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Posts Tagged ‘Jezebel’

Staff Picks: Jaguars, Jim Beam, Japanese Divorce

August 26, 2016 | by

From the cover of Gringos.

Fifty-three years ago, James Baldwin published The Fire Next Time, on the experience of being black in America. The title comes from a slave song: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign / No more water but fire next time.” This month, Jesmyn Ward published a compilation of essays called The Fire This Time. She wanted a book, as she writes in a brilliant introduction, “that would reckon with the fire of rage and despair and fierce, protective love currently sweeping through the streets and campuses of America … A book that a girl in rural Missouri could pick up at her local library and, while reading, encounter a voice that hushed her fears.” Ward has packed a multitude into a modest volume and fulfills, I think, her desire to provide a full and rich accounting of black life, one that is infrequently given voice. The lead piece is a sharply evocative prose poem by Kima Jones about a trip home to North Carolina for a funeral and time in the woods with her cousins, “with red cups, Black and Milds, Jim Beam, a blue lighter plucked from the card table.” Another favorite is Garnette Cadogan’s essay on walking, as a boy in Kingston and as a young man in the United States. The dissonance between the two is startling but not surprising: in the former, “I’d get lost in Mittyesque moments, my young mind imagining alternate futures,” and in the other, walking is “a pantomine undertaken to avoid the choreography of criminality.” —Nicole Rudick

I often go back to Gringos, the 1991 novel by Charles Portis, when I find myself between books. Portis is a fount of comedy; his books brim with deliciously absurd characters. Gringos features a clique of eccentric expats idling in the Yucatán: there’s Rudy and Louise Kurle, a blond duo, in Mexico recording evidence of aliens; Doc Flandin, an aged historian and anthropologist whose life work comprises a comprehensive account of Mayan culture; Refugio Osorio, a native of Mérida who deals scraps from his land in the jungle (I’m fond of his pup, “Ramos, son of the late Chino, bravest dog in all Mexico”). Their comedy comes from the wry observations of Gringos’s hero and narrator Jimmy Burns, a fortysomething deliveryman and former hustler of pre-Columbian artifacts. Jimmy lives at the marvelously shabby Posada Fausto hotel in Mérida, taking hauling jobs to pay his rent. His life there “rocks along from day to day”—he drinks in bars and heads to the zoo “to look over the fine new jaguar”—until he finds himself caught up in violent hippie rituals at ancient ruins and adventure in the Yucatán. —Caitlin Love Read More »

Sadie Stein to Join Editorial Staff of ‘The Paris Review’

April 15, 2011 | by

Starting next month Jezebel fashion and arts correspondent Sadie Stein will join The Paris Review (and The Daily) as a contributing editor. Sadians stay tuned!


Are We Afraid of Daria?

July 29, 2010 | by

A week ago, I asked where all the Darias had gone. The Internet, much to my delight, provided a litany of suggestions as to where to find the intelligent, prickly, but lovable teen archetype in pop culture.

There were characters mentioned from shows of the recent past: Veronica Mars, Maeby from Arrested Development, Rory of the Gilmore Girls, Lindsay from Freaks and Geeks, Claire of Six Feet Under, Kat from 10 Things I Hate About You. More currently, there’s Will from Huge, Alex on Modern Family, Alex on Wizards of Waverly Place, Becca from Californication, April from Parks and Recreation, Darby from Hung, or any character played by the Twilight actress Kristen Stewart. Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon was even thrown out by a few commenters as a grown-up version of Daria.

But Daria was the protagonist and the show was about her. While it’s reassuring to know that wry, disaffected teen girls do exist on screen, nearly all of the characters mentioned here are ancillary to a peppy, pretty protagonist. They're the token angry girl who provides a laugh or needs a makeover. MTV had its own Daria-type in its recent reality series My Life As Liz, though my twelve-year-old pen pal Bella told me the show rang false because Liz “is only an 'outsider' and an 'underdog' because she shops at Goodwill, listens to indie music, likes Star Wars, and reads comic books.” Daria didn’t identify with outcasts as some kind of hollow aesthetic choice—like shopping at Urban Outfitters as opposed to Abercrombie and Fitch. She was an outsider because she didn’t fit in at school, in her family, or in the world at large. And yet, it was her outlook that defined her position, because none of her problems were situational. As our commenter AAP212 notes, “The best part of Daria was always the subtext that her life really wasn’t bad at all. She had a great best friend. Her family was together and at least half-cared…The cool kids were annoying, but entirely harmless. The joke beneath the surface always seemed to be that Daria really didn’t have that much to complain about.” Daria’s greatest enemy might have just been her own angst.

“Teen girl snark has softened, yes, but it’s still there,” Claire Grossman wrote, in her response to me, on Double X. I would argue that it’s the softening that’s the problem. Daria was allowed to show off an extraordinary amount of bitterness that, while true to the teen experience, is almost never reflected in mass culture. Perhaps part of that was because she was a cartoon. Like Enid Coleslaw, the ornery heroine of Daniel Clowes’s nineties-era comic (though later adapted into a live-action film), Ghost World, teen girls are afforded more cynicism when it's colored in between the lines.

Of course, Daria herself was something of an anomaly even in the nineties. There was no Daria on Friends or E.R. or Seinfeld, some of the era’s most highly rated television shows. As commenter itsonreserve rightly noted on Jezebel’s post: “I was a Daria when Daria was a Daria, and I don't recall living in happy paradise where logic and sarcasm reigned supreme and life was full of candy canes.” She’s correct. There is no golden age where Darias reigned supreme, which is why so many of us can catalog every sarcastic teen girl character of the last few decades.

“We remember 'Daria' fondly because it seemed to get that selfish, self-dramatizing, low self-esteem mindset of adolescence just right, but played it wittier than we ever were as teens,” Gary Susman wrote on TV Squad. No matter where one falls in the high school hierarchy, we have all felt like an outsider at one time or another. Such is the eternal appeal of teen culture to adults: we can watch all the drama and self-obsession from our adolescent years at a safe—and sage—vantage point. So I wonder why this archetype isn’t more prominent. Perhaps the question isn’t where have all the Darias gone, but why are we so afraid of them?

Marisa Meltzer is the author of Girl Power and How Sassy Changed My Life.