4 things I liked during Q3
Here's the mass media that got my wheels spinning, turned my crank, yanked my chain, etc. 90 day fiancé, horror movies, crypto, and youth sports
Thanks for being here. This week, I wrap up the quarter with some of the media items that really wet my whistle. If you’ve been enjoying Brands Mean a Lot, please consider subscribing.
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‘This Is All Exactly What It Looks Like’ by David Roth (Defector).
Crypto, crypto, crypto. Have you heard? I bought a minimal amount of bitcoin and a highly speculative ‘alt-coin’ (still not sure what that is) earlier this year. Both were purchased at their respective peaks. Well guess what, I have no idea what I’m doing and I don’t plan on learning. Crypto’s always seemed a bit off to me. Less because of what it is and more because of who trumpets it the loudest. More often than not, I find its most zealous adherents are ‘hustle-culture’ hucksters or techno-witchcraft-as-panacea devotees. I’m sure crypto could have some interesting uses, but for now, it’s mostly used for drugs and paying off ransoms. Roth breaks down how the discussions around crypto mirror most other discussions of anything having to do with money:
Cryptocurrency, at least as it is sold by its most fervent adherents—the most prominent of those are men already famous for being rich, with a greasy substrate of rise-and-grind influencer types pumping and dumping and posting and posting and posting away just beneath—is rhetorically much more ambitious than the previous innovations that promised to Change The World for the better.
Read the piece to help yourself articulate what seems off about crypto and why it just doesn’t feel…good.
Horror: ‘His House’. Directed by Remi Weeks
This is from 2020, but I watched it in 2021. Time is relative. The movie follows two South Sudanese refugees assimilating to the UK and how they continue to be haunted by the choices they made in order to get there. As good horror should, the film manages to merge real-life trauma (in this case, immigration) with the supernatural, thereby accentuating the scares and manifesting palpable terror. Combining some B-movie schlock and jump scares with a topic that drives policy across the globe makes for some compelling results.
Reality TV: 90 Day Fiancé (TLC)
Is it possible I’ve been missing out on reality television? I’ll admit to almost never watching it save for The Great British Baking Show. Nonetheless, I managed to catch an episode of this on a flight to visit family and was completely blown away by just how deeply bananas the characters are. My favorite was the 50 year old woman from Georgia (the state) marrying a 27 year old Muslim man from Tunisia. I gazed slack-jawed as she struggled to get her fiancé a K1 visa (a visa for spouses) because she’d already previously applied for and received a K1 visa for a different 20-something year old Muslim spouse. As if that weren’t silly enough, stay to marvel at her dismay as she—in 2021—discovers that the US State Department over-scrutinizes young Muslim men emigrating to the US. As a long lost MTV Real World fan, this show has re-opened my eyes to the unvarnished insanity of reality television. Throughout the show, you’ll ping pong between rooting for love—and the success of the marriages—and thinking the participants should all be lobotomized.
‘Against Kids’ Sports’ by Anne Helen Petersen (Culture Study)
As someone whose acceptance into an Ivy League college was almost entirely predicated on my abilities as an American football player, this one resonated. I was good at high school football, but I’m not sure I’d have gone to all the requisite camps and practices had it not been for a mom who made sure it all happened. Without those camps and practices, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the requisite attention to get recruited. To the extent you’re lucky enough to have parents that can not only afford to pay for youth athletics, but also have the bandwidth to support the logistics therein, you’re already a leg up on others. I got very lucky.
The professionalization of kids’ and teens’ sports includes travel teams that cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, not even including the cost of hotels and the transportation itself — but it is also the pipeline towards professionalization, which sometimes begins before many kids have even started kindergarten. It is the idea that if you kids aren’t in an organized league by then, they are “behind” — and might not catch up to their peers.
Those children whose parents can afford all the attendant nonsense of children’s athletics have an enormous advantage when it comes to scholarships and admissions. Petersen makes the case for why the professionalization of not just athletics, but many other children’s extra curriculars is dangerous and further entrenches inequality.
Personally, Peterson’s writing is highly aspirational.
What I managed to do well this quarter
Finally, if you’re new here and haven’t seen some of the good stuff from the past, here are the quarter’s most popular posts in terms of views and subscriptions:
I’ll be back next week with more cutting commentary and shitty illustrations. Until then, consider subscribing or sharing your favorite post from Brands Mean a Lot with a friend.