Inside the social media factory created by former Huffington Post cofounder Jonah Peretti—how they’ve cracked viral content, invested in original content, and made money:
“At around 5 p.m., Stopera published ’48 Pictures That Perfectly Capture the ’90s’ on BuzzFeed. ‘These pictures are all that and a bag of chips!’ he wrote at the top of the list. A BuzzFeed visitor with an appetite for ’90s nostalgia could scroll down, gawk at the 48 retro images, read the deadpan captions, recall Bob Saget, Tipper Gore, and Scottie Pippen, laugh at the crazy fashion, and resurface to the present day in a matter of minutes. It racked up 1.2 million page views.”
Lena Waithe, the writer and actor who stars as Denise in Netflix’s Master of None, is arguably the sitcom’s biggest breakthrough star. While a lot of media attention has been focused on her co-stars Aziz Ansari, Eric Wareheim, and Alan Yang, who are all fantastic in the brilliant and sometimes flawed series, it’s Waithe who provides the show with an emotional core and comedic stability.
Cashawn Thompson created the hashtag #BlackGirlsAreMagic on Twitter in 2013 to draw attention to the accomplishments and resilience of black women in the public eye like Michelle Obama. With T-shirts, tote bags, videos, and news headlines, #BlackGirlMagic soon went viral. Like “(To Be) Young, Gifted, and Black,” a song written by Nina Simone, and “Black Lives Matter,” the affirmation “Black Girls Are Magic” creates positive associations with blackness and reconstitutes its possibilities. “Say it loud!” James Brown sang in his 1968 song “I’m Black and I’m Proud.” In other words, let us not cower — let us like ourselves.
Affirmations like #BlackGirlMagic are important corrective tools, especially now, with a president in office who weaponizes language to stir up policies that are hurtful for communities of color. Still, I worry that a focus on black women’s extraordinariness obscures the unfairness of what we overcome. I wonder if, along with a litany of archetypes that have lingered in the public imagination, #BlackGirlMagic fortifies an idea that black women can endure anything, that we don’t need protecting.
Silicon Valley loves to disrupt industries by inventing things that already exist. Remember when Lyft invented buses? Good times. And just recently, the exec in charge of Apple retail announced that instead of “stores” their… stores… are now referred to as “town squares.”
Well, two tech bros are here with a new disruption to… the bodega industry. (I know, hold on, we’ll come back to this.) It’s so innovative, so fresh, so new, they named it…
They literally named it after the thing they’re aiming to “make obsolete.”
But wait, it gets better.
Per Fast Company:
Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card.
It’s not even a bodega. It’s a vending machine.
These jabronis even have the audacity to make their logo a cat, a tribute to the omnipresent bodega cats they’re seeking to make homeless.
And of course because 90 percent of Twitter users are journalists and 90 percent of journalists live in New York City (these are not real statistics, don’t @ me), Twitter was not having Bodega™.
(Credit to Kelly Conaboy, a genius, for inspiring the headline for this blog post.)
(Desus is an actual “Bodega Boy,” so he’s basically an expert on this controversial issue.)
Of course, there were people who weren’t on board with what one friend described as “a lot of fairly well-off people virtue-signaling in ways that don’t match up with being virtuous.”
Several people pointed out that not having humans actually took away one of the most valuable things about bodegas.
A friend told me about a bodega that served as an answering service for a local politician. If you wanted to speak to him, you called the bodega, left a message, and he’d call you back within minutes.
As a native New Yorker, I can attest that all of these things are true. Bodegas are part of the fabric of New York. I grew up next to Penn Station, which is an aggressively ungentrifiable handful of blocks where, while walking home from our school bus stop, I would regularly yank my little brother out of the way of men getting literally thrown out of a “bikini bar.” (That bikini bar is now a Taco Bell, for what that’s worth.)
Our local bodega guy, Hassan, still recognizes me when I come by, and asks me when I’m going to buy a condo in Greenpoint. (“I don’t have that bodega money, Hassan!” I regularly shout back, and we both have a laugh at my terrible career choices and life decisions.) He’s had that bodega since my parents moved into the apartment with me as a newborn, and he would bring them all of the change in the register every New Year’s to contribute to a savings account for me. (I have not seen this money, for the record.) He’s walked me to my building door when I’ve been spooked by someone on the street, or followed home from the bus, or otherwise scared or skittish. He’s delivered milk or cereal or whatever else we needed when my dad was away on business and my mom was cooped up with a small child and morning sickness.
But none of that stuff really matters because the important thing is this start-up is an extremely bad idea. Eater editor Helen Rosner has a great thread on Twitter explaining exactly why creating a vending machine business without a heavy emphasis on logistics (in particular, the actual humans who will stock these “pantry boxes”) is a short path to bankruptcy.
Which brings us to an interesting point.
Sure, it’s easy enough to hate these two tone-deaf tech bros, one of whom said he’s “not particularly concerned about” the business name seeming culturally insensitive. But what about the venture capitalists who encouraged this project?
According to Fast Company, they are “Josh Kopelman at First Round Capital, Kirsten Green at Forerunner Ventures, and Hunter Walk at Homebrew.” Walk, in particular, is an interesting backer, since his Twitter persona tends to be “woke VC.” As one friend summed it up for me: “Bodega™ is the symptom, Venture Capital is the disease.”
Anyway, I can’t see this venture posing an actual threat to bodegas in the places where they’re loved and used. Even the photos Bodega™ provided to Fast Company suggest they’re going to be nothing more than vending machines in the lobbies of WeWork branches and ill-placed condo buildings.
Further Reading (or Listening or Watching):
- “Bodega Cats in Their Own Words” (a WNYC series)
- “A Day at the Bodega” (Maria Hinojosa, Latino USA, February 2015)
- “The App Around the Corner” (Peter Moskowitz, The New Republic, November 2015)
- “There’s Blood in the Water in Silicon Valley” (Ben Smith, BuzzFeed News, September 2017)
- “Inside the All-American Yemeni Bodega Strike” (Amos Barshad, The Fader, February 2017)
- “Corner Store Situation” (Action Bronson, Munchies, March 2017)
This week, we’re sharing stories from Rana Dasgupta, Whitney Joiner, Jesse Barron, Kiese Laymon, and David Roth.
In an essay rich with lyricism and brutal honesty, Kiese Laymon tells the story of his early years teaching at an elite liberal arts college in New York. When a new friend is arrested on a parole violation, the author learns to see class differences and power dynamics in a new way.
Brown, the first person I met in Poughkeepsie, was a felon because he was black, scared, desperate, and guilty. I was black, scared, desperate, and guilty but I came from folks with a bit more money than Brown. Though I wasn’t the grandchild of grandparents who passed money or land down to my parents, I was a child of what folks called “the black middle class.” My mama was one paycheck away from asking Grandmama or me for money neither of us had the week before payday.
There was no wealth in my family of black middle class women. There were only paydays.
I knew that my student Cole, a dealer of everything from weed to cocaine, could be a college graduate, college professor, college trustee in spite of being scared, desperate, and guilty because he was a white child of wealthy parents. Cole could literally become president of all kinds of American things, or president of nothing. Either way, he’d be fine. He wouldn’t be free, but materially, Cole would never suffer.
Say goodbye to those red sidewalk boxes — and a slice of American literary greatness. Since 1955, the Village Voice has been a ubiquitous part of New York City culture. In a half century it was transformed from a counterculture rag to a longform powerhouse rooted in the character and the color of the city.
This week, the current owners of the Voice announced the end of the era: The free print edition of the paper is finished. Once available on every street corner, it will now be online only. In their write-up for The New York Times, John Leland and Sarah Maslin Nir mourn the paper’s once inescapable presence: “Without it, if you are a New Yorker of a certain age, chances are you would have never found your first apartment. Never discovered your favorite punk band, spouted your first post-Structuralist literary jargon, bought that unfortunate futon sofa, discovered Sam Shepard or charted the perfidies of New York’s elected officials.”
The Village Voice was the first paper you grabbed on the way to the subway, the last thing you grabbed at night for the long ride home. It redefined the alt-weekly and introduced readers to a new kind of journalist and critic. If the Voice was the first place you were published, then you were on the way to a brilliant career. Here are some of our favorite moments of brilliance.
I don’t remember when Joss Whedon went from being a garden-variety household name to being someone I refer to on a first-name basis. I quote Joss, I verb Joss, I adjective Joss. As a woman who was once a teenage girl who grew up with Buffy, I’ve internalized more than my fair share of lessons from Our Lady of Buffdom. For the better part of twenty years, I’ve known Joss Whedon as the creator of a feminist hero.
For the better part of the same twenty years, Kai Cole knew Joss Whedon as her partner and husband. He was just Joss to her, too — far more intimately Joss than to any of his first-name-basis-ing fans.
This weekend, Cole wrote about her divorce with Joss in a post on The Wrap. She writes about how, on their honeymoon in England in 1995, she encouraged him to turn his script for Buffy the Vampire Slayer — which had just been misinterpreted as a film — into a television show. Joss apparently hadn’t wanted to work in television anymore. I repeat: As of 1995, Joss Whedon “didn’t want to work in television anymore.”
Yet on March 10, 1997 — two years after their honeymoon — Buffy aired on The WB.
According to Cole’s post, Joss had his first affair on the set of Buffy, and continued to have affairs in secret for fifteen years. I believe Cole. I believe that when she quotes Joss in her post, she is quoting him verbatim. I’ve quoted him verbatim, too.
(Or have I? I wonder, knowing more now than I did then about writers rooms, whether every line I attribute to episodes credited as “Written by Joss Whedon” were, in fact, written by Joss Whedon. Every time Jane Espenson tweets credit for specific lines to specific writers on Once Upon a Time — or retroactively to Buffy quotes — I wonder. Every time I watch UnREAL, a show co-created by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and Marti Noxon that sends up how often women are discredited in television, I wonder. I don’t doubt that Joss was responsible for the vast majority of what I’d call classic Joss dialogue. I’ll just never know which lines weren’t actually his.)
After I saw Joss Whedon trending and read Cole’s post, I scrolled through other longtime fans’ and non-fans’ reactions on Twitter. Many were not surprised. I texted friends about my own lack of surprise, punctuated with single-tear emojis: “I almost can’t even call it disappointed. As though it would be actually inhuman to expect something else.”
Cole quotes a letter Joss wrote to her when their marriage was falling apart, when he was “done with” lying to her about the truth of his affairs. He invokes the inhuman in his confession, too — or, as is so often the case with Joss, the superhuman: “When I was running ‘Buffy,’ I was surrounded by beautiful, needy, aggressive women. It felt like I had a disease, like something from a Greek myth. Suddenly I am a powerful producer and the world is laid out at my feet and I can’t touch it.”
Was it superhuman for Cole to expect her husband to resist that kind of power? Would Joss have been running Buffy, if he hadn’t married Cole? “I was a powerful influence on the career choices Joss made during the 20 years we were together,” Cole writes. “I kept him grounded, and helped him find the quickest way to the success he so deeply craved. I loved him. And in return, he lied to me.”
As Marianne Eloise notes below in Dazed, it remains to be seen whether Cole’s letter will impact Joss’s career, most notably as director of the upcoming Batgirl. In the meantime, his fans are left to resolve tense, charged questions, none of which have easy answers: How do we come to personal decisions about whether or not we can separate the art from the artist? Will consequences come in the form of a public fall from feminist grace, or cost Joss professional opportunities he’s been enjoying for decades as a self-proclaimed feminist artist? Do feminists, male or female, need to be perfect to count?
In “Lie to Me” — Season 2 Episode 7, “Written by Joss Whedon” — Angel asks Buffy if she loves him. Buffy answers, “I love you. I don’t know if I trust you.” For fans and collaborators who are working through hard questions about love and the loss of trust this week, here is some guided reading on feminism, fandom, and fidelity for Whedonverse enthusiasts:
This weekend’s events in Charlottesville will resonate long after the crowd was dispersed, long after the cable news trucks leave, long after the school year begins—new students are scheduled to arrive on the University of Virginia campus on Friday. The confrontation — and the resulting deaths of three people, two national guard pilots who were killed in an accident, and counter-protestor Heather Heyer, who was killed in a deliberate act of domestic terrorism — is neither the beginning nor the end of an ongoing resurgence of white supremacy. What was once discussed in closed online forums is now on the streets, armed—as Virginia Governor Terry Mcauliffe described —with more firepower than the Virginia National Guard. “Emboldened” is the word that’s been used by politicians and the media to describe the relationship between white nationalists and Donald Trump’s rhetoric. “Blame” is what the word should be.
Here is our reading list of features from the past two years that trace the disturbing path of how we got to Charlottesville. Read more…