This one’s on time!
First, today, we have three full-length Silly Takes, all published on August 25th, when the stars apparently aligned and Writers of Takes from across the political spectrum felt a dark compulsion to opine wildly about pop culture. Finally, our Silliest Take this week is one of my favorites: short, sweet, and perfect.
Creepy, Condescending, and Churlish
Kyle Smith, “Miley Cyrus Grows Up,” National Review Online, 8/25/2017
Kyle Smith is the “critic-at-large” for National Review Online, and writes for some other places, too. Most recently, you might be familiar with an astonishing piece he wrote called “If You Like Art, Don’t Take the Bechdel Test” which truly had to be seen to be believed. I am eternally sad that it landed during a week when I didn’t have time to write a proper Silliest Take of the Week post.
Here, he has deployed his august pen to write about why it’s great that Miley Cyrus isn’t being quite so political any more, and how it’s also great that she’s not smoking as much weed as she used to. Consider the following:
“Now Cyrus, still only 24, is rethinking the marketability of pop-star agitation and activism. When people buy bubble gum, they rarely ask for broccoli flavor. . . . Like Cincinnatus returning to his plow, Cyrus has reverted to her farm-girl persona and heartland-friendly music, although instead of laying down her sword, she has put aside her nipple pasties and bong.”
“Like Cincinnatus returning to his plow,” or, “LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME I STUDIED CLASSICS IN COLLEGE”
Most of the piece consists of Smith describing Cyrus’ previous performances in a tone of mild, superior shock, the way a Dickens villain might describe the antics of a consumption-riddled drunk he struck with his carriage on the way to a party:
“Cyrus is doing a bootlegger’s turn away from [Katy] Perry’s path. Since 2013, when she made a regrettable appearance on the MTV Video Music Awards to annihilate her endearingly cute image in favor of a flesh-colored PVC bikini while executing a raunchy dance move the world learned was called “twerking,” Cyrus has been presenting an upraised middle finger to conventional tastes.”
“[A] raunchy dance move the world learned was called ‘twerking'” is the whitest sentence ever committed to digital ink.
The conclusion to Smith’s piece is that now that Cyrus is returning to a slightly less ridiculous and politicized oeuvre, the shrewish harpies on the Left are mad at her, but that’s okay, because who cares what they think:
“An alarmed headline in The New Yorker ran, ‘Miley Cyrus’s Creepy Return to Wholesomeness.’ Fortunately for her, only a small minority of her audience consists of woke feminist magazine writers. Most of the rest of us don’t think it’s creepy to be wholesome.”
I hate to break this to you, Kyle, but I’m pretty sure that obnoxious conservative theater critics also constitute a relatively small minority of Miley Cyrus’ audience, so your opinion is unlikely to have much effect on her behavior.
Theme and Variations
Erin Keane, “Taylor Swift can’t break the internet anymore because we’re already broken,” and Gabriel Bell, “‘Black Mirror’ is coming back, but do we even need it?“, both for Salon, both 8/25/2017 (11:04 AM and 11:07 AM CT, respectively).
The thesis of both of these takes is the same: some piece of media that would otherwise have made the Writers of Takes froth at the mouth in anticipation is no longer froth-worthy, because Trump.
“Time was I would have stayed up Thursday night until Taylor Swift dropped her new single. Then, I would have gathered my first thought/best thought about Taylor and the Kardashian West Feud and banged out 500 words immediately on What It All Means: the pop star as painfully obvious cultural ouroboros, perhaps, with an articulated wince at that one Charlotte Russe-level Sylvia Plath knockoff line.”
“Today, Netflix released the first teaser trailer and show details about the upcoming fourth season of the satirical, often harrowing dystopian British television show “Black Mirror”. . . . But, as many will no doubt ask over white wine at house parties across the globe, do we even this?” [sic]
Both writers lament that in a world where Donald Trump is doing Trump things, it’s harder to enjoy pop culture, whether that’s delicious pop star drama or sharp science fiction about the dangers of the modern world.
From the T-Swift article:
“Suddenly, ideas of who Swift will take to the VMAs for her moment of Crystal Light triumph pulls a very distant second to the sinister meaning of the image of Linton and Mnuchin, on a taxpayer-funded trip to discuss tax reform, standing on a pile of gold to watch Monday’s eclipse.”
From the Black Mirror article:
“Now — as you have said, as we all have said — we live with those monsters every day. As relevant as a fourth season of “Black Mirror” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” may be, they run the risk of becoming rote, of simply contributing to the echo chamber of misery and fear that is our Facebook feeds, our off-hours conversation and cable news. What once was revelatory is now no different, and quite a bit more prosaic, than a White House press briefing.”
My favorite part, though, is when the T-Swift article says this:
“Don’t we deserve a frothy treat in the middle of a “Black Mirror” episode we can’t escape?”
Neither of these takes is immensely silly on its own, but put the two together and something wonderful happens. Salon somehow thought it made sense to post two takes about why Trump makes it harder to enjoy pop culture, both of which directly reference that life is now like an episode of Black Mirror, and it posted these takes within three minutes of each other. That’s commitment to Consistency in Take Silliness, and it deserves to be recognized.
The Silliest Take of the Week: 8/20/2017-8/26/2017:
Some Poor GOP Social Media Intern, “What do the Legend of Zelda and the American Tax Code Have in Common?” GOP.gov, 8/23/2017
The best Silly Takes often aren’t very long. Some of the Silliest Takes are tweet-sized, somehow managing to fit an entire universe of preposterousness into <140 characters. Length, you see, often cures a Take of complete Silliness — the more time an author has to put into an article, the more likely they are to realize that their thesis is fundamentally ridiculous. The Silliest Takes are dashed out in 20 minutes and hurled out the door at lightspeed, before anyone can really take a look at them and realize that they’re completely inside out.
The Republican Party is currently trying to sell the American public on a system of tax reform. That’s fine — the Silliest Take of the Week Project is agnostic on tax policy. But rather than attempt to lay out a concrete argument for why our tax code is out of date or otherwise in need of reform, on August 23rd, they did something magical:
“The Legend of Zelda series is among Nintendo’s best-selling video game franchises enjoyed by more than two generations of gamers. The action-adventure game was released in 1986, only one year after Nintendo was released in North America.
And you know what else was released in 1986? Yeah, you do. The last major reform to the American tax code was signed into law in 1986.
It’s been 31 years, and our current code is far beyond repair.”
This is the most amazingly, transparently, “how do you do, fellow kids” thing I have ever seen. This is only a fraction of a step above asking your fellow human teens to hang out at the colossal pillar of wasp eggs. Youth pastors everywhere shook their heads at this for being too uncool. Every otherwise Republican-leaning gamer who read this immediately purchased a copy of The Communist Manifesto.
The best part? they didn’t even get the facts right the first time. Per Ars Technica, the post initially read:
“The Legend of Zelda series is Nintendo’s best-selling video game franchise enjoyed by more than two generations of gamers. The action-adventure game was released in 1986, only one year after Nintendo’s founding in 1985.”
Which is great, because Nintendo was founded in 1889, not 1985, and The Legend of Zelda is not Nintendo’s “best-selling” franchise, thanks to, you know, Mario.
Other Takes are longer, and some might make more dubious claims, but nothing is Sillier than a transparent videogames-to-tax-policy juke that can’t even be bothered to learn when Nintendo was founded. Hats off to you, Anonymous Overworked GOP Social Media Intern.
That’s it for this week! Feel free to e-mail me with the silliest takes you find over the course of the next week, over at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe out there!