Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Aug. 19 2017 11:44 PM

How Are You Celebrating the Birthday of “Final Countdown” Singer Joey Tempest?

August 19 has come round again, and all over the world, people of different races, faiths, and musical tastes are celebrating the birthday of Joey Tempest, the lead singer from the Swedish megaband Europe, and the megavoice behind megahit “The Final Countdown.” But this year, Joey Tempest’s birthday feels a little different. People are angry, people are scared, people don’t trust each other. That’s why it’s more important than ever that we all come together and salute the man whose powerful song about flying into outer space (but maybe coming back to earth one day) speaks to our common humanity.

But how are you celebrating Joey Tempest’s Birthday this year? Are you a Joey Tempest birthday traditionalist, eager to spend the day watching the music video for “The Final Countdown” over and over again, while wishing you’d been lucky enough to be in the audience at the 1986 concerts in Solna, Sweden where it was filmed?

Aug. 19 2017 9:24 PM

Meet Stringo, the Creepy New Toy From Conan O’Brien

What rings up shares, embedded in players, and makes a clickity sound?
A late-night sketch, a marvelous catch!
Based on the ads for Slinky:

It’s Stringo, it’s Stringo, I’m posting it up on the blog,
From Conan O’Brien, it prob’ly reminds you of “Log”:

Advertisement

In ninety-eight, Isuzu made a nearly identical joke,
In very bad Amigo ads,
Using the song from Slinky:

But Stringo is different, it’s not like the others at all!
The structure of Stringo is closer to “Happy Fun Ball!”

Everyone click on Stringo!
Stringity stringy stringo!
Please won’t you click on Stringo?
I’m begging you, click on Stringo!

Aug. 19 2017 5:43 PM

Watch Stephen Colbert’s Impression of the Confederacy’s Dumbest Monument

It’s been a big week for Confederate monuments, as strongholds of the Old South like Baltimore, Maryland, Helena, Montana, and even Los Angeles, California are finally removing their memorials to America’s most famous white supremacist uprising. (Durham, North Carolina needed a little push from its citizenry.) But one memorial shows no signs of coming down: Jack Kershaw’s hilariously awful 25-foot high fiberglass monument to early Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest, which has been scowling down at drivers on I-65 since its 1998 (!) unveiling. Let’s go to the photo:

170819_browbeat_colbert2
Wow.

CBS

While Sam Biddle already provided a quality roast of this particular monument back in 2015, noting that it seems to be yelling, “Snap into a Slim Jim!” it feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface of how deeply, comically bad it is. (The sculptor was better known for being part of James Earl Ray’s legal team than he was for his artwork, and it shows.) Colbert goes a little deeper into some of it, particularly Forrest’s gun, but it feels like there’s still a lot to say about how and why this statue went so wrong, and we’re looking forward to hearing more from comedians, art critics, and people who know what human faces look like.

Advertisement

But besides the inherent comedy of showing a picture of Tennessee’s worst sculpture, the segment is also worth watching in terms of technique. Colbert uses the camera during his monologue more than most late night hosts, charging up to it for close-ups or popping up Kilroy-style from the bottom of the frame. That tendency is in full effect here, as he prances from one end of the screen to another pretending to be the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue, then repeats the gag, mimicking Charon ferrying Steve Bannon to work across a river of blood. Using the frame this way is such an easy laugh that it’s surprising other hosts don’t use it more often, at least the ones who aren’t desk-bound. The same goes for the music: whoever was at the piano (Jon Batiste, presumably) puts the bit over with a silent-film-style piano accompaniment. But the choice of song is a little eccentric: Although Colbert does point out that the Forrest statue looks like a nutcracker, playing “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” doesn’t really conjure up the glory and glamor of a slaveholding kleptocracy the way “Dixie” would. And that’s sort of the point.

Aug. 18 2017 4:14 PM

Spotify Is Removing White Supremacist Music, but Should They Have Acted Sooner?

Due to pressure from multiple groups and outlets, it looks like white supremacists are going to have to look a little bit harder to enjoy the musical stylings of a number of white supremacist/neo-Nazi/completely trash bands.

On Wednesday, Spotify moved to remove a number of bands—most of them metal or punk groups—whose music includes white supremacist and hateful messages. The streaming service’s decision was made in response to Paul Resnikoff’s piece in Digital Music News on Monday, “I Just Found 37 White Supremacist Hate Bands on Spotify,” which highlighted the presence of almost 40 different bands on Spotify that were labeled as racist by the Southern Poverty Law Center in a 2014 issue of the organization’s quarterly magazine, Intelligence Report.

Advertisement

Spotify released the following statement in response to Resnikoff’s article:

Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention. We are glad to have been alerted to this content—and have already removed many of the bands identified today, whilst urgently reviewing the remainder.

Additionally, Digital Music News pointed out that a competing music streaming website, Deezer, contacted the outlet to inform them that they, too, have taken steps to remove those same white supremacist artists. And, as reported by Pitchfork, Pandora began removing white supremacist content in 2014 and is continuing to make an effort to remove any that remains. These artists include bands such as Baker’s Dozen, Legittima Offesa, Skull Head, and White Knuckle Driver.

While Spotify has taken action now, it should be noted that, even back in 2014, Spotify was made aware of the presence of these artists on their site by the SPLC’s report. As the organization noted in a piece written shortly after their initial investigation, Apple had removed 21 of the 54 white supremacist bands outlined in the SPLC report, and had the other 33 “under review” at the time the piece was published. But, as a 2014 Noisey piece pointed out, other popular music sharing sites such as Spotify, Amazon, and the now-defunct Beats Music all failed to take action at the time.

The issue of the existence of white supremacist artists on online music sites is not a new one. As Noisey also pointed out, Punk News addressed the issue back in 2006 when they interviewed Derek Sivers, the founder and then-president of the independent music retailer CD Baby, which had helped the white supremacist group Skrewdriver put their music on iTunes. Asked why he allowed for his DIY retailer to both stock and promote music from a neo-Nazi band, Sivers said that the question of censorship in music was “too slippery of a slope.”

“Start with one album, and we’ll have to commit ourselves to a lifetime of deciding, on every album that comes in, if it’s offensive or hateful and if we should allow it,” Sivers said. “Plus, I don’t want to let complainers rule our actions.”

However, current CD Baby CEO Tracy Maddux struck a different tone on Thursday when he told Variety that the company was committed to taking down any albums on their site that promote hate speech, noting that the company “reserve[s] the right to refuse submissions of this nature, or to cancel submissions that fall into this category at any time.”

The question of how to promote free speech without promoting hate speech is, of course, not new, but the changing nature of how music is shared on the internet opens a whole range of new wrinkles. In 2013, NPR reported that German government officials were finding it increasingly difficult to ban neo-Nazi music, which, aside from being used for entertainment purposes, is also used as a tool to recruit and radicalize German youth as well as to finance their infrastructure, networks, and weaponry.

Meanwhile, concerns that it can be tricky to fairly and accurately police these things are not unfounded. Music is often filled with metaphors and hyperbole, and many of these white supremacist bands use coded language to get their messages across.

However, Spotify remains a private company, which gives them more leeway than the government has in making these decisions. Looking at this controversy through the prism of a private company making the  decision not to host and profit from hateful speech, it is fair to ask whether Spotify should have acted sooner. After all, Apple took similar action years ago. And, as Resnikoff pointed out in his piece, Spotify’s alarmingly effective algorithms that help compile daily mixes and suggested artists have made it easy for users listening to white supremacist artists to find other similar groups to listen to, effectively forming a growing community on the site. Perhaps it shouldn’t have taken such a high-profile white supremacist rally for Spotify to take such precautions against profiting from hate.

Aug. 18 2017 2:43 PM

The Presidential Arts and Humanities Committee Just Resigned Over Trump’s Response to Charlottesville

Sixteen members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities have resigned over the president’s recent comments defending participants in the Unite the Right Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he said “some very fine people” had marched alongside white supremacists and again assigned partial blame for the violence that broke out to counter-protesters. In a letter posted on Friday by actor and committee member Kal Penn, all but one of the committee’s private members announced their resignation, stating that “reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville.”

Playwright George C. Wolfe, the only member of the committee whose name is not signed to the letter, reportedly also supports the decision:

Advertisement

In addition to Trump’s Charlottesville comments, the letter also addresses other actions the president has taken while in office, including his Muslim-targeted travel ban, his many attacks on the press, his proposed ban on trans service members, and his budget proposal from earlier this year, which would have eliminated the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and other related agencies. “We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions,” they wrote. As Steve Vladeck points out on Twitter, if you add together the first letter of each paragraph in the statement, they spell out RESIST.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, created in 1982 under Ronald Reagan, acts as a cultural advisory committee to the president. As First Lady, Melania Trump is the committee’s honorary chair, but none of the current members were appointed by Trump, having held their positions since before he took office.

Trump was also forced to disband his American Manufacturing Council and his Strategy and Policy Forum this week as CEOs fled both advisory boards after Trump's Charlottesville comments. Meanwhile, two of this year’s Kennedy Center honorees, Norman Lear and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, have said they will skip this year’s White House ceremony, and Lionel Richie has said he is considering doing the same.

The full text of the resignation letter is below:

Dear Mr. President:
Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The false equivalencies you push cannot stand. The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill. We cannot sit idly by, the way that your West Wing advisors have, without speaking out against your words and actions. We are members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The Committee was created in 1982 under President Reagan to advise the White House on cultural issues. We were hopeful that continuing to serve in the PCAH would allow us to focus on the important work the committee does with your federal partners and the private sector to address, initiate, and support key policies and programs in the arts and humanities for all Americans. Effective immediately, please accept our resignation from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
Elevating any group that threatens and discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, orientation, background, or identity is un-American. We have fought slavery, segregation, and internment. We must learn from our rich and often painful history. The unified fabric of America is made by patriotic individuals from backgrounds as vast as the nation is strong. In our service to the American people, we have experienced this first-hand as we traveled and built the Turnaround Arts education program, now in many urban and rural schools across the country from Florida to Wisconsin.
Speaking truth to power is never easy, Mr. President. But it is our role as commissioners on the PCAH to do so. Art is about inclusion. The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both. You released a budget which eliminates arts and culture agencies. You have threatened nuclear war while gutting diplomacy funding. The Administration pulled out of the Paris agreement, filed an amicus brief undermining the Civil Rights Act, and attacked our brave trans service members. You have subverted equal protections, and are committed to banning Muslims and refugee women & children from our great country. This does not unify the nation we all love. We know the importance of open and free dialogue through our work in the cultural diplomacy realm, most recently with the first-ever US Government arts and culture delegation to Cuba, a country without the same First Amendment protections we enjoy here. Your words and actions push us all further away from the freedoms we are guaranteed.
Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions. We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.
Thank you,
Paula Boggs
Chuck Close
Richard Cohen
Fred Goldring
Howard L. Gottlieb
Vicki Kennedy
Jhumpa Lahiri
Anne Luzzatto
Kalpen Modi (Kal Penn)
Thom Mayne
Eric Ortner
Ken Solomon
Caroline Taylor
Jill Cooper Udall
Andrew Weinstein
John Lloyd Young​

Aug. 18 2017 11:02 AM

In These Troubling Times, Here’s Tina Fey Dropping Truths About Neo-Nazis While Stress-Eating a Sheet Cake

If you thought Rooney Mara scarfing down most of a pie in one take in A Ghost Story was impressive, wait until you see Tina Fey demolish almost an entire sheet cake. Fey, a graduate of the University of Virginia, appeared on one of Saturday Night Live’s special summer editions of Weekend Update to weigh in on the events that rocked her college town last weekend. “It broke my heart to see these evil forces descend upon Charlottesville,” she told Michael Che and Colin Jost. “Then [Donald Trump] comes out and he condemns violence on ‘many sides’ and I’m feeling sick, because I’ve seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and I wasn’t confused by it. No, Colin, Nazis are always bad.”

With nine more rallies like the one in Charlottesville planned around the country this weekend, Fey offers an alternative to counter-protesting and giving neo-Nazis any more attention than they deserve: “Instead of participating in the screaming matches and potential violence, find a local business you support, like a Jewish-run bakery or an African-American-run … bakery,” she advised. “Order a cake with the American flag, and just eat it.”

Advertisement

In case those instructions weren’t clear enough, she went on to demonstrate with a cake of her own, speaking through mouthfuls of frosting to condemn the “white boys in polo shirts” who want to “take our country back.” And yes, she admits, your instincts will probably drive you to want to yell back at them, “It’s not our country, we stole it from the Native Americans! And when they have a peaceful protest at Standing Rock we shoot at them with rubber bullets! But we let you chinless turds march through the streets with semiautomatic weapons!” But Fey urged viewers to ignore those instincts and yell into the cake instead.

“I really want to encourage all good, sane Americans to treat these rallies this weekend like the opening of a thoughtful movie with two female leads,” she concluded. “Don’t show up.”

Aug. 18 2017 8:33 AM

Edgar Wright on Baby Driver Blowing Past $100 Million, Making Original Movies, and Baby Driver 2

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Film fans and critics have long counted Edgar Wright as one of Hollywood’s most exciting directors, and it looks like everybody else has finally caught on. Over the weekend, Wright’s high-octane action film Baby Driver passed $100 million at the U.S. box office, the first of Wright’s movies to hit that box-office benchmark. “You know things are going well,” he told Vulture, “when you get congratulatory emails from people you’ve never met.”

Wright was calling just before he boarded a plane to Beijing, the latest stop on a 14-country tour to promote Baby Driver, and though the film has continued to surpass almost all industry expectations, Wright says no one is more surprised by its success than he is. “I honestly didn’t have any idea how it would do, and that’s one of the things that’s so absurd,” said Wright, who, prior to Baby Driver’s late-June opening, asked his producers not to send him the tracking information that Hollywood traditionally uses to predict box-office results. “From previous experience, I get very superstitious about that, so whenever anybody talks about those things, I don’t want to know.”

Aug. 18 2017 8:03 AM

The New Big Brother Is Showing Exactly How Reality TV Hides Its Most Political Material

Big Brother 19 was only a few days into the season when Megan Lowder, a dog walker and U.S. Navy veteran, decided to quit the show. After the broadcast of the season’s second episode, the show’s familiar 24/7 “live feeds” launched for digital subscribers, and fans quickly noted her absence. Rumblings confirmed that Megan had left—those remaining in the house cryptically discussed her exit, leading to unsubstantiated rumors on social media that she’d said something racist or merely cut her losses after realizing her days in the game were numbered. But Megan, upon returning to real life, decided to set the record straight: Her local paper, the Desert Sun, reported the next day that her departure was a result of her PTSD from a previous sexual assault, triggered by her confrontations with various men on Big Brother. One contestant, Josh Martinez, consistently attacked Megan, dubbing her a “snake” and her strategy “disgusting.” Another, Cody Nickson, targeted her for eviction and only gave her one reason to explain why: “I just don’t like you that much.”

Big Brother is the rare reality program where invested fans can observe how unedited action is packaged into mainstream entertainment. It can be watched virtually untouched, 24 hours a day, save for blacked-out competitions and ceremonies—and although the majority of viewers only watch the polished CBS program (which airs three times a week), what's ultimately left out is no less interesting than what makes it into the official show.

Advertisement

Megan’s exit provided a prime example. The Big Brother episode that tackled her departure framed the problem around an argument over racism that Megan had inadvertently started. She thought she heard Jessica Graf, a rival contestant, refer to her ally Alex Ow as “panda,” and took it as a racial slur. She brought the information to Alex, who then confronted Jessica, who then insisted she never said such a thing. All eyes were on Megan. The animus around her, the episode implied, was enough to push her out the door.

But this narrative was misleading in multiple respects. For one thing, Big Brother never acknowledged Megan’s trauma or personal struggles, even though she’d gone public days earlier. The show instead minimized her confrontations with the show’s men and omitted the key reason for her exit. The episode also glossed over the latent racism that led to the blowup between Alex and Jessica. Jessica actually referred to Alex not as “Panda” but as “Pao Pao,” a nickname for a past contestant who also happens to be of Asian descent, and had also repeatedly called Dominique Cooper, the show’s only black contestant, “Da’Vonne,” in reference to another former player who was also black. Yet the episode downplayed the incident involving Alex, chalking it up to a misunderstanding—as if “panda” as a nickname would be racist but “Pao Pao” was not—and the series has still never shown or even referenced Jessica referring to Dominique as “Da’Vonne.” It was clear what we were supposed to take away from the edit: Megan misheard an innocuous comment, and she paid the price for drawing attention to it.

Reality TV is a ruthless, manipulative format that doesn’t really value truth—only the appearance of it. Nevertheless, there’s evidence that the form can yield groundbreaking conversations, as we’ve seen from An American Family, from The Real World, and from the most recent season of Survivor. The appeal of Big Brother, a by-design trashy escape that offers 24-hour programming during the dog days of summer, is similarly compelling on a sociological level: Putting a diverse group of people in a house for a few months, and simply watching them interact, should theoretically give rise to all kinds of provocative questions. Yet as Megan’s exit showed, the opposite can happen instead—bigoted behavior and difficult subjects don’t always make the final cut, even if they’re crucial to an authentic telling of events.

This season of Big Brother has also turned away from the more disturbing gender and racial dynamics between its cast in favor of selling a neat, whitewashed version of two contestants’ love story. Cody and Jessica emerged early on as a “showmance,” and through poor gameplay, they promptly slid into a perpetual “us-against-the-house” battle, clinging to survival on a weekly basis. (Jessica was evicted last week, and Cody was evicted this Thursday.) Though four other contestants had also already coupled up, the producers packaged Cody and Jessica as the season’s one true romance, with their bond only strengthened by their isolation. This may explain why Cody’s blatantly transphobic comments and Jessica’s racist nicknames have been absent from the show, even as the outcry on social media from those watching the feeds has been loud and consistent. The show positioned them as underdogs, and while things often got ugly with their competitors, their personal connection was what humanized them. More specifically, Cody’s efforts to protect his girlfriend cast him, at times, as an archetypal male hero—and bigotry doesn’t fit that narrative.

Perhaps the most jarring erasure came a few weeks ago, when Paul Abrahamian—who, given his “fan-favorite” status as a returning player, producers have resisted depicting in a villainous light—zeroed in on supposed ally Dominique for eviction. Dominique caught word and suggested, as the only black person in the cast, that her race played into why she was singled out. (This is a familiar phenomenon on mainstream reality shows.) Her argument with Paul played out both on the live feeds and in the broadcast show as one of the season’s dramatic high points. But where Dominique made many constructive and reasonable points that were left out, Paul took the vitriol to such an extent that he publicly, amusedly considered wearing his “blackface” mask to intimidate her at an upcoming meeting. (What he meant, precisely, was debated by fans—he wanted to take on the image of a snake, since Dominique insulted him as such—but he repeatedly used the term “blackface” with glee as he discussed strategies to faze her.) The moment went viral, with aforementioned former contestant Da’Vonne Rogers calling Paul out on Twitter, but Big Brother never showed it or alluded to it. Instead, the build-up to Dominique’s eviction depicted her as angry, misguided, and a victim of her own big mouth—a not-so-subtle spin on what Da’Vonne called the “ABW” (angry black woman) edit.

While Big Brother has the material for juicy, interesting drama and the impetus to stay relevant, the priority remains clean narratives that don’t provoke or offend—soap opera romances, against-the-odds heroes, loudmouth funny guys, cartoonish villains. Only when the real, disturbing drama happens do we see the structure for what it is, as something both deeply disingenuous and surprisingly limited.

The show has been on the air for a long time now, and with viewers searching for escapism in this unusually newsy summer, ratings remain robust. That producers are making such calculated choices to keep the show as apolitical as possible feels not only like a missed opportunity, but also like a poorly timed strategy. Reality TV’s insidious power is rooted in an escapist, game-like appeal, and it can have a wicked influence—it reaches millions, blurs the line between documentary and entertainment, and relies on the most irresistible and familiar of storytelling tropes.

It’s the medium that allowed Donald Trump to reinvent his public image, after all, and it’s the frame through which his presidency is still often discussed. Big Brother puts on display what we should have all already known: The reality we see on TV often conceals much uglier things said off the air.

Aug. 18 2017 7:33 AM

What Netflix’s Autism Comedy Atypical Gets Right About Dating While on the Spectrum

The autistic community has been waiting a long time for books, movies, and TV shows that show us as people, rather than plot devices, and while it’s slow-going, we’re gradually moving in that direction. The change in how austim and dating are portrayed onscreen is a great start. The first example I ever encountered was a 2009 movie called Adam, which tries to show the inner life of a guy with Asperger syndrome, but ultimately just uses him to further the self-awareness of his love interest, the annoying protagonist Beth, who breaks up with him and uses their relationship to write a book about Asperger’s. We’ve come a long way since then: Though a show like The Big Bang Theory has never had the guts to actually use the word autism, it does show Sheldon Cooper, who has many of the traits associated with Asperger’s, with a job, friends, and a nice, steady girlfriend who’s almost as awkward as he is. But one thing it hasn’t done is taken much time to show how Sheldon feels about his own struggles.

Enter Atypical, Netflix’s comedy about an autistic high schooler and his family, which—despite not involving any autistic writers, producers, or consultants—does a pretty good job of showing us who its protagonist is, what he wants, and how he goes about trying to get it. Sam (Keir Gilchrist) is a senior in high school, who takes regular classes and has an after-school job at an electronics store, where he is friends with his nerdy coworker Zahid (Nik Dodani). Sam is obsessed with penguins and Antarctica—we know this immediately from his voice-over at the beginning of the first episode. He is insular and more or less happy with it, but he wants a girlfriend, especially after his therapist, Julia (Amy Okuda), encourages him to start dating, to his mother’s chagrin.

Advertisement

Whereas a lesser show might just pick one perspective and run with it, Atypical shows how autism affects Sam, his family, and the people around him as he enters the world of dating. Sam’s track-star sister Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) gently pokes fun at him in a way that teaches him how to do better. I’ve only had a few friends in my life who could do that, and let me tell you, it feels a million times better to have someone laugh with you about your weird moments instead of tiptoeing around them. I know a lot of people in the autism community don’t like Sam’s mom, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). There is plenty of criticism in the #ActuallyAtypical tag on Twitter, where autistic viewers voice their thoughts about the show, criticizing Elsa and autism moms in general for making their kid’s autism all about themselves. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve started to empathize with my own parents.

Elsa doesn’t want to be the dreaded “autism mom,” but the rest of the family hasn’t given her much choice, and she’ll do anything to protect her son. While she’d love to see Sam date, she can also see all the terrifying pitfalls that she’s going to have to clean up after—like when Sam’s father, Doug (Michael Rapaport), drives Sam to a girl’s house so he can break in to give her chocolate-covered strawberries. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to Doug, that girl happens to be Sam’s therapist Julia, on whom he develops an inappropriate crush.

I don’t like the falling-in-love-with-the-therapist plotline—it’s trite—but in this context it’s also realistic. As Sam’s dad points out, Julia is one of the few people in Sam’s life who makes him feel competent. Of course he’d do anything for her. Sam’s consuming infatuation with Julia also touches on another, rarely mentioned aspect of autism: It’s definitely possible for our obsessions to be centered around another person. Instead of trains or outer space or bleach bottles, Sam thinks about Julia all the time.

When I was Sam’s age, I was always obsessed with some guy, usually a guy with great social skills who I thought was going to save me from myself. I remember the time I wrote a letter to a guy I hooked up with in my dorm three months later, folded it into a paper airplane, and slipped it under his door. I also expressed my undying devotion, “anonymously,” to another guy at least twice over a now-defunct Facebook app called Honesty Box—but of course he knew exactly who I was. Those weren’t inappropriate crushes like Sam’s on Julia, but I did come on way too strong. The thing about autism is that many of us can “pass” for a long time, long enough that when we slip up like that, it creeps people out—as it eventually does with Julia.

Which brings me to Paige (Jenna Boyd), Sam’s classmate and first girlfriend. Though Sam sees Paige as a “practice girlfriend,” he likes spending time with her, enough to not kick her out of his room when she goes through his stuff, despite his obvious discomfort. (Sam’s protectiveness of his environment is the single most relatable part of this show so far to me.) He breaks up with her because he isn’t 100 percent certain that he loves her—also something I think a real person with autism would do—but soon after that he asks his parents how he knows if he’s in love. They tell him that if you love someone, you feel like they’re the first person you want to confide in. Lucky for Sam, he turns out to be this person for Paige, so she’s willing to take him back when he figures out what he wants.

Paige is an excellent partner. When Sam doesn’t want to go to prom because he knows the music would be too loud and he’d experience sensory overload, Paige persuades the PTA to throw an autism-friendly prom with a silent disco theme. That was probably my favorite part of the show. But the biggest problem is that Paige isn’t fleshed out at all. As far as we can tell, she’s just some manic pixie dream girl who saw Sam’s Antarctica-and-penguins-themed sketches and fell madly in love. I’m not saying autistic people can’t date hot neurotypicals, but her character is so undeveloped that she comes off as mere fan service. Note to producer Robia Rashid: Giving Sam an autistic love interest could have elevated Atypical from decent to actually groundbreaking.

I like Sam, because he’s such a regular guy and feels so refreshingly human. He’s smart, but not Sheldon Cooper-smart. He tries to have a little sense of humor. He’s not totally unaware or uninterested in what people are doing around him. He doesn’t dislike the idea of prom. He tries to have a one-night stand with a college girl. Whereas other autistic characters on television seem to be almost entirely absorbed in one specific focus—whether that’s physics or detective work—and don’t even try to look for love, Sam has been proactive about having at least a little bit of a love life in his teens and early twenties. I’d tune in next season, if there is one, to see if he’s successful.

Aug. 17 2017 5:47 PM

A Star Wars Standalone Movie About Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Reportedly in Development

According to the Hollywood Reporter, an Obi-Wan Kenobi-centric spinoff is currently in development at Disney. While there is no script and no actors are yet attached, Stephen Daldry, the Oscar-nominated director behind Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, is reportedly in talks to direct. Ewan McGregor, who took over the part made famous by the late Alec Guinness for the Star Wars prequel trilogy, has expressed interest in reprising his role in the past. Daldry, meanwhile, comes as an unexpected choice, given that his movies have never been big on action set pieces.

An Obi-Wan standalone would be the third official (live-action) anthology movie announced in the Star Wars franchise, following Rogue One and the upcoming Han Solo movie being directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller Ron Howard. Lucasfilm is also considering standalone movies about other characters, including Boba Fett and Yoda, according to reports.

Advertisement

Until we learn more about when and where an Obi-Wan movie would take place, you can in the meantime enjoy this fan-made trailer for a movie about the famous Jedi’s early days on Tatooine:

READ MORE STORIES