TIME Culture

Twitter Is a High School Cafeteria and Swift and Minaj Are the It Girls

Send them to the principal's office

We have celebrities because the world got too damn big. Back before telecommunications and even the Pony Express, people only knew those who lived close to them, so naturally they gossiped about the neighbors, fellow parishioners, and nearby relations that they all had in common.

But now that the world is so interconnected, we need people that everyone coast to coast recognizes so that a woman in Connecticut can have a conversation with her sister in New Mexico about someone they both know. It’s not going to be Suzy, the minister’s wife; it’s going to be Jennifer Lawrence or Selena Gomez or whatever pretty woman we are currently torturing on The Bachelorette.

Right now those people are Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj, who appear to be feuding with each other on Twitter. After failing to get a MTV Video Music Award nomination for best video of the year, Minaj tweeted that videos that depict thin women get more attention. Swift, who is nominated in the category, responded to her to say that it was “unlike you to pit women against each other.”

The world got too big, and then Twitter managed to make it small again.

This is the promise of social media: It strips away the layers of publicists and agents and handlers and lets the stars speak directly to their fans—and each other—with no filters. It lets us see that celebrities might be a little bit rude or insecure or totally insane.

Before the Internet age, when there was a beef like this, it happened behind closed doors at some Hollywood party where none of us was invited, and we’d only hear about it if it hit the gossip columns. Now everyone can be right there in the mix, watching it unfold in real-time.

As the Minaj vs. Swift match was playing out, Kim Kardashian posted (and subsequently deleted) a tweet saying, “Imma let you finish…” seemingly an allusion to her husband Kanye West interrupting Swift’s acceptance speech on the VMA stage in 2009. Kardashian denies the connection. Swift’s fellow nominees, Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, started a fake Twitter feud to get in on the action. Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul offered to intercede in the argument and get the two of them talking over pancakes. He even offered to pay!

But things really got interesting when Katy Perry chimed in, mentioning she found it ironic that Swift was talking about women tearing each other down when the song she is nominated for is supposedly Swift’s tear-down of Perry.

If this was all happening in a high school cafeteria, the principal would have been called over by now.

It certainly feels like we’re in one big high school cafeteria. Everyone with a Twitter account and Internet access can get involved. We all get to talk to the celebrities and watch them as they navigate a star-studded party every day where the only bar to admission is the ability to stay under 140 characters.

It’s unlikely that Swift will send me a direct message anytime in the near future, but she’s so close that I feel like I could reach out and touch her. The world is contracting, and that is only making our shared experience with these celebrities even better. Thanks to Twitter, everyone is close again, and it couldn’t be a better time to be part of the gossip.

TIME Culture

Leave the Poor Minions Alone

Can’t we just let these galumphing pods of ridiculousness make us laugh for a little while?

By now, after the movie earned more than $115 million during its opening weekend, it seems like everyone has heard of Minions, the spin-off film featuring the pill-shaped sidekicks from the Despicable Me series. But there are also a lot of people who are boycotting the adorable creatures for ridiculous reasons.

In a funny but strangely antagonistic article for Grantland, Rembert Browne writes sarcastically about the Minions and race. “It’s hard to think of a culture — or an entire society — more diverse than the Minions. Which is why it’s not a stretch to say this: If you don’t like the Minions, you probably hate diversity.”

The lack of diversity isn’t the only complaint. Minions creator Pierre Coffin said that none of the Minions are women because he can’t imagine such bumbling, stupid (though undeniably cute) creatures being women. In a critique on Bustle, Jennifer Still writes, “Though Coffin’s explanation, at face value, does make Minions seem rather feminist — he’s saying women are too smart, cunning, and resourceful to be portrayed as Minions — it’s still disappointing that there isn’t female representation amongst the Minions.”

But the strangest problem that anyone has with the Minions is from Brian Feldman at The Awl who accuses the creatures of destroying the Internet. The creatures have become a favorite of “middle-aged mom memes” in which they are featured alongside inspirational sayings and emotional treacle and posted to Facebook or Pinterest to excite the tugging of heart strings usually reserved for Kleenex commercials and Lifetime Christmas movies.

The thing about the Minions is that they are none of these, and they are all of these. Their appeal, and the reason why so many have exploited them for political arguments and a discussion about the Internet is that they are basically cyphers. They are amorphous blobs of a strange yellow hue whose nonsense language (seemingly derived from Beaker on The Muppet Show) is a series of toots and grunts with some polyglot words sprinkled in for extra flavor. We can make the Minions mean anything because they allow themselves to be everything. They can be playful little scamps who want to show you the importance of family, or they can be an animated illustration of the patriarchy writ large.

The claims about diversity and feminism seem a little bit absurd. No one seemed to critique “The Simpsons” for having as little diversity as just about every other sitcom on television or accuse “The Smurfs” of all being the exact same shade of blue. And considering that the one female smurf, Smurfette, who was magically manufactured by an evil wizard to infiltrate their all-male society and tear it down from the inside, spends most of her time worrying about her hair and fending off the affections of her cohort, it’s not like she’s Rosie the Riveter in a mushroom.

The claims of the Minions destroying the Internet are harder to refute. After all, their blank nature makes them perfectly adaptable to Mom Memes with little real meaning at their sentimental center. But they’re not the only animated characters that have met this fate. Nick Douglas points out on Medium that such memes incorporate all sorts of cartoon creatures including Garfield, Betty Boop, and the Tasmanian Devil. The Minions vague affectations might make them easier to cut and paste into Photoshop “art,” but they’re by no means the ones who created this genre or are solely responsible for it.

So why is everyone being so harsh to the Minions? I think it’s so easy to mess with the Minions because they seem almost cravenly devised by the movie studio gods to make kids happy. Attacking Minions is a way of subverting the capitalistic aim of cuddly cartoon creatures meant to sell plush toys, back packs, and everything else with a flat surface that their likeness can be printed on.

The Minions were intended to be harmless, funny creations seemingly spliced together from everything children like. They are silly, they fall down a lot, sometimes their butts hang out, and they get dressed in silly costumes more quickly than Bugs Bunny trying to woo Elmer Fudd while wearing Veronica Lake drag. There is something so craven about them that you can just see a marketing executive stirring a cauldron and laughing an evil laugh. Messing with them, therefore, becomes not only subversive, but almost essential.

By why do we have to tear down something that is so beloved it had the second-biggest opening weekend of all time for an animated film? Can’t we just let the Minions make kids happy? Can’t we just let these galumphing pods of ridiculousness make us laugh for a little while? Maybe the world doesn’t need to right its wrongs by using these guys as an example. Maybe the world needs a little more of what they offer in spades: cuteness.

TIME politics

Please Don’t Make Me Get Gay Married

Stuart Gaffney (L) and John Lewis, plaintiffs in the 2008 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case, celebrate while traveling along Market Street during the annual Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco, California on June 28, 2015, two days after the US Supreme Court's landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
Josh Edelson—AFP/Getty Images Stuart Gaffney (L) and John Lewis, plaintiffs in the 2008 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case, celebrate while traveling along Market Street during the annual Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco, California on June 28, 2015, two days after the US Supreme Court's landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

We didn’t need anyone’s seal of approval before — and we don’t need it now

The first time I heard the question was a year ago at my brother’s wedding, an occasion where such coaxing is commonplace. “When are you and Christian going to get married?” asked a well-meaning aunt whose daughter married another woman several years previously. “I know it’s legal in New York. Wouldn’t it make your mother happy?”

Weddings always make my mother happy, so I have no doubt that it would, but I always fancied myself not the marrying kind. Like I do to everyone who asks about my and my boyfriend’s plans on making honest men out of each other, I reminded my aunt that while it might be legal in our state, it wasn’t legal in the rest of the country, so it just didn’t really matter all that much and would probably make everything more complicated that it needed to be.

That is no longer true. Now that the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land, a marriage with my boyfriend in New York would be just the same as my brother’s. Like all those people who immediately washed their Facebook profile photos in a rainbow bath, I’m overjoyed at the decision and glad to finally have the choice to get married. But, as of right now, it’s a choice that I’m deciding not to make.

Speaking of Facebook, immediately after the verdict was handed down, I posted, “Christian and I are happy to announce that with today’s historic decision we have decided to continue being legally unmarried forever.” My friend Lux, a woman who is in a long-term relationship with a man, almost immediately replied, “It brings a tear to my eye that you’ll now finally have the right to constantly defend the decision not to get married, just like straight couples have been able to do for forever.”

I realized that now I’m going to have to start fielding this question all the time and, well, it’s a little bit annoying. Despite my parents entering their fourth decade of wedded bliss (and they’re still one of the happiest couples I know), I’ve just always been incredibly skeptical of the whole institution. Maybe that was because it was one that I was barred from, and I thought I would never be able to partake in. Putting a spin on that Groucho Marx quote, I didn’t want to be a part of any club that wouldn’t have me as a member. If the two people in the partnership decide how it should run, isn’t that enough? And why is the government even bothering with organizing us into pairs? Let’s just abolish the federally recognized institution altogether and let churches bless unions and have every individual file her own taxes.

I actually thought it was a virtue that I couldn’t get married, and I still do. Because the state and society wouldn’t accept gay couples, the gay community had to come up with their own ways of codifying their existence. Wedding announcements for same sex couples ran in gay papers, some gay couples adopted each other so that there would be some official recognition of their union, and enterprising couples looking for a big party founded the “commitment ceremony” (which sounded like it would be held for someone involuntarily entering an asylum). More important, not having a standard set of behaviors to pattern ourselves after, gay relationships became more varied. Each couple had to talk about what they expected of each other, who was able to have sex with whom, and just what the boundaries and expectations were for this union.

That’s what I loved about being gay. We didn’t need the state, the church, our parents, or Emily Post telling us how we should live our wedded lives; we were making it up as we went along and finding new configurations and arrangements that worked for each individual couple rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to marriage that is so stifling it has lead to the skyrocketing divorce rate.

Now that is all gone, or at least on its way out. While being gay and boring is certainly progress, it’s not really the progress that I wanted for my personal life. I was hoping that I would still get that special something with my special someone rather than walking down the aisle in matching tuxes, entering into a monogamous relationship, and opening all the gifts we registered for at Restoration Hardware. That’s the kind of pressure that Christian and I are already getting and “not being the marrying kind,” isn’t as valid as it used to be for two confirmed bachelors like ourselves. (And don’t even get me started on people asking if we’re going to have kids.)

Now we get the question constantly, and we have to tell every well-meaning enquirer that we are both intellectually opposed to marriage for ourselves, though we think it’s great for anyone who would choose to do it. At least it’s starting a dialogue but, like my friend Lux mentioned, having to go through this with family members, coworkers, and friends—gay and straight alike—is exhausting. Whoever thought that equality would be such a drag? When we demanded these rights, no one ever imagined the consequences that would come along with them.

The babies born today who will think of Will & Grace the way I think of I Love Lucy will grow up with this right being just another fact of life and might even attend a few ceremonies that feel real and have the real weight of the government behind them. Gay marriage will be controversial for a while, but eventually it will become normal and even boring. Someone will write an etiquette book on how to have them, and suddenly there will be as many customs to fulfill as there are for straight marriages.

While contemplating a two-brides episode of Say Yes to the Dress, I can’t help thinking about my mother’s Aunt Bunny, whose life-long partner Mary Ellen was an accepted part of the family, though no one ever spoke of their commitment, and they certainly didn’t have a ceremony announcing it to the world.

Aunt Bunny and Mary Ellen worked out the definition of their own relationship and were committed until they each passed away. Christian and I have done the same thing, and I hope that what we have will be as real and long-lasting as what they did. We’re happy to have the right, and we’re also happy to not exercise it. We didn’t need anyone’s seal of approval before, and we don’t need it now. Maybe that will wear off, as gay marriage becomes more of the norm, and the outlaw appeal of opting out loses some of its cache. But right now, just because we’re able to do it doesn’t mean we have to and doesn’t mean that we want anyone pushing their strictures upon us. We’ve worked out just how we want our relationship to work, and, frankly, our covenant is none of your business.

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 health

Here’s Why You Should Ignore Science and Keep Wearing Your Skinny Jeans

three woman in skinny jeans and heels
Getty Images

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

Reports of their dangers are based on one incident of not dressing for the occasion

Plenty of old fogeys in pleated khakis were probably happy to read the news that skinny jeans could possibly cause nerve damage. This makes it easy to swipe at youth fashion and tell those “hipsters” in their silly pants to get a nice pair of Dockers or something nice and flowey from Chico’s like respectable human beings. But don’t you worry about science. You keep on rocking that calf-hugging denim like you’re Kendall Jenner in the airport on the way to Milan. The science behind these headlines isn’t as sound as those finger-wagging fashion scolds want us all to think.

The numerous news reports stem from an article published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry and is really a case study based on one woman who had to be hospitalized for four days to regain feeling in her feet after wearing a pair of jeans that were far too skinny to be healthy. (Remember: Spandex is a privilege, not a right, and should be used responsibly.) Yes, this is an isolated incident. It’s sort of like saying that no one should go to McDonalds because one time a girl found a worm in her Chicken McNuggets.

The woman in question, an Australian, was wearing skinny jeans to help a friend move and was doing lots of bending and lifting throughout the day. I hope this friend paid her a lot more than pizza and beer for her troubles. Neurologists determined that this woman’s calf casings were so tight and her exertion so vigorous that she damaged the nerve that allows for feeing and movement in the feet and ankles.

This isn’t a lesson in not wearing skinny jeans; it’s a lesson in dressing appropriately. If you know you’re going to be moving, don’t you want to wear something loose-fitting and comfortable? Does this woman not own one pair of sweats? Couldn’t she have worn some boyfriend jeans, which are popular now and allow a little bit more room? Does she have something against a nice pair of yoga pants? Just like you wouldn’t wear a business suit to a nightclub, a pair of flip flops on a skiing trip, or a soccer uniform to a job interview, you shouldn’t be wearing the tightest pants in your wardrobe for a day of heavy exertion.

There are plenty of times when tight pants are appropriate (and in some circles preferred), and this one woman shouldn’t keep anyone from enjoying all those instances. Even if skinny jeans do cause a bit of discomfort, isn’t that what fashion is all about? There is something in the suffering that makes clothing even more desirable. Now that skinny jeans have gone from mildly uncomfortable to downright dangerous, they’re just a little bit cooler. They’re like the bungee jumping of pants.

This woman recovered. But think about all the fashions that have done irreparable harm, such as bound feet, corsets, and stretched earlobes. Possible damage from skinny jeans isn’t nearly as extreme and is reversible. It’s like getting your ear pierced and contracting an infection. You’ll be in a bit of pain for a few days, but it will likely get better.

We do awful things to our bodies chasing some sort of ideal—think about the waxing, high heels, chemical peels, botulism face injections to get the perfect Nicole Kidman glower, the laser tattoo removal to disappear the tramp stamp of the comedy and drama masks you thought was such a good idea your senior year in high school. Skinny jeans are nothing compared to those.

Even if they were, like so many fashions nowadays that you can buy at Forever 21, the pendulum is sure to swing the other way in no time. Before there is a rash of people falling over in the streets with numb feet, we will have moved on to a new obsession, like the re-emergence of JNCO jeans, the return of bell bottoms, or guys wearing skirts. Hey, don’t laugh, Kanye did it.

All this scolding over skinny jeans is just a bunch of fuddy-duddies reeling in the fact that there is a tiny iota of scientific evidence to eradicate a trend that has hung on a bit too long that they really want to get rid of. These people were going to hate your jeggings no matter what science says. So why are you listening to them? Do what makes you look and feel good. Well, maybe not feel good, but at least doesn’t make you feel like your feet are going to fall off.

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 sexuality

Fifty Shades From A Man’s Perspective Is Bad for Women

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

Fifty Shades of testosterone have been added to a film and book franchise that has so far resisted interference by the patriarchy

It’s no surprise that Universal Pictures ordered a sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, considering the S&M-themed movie adaptation of the book trilogy has so far grossed almost $570 million worldwide. It’s also no surprise that screenwriter Kelly Marcel will not be back to write the sequel. After all, the book’s writer EL James (nee Erika Leonard), notoriously clashed with director Sam Taylor-Johnson and was given enormous creative control over the project.

What is surprising, however, is the narrative switch-up happening in the franchise. First it was revealed that James’ husband Niall Leonard will write the screenplay for Fifty Shades Darker. Leonard is a bona fide screenwriter with credits on several British series (and reportedly had an uncredited rewrite of the first film’s script). And earlier this week Grey, the version of the Fifty Shades tale from Christian’s point of view, hit shelves.

Grey seems like nothing more than a cash grab, another telling of the same tale to capitalize on a trilogy that sold well over 100 million copies, which is even bigger than a blockbuster in the book world. But it is also something different. With the official addition of Leonard to the creative team for the new movie, there is a growing amount of testosterone in one of the few giant Hollywood franchises that so far has resisted interference by the patriarchy, both in terms of its creation and narrative. Things could get complicated for James’ empire.

Nearly 70% of the audience for the movie’s opening weekend back in February was female, a staggeringly high percentage. Wouldn’t it make sense that the powers that be would want a woman in one of the major creative roles on the movie? When a planned Wonder Woman movie recently lost its female director, Warner Bros. hired another woman to bring the lasso of truth to the big screen, and that comic book franchise will have far more Y chromosomes filling the theaters than Fifty Shades ever will. To hire a man to helm a long-awaited film would have caused a worse and more vocal backlash than when Ben Affleck was cast as Batman.

Fifty Shades was also the largest opening weekend for a female director ever, and James had held out for a woman for her project. This not only makes sense from a creative perspective but from an activist perspective as well. Last year, a survey by the Writers Guild of America found that women wrote only 15% of feature films, down from 17% in 2009. They also only made 77 cents on the dollar to male writers, which is the regrettable standard across many sectors of American industry.

James is under no obligation to do anything to please anyone but herself, but she has remarkable control over who is making these movies and can give women opportunities to prove themselves on a global scale that they are not often afforded. On a very specific level, it’s a little gross that a man is going to be writing this project. While I have not read the books or seen the movie, I do know enough about the phenomenon—how could I not?—to know that it’s about a young woman who is seduced by a handsome billionaire who initiates her into a world of kinky S&M sex. I’m all for exploring all sorts of sexual expression between consenting adults, but plenty of critics were taken aback by the “abusive gender roles”, “anti-feminism”, and “abusive relationship” of both the books and the adaptation. Now to have it written by a man or told from a man’s perspective only seems to give more heft to those perspectives.

I don’t know what James and Leonard do behind closed doors, but for the book’s author to allow her husband to adapt her work about a man physically and emotionally dominating a woman seems a little, well, creepy. Part of the draw of the books was that it gave women a surrogate to explore a kinkier side of their sexuality that they might not have given into at home. But having Christian tell the story and giving more credence to the character who already has the upper hand seems a little bit exploitative. This is no longer about Anastasia’s decision to enter into a relationship with him — it’s about a man taking advantage of a woman for his own means, a story we don’t need to crack a book to learn everything about.

On the other hand, let’s imagine Leonard’s appointment is a compromise with studio executives who didn’t want James (who was characterized as ‘inexperienced,” “impulsive,” and “controlling” during the making of the movie) writing the screenplay herself. This way she can work with her husband who knows how to craft a screenplay and, most likely, forge compromises with his wife. And since Christian Grey’s book is sprung from her mind, ultimately he is under her power.

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

The Bachelorette’s Fake Gay Relationship Is Why Men Can’t Be Friends

BACK ROW: TANNER, DANIEL, BEN H., IAN, KUPAH, COREY, SHAWN E., JOE; MIDDLE ROW: BRADLEY, SHAWN B., JOSH A., JOSH S., BRADY, JARED, TONY, BEN Z., RYAN M.; FRONT ROW: RYAN B., CHRIS, JUSTIN, JONATHAN, CLINT, DAVID, CORY, JJ
Craig Sjodin—ABC The cast of The Bachelorette

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

It’s no wonder men are afraid of their emotions and don’t like to bond in public

There’s something newsworthy about the reverse of expected behavior. You can expect headlines to do well if they’re about a man biting a dog, for example, or two heterosexual men falling in love with each other on a reality show in which they are expected to woo a young lady. That’s what created the flurry of media attention for ABC’s The Bachelorette, which teased the episode that aired Monday as the “Brokeback Bachelor.”

Anyone who knows anything about reality television knew this would turn out to be nothing more than a ratings-grabbing ploy. Sadly, gay men were used, once again, as the punch line. Yes, the conversion of two straight dudes on national television would certainly be worth watching, but what actually happened on the show was not nearly as dramatic, and might actually be more commonplace if, well, it weren’t for shows like The Bachelorette making it hard for guys to be friends.

The promo teased one contestant, Clint, who is vying for the bachelorette, Kaitlyn Bristowe, saying that he was in love with fellow contestant JJ and adding that they had “gotten close in the shower.” I expected to see two buddies in a naked clinch in whatever strange group bathroom set the designers had built to accommodate a house with about 20 guys and one lady. (I’m guessing it looks something like a cross between a locker room and one of the more exciting episodes of Cribs.)

We saw nothing of the sort. All they really did was hang out together. We saw them in the hot tub at the same time, but they were both wearing swim trunks and weren’t even touching. They did talk about popping zits off of each other’s backs in the shower (and JJ even complimented Clint on his “good snake”), but there was no allusion to any hanky panky.

It was more like two dudes rinsing off after a good workout than it was like something from the steamier side of slash fiction. The most risqué scene was a shot of them sitting side-by-side on the couch where JJ’s crotch had a bar over it, probably because his boxer shorts didn’t cover as much as he thought.

To use a stomach-churning term, this was definitely more “bromance” than romance, which is not only a shame because it was a bait-and-switch for audience members, but because it discourages this type of behavior from happening. The Bachelorette is an environment where more than a dozen guys in their 20s live together in a house and court one woman. They will naturally spend a lot more time with each other than with the lucky lady, and friendships are going to form, some stronger than the bond with the bachelorette.

But as soon as one of these inevitable friendships is formed, the gentlemen are labeled as “Brokeback” because the only way that men can share a level of emotional intimacy with one another is if they are gay like the characters in Brokeback Mountain. Then The Bachelorette deploys some clever editing, and we have a sexual component manufactured out of nothing.

It’s no wonder men are afraid of their emotions and don’t like to bond in public when the media shames them as soon as they have a very natural inclination to form a friendship with someone they’re locked in a house with for a month. This move only makes The Bachelorette look tone-deaf and manipulative. The show is supposed to be about romance, so why not celebrate two people finding pleasure in each other’s company rather than playing it for shock and laughs?

Last summer, CBS used the quasi-romantic relationship between Big Brother contestants Frankie Grande, a gay man, and Zach Rance, a straight guy, as a rallying point for viewers. Not only was “Zankie,” as they were dubbed, prominently featured on the show, but they became favorites among the show’s hard-core fans, with even Rance’s mother saying she hoped the boys could make the relationship work.

The Bachelorette is sadly behind the times. How can the show make it up to the gay community, and viewers at large, for baiting them with a fake storyline? By having the next bachelor be a gay man. Not only would this prove to America that the show supports same-sex marriage and relationships, but it would also give a whole new twist to a show that seems at ease using gay people to court viewers. If two male contestants were to actually fall for each other, it would make for riveting TV, and the show wouldn’t have to resort to silly titillation to gain an audience.

Read next: The ‘Brokeback Bachelor’ Stunt Proves That ABC Is Behind the Times

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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

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

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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

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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.

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