MONDAY, MARCH 15, 2021
Dreamscape evokes a royal: We read several fascinating pieces of journalism over the weekend.
At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf offered this rumination on the Black Lives Matter curriculum now being taught in the Evanston, Illinois public schools.
Why have a vast range of Pacific nations had stunningly low Covid death rates? Wallace-Wells didn't exactly answer the question, but he did his usual searching work as he spelled it out:
WALLACE-WELLS (3/15/21): Take Germany. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Angela Merkel has been celebrated as a beacon of rational leadership—a technocrat with a doctorate in quantum chemistry, presiding calmly over an unprecedented crisis, with a citizenry often stereotyped as compliant, orderly, respectful of science. To judge by death, Germany has indeed outperformed the U.S., with fewer than 900 per million citizens, compared to our more than 1,600. But New Zealand, to pick one counterexample, has registered just over five per million. That is, for every Kiwi per million who died, so did 162 Germans. And 298 Americans.
New Zealand has natural advantages—it’s small, it’s an island, it’s got national health care; when the disease arrived and containment mattered most, it happened to be summer; there’s an inspiring prime minister, and social trust is high...Nearby Australia is a much larger nation, with a divisive media powered by Rupert Murdoch, and a Trump- or at least Boris-like leader. It has bigger airports and plenty of A/C. You might expect Australia to look a lot more like the U.S. or U.K. But its death rate is under 36 per million—less than one-50th the American rate...
...In Taiwan, the death rate is a minuscule 0.42 per million. The European Union performed, on average, 3,000 times worse...[W]hat is most startling across East and Southeast Asia—an incredibly heterogeneous region, with wealthy nations and poor ones, democracies and authoritarian regimes, national health-care systems and patchwork networks—is just how consistent the story is.
What explains this astounding regional mortality gap? If we've read him correctly on first glance, Wallace-Wells seems to say that nobody knows.
We've been struck by the near-total lack of interest in this question at the major news organs of Our Town. Also, needless to say, on Our Town's entertainment- and profit-based corporate "cable news" channels, where we the viewers are rarely taxed with matters like this at all.
We read other fascinating material this weekend. The New York Times Book Review featured one of the most scathing reviews we've ever read. Its account of the relentlessly doctored facts in the book being reviewed made us think of—what else?—the Rachel Maddow Show
We chuckled when we read this piece in yesterday's Times. We'll probably discuss it later.
There was a lot to read this weekend. We were very happy this morning when we got the Oscar news at Slate:
Promising Young Woman has been nominated for five major Oscars—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing. As we read about the film's success, we found ourselves thinking about Prince Harry.
Citizens, here's why:
Slate's Dan Kois delivered an instant warning about Promising Young Woman. "Emerald Fennell’s revenge drama has its detractors, including Dana Stevens here in Slate," the gentleman quickly wrote. Here's the fuller passage:
KOIS (3/15/21): Oh this is an interesting one. Emerald Fennell’s revenge drama has its detractors, including Dana Stevens here in Slate, who writes that the film’s message is so muddied as to be made imperceptible by Fennell’s attempts to portray its heroine as both an avenging angel and a dangerously driven revenge junkie. They might argue it’s Actually Bad. I’d suggest that, despite its flaws, it offers many viewers the kind of grim catharsis they want out of such a story. Like [several] previous nominees..., it’s not Actually Bad but Worth Arguing About. Every collection of Best Picture nominees should have one of these!
We don't think we've ever seen a major critic misunderstand a major film to the extent that Stevens misunderstands Promising Young Woman. Deferring to the dignity of his colleague, Kois throws Emerald Fennell a bit of a left-handed bone:
Promising Young Woman isn't "actually bad," he generously tells us.
In our view, Promising Young Woman isn't a "revenge drama" in the way Stevens and Kois imagine. It's a dreamscape about a person who's fully aware of a great moral outrage—a person who's also able to see that no one else gives a flying fark about the outrage in question.
Fennell's protagonist is able to see that no one else actually cares. In our view, the film is a bit of an inner dreamscape building upon that key point.
You'll note that Promising Young Woman wasn't nominated for Best Documentary. Nor is it a "how to do it" "rape revenge" film. In our view, it's a jangled portrait of our own highly performative, wildly uncaring age.
(People who don't actually care—except perhaps about their careers—may have trouble seeing the film this way.)
In a way, Promising Young Woman could be distantly compared to Chinatown, in which the Nicholson character becomes the only person in Los Angeles who knows about the outrageous misuse of the region's water supply. Also, the Dunaway character.
Today, though, we thought of Prince Harry as we celebrated the film's nominations. Here's why:
In the dramascapes of the past several decades, Harry has been presented as the royal who most deeply cared about the vast mistreatment directed at his late mother. If that's actually true of Harry, we'll say this:
Extremely good for him!
Like Fennell's character, he's been portrayed as caring about an injustice in a way others just don't. That makes some of the conduct described in the Oprah interview especially hard to fathom.
More on that as the week proceeds, but we loved Promising Young Woman. It strikes us as a painfully accurate dreamscape portrait of our false, faux, performative age.
Still coming this week: Rachel Maddow on General Flynn. Rachel on Manchin's racism...