Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Oct. 21 2017 4:44 PM

You Won’t Beliebe Justin Bieber’s New Tattoo

Pop star Justin Bieber has a new tattoo and here it is:

A post shared by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) on

Now here’s Groucho Marx in At the Circus:

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Update, Oct. 21, 2017: This post initially misspelled Justin Bieber’s last name.

Oct. 21 2017 3:36 PM

The Disney-ABC Television Group Said You Wouldn’t Want to Miss These American Idol Photos So Here You Go, I Guess

Generally speaking, corporations release news they don’t want reported at 5:30 on a Friday, but President of the Disney-ABC Television Group Ben Sherwood seems to be shaking things up. At 5:33 P.M. Friday, the Disney-ABC Television Group contacted Slate with the hottest of hot tips—and they do want you to know about it! According to our anonymous tipster inside the Disney-ABC television group, American Idol threw a puppy-themed birthday party for Katy Perry in Nashville, Tennessee. Luke Bryan, Lionel Ritchie, and Ryan Seacrest were all there, and so was a photographer. And our source assures us that, in his or her words, “You don’t want to miss these American Idol photos.”

It’s been a long night for all of us in the Slate newsroom since we got the tip—running down sources, knocking on doors, checking every fact—but ultimately this story came down to one thing, and one thing only: why would the Disney-ABC Television Group lie to us about what you don’t want to miss? So here you go, I guess. Enjoy them, or whatever.

Oct. 20 2017 1:41 PM

Taylor Swift’s New Track “Gorgeous” Is Not As Cringeworthy As “Look What You Made Me Do”

At midnight on Friday, the Artist Formerly Known as the Old Taylor Swift dropped the third track, “Gorgeous,” from her upcoming album Reputation, and the good news is this: It’s better than the pouty spoken-word routine of “Look What You Made Me Do.” “Gorgeous,” which details a first encounter that leaves Swift crushing hard, hints that the past Taylor hasn’t been completely erased.

“Gorgeous” opens with a baby—rumored to be the child of one of Swift’s celebrity pals, perhaps the genetically blessed offspring of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds—announcing the track’s title before launching into a synth progression that gives immediate 1989 vibes (Swedes Max Martin and Shellback, who’ve worked with Swift on and off since Red, co-wrote and produced “Gorgeous”). From there, it’s a straightforward pop confection that sees the singer meeting a new, very attractive man, thought by Swift sleuths to be current boyfriend Joe Alwyn.

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Swiftian writing tics remain: the obsession with eyes (“ocean blue”), the emotional roller coasters (she traverses furious, hateful, jealous, happy, and sad in less than four minutes), the smattering of detail that sends fans on scavenger hunts (where on Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street in L.A. is Swift referencing?), the self-aware humor (“Guess I’ll just stumble on home to my cats”). But it’s also an aged-up version of Speak Now’s “Enchanted” without the fairy dust: The new Taylor gets drunk on whiskey and, instead of taking on the role of the victim or princess, commits the emotional sin of lusting after someone who is not her significant other. All we know about the boyfriend of the song is that he is someone “older than us” who is “in the club” (is it 36-year-old Tom Hiddleston? Is it DJ Calvin Harris?).

As usual, the country-queen-turned-pop-princess’ new release rocketed to the top of the iTunes charts. “Gorgeous” may not live up to its name—it’s a serviceable piece of pop, just not a once-in-a-lifetime gem—but it’ll fill the coffers.

Oct. 20 2017 12:19 PM

Which Is the Best Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Opening Credits Sequence So Far?

Earlier this week Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's Season 3 opening credits sequence was finally revealed online. In it, Rebecca Bunch (co-creator and star Rachel Bloom) takes on several pop star personas channeling different strains of crazy: A Carrie Underwood-type, swinging a Louisville slugger; a sultry diva who’s crazy in love; a rock star who likes a woman who’s “crazy in bed”; and a rapper who warns you to stay away from a girl who’s “crazy in the head.” To be crazy or not to be crazy? That’s the question at the center of the theme, but of course, there’s no clear answer—the personalities conflict, and a cut at the end to Rebecca herself, sitting on the toilet and watching it all go down on her phone reveals she’s more confused than ever.

Honestly, the whole thing is confusing to me, too. The song, which feels clearly inspired by Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” is disjointed and plodding, flying by quickly and ending abruptly. It never really registers as a cohesive opener, and that’s probably the point, as Bloom told E! that pop’s obsession with the word crazy inspired the aesthetic: “It’s probably the most common word used in pop music, and if you’re like my character, who’s trying to live her life by those things, it would be very confusing to get guidelines from listening to different pop songs.” This in and of itself is a great concept, especially considering that Season 3 is where Crazy Ex-Girlfriend officially begins to earn its title, with Rebecca seeking the utmost revenge on Josh after he’s left her at the altar. But the execution is unsatisfying—this is also the season that is filtering its motif through movie tropes (Bloom has described it as “funny Fatal Attractionand the second episode, airing tonight, includes a 50 Shades of Grey plot line and a musical ode to Gene Kelly), and the pop theme is jarringly inconsistent in this light. Also, it’s just not catchy.

Oct. 20 2017 11:37 AM

Lupita Nyong’o’s Powerful Op-Ed Shows How Women Deal With Threats Like Harvey Weinstein

In news that will surprise nobody, another high-profile actress has added her name to the long list of women that a lecherous Harvey Weinstein propositioned her at a more vulnerable point in her career.

Lupita Nyong’o, best known for her Oscar-winning performance in her first ever feature film, 12 Years a Slave, has penned a New York Times op-ed revealing her extended harassment at the hands of Weinstein, from the interest he showed in her as an acting student in 2011 to his veiled threats at her final refusal of him.

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Nyong’o reveals that early in their acquaintance Weinstein invited her to his house for a screening before—lo and behold—offering her a massage. The young actress, after realizing he wasn’t joking, offered to give him one instead, if only to remain physically in control—“to know exactly where his hands were at all times”—while formulating an escape route. She articulates the confusing boundaries and powerful pressures at the heart of so many of Weinstein’s assaults:

I didn’t quite know how to process the massage incident. I reasoned that it had been inappropriate and uncalled-for, but not overtly sexual. I was entering into a business where the intimate is often professional and so the lines are blurred. I was in an educational program where I was giving massages to my classmates and colleagues every day. Though the incident with Harvey had made me uncomfortable, I was able to explain and justify it to myself, and shelve it as an awkward moment. His offer to me to be a part of the HBO show was a very attractive one and I was excited about it, especially as I would be graduating in another year. I didn’t know how to proceed without jeopardizing my future. But I knew I would not be accepting any more visits to private spaces with Harvey Weinstein.

Her account shows what it looks like when you say a polite but firm “no” to Harvey Weinstein: He just keeps going. Weinstein continued to invite Nyong’o to events, chipping away at her guard by putting on a normal demeanor in group settings and lulling her into a false sense of security that she could be alone with him again. The very next time she was, he invited her up to his hotel room, telling her that “If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing,” pointing to other women who had benefited from his favor. After she refused, he cut short their meal.

I needed to make sure that I had not awakened a beast that would go on to ruin my name and destroy my chances in the business even before I got there.
“I just want to know that we are good,” I said.
“I don’t know about your career, but you’ll be fine,” he said. It felt like both a threat and a reassurance at the same time; of what, I couldn’t be sure.

Lupita Nyong’o’s account is an important read for any man who still does not truly understand the situation that she, along with Ashley Judd, Asia Argento, Kate Beckinsale, Rosanna Arquette, Gwyneth Paltrow, and so many women worldwide have found themselves in. It shows in clear detail the thought process that goes through many women’s heads when faced with a threat like Weinstein, be it an aggressive guy at a bar or a flasher on the subway. She decides it is safer to be polite so as not to aggravate the situation, to go along with some of it to mitigate the risk to her safety. She silently formulates an escape plan, trying to remain a few steps ahead of her aggressor, and she laughs awkwardly at being called “stubborn,” instead of showing fear or anger.

It all adds up to a horrible reminder of the gender power imbalance Harvey Weinstein thrived on, and the painful expectation that women—no matter who they are—remain polite and friendly, even in the face of sexual harrassment.

Oct. 20 2017 11:24 AM

Trevor Noah Shows How Trump Turns Minor Incidents Into Full-Blown Scandals by Being a Petulant Toddler

Donald Trump is currently taking heat for making insensitive remarks to the widow of a soldier killed in Niger during a phone call on Tuesday in which he apparently could not remember the name of her husband, Army Sgt. La David Johnson, and suggested that Johnson “knew what he signed up for” by joining the armed forces. Trump found an unlikely defender of his phone call in Trevor Noah, who spoke about the incident during what was essentially a stand-up routine during Thursday night’s episode of The Daily Show. Noah trotted out the dreaded phrase “in Trump’s defense” to point out that Trump isn’t the most articulate guy—“the worst at words,” even—and that we shouldn’t expect him to suddenly become one during a sensitive situation.

What Noah does blame Trump for is acting like a big ol’ baby about the whole thing after it became public, looking decidedly unpresidential with his arms crossed as he denied making the remarks and called Myeshia Johnson “the woman.” If Trump had just apologized like a grown-up, we might not even still be talking about this, something Noah tried to convey by acting like toddler-Trump’s parent.

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“Donald, no, we’re not gonna talk about your tax cuts until you apologize,” he said. “You know what, Donald, we didn’t want you either, OK? You were an accident. There was a hole in the electoral system.”

Noah then launched into a riff about what it must be like to be a White House aide, considering that every press conference Trump gives goes so far off the rails. For example, a staffer who decided to answer nature’s call during the press conference where Trump and Mitch McConnell were supposed to be showing solidarity might be a little surprised at what they found when they returned from the bathroom. “You come back like 10 minutes later and it’s just like, ‘Yo, quickly! We need a list of Gold Star families! We’re in a fight with a black lady in a cowboy hat, and we need to borrow $25,000.’ ”

Oct. 20 2017 8:03 AM

Kirkus Editor-in-Chief Explains Why They Altered That American Heart Review

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Around the time when diversity became the cause célèbre for young adult fiction’s most passionate activists, trade reviewer Kirkus implemented some unique rules to establish its bona fides at the forefront of the movement: characters were to be explicitly identified by race, religion, and sexual orientation in every YA book review moving forward; furthermore, the writers of those reviews would be selected according to their race, religion, and sexual orientation as well, critiquing texts for sensitivity in addition to entertainment value. A statement on the Kirkus website reads:

“[Because] there is no substitute for lived experience, as much as possible books with diverse subject matter and protagonists are assigned to ‘own voices’ reviewers, to identify both those books that resonate most with cultural insiders and those books that fall short.”

Oct. 20 2017 7:33 AM

Three Critics Gush About Halt and Catch Fire, a Great Show You’ll Finally Stream Next Year

On the Spoiler Special podcast, Slate critics discuss movies, the occasional TV show, and, once in a blue moon, another podcast, in full, spoiler-filled detail. In this episode, Slate’s TV critic, Willa Paskin, managing producer of Slate podcasts June Thomas, and Brow Beat’s nights and weekends editor Matthew Dessem discuss the fourth and final season of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. Was the death of a beloved character the most generous in TV history? Did Joe MacMillan’s endpoint make sense for the character? Does Bos deserve to be considered as one of the show’s key characters? Do underwatched shows like Halt and Catch Fire have a better chance of getting a good ending than big hits can hope for?

Listen to them discuss these and other questions below. You can also check out past Spoiler Specials, and you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts. Note: As the title indicates, each installment contains spoilers galore.

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Podcast production by June Thomas.

Oct. 19 2017 4:19 PM

Mayim Bialik Apologizes (for Real This Time) for Her Victim-Blaming Op-Ed

Self-identified “old-school, fuddy-duddy second-wave feminist” Mayim Bialik has issued a second apology via Twitter after her New York Times op-ed, “Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World,” received rancorous criticism for its veneer of victim-blaming. After an initial statement on Saturday denying that her intent was to suggest women were responsible for their assaults and a subsequent Facebook Live interview with the New York Times, the Big Bang Theory actress posted a statement on Wednesday that ends with the words, “I am truly sorry for causing so much pain, and I hope you can all forgive me.”

Oct. 19 2017 1:55 PM

Here’s What Critics Are Saying About Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok, the third movie about the Norse superhero with the magic hammer, sees Taika Waititi take over directing duties from Kenneth Branagh. According to the first wave of reviews, the New Zealand filmmaker, who is best known for Boy and What We Do in the Shadows, has managed to breathe new life into the franchise—and it’s funny! Critics praised the director for injecting the usual Marvel fare with a sense of humor, embracing the wackiness of the plot, and bringing out the cast’s underused comedic chops, especially Hemsworth’s.

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