Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Harry Styles Finally Talks About Taylor Swift. But Why?

In a recent interview with Rolling Stones magazine, Harry Styles finally agreed to say something about his brief 2012 relationship with Taylor Swift. He said that he was aware that people thought at least two Taylor Swift songs (Style and Out Of The Woods) may have been about him, and he thought they were great songs. He also said some other trivial things.

But my question is: why now?

Harry Styles has been quite silent about this relationship all these years, and so has Taylor Swift. There was quite a lot of popular interest, but neither of them would answer any questions. However, by now, everyone has moved on, and I don't think anybody wants to hear about what happened in 2012 anymore.

I suspect it is not just a coincidence that this comes at the same time as the launch of Harry's solo career. Is he trying to grab attention? If that's the case, then I think he did the wrong thing. His first single is already doing pretty well, hitting #1 in the charts. He really doesn't need this. I fear that it would be seen by many as a cheap stunt.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Did Lena Dunham and Girls turn Conservative? Only if Reality itself is Conservative!

(Warning: spoilers below)

Recently, one of this decade's most controversial TV series, Girls, came to an end after six seasons. The ending, predictably, was controversial. But this time, the controversy was different. While Girls has generally been well received by progressives and young feminists,
it is among this crowd that its ending has been most controversially received.

You see, Hannah (played by Lena Dunham) ended up having a baby, and effectively 'settled down' as a mother. Which is probably not what most Girls fans would have expected or wanted. They expected Hannah to get an abortion. They thought Hannah would be forever single-ish, never to be tied down, and forever continuing her 'exciting' life in Brooklyn. Being a mother and living in upstate New York? That's so not Hannah.

But then, this is probably how reality works. The kind of people who live the Girls kind of life tend to get tired of it after a while.

I have always suspected that college students and recent graduates were the bulk of Girls fans. They look in awe at Hannah and her friends, and think that this is 'the life' that they want. But in reality, it is a life of insecurity and dissatisfaction. In reality, most people don't do well in a life of unstable relationships and unclear career direction. It is the perfect recipe for a Quarter Life Crisis. (After which most people simply change direction and leave that life behind.)

So while the college crowd decries that Lena Dunham and Girls have gone conservative, for anyone with a bit of life experience, they wouldn't see it that way. They would just see that Hannah's story has quite a good ending, probably almost too good to be true.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I May Not Agree with Jenna Bush Hager and Ann Coulter, but I Stand With Them. Let Me Explain.

This is a weird thing to write, for someone like me. But then, the times have changed so much in just a few years. Nothing should be weird anymore.

Recently, Jenna Bush Hager's suggestion that her father, former president George W. Bush, is a feminist was met with controversy. Jenna said that her father taught her and her sister that they could be whatever they wanted to be, and that their parents taught them to be independent thinkers. But some of my feminist friends instead insist that President Bush's policies were anti-women, and he can never be considered a feminist.

While Jenna probably thinks that her father is a great president, I have to say I strongly disagree. Bush Jr. was probably my least favorite US president of all time, to be honest. However, on the aforementioned controversy, I stand with Jenna Bush Hager. While the Iraq War and the staunch opposition to marriage equality were both very horrible policies, there was nothing in the Bush administration that was particularly anti-woman. And no, his pro-life policies don't count there. While most feminists are pro-choice, plenty of women are pro-life too, so you can't fault Bush just for that. Even when you strongly dislike someone, you need to be fair with them. It's something that the New (post-Trump?) Left often forget to abide by.

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley has been forced to cancel a visit by Ann Coulter, invited by the college Republicans. The university said that they were unable to find a safe and suitable venue, due to ongoing security threats. Ann Coulter has said she will still attend, because she cannot be silenced. This comes just two months or so after protesters caused chaos at the university during a visit by another right wing speaker. It seems that, even at the home of the Free Speech Movement, free speech is no longer safe.

Ann Coulter is one of my least favorite authors of all time. I have read quite a bit of her stuff, and to be honest, I think most of it is ridiculous. But as for her point that she cannot be silenced, I stand with her there. Right now, there is a dangerous increase in those who want to limit free speech, to silence their opponents via whatever means possible. To defend free speech, we all need to speak up, no matter where we stand on the political spectrum. I probably don't want to hear what Ann Coulter has to say, but I strongly believe it is important that she exercises her right to say it.

I never thought I would side with Ann Coulter on anything, but in a world where free speech is in danger of extinction, even enemies have to become allies sometimes.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lorde tells media People Don't Recognise Her. But maybe they're just Not That Into Her?

Lorde has recently told New York Times Magazine that, in her time living in New York, she has found that people just don't recognise her a lot of the time.

But I have another 'theory'. What if people do recognise her, but just don't go up and say hi (or say they want their photo taken, or whatever)? New York City (or any other city for that matter) is not a giant Lorde concert where everyone must be a fan of Lorde. I mean, if I saw Lorde somewhere, I would just leave her alone. It would be differnt if I saw Taylor Swift instead, but I just don't find Lorde that interesting (no offense, but people do see things differently). I am not particularly into her music, and don't know much about her otherwise. Why would I want to talk to her, a complete stranger?

I guess being a 'celebrity' and all that would make some people think that everyone wants to talk to them. But celebrity is usually the result of extensive media promotion nowadays, and being taught about someone's existence doesn't mean one would have any further interest in said person. I would think that most people who have been taught to recognise Lorde (or any other celebrity) by the media wouldn't suddenly want to talk to them as a result.

Maybe it's time that celebrities stop thinking and behaving like the world revolves around them. It's for their own sanity's sake.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ivanka Trump will Advocate for the Economic Empowerment of Women - and There's Controversy Again!

In a recent interview on CBS This Morning, Ivanka Trump said that she would advocate for the economic empowerment women in her role in her father's administration. But it was the fact that she also said that she believed most people would not actually know about her impact that has caused much controversy.

Some have interpreted this comment as making her whole 'offer' insincere. They reason that, if they can't see the results and link it to her work and advocacy, how can they know she's not just paying lip service? After all, Ivanka is quite unpopular among some sections of the community, with a recent poll of young American women giving her an over 50% disapproval rating. Others have pointed out that Ivanka offering to work behind the scenes for no recognition continues the long-standing tradition of women doing all the hard work and men getting all the recognition, and is therefore un-feminist.

But I think they have all missed an important point. In politics, it is often the invisible, behind the scenes work that is most important for outcomes, especially in the longer run. Every successful policy is usually the work of intense behind the scenes lobbying, often for a decade or more. Many progressive young people who don't understand this point want their 'activists' to stand in front of the whole country and bravely declare their undying support for a certain cause. They don't understand that this approach is often counter-productive, except for said activist's own publicity. Therefore, they end up loving insincere, publicity-seeking so-called activists.

As I previously said, I am not particularly a fan of Ivanka, and I believe we are on opposite sides of the political divide by American standards (perhaps not by Swedish standards, but that's irrelevant). But her promise to work behind the scenes for long-term outcomes sounds good. Because this is the only way things ever get done.

Friday, April 14, 2017

How We Can Respect Survivor USA's Zeke Smith From Here

The outing of Survivor USA's Zeke Smith as transgender has hit news headlines everywhere. As I understand it, this was an involuntary outing. As I understand it, Zeke wanted to be known for his game rather than for being the first trans contestant of Survivor.

And that's a perfectly valid wish we should all respect.

But can we still honour that wish, now that his story is all over the media? I think we actually can. Don't think of him as a 'trans contestant'. Just think of him like any other person, when you watch the show.

I mean, if you knew that a contestant was gay, would he suddenly have to become the 'gay contestant'? (That would actually be bigotry.) Or if you knew that a contestant liked to play football, would he suddenly have to become the 'footballer contestant'? (That would actually be stupid.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why I'm Happy that Chelsea Clinton isn't Running for President yet

Recent news that Chelsea Clinton has indicated she won't be running for president has devastated some of my friends. I mean, some of them were seeing her as a 'last hope', or at least someone to rally around in the Trump era.

But the reality is, Chelsea is still very young, and probably isn't ready to be president anytime soon anyway. The presidency is a job for people with experience, and it probably isn't something people should think about aiming for when they don't have enough experience yet. Experience make great presidents. Or should I say, experience does not always mean great presidents, but great presidents do require a fair bit of experience.

I am also optimistic that, by the time Chelsea Clinton is ready to run for president, a lot would have changed in between. The Trump era doesn't last forever, you know. Other great leaders would have emerged in the meanwhile, perhaps including America's first female president. If Chelsea gets entangled in the issues of right now, she may be seen as tired, old voice by then, having (inevitably) shifted her positions several times to adapt to changing circumstances. Therefore, I also think her decision to stay out of the 'trouble' for now is a wise one.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Why I'm not as Devastated as Katie Holmes regarding Hillary Clinton's Defeat

Recently, Katie Holmes said on the Jenna Bush Hager show that she and her daughter Suri were devastated by Hillary Clinton's defeat in last year's election. She also remarked that we had a long way to go as women.

I wouldn't be so pessmistic myself. After all, while Hillary didn't win, it doesn't mean that no woman can win. Hillary Clinton was not a representative of every woman out there. She is one individual woman, with her own values, beliefs and policies. Whether one supported her or not would depend more on their views in these areas, rather than whether a woman was suitable to lead, I would think. In fact, many dedicated feminists supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries. And, whether you like it or not, many women voted for Donald Trump in the actual election. Some women even supported Sanders in the primaries, then Trump in the election. It's not always about gender, you know.

While I supported Hillary's bid last year and I was disappointed when she didn't win, we must not magnify the implications of that particular result. The world goes on, women's rights are still improving, and brave people continue to speak up and improve things. Not having a woman in the White House (yet) doesn't change everything.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Scarlett Johansson 'Ghost in the Shell' Cultural Controversy: is it Really That Bad?

Scarlett Johansson has been quite popular among cultural progressives in recent years. Given that she is a dedicated feminist who has also spoken up against racism, this is not hard to understand. But somehow, her latest role in the movie 'Ghost in the Shell' has caused her some controversy, among the same cultural progressives.

Here's the story, in summary: 'Ghost in the Shell' is essentially an adaptation of a Japanese story. In the original, Scarlett's character was Japanese. Therefore, some people now think that Scarlett Johansson has essentially stolen a lead role, otherwise to be played by a Japanese actress. And this would discredit her anti-racist and intersectional feminist efforts.

But this is a very limited view, in my opinion. 'Ghost in the Shell' is an adaptation, and it is not obliged to follow the Japanese original in everything. It is also specifically an adaptation made for American and other Western audiences, therefore the casting of a white American lead may have been intentional. They may not have been wanting to cast a Japanese actress in any case. If Scarlett didn't take the job, they would just have offered it to someone else white and American.

And all this might not even be a bad thing, after all. Those criticising Johansson's latest move have rightly pointed out that there have been very few Asian lead roles in Hollywood. But this has probably been due more to the fact that Asian culture has not been mainstream in America rather than due to racism per se. After all, there have been more black lead roles than Asian lead roles, because even black culture is more mainstream America. Movies like 'Ghost in the Shell' will gradually introduce Asian culture to American audiences. Casting already popular actresses like Scarlett Johansson will increase the movie's appeal, and bring in more audiences. In the long run, this will lead to more opportunities for Asian lead roles. We just need to be a bit more patient.

Monday, April 3, 2017

That Daily Mail Sexist Cover, Smurfette 'Missing' in Israel town, and the Importance of Speaking Up

On Monday 27 March, when British newspaper Daily Mail offered an online preview of its front page for Tuesday, there was an uproar of anger. That cover featured a picture of UK Prime Minister Theresa May meeting with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, with the caption 'Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!'. Even UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned this particularly outrageous act of sexism against his opponent.

And thanks for speaking up, everybody. The fact that a newspaper can still think of doing something like this in 2017 may be quite appalling, but if we don't clearly let them know that it's unacceptable, nothing will change.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Smurfette is missing on billboards for the latest Smurf movie, in a town in Israel. This is particularly weird, given that Smurfette is the real star of the whole movie. Apparently, the decision was due to religious sensitivities.

Religious sensitivities or not, this attitude should never be acceptable. There can never be gender equality in a world where women, or in this case a female cartoon character, cannot even be shown in the same light as men. As in the Daily Mail case, I think it's time we spoke up.

We need to speak up, or nothing will change. If we speak up, things might not change overnight, but it won't be wasted in the longer run.

Download the full song here.

TaraElla's Latest Single Not That Kind of Retro

This song is now available at the TaraElla Google Play shop.