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    Tue. January 20

    ‘Slap Her’ Video Gets Domestic Violence All Wrong

    Mark Tapson

    As of this writing, a short video called “Slap her: children’s reactions” has accumulated well over 23 million views since going up on YouTube two weeks ago. Produced by an Italian company called Ciao People Media Group for the website Fanpage.it, it is presented as a social experiment to gauge the attitudes of little boys to the notion of violence against women, with a feel-good twist. Unfortunately, its viral message is confusing, disturbing, and worst of all, useless.

    It begins with an overlay of gentle piano music as the voice of a male adult introduces us, one at a time, to a handful of charming Italian boys ranging in age from seven to eleven (it’s unclear whether the man is actually conducting the experiment or is simply a voiceover added later). They dream of becoming firemen, soccer players, policemen, pizza makers—nice, normal kids.

    Then they are introduced…

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    Culture

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    Tue. January 20

    Enough with the Oscars Obsession!

    Chelsea Samelson

    Last week, the long-anticipated list of Academy Award nominations was released and promptly met with fifty shades of fury. It seems that just about everyone has found something on the list to complain about.

    Women are angry that Angelina Jolie didn’t make the cut for Best Director. Blacks are angry that black actors weren’t nominated for anything. Everyone’s angry that Selma is off the list, and gays are angry that The Imitation Game isn’t on the list enough. Pacifists are annoyed that American Sniper made it, and kids are annoyed that The Lego Movie didn’t. (Just kidding, although there are plenty of adults up in arms about The Lego Movie.) No matter where you turn, someone feels snubbed about something.

    In the midst of all this sobbing and sniffling, perhaps we ought to pause, grab some Kleenex, and ask ourselves when we decided that the…

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    Movies

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    Mon. January 19

    The Academy Should Reconsider Its Process

    Erin Vargo

    Last Sunday’s Golden Globes marked the semi-official start of another Hollywood awards season, and, like a scene from Groundhog Day, it feels a little like being trapped in a time warp: Over the next six weeks or so, expect to be bombarded with a continuous stream of red carpet events featuring the world’s most glamorous people preened to perfection. No other industry pats itself on the back quite as righteously (and frequently) as Hollywood does in the months leading up to the Oscars.

    And for good reason. I’ve made the case before that a Hollywood award ceremony is an excellent forum for expressing gratitude and humility:

    “[Last year’s] Oscar speeches seemed to express a refreshing type of gratitude not of indebtedness for services rendered, but of earnest appreciation for the lives and contributions of others. And they did so by speaking effectively on behalf of their inspirations—not…

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    Culture

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  • beautiful happy baby girl holding a pretty piggybank

    Mon. January 19

    Dear New Parents: Keep Calm and Thrift On

    Ashley E. McGuire

    Everyone likes to talk about how expensive children are. Current estimates put the cost of raising a child today at almost a quarter of a million dollars before you factor in college and today’s sky-high tuitions. That is a staggering sum, even for wealthy parents. Parents can hardly be blamed for blanching at such a figure, but they can also use it as a chance to incorporate thrift into their parenting.

    Our culture is absurdly materialistic about raising children. In much of the world, children make do with a few outfits and sticks for toys. In America, the moment a woman is pregnant she is bombarded with pages-long lists of what she needs to register for and then buy for an immobile human who won’t even be two feet long at birth.

    This is especially daunting for city-dwellers who have limited space and start sweating at the thought…

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    Culture

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  • Parenthood

    Fri. January 16

    Single Motherhood on “Parenthood”

    Melissa Langsam Braunstein

    According to Twitter, I’m in the minority. Everyone else who tweeted about a recent episode of #Parenthood found it heartwarming. Viewers especially enjoyed Amber’s baby shower, which was held at a hospital, after her grandfather Zeek’s heart attack.

    Amber’s baby shower certainly showcased the bonds of family and warmth of motherhood, but it was hard to ignore the elephant in the room: Amber is on the verge of becoming the first Braverman-by-blood who’ll start parenthood as a single mother.

    Given the heartfelt advice that the Braverman women offered Amber at her shower, it is striking that no character suggested that she might want a partner for her journey. Yes, the show is set in the San Francisco area and the family leans left politically, but both Sarah and Jasmine have lived the challenges of solo parenting, and the others have led relatively traditional family lives.…

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    Television

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    Fri. January 16

    ‘Galavant’ and the Age of Chivalry

    Mark Tapson

    If you haven’t been watching ABC’s new medieval musical comedy series Galavant, then you’re missing what The Wall Street Journal calls “one of the oddest network shows, comedy or otherwise, in some time.” But there’s more to Galavant than just campy, boisterous fun.

    The four-weekend show, which airs back-to-back half-hour episodes on Sunday nights, centers on our hero Galavant and his quest to rescue his fair Madalena from the king who stole her away. Galavant, played by Joshua Sasse with just the right amount of self-mocking, is a dashing but washed-up Lancelot with—as the theme song says—“square jaw and perfect hair/cojones out to there.” As for his lady love: we are told with a hint of Chaucerian bawdiness that “he loved her to excess, thrice daily more or less.”

    The show delights in turning fairy-tale clichés on their heads; for example, Madalena (Mallory…

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    Television

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    Thu. January 15

    In Praise of “American Idol”—and Slow Apprenticeship

    Mark Judge

    Critics are hard on American Idol these days. The talent show is now in its fourteenth season, ratings are down, and the show hasn’t produced a superstar in several years.

    But I will be watching this year for two reasons: first, Harry Connick, Jr., a genuine musician, is one of the judges. When he joined Idol in 2013 Connick grounded the competition in his long experience as a jazz pianist. The show actually became a deeper and more interesting musical experience to watch. The fact that Idol was not producing instant superstars was not necessarily a bad thing—under Connick’s guidance, a lot of the kids were learning musical lessons that would contribute to a long and stable career rather than a flashy and short one (Fantasia, anyone?).  As unexpected as it seems, American Idol has actually gained gravitas as the ratings have fallen.

    The second reason I will…

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    Music, Television

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    Thu. January 15

    British Feminists: ‘Degrading Sex Acts Are Empowering’

    Ashley E. McGuire

    Brits, especially women, are in an uproar over new regulations cracking down on certain sex acts in pornography. They have taken to the streets to stage things like face-sitting protests, whereby porn lovers act out moves that the British government is trying to ban.

    These pro-porn ladies claim that barring certain acts like spanking (and a lot of other stuff that should never be mentioned in polite company) is not just a crackdown on free speech, but is sexist. They argue that the new regulations target female sexual enjoyment in a disproportionate way. Lawmakers argue that they are trying to protect children from harmful and violent content, children who might, say, get confused as to what spanking is all about when they get their hands on readily available porn. Lots of others got in on the action via Twitter with the hashtag “#PornProtest”.

    Where to begin?

    Well, we can begin…

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    Culture

    2 Comments

  • force-majeure

    Wed. January 14

    “Force Majeure”: Are Men Ruled by the Survival Instinct?

    Mark Tapson

    “This whole ‘women and children first’ is a myth,” says Ruben Östlund, director of the 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure. His movie poses the uncomfortable question: are men the heroic protectors of the family that they are expected to be, or simply slaves to a selfish survival instinct?

    Force Majeure has already won the Un Certain Regard Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, as well as a Golden Globe nomination, and now it is Sweden’s entry for a Best Foreign Film Oscar too. It tells the story of Tomas, his wife Ebba, and their two children vacationing at a ski resort in the French Alps. While lunching at an outdoor restaurant, the family observes a controlled avalanche designed to prevent snow from piling up to dangerous levels.

    But the avalanche rolls so swiftly and threatening close that Tomas panics and bolts, leaving his family to fend for themselves even though…

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    Movies

    2 Comments

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    Wed. January 14

    Defending Sia’s “Pedophile” Music Video

    Chelsea Samelson

    These days, it seems every pop music video is the same. Put a lip-synching musician in front of a camera, throw in some dance moves, add some outfit changes and an eye-catching backdrop, and you’re done. This is the predictable pattern for most well-known musicians, especially female ones. Music videos have become another form of blatant self-promotion in an increasingly self-obsessed culture. Rarely can one find a music video that even reaches towards art, let alone one that offers something interesting, unique, or profound to ponder.

    It’s rare, but not impossible. The elusive Australian singer-songwriter Sia is known for breaking this look-at-me mold. Last week, she followed up her hit single “Chandelier” with a music video for her newest song, “Elastic Heart.” It is a profound and powerful video, full of emotion, symbolism, and the kind of artistic intent that is notably lacking in most every other modern music video.

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    Music

    3 Comments

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