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Discourse Blog Birthday Week

The Year In Discourse Blog: Culture

Including special unlocked posts from behind our paywall!

It’s our big Birthday Week, so we’re compiling some of our best posts over the first year (!) of our existence. Today, we’re highlighting some of our favorite stories about the crazed cultural landscape over the past 12 months. And to mark the occasion, we’ve taken down the paywall from an exclusive collection of posts that were previously available only to our paid subscribers. They’re now free for all of you to read! (Look for the words “UNLOCKED” in the headlines.)


The Year In Discourse Blog: Features and Essays

We’re delighted to have made it to a year, but we need your help to get us to our second birthday! If you appreciate the work in this post, please consider becoming a paid subscriber so we can do even more of it. Subscriptions start at just $8 a month.

OK, here we go!

‘Terrace House Is Falling Down,’ by Samantha Grasso

But the attacks lobbed by Terrace House viewers may just be a symptom of a larger problem plaguing the show — that the series’ illusion of being beautifully, perfectly “mundane” was predicated on a deceitful production that willfully misled audiences with a charming, funny panel of commentators and manipulated cast members, Hana included. Terrace House’s veneer of authenticity lulled fans into thinking they were watching something shiny and special and wholesome.

‘Leave the Moon Alone,’ by Caitlin Schneider (UNLOCKED)

I’m happy for the hardworking scientists, their discovery, and the moon, I really am. I just wish Manifest Destiny wasn’t here to piss on its humble dust. 

‘Cancel Sports,’ by Paul Blest

It’s not far-fetched to say the immediate action leagues took to shut down then helped encourage people all over the country to take this seriously, at least until their dumbfuck governors began reopening everything at the encouragement of their dumbfuck president.

‘The Winner Is SNL, the Loser Is All of Us,’ by Jack Crosbie (UNLOCKED)

Everyone, including Biden and Harris themselves, will be in on the fun. Trump will be gone, the status quo will be back, and things will be good again. Everyone will be happy. The system of power that elected Donald Trump and inflicted centuries of indignities on various groups of American citizens will have righted itself, with a steady hand at the wheel, ready to churn on unchanged for 200 more Saturday nights to come.

‘Pandemic Life: I Got Very Into Tennis,’ by Paul Blest

I didn’t think about tennis again for approximately nine years until this past fall, when I started playing with a few friends every weekend at a park near where I live. Much to my surprise, I took to it pretty much almost immediately.

‘You’ve Been Watching Army Propaganda This Whole Time,’ by Samantha Grasso

I think it would be easy to look at The Challenge and the U.S. Army slapping on a few logos across the show’s tools, and rationalizing it as a low-stakes recruiting investment—which it surely was. But the fact that such a niche show received sponsorship funds from the U.S. Army during a time when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were wearing down the American public speaks to just how pervasive and widespread the military’s influence and expansion of empire really are. It’s also an entry point for understanding how saturated our entertainment industry is with U.S. military influence. Even a show as inconsequential as The Challenge gets an entire season of Army sponsorship for “air dropped” food rations, to help facilitate a game show. 

‘The Hyperloop’s Only Destination is a Capitalist Hellscape,’ by Jack Crosbie

Hyperloop is, in this context, the perfect example of the end-state death-cult capitalism that the American ruling class believes in. Virgin Hyperloop has raised some $400 million so far according to the New York Times story on the test, which is half just a press release and then two interviews with experts saying “this shit won’t work, why are they doing this.” $400 million is a drop in the bucket compared to what it would cost to build an actual functioning high-speed rail network across the country.

Music Repeats Some of Hollywood’s Biggest Sins,’ by Caitlin Schneider

Before I proceed to rip this movie to shreds in detail, I feel it necessary to say that I generally don’t think it’s all that interesting to dissect a piece of art that’s this egregiously awful. But Music made itself a worthy target of discussion when it held up an autistic caricature as its emotional center and then set her aside. I can affirm that Music is all the things that critics have said: it’s offensive, harmful, cringeworthy, and tone-deaf in its portrayal of autism. It’s also just an unbelievably bad movie. 

‘A Very Detailed Blog About the Politics of Fall Out Boy,’ by Samantha Grasso (UNLOCKED)

Every few years, the internet remembers, or learns, that Vice President Joe Biden is responsible for the existence of Fall Out Boy, by way of being responsible for the existence of the band’s bassist and lyricist Pete Wentz. This is not new information to me, but I am always pleasantly (?) surprised when this bit of trivia makes the rounds again. Not because it is interesting — it is, but a kind of interesting that’s less inspiring and more questionable — but because I first learned this information somewhere around the 2008 presidential election, the same date that Fall Out Boy’s fourth album Folie à Deux was supposed to drop. I think the reason this information, and the album rollout I’m about to delve into, has taken up so much real estate in my mind and bothers me enough to revisit it is because it was such a weird culture flashpoint, and helped shape my understanding of politics at the time.

Images: Netflix/Samantha Grasso;  White House/Wikimedia Commonspetewentz/TwitterTyler Curtis/Wikimedia Commons; Screenshot via FriendsOrEnemies/YouTube; Remix by Samantha Grasso; NASA/Caitlin Schneider; Shinya Suzuki/Flickr