I don't care how much you love Bob Dylan—his work is not literature.
Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Bob Dylan.
What do these three figures have in common? They were all popular figures of mid-century American culture, adored in their time, who have since ascended to the god-like level of pure icons—worshiped as something not quite human. But only one of them is still alive.
Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues www.youtube.com
There are other differences, of course. Dylan became an icon much more on his own terms than either Presley or Monroe, and his talent as a songwriter is not really in question. Everything he writes feels a bit "timeless," including his latest releases.
But it's still weird to see the announcement of a new Dylan biopic starring Timothée Chalamet. How many people become the subject of two separate biopics—not to mention two documentaries by Martin Scorcese—during their lifetime? And while Chalamet seems like he could do a great job with the role, he'll be competing with the six performances by six different actors—three of them Oscar winners—which were apparently required to capture Dylan's polymesmeric essence in I'm Not There.
Promotional poster for "I'm Not There"
The latest film, with the working title Going Electric, will cover the era of Dylan's life in the mid-60s, when he made a controversial transition from acoustic folk music to an electric guitar and an embrace of rock and roll. It's roughly the same terrain that Cate Blanchett's portion of I'm Not There covered, but with a movie all to itself this time, with director James Mangold of Walk the Line taking the helm. It's a promising project, and I'm sure I'll go see it and probably walk away with some new appreciation for Bob Dylan's life and work… But I will still think he's overrated.
If you introduced me to one of the many Dylan albums I've never heard before, and it immediately became my favorite album, and I listened to it on a loop for a week straight, then I would still think Dylan was overrated. People revere him as a mythic figure—the progenitor of lyricism, protest, and smoking a cigarette while wearing sunglasses. A breathless 2016 article in The Guardian, describing a surprising turn in Dylan's career, claimed that he "has always been fond of turning his own iconoclasm on the idea of iconoclasm." What a stunning revelation…
It's this kind of fawning, empty adulation that irks me when I think of, not Dylan himself, but his idolaters. And perhaps it's not that they are more absurdly devoted than the die-hard fans of David Bowie, Paul McCartney, or Taylor Swift, but that they hold positions of authority that allow them to wield their fandom over the rest of the world.
Maybe it's time for me to admit the true source of my grudge—the original offense that this latest announcement has brought back to the surface. In October of 2016 Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami was expected to win the Nobel Prize in literature, and I was prepared to have some mixed feelings about it—he's a very good writer, but I don't love his work the way many do—but then the Nobel committee threw a curveball and announced their selection of Bob Dylan…for literature!
Pictured: an actual literary figure
I don't care how much you love Bob Dylan—his work is not literature. The committee lauded Dylan for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." In other contexts, he has been placed alongside timeless poets such as Keats and Rimbaud, but as that same Guardian article (a defense of the Nobel selection) points out, his lyrics are not nearly as effective when allowed to fend for themselves on the page—"the words and the music cannot be separated." Another way to say that is that his lyrics are not actually poetry—or at least not great poetry.
If they really wanted to give Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize, they could have created a new prize for music, or scrapped the literature prize in favor of a broader category of "the arts." Hell, they could have given him a peace prize for his protest songs, and he would have made more sense than a lot of the recipients of that award. But literature? They might as well have given him the prize in medicine for healing all our hearts.
His songs do not transcend music, and his person does not transcend humanity. He is not a god, and it does not take six people to portray him on screen. Hopefully Going Electric, when it comes out, will humanize Dylan, rather than adding to his overblown myth. Until that time, I'll be over here bathing in all the delicious hate this article is about to receive.
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Animation is lame and live-action is awesome.
Everybody loves Disney live-action remakes.
In a world plagued by racism, disease, and a seemingly endless bounty of spiraling misfortune, at least we can all agree that Disney knocks it out of the park every time they dredge up an old, animated movie for a live-action makeover because cartoons are for babies.
Sure, some of us thought the original Beauty and the Beast was fine, but could lame, 2D Belle ever hold a candle to 3D Emma Watson? And yeah, the original Lion King was okay, I guess, but there's nobody in the world who preferred cartoon Scar's rendition of "Be Prepared" to the incredible feat of getting a real lion to sing it in the live-action remake.
Being a Disney fan can be hard sometimes, as you have fond memories of beloved childhood movies but also don't want people to make fun of you for liking cartoons. That's why, out of all the corporations in the world, Disney is undoubtedly the most selfless, willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to bring their old, outdated movies into the modern age—all for the fans.
After Halle Berry walked back her consideration of playing a transgender character, we look back at how Hollywood has repeatedly fumbled trans representation.
Halle Berry has made headlines this week after turning down a role in which, had she gone through with production, would have represented a transgender man.
Berry, an Academy Award-winning actress known for roles in films like Monster's Ball, Catwoman, and Gothika, took to Twitter Monday night to apologize for considering the role. "Over the weekend I had the opportunity to discuss my consideration of an upcoming role as a transgender man, and I"d like to apologize for those remarks," Berry wrote. "As a cisgender woman, I now understand that I should not have considered this role, and that the transgender community should undeniably have the opportunity to tell their own stories."
The post continued: "I am grateful for the guidance and critical conversation over the past few days and I will continue to listen, educate and learn from this mistake. I vow to be an ally in using my voice to promote better representation on-screen, both in front of and behind the camera."