"It's my party, my body, my business."
"I'm crazy, b*tch," screams Jucee Froot on "Danger," the ninth song on the Birds of Prey soundtrack. "But I'm that b*tch."
That could be the central mantra of Birds of Prey's companion album, which features fifteen sparkling, saccharine, vicious pop songs from some of pop's brightest anti-popstars. These songs are aggressive, feminine, sugary, vicious, and off the rails, just like the movie promises to be.
The film—full title Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn—debuted this Friday night. It tells the story of Harley Quinn, finally freed from her abusive relationship with the Joker, as she heals from the breakup and develops her own super-villain identity.
Harley Quinn's cinematic emancipation has received mixed reviews. "Birds of Prey is happy to play at provocation with swear words and violence while carefully declining to provoke anything like a thought," writes A. O. Scott in The New York Times. Anthony Lane called the film "unholy and sadistic mess" in The New Yorker.
For others, the film's fizzy brutality is exactly the point, and many argued that the film provides a welcome change from both the self-serious superhero machismo that tanked Suicide Squad and the idealized kind of femininity that defines Hollywood's movement towards corporate feminism. "In a world gone mad, the catharsis of Prey's twisted sisterhood doesn't just read as pandemonium for its own sake; it's actually pretty damn sweet," writes Leah Greenblatt for Entertainment Weekly. "Theirs is a contemporary verve that offers a glimpse of something heartening: a future in which all kinds of people get to tell these stories, and we're all the better off for it," writes Richard Lawson for Variety.
As the reviews roll in, certainly more debates will ensue. But if Birds of Prey companion soundtrack is any indication, the movie will inspire a whole host of women to take their power back by any means necessary—most likely while wearing glitter.
The all-female soundtrack is brutally empowering in every sense. It's the sound of sweetness in a world gone mad, of lady mad hatters sitting around and cutting their losses over egg and bacon sandwiches. It's the sound of women relishing in the tropes of pop music and popular femininity while spinning them on their heads. It's a triumph and a delight in the sweetest, bloodiest of ways.
Highlights include Doja Cat's utterly unhinged "Boss Bitch," which leans into archetypical empowerment and breakup narratives so hard that it shatters and becomes something almost mutated and definitely dangerous. Megan Thee Stallion and Normani do something similar with their aggressive riff on "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."
Halsey's "Experiment On Me" is probably the most aggressive track on the album; it's also one of the hardest to listen to. It's a yowling, overwhelming tune that layers Halsey's shrill screams over punk-inflected guitar.
Charlotte Lawrence's "Joke's On You" is more palatable and just as powerful, leaning into the darkness and complexity of Harley Quinn's story (and of the idea of female redemption through violence on the whole) while layering sultry vocal lines over a tense beat. "We've had our fun; now your sugar makes me sick," she sings. "My makeup's ruined, and now I'm laughing through my tears." All the world's part-time Harley Quinns are, undoubtedly, feeling seen.
True to form, the songs are gleeful, dark, celebratory, and free. They're embroiled in the business of shaking up existing power structures; and as the voices grow hoarse and furious, their beats resist pleasantness and neutrality, instead leaning towards hyperactive mania. Perhaps because this is a revenge story, there's a sense of perpetual bittersweetness. Lauren Jauregri's "Invisible Chains" dives deeper into the pain and struggle that accompanies Harley Quinn's liberation from the Joker.
There's also a deeper sense of bittersweetness to the whole project, which celebrates Harley Quinn's story as a clear tale of feminist liberation. When women free themselves from men and take power, only togo ahead and commit evil acts and relish in all of capitalism's and the patriarchy's bitterest signifiers of victory, is that something to celebrate? Are we really looking for female villains who kill others and hoard wealth and don't support others, just like men always have?
Perhaps not, but watching these narratives play out often offers catharsis, providing a fulfilling revenge fantasy for anyone who's ever been in an abusive relationship or who's seen others affected by them. We'll see how the movie ends up, but for now, the soundtrack provides an excuse to celebrate rage and revenge without thinking too hard about what it means.
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The Trump-Twitter Industrial Complex continues to fester and mutate.
This week, President Donald J. Trump tweeted a false statement about mail-in ballots.
He wrote that secretaries of state were sending mail-in ballots to every person, when actually states are only sending out ballot applications. For the first time, Twitter jumped in to fact-check Trump's statement, adding a link to a webpage full of information about mail-in ballots.
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Was the Jimmy Fallon Blackface Skit Intentionally Released as a Distraction from the Murder of George Floyd?
Racist police violence is a modern epidemic. So why are we talking about an SNL skit from 2000?
At this point, celebrity apologies are incredibly common. In 2020, it seems like some formerly beloved actor or TV personality is being put through the wringer of public opinion a few times a week.
Most recently, Twitter canceled Jimmy Fallon after an unquestionably racist skit from the 2000 season of SNL resurfaced online. The skit features Fallon impersonating Chris Rock, complete with black face and an offensive imitation of Rock's speech patterns.
Jimmy Fallon Blackface youtu.be
This quickly led to the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty trending on Twitter. While fans seemed split on whether Fallon should be forgiven for the 20-year-old misstep, most everyone agreed that Fallon should apologize regardless. This morning, he did just that in the form of a tweet.
As far as celebrity apologies go, Fallon's is a pretty good one. He doesn't try to sidestep the blame, he doesn't bring up the fact that there were undoubtedly many, many other individuals involved in the creation of the skit, and he doesn't even mention the fact that in 2000, many people still thought it was possible for black face to be done in the spirit of fun, because the deeply racist nature of the act was largely ignored in mainstream (white) media. Of course, we know better now, and it's easy to see that a white person doing an exaggerated imitation of a black person—darkened skin included—can only be a racist, belittling act with a long, dark history of racial oppression. With that in mind, Fallon's only option was to apologize without caveat or reservation. Indeed, it's refreshing to see a celebrity apology that doesn't try to justify or minimize their own misstep. While we can all agree Fallon made a terrible, racist choice 20 years ago, we have to believe that, like all of us, he's grown since then. If cancel culture is to have any efficacy in making the world a better place, it has to leave room for forgiveness and growth. Hopefully, the whole affair will leave Fallon (and those who witnessed it) more racially sensitive.
All of that being said, one has to ask why the clip was brought up now, given that it's been circulated around the Internet before, and the specific YouTube clip that was shared was posted on the site over a year ago. It's also worth noting that the version of the clip that was going around Twitter has a text overlay that reads: "NBC FIRED MEGAN KELLY FOR MENTIONING BLACKFACE. JIMMY FALLON PERFORMED ON NBC IN BLACKFACE."
Megan Kelly, an outspoken conservative, was indeed fired from her job at NBC because she defended the use of blackface in Halloween costumes, saying on her talk show, "Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who put on whiteface for Halloween," she said. "When I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as a character." While Fallon's instance of racial insensitivity was in 2000, Kelly defended blackface in 2019, long after society at large had begun to acknowledge the hurt that blackface and other forms of racial impersonation could cause. This fundamental difference aside, Kelly also has a long history of racial insensitivity that Fallon does not, even once saying, "What is the evidence that what happened to Eric Garner and what happened to Michael Brown has anything to do with race?" in a conversation about the epidemic of racist police officers in America.
Given the text overlay, it's pretty clear that whoever began the #jimmyfallonisoverparty was not necessarily seeking justice for the black community, but was instead trying to imply hypocrisy in the cancellation of Megan Kelly, given that Fallon (who has been outspoken about the flaws of the Trump administration and political pundits like Kelly) is still on the air. One even has to wonder if, given that it's obvious that the #jimmyfallonisoverparty trend was begun by a conservative individual or group, if the trend was meant to be a distraction from the widespread racist police violence that has been emphasized in recent weeks by incidents like the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered in Minneapolis by a white police officer on Monday. It seems oddly coincidental that the clip of Fallon should flood the Internet with controversy the day after Floyd's murder, unfortunately serving to help steer conversation away from Floyd's unjust death.
Indeed, under the unquestionably racist Donald Trump administration, more and more black people are being harassed, attacked, and murdered at the hands of racist white civilians and police officers. But Trump and his supporters don't want you to focus on that–so much so that it doesn't feel impossible that the Fallon skit was intentionally weaponized as a distraction.
In the last few weeks alone we learned that Ahmaud Arbery was murdered senselessly by a white man while simply out for a jog, and we all witnessed the harassment of Christian Cooper, a black man who was threatened by a white woman in Central Park who didn't want to put her dog on a leash. It's clear that racism in America cannot be reduced to insensitive skits from 20 years ago but is instead a current and deadly problem. What Jimmy Fallon did in 2000 was racist, yes; but don't let that distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in 2020, don't let celebrity apologies make you take your eyes of our lawmakers, who aren't doing enough to protect people of color in this country. Don't let the latest "#_____isoverparty" trend distract you from the deadly consequences of racism in our laws, culture, and criminal justice system.
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