It Doesn’t Matter What You Think About the ‘Mad Men’ Finale

The clanging pots and pans of the masses are drowning out what could be a grown-up discussion about the finale

Predictably, #MadMenFinale was one of the trending topics on Twitter on Sunday night as the seminal series aired its final episode on AMC. And, just as predictably when a beloved series goes off the air, there was a split between the people who loved the final episode and those who thought it was some sort of abomination. Many took to Twitter to express their views and argue about the particulars of the episode. But, in the end, maybe they’re just wasting their breath. After all, it doesn’t really matter one lick what anyone thinks about the finale.

Just look at the disparate reactions all over social media. There were those who thought the episode was “perfection,” those who thought it was “horrible,” those who thought it was worse than the Lost finale, and those who can’t wait for critics to tell them how wrong they were to think it was bad. The Internet is no place for nuance, so the vocal minority had to love it without question or hate it without justification. That’s why none of these things matter. They become the clanging pots and pans of the masses, drowning out what could be a grown-up discussion about the finale.

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner himself doesn’t care that much about the criticism. “I hate to say it: I don’t really feel like I owe anybody anything,” he tells the New York Times. “I’ve been lucky to have them invite us into their home, but we have held up our end of the bargain so far. We really have, and we’ve made such a painstaking effort to surprise and delight and move machinery that tells the story.”

When I first read this, Sunday afternoon before the finale aired, I thought it made Weiner sound a bit arrogant. How could he not care at all about the feelings of the people who made his show a success? But after enduring the tweetstorm all evening, I finally understood what he was saying. This was his show, and it always has been. Like any masterpiece, it was the work of one great artist (with many others behind the scenes helping him out). He was always going to tell the story the way he wanted to, and it’s up to us whether or not to enjoy it.

The problem with Twitter and other social media is that it leads us into the false sense that television is interactive. Just because we can talk to our friends, other fans, and sometimes the writers and creators of the show, doesn’t mean that we have a voice in how it’s made. Sure, fan sentiments can sometimes sway creative decisions, but mostly all the OMGs and WTFs and crying-face emoji on social media are nothing more than sound and fury signifying nothing. Television shows are not malleable products able to be massaged and sculpted by our voices after the fact. They are impenetrable artifacts left for us to interpret, not to try to recast.

Expressing dissatisfaction isn’t going to stop Don Draper from writing the world’s most famous Coke commercial, turn him into DB Cooper, or have him and Peggy finally hook up. Now that the finale has been broadcast, no matter how much we rail against it, it’s never going to change. Just ask David Chase, who is still defending and trying to answer questions about the Sopranos finale even a decade after it aired.

The final episode does have an impact on a show’s legacy, especially in this age of Netflix binges and people streaming shows long after they’ve ended, but Weiner is right, the decision of how a show ends should be a creative one, not one decided to make fans swoon and post positive notices on social media. It’s always the most challenging artistic decisions that stand the test of time, and often pieces that were scorned when they premiere eventually go on to become classics. Just ask the “Rites of Spring” and the riot it incited when it was first played.

The funny thing about Mad Men is it did have a few of those moments that will make die-hards very happy, most notably Peggy Olson and her long-time confidante Stan Rizzo finally consummating their long-standing crush. While it got lots of positive reactions and warm fuzzy feelings from devotees, it was the silliest part of the whole episode, seeming like it belonged in a bland movie starring Katherine Heigl more than it did in an episode of a show about American identity and existential dread. It was the ending, Don Draper’s final “Om,” that is more important and certainly more divisive.

But all of this online sturm und drang is actually making the entire conversation more tedious. Instead of spending thoughtful time with a television show that deserves our full attention and literary-analysis, people are just firing off 140-character bursts of instant emotion without any contemplation of synthesis. Shows like Mad Men have taught us that this medium can be just as serious and artful as any other, so let’s give it the close reading it deserves.

We’d be so much better served to helpings of people’s insight than we would their opinion. The former is personal, grappling with the show’s complex themes and motifs to come up with some deeper personal meaning that can have a long-standing effect on one’s life. The latter is performative, trying to show the masses how cool and smart we are without having to bother with the rigors of actual intellectual enterprise.

These days, however, having a take based on nothing more than reflex is all that matters, as long as we get it out and have it heard. Sure, there are lots of feelings condensing on Internet servers the world over right now. Just remember that none of them actually really matter.

TIME Culture

In Defense of Being Boring and Gay

Rear view of two men walking with their arms around each other
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Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

Being boring and fitting in isn't defeat; it’s progress

About 10 years ago I saw John Waters give a lecture, and he said (and I’m paraphrasing here, because it was a long time ago), “Back when I was young the best thing about being gay was that you didn’t have to get married, have kids, or serve in the military. Now we’re fighting for all three.” It was a great joke that really resonated with me. The man who committed drag queen Divine doing unspeakable acts to film certainly didn’t want the normal existence of the white picket fence, even if the Subaru in the garage had a rainbow flag.

Much has changed in 10 years, and gay Americans have won rights in many states (but not all, so don’t get complacent). Now the fight is about something different: It’s a fight between letting being gay define a person or be just one more fact about them. It’s between celebration and assimilation. It’s between being bohemian or being boring.

Noted gay artist David Hockney recently told the Guardian that too many gay men now are “boring” because they want to live “conservative” lives. “They want to be ordinary–they want to fit in. Well I don’t care about that. I don’t care about fitting in.” He also said that San Francisco is “a very boring city now. Where are the Harvey Milks?”

Well, the glib answer is that San Francisco has all the rights that the LGBTQI community could ask for, so it doesn’t need as many people championing for our civil rights like Milk did. Some of this could be chalked up to a 77-year-old man griping about “kids these days” in the same way that older New Yorkers tell younger ones that Manhattan hasn’t been nearly as exciting as it was in their youth.

But most of what Hockney is saying has to do with the worry that the gay identity is slipping away. J. Bryan Lowder published an amazing essay about just this subject in Slate. “We live in the era dominated by a born-this-way, ‘it’s-a-small-part-of-me’ ethos that minimizes gay difference to sexual attraction,” he writes. “The current dogma among mainstream LGBTQ advocacy organizations and the majority of gay writers and public figures sees gayness as little more than a hazy accident of biology that shouldn’t be legally or socially disadvantaging.”

Lowder is concerned, as is Hockney, that gays are becoming boring and losing that sense of shared touchstones and flamboyant difference that once set them apart from the culture at large and made them cohere as something that was like an ethnicity. As men would come out, their predecessors would teach them about camp, drag, Judy Garland, poppers, and Fire Island. Gay was as much a culture as it was a sexual orientation.

These days, we don’t have that anymore. We no longer see Uncle Arthur prancing about on Bewitched. Instead we see Mitch and Cam on Modern Family, barely different than any of the other adults. Gay kids in many parts of the country are much more accepted as they come out by friends, straight and gay, and don’t need to seek refuge with their own kind. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Frank Kameny, one of the founders of the gay civil rights movement, told the first gay-rights protestors at the White House that they should all wear suits or dresses so that those in power could see that there was no difference between the picketers and everyday people. It’s a strategy that has worked wonders for acceptance, making gay people blend in, and showing that there is little difference.

Now that the gay community is starting to gain the equality that it has been fighting for, the consequence is that they are just as boring as everyone else. It’s not a defeat; it’s progress. Just like feminism in the ‘70s wasn’t about forcing women out of the house and into the workforce, it was about giving them the choice to live any kind of life they wanted, the gay civil rights movement was about letting gays have the social and legal protection to live any kind of life they want as well.

Gay men can’t be Quentin Crisp, and they all shouldn’t be, either. That also doesn’t mean that we all have to wear polo shirts and khakis and pass as straight when we’re picking up a jumbo pack of diapers at the Target. There is now room for all of us, and that is a beautiful thing.

Like Lowder and Hockney, I much prefer an exciting gay. I love a big queen who is as femme as he (or she, as she probably prefers) wants to be and is pushing the complacency of the middle class with her individuality. I’m a much bigger fan of Johnny Weir, being as fabulous as he wants to be on national television and not apologizing, than Neil Patrick Harris, with his handsome husband, two adorable kids, and the gender-conforming tuxedos he wears when he hosts award shows.

However, I’m happy that I now live in a world where the young queer kids can choose to be either one of those, or neither. Harvey Milk and Frank Kameny and big ol’ fairies like Harry Hay (who founded the Radical Fairies, so it’s not an insult) all fought so that I could live in a world where I get to choose just who I want to be, and so that I can be safe no matter where I am.

Just last week I was explaining to a well-meaning friend at a dinner party why I never intend to get married. Like Waters, I was a little annoyed to even be having that conversation, but boy was I happy that, if I change my mind, the option is there for me (at least in New York).

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

‘Dad Bod’ Is a Sexist Atrocity

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Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

"The problem with the Dad Bod isn’t what it says about men, but what it says about women and how we treat them"

The Internet often thinks that it found a new thing when it really just came up with a new name for something that has existed for decades. The most recent fad is a fixation on the “Dad Bod,” a physique that looks like a formerly fit athlete has gone a bit to seed and grown a nice layer of protective fat around his muscular girth. He’s less Muscle & Fitness than he is Ben & Jerry’s.

“The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time,’” writes Clemson University student Mackenzie Pearson in an article that went viral and accounts for the current fixation on the Dad Bod. The problem with the Dad Bod isn’t what it says about men, but what it says about women and how we treat them.

The Dad Bod is nothing new—just look at sitcom dads for proof—but this fixation and the fetishization of it is a recent phenomenon. Maybe it’s a backlash to the more chiseled metrosexual look that has been championed for the last several decades. For his foray as Ant Man in the upcoming movie, ultra Dad Bod Paul Rudd had to shed his extra pounds to show off his superhero abs. Chris Pratt still gets to rock a Dad Bod when playing funny on Parks and Recreation, but when he wanted to be an action star, he had to get buff for Jurassic World. Ryan Reynolds, recently a dad, shows no sign of wanting fatherhood to affect his diet of what I assume must consist solely of chicken breasts and egg-white omelets.

But just as the beauty standards for men were starting to get as stringent as they have always been for women, along comes the Dad Bod. Now all of our prospective Brad Pitts can look more like Seth Rogens. And while it might be nice to cuddle up to Seth Rogen, just look at his romantic partners in his movies. They certainly don’t look like they stopped going to yoga class and let themselves get a little bit thicker than the day they graduated from college.

That’s the problem with the Dad Bod: It continues to reinforce inequality about what is acceptable for men and women. While the ladies have to go to Pilates and watch every single calorie, guys are free to let themselves get lazy, chow down on all the chips and guac they want, and still expect their prospective mates to be fit.

Just look at Pearson’s reasons why she loves a guy with a Dad Bod. “We don’t want a guy that makes us feel insecure about our body,” she writes. “We are insecure enough as it is. We don’t need a perfectly sculpted guy standing next to us to make us feel worse.” She accepts that women have a harder time than men when it comes to body-image issues, but she also uses guys as a prop to make women feel better. Why not try to accept your body for what it is without comparing it to anyone else, male or female?

She also assumes that old stereotype that the woman will be hotter than her guy, which is unfortunate. “We want to look skinny and the bigger the guy, the smaller we feel and the better we look next to you in a picture,” she says. So the Dad Bod actually isn’t about liking the guy’s actual body; it’s more about how his body makes the woman feel. Not only is this incredibly selfish, but it also assumes that the Dad Bod actually looks bad thereby making the woman look better. While her argument seems to support men accepting a body that isn’t sculpted by constant hours in the gym, it’s actually doing the opposite.

There are people who enjoy the Dad Bod for its own aesthetic value, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Having a bit of cushion makes a guy look like he has better things to worry about than his appearance and isn’t so prissy that he only cares about the way his triceps look in a tank top. That just shows you what our society things about the intrinsic values of men versus women. If caring about one’s appearance is shallow, those are qualities that women should assume and men should assay.

A man is perfectly fine if he’s sweet, cuddly, and a good provider. Meanwhile, the female equivalent of the Dad Bod is an acronym not fit for publication on a family website, starting with “mother I’d like…” (You know the rest.) While a man is valued for his warm and fuzzy demeanor, a woman is valued as a sexual object. And the women in question don’t look like they’ve ever entered an all-you-can-eat Buffalo Wing contest like their Dad Bod brethren.

Just because the Dad Bod is yet another symbol of gender inequality doesn’t mean that we should force guys into Cross Fit so that they’ll have washboard abs. (Ironically enough, most of the young fathers I know are already in Cross Fit trying to fight off that spare tire Dad Bod lovers seem to want.) The takeaway from this new phenomenon is that we all need to be happy in our bodies and make good, healthy choices to please ourselves and live the lives that we want, not ones dictated by fashion magazines, the athletic-wear industrial complex (I’m looking at you, Under Armor), or our current or prospective sexual partners.

Guys don’t need much help with this acceptance. After all, the Dad Bod, which has been around as long as there has been canned beer and suburbs, isn’t just being tolerated; it’s being celebrated. Now we need to get all those guys who are rocking that bod to support women in accepting and celebrating their bodies, no matter what they may look like.

Read next: Feminists Are Reclaiming the Sexist Hashtag #HowToSpotAFeminist and It’s Glorious

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME technology

A Decade of YouTube Has Changed the Future of Television

Samantha Sin—AFP/Getty Images www.youtube.com displayed on Aug. 2, 2006

YouTube's first video was uploaded on April 23, 2005

In the 1980s and ‘90s, anyone could turn on their local public access television channel and find moms doing yoga, talk shows focused on beer and local sports, or even strippers and porn stars cavorting between ads for 1-900 numbers (thanks for everything, Robin Byrd). Public access was revolutionary in that it gave everyone access to a broadcast platform—but, sadly, that platform could only reach those with the same cable provider. Neither international fame nor anything close to fortune ever came for those who were the superstars of the medium.

All that changed with YouTube.

The video sharing service posted its first video on April 23, 2005. (That video, Me at the Zoo, has subsequently been viewed 19 million times in 10 years.) YouTube changed everything about television, from public access to major networks. In one decade, YouTube has developed a culture of its own and is a threat to the conventional business model of television—but not in the way world expected.

YouTube was originally created to make it easy to upload videos and post them on blogs, a medium that was then pushing past the fringes of the Internet and into the mainstream. Quickly, YouTube became a destination of its own, one that traditional television producers thought they could harness to tap into the growing power of the Internet. The first clip I ever remember going to YouTube specifically to watch was Lazy Sunday, the first “Digital Short” produced by Saturday Night Live. It went on YouTube, iTunes and a few other websites on Dec. 17, 2005 and was perhaps the first viral video — particularly on YouTube, where it was free.

The Lazy Sunday story exemplifies early fears about YouTube. It racked up 5 million views but was pulled by NBC two months later. (These days you can visit Hulu or Yahoo Screen, platforms that didn’t even exist at the time, to watch it.) In YouTube’s infancy, many television, movie and music companies were worried that users would steal all of their copyrighted material and post it online for free.

That never really came to pass on a large scale. Instead, YouTube evolved as a platform that cooperated with television. For one thing, the company started taking down clips if the owners complained. To this day, it’s still nearly impossible to find a clip from The Simpsons on the site. In 2006, the same year that TIME named “You” the Person of the Year, YouTube entered into a marketing deal with NBC. In 2007 it partnered with CNN to ask the presidential candidates questions that were posted on YouTube and in 2012 it partnered with ABC to live stream the debates directly on the site.

And it wasn’t just a matter of working alongside television: YouTube has become integral to the success of many TV shows as the place where they post clips, highlights, trailers, previews, recaps and other goodies that don’t make their way directly into the show. Just this month Amy Schumer racked up 2 million views with her parody video “Milk Milk Lemonade,” which is really a preview of the upcoming third season of her Comedy Central show.

It’s been a boon for late night programs, the place where many Americans go to watch the antics of Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. Bill Maher does an extra segment of his HBO show Real Time, called Over Time, directly on YouTube. Getting videos to be shared widely is no longer an afterthought, but rather something that is integral to a show’s success and sometimes a means with its own end. Kimmel infamously created a fake “Twerk Fail” video that went viral with 18 million views and then went viral again when he exposed it as a hoax, gaining another 20 million clicks.

But just as television was starting to adapt to YouTube, with networks treating the site as a sidebar, the viewers started treating it more like a public access station. Around 2007, just as television was warming up to the site and the late night shows were gaining attention of viral videos, a new crop of stars started to emerge. With the ubiquity of video cameras in laptops and cell phones and the ease with which people can use digital editing software, it became easy for anyone to start their own YouTube channel and ride it to huge success. PewDiePie, which started in 2010 and is now the largest YouTube channel, with 37 million subscribers, is just a dude making funny voices while playing video games. Tyler Oakley (6 million subscribers, since 2007) just talks about his life and love of celebrities. Bethany Mota (8 million subscribers, since 2009) gained popularity for “haul videos” where she would show people what she just bought at the mall. Using YouTube’s ad-revenue sharing partner program (and even more lucrative endorsement deals), those gurus and stars stood to gain in ways that old-fashioned public-access creators couldn’t.

YouTube started developing its own culture and its own genres, from makeup tutorials and song parodies to GoPro skateboard theatrics and toy-unboxing videos. Television no longer has to worry about YouTube stealing their shows, because YouTube has plenty of shows of its own. YouTube even started calling them “channels” and in 2011 Google spent almost $200 million to launch their own original channels with partners like Madonna, Pharrell Williams, VICE and The Wall Street Journal.

YouTube serves as a source for some of television’s most innovative new ideas. Broad City, originally a web series, made the jump to become one of Comedy Central’s biggest and buzziest shows. Grace Helbig strated a YouTube channel in 2007 while bored at a house-sitting gig and now interviews celebrities on her E! talk show. VICE, the media company whose short documentaries are available on YouTube, just signed a huge deal with HBO to provide a daily news broadcast. Though television may still be more prestigious than the Internet, the creativity is online. And the public access nature of YouTube is starting to bleed onto mainstream television. Just last year, FYI network ordered 13 episodes of a show based on Epic Meal Time, an extreme cooking show that has almost 7 million subscribers.

YouTube is not only the future of television, but also preserving its past. It serves as an online time capsule preserving all sorts of things that we never had access to before. Want to watch an episode of the Gummi Bears, your favorite cartoon from your childhood? Find it on YouTube. Need a refresher on the lyrics to the Full House theme song? Thanks, YouTube. Want to watch all the fights from Dynasty? Thank God for YouTube.

Rather than pirating off and siphoning from television, YouTube serves to amplify it, cultivating our remembrance and interest, giving us reasons to tune in — where would John Oliver be without all the YouTube clips? — and creating ideas for future shows. YouTube has not only replaced public access television, a place where anyone could have a voice, but has perfected it, creating its own ecosystem that is a parallel to television. And these days, with teens thinking YouTube stars are bigger celebrities than the cast of the Big Bang Theory, it’s only a matter of time before public access takes over all the airwaves.


Don’t Blame Michael Bublé for Taking a Creep Shot Without Permission

Michael Buble performs live at Allphones Arena on May 9, 2014 in Sydney, Australia.
Don Arnold—WireImage Michael Buble performs live at Allphones Arena on May 9, 2014 in Sydney.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

The idea of consent and public spaces has gotten very grey

Instagram updated their guidelines for what is acceptable content for the photo-sharing app today. For the record, close ups of nude butts, sexual intercourse, and genitals are off limits, but nudity in paintings and statues is A-OK. But there is a classification of sexualized images that are permissible under those laws but still need some rules, informal or otherwise, to determine what is alright and what is not. Luckily we also got the perfect example of this today as well from an unlikely source: Michael Bublé.

Your aunt’s favorite crooner posted a picture to his 1 million Instagram followers that his wife took of him at the gym standing in front of a woman whose back is facing the camera. Her derriere is barely contained by her tight, black workout shorts. “There was something about this photo [my wife] lu took ,that seemed worthy of instagram. #myhumps #babygotback #hungryshorts #onlyinmiami #picoftheday #beautifulbum,” Bublé wrote on the caption.

This photo upset many people because they claimed he was body shaming this woman and objectifying her appearance. Many labeled the photo a “creep shot,” a genre of photos men take of women they think are attractive in public without the women knowing the photo was taken. But there were many others who disagreed: The photo has more than 40,000 likes.

The issue isn’t whether the content of the photo is offensive but whether or not Bublé should be posting a photo of a random stranger on a social media service. Like so many people pointed out, it wasn’t her butt or what he said about it, but that it appears he did not ask her if she minded having her bum praised to more than 1 million people.

This is increasingly becoming a sticky issue given the proliferation of social media and people wanting to take pictures in public. If this woman were a street performer and he took her picture, would anyone have any issue of it, since we would assume that person would be fine with the attention? Is the same true for someone wearing a crazy outfit in line at the supermarket? Or what about when someone posted photos of some Philadelphia teens who allegedly committed a hate crime, which lead to their arrest? They didn’t give permission, but it’s pretty clear this was a great use of social media.

The idea of consent and public spaces has gotten very grey. I think we can all agree that posting a photo of someone working out at the gym isn’t that bad, but posting a photo taken in the locker room is entirely beyond the pale. It also becomes tricky when dealing with photos of women. There’s a fine line between admiring someone’s beauty and exploiting someone’s body, especially when it’s done without permission. However, many of Bublé’s supporters in this issue appear to be women.

It’s interesting that a famous person’s Instagram account is raising all these issues, because no one suffers as many creep shots as celebrities. Now, with a camera on every phone and a selfie stick in every pocket, it’s not just the paparazzi bugging the celebrities, but everyone who feels like they want to jazz up their Facebook feed. Does a fan sneaking a snap of Bublé picking up his morning coffee constitute as a creep shot?

Bublé has not taken the photo down, but he has issued a statement on his Facebook page. “I realize that a photo that was meant to be complimentary and lighthearted has turned into a questionable issue,” he says. “For the record, It hurts me deeply that anyone would think that I would disrespect women or be insulting to any human being.”

Personally I see little wrong with what he did (and I’ve been known to post Instagram photos of shirtless joggers in Central Park myself). While slightly lascivious, Bublé’s photo wasn’t lewd and neither was his caption. As far as creep shots go, this was pretty tasteful.

Yes, it’s wrong to say that someone is “asking” to be disrespected because of what she is wearing or where she is wearing it. Clearly this woman had no problem with everyone at the gym seeing her in those shorts, but would she have dressed differently if she had known that Bublé was going to invite a million strangers into their gym?

Whenever we leave our houses, we are entering a realm where we can all be documented and have our image dispersed without our knowledge or say-so, and we should all behave as such. That’s how we have to act until the social media age matures, and we can come to agreed upon standards of what is and is not acceptable behavior. Instagram can certainly write rules around content, but the rules about policing behavior are going to have to come from you and me.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Leave Shorts-Wearing Men Alone!

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Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

What if a man said that women should not be wearing miniskirts unless they’re models?

There are always going to be old cranks going through life saying, “It was better in my day.” It’s sad, however, when that crank is Fran Lebowitz, the New York City wit known for her insightful barbs, her unique sartorial sense, and her urbane sophistication. It’s also unfortunate that her latest cause célèbre is one that comes around every spring and is as tired and small minded as the clichéd shouting at the kids to get off the lawn.

Yes, Lebowitz is the latest to tell men that they shouldn’t be wearing shorts.

In an interview with Elle magazine, Lebowitz says, “Men never wore shorts when I was young. There are few things I would rather see less, to tell you the truth. I’d just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade. This is one of the worst changes, by far. It’s disgusting.”

As someone who wears shorts every day from May until September – yes, even to work – I would have to disagree.

Lebowitz isn’t the only one griping. Last summer, Alan Tyers took to The Telegraph to complain about men wearing shorts, even with suits. In 2011, fashion designer Tom Ford issued his five fashion rules in AnOther magazine, and one was, “A man should never wear shorts in the city.”

Lebowitz biggest complaint seems to be that she thinks these men look silly. “It’s repulsive. They look ridiculous, like children, and I can’t take them seriously,” she says. I have a few problems with this argument. First of all, no one is condoning all shorts, just like no one can condone all sandals or all raincoats. A main wearing a pair of tailored, knee-length shorts with business attire (or, heck, even a polo shirt) is completely acceptable. I’m not going to argue for those baggy khaki cargo shorts that are a scourge to fashion. But there are definitely pairs of shorts out there that are as fashionable and acceptable as a pair of pants. If Lebowitz doesn’t like an extra bit of skin, that’s her problem.

Why shouldn’t men wear shorts? First of all, it is hot in the summer, especially on the New York City subway, one of the places where Lebowitz complains about men wearing shorts. Why shouldn’t men get to be as comfortable as women in the heat?

Every day in the summer I wear a suit with shorts, a look J Crew got some heat for introducing last summer. The main reason I like this is because I ride a bicycle around New York, and it’s a lot easier with no fabric below the knees. Lebowitz herself says that she liked New York back when George Plimpton used to ride his bike around wearing a suit. I do the same thing, just with my ankles in the breeze. You would think that Lebowitz, a woman who has been wearing men’s suits since the ‘70s, would prize such eccentricity. No, instead she’s slagging them off and becoming as conservative as everyone who grumbled behind her back 40 years ago.

Lebowitz’s other problem is that she doesn’t like the caliber of men who are wearing shorts. “It’s like any other sort of revealing clothing, in that the people you’d most like to see them on aren’t wearing them,” she says. “And if they are, it’s probably their job to wear them. My fashion advice, particularly to men wearing shorts: Ask yourself, ‘Could I make a living modeling these shorts?’ If the answer is no, then change your clothes. Put on a pair of pants.”

Now, I hate to give any ammunition to the awful and juvenile men’s rights activists who lurk in the darker parts of Reddit, but could you imagine what would happen to a man saying these same things about a woman? What if a man said that women should not be wearing miniskirts unless they’re models? What if he said that they should cover up? What if said that they were disgusting for showing so much skin? He would be pilloried and buried under all the ample outrage that the Internet can muster. And rightfully so. There’s a reason that Michelle Obama was celebrated for baring her head in Saudi Arabia, a country that makes its women cover up.

In the summer, women can wear skirts and shorts and be comfortable in the sweltering weather. They can even wear such attire to work if it’s tasteful and well-tailored. Shouldn’t men be offered the same relief? Shouldn’t we be able to catch a little bit of a draft on our lower extremities? There are more and more options for menswear these days (mostly because it’s the fastest-growing segment of the garment industry), and something other than pants for the warmer months should be just as accepted in the subway cars and boardrooms of the country as women wearing garments that show off their calves.

Sure, there is a time and a place for everything, and no one should show up rocking a pair of brotastic Chubbies to the White House or a pair of ‘70s basketball nuthuggers to a job interview, but a man in a pair of tasteful shorts can be just as fashionable and dressed up as a dandy in a three-piece suit. Just look how good fashion icon Nick Wooster looks wearing shorts with blazers. Oddly enough, one of his fashion essentials is Metropolitan Life by none other than Fran Lebowitz. I’m sure he’ll be sorry to learn what a crank she has become.

In this interview, Lebowitz shows that she’s biased against progress and change by hewing to a conservatism that not only shames men and their bodies, but also shows just how behind the times she truly has become. That’s the long and short of it.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME relationships

Eva Mendes Is Right, Sweatpants Can Lead To Divorce

Eva Mendes seen filming a commercial on Feb. 18, 2015 in New York City.
Charles Bladen—GC Images Eva Mendes seen filming a commercial on Feb. 18, 2015 in New York City.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

The real sweatpants are the emotional sweatpants: not bringing flowers home, gaining 20 pounds, and not buying a present just because

Yesterday, Extra published an interview with professional attractive person and new mother Eva Mendes where she took umbrage toward people wearing the slouchiest of wardrobe staples: sweatpants. “No, no, no! You can’t do sweatpants,” she said. “Ladies, number one cause of divorce in America? Sweatpants! No, can’t do that.” You know what, she’s right!

Now, of course, Eva Mendes was joking, and our culture of knee-jerk outrage went into a tizzy claiming that people can wear whatever they want at home alone or that sometimes busy moms just need to wear something simple. I don’t disagree with those points either, but they seem to be intentionally misunderstanding what Mendes has to say.

I will be the first person to defend any person’s right to do and wear whatever they want in their own home, even if they want to parade around in their birthday suit while watching old episodes of Nashville on the DVR. Hey, it’s your life, buddy. The difference is when you share your life and your home with someone else. My boyfriend, a man who spends more on clothes than some people do on rent, gets in the door after work and strips off his immaculately conceived outfit and puts on a pair of navy blue Adidas basketball shorts, what he likes to call “comfy pants.” I can’t stand it, and I see how it could lead to divorce.

The problem with Mendes’s quote is that it was a joke and is not intended to be taken literally. I’m not going to divorce my boyfriend because, well, we’re not married (neither are Mendes and her super fine babydaddy Ryan Gosling), but I’m also not going to break up with him over the “comfy pants.” But while the sweatpants in my case are quite literal, the spirit of the comment is not quite literal.

When I heard what Mendes had to say, what I heard was not “sweatpants” and “divorce” but something more along the lines of, “If you let yourself slide in your relationship, it’s going to spell trouble.” The sweatpants could be anything. The “sweatpants” are a guy who doesn’t bother ironing his shirt anymore before date night. The “sweatpants” are no longer making the bed even though your partner prefers hospital corners. The “sweatpants” are not waiting for your spouse to catch up on House of Cards so that you can finish staring at Robin Wright’s perfect hair together. The “sweatpants” are not bringing flowers home or not having sex regularly or gaining 20 pounds or peeing with the door open or buying your partner a present just because.

The sweatpants are familiarity and the contempt that they breed. Familiarity is one of the great things about being in a long-term relationship, the possibility to be so comfortable around another person that you can just be yourself. But it’s also dangerous territory. The problem is when your real self is sometimes a little bit less desirable than the ideal version of you that your partner saw in your first few months of courtship, when the emotion was high and those intoxicating love hormones in your brain were freely flowing. That’s why, sometimes, we have to give up our comfort and do something a little special for our significant other.

That’s what Mendes was talking about, giving up on her sweatpants sometimes to show that she’s making an effort for Ryan Gosling. (After all, who wouldn’t make a bit of an effort for Ryan Gosling?) And it is a very easy way to derive pleasure in your relationship. My favorite days are when I come home from work and my boyfriend is sitting on the couch still in his suit and tie looking just like the handsome man who picked me up for our first date. Not only does he look better in real clothes (sorry, Adidas) but it also shows that he’s putting my opinion first and that he cares enough to be a little bit uncomfortable for an extra hour or two.

If my boyfriend stopped doing things like that, well, then it might be time to consider a breakup. Relationships are about two people and knowing when you need to put someone else’s needs and preferences above yours. The sweatpants aren’t a real thing, but they are a symptom of a larger complacency that can be toxic to a lifetime of happiness. The sweatpants, whatever they are, should be taken very seriously.

Mendes later apologized both to her sweatpants and anyone who took offense on Instagram, saying she knows that they aren’t the number one cause of divorce, orange Crocs are. Gosling also piped up to defend his partner, tweeting that it was a joke and that he was wearing sweatpants while typing. This is a symptom of a healthy relationship, having each other’s back when the other is facing adversity. But we already knew these two had a strong bond, because Mendes truly understands that sometimes you have to put a little bit of work into keep the spark alive, even if that means keeping your pants on for a little bit longer than you would like.

Read next: Eva Mendes Takes a Stand Against the Tyranny of Sweatpants

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Take Jared Leto’s Lead and Chop Off That Man Bun—You Look Ridiculous

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Angela Weiss—Getty Images Jared Leto attends NBC Universal's 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards After Party at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Jan. 12, 2014 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

Top knot-lovers around the world, listen up: this trend is (thankfully) over.

Yesterday, Jared Leto, who for years looked like he was impersonating the guest of honor in da Vinci’s “Last Supper” painting, shocked the world by posting pictures of himself with short hair and no beard to his Twitter account. The reason he looks like fresh-faced Jordan Catalano again is presumably for his role in the DC Comics sure-to-be-blockbuster Suicide Squad. But maybe there’s another reason for the change. Maybe Jared Leto is just as sick of a trend that he presumably started as everyone else. Maybe he wanted the man bun to be gone for good.

Leto wore his infamous ombre locks (RIP) in a man bun to the Golden Globes in 2014 when he won an award for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. He changed it up for the 2015 Oscars, where he let his mane roam free to present an award. Just as plenty of guys are growing out their hair to try to copy his signature look, maybe Leto knows the style is already passé.

A meaty man bun like Leto’s wasn’t so horrible (especially when immaculately styled), and it was functional. There’s a reason you never see a female jogger with her long hair flapping in the breeze, and guys need a way to get their locks out of the way as well. What is annoying is the gross mutation the man bun has wrought—the undercut and top knot phenomenon. This style is achieved when a guy wears his hair long on the top and very short or shaved on the sides (which is called an undercut), and then fashions the long portion into a little beaver tail that shoots out the back of his head. Man, this look is so played out it might as well be The Rachel in 1996.

Leto is presumably one of the progenitors of the look, along with Jake Gyllenhaal, who was spotted wearing the top knot as early as 2013. In fact, as early as 2012 The New York Times spotted the man bun trend coming out of Brooklyn, but as with so many fashion trends these days, it was these celebrity spokesmen (and others) that took the look to the masses.

After Leto’s 2014 win, we were completely saturated with these pygmy ponytails on dudes. It’s as if they wanted his hairstyle but didn’t have the time or dedication to grow out an actual man bun, which is how we ended up with its bastard stepchild the top knot, to begin with. In April, the Awl had a photographer snapping the look on the wild on the streets of New York. Then there was the YouTube tutorial on how to make one, the BuzzFeed listicle about hot guys with top knots, and even a Tumblr called Guys with Top Knots devoted to…well, you get the picture.

That’s when the problems started. Stylish guys who had long hair to start with and the fashion sense to pull off such a hardcore look adopted the man bun early. But then the trend, as it always does, went too far. Now we have schlubs just putting an elastic in the back of the head without their hair cut to accentuate a top knot. Instead of looking hip, they look like they have a fuzzy pencil eraser hovering over their skull. Just because a guy’s hair is long enough to be gathered at one concentric point doesn’t mean it should be. Now we’re stuck with all sorts of bros with randomly pulled back hair looking like they’re trying too hard. The great thing about a man bun was it looked like the guy was barely trying at all. Nonchalance is the key to cool. This erroneously coiffed look is far too self-aware to inspire anyone.

Then there are the guys who don’t have enough hair yet but are still trying to jump on the bandwagon. You know them, the ones who wear the “nipple knot,” which is just like a little bump on the top of the head gathered up in a rubber band. It’s almost like these guys are trying to excise a growth from their scalp using an elastic.

These Johnny-come-latelys are ruining it for the top knot pioneers, who now look less like fashionable provocateurs and more like sleazy yoga teachers in bad rom-coms or, even worse, what is going to start passing for “hipster” at central casting in about two months. What used to be a look that showed a guy who was sensitive and unafraid to sport what could be considered a feminine affectation now looks like a douchebag who is trying to fit in with what men’s magazines are telling him the cool guys are doing.

Gyllenhaal advocated for his slimy character in Nightcrawler to put his hair in a man bun every time he did something “larcenous.” Now, people wearing this or similar styles are associated not with a chill guy who wears tank tops and gets all the ladies, but with a criminal who stages crimes so that he can sell news footage of them. Is that really the look we’re going for?

Two weeks ago, a group of South African hipsters (they self identify as the subspecies) created a viral sensation when they went around town cutting off the top knots of gentlemen in public. It was like marauding acts of tonsorial kindness. After 6 million views, the perpetrators admitted the video was staged and all the victims were friends of theirs. But, like Leto, were these willing victims just getting rid of style that had become so mainstream that it was now déclassé? Quite possibly.

Now is the time to liberate all the other straight dudes who are sporting top knots (gay guys are either too good for this trend or, like with most things, have adopted it and abandoned it far faster than the general public). Most of them are doing it wrong and, well, it just looks ridiculous. In 20 years this hairstyle will be like bell-bottoms or butterfly collar shirts, one of those things we look back on and shake our heads, saying, “Why did we ever do that to ourselves?” Don’t do it now. Don’t do it ever. In fact, do what Jared Leto did and put a stop to it before it’s far too late. Tell people your shorter cut is for a movie role, if that makes you feel any better.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Celebrity Activism Flames Out at the Oscars

Patricia Arquette, best supporting actress winner for her role in "Boyhood," poses with her award during the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood
Lucy Nicholson—Reuters Patricia Arquette, best supporting actress winner for her role in "Boyhood," poses with her award during the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood on Feb. 22, 2015.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

Hollywood needs to get off its soap box until it realizes it has the same problems with race, gender, and discrimination as the rest of America

Each year, more and more movies about issues bring home the big trophies at the Oscars, and, as a result, the acceptance speeches are full of people calling for change or visibility for whatever pet cause got them to the podium in the first place.

Last night, Best Actress winner Julianne Moore brought attention to Alzheimer’s disease, while Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne did the same for ALS. Best Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette, with her reading glasses on and piece of paper in hand, called for the end of the wage gap between men and women. Kicking off the trend, Best Supporting Actor winner J.K. Simmons wanted to make sure everyone in America calls their parents more often. And no texting either. That doesn’t count!

They weren’t the only ones. It seems like almost everyone had some sort of cause to bring to the attention of the world. Best Original Song winners Common and John Legend (or Lonnie Lynn and John Stevens as they were confusingly identified) spoke about continued racial inequality, Best Documentary winner Laura Poitras wants the world to be more leery of government surveillance, Best Adapted Screenplay winner Graham Moore told the weird kids that it gets better, and Best Documentary Short winner Dana Perry wants there to be more suicide prevention.

Let’s not forget Best Director and Best Picture winner Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose Birdman cleaned up at the awards. He asked not only for immigration reform, but also for the Mexican people to band together to create a better government.

But those are not the issues that America will be talking about on Monday morning. No, instead we’ll be rehashing the joke that Sean Penn made while giving Iñárritu his second Oscar. “Who gave this son of a bitch his green card?” he said in front of about 50 million people. No wonder Iñárritu had to make a sincere plea for the country’s immigrant population when this super wealthy white man just made an insensitive racial joke during a Mexican man’s big moment.

Patricia Arquette, who garnered much good will for her call for women’s equal rights during the ceremony (most visibly from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez), undid some of that when she continued her comments backstage. “It’s time for all the women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve fought for, to fight for us now,” she told the press corp. Yes, feminism is a noble cause that we all need to strive for, but isn’t it hard for a privileged white women to tell gay people and people of color, who still don’t have their own equality, that they should give up their fight to help women?

That was the funny thing about these Oscars. Everyone seemed to have some sort of agenda to push, but their real behavior betrayed some sort of deeper reflection of how the system really works in this country.

Neil Patrick Harris, the host of the show, got in on the action early. His first joke of the night (and one of the few funny ones) was that the Oscars were the night to celebrate the “best and whitest.” This was in reaction to the sentiment that many deserving people of color were snubbed this year. However, in a bit where he tried to prove how British people can say whatever they want and get away with it, he made black British actor David Oyelowo, himself snubbed for his excellent performance in Selma, deliver the punch line to a bad joke about the remake of Annie, which reimagined the orphan and her father as black. Harris and his crew of writers probably didn’t see the racial undertones to that joke, but from the look on her face, Oprah Winfrey, who was seated behind Oyelowo, did.

Do I think that Sean Penn, Patricia Arquette, or Neil Patrick Harris is a racist? No, I do not. There are ways you could defend all of their remarks. Penn’s was a joke directed at a friend of his. Arquette was merely reminding those that fight for civil rights that women still don’t have equality yet. Harris, well, he didn’t think the joke was about Annie being black, he thought it was just about the movie being really, really crappy.

But the way Hollywood was behaving was like John Travolta putting his hands all over Idina Menzel’s face. He thought he was doing something nice, but he was really sexually harassing her before our very eyes. All of these other assertions, that plenty of people will deem offensive, weren’t meant as such, but they were, regardless. They were born out of privilege and ignorance and are the product of a system that has racism, sexism, homophobia, and all sorts of other ills baked into it. None of these stars were out to cause harm, but because racism and sexism are so intrinsic to the ways that we think and communicate they can’t help but rear their heads.

And I’m glad that these are going to be the things that people are talking about when rehashing the Oscars with their coworkers. After all, who cares what Margot Robbie had on when we can get into discussions of American racial privilege over donuts in the break room. And that is the real issue that this country needs to face. Yes, Alzheimer’s is awful as is ALS (and not calling your mom enough), but Hollywood needs to get off its soap box until it starts addressing the fact that it has the same problems with race, gender, and representation that so many other segments of our society have as well.

Sadly some of this will overshadow the inspirational moments from those issues-based speeches. It’s sad that we have to talk about Sean Penn rather than letting a very successful Mexican director make a heart-felt plea to his people to better their government and for our government to allow more people like him to succeed in our country. It’s sad that we’re going to be talking about Patricia Arquette’s views on race rather than Common and John Legend’s impassioned speech to end racism and the imprisonment of so many black men. Oprah especially liked that part, so it must have been good.

Though it was detracting, hopefully this thoughtless (though I don’t think malicious) behavior of Penn and others could be the catalyst to illicit frank discussion about these topics and might illicit real change. Or maybe it will get someone to produce a movie about racism in Hollywood, which will go on to be nominated for some Oscars of its own. Ha! Who are we kidding? A movie like that would never get nominated.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

What Kanye West Can Learn From the Olsen Twins

Vivien Killilea—Getty Images Kim Kardashian and Kanye West attend the Robert Geller show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015 at Pier 59 on Feb. 14, 2015 in New York City.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

To become a successful fashion designer, Kanye needs to retire from music

Kanye West wants very, very badly to be accepted by the fashion establishment. Remember his 2013 rant about how he invented the leather jogging pant but didn’t get the credit? As usual this New York Fashion Week, Kanye is ubiquitous, including a show for his Kanye Wext X Adidas Originals collection. Sorry, Kanye, but there’s only one way you’re going to do fashion justice, and that’s to quit music.

The collection, West’s first since a mocked 2011 debut in Paris, looked a lot like a bunch of torn up sweatshirts and other items of clothing you might find on a trendier hobo. Many noted that the work was derivative of others, but many also noted that this was his best effort to date and the one that looked the most like a collection. “He is an amazing performer, but his merits as a designer are still in doubt,” Cathy Horyn writes in The Cut. “Kanye’s clothes…just fine if you want to look like you’ve forgotten to get dressed,” says the always colorful Daily Mail.

Yes, Kanye has made great strides, but if he ever want to be taken seriously by the fashion establishment, if he really wants to run his own fashion house, then he needs to quit music and focus on his design work. Otherwise he’ll be like James Franco, doing a million different projects and not doing any of them well.

There are plenty of musicians who have tried their hands at fashion (including Jessica Simpson, whose line of basics brings in literally billions, with a B), but as far as celebrity fashion designers go, Kanye couldn’t have a role model better than the Olsen Twins.

Mary-Kate and Ashley’s line The Row is a super-high-end luxury brand that makes $39,000 backpacks and is a favorite of fashion editors around the world. This did not happen by accident. The pair decided that they were done with acting and, in 2006, launched their brand. Since then, they have attended to that and a handful of other fashion lines including Elizabeth & James. They don’t make movies, they don’t sing songs, they just design. While we see Kanye trying to rush the stage at just about every awards show, we only see the Olsen twins on stage at the award show for the Council of Fashion Designers of America. And when they’re up there, they’re winning for best accessories designer of the year.

By keeping a low profile and showing the fashion world that it has their undivided attention the Olsens have not only honed their skills, but they’ve also paid their dues, something Kanye doesn’t want to do. And he knows it! “As I work on clothing more, I’m not rapping as much. . . I’m not rapping as much, I’m not having as much finances,” Kayne said in that 2013 interview. “I’m losing relevancy. The relevancy is part of my power that allows my brand to be big.”

It’s that relevancy, not his fashion prowess, that gets Anna Wintour seated in the front row of his show next to his crying baby. Kanye does have a lot of powerful fashion friends in his corner, like Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, but is that because he’s such an interesting person who can bring the spotlight that follows him to their brands, or because he really is a talented designer?

The one thing that is certain is that those who opt for fashion as a second career need to work hard and show that they’re serious. The Olsens have done it, as did Victoria Beckham, the artist formerly known as Posh Spice. Gwen Stefani tried her hand at it for some time while on hiatus from No Doubt, but decided, in the end, that she wanted to go back to music.

Kanye clearly has a choice in front of him: quit music and dedicate all of his time and talent to the fashion world, with its year-round schedule of shows, orders to ship to retailers, and other sundry details. Or he needs to quit fashion and get back to the mic. For my money, I’d rather have him rapping than sewing. He can still influence the fashion world through his style and his other public output (tour costumes, video shoots, what he wears when he tells everyone Beyoncé deserves more awards). But the choice is his to make. Sadly, he can’t have his cake and force someone to wear it too.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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