TV Reviews

"Rick and Morty" Just Invented a "Fifth Wall" (and Busted Right Through It)

It doesn't make much sense, but it's a hell of a lot of fun

The phrase "breaking the fourth wall" refers to the idea that the audience of visual storytelling is watching through an invisible barrier.

If a normal living room has four walls, the set of a sitcom living room has three, and the camera peers through the empty space where the fourth wall would be. Ignoring the camera, the audience, and the incomplete room maintains the basic illusion of the sitcom's world—the illusion that the living room has a fourth wall. When a work of fiction acknowledges that it isn't real—as Rick and Morty has been doing since its early episodes—that is breaking the fourth wall. It's usually what people are talking about when they refer to a work of fiction being "meta."

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Music Lists

Happy Birthday, Elliott Smith: The Indie Rock Legend's 10 Best Songs

The singer-songwriter would have been 51 today.

JJ Gonson

Today, August 6, 2020, Elliott Smith would have turned 51 years old.

Smith was born in Omaha, Nebraska, raised in north Texas, and spent a good portion of his life in Portland, Oregon before settling in Los Angeles. Before his sudden and mysterious death in 2003, the prolific singer-songwriter released five studio albums of poignant, rootsy indie rock, with his sixth studio album and a compilation of rarities being released posthumously. He became known for his dismal lyrics—often referencing his mental health and substance abuse habits—and his distinctively whispery vocals, which he often double-tracked to create an eerie, textured ambiance.

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CULTURE

Jenna Jameson Just Accused a Buzzfeed Reporter of Being a Pedophile

She has left the earth behind to become a full-blown right-wing conspiracy nut.

On Saturday night Jenna Jameson tweeted screenshots of a tweet and a blog post from Ryan Broderick, a senior reporter at Buzzfeed News, with the text "You monsters can't hide, we see you."

The tweet was part of a series on the topic of elite pedophilia that Jameson sent out Saturday evening, including a link to a video attacking Rick and Morty creator Dan Harmon for "Daryl," an offensive sketch he made in 2009. According to the video that Jameson shared, a comedic performer using a doll to simulate sexual crimes (in undeniably poor taste) is evidence that he actually endorses those crimes, and according to Jameson's tweet, screenshots of jokes Broderick made eight years ago indicate a "persistent sexual attraction to children."

Jenna Jameson is possibly the most famous adult film star of all time, and she used that career to launch a massively successful website and a best-selling autobiography. But you wouldn't know that from scrolling through a Twitter timeline dominated by tweets praising Donald Trump, attacking Planned Parenthood, and criticizing vaccination laws. It's not how she earned her fame, but to more than 720,000 twitter followers, Jameson has become little more than an unhinged conservative commentator.

When Jameson left the adult film industry in 2008, she did so with a dramatic proclamation that she would "never, ever, ever spread my legs again in this industry. Ever." Since that time she has gone through a number of transformations, including becoming a mother to three kids, converting to Orthodox Judaism, going sober, and achieving some dramatic weight loss. But none of her transformations can compare to her political realignment.

Jenna Jameson Weight Loss Instagram

During the 2008 Democratic primaries she was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton and resented the fact that Republican administrations often targeted the adult film industry "to make a point," but by 2012 she had shifted to supporting Mitt Romney, citing economic motives—"When you're rich, you want a Republican in office." A few years later, seemingly motivated by a growing antipathy for Islam and a suspicion of Syrian refugees, Jameson announced her support of Donald Trump in November of 2015. And in various tweets since then she has attacked LGBTQ acceptance, endorsed T.I.'s concern for his daughter's hymen, and promoted military action against Iran. So far so awful, but there's nothing that unusual about the politics of patriarchy and hatred in America. Things only become really weird when hateful people attempt to take the moral high ground from the rest of us.

According to the worldview of people like Jenna Jameson, anyone who thinks abortion rights should be protected hates babies, and anyone who thinks children should be taught not to feel shame about sex and sexuality has some nefarious motive. According to them, any sense that we are trying to build a more humane world can only be a front to cover up some evil plot. Enter Comet Ping Pong and the Pizzagate conspiracy.

Pizzagate

Hollywood, Democratic politicians, and the liberal media elite are all, apparently, entangled in an elaborate satanic child sex trafficking operation that involves coded social media posts and a basement in Washington D.C. that doesn't exist. The fact that a social media account for a pizzeria with ping pong tables makes frequent references to cheese pizza and features images of children playing ping pong is a deeply suspicious puzzle, the name Alefantis is an alias based on the French "les enfants," and a gay man can not care about children without being a pedophile. And central to the whole scheme is the woman Jameson once hoped would be president: Hillary Clinton.

These are the absurd overreaches that separate the Pizzagate conspiracy from the sickening reality that the Jeffrey Epstein case began to lay bare. It has become an undeniable fact that there are networks of wealthy pedophiles who use their power to protect themselves and each other from exposure and prosecution. In many ways this revelation has come as part of a general change in the conversation around sex abuse.

People like Dan Harmon and Ryan Broderick probably don't need to push the envelope with jokes about horrifying sexual crimes when there are prominent figures getting away with those crimes on a regular basis—and with the assistance of law enforcement and powerful members of the media. But the idea of looking back at old jokes from 2009 or 2012 and seeing them as evidence of participation in those crimes is absurd. It implies that literally everyone in the media is involved and has known about these crimes all along. It implies that Tom Hanks is a monster. And that kind of implication is the foundation of Mike Cernovich's "journalism"—of which Jenna Jameson is apparently a big fan.

Since inspiring a man to take an assault rifle into Comet Ping Pong in late 2016, alt-right star Mike Cernovich has focused on cataloguing jokes about child molestation as evidence of actual perversion and involvement in the vast child abuse conspiracy. Ryan Broderick became his latest target in a recent post to his personal website shortly after Broderick published a story that led to the deplatforming of a pro-Trump group that was pushing a conspiracy theory about the Coronavirus. According to the conspiracy theory—which Jameson herself helped spread—a Chinese scientist, who was identified for the purposes of doxing, had created the Coronavirus as a bioweapon for the purposes of sterilization and population control.

Cernovich has been helping to spread misinformation on the topic, and it's hard not to see it as retaliation when he sifts through thousands of tweets to find a joke—since deleted—mocking men who identify themselves as hebephilic to avoid the label of pedophile. Ryan Broderick's 2012 tweet pleading for Barack Obama to legally differentiate "between us good-natured hebephiles and amoral pedophiles" could hardly be more obviously intended as a joke, but that is not a legitimate defense in Cernovich's worldview.

He has previously used similar tactics to get director James Gunn fired from the Guardians of the Galaxy series—a position to which he has since been reinstated. It's kind of his whole deal. What's strange is to see Jenna Jameson falling for this, and being sucked so thoroughly into this kind of conspiratorial thinking that she ends up sharing homophobic propaganda from decades past. Five years ago, Jameson was tweeting support for gay marriage in the United States. Over the weekend she shared a link to a piece of protest writing that has been misconstrued and held up as proof of a pedophilic "gay agenda" since the 90s, in efforts to suppress gay rights.

Where did this come from? There is generally an expectation that someone with a background in sex work will have fairly open and accepting views when it comes to the politics of sex and sexuality, but in all her social media profiles Jameson ignores her past and chooses to label herself as a mom above all else. The natural fears that come with raising children seem to have combined with shame about her past, a convert's religious zeal, and a ton of right-wing propaganda to send her racing away from openness and acceptance. She has converted to a faith that tells her that so much of what she did with her life was wrong—that even her tattoos are wrong.

She wants to protect her children from the kind of mistakes she made and from so many of the scary things in the world. Terrorist attacks, school shootings, sexual predators, bullies. It's understandable that the world could start to seem like it's aligned against her—like there are powerful forces trying to corrupt and harm her children. And even efforts to help children, if they don't match her own plans, start to look like insidious plots. Vaccines will give your children autism. The coronavirus will sterilize them. And sex ed will send them down a sad, dark path that their mother knows too well.

With all the real-world problems that she wants to protect her children from, Jameson has allowed right-wing paranoia to infect her worldview. Religion, nationalism, and the politics of sexual repression provide a sense of shelter… but they also lead her to accuse a random Buzzfeed writer of being a pedophile. She has fallen fully down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole.