Shady's Kinda Back, If You Want To Tell A Friend
Hello, newsletter, my old friend. The "comeback" issue: very late to the Venice drama.
Welcome to Hyperfixate! This is a newsletter that should be in your inbox every week. But alas, she’s only human. (She’s a newsletter, relax). Sign up here. Support Ari and this newsletter here.
I have tried to write this newsletter four times now. Once a week since I moved to Vancouver, I would get halfway through a draft, get busy, and abandon it without meaning to. I would then come back to a draft, reincorporate it with whatever pop culture shenanigans occurred that week and see where that lead me. And then classes started and I became doubly hard on myself for how I was managing my time. I have an assignment due on Monday, but my brain really wanted to sit with Substack just one more time.
A bit of housekeeping: Hyperfixate’s posting schedule may vary. I’m trying out Wednesdays again but also Sundays, so you may get an extra newsletter on Sunday just to see how it goes. It’s just how things have to be given the way my life is still in the process of rearranging itself. I also don’t know how frequent these newsletters will be. I’m hopeful for once a week, but I think once every two weeks will be a bit more realistic. I want to give you something good, something that both of us will care about, something to cap off the end of the week and bolster that dread of Monday. If I can provide even the smallest percentage of that for you, I feel like I’ve done my job.
Thanks for reading Hyperfixate! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Yesterday was also my birthday. I’ve just turned 24 and I’m liking it so far. 23 was bizarre and embarrassing, hence why I told everyone I was already 24, lol. I am a baby, but one year away now from aging out of the DiCaprio bracket! Can’t wait for 25!
This week’s newsletter is also going to be a little different, there are lots of things I could talk about and want to talk about and you may have to put up with the same section being about a variety of different things. But hey, this is what you signed up for, and this is what I’m offering. There was a lot in the last month that I could’ve tackled, but I couldn’t find the time to really sit down and write, or when I did I would get frustrated when I would lose my train of thought. Hopefully, this will be a successful comeback attempt. If not, at least I tried.
Without further ado, welcome back to Hyperfixate.
Eau De Societal Collapse
The title for this section was what I wanted to call the last four missing issues of Hyperfixate. I can’t stop thinking about Timothée Chalamet in grand zillenial fashion acknowledging the state of the world during the Bones and All press conference at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
Last year’s Venice ‘coverage’—if you can even call it that—featured the ever menacing Oscar Isaac Maroon T-Shirt, something he wore to the press call for The Card Counter, a film that I have since gotten behind. This year, acclaimed director and Paul Dano Zoom Poker Club Reject Paul Schrader comes to the festival with a film called Master Gardener, starring Joel Edgerton. He seems to be really into doing movies about guys with niche jobs. I’m not mad about it.
I only saw this clip out of context, but I assume Chalamet was answering a question related to his new film Bones And All, his latest collaboration with director Luca Guadagnino. He was also probably referring to several ongoing crises we’re all (for the most part) far too aware of.
He said: “I think societal collapse is in the air, it smells like it.” Happy Virgo Season, I guess!
The clip did make me giggle. Timothée has been making me smile at my phone like a freak a lot lately since he’s been on social media more frequently. We’re watching me of all people get re-Chalametpilled in real-time. I know, how embarrassing. As friend-of-the-newsletter and fellow reluctant man enthusiast Bailey had put it: “he played Kyle in Lady Bird and never went back.’ Perhaps the next stage of Lil Timmy Tim’s evolution is to go full Chris Pine and barter his iPhone for a flip phone.
There is something about this little white boy’s charm that made a very obvious (and albeit silly coming out of his mouth) statement on the state of the world almost all too appropriate. Paul Atreides can smell the societal collapse in the air, to which you can either (continue) with ‘can’t you?’ or ‘as we all can.’
I don’t want to be defeatist, I think that attitude I fell into when I was younger because I was around some people at University that had no sense of identity outside of picking fights with people and needing to be better than them. Yes, we are fucked, and yes having hope seems futile but I’ve been convinced recently that hope isn’t such a bad thing to have. As long as you know how to handle when things go sideways, I don’t think hope has to be so devastating. I’m also still very much a realist. I don’t really care about the specifics of how I identify, but I know when to be practical. I digress. That doesn’t matter right now, that’s not what I want to talk about.
The last couple of weeks have been inundated with white celebrities doing what they do best—remind us that they’re white. I mean, when aren’t they? From people objectifying Sydney Sweeney and talking about her family’s probably conservative politics in the same sentence to Jon Bernthal unfortunately on the Shia LaBeouf apology tour after having Sarah Wayne Callies on the week prior to talk about gender-based harassment in Hollywood, the Hyperfixate roster has taken some hits. I think this newsletter’s specificity lies in who I cover and how I talk about them. Often, I sing them praises, but a lot of the time I struggle to reconcile why I care so much about an actor I first discovered from shows that are currently off the air. Do I really care? Is it because they’re hot? Talented? Moved me in some way? Do any of us care? And does any of that matter?
I could start by going into what constitutes care when I really mean—especially in the context of this silly newsletter I write—what has captured our attention. And how much of our attention we spend ‘defining’ (for lack of a better word) our online presences and allegiances. Because that’s all it is, isn’t it? Simulacrum or whatever it was Baudrillard was talking about.
I’d also like to factor in the different ways we engage with what captures our attention based on how communities of yore (not too long ago, not limited to the internet) engaged with what we now know as fan culture. Cults of personality are not new, we all know this, but the personalities and cults seem to be increasing at a commensurate rate.
Tumblr, for example, has influenced time and again modern internet youth culture. I see it in the way TikTok has skyrocketed in its brand of ‘discourse’. Of course, I’m making a generalization, there are also plenty of TikToks that are actually critical and insightful of what they discuss. But I’m—and I’m sure you have as well—seeing patterns repeat themselves when it comes to virtue signaling and invasion of privacy of groups, individuals, and pieces of media that a lot of people have found a sense of community in.
The essay My Year of Grief and Cancellation for The New York Times made the rounds again a couple of months ago. It recalled the admin of infamous yourfaveisproblematic on Tumblr and their own relationship to ideas of accountability, celebrity, and judgment. There seems to always be a need to ‘choose a side’ on the less critical spaces of the internet. The conversation surrounding ‘cancel culture’ has always been a little less than productive, but recently I was reading (for class) a piece on how in the MFA workshop space, white people get really defensive because they want to maintain a collective air of “white innocence”, and anything remotely close to even a gentle suggestion is perceived as an attack on that innocence. An innocence that is meant to be taken as the default, at face value.
I think it’s abhorrent that Bernthal would platform LaBeouf in the first place. They worked together on Fury (2014) and are apparently still friends. The audacity of platforming a credibly abusive man in hopes of hearing the ‘both sides’ argument for ‘healing’ is ridiculous to me, but comes from the same place of that ever-elusive yet somehow impenetrable fortress that is “white innocence”.
Same goes for the people rushing to defend or attack Sweeney for her family’s political allignment (alleged or not) and how she chose to respond—it comes from the notion that the cluelessness or ignorance that both shields and reinforces white innocence is inherently innocuous and should be treated as fact, that it should be the basis for any offense or defense strategy within the “discourse” on celebrity culture and accountability.
Not much discourse actually happens within internet “discourse”. I’m lucky to be on a small corner of the internet where the people I follow genuinely have interesting, thoughtful, and nuanced opinions on the media we consume, but sometimes there would be the odd stray the algorithm catches. A stray from stan twitter, a stray from complete strangers, a stray from people I have yet to block or my mutuals have blocked. For carte blanche, author Ahmad Danny Ramadan expressed how we ask too much from writers of colour to perform their trauma as extentions of their identities in order for a story to be marketable and digestible to a white audience. I think the same applies to being online in general whilst non-white. I think there’s a certain expectation on us to weigh in, and even when we do weigh in we are still being interrogated for our very existence.
But this rolls off the backs of white celebrities, obviously. It rolls off the backs of rich people. The likes of Chrissy Teigen and Jameela Jamil can catch as many strays as they possibly can, and they will happily defend or fight for whatever it is that makes sense in her brain to warrant the deployment of the following Gossip Girl reboot screenshot, but they’re still going to be online, and they have the choice to disengage and the resources to support them when it gets too much. But not everyone does. I don’t know if Bernthal platforming Shia LaBeouf is going to harm his career, but that’s just a round about pussyfooting way of saying that I absolutely know it won’t effect his career in the slightest, as even the most vile and corroborated allegations against LaBeouf hasn’t affected his ability to get hired.
That’s when the smell of societal collapse clings to my skin and dries down. The industry has been fucked for ages, and though incremental steps towards progress have been made, the same old guard of fuckery still stands. And they fucking reek. But again, I don’t want to lose hope. It’s fun to pile on, it’s fun to joke, but I don’t want to think that change is completely impossible. That may be a pipe dream, it may also be swarming with the stench of white feminist optimism and binary thinking, but fuck, I hope things aren’t fucked forever.
Re: Timothée Chalamet, I think he’s been quite fun lately. I loved his red carpet outfit and the subsequent Josh Brolin response that it takes real cajones to (checks notes) wear a halter top. It’s nice to remember that there are some of these lot in the spotlight that are actually fun and entertaining when they’re promoting their work. Good for you, Lil Timmy Tim!
Last Darling to Worry Is A Rotten Egg
I don’t want to be like the seven billionth ‘writer’ to contribute to the Don’t Worry Darling media mania, but the supposed ‘drama’ checks a couple of boxes in the Hyperfixate canon. Namely, Nick Kroll, Chris Pine, and Harry Styles.
I’m sure I don’t need to recap the shenanigans, but according to the internet:
Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde fell out over Shia LaBeouf,
and subsequently Harry Styles,
Harry Styles planted a very heterosexual kiss onto Nick Kroll,
and he may also have allegedly spat on Chris Pine.
This very hilarious seating arrangement has also been making the rounds online:
John Mulaney is technically one degree of separation away from Harry Styles, and that doesn’t compute inside my post-2015 brain. I spent a lot of my teen years watching Kroll Show. I closely followed Mulaney and Kroll’s Oh, Hello on Broadway journey. I think Big Mouth is weird, but I’m kind of obsessed with Maya Rudolph’s hormone monster voice. If Harry Styles was really about it (friends with Nick Kroll), he would be in the next season of Big Mouth as something as innocuous as a cootie or something. If he was about it, that is.
Styles acknowledged what has been dubbed ‘spitgate’ at his show in New York, saying he flew to Venice just to spit on Chris Pine. The joke, subsequent memes, and all around fun pieces of unnecessary but entertaining celebrity gossip immediately died. It’s like when you explain the joke to someone, it stops being funny. The bit had gotten right back to the source. The bourgeoisie (Styles) had appropriated the language and symbols of the proletariat (us internet freaks) in an attempt to appeal to the proletariat. No thank you! I think I’ve mentioned this on the newsletter before, despite my ties to One Direction in my youth, Styles is like an estranged relative to me. I don’t really care what he gets up to, and he hasn’t been ‘cool’ to me in a while. His latest album was alright, even though I went to the pop up in Shoreditch and got myself some merch. I contain multitudes. Celebrities leaning into the gossip is fun, and should be encouraged more often. Yet with Harry Styles, it felt like Ben Affleck spilled his large Iced Coffee from Dunkin on purpose.
There’s a lot of misogyny—internalised, thinly-veiled, or otherwise—in the ‘conversation’ surrounding Pugh and Wilde. Neither white woman is perfect nor will they ever be. But the beef, similar to Styles’ acknowledgement of his alleged spit, has lost its entertainment value. Maybe celebrity beefs should stay within the spheres of popular musicians or Fast and Furious cast members (but not popular musicians that are Fast and Furious cast members. I think Ludacris knows how to mind his business.) When Pugh’s stylists were photographed where ‘Miss Flo’ t-shirts, a reference to how Wilde spoke about the Pugh-LaBeouf situation, the gag stopped gagging. The fun smoothly transitioned into self-important cringe. It’s funny, sure, but not the kind of funny it used to be.
Those are my two cents. Do with that what you will.
Bear With Me A Moment
I started watching The Bear last night after finally gotten myself sorted enough to get a Disney+ account here in Justin Bieber’s great nation. (Isn’t it wild that Canada is a real place and the guy in charge of it is called Justin too? Like a boy in your science class Justin? Insane.)
The Bear is just what I needed. It’s fast, it’s tight, it’s gutting, and I am so glad to now be in the loop with the Jeremy Allen White thirst. That is a man right there. Giving Lip from Shameless an altered, fitted t-shirt to accentuate his bicep is one of the greatest feats of horny art in the last decade, a time where the artform is steadily in decline (American Gigolo on Showtime is apparently Bad).
I love watching things that have clearly been directly influenced by one or both Safdie brothers. I will watch the second episode tonight as a little treat.
That’s all for now. See you soon, I hope.
An interesting thing to note is how Bernthal only posted two snippets of Callies’ episode, but LaBeouf’s episode was released in full.