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Required Reading

  • For Gothamist, George Bodarky talks with Maria “Toofly” Castillo, a trailblazing woman graffiti artist in New York City:

I noticed that I was kind of creating an area where more women could join and feel safe because it was hard and harsh for us to grow up around a male-dominated scene that felt very tough and rough. The environments we painted in weren’t safe at times, there were dark alleys or just like dark nights. The guys liked to climb fences and get chased by dogs. I remember being underneath a train station, like these were dangerous situations where a lot of people have died. And so that completely changed when we women started to paint because we were creating safe spaces where women could come and also young people and transgenerational communities and multicultural communities.

  • “Who gets to write about gay men?” Eli Cugini digs into this thorny question for Dazed, amidst the release of shows and films like Heartstopper and Red, White & Royal Blue that feature gay men but don’t seem to be created for them as viewers:

Seeing that media cycle felt representative of how consuming stories about hyper-palatable, cute boys in love doesn’t mean that you’ve done the work to unpick more deep-seated homophobia. Plus, these shows are rarely interested in depicting homophobia as more complex than blunt, cartoonish bullying, which viewers will likely not see themselves as complicit in. It’s not hard to be against a big-eyed gay teenager being assaulted. It’s harder to oppose barbed little homophobic comments wrapped in plausible deniability.

That being said, I’m not so sure the issue consistently lies with the gender of the author. Judging from my days in the fujoshi mines (a half-pejorative Japanese term for women who are fans of gay male content), women are perfectly capable of depicting good gay sex and romance, and I probably learned half the usable gay lexicon from some 60,000-word M+-rated fanfiction monstrosity by KLAINE_GIRLY_93. Gay men are not inaccessible, mysterious creatures. As long as they’ve done some research, the worst that your given decent fanfiction writer is probably guilty of is getting a tad overexcited about the prostate, and it’s hardly like the prostate has too much good PR these days.

  • Lane Brown reports for Vulture on the rot in Rotten Tomatoes, including PR firms purchasing positive reviews and disincentivizing negative ones:

While most film-PR companies aim to get the attention of critics from top publications, Bunker 15 takes a more bottom-up approach, recruiting obscure, often self-published critics who are nevertheless part of the pool tracked by Rotten Tomatoes. In another break from standard practice, several critics say, Bunker 15 pays them $50 or more for each review. (These payments are not typically disclosed, and Rotten Tomatoes says it prohibits “reviewing brd on a financial incentive.”)

In October of that year, an employee of the company emailed a prospective reviewer about Ophelia: “It’s a Sundance film and the feeling is that it’s been treated a bit harshly by some critics (I’m sure sky-high expectations were the culprit) so the teams involved feel like it would benefit from more input from different critics.”

  • Shining a light on the ways remote work provides caregivers an opportunity to balance their responsibilities at home, Stephanie H. Murray writes for the Atlantic:

The appeal of remote work is all too often glossed over as a matter of “quality of life” or “work-life balance.” Those are, of course, important. But that framing also ignores the uncompensated caregiving that Vigil and millions of others provide for America’s young, sick, elderly, and disabled. Their efforts are not just a quality-of-life issue; they’re an enormously important and overlooked part of our economy. For a lot of caregivers, telecommuting allows them to manage a workload that is, if anything, way too big. Remote work, then, isn’t just a question of work-life balance; it’s a question of work-work balance. The traditional conception of “productivity” doesn’t account for this.

  • For Vox, journalist Prachi Gupta picks apart the anti-Black, classist, casteist logic of Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, whose obnoxious politics stem from a longer history of wealthy Indian-American support for the model minority myth:

Indian Americans like Ramaswamy, who is Hindu and Brahmin, have gained prominence within the context of this myth: In a little over a generation, Indians have emerged as the wealthiest and most educated immigrant group in the country. The story of this subcommunity’s outlier success fuels the trope Republican Georgia Rep. Rich McCormick summarized in remarks about his Indian constituents to Congress in January: “They are amongst the top producers, and they do not cause problems. They follow laws. They don’t have the problems that we see other people have … because they’re the most productive, most family-oriented, and the best of what represents American citizens.”

  • Tech writer Paris Marx blogs about generative AI art through the lens of pioneering author Ursula K. Le Guin for the Disconnect Substack:

ChatGPT cannot imagine freedom or alternatives; it can only present you with plagiarized mash-ups of the data it’s been trained on. So, if generative AI tools begin to form the foundation of creative works and even more of the other writing and visualizing we do, it will further narrow the possibilities on offer to us. Just as previous waves of digital tech were used to deskill workers and defang smaller competitors, the adoption of even more AI tools has the side effect of further disempowering workers and giving management even further control over our cultural stories.

As Le Guin continued her speech, she touched on this very point. “The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art,” she explained. “We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.” That’s exactly why billionaires in the tech industry and beyond are so interested in further curtailing how our words can be used to help fuel that resistance, which would inevitably place them in the line of fire.

  • As the strike in Hollywood continues, Linda Codega reports for Gizmodo that the Supernatural showrunner has yet to receive residual payments from Netflix, which still has the audacity to continue raising its package prices:

Just let that sink in. Supernatural, which has consistently broken into the top 10 most watched shows on Netflix (for many reasons, but one of which is certainly the incredibly massive fandom the show still enjoys), has never once benefited its creator. And if Kripke isn’t getting residuals, you can safely assume that the numerous talented writers and directors who worked on the show for a decade and a half are certainly not seeing anything either.

  • And just in time for Armory week, a reminder to be kind and only break up with your art flings in front of a painting they don’t like:

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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