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Danielle Tcholakian
Freelance writer/reporter

The Golden Globes’ Untimely Snubs

Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins (Photo: Sipa USA via AP)

After 31 years on this earth, I was compelled this week to learn who nominates the Golden Globes. (It’s the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, in case you also did not know, and no, I do not know who is in that association.)

I was compelled to learn because their nominations this year were so wildly flawed. They are probably flawed every year, which is unfortunate because they are apparently a good predictor of who will be nominated for the Oscars.

But the flaws were particularly striking this year, as Hollywood is undergoing a reckoning, a purge even, of the bad men who have for so long controlled who gets ahead and who, despite their magnificent, obvious talent, appears to stagnate.

So it struck many people as odd that all five nominees for Best Director are men, in a year when Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird shattered box-office records and was deemed by critics as “perfect,” when Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman changed the game for superhero movies, and when Dee Rees’ Mudbound took a genre historically controlled by white men and told a story in a way that had never been done before.

Snubbing those directors seems not just unfair but illogical, as The Verge noted. The same post also reminded us that only three women have been nominated for Best Director in the last 20 years and none has won a Golden Globe. (Kathryn Bigelow did win an Oscar for her directing of The Hurt Locker in 2009 — making history as the first woman to win for directing, and one of only three women to ever be nominated at that time.)

Yes, Gerwig got a best screenplay nomination. Yes, Mudbound has two nominations as well. But Wonder Woman is nowhere to be seen. Some are chalking it up to it being a superhero movie, but let’s be honest: it did for superhero movies, and for women and young girls, something that few movies had previously achieved.

Jordan Peele also was passed over for Best Director — another truly nonsensical snub, given people are still talking about Get Out many months after it left theaters. So was Kumail Nanjiani’s much-loved The Big Sick, which Nanjiani humorously tweeted about. All the director nominees are drawn from the safe, predictable ranks of the Nolans, Spielbergs, and Scotts of the world.

In an industry notorious for access journalism — in which publicists have undue control and power over coverage — it’s notable that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seems to be currying favor with a cohort of already-powerful men, rather than attempting to recognize the great work of more recent newcomers to the field.

The good news for Peele, Nanjiani, Jenkins, Gerwig, and Rees is that while moviegoers don’t get to give them golden statues, they’ve shown their appreciation for their groundbreaking work in other meaningful ways all year. All the HFPA showed on Monday was how deeply out of touch they are with the people who really matter: people voting with their money at box offices.

Women in the Workplace Are Not Out To Get You

Dolly Parton in "9 to 5" (Apic/Getty Images)

Slate executive editor Allison Benedikt recently wrote an essay about meeting her husband at work, when he was her boss and she was a 23-year-old entry-level fact-checker: “My boss would look down the gap at the waistband of my jeans when he walked past my desk… My career, at the time, was in his hands.” In the essay, Benedikt worries that the current reckoning around workplace harassment would make relationships like hers impossible. She sympathizes with women who “have written recently that they fear a coming backlash — that one false allegation against a famous man will bring this whole new reality crashing down, or that in the understandable urge to name names, women will be seen as the aggressors, out to tar every man’s reputation.”

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Being a Teenage Girl is Hard

For The California Sunday Magazine‘s “Teens Issue,” Elizabeth Weil wrote about her experience raising a teenage daughter. The piece is annotated by her own 15-year-old daughter, Hannah Duane.

Weil’s piece is poignant, heartfelt, and self-effacing. Duane’s annotations are, in a word, perfect. I say this as someone who was a teenage daughter, and who still is a little bit a teenage girl. (Maybe we are all still a little bit teenage girls, until we have to raise ones of our own? Or maybe forever? I don’t know; I haven’t yet faced the challenge.)

When Weil writes that her husband threw out his back while climbing, “pissing off” Duane, Duane’s strident annotation clarifies:

I was not pissed off. I’ve told my parents this multiple times. Nobody in my family can understand that I can be disappointed but not mad at a particular person. I was in a shitty mood. I have my own thoughts, OK?

PREACH, HANNAH. Grown women on Twitter announced they needed that quote blown up and framed on their walls. We have our own thoughts, OK?

Duane’s annotations made me laugh out loud and gasp in recognition. She annotates her mother’s praise of her climbing to point out that she actually hadn’t succeeded at a specific move she was trying. “It is a weird experience to have your parents praise you for something you believe you failed at,” she writes, pointing out that it “feels like you aren’t being listened to, or maybe you’re not explaining yourself well.”

She thanks her mother for not letting her run into traffic as a toddler, but later responds to her mother’s concern about being able to protect her with, “Parents underestimate kids’ ability to figure out what is right for them.”

My absolute favorite, though, is when Weil writes about the way teens revert to certain toddler behaviors, taking appalling risks and “throwing tantrums at horrible times.” Duane annotates:

I would like to make a defense of teen tantrums. They may be a little much to deal with, but after it’s over, I find that having had a freakout when you least want to can be liberating. You did the thing you dearly wished you would not do, and you lived. There’s comfort in having it out there.

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The Uncanny Valley of Online Dating

Good writing sticks in your head like a catchy song, and a good personal essay relays another person’s experience in a way that makes you understand new things about your own. Sam Lansky‘s recent essay on Medium, “The Theory of Visitors,” does both.

Lansky writes about dating almost compulsively, with the specter of a lost Big Love ever-present in the background, lingering in that frustrating way of lost loves. At one point he writes of “the uncanny valley of online dating,” a reference to the discomfiting effects of things that are eerily-close-to but not-quite human. Online, we are not quite our true selves, with all our flawed, disgusting, delightful humanity. We are our best, curated photos; our funniest, most deliberated-over quips.

Dating in general, and not only of the online persuasion, can feel like an uncanny valley after a Big Love. Everyone feels just a little off in a way that makes them feel silly, like you’re some kind of dating Goldilocks. This one has a weird smile, this one talks too much, this one doesn’t talk enough. He wasn’t the Big Love. It didn’t feel like it I remember it. What if it never feels that way again?

What do those big loves leave us with? What did they take from us? Are we less than we were before them? Will we ever be whole again? Or could we be more than we were before?

Lansky complains to a friend that he’s sick of dating. The friend tells him “the theory of visitors.”

“All relationships are transient,” she said. “Friends who stab you in the back. People you network with at a fancy party. Relatives who die. The love of your life. Everything is temporary. People come into your life for a limited amount of time, and then they go away. So you welcome their arrival, and you surrender to their departure. Because they are all visitors. And when the visitors go home, they might take something from you. Something that you can’t ever get back. And that part sucks. But visitors always leave souvenirs. And you get to keep those forever.”

I thought about this constantly. The visitors. The phrase popped into my head a hundred times a day. It was a little bit sad but a little bit hopeful, like all my favorite things, and it seemed to flick at the funny way people could pass through my life and then be gone forever, ephemeral as ghosts. It wasn’t revolutionary, but there was something unusually elegant about how Debby had distilled this, her theory of visitors, and even sort of spooky. It haunted me into the next night’s date. Tucked away in a corner booth at a wine bar with a guy who had followed me on Twitter (and I had thirst-followed back after looking him up on Facebook, stalking his tagged photos and determining that we had enough mutual friends that he was worth going out with), I might have looked like I was seeing him as him, but I wasn’t. I was seeing him through this new lens, the lens of the theory of visitors.

How long will you be staying with me? I wanted to ask. When will you be ready to move on? What will you leave behind for me to remember you? And what will you take with you when you go?

Read the essay

Gossip and News, Strange Bedfellows

(Jason Merritt/FilmMagic)

On a recent episode of the Longform podcast, the hosts heaped praised on Jodi Kantor and her reporting for the bombshell Harvey Weinstein exposé. The episode was released the same day the New York Times published a story reported by Kantor, Melena Ryzik, and Cara Buckley in which five women accuse comedian Louis C.K. of sexual harassment and assault, a story that had existed in a similar whisper network among female performers for years.

The praise for Kantor, and for the investigations by the Times in general, reminded some listeners of Longform’s 2016 interview with Leah Finnegan, in which she spoke about her experience as an editor at Gawker. Host Aaron Lammer questioned Finnegan about a post published by Defamer in May of 2015, about Louis C.K.’s predatory behavior.

“Part of the reason I went to Gawker was that spirit of wanting to fuck shit up, being into gossip, wanting to talk about things people didn’t necessarily want to talk about,” Finnegan tells Lammer. She cites their stories about Bill Cosby, Louis C.K., and Fred Armisen — “recurring rumors about … men who do gross things” — as examples.

There are rumors that maybe have truth to them, but the Times would not report on them, because they can’t really nail it down. But Gawker will report on them. I think that that spirit is really important, saying what no one else will say, just so it’s out there.

Lammer responds with an oddly irrelevant bit of whataboutism. “Couldn’t you also say that Donald Trump is also saying what no one else will say?” He criticizes the Gawker post as “weird and thin, even for an allegation,” describing it as “some guy said his friend was in a backstage … with Louis C.K. and he whipped out his dick and asked her to do something with it.”

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An Elegy for DNAinfo, Local Media’s First Responders

DNAinfo reporter Ben Fractenberg speaks to writers, journalists, and labor activists at a protest at City Hall. The site was shut down a week after its employees voted to unionize. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Danielle Tcholakian

If you haven’t already read about it, on the afternoon of November 2, DNAinfo New York and Chicago, as well as Gothamist and all its sister sites in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C. were shut down by their owner, billionaire Joe Ricketts, a week after 25 employees in New York voted to join a union. Ricketts had founded DNAinfo in 2009, merging it with the older, more profitable Gothamist sites this spring, shedding staff and catalyzing the union effort.

The end came quickly. One employee returned from the restroom to find that he and all of his colleagues had been fired, and the site’s archive had been removed from the internet. (The archives have since been restored after a public outcry.) Shutting Gothamist and DNAinfo meant 115 people lost their jobs that day.

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We’re Going Through Hell, and Men Need to Join Us There

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

I know what you’re thinking: Not another sexual harassment post. Bear with me.

I’ve spoken to many women over the past few weeks who feel exhausted by the current news cycle, I count myself among them: the endless onslaught of horrific stories, interspersed with the occasional, extremely bad non-apology.

I know it’s tempting to look away, and it’s fine if you have to; please take care of yourself. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad feminist. But it’s important the stories keep coming out, that the issue remains in the public discourse. It feels like we are in a moment of momentum, working our way towards something better, however clumsy, messy, and painful the process can be. It’s a little cheesy, but I keep thinking of the quote often misattributed to Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” This momentum feels like hell, and we have to keep going.

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What Makes a Disability Undesirable?

(Ton Koene / VWPics via AP Images)

Who gets to decide if a disability is bad? This is one of the fundamental questions raised by a recent STAT feature on the genetic testing of embryos, which also looks at how that decision is reached. Andrew Joseph follows two women who knowingly pursue a pregnancy with an embryo that has a mutation that would put their child at a higher risk for certain cancers. It was the only viable embryo the couple had, so if they wanted a baby they didn’t have much of a choice.

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Fats Domino’s Secret to Writing Great Songs: ‘Bein’ Lucky’

(AP Photo/Cheryl Gerber)

The legendary musician Fats Domino died today at the age of 89.

Ten years ago, Fats Domino traveled to New York City for the first time in over two decades. As Charles Young explained in a Rolling Stone piece at the time, Domino had largely stopped touring and even performing at all, playing only occasionally in his hometown of New Orleans. As shy as he was legendary, “talking to people he doesn’t know” ranked “near the top of his list of least-favorite activities.”

“Most stress of all is probably talking to strange people with notebooks,” Young wrote. When Young finally works up the nerve to take out his notebook and ask Domino “the secret of writing great songs,” the reticent musician replied, “Bein’ lucky.”

“Lucky” wasn’t how you’d describe Domino at that time, since Hurricane Katrina ruined his beloved home in New Orleans. His occasional attempts at touring hadn’t gone well and, as New Orleans Times-Picayune writer Keith Spera reported in 2007, his friends felt the octogenarian musician had grown more forgetful since the storm. Nevertheless, some of those friends rallied around Domino and coordinated the trip to New York, inviting Spera along to document it.

Spera’s piece is cobbled together from his updates from the road and, fittingly for his New Orleans audience, talks about Domino as though his reader already knows and understands him. Young’s takes a wider view for a broader audience. Both are well-worth a read for anyone looking to remember the musician who at age 21 recorded a song that was, as Young writes, “one of the first and biggest steps toward” rock and roll.

When he was twenty-one, in 1949, he recorded a song called “The Fat Man,” which he and his producer/writing partner, Dave Bartholomew, reworked from a tune called “Junker’s Blues” on the theory that singing about being fat was more commercial than singing about being a junk­ie. Antoine changed his name to “Fats,” and the song became a huge hit. It was also, strangely, not jazz. With its rollicking beat and thunderously repetitive pop sensibility, it was something else. It was, in hindsight, rock & roll, or at least one of the first and big­gest steps toward it.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

Donald Bowers / Getty Images for The Weinstein Company

Felling a man of Harvey Weinstein’s stature was undoubtedly going to create aftershocks. It must help that the actresses coming forward with accusations against him are famous, people we recognize, people we believe we love even if we don’t actually know them. It helps us to care about them and, as female crew members afraid to come forward about their own abuse told The Hollywood Reporter, it helps the actresses:

“We don’t have the power that Rose McGowan or Angelina Jolie has,” says one female below-the-liner, and others agree that it is a lot easier for a production to replace a woman on the crew than it is to lose a bankable actor or director.

The female crew members told THR they’re afraid to come forward, lest a producer deem them “a liability” or “a troublemaker.” It’s not the men who abuse that are liabilities, it’s the women who would be so inconvenient as to not shut up and take it. One crew member says what many of us know about human resources departments: “Human resources is not there for us; it’s there for the company. To protect it from a liability.” Again, here, the liability is the person who tells the truth, not the person who behaves wrongly.

Still, since the New York Times and the New Yorker published their Weinstein exposés, less famous women have revealed abuse by powerful men. Men have followed with apologies. (The best one came from Ryan Gosling, who said he was disappointed in himself for not knowing about Weinstein’s treatment of women sooner — we’ll come back to this.) Kim Masters was finally able to get an outlet to publish a piece she’d been doggedly working on for months, in which a producer on the Amazon show The Man in the High Castle came forward to report harassment by a top Amazon executive, who has since resigned.

The #MeToo campaign on social media — originally created by a black woman activist, Tarana Burke, 10 years ago and popularized in the wake of Weinstein by actress Alyssa Milano and others — brought out even more stories beyond the entertainment industry. The #MeToo campaign also seems to have been eye-opening for a lot of men. Maybe you think we should be pleased about this, but I feel more like Alexandra Petri, who wrote in the Washington Post, “I am sick of having to suffer so that a man can grow.”

I received a late-night email this week from someone who crossed a line with me 13 years ago. He wrote that he “struggled for a while tonight” with the email, which made me laugh, that he thought I should care that he “struggled” for a few hours that night, after 13 years. But of course he thought that. His whole email was about him. He wasn’t sure if he had done anything wrong, but thought maybe he had. He appeared to not remember that 10 years ago, I had written him an email of my own, telling him how his violation had hurt me. He had dismissed it then, telling me — a college student who had worked up a tremendous amount of courage to even write him that email — that I was overreacting. Hysterical woman, your feelings are incorrect. He wants forgiveness now, but can’t be bothered to go through his email and see that I told him, a decade ago, exactly what he did wrong and how it hurt me.

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