MUSIC

13 of the Most Controversial Music Videos Ever

From Kanye West to Madonna, these gory and graphic clips got people talking — for better or for worse.

Music videos are a perfect opportunity to expand the story of a song.

The best music videos can showcase killer choreography, Halloween-ready attire, or movie levels of cinematic gold; others can spark controversies, no matter how well-intended. Whether centered around copious bloodshed or near-pornographic nudity (sorry, Mom and Dad), there's one thing all controversial music videos have in common: They get people talking.

Here are 13 music videos released over the past 30-plus years that have sparked disputes. Watch at your own risk.

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TV News

The "30 Rock" Reunion "Upfront Event" Sounds Annoying as Hell

Fans are being deprived of a true 30 Rock reunion in favor of a weird meta-marketing event

Update 7/15/2020: As it turns out, the promotional nature of the upcoming 30 Rock reunion special is not a hit with everyone.

According to a new report from The Wrap, several large NBC affiliate groups have opted not to air the hour-long special which amounts to little more than an hour-long infomercial for the next year of NBC programming—and for NBCUniversal's exclusive streaming service Peacock—interspersed with some comedy from Liz Lemon and the TGS crew.

This means that many viewers who tune in to their local NBC channel to when the reunion special is airing at 8:00 Thursday night will instead be greeted by... something else.

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CULTURE

Elizabeth Banks and Busy Philipps Join Rally in DC to Defend Abortion Rights

The My Right My Decision rally in DC on Wednesday focused on the positives and success stories of abortion

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

The world is full of different kinds of suffering.

There are base physical pains—abdominal cramps, aching joints, tearing flesh. And then there are deeper, more crushing forms of spiritual and psychological anguish—the feeling of being inadequate to provide for a loved one, or that your mere existence has ruined another person's life. No one should have to live with that kind of pain. That's the idea behind a rally on Wednesday in Washington DC and an accompanying hashtag on Twitter, which both seek to celebrate and defend a powerful tool for the prevention of suffering: abortion.

Of course, some suffering is unavoidable. For those cases we have spiritual and philosophical guidance that can help us come to terms with daily struggles. The rest of the time, we turn to science to create solutions that can save us from pain. Science can give us new limbs, restore our vision, replace our organs. Any and all of these methods for reducing suffering deserve to be celebrated, and they often are. But abortions—one of the oldest medical miracles—have recently become so taboo that our culture would sooner demonize them than say anything positive about them. This is despite the fact that a safe, minimally invasive procedure—or even just a swallowed pill—can often save two lives from tremendous suffering and despite the fact that nearly a quarter of American women will have had an abortion by the age of 45.

The groups responsible for maintaining that taboo—groups that promote shame around abortion—are vocal enough that most of us are familiar with their arguments. They have decided without evidence that a human embryo or fetus—at any stage of development—is a child with a soul and rights and feelings. They believe that the mere existence of a fertilized egg inside a uterus necessarily obliges the human attached to that uterus to be a nurturing host to the life inside them. They equate abortion with murder, and they want to force the rest of us to conform to that standard of morality. They bolster their claims with graphic images and false claims that people who receive abortions usually regret the choice. Then they push for irrelevant laws that hide the motive of restricting abortion access.

The My Right My Decision rally in DC formed in response to the Supreme Court case of June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, which revolves around a Louisiana law requiring clinics that provide abortion services to staff a doctor with admitting privileges at a local hospital. While the purported motive is to improve safety measures, critics point to a similar law in Texas that was struck down in 2016 after the court found no compelling safety benefits. Instead, it seems to be part of a surge in legislation designed to restrict abortion access and take advantage of the shift in the balance that took place when conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh replaced moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the bench.

With celebrities like Busy Philipps and Elizabeth Banks in attendance, along with politicians including Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, the rally that took place Wednesday morning was attempting to counter stigma with success stories and a defense of freedom. As Banks put it in her address to the crowd, "Today we are taking the opportunity to present reproductive freedom, including abortion, for exactly what it is: no less than liberty itself." As for Busy Philipps, she had an abortion at the age of 15, and has been open about how important that was for her life: "I'm genuinely really scared for women and girls all over this country."

While opponents will point to instances of regret, the reality is that 99% of abortions are not a source of regret but of relief, even five years after the fact. By and large, people are not making the decision lightly, and they really do know whether or not they're ready for the trauma of pregnancy and labor and the responsibility of parenthood.

In an imaginary world where population was dwindling, where the medical costs associated with pregnancy and delivery were covered by the state, where there were no negative social or professional repercussions for anyone who might become pregnant, and where an infant given up for adoption could be guaranteed a humane childhood, it might be understandable to see pushback against abortion rights. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. In our world, the planet is being ravaged by overpopulation and overconsumption, medical debts are a driving force behind American bankruptcies, and hundreds of thousands of children without parents are subjected to cruelty and neglect within our foster care system or at the hands of ill-equipped parents.

Easy access to a procedure that can prevent those horrors—and the horrors of inevitable "back-alley" abortions—is something worth celebrating, not stigmatizing. Which is why the hashtag #MyRightMyDecision was trending on Twitter Wednesday morning, with images from the rally that featured women holding signs that proclaim "I Had An Abortion," "Abortion is Healthcare," and "Thank God For Abortion."

The idea that creating more and more people is fundamentally a good thing—regardless of their quality of life—is a deeply flawed assumption, and it's foundational to the so-called "pro-life" movement. While a baby, in the right circumstances, is undoubtedly a miracle—they can bring so much joy and meaning to life—an abortion is just as miraculous when circumstances are simply wrong. When the process of having or raising a child is made untenable by health concerns, economic realities, youth, trauma, or a basic lack of desire to be a parent, it is not only cruel to the parent to restrict abortion access, it's cruel to the child who—through no fault of their own—will already be a source of problems and a focus of resentment before it's born

A child born in that situation has little chance to thrive. While other forms of birth control are preferable, abortion is a hugely important last resort, and it's refreshing to see culture beginning to embrace the positive side of abortion, and defending it against shame and stigma.

While rally-goers and Twitter users are making their voices heard, a decision on the law will likely not be passed down until June.

CULTURE

You Can't Change My Mind: Jon Hamm Can't Act

No one else sees it, and I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

SNL

There's a well-known line in George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman, in which a character claims, "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

Incidentally, did you know that Jon Hamm taught drama to eighth graders before he got into acting? In fact, before his breakout role as Don Draper in Mad Men, he thought of teaching as his safety net—a fallback position in case acting didn't work out. It would obviously be unfair to use that fact alone as evidence that Jon Hamm can't act, but I feel like being unfair, because no one seems to agree with me on this point.

jon hamm making a face

I've searched for validation on this, but googling "Jon Hamm bad actor" turns up pages of results about how great he is. And he certainly was great on Mad Men. That show was really well cast, and Jon Hamm can play a stoic, performative thinker as well as anyone. He even won an Emmy for it—along with dozens of nominations for every TV award on earth. So, somehow, I have to account for the fact that, unlike seemingly everyone else on Earth, when I see Hamm in anything besides Mad Men, he just seems like a guy doing some acting. I must be wrong, and yet…

jon hamm eyebrows 30 Rock

He's not awful by any means. He can sell a line and he has good comedic timing, but there are all these small details—in his smile, in the way he uses his eyebrows, in the way he looks at his co-stars—that seem so intentional that I can't believe him, even when his line delivery is on point—and I'm not saying it always is. As Don Draper, it worked. Don was a performer himself—always pitching something, butting up against other male egos, and just generally living his life as an impostor. But am I really alone in finding his mannerisms jarring in his other work? The only explanation, as far as I can tell, is he's just too charming and sexy for anyone else to notice.

jon hamm being sexy InStyle

He's not just good-looking. That wouldn't be enough. He carries himself with a quiet self-assurance. He's calm, confident, unflappable, sexy. Most of us spend half our lives trying or pretending to be charming and sexy. When people see Jon Hamm doing it so effortlessly, they must misinterpret his natural abilities as a successful performance. That's the only explanation for the fact that all his little comedic cameos get so much praise, despite being the least convincing parts of whatever he's in.

jon hamm awesome

I'm not saying that Jon Hamm has to go back to teaching. If we're going to keep putting him in movies because he's charming and sexy—and honestly seems like a really nice guy—I can totally live with that. I just want the rest of the world to acknowledge that that's what we're doing so I can stop feeling like I'm taking crazy pills.

Otherwise, I'll eventually have to face up to the fact that I'm the one with the problem. That maybe the reason I can never find Jon Hamm convincing is that I just find it hard to believe that someone so charming and sexy could really exist, when I spend half my life badly failing to be those things. Please, God, no.

FILM

Kristen Stewart's "Charlie's Angels" Character Is "Definitely Gay"—But Is That Enough?

In "Charlie's Angels," our Bella has finally become a swan. That doesn't mean the film can escape some traps.

Kristen Stewart has the Internet in a tizzy thanks to her role in Charlie's Angels, and her performance as Sabrina has a lot of people questioning their sexuality (or celebrating what they already knew).

Thanks to the omnipotence of the Internet, Sabrina's queerness isn't in question. According to Out Magazine, in an interview with PrideSource, the director Elizabeth Banks confirmed that the character is "definitely gay in the movie."

That doesn't mean that Sabrina is exactly overt about her sexuality in the film, though—there are no lines in the script about her sexual orientation. According to Banks, this was purposeful. "When I cast [Kristen Stewart], I just wanted her to be… I just felt like she's almost the way Kristen is. I don't feel there is a label that fits her," she told Digital Spy. "The only thing that was important to me was to not label it as anything. It's fine if the media wants to label it, I think that's OK, but I didn't do that. I just let her be herself in the film."

Apparently, Stewart "wanted to be gay" in the movie, though she's also not hung up on labels. "I just think we're all kind of getting to a place where—I don't know, evolution's a weird thing—we're all becoming incredibly ambiguous," she said in an interview in which she also clarified that she doesn't exactly identify as bisexual anymore. "And it's this really gorgeous thing."

This philosophy feels aligned with our current moment, where the boundaries of sexuality, gender, and other paradigms are constantly blurring and shifting. On the other hand, there's a fine line between refusing labels as an act of protest and refusing labels as a way of ultimately obscuring identities, thus winding up back where we began.

Is Charlie's Angels queer-baiting? It's definitely going too far to say that a film is queer-baiting simply for coding a character as gay without explicitly addressing their orientation, but Banks's and the film's treatment of Sabrina's queerness still raises questions. How important are labels, and is our end goal to normalize them or disintegrate them completely?

In liberal Hollywood circles, perhaps it's enough to express queerness as an implicit character trait, but in a world that still threatens LGBTQ+ people's rights, there's a dearth of characters that are out and proud. On the other hand, queerness and relationships aren't anyone's entire identity, and they shouldn't have to be, onscreen or off.

Despite Banks' insistence that her film is newly "woke," Charlie's Angels has always toed the line between regressive and revolutionary. According to Vulture, "You could chart a mini arc of corporate feminism onto the Charlie's Angels franchise." The film is about three attractive women who are empowered because they do the bidding of an invisible commander, after all, and what could be more reminiscent of the corporate world's rapid consumption of the girl-boss illusion? A capitalist enterprise hasn't improved simply because it's being run by a woman, after all, and a film isn't feminist just because it features female characters in positions of power. "What's so depressing about the new film is that the most radical thing it can think to do to update this concept is to hint that Charlie has actually, this whole time, been a lady," the article continues.

Similarly, a film isn't pro-LGBTQ just because it tacitly implies a character's queerness. It's true that queerness is becoming more widely accepted and less stigmatized overall, though. (Stewart herself just gushed about wanting to propose to her girlfriend, Dylan Meyer). That means that we should be working towards representing more radical politics and more underrepresented identities onscreen, not just erasing all identity politics now that bisexuality has been subsumed into the realm of acceptable traits, and not just calling a film feminist because it stars a couple of women.

Feminist or not, Stewart's performance (and costume choice) are so strong that her character's existence is ultimately a victory even if the rest of the film falters. She's even been branded a Hollywood Chris, after all; maybe that even means that someday, our Hollywood Chrises won't be all white.



TV

Dear NBC, Let the Chaotic Evil of Zack Morris and "Saved by the Bell" Die

The show was about a teen sociopath named Zack Morris (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar) who drugged, prostituted, and sexually harassed his friends and who once put a baby in a gym bag (before losing said bag).

NBCUniversal is launching its own streaming service called "Peacock" (seriously), for which the network has recruited talented 30 Rock writer and Great News creator, Tracey Wigfield, to give toxic masculinity a reboot with a new Saved by the Bell series exclusively available on Peacock.

If you weren't raised by cable television like a normal '90s kid (or if you were one of those sheltered homeschooled kids who has a mortgage by now), the original show ran from 1989 to 1992. It was about a teen sociopath named Zack Morris (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar) who drugged, prostituted, and sexually harassed his friends and who once put a baby in a gym bag (before losing said bag). Morris was inappropriately friendly with his school principal, Mr. Belding (played by Dennis Haskins, who, according to his popular Twitter account, is "still chasing the dream!"), and his ability to freeze time and break the fourth wall was either a blatant rip-off of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) or a manifestation of his schizophrenic mental disorder.

The Time Zack Morris Sold Swimsuit Photos Of Underage Girls www.youtube.com

The good news is that in April 2020, you can revisit the chaotic evil of Bayside High—maybe? Actually, not many details are known about the reboot other than the fact that NBCUniversal is launching its own streaming service to rival Disney+ and Apple TV, and they really, really want you to know about it as soon as possible. The cost has yet to be announced, but Peacock (Jesus Christ, we really have to call it that) will boast 15,000 hours of content, including original titles from NBCUniversal production. That means Peacock will be the only streaming service to offer The Office and Parks and Recreation, with other hit shows also available, from classics like Cheers, Frazier, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Will and Grace to 30 Rock and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

But 2020 will bring more problems than deciding which streaming service to subscribe to and ever worsening climate crisis. Peacock's plans to revive Punky Brewster, Battlestar Galactica, and Saved by the Bell mean that NBCUniversal is going to attempt the cringey tactic of aging its teen stars to suddenly become modern adults—and that never goes well. Whether it's Boy Meets World's bizarre, infantilized revival of Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence as terrible parents in Disney's spinoff series, Girl Meets World, Netflix's creepy (and critically panned) revival Fuller House, or the epidemic of Soap Opera Rapid Aging syndrome (SORAS): Stop it.

The Time Zack Morris Got Jessie Hooked On Caffeine Pills youtu.be

So far, only two original characters are confirmed to return for Saved by the Bell 2.0. Elizabeth Berkeley and Mario Lopez are expected to return as Jessie Spano and A.C. Slater. Mark-Paul Gosselaar isn't attached to the project as of yet, due to complications with his contract with ABC's Mixed-ish and the fact that 30 years after Saved by the Bell first aired signs still point to Gosselaar being not a terrible guy. (Luckily, the same can't be said of Mario Lopez and definitely not of Dustin Diamond, who played Screech and is human trash). The series' original producers Peter Engel and Franco Bario have both signed on as executive producers. Here's their stupid premise for the revival:

"The new, straight-to-series comedy explores what happens when California Gov. Zack Morris gets into hot water for closing too many low-income high schools, he proposes they send the affected students to the highest-performing schools in the state — including Bayside High. The influx of new students gives the over-privileged Bayside kids a much-needed and hilarious dose of reality."

So, at best, a sexist teenage soap opera with a laugh track is going to tackle classism, income inequality, and America's failing school system in a world in which an egomaniacal sociopath has ascended to a position of power through his fast-talking manipulations and grandiose narcissism. At worst, it's going to depict Jessie Spano and A.C. Slater as quirky, eccentric parents who are so excited to welcome poor, disadvantaged kids to their neighborhood in an outdated and out-of-touch after-school special format.

Still, we bet you a baby in a gym bag that the revival won't be as cringey as the Saved by the Bell reunion sketch Jimmy Fallon hosted in 2015. That revival managed to capture all the creepy-next-door-neighbor energy of Mr. Belding and the homophobic overtones of A.C. Slater's entire character arc. It ended with the tasteless climax of Kelly Kapowski revealing she's pregnant with Zack Morris' baby, prompting him to wink at the camera.

Jimmy Fallon Went to Bayside High with "Saved By The Bell" Cast youtu.be