew—also called yakamein or similar variations—is an unlikely and yet satisfying mix of Chinese and Creole influences, and it’s treasured by the locals as a comfort food and a kind of cure-all. Freedia explained the importance of the dish in an email:

Feb. 25 2015 3:30 PM

The Brian Wilson Movie Will Not Be Your Typical Biopic

In recent years, biopics have probably come closer to rivaling the ubiquity of superhero franchises than any other niche genre that comes to mind. Even when the subjects of interest are as varied as James BrownStephen Hawking, or Jordan Belfort, the overall skeletal compositions remain all-too-familiar.

Occasionally, however, a filmmaker will attempt creative ways to liven up the genre—Todd Haynes cast several different actors, including Cate Blanchett, to abstractly portray the many facets of Bob Dylan inI’m Not There, for instance. Director Bill Pohlad’s upcoming film about the rise and fall of Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson, looks to be attempting to do the same. (The two films share a screenwriter, Oren Moverman.) Love and Mercy doesn’t look quite as avant garde as I’m Not There, but the first trailer gives the impression that it won’t be your typical musical biopic, either.

Feb. 25 2015 12:20 PM

Erykah Badu Gets Stranded at Airport, Makes Cameo on Local News

Like any regular person attempting to fly during this particularly terrible winter season, Erykah Badu has recently been stranded at the airport en route to her next destination. Yet Badu, who’s provided us with some amazing impromptu moments before, is not actually a “regular person,” and her cameo appearance in this video turns a dull, routine news report on flight delays into silly, interesting performance art.

(Via Pitchfork.)

Feb. 25 2015 11:27 AM

This Season of MasterChef Junior Gave Us the Perfect Child Villain

In last night’s Season 3 finale of MasterChef Junior, eerily-composed Nathan of San Diego beat Andrew of West Deptford, New Jersey, for the trophy and $100,000 prize. “We’re not necessarily the richest family,” Nathan reminded us—so the prize would be welcome. Nathan’s three-course original menu included a perfectly done herb-crusted rack of lamb and an Earl Grey and Meyer lemon tart with blood-orange coulis. A shower of confetti rained down from the ceiling as his family embraced him.

MasterChef Junior, for the uninitiated, is one of the best competition shows on TV right now. The contestants, who are between ages 8 and 13, whip up dishes like alligator curry and banana-coconut macarons. Gordon Ramsay dials down his usual Ike Turner persona and is gentle and supportive. The kids say things like “I’m here to win, but I’m also here to make friends.” For most of the season they are eliminated in pairs, so no one ever feels singled out. In a TV landscape where sitcoms like Parks and Recreation (RIP) seem to have corned the market on feel-good warmth, MasterChef Junior is the rare reality show notable for its sweetness.

Feb. 25 2015 9:02 AM

How Parks and Recreation Managed to Survive for Seven Seasons

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Being a fan of Parks and Recreation over the past six years has meant loving a show that almost always seemed on the verge of cancellation. During the early seasons, journalists interviewing creator Michael Schur were pretty much required to bring up the show’s low ratings and ask him to gauge its odds of survival—so much so that Schur eventually began to paint life on the Nielsen bubble as a positive. “I’ve come to really enjoy the uncertainty. I think it breeds good ideas,” he told HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall in 2013. And yet, when Parks signs off tomorrow, it will have run seven seasons and 125 episodes: That’s a short run, perhaps, compared to other classic comedies (200 for The Office), but more than enough to avoid the dreaded label of “critically beloved but short-lived” (we will never let go, Happy Endings). So how did Parks manage to overcome low ratings and end its run on its own terms? Let’s do as Leslie Knope would, and make a list of all the pros that kept Pawnee thriving as long as it did.

Feb. 25 2015 8:32 AM

How to Magically Transform a Carrot Into a Net—and Why You Should Want To

This week’s viral cooking video—appearing on sites as wide-ranging as Gizmodo,Grub Street, and the Irish Examiner—shows a chef turning a carrot into a net. It will definitely make you think Whoa, dude—or as the OC Weekly put it, “I Don’t Know What Happened to This Carrot, But It Was Magical.” It also made us ask ourselves a question none of these posts were answering, which is “Why would you want to turn a carrot into a net?”

Feb. 25 2015 8:02 AM

Parks and Recreation Outshined The Office

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

It’s hard to remember now, but back in 2008, Parks and Recreationbefore it was Parks and Recreation—was maybe going to be a spinoff of The Office. That’s not how things ended up, clearly, but the shows share plenty of DNA: creators Greg Daniels and Mike Schur, a mockumentary format, Rashida Jones, etc. While The Office held much stronger ratings and a longer run, Parks will close its seven seasons as the more successful show. Best episodes versus best episodes, The Office and Parks are perhaps evenly matched. But The Office had so many bad episodes in its nine-season run, whereas Parks’ lowest lows are pretty mild. Legacy-wise, Parks is going out pretty close to the top of its game. The Office went out … not that way.

Feb. 24 2015 8:59 PM

Best Coast’s New Song Is a Glorious, if Predictable, Celebration of California

Back in 2012, indie duo Best Coast were more than a band—they were leaders of a strange resurgence in blissed-out beach rock, with outfits like Wavves and Real Estate trading in similar shades of Zen lyricism and shimmering pop melody. Now, three years later, the band is releasing major-label debut California Nights, and the title track is a soaring, hypnotic ballad that should erase doubts about a rusty return.