What could have been "Kids" for a new generation gives in to salacious pandering.
There's nothing new about lurid portrayals of teenagers.
Consumers of western TV and cinema love to gawk at the depravity of youth as portrayed by 25-year-olds with startling facial symmetry. Networks like the CW have found success from this formula, pumping out substanceless but highly watchable shows like Riverdale, Gossip Girl, and 90210 to the delight of binge-watchers everywhere. But every now and then, perhaps once in a generation, a depiction of teens comes along in the form of a gripping, hyper-realistic, and poetic meditation on what it means to be coming-of-age in the modern world.
As The Atlantic puts it, "The 1980s had Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero, a coolly disaffected portrait of life in Los Angeles that featured heroin, rape, snuff films, and a 12-year-old sex slave. The '90s had Kids, Harmony Korine's bleakly disaffected portrayal of teenage skater kids sharing drugs and HIV. The 2000s had Skins, Jamie Brittain's entertainingly disaffected British import about pill-popping, bed-hopping high schoolers." Now, Gen Zers have HBO's Euphoria—in its best moments.
Former Disney Channel mainstay Zendaya fittingly stars in the neon-lit teenage drama about high-schoolers facing a world ruled by unprecedented amounts of technology, learning disabilities, psychiatric disorders, synthetic drugs, and identity politics. For all the ways the show can be heavy-handed in dealing with these subjects, Zendaya's performance as Rue, the show's primary protagonist, is brilliant and subtle. Rue's childhood history of mental illness and learning disabilities have left her marooned in her teens without a firm sense of identity, resulting in an ongoing battle with drug addiction. She deftly switches between mania and depression, adding layers of truth to the tired trope of the moody teenager. The show excels most when it gives Rue the reigns and breaks the fourth wall, allowing viewers into Rue's often wryly funny, though chaotic, inner world. For example, we follow Rue through the portal of her mind into an old timey slideshow presentation on dick pics; later, we see her in a film noir of her own devising as she works to unpack a town mystery. Rue's plotline and the creative, stylized filming techniques capturing it could make for an excellent show by themselves. Unfortunately, these high points are often overshadowed by the chaotic melodrama of the rest of the series.
If you take Euphoria as testimony, modern teenagers live in a world so fraught with danger that parents would be wise to keep their kids locked in their bedrooms until they leave for college. In fact, many moments of the show feel lik experiments in boundary-pushing—but not in the productively unsettling or realistic way Harmony Korine portrayed adolescent life in Kids, for example. Euphoria is like the deranged offspring of The L Word, a health class video about STD's, and a '70's porno. In the first episode alone, the cast of characters deals with everything from statutory rape to violence against trans people, to addiction, to familial rifts, to revenge porn. None of it is subtle, with literal montages of penises appearing more than once in just the first few episodes, for no other reason than because, well, it's HBO and they can get away with it.
Jules (Hunter Shafer) and Cal Jacobs (Eric Dane)HBO
Essentially, much like its protagonist, Euphoria suffers from an identity crisis. It portrays a generation of young people beholden to the often cruel consequences of smartphones and social media (admittedly an accurate and jarring depiction). But at other times, it seems to utterly misunderstand the average teen's life in 2019. Euphoria paints a picture of a generation that parties hard, has constant sex, struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, and is relatively unsupervised by parents. In reality, American teenagers are actually having less sex than ever before and partying even less. Obviously, a show about teenagers sitting in their respective bedrooms scrolling through Instagram would be much less interesting than the racy affair that is Euphoria, but surely there's a way to portray the technology-induced isolation of the modern teen in a way that rings true and holds the audience's interest.
To be fair, the show does touch briefly on these truths, memorably portraying Rue watching 22 hours of reality TV on her laptop while in the midst of a depressive episode. But she also moves in and out of dimly lit parties as if they're happening on every block of her small town, and she easily accesses every drug from Fentanyl to Ketamine. Yes,today's teens do use drugs and have sex, but that's not necessarily what defines their generation. So often times the show's racier and more dramatic narratives feel purposeless in Euphoria, as if they were inserted merely for shock factor.
For example, things get even murkier when Kat—a Tumblr fanfiction writer who struggles with body image issues—starts a secret life as a cam girl, financially dominating middle-aged men over video chat. The show positions this storyline in a way that almost suggests an underage girl showing her body to strange men on the Internet is empowering. But it doesn't commit to this controversial stance, offering confused undertones reminiscent of parental PSAs ("It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?" or more accurately, "It's 10 p.m. your kid is in their bedroom on the internet, do you know what they're doing?"). Eventually, Kat seems to find salvation through the tired "knight in shining armor" trope when she finds a stereotypical nice guy who "likes her for her." Because of the show's refusal to commit to a view on Kat's behavior, the storyline seems to exist merely as a gratuitously shocking statement on the danger (or possibly freedom?) the Internet offers teens.
Kat (Barbie Ferreira)
Then there's the soap opera-esque storyline of Nate and his father, a prominent businessman in the town who has a penchant for seducing young teens off gay dating apps. After discovering his secret, Nate, a seemingly sociopathic jock, tries to anonymously befriend and seduce Jules, one of his father's conquests who's a transgender woman and Rue's best friend. Soon, Jules, Nate, and his girlfriend Maddy (who he physically abuses, because, ya know, there wasn't enough drama going on already) are embroiled in a convoluted plot of blackmail, ambiguous sexuality, and mob-movie style violence.
While it's impossible to overstate the magnetic talent of Hunter Shafer (Jules), it's unfortunate that the absurd drama of Nate's storyline tends to overshadow the blossoming of Rue and Jules' relationship. The show is successful and semi-revolutionary in the way it refuses to deal in identitarian labels, allowing Rue and Jules' intimate feelings for each other to capture the viewer's attention without ever defining what exactly those feelings mean—or if they have to mean anything at all.
But still, Euphoria doesn't capture the specific pitfalls and salvations that this technological age of cynicism, sexual and gender fluidity, and psychiatric disorders poses for teens. While it's perhaps the closest thing Gen Z has to a landmark portrayal of kids raised on 9/11 footage and video games, one can't help but wish the show's creators hadn't succumbed to the temptation of dealing in quite so much excess. Storytelling takes a backseat to gratuitous nudity, sexuality, and overblown soap opera-esque storylines, creating a show that's not sure what it's trying to say, but knows it wants to be shocking. All the parts are there for Euphoria to be made into something truly revolutionary. For now, all we can do is hope Season 2 brings more story and less spectacle.
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The iconic crooner turns 33 today
Frank Ocean's intentionally elusive character has been a key ingredient in his rise as one of the last decade's most influential artists.
"If I start to tell a story and then I decide not to tell the story anymore, I can stop. It's my story," he told W Magazine last September. "The expectation for artists to be vulnerable and truthful is a lot, you know?"
The idea of staying true to yourself may not sound inherently groundbreaking, but for the last near-decade, Frank Ocean has spoken almost exclusively through his music, at times sprinkling loosies online merely for the sake of getting something off his chest. "There's something that happens when you say what you're doing before it's done," he said to W. "You're accountable for that version that you talk about... It's usually better for me to make what I make, put it out or don't, and then talk about it freely."
Wildfire<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d8fc3f180510c425031e86829f9a20d0"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/G6z7c-nIQ6M?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>On the severely underappreciated return-to-form John Mayer project <em>Paradise Valley</em>, Frank Ocean coos about a passionate love affair over the chirp of late-night peeper. While the brief interlude is over in a little over a minute, it's a transporting few moments and conjures up the all-consuming sensuality that comes with a fleeting summer romance. The track was also a coy ode to French model Willy Cartier, who the singer was rumored to be dating at the time.</p>
Bitches Talkin' / Songs For Women<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5fd567794c7eb788b01a2cb053354d95"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_09OZPldk_g?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Over a slick infusion of lo-fi surf rock and '80s synth-pop, Frank Ocean grinds out memorable bars and shows welcomed versatility as a rapper and singer. He explores a newfound love affair, and over the course of the song, watches it deteriorate as he prioritizes making music, but the singer never changes his mind. He understands his music will make women swoon, but at the end of the day, they remain unable to relate to his lifestyle.</p>
Pilot Jones<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5e43aaa5ce9277ac381309e8b8061aad"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/azgDZ-TBCzk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The glitchy <em>Channel Orange </em>deep-cut "Pilot Jones" once again finds Frank offering stream-of-consciousness anecdotes about another relationship. The love affair is undoubtedly toxic, and Frank's voice weaves in and out of various tempos and pitches, his voice at times shaky and unguarded then clear and pristine. </p><p>His voice wavers and stumbles with an almost drunken elegance as electronic clicks and wurrs gently push him along. He is trying to bring himself down to his partner's level, a prospect he ultimately fails to achieve. It's an absorbing track that shows that Frank truly thrives when placed amongst deteriorating song structures.</p>
Blue Whale<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4a2300d9667687dcd6aa0ac190231b20"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vinLW-uY53Q?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>An early album outtake uploaded spontaneously, "Blue Whale" finds Frank full-on rapping and speaking frankly on his relationships and his poor adjustment to fame. "This life goes on man that's one thing about it," he says with defeat. He knows there's no escape from this lifestyle he chose. The beat, produced by Pharrell Williams, flows like a gentle body of water, and it's a shame the track didn't get a final album cut.</p>
Biking<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5730e5f548adc50d72a70eff8acd4afc"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fYGPcfUqzL0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>With hard-hitting features from Jay-Z and Tyler, the Creator, it's a shame this 2017 loosie didn't get more attention. While the song's lo-fi vibe fits perfectly in Frank's world, Tyler, the Creator and Jay also sound right at home. Frank's buoyancy sounds optimistic, a refreshing departure from his signature slow-burn hums, and that's because Frank was hesitantly content at this point in his career. </p><p>"God gave you what you could handle," he calls out on the track's hook, his voice soaked in reverb; there doesn't seem to be anything he can't conquer on his own. It's a fleeting victory lap for someone as empathetic as Frank, and you know it won't be long before he's down in the dumps again. But the crooner tries to relish in this moment of satisfaction rather than question it this time around, and it's a welcomed change of pace.</p>
Crack Rock<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="37ff7120dbd7b20bb5b389fbb251f8ec"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IVzzw7Vkiyg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Aided by bouncy drums and a breezy keyboard, Frank abandons his relationship commentary in favor of a deep reflection on drug addiction and the war on drugs. Here he croons with a breathy quip, a move he said was intentional in order to mimic <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/jul/21/frank-ocean-guardian-exclusive-interview" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">how a "smoker would sing it."</a> The track's narrative remains powerful and transportive to this day.</p>
Skyline To<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8e85a2198e917f8808a6ecbf30582f29"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/CtkUJb22oSQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>While almost every song on <em>Blonde</em> is by no means underappreciated, "Skyline To" finds Frank once again gliding freely in the clouds, nothing but improvisational guitars to push him along. The song's power is that it is merely a collection of ruminating thoughts Frank has had over the last few years, most of them soaked in bitter nostalgia. "It begins to blur, we get older," he cries. "Summer's not as long as it used to be." </p><p>"Skyline To" highlights what makes Frank such a compelling artist: his ability to take the mental struggles of the human experience and shape them into song.</p>
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Keith Raniere's pseudo-philosophy ranged from hedonism and nihilism to neurotic obsessions with weight, body hair, and training people out of empathy.
In 2006, when Allison Mack was a lead actress on CW's Smallville, she accepted an invitation from co-star Kristin Kreuk to attend a meeting for a "women's empowerment" group called NXIVM (pronounced nex-ee-um).
Over the following decade, the Albany-based organization became known as a cult that practiced sex slavery and branding under the guise of mentoring young women. Earlier this week, Mack pleaded guilty to charges of federal racketeering and sex trafficking for her senior role within the organization, which included recruiting women for "labor and services" under orders from Keith Raniere, NXIVM's leader and co-founder.
On October 28th 2020, Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison for his involvement with NXIVM. Here's everything you need to know about the cult, and what led to Raniere's downfall.
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