TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S
Letter from the Editor 3 WORD ON THE STREET Taken by the Tides
5 EGO OF THE WEEK Meet Sabrina Ochoa
On EP2! by JPEGMAFIA
LOL 10 FILM & TV
Minari Tenderly Explores Family and Sacrifice
rowing up is a slow burn, even though we don’t always realize this in the moment. The trope stares us in the face so regularly we never think to interrogate it. It sits at the end of The Catcher in the Rye, where Holden Caulfield believes the “Fuck you” scrawled on the side of his little sister’s school is a metaphor for endless adulthood. It’s the central theme of Amazon’s The Wilds, where the cast leads us to believe that teenage girlhood is so much messier than being trapped on an island in a social experiment. It’s the takeaway from the cult classic Thirteen, where a preTwilight Nikki Reed whisks us into a world of neglectful parents, drug addiction, and middle schoolers who wish they could just fast forward to adulthood already. The process of growing up is always depicted as something painfully cringeworthy, something to avoid at all costs, something to skip through so you can get to the good part. What Hollywood—and, by extension, we—often forget is that we are aging in perpetuity. We will always be growing up, getting wiser, hating the things we used to like. The difference? As we careen into our twenties and mosey into middle age, the stakes of those realizations get higher. I long for the days when the awkwardness I was desperate to flee was unambiguous and could be patched over with a couple Ben & Jerry’s pints and a trip to the nail salon with my mom. It’s not that the problems of adolescents aren’t real. It’s that they’re manageable. The solutions are simple: find a new group of friends, study harder, tell the principal if someone’s bothering you. But once you hit 18 years old, there’s no principal to protect you, and the ethical dilemmas get messier. What do you do if your colleague is microaggressive, but you don’t think
your boss will understand? Or if you’re already working the hardest you can at multiple jobs and still worry that you won't make rent? What if you’re stuck in a loveless marriage or a dead–end career, or hate your life but can’t afford to change it? Suddenly, working harder and tattling doesn't work anymore. This week’s edition of Street is about how we contend with getting older. We have essays about how our favorite children’s shows don’t hit the same and interviews about rejecting the male gaze that’s been projected on girls since childhood. Even our feature—an exploration of the college admissions process in the age of COVID–19—is about grappling with one of those ugly, adult dilemmas early: What do you do when the education system isn’t designed to support you?
Illustration by Alice Heyeh SSSF,
Class of 2025 Talks Virtual College Apps
Beatrice Forman, Editor–in–Chief Chelsey Zhu, Campus Editor Mehek Boparai, Culture Editor Karin Hananel, Assignments Editor Lily Stein, Features Editor Denali Sagner, Features Editor Hannah Lonser, Special Issues Editor Julia Esposito, Word on the Street Editor Kyle Whiting, Music Editor Peyton Toups, Deputy Music Editor Kaliyah Dorsey, Focus Editor Emily White, Style Editor Eva Ingber, Ego Editor Aakruti Ganeshan, Arts Editor Harshita Gupta, Film & TV Editor
Glamdemon2004 Doesn't Care What You Think About Her
LOL 22 UNDER THE BUTTON
Isabel Liang, Design Editor Alice Heyeh, Street Design Editor Mia Kim, Deputy Design Editor Jesse Zhang, Street Multimedia Editor Caylen David, Street Audience Engagement Editor Features Staff Writers: Sejal Sangani, Angela Shen,
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Lindsey Perlman, Mira Sydow, Amy Xiang, Pranav Mishra Focus Beat Writers: Rema Bhat, Kira Wang, Jean Paik, Gabriella Raffetto Style Beat Writers: Naomi Kim, Matthew Sheeler Ego Beat Writers: Maddie Muldoon, Nick Plante, Fernanda Brizuela, Saranya Das Sharma, Lily Suh Music Beat Writers: Emily Moon, Allison Stillman, Nora Youn, Evan Qiang, Walden Green Arts Beat Writers: Jessa Glassman and Avneet Randhawa Film & TV Beat Writer: Arielle Stanger Staff Writers: Meg Gladieux, Aidah Qureshi, Jillian Lombardi, Kathryn Xu, Alice Heyeh, Phuong Ngo, Aria Vyas Multimedia Associates: Dhivya Arasappan, Sage Levine, Sophia Dai, Sophie Huang, Samantha Turner, Sudeep Bhargava, Sukhmani Kaur, Alexandra Morgan Lindo Audience Engagement Associates: Kira Wang, Samara Kleiman, Stephanie Nam, Yamila Frej Copy Editor: Brittany Darrow
Cover Design by Ava Cruz Contacting 34th Street Magazine: If you have questions, comments, complaints or letters to the editor, email Bea Forman, Editor-In-Chief, at email@example.com. You can also call us at (215) 422–4640. www.34st.com
©2021 34th Street Magazine, The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. No part may be reproduced in whole or in part without the express, written consent of the editors (but I bet we will give you the a–okay.) All rights reserved. 34th Street Magazine is published by The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc., 4015 Walnut St., Philadelphia, Pa., 19104, every Wednesday.
"get in, losers. we’re joining marriage pact."
WORD ON THE STREET
Taken by the Tides How my family's neighborhood became a ghost town | ANNE LALLY
e a Breeze, N.J. was a small neighborhood along the Delaware Bay with a distinct aroma of salt and mud. A year before the New Jersey government bought out the neighborhood, my family made the mistake of trying to drive to our house in Sea Breeze without checking the tides. About half a mile away from the house, we realized that the water covering the road was too deep. We couldn't turn around, so my brother threw the truck into reverse and slowly drove back down the twisted access road. My brother and grandma were hooting and hollering, trying to navigate the car through the water. My dad, who didn't find the situation as funny, kept saying that we had to hurry so the salt water didn't damage his undercarriage. Once we made it back onto dry ground, we waited a couple hours until Mother Nature let us get back to the house. This wasn't the first time tides had flooded the road. For generations, my mother’s family battled with rising water. From years of experience, we developed strategies for dealing with it. Like how Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz always follows the yellow brick road, we always followed our road’s double yellow lines. Driving down the middle of the road prevented you from going into the marsh. You also needed to memorize the locations of guardrails. During a flood, they disappeared, and hitting a guardrail could dent your car or poke a hole into your boat. To escape during a flood, you had to batter down the hatches, park the cars where the tavern used to be, hop in someone’s boat, and navigate down the double yellow lines. Hopefully, your car would still be there when the bay stopped having a tantrum. Discussions at Penn on rising sea levels emphasize the future. Many of our ecology courses focus on what will happen in decades if we do not intervene today. Conversations on climate change seem to be one–sided: Everyone agrees that the state should swoop in and take action. However, my classmates seem to forget that environments are local. My family and the community of Sea Breeze know what happens when the state doesn't work with locals to develop policies. Our whole community fought tidal erosion together. Using pilings, rocks, and wood, families built bulkheads, or walls that prevent sediment erosion. If no one could build a bulkhead in front of a lot, the neighbors pooled together resources to protect it. Yet sections of the road still washed away over time. The neighborhood asked the township for money to help, but it didn't have the resources. It pointed us to the state instead. The state decided to build its own seawall to prevent
Photo courtesy of Anne Lally road erosion. Instead of the community constructing its own bulkheads, the state wanted one uniform wall around the entirety of the neighborhood. A government–endorsed wall sounded promising, so the community signed an agreement allowing the state to do what it wanted.
Rising sea levels may be a global phenomenon, but they have effects on local populations. As the project began, we realized that we had made a mistake. The Division of Coastal Engineering at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) sent an inexperienced head engineer to Sea Breeze. He built a wall that was more suited for rivers than the sea. After ripping up our pilings, he sloped cinder blocks down into the bay. Instead of backfilling with gravel or a heavy substrate, he used sand. After generations of building bulkheads, members of the community knew what worked. Sand was too light, and the tides would wash it away. We voiced our concerns, but the NJDEP didn't listen. Sea Breeze was a neighborhood of blue–collar workers, and the
head engineer felt that the community wasn't educated enough to have an opinion on the wall. He backfilled the wall with sand, and the project failed catastrophically. The entire road was swept into the bay. Instead of owning up to its mistake, the state decided to purchase all of the homes in the neighborhood. Due to climate change, rising sea levels and severe weather events would define the town's future. It seemed like the state didn't think it would be worth it to protect the community. Within a year or two, Sea Breeze became a ghost town. My mother had refused to sell her lot. Now it's just a piece of sand, but we go back a few times a year. Whenever we drive down the washed–out road, a sense of melancholic nostalgia laps over us. Pointing at empty lots, my mom tells stories about the neighbors who used to live there. As she talks, I always think about the experiences that my family lived through that I will never know. The crabs I will never trap. The card games I will never play. The greenhead bites that will never sting me. My own memories of Sea Breeze are fading. When my classmates talk about the future of our oceans, my mind fixates on the past and present. While I want us to take action to protect our oceans, my optimism is fatigued by my experiences with failed state policies. Rising sea levels may be a global phenomenon, but they have effects on local populations. By listening to communities, we can build better policies and protect endangered neighborhoods. Losing my family’s generational home has jaded me. But the fight to protect coastal communities isn't over. The tides continue to rise. M A RC H 4 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E
Meet Págame, the Venmo of Latin America How three Wharton students are revolutionizing the e–payment landscape | SARANYA DAS SHARMA
ess than 50% of the Latin American population has access to basic financial services like bank accounts, money transfers, and debit or credit cards—an inaccessibility exacerbated by complicated applications and requirements. This is what inspired Juan Pablo Ramirez (W ’22), Jaime Barrenechea (W ’22), and Brendan McCaffrey (W, E ’22) to take action. Bonding over their shared love of soccer and entrepreneurship, the three juniors co–founded Págame—a fintech startup that aims to be the Venmo of Bolivia and to revolutionize the Latinx financial landscape. Págame is an app that seeks to make peer–to–peer financial transactions simpler. "Right now, to make a transaction [in Latin America]—a simple payment that people in the United States would just associate with a username and Venmo—requires a lot of information, including documentation number, account number, name, place of residence, and much more info,” says Brendan. Págame uses data services to collect the information required for these transactions, so you only need to provide one unique identifier, like a username. The app then does the rest of the work, auto–filling the data and allowing you to transfer money to others with the tap of a button. Juan—who grew up in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic— has always had a keen interest in Latin America's business landscape and solutions to its inequities. He believes that financial inclusion is an important tool to stimulate economic development. He's seen how apps like Venmo and Cash App revolutionized the U.S. and European economies. It was Juan who came up with the idea of a peer–to–peer payment service. He planned to start the app in Bolivia. "Bolivia was the best place to launch this [platform] because it has an interconnected society, a high level of smartphone penetration, and a lack of larger financial players," he says. Juan then reached out to Jaime, his friend since 4
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Illustration by Rebekah Lee his first year at Penn. He thought that Jaime's business savvy and extensive knowledge of Bolivia would make him the perfect partner. However, both students didn't possess much technical know– how, an integral part of building an app. So Jaime pitched the company idea to his close friend and Zeta Beta Tau brother Brendan, whose sound financial and technical knowledge completed the trio. Thus, Págame was born.
The lack of financial infrastructure in Latin America was like a blank canvas. Together, the team began working on the app. They wanted to revamp the foundation laid by existing apps in the United States and provide a fresh take. The lack of financial infrastructure in Latin America was like a blank canvas. Brendan explains their thinking using the metaphor of cities: “If you want to make NYC better, there’s only so much you can do because the street grid is already set in stone. If you create a new city, you can optimize it in a way that NYC can never [achieve]." However, due to the COVID–19 pandemic, the three students were soon forced to leave Pagamé’s unofficial headquarters at 4115 Walnut Street and fly back to their respective homes. They used quarantine to develop Págame. Since
many of their friends’ internships had been canceled, the trio now knew a lot of people who needed something meaningful to do over the summer. Over the break, they began expanding the team. What started off as five interns over the summer has grown into a network of students from Harvard, Princeton, Berkeley, Northwestern, and the University of Toronto. Currently, the app is still in development, with an expected launch date in the next few months. The founders are in talks with high–level financial institutions to ensure that the app can come to the market smoothly and work for as many people as possible. They’re working with a number of mentors: Gustavo Añez Castedo, a representative of Bolivia at the World Bank; Miguel Armaza, co–founder of Gilgamesh Ventures, an investment fund focusing on the Americas; and Andrew Endicott, CFO and founder of Petal, a financial innovation startup that has raised almost $500 million in funding. The Págame team also recently received a grant from WeissFund, a student–run venture capital group at Penn, which Jaime describes as a “proud milestone.” Going forward, each of the co–founders will continue working on Págame, on top of pursuing other professional aspirations. They hope exposure in their careers will allow them to bring finance and consulting knowledge back to Pagamé’s venture. The team also wants to expand the app's reach to Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. Juan is optimistic about their vision. “We hope to mold [Pagamé] into the best product possible and make it work—[to] be able to use the concept and expand little by little into other developing economies,” he says. Juan, Jaime, and Brendan are quintessential 'Whartonites' passionate about entrepreneurship. But they are also staunch advocates for social change, with a mission that transcends business: to create value for themselves and for Latin America.
EGO OF THE WEEK
SABRINA OCHOA HOMETOWN:
Boynton Beach, Florida
Philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE), minor in East Asian languages and civilizations
The F–Word Magazine, Penn V–Day, Cipactli Latinx Honor Society, Carriage Senior Society BY FERNANDA BRIZUELA
Why did you decide to study PPE, and what drew you to your minor concentration in Korean studies? SABRINA OCHOA: I knew that I wanted to go to law school after Penn. I talked to the pre–law advisor, and they were like, “You can actually do anything [for a major].” I knew I was interested in philosophy because I'd taken some courses in high school, but I didn't want to commit to one thing. So PPE was a little bit of everything. I was definitely being kind of a nerd about it. I was like, “Yeah, econ, I should challenge myself.” And that's probably my least favorite part of PPE. I ended up sticking with it because I got a lot of flexibility [in] the kind of classes I got to take for my major. Then my minor was what I was actually interested in—my little, itty bitty passion project. I had initially wanted to major in East Asian studies when I was applying to colleges. My parents were like, “We're not going to pay for your tuition if you major in East Asian studies,” and I was like, "Wow, you really got me there." I had done a research paper on Japanese colonization in Korea in high school and wanted to learn more. So when I got to Penn [and saw] they had a Korean studies program, I was like, "This is my shot." It also gave me the opportunity to study abroad and take some classes [in Korea] to complete my minor. STREET: You've been involved in The F–Word Magazine since your first year at Penn. What does this publication mean to you, and how has your involvement changed throughout the years? SO: Oh, F–Word is my baby. I feel so protective of it. I’m so proud of our little community. I started out as a poetry editor, if I remember correctly. I had been involved in lit mags in high school, and I knew I was interested in social justice and feminism. This seemed like a great intersection of the two. I got even more involved and became managing editor. Then I helped the 34TH STREET MAGAZINE:
editor–in–chief at the time launch a blog for F– Word, which is a really big deal because in the past we’d only ever done print magazines. You really have a limited audience when you do that. It's just limited to the people that you can get your publication in the hands of, so having an online presence is really, really cool. Being involved in the setup for that was something totally new that I'd never done before—like website design and working with WordPress. Then I became editor–in–chief my junior year, and now I'm co–editor–in–chief with Jessica Bao (C '22) this year. What it has meant to me is just having a space on campus where, not only do we have this creative end goal of producing a product like a print magazine or a blog article to put on our blog, but we have a space where we can talk through different issues that come up with the pieces that we workshop, or the pieces that we get submitted to us. I think it's a great opportunity for people to learn, not just from the authors and artists who submit work to our group, but from the discussion around the content of the pieces that we work on. I like providing that for people because I know coming in as a [first year], there was a lot I didn't know about social justice issues and a lot of the nuance around issues of gender, sexuality, [and] sexual violence. So to be able to provide that learning space for underclassmen is kind of what makes the efforts precious to me. STREET: You played a role in transforming Penn V–Day into a more inclusive space through the Penn Monologues. What inspired you to do this? SO: It was definitely a collective effort. I was the finance chair for V–Day, for the year that we switched from producing The Vagina Monologues to the [Penn] Community Monologues. I had previously been the stage manager for The Vagina Monologues the year before. So with that kind of continuity, I got to help contribute to the new
board pushing in this Community Monologue’s direction. That was really, really fulfilling. It was a little bit like my experience with F–Word but on stage—basically soliciting submissions from not just the Penn community, but the broader Philadelphia community. And working more with WOAR Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence, which is Philly's only full service rape crisis center. So even though I was the financial manager, and I was a little bit more on the fundraising side—one of our goals [was] to raise money for WOAR—I helped solidify the process for soliciting submissions, workshopping them with with the authors, and workshopping them with the performers, who weren't necessarily the authors. That was great. I also got to perform a piece that was written by somebody else and work with our brilliant director, Mckayla Warwick (C '20), to do that. What basically inspired that was moving away from a lot of the dated '90s feminist themes in The Vagina Monologues and trying to just have a show that represented more of Penn’s community and the Philadelphia community, and that we could really make it our own. STREET: What has your experience been in the Cipactli and Carriage Societies? SO: I joined both of those senior societies my junior spring. That was the COVID-19 semester. So my experience with senior societies hasn't been the norm. In fact, for Cipactli, I joined right before spring break, so I got to kind of know people, and then everyone had to leave. That was a little bit sad. It's really pleasant to be in a community of seniors who all have that interest in the issues that the society is focused on. For example, I wasn't very involved in La Casa Latina most of my years at Penn, but I missed being with other Latin American students. So joining Cipactli was a way for me to find that community again, even after being an upperclassman. Getting to meet
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EGO OF THE WEEK
new people at a later point in Penn was really important to me. STREET: What has been your most memorable experience at Penn? SO: Putting on the Penn Community Monologues is my most memorable experience at Penn. That was a big undertaking because it had been talked about for so long. To see something through from its inception as an idea to an actual performance. We were selling out the auditorium that we held the show in. It was so thrilling to see that, to see the overwhelming response from the community, that this was something they really wanted. It was a moment of, “Hey, the community has stories, we want to workshop them and put them on stage. Come see your words performed.” That to me was like being directly involved in an action of empowerment in a way that I don't think I've ever experienced before. That's one of my most memorable experiences at Penn, and I'm really grateful that I got to be a part of the team that put that together.
STREET: If you could impart one lesson on the Penn community, what would it be? SO: While it's really good to have professional goals—and it's totally valid to pursue extracurricular activities that further your professional goals—definitely do things that just fulfill you. They don't have to have any instrumental value. Just do them. I think that's what has really made me appreciate my time at Penn. There's definitely a lot of reasons to criticize Penn as an institution, but I'm really grateful for my time at Penn. I think it's because I chose to not really use the bulk of my extracurricular time just on things that had instrumental value. Rather, I did things because they were interesting, or because they were fun, or because they'd expose me to something new. I have a friend from the Mariana Islands, and she's a part of the Hawaii Club. I think I just saw on Facebook one day that they were looking for people to dance in their luau. I was like, “I've never danced hula before, but this sounds like an awesome opportunity.” It was such a great experience. I had to do it for two years, and I wouldn't trade
that for anything. You know, any time I spent on that, I don't think I could have spent it any better way. STREET: What's next for you after Penn? SO: I’m headed to Harvard Law School. I always knew I was going to go to law school after Penn. I'm going to Boston. It's going to be very cold. I'm originally from Florida, so I'm not prepared for that. All my friends are telling me I shouldn't become a Red Sox fan, so I guess I'm gonna have to figure that out once I'm there. I'm interested in human rights law and possibly working for the United Nations after law school. That's what's in my future. I definitely view it as a step toward being an advocate for women, for queer people, and for people of color around the world too, because human rights is an international issue. I think it's kind of taking my interest in feminism and social justice within the Penn community, broadening it to a more international scope, and seeing if I can take my human capital and apply it to something that actually changes someone's life. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
LIGHTNING ROUND STREET: Last song that you listened to? SO: “Hablamos Mañana” by Bad Bunny. STREET: Something people wouldn't guess about you? SO: That I was once certified to teach Pilates. I definitely don't do Pilates anymore. That was four years ago. But yeah, I got that certification once. STREET: If you were a building on campus, which would you be and why? SO: I would be PCPSE [Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics]. That's the new political science building. I love that it has so many windows and looks so open. But when you get inside, everything is locked. I think that is definitely analogous to the kind of person I am. STREET: What's your favorite Korean dish? SO: Tteokbokki. It's like spicy rice cakes. I definitely can't eat spicy food, so I tried to eat a bunch of it to build up my tolerance. And I still can't eat spicy food, but it's delicious. So I'll eat it anyway. STREET: There are two types of people at Penn… SO: Those who have a SEPTA pass and those who always buy a single use quick trip. STREET: And you are? SO: I definitely have a SEPTA pass. I love that. I will carry that as a memento of my time in Philadelphia.
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When Do We Give Up On Delayed Albums?
Lorde, Rihanna, and Chromatics have all been set to release new music ... for a while. | WALDEN GREEN
uring the COVID–19 pandemic, many recently announced records were postponed, creating a widespread sense of anticipation for music listeners. However, for albums that have already been long–awaited and repeatedly delayed, those feelings have morphed from excitement into disillusionment and ennui for many. This is especially true for works like Rihanna and Lorde’s untitled ninth and third LPs, and Chromatics’ extensively teased Dear Tommy. All of these may represent peaks in the artists’ careers, at least in the minds of some fans, and have also already been awaited for years. Any of these projects may or may not finally be released in 2021. But will they be able to live up to their hype?
Rihanna’s ANTI (2016) signified a break from her prolific run of one studio album per year from 2005 through 2012, and was itself the victim of numerous obstacles to its release. This began with a false start in 2014, followed by singles like “FourFiveSeconds” and “Bitch Better Have My Money”—neither of which would make the final tracklist. To muddy the waters further, the album leaked prior to its release. ANTI represented Rihanna at her greatest command of voice and art. Slow– burner ballads like “Love On The Brain” and “Higher” showcased a staggering and heretofore unexplored rawness in her vocal delivery. The album also managed to successfully conquer a number of seemingly disparate genres—rock (“Desperado”), dancehall (“Work”), trap (“Woo”), dubstep (“Needed Me”), and psychedelia (“Same Ol’ Mistakes")—with apparent ease. Five years on, and Rihanna’s follow– up to this magnum opus is still without a name or a set release date. More recently, Rihanna aggravated fans clamoring for new material, which has yielded a relationship that borders on hostile. In mid–2019, one fan commented “ok now can u please go back to singing,” on an Instagram post, to which Rihanna scathingly replied: “i love how y’all tell me what to do. it’s great.” In a repeat of this on New Year’s Day of 2021, another fan comment, “[New Years’] Resolution should be releasing the album,” elicited an initial response from Rihanna that “this comment is sooo 2019. grow up.” Rihanna later changed the reply to “2021 energy.” In an interview with Allure, Pharell Williams said, “Rih is in a different place right now. Like wow. She’s from a different world.” Rihanna herself has asserted that the album will be worth the wait. She has also stated numerous times that it will bear a reggae influence, corroborated by one possible demo leaked by singer– songwriter Skylar Grey last year.
THE LIFESTYLE YOU DESERVE RE-IMAGINED SKY LOUNGE WITH INCREASED STUDY SPACE COMING THIS SUMMER.
Contact us for details 215-222-4212 | THERADIAN.COM
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Indeed, it's likely Rihanna’s new album will be good, but if it doesn’t stand out from the pack like ANTI did before it, will R9 be worth the wait?
Illustration by Sudeep Bhargava
A year after Rihanna released ANTI, Lorde released her own triumphant return to the stage with Melodrama. The eccentric song structures and vibrant instrumental palette pioneered by her sophomore effort have yet to be successfully replicated across much of popular music. This makes sense, given Lorde’s evocative grasp of melody and imagery (see: “Closin’ my teeth around this liquor–wet lime” from “Sober” or “Painted on the road / red and chrome / all the broken glass sparkling” from “Homemade Dynamite”). Based on the sonic progression between her two previous releases, there’s no doubt that Lorde’s next project will carve a new path. That said, it’s doubtful whether or not that mythologized third album will meet the expectations of a new group of young adults desperately waiting for their own adolescent soundtrack. Releasing one generation–defining masterpiece is something few musicians can even aspire to, let alone two. What has Lorde said about her supposedly upcoming album? Not much. Just earlier this month, her Twitter account was suspended due to inactivity. This indicates that Lorde likely isn’t under constant pressure from the general public. She hasn’t taken to the same teasing tactics as Rihanna either. Perhaps this stems from an incentive to be more secretive about her recording process when faced with a veritable crusade of hungry fans. In this vein, updates on L3 have been substantial, but few and far between. In May of 2020, Lorde sent out an eloquent email, which included some scraps of information on the fate of the upcoming album. On the positive side, she’s back in the studio with Jack Antonoff, and writes of her new album that “It’s got its own colours now.” On the other hand, “It’ll take a while longer.” Later that year, she also detailed a trip to Antarctica—followed up with a book release—which apparently inspired the record’s title. Based on these updates, Lorde’s prospective release timeline is hard to pin down.
Both R9 and L3 have occupied periods of relative drought since their creators’ last full length projects, but one act in particular has remained highly prolific, while what may be their magnum opus has yet to see the light of day. Chromatics’ Dear Tommy was initially announced for release on Valentine’s Day of 2015,
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and now the seventh Valentine’s Day has just passed without a sound. Dear Tommy was proposed as the follow–up to Chromatics’ previous release in 2012, Kill for Love. This movie–length career peak for the band showcased a near–perfect balance between luminescent synthpop cuts and filmic interludes, truly evocative of a major motion picture. Despite the high standards set by their previous work, the early singles from Dear Tommy showed a band primed to top themselves. Any could be considered their best song ever: the new wave melodrama of “I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around,” the frigid last dance of “Shadow,” or the sinister love letter of the title track. The latter song’s lyrics contain the couplet “I see your face / and it only twists the knife." In consistent fashion, the band released a song called “Twist the Knife” in 2019, as if they were in on the joke the whole time. Rather paradoxically, Chromatics have released an entire album since they announced Dear Tommy. It just wasn't the album they promised, nor did it contain any of the singles from Dear Tommy. This album, Closer to Grey, had the roman numeral VII clearly depicted on its cover artwork, while Dear Tommy was set to be the canonical sixth full album from the band.
This indicates that Closer to Grey was not intended to be released in lieu of Dear Tommy, but it still brings Dear Tommy dangerously close to “lost album” status. Chromatics have developed a consistent reputation for teasing their fans as to the whereabouts of the album, even turning frustration at the lack of updates into branding. YouTube comments about the record will garner plenty of likes from Chromatics’ record label and replies like “enjoy the ride xoxo.” This constant balancing act of disappointment and reassurance keeps fans hooked into the masochism of Dear Tommy’s delayed release cycle. But they also must come to terms with the fact that the album may never even come out at all. Even if Dear Tommy does drop, it’s impossible that fans will have all their expectations met without disappointment; after all, “Shadow” and “I Can Never Be Myself…,” have already been taken off the most recent iteration of the tracklist. In his 2015 track review of “Shadow,” Pitchfork critic Patric Fallon wrote that “This is a song about disillusionment, survival, and having the strength to move on.” As we anticipate the release of records like R9, L3, or Dear Tommy, the song’s sentiment becomes clearer with every passing year, until we finally decide to move on ourselves.
On EP2!, JPEGMAFIA Experiments with Ambience
The rapper known for his eclectic and digitalized production opts for a new sound. | EVAN QIANG
f 2020 was the year of chaos, then 2021 is the year of closure. Normalcy finally feels like it is within our reach after months of uncertainty, and at the culmination of all the challenges and obstacles we faced is a newfound acceptance of ourselves. After years of creating wild sounds and high–energy beats, JPEGMAFIA begins 2021 like the rest of us—trying to develop stability within himself in an unstable world. Released as a collection of songs made during quarantine, JPEGMAFIA’s new EP EP2! is a distinct entity from his previous works. His mixtape Communist Slow Jams established his identity as a rapper who knew no bounds, and the subsequent debut album black ben carson solidified his niche as a maximalist hip–hop artist. While his past albums Veteran and All My Heroes Are Cornballs feature even more unpredictable structures and experimental production, EP2! ventures into more familiar melodic territory accompanied by a softer sound. Opening the first track “LAST DANCE!” is a soothing steel drum, an appropriate instrument to introduce JPEGMAFIA’s new style. With additional elements such as distorted drums, horns, and his signature auto–tuned voice slowly added to the production, the song evolves into what one would typically expect from the glitch–hop artist. The sense of uneasiness from his own work is still there, just subdued to reflect the darker undertones present throughout the EP. As he exclaims, “Since I bought a Glock, no more drama in my life,” JPEGMAFIA establishes his individuality while also tapping into his vulnerability. Although a material possession gives him protection, JPEGMAFIA is still very much searching within himself, trying to find his comforts in a place away from his fans and his critics. “INTRO!” and “FIX URSELF!” go even further into the low–key cloud rap theme. Originally combined into one single, the two tracks are now sonically split by a deep bass line that seems to gradually build until it suddenly stops. It lurks in the background as a constant pulse, similar to the feelings JPEGMAFIA expresses throughout “FIX URSELF!.” In the pre– chorus, he says, “Every morning I body shame, I can’t stand my face,” showing that any mirror is a nagging reminder that he still can’t accept himself. No matter how much JPEGMAFIA can boast that “My success
Illustration by Sudeep Bhargava
killing all of my exes” for instance, he is still trying to find peace within his inner self. What might seem to be a highly extroverted personality can still be someone who needs time to soul search, and JPEGMAFIA attempts to highlight this point throughout the EP. As JPEGMAFIA continues to open up about his life and his personal struggles, he reminds himself of his Air Force past on “KELTEC!” Named after a firearms brand, the track features heavy synthesizers and warped beats that create an uneasy feeling of disturbed tranquility. This permeates through the verses and chorus until the instrumentation is abruptly replaced with a robotic voice that states, “All representatives are assisting other veterans,” a haunting reminder of the stress veterans face. In an interview with The Guardian, JPEGMAFIA described his time in the military as “extremely scary” and “isolating.” It’s clear that he is still grappling with this part of his life. Even his everyday relationships are tainted by his past feelings of seclusion, but this does not stop him from looking deeper and reconciling his inner and outer selves. JPEGMAFIA turns to more global and political issues on “THIS ONES FOR US!” as he discusses racism perpetuated by the media, but these issues are
still relevant to his life. He recalls his time looking for a job, saying, “Black, beautiful, and damn, I’m gifted/ You being white just got you that position.” Affected by stereotypes within the music industry, the rapper presents his frustrations with a difficult life, veiled in a wider attack on the predominantly white reporters and news channels. This is yet another glimpse into a more vulnerable artist who is typically unabashed and brazen, and there is no doubt that his identity is even more complex than what he tells us on EP2!. While old fans may be disappointed in JPEGMAFIA’s new style, EP2! is the artist’s successful first attempt to show off his other dimensions. Despite being only around 17 minutes long, the EP still manages to encapsulate the intricacies of JPEGMAFIA’s persona. More than anything, EP2! is the product of a mid–pandemic mindset. JPEGMAFIA is more personal than ever, trading in his past pompous grandeur for somber introspection and allowing fans to understand the mastermind behind one of the most avant–garde and innovative artists today. Finally, it’s as much of an EP for us, the listeners, as it is for him; through his stream of consciousness style rapping, he is finally able to find peace and closure within himself. M A RC H 4 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E
FILM & TV
Minari Tenderly Explores Family and Sacrifice
The film is an emotional character–driven study of what it means to be a part of a family. | HARSHITA GUPTA Alan S. Kim, Steven Yeun, Noel Cho, Yeri Han Photo by David Bornfriend / A24 The following contains spoilers for Minari.
ased on director Lee Isaac Chung’s real upbringing, A24’s dramatic film Minari is a tender, character–driven study of a family that both loves each other and struggles to live together. It's aware of the significance of the mundane moments in life, and it forces viewers to pay attention. Minari follows the Korean American Yi family, after they move from California to rural Arkansas in the 1980s. Parents Monica and Jacob struggle with their differing goals, their worry over the success of the farm, and their concern for their young son, David, who suffers from a heart murmur. When Monica’s mother moves from Korea to help babysit the Yi children, David struggles to accept her as a nurturing figure. The understated performances by Steven Yeun and Yeri Han, who play Jacob and Monica Yi respectively, elevate the intimacy and deep emotionality of the film. The immensely talented cast of child actors, Alan Kim and Noel Kate Cho, who play David and Anne Yi, also steal all of their scenes. So much of the film is colored by the Asian American immigrant experience in a way rarely tackled by media. It focuses on how children of immigrants straddle their dual identities and can end up alienated from their homelands. Through the relationship between David and his grandmother, Soonja, it explores the barrier that crops up between children of immigrants and their grandparents, who often live so far away. David and Anne constantly say Soonja “isn’t a real grandma” because she can’t bake cookies or read, defying the image of grandmothers they have grown up 10 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E M A RC H 4 , 2 0 21
with. However, Soonja calls David “strong” in her broken English, teaches him to play cards, dotes on him, and shows him where to grow the titular minari plant—revealing the immense love that exists between family despite great emotional and physical distance. Minari never sacrifices its authenticity to cater to a primarily white audience. The majority of the film is in Korean, with English used mainly by the children or when talking to white characters. However, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that it is about a Korean American family moving to predominantly white Arkansas in the '80s, lightly referencing Reagan’s presidency and the Korean War. In a memorable scene where the Yi family attends church, another girl turns to Anne and imitates what she thinks Korean sounds like in a babble of racist sounds. It is a child’s ignorance, but reflects an experience many Asian American children face. The heart of the film is rooted in the family’s connections to one another. It illuminates the friction that exists within relationships with raw authenticity. The major conflict of the film is between Monica and Jacob, who have vastly different desires for their family’s future. Monica wants to move back to the city, where they can make more money and live securely. Jacob, who despairs over spending his entire life working at a chicken hatchery, is determined to make the farm work, referring to it as his “Garden of Eden.” Both suffer from feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. Jacob’s dream is his last chance to show his children that he can succeed, and it combines an American agricultural sentiment with his pride in growing Korean vegetables. There are times when the film lags with scenes that run a bit too long instead of focusing on strong central themes. However, it is most compelling when it
leans into scenes of familial intimacy. Anne and David make paper airplanes with the words “stop arguing” and throw them at Monica and Jacob when they’re fighting. Monica and Anne sit together after Soonja has a stroke, and Monica thanks Anne for taking care of the family and staying strong. Monica washes Jacob’s hair after he hurts himself working on the farm. Soonja clings to David and soothes him to sleep when he tells her he’s afraid to die. Soonja has her stroke right when she and David start warming up to each other. Near the end of the film, when Monica and Jacob are at a breaking point, she accidentally sets their barn filled with produce on fire in her confusion. There is brutality in the beauty of the film, in the toll of sacrifice—leaving behind the people and culture you love, the devastation of a beloved grandmother’s failing health, and dreams that burn to the ground. Ultimately, Minari is a film about finding a place to belong and choosing to find that place with your family. It is about picking a good place to grow, whether it’s your children, your dream, or just some minari. It is only once Monica accepts Jacob’s dream and he accepts her religious faith that they can come together. There is no direct resolution at the end of the film, but the viewer has a sense that the Yi family is choosing to be on the same page. Monica and Jacob have saved each other, both from the difficulty of life as an immigrant and a burning building. Near the end of the film, Soonja wanders away from the barn she has unwittingly burned down. David breaks into a sprint for the first time, unrestrained by his heart problems, in order to reach out to his grandmother—the surest sign of his physical and emotional progress.
FILM & TV
Pulling Back the Curtain On
What went over our heads as kids, and what went on behind the scenes | ARIELLE STANGER Illustration by Isabel Liang
illennials and Gen Z 'cuspers' all know what random dancing, spaghetti tacos, and a sock full of butter have in common: They’re all crucial elements of the quirky iCarly series, an all–time favorite on Nickelodeon, and a series that defined more than a few childhoods. From 2007 to 2012, the show followed teen best friends Carly, played by Miranda Cosgrove, Sam, played by Jennette McCurdy, and Freddie, played by Nathan Kress, as they created and produced their own weekly web show. This month, as viewers tuned into the first two seasons on Netflix and rumors swirled about Paramount Plus’ reboot, iCarly became a hot topic once again. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. Since the show’s finale, much has been uncovered about the seedy underbelly of child stardom in Hollywood. It’s no secret that many kids’ shows and movies contain jokes meant for parents that go over the heads of the younger demographic, but creator Dan Schneider was the king of innuendo. He’s the creator of iCarly and other Nickelodeon favorites like All That, Zoey 101, Drake & Josh, and Victorious—all shows that include suggestive dialogue. In one sense, this makes iCarly the show that keeps on giving. It’s whimsical and silly, which is great for kids, and it gains the added bonuses of nostalgia and adult humor for grown–up audiences. Upon deeper examination, however, there’s something iffy about an adult man with a horribly filthy sense of humor constantly working with kid actors. In the spring of 2018, Nickelodeon cut ties with Schneider in a seemingly mutual way—with the
creator’s latest projects wrapping up, both parties agreed it was the natural time to split. That didn’t stop the internet from speculating, though. From watching his shows, following his Twitter feed, and examining photos of him interacting with young actors, fans came to the conclusion that Schneider might just be a creep. No sources explicitly state any examples of abuse or harassment, but the clearest piece of evidence is how his rumored foot fetish has affected both actors and audiences. The former producer isn’t necessarily a criminal, but as we’ve seen in the past, “A lot of sexual misconduct has been expertly hidden and manipulated by the Hollywood machine.” Dan Schneider may or may not be an exception, but either way, the knowledge of his questionable behavior makes iCarly and his other shows much more disturbing to watch. In the realm of dark Hollywood controversies, a prevalent issue is mental health, especially regarding disordered eating. In 2019, McCurdy opened up about her lifelong struggles with anorexia and bulimia in a frank op– ed for The Huffington Post. Her mother, who shared similar struggles, essentially helped her keep up this behavior, and the entertainment industry only exacerbated her eating disorders. When McCurdy was 15 years old and iCarly rose to fame, the stress led her to fixate even more on food and her physical image. Throughout her time on the show, McCurdy repeatedly found herself in a toxic and obsessive cycle of self–loathing. Often, stylists, agents, and producers would applaud her weight loss, unaware as to how it
was happening. While playing Sam on iCarly, McCurdy also became disillusioned with the role, especially after becoming aware of the fact that she was a role model for kids. Young viewers were looking up to a character that spent most of her screen time yelling aggressively and eating unhealthy foods like fried chicken. McCurdy has yet to speak publicly about the anticipated iCarly reboot, but with her understandable resentment toward the industry, she’s likely turned off for good.
“A lot of sexual misconduct has been expertly hidden and manipulated by the Hollywood machine.” Is all of this a matter of separating art from the artist? With predation and eating disorders still running rampant in Hollywood, condemning iCarly would barely scratch the surface of these deep–seated issues. Instead, audiences need to be able to consume media critically, rather than view everything through rose– colored lenses. Nostalgia has its dark side, and even as we rewatch a lighthearted childhood favorite years later, we need to be aware of the darker issues behind the scenes rather than sweep them under the rug. M A RC H 4 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E 1 1
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was Saturday, July 18, 2020, and Lavanya Neti (W '25) was on hold with the ACT company for the third time that day. She sat in the back of her parents’ car with her last meal—vegan brunch from a stop in Davis, Calif.— twisting in her stomach and a thousand questions running through her mind. She hadn’t heard from the ACT since scheduling her test a few days before, but her family had decided to start the road trip to the testing center anyway. They could use the change of scenery. Her phone’s connection faltered, and the call dropped. Lavanya sighed and turned her tired eyes to the window, surveying the barren California landscape to avoid looking at the half–open test prep book in the seat next to her. This was the third exam she’d tried to schedule in the past few months. After her first test was canceled due to COVID–19, she booked another one at the closest location: three hours away in Arroyo Grande, Calif. It wasn’t ideal, but she would enjoy the drive with her family, and the pandemic had canceled all other plans. Then, the day before the deadline to reschedule her exam, the test was canceled again. Now, the only testing location with an open slot was a small Christian academy in Oregon—nearly 400 miles away from home. She booked it. In a few minutes, she called again and pressed random buttons in frustration, almost certain that she would be hung up on. That night, she fell into a fitful sleep in a hotel in Southwest Oregon. Then, the next morning, she rose with the sun and took the exam in a classroom at Rogue Valley Adventist Academy in Medford, Ore.—six hours from her home in Fremont, Calif. “I just remember how desperate I was,” Lavanya says. “I think some people went to really great lengths [to take standardized tests].” Six months later, she can laugh about her experience. She can chat about the delicious vegan food on the road trip, the relaxed environment of her four–person testing room, and the calm of the half–day drive with her parents. However, behind Lavanya’s excited speech is a stark example of the pandemic’s impact on Penn’s incoming class. From rural Texas, to the Philly suburbs, to the Philippines, the Class of 2025 shares the harrowing experience of applying to college in a pandemic. Along with the usual roadblocks—navigating language barriers, writing applications, and balancing extracurriculars with a social life senior year—they also faced canceled standardized tests, cutbacks on school participation, and engagement with entirely virtual programming. Universities responded to the college application season during the pandemic by providing a wide range of online resources and new policies to ease the burden, including the implementation of a test–optional policy. Yet these offerings only addressed a fraction of students’ needs. Students had to work within a new and confusing environment to meet universities' expectations— whether that be through driving an extra 800 miles to take a standardized test, or mobilizing students to educate their peers about the college application process. Lavanya’s strenuous testing experience is not an anomaly. Nearly 3,000 miles away in McLean, Va., Sophia Powell (C '25) scrambled to book her SAT exam. After months of preparation for her first SAT, Sophia found out the exam was canceled the day before it was set to be administered. She booked the exam five more times after that. Three of them were canceled. As Sophia recounts her story, her speech is calm, occasionally punctuated with nervous laughter. Even so, it’s
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evident how taxing the time–compressed environment was. After her third time booking the test, she felt nothing but exasperation. “I spent that entire week hoping and praying, like, ‘I just want this over with,’” she says. On a foggy Wednesday morning in September, Sophia pulled up to McLean High School in a bit of a trance. She was met with a masked, socially distanced line of students that trailed outside the doors of her high school. It was the first time she had seen most of her classmates since March. After a quick temperature check, she was able to take the exam for the first time, nine months after she had originally tried to schedule it. That Saturday, a mere three days later, Sophia repeated the process. She’d booked two tests in the same week in case one of them was canceled. Including the practice test she took in the days leading up to her exams, she'd completed three SATs that week. Hailing from cutthroat high schools in the Bay Area and Northern Virginia, Lavanya and Sophia are examples of students who had the resources to go beyond Penn’s new test–optional policy. This policy meant that students weren't required to submit SAT, ACT, or AP/IB test scores. (However, international students still had to submit TOEFL/IELTS scores.) Like Lavanya and Sophia, many students still scrambled to book standardized tests out of fear that not having them would harm their applications. But Interim Dean of Admissions John McLaughlin says that the test–optional policy, as well as other virtual programming, was designed to help, not hinder their applications. “Regardless of whether testing is or isn’t available, we look to other parts of the application to provide insight
“[Students who attend Ivies] are such ridiculous success stories that they call us, ‘the rose that grew in the concrete.' But no one wants to be the rose that grew in the concrete. We want to be the rose that blooms in a garden. We don't want that story.” —Kathleen Hoang
into a student’s preparation,” he says. “Basically, if testing isn’t there, then we focus on what is there—transcript, recommendations, activities, interview, [and] essays.” Jody Sweeney, director of college counseling at William Penn Charter School, a private school in Philadelphia and a feeder school for Penn, praised universities’ efforts to conduct virtual programming for prospective students and expand offerings to include services that are typically outside the scope of their engagement. “We noticed admissions offices also started to provide information about the college search specifically,” says Sweeney. “They might have had a virtual workshop on the college essay, or how to conduct an interview—some [general] college search oriented information.”
Sweeney noted one of Penn’s successes: specific programming geared towards marginalized communities, which became much more feasible during the COVID–19 pandemic. The new virtual nature of college readiness resources meant that universities could better address the needs of underrepresented groups at their schools. “If there was a program that was highlighting a STEM initiative, or a program highlighting diversity on campus, or a program that was geared toward Black students, or programming for students of color—I think those niche types of programs were very beneficial,” she says. Although she works at a predominantly upper–class, white institution, she recognizes that online programming has allowed less privileged schools to access the same opportunities as Penn Charter, namely in the form of college visits. Her school’s connections and proximity to campus granted students in–person visits from Penn admissions officers several times a year. Now, the same administrators can work with several high schools across the country on the same day over Zoom. The numbers reflect this equalizing trend: There was a 34% spike in applicants to Penn's Class of 2025, which was spurred by an increase in the applications of international students and students who have been historically underrepresented at Penn, according to McLaughlin. “[Virtual programming] democratizes access to information in a way because students can have a meaningful interaction with Penn Admissions without the time and financial costs associated with a campus visit,” says McLaughlin. But despite the University’s efforts to provide adequate resources and support students during this time, many students still felt overwhelmed by the competition at their high schools. A survey conducted by Street revealed that the top three words used by members of the Class of 2025 to describe the college application process were “stressful” (by an overwhelming margin), “difficult,” and “interesting." “There’s definitely a lot of insanity out here in terms of that competitive environment,” Sophia says. “I've been hearing how it's really a bloodbath this year.” While students struggled to cope with the pandemic stateside, international students, who often utilize virtual programming in a normal application season, had a different experience applying to college during COVID–19. Kate Ong (C' 25), from Manila, Philippines, recounts her experience of limited extracurricular involvement, canceled trips, and restricted community work, all of which were hard to explain to college admissions offices. Kate’s school, Immaculate Conception Academy, implemented a single–extracurricular policy during the pandemic. Students could only be in one club to limit in–person interactions, and the administration monitored every student’s activities to ensure the policy was followed. Kate chose to maintain her student council vice presidency (and snuck in her involvement with the newspaper). “I think I communicated [the reason for my lack of extracurriculars senior year] as best as I could in the additional information section. But I feel like my school could have done a better job of conveying that to the colleges through my guidance counselor, because she didn't mention anything about it,” Kate says. Even beyond school, the scope of her impact was limited by the pandemic. In 2019, Kate had co–founded an organization, Likhang Puso, which helps Indigenous groups in the Philippines. Puso primarily works with groups that live on the island Mindoro, which is about an hour–long flight from
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Pictured clockwise starting from left: Lavanya Neti, Kate Ong, Kathleen Hoang, Sophia Powell
Manila. The community doesn’t have electricity or developed communication infrastructure, so it became increasingly complicated to organize visits and aid during the pandemic. Kate and her team settled for communicating once a week—whenever their contact went into the city and gained a connection to speak with them— but the work became much more difficult to manage. Although the experiences of Lavanya, Sophia, and Kate represent many of the trials of the incoming Class of 2025, some schools were more equipped than others to deal with the challenges of the pandemic. Kathleen Hoang (C ’25), a QuestBridge scholar from Texas, turned her disadvantageous situation into an opportunity to help future students applying to college from her community. Kathleen’s anger emanates through the computer screen when she speaks about her application process,
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her voice quivering with frustration, as though there aren’t words strong enough to express her exasperation. Her college application saga is a tale of underfunded administrators and classmates just as lost as she was. Kathleen attends Cypress Lakes High School in Cypress, Texas, a suburb of Houston. The school has over 3,500 students, only 10% of whom are white. A significant majority of the school is Black and Hispanic, and 64% of its students are on free or reduced lunch plans. The school’s resources are stretched thin—the only college readiness resources they offer come from an underused college and career center. Most students don’t apply to schools out of state, and Kathleen recalls that, before her year, there were only three students in recent history who attended Ivy League institutions. “[Students who attend Ivies] are such ridiculous success stories that they call us, ‘the rose that grew in the
concrete,’” says Kathleen. “But no one wants to be the rose that grew in the concrete. We want to be the rose that blooms in a garden. We don't want that story.” Texas’s lackluster response to COVID–19 only worsened Kathleen’s situation. She lived in a single–parent household, and her mother lost her job close to the beginning of the pandemic. The situation raised the stakes of her college career. Securing a full ride scholarship through QuestBridge would place her on an even playing field with the students who were not as impacted by the pandemic. But Kathleen’s teachers went as far as to actively discourage students from applying to high–ranking universities. Last year, her United States history teacher reserved a week of the course to talk about college readiness. Kathleen recounts that when he brought up Harvard and Yale, he said, “Let’s be honest. Nobody from this school is going to get in there.” While Kathleen and her friends ignored their teachers’ advice and applied to high–ranking schools anyway, she was frustrated by the lack of support for students at her school who would never know better. For students in single–parent and immigrant homes like Kathleen, school administrators are often the only authority on college applications and student futures. During her own college application process, Kathleen leaned heavily on internet resources, from Penn admissions events, to TikToks, to CollegePoint, a free resource with college readiness information. However, Kathleen saw that the existence of this information on the internet wasn't enough to encourage students at her school to apply to high–ranking institutions because they had not been set up to seek out preparatory material. To fill in the gaps between her school and university resources, Kathleen started the Cypress Lakes Mentorship Program, which pairs 50 high school seniors with around 650 high school first years to mentor them through the college application process. People in Kathleen’s program have already become more informed and involved in planning their academic futures. Kathleen says that students have begun to engage in education activism, like attending school board meetings after learning about how systemic classism impacts them. The success is gratifying, but it begs the question of why a student mentorship program must exist in the first place. While Lavanya and Sophia’s standardized testing difficulties can be attributed specifically to the pandemic, Kate and Kathleen’s experiences point to a pertinent intersection: the effects of the pandemic combined with existing inequity in college readiness. While all schools this year had the opportunity to attend virtual sessions, well–informed private schools like Penn Charter have a history of knowledge built from in–person visits prior to the pandemic. Meanwhile, underperforming schools like Cypress Lakes stay uninformed because of the lack of communication between university administrators and staff at low–income schools—a divide exacerbated by the pandemic. All the while, the pandemic exaggerates the disconnect between international schools and universities in the United States. Sweeney summarizes this application season for what it was: students making the most out of an incredibly complex, difficult situation. Even though the pandemic brought major challenges, the students survived. Next semester, they'll start their journeys at Penn. "[The Class of 2025] were all troopers, and they made it," she says.
What We Can Learn From Lauren Oyler’s Debut Novel Fake Accounts What if your boyfriend was secretly a conspiracy theorist? | AVNEET RANDHAWA Illustration by Alice Choi
ronically, I became acquainted with the fiction and literary criticism of Lauren Oyler, whose debut novel Fake Accounts shows the osmosis between online and real experience, through Twitter. Avoiding class, I was sitting in a Pret A Manger in South London that gave off the same sterile, inhumane aura that all Pret A Mangers have. I caught myself unable to move from my seat, stuck in a dopamine–driven feedback loop of refreshing Twitter, making an audacious tweet, seeing who favorited it, deleting it and hoping a particular person saw it. At some point, I found a post from my much older internet friend, who was talking about the polarizing response to Oyler’s new piece in the London Review of Books. Her critique of Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror left every woman in his graduate school either writhing in anger or beaming with absolute joy. Intrigued, I’ve followed Oyler’s work ever since. Anyone who can incite such a visceral reaction from others must be worth reading, if just once. Oyler has made a name for herself writing viral takedowns of big names in the Anglo–American literary and
media intelligentsia. From towering figures like Roxane Gay to Zadie Smith, no one is exempt from her scrutiny. Often, Oyler’s commentary reads like a thread of incisive, brutal tweets. She opens her critique of Gay’s Bad Feminist with “I have always hated Roxane Gay’s writing, though I often agree with her, sort of, inasmuch as that is possible.” She later terms the moral platitudes found in such authors' works as "hysterical criticism." Rather than actually voicing clear stances, these writers highlight the primacy of empathy and emotions, which Oyler believes allows them to "to avoid the discomfort of thought and the stakes involved in taking a position." In a sense, it's much easier to refer back to, or cash in on, your lived experiences and traumas than overtly say what you mean. Oyler's frankness is refreshing in a climate so averse to questioning the views of self–proclaimed progressive allies of the culture war. Though many may be unfamiliar with her work, Fake Accounts offers a novel understanding of human intimacy in the age of social media, the American political decline, and fourth–wave feminism that holds relevance for any young person.
The book follows Oyler’s semi–autobiographical female protagonist who finds out her boyfriend, Felix, secretly runs an Instagram account called @THIS_ACCOUNT_IS_BUGGED_, which functions as a treasure trove of conspiratorial, QAnon–esque content. Outside of his pizzagate extremism, Felix, a spiritually hollow though charming misanthrope, reluctantly works a menial tech job, which he believes takes too much time away from his 'art.' He is the archetypal 'New Brooklyn Guy,' a certain egocentric, downwardly mobile layabout who either has no ambition or no talent. Sometimes, it’s difficult to distinguish the former from the latter. Tellingly, our heroine isn’t necessarily horrified by Felix’s double life. Instead, this revelation brings amusement and a sense of excitement to her otherwise banal life as a clickbait writer. After sifting through his feed, she feels like she has found a definitive reason to finally break up with him. But instead of calling it quits, she revels in the knowledge that “he was no mere betrayer of trust or casual manipulator, but rather a person of impossible complexity whose motivations [she] was liberated from untangling." The alienation in their shared lives somehow gains meaning. Instead of having to actually deal with the psychology of her partner, she can enjoy the “weightless feeling of righteousness” that can only come from knowing that your smug boyfriend believes that Hillary Clinton is a lizard. What follows in the subsequent chapters of Oyler's story is the consequence of such faulty logic, a kind of thinking that many of us have fallen prey to. Our irony should never reach the point of total and utter apathy, despite the absurdity of the world. While characters beyond the unnamed protagonist and Felix appear and disappear in the first–person narration, Oyler’s writing creates the feeling that we are moving through an infinitely long finsta, in which individuals only matter in so much as their essence can be crammed into a single post. Oyler remains attentive to the fact that we are trapped in our respective feedback loops and her prose reflects it. The form of her novel shows how the excess of different media forms, like Twitter, seep into our imaginaries. Like the writer Melissa Broder, she has managed to put pen to an emerging literary style. Though I don’t believe that she imagines a way out of our algorithm–driven inferno, Fake Accounts captures the post–2016 milieu with caustic wit and grace. You can find her novel on Catapult. M A RC H 4 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E 1 5
To the Lighthouse and Back: Rediscovering Reading for Pleasure Illustration by Mia Kim
w e ek ago, at the behest of my best friend’s continual suggestions, I began a tumultuous journey To the Lighthouse. I’m referring, of course, to the 1927 novel by Virginia Woolf (even though a getaway to an abandoned lighthouse seems remarkably appealing at present). My quest to read the book began at the age 15, following a newfound interest in stream–of–consciousness narration. Refusing to pay the bookstore’s exorbitant costs ($17.94 to be precise), I parsed through Woolf’s prose on the Project Gutenberg platform. I immersed myself in the stream of consciousness, only to drown in the current. While I’d like to blame the minuscule 12–point Courier New font or the blue–light emanating from my laptop screen, the root of my troubles was that I could not pay attention. Woolf’s sentences paid no heed to page or paragraph barriers; they stumbled over commas and flitted past punctuation. Reading each chapter felt like unspooling a particularly large ball of yarn. My hands became tangled in the knots of her semantics and fatigued by each new strand of thought. I didn’t understand why Augustus Carmichael asking for an extra bowl of soup required three pages of exposition. I had no appreciation for how Woolf’s narrative voice, much like a roving vagrant, wandered in and out of the homes of her characters’ minds. Most importantly, I couldn’t comprehend why each sentiment had to be documented with such precision. Every time a character had a feeling, no matter how fleeting, the emotion was cataloged alongside at least four metaphors, three similes, and a rhetorical question to boot. Lily Briscoe’s admiration and longing for Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey’s mar16 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E M A RC H 4 , 2 0 21
Reading one of Woolf's greatest works changed the way I view literature. | AAKRUTI GANESHAN riage was spoken of in “raptures” for over four pages. Why couldn’t she have just said she was lonely? I knew I should have liked the book; I just didn’t know why. Growing up, I had been an avid reader, consuming everything from Rick Riordan to Charles Dickens. I used to treat books with an immense amount of reverence, bringing them to the dinner table so I could consume my meal while (somewhat ironically) reading
Over the last week, I moved through Woolf’s stream of consciousness with the trepidation and respect it deserves: slowly, carefully, and not all at once. the troubles of Oliver Twist. Somewhere along my teenage years, I had lost that appreciation. The pages turned into Netflix tabs, and novels became episodes with 30– minute run times. I no longer had the patience to sit through movies, flinching at the thought of devoting more than one hour to any given plot line. Once I reached university, that feeling only magnified. As college students, we’re inundated with a myriad of platforms that value instantaneous understanding over deep comprehension. A 2016 Microsoft study found that the average attention span of teens and young adults was eight seconds. This is shorter than that of a goldfish. Perhaps the age–old analogy about short–term
memory should be retired. There’s no shortage of information telling us how much time we spend online, and how this time has displaced the periods we would have spent reading. But another important consideration is how difficult it is to designate free time as 'reading time.' College students are reporting higher and higher levels of academic stress. Given that much of academia, especially in the humanities discipline, requires intense amounts of reading, it makes sense that students would be averse to adding more pages into their leisure time. There are numerous proven benefits to reading for leisure. But first, we need to feel like reading can be leisurely. I chose to re–approach To the Lighthouse for two main reasons. First, because my best friend spoke of it with a reverence she reserves only for jazz music and exceptional coffee. Secondly, because it was a book that forced me to re–evaluate how I felt about reading. Skimming To the Lighthouse is next to impossible because you have to read and absorb each sentence to fully understand its true impact. There is no way to glean true enjoyment of the book without completely devoting yourself to it. Over the last week, I moved through Woolf’s stream of consciousness with the trepidation and respect it deserves: slowly, carefully, and not all at once. Perhaps we should approach reading for leisure the same way– whether that’s rereading books from our childhood, or taking a second glance at the novels we missed. Either way, there’s no harm in taking it slow, in letting the words wash over you and the prose pull you under. This time around, we’ll know how to swim.
Greenwashing, Explained Unpacking the false promises of corporate sustainability | MATTHEW SHEELER
ave you ever gotten coffee and noticed that the cup has the phrase "100% compostable" in green lettering? Or gone to your favorite department store and noticed a new, 'eco–friendly' line of clothing? If so, you've likely fallen victim to greenwashing—the corporate go–around to sustainability. Greenwashing might sound like an environmentally conscious concept, but it's actually quite the opposite. With the rising demand for sustainable products, businesses have shifted marketing practices to reflect conscious consumerism. However, green marketing doesn't necessarily equate to actual sustainability. This evolving desire for eco–friendly branding has prompted a rise in greenwashing: when companies spend more time and money on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than on actually minimizing their environmental impact. Though it can appear in many forms, greenwashing is generally a sneaky corporate tactic that misleads consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands—and it's been around for a while. In the mid–1980s, the multinational energy corporation Chevron was accused of greenwashing after releasing a series of expensive ads "to broadcast its environmental dedication," all while violating the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. More recently, greenwashing has evolved to encompass a variety of tactics ranging from misleading labels to coverups. A common corporate tactic is the vague labeling of products as 'eco–friendly.' What does this even mean? Think about the eco–friendly coffee cup that is apparently compostable. You're now convinced that your favorite coffee company is minimizing their
environmental footprint, when, in reality, that cup likely requires very specific conditions—like aerobic bacteria cultivated in industrial compost bins—in order for it to decompose quickly. It could take a year for the cup to decompose in a DIY compost bin. And in many urban areas where residents don't have backyards, composting is often inaccessible. This means that compostable items often still end up in landfills, where they could take a century to decompose. Another tactic is when businesses use marketing schemes that have hidden trade–offs. For example, take the new Starbucks lid created to prevent the use
By remaining environmentally conscious and critical of false advertising, we can create a market where it isn't in businesses' best interests to greenwash. of plastic straws and minimize the company's plastic production. The new lid actually uses more plastic than the old one due to the new curved lip. Even worse, customers are still asked if they'd like a straw with their drinks. Maybe you remember when H&M released a line of 'green' clothing called Conscious in 2019. H&M said the clothes were made from organic cotton and recycled polyester. On average, a single cotton shirt requires around 2,700 liters of water to produce. In reality, the line of 'sustainable' clothing is not sustainable at all. Greenwashing doesn't just come in the form of deceitful product marketing. Businesses have also made
misleading promises on company–wide levels. H&M may misrepresent the actual impact of its sustainable clothing line, but its false advertising goes beyond that. When you consider that the Conscious line makes up a minuscule amount of the company's total inventory, its dedication to sustainability as a whole sounds a little ridiculous. H&M has an entire page on its website displaying its dedication to the environment, but only a tiny portion of its products are even labeled "sustainable" in the first place. Luckily, consumers have become more familiar with greenwashing as a concept over time, and companies now face more criticism for these deceptive marketing practices. But we need to continue to be mindful of our consumption. Go beyond simply reading labels on products. Use online resources from the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Stewardship Council, and Carbon Trust Standard to help you better understand the real impact of the goods and services you use. Keep an eye out for greenwashing tactics from your favorite brands. And if you find that a brand is only projecting an image of sustainability rather than investing in real sustainable practices, then you should probably reconsider your brand preferences. Businesses rely on our mindless consumption to make profits, but we can't continue to fall victim to surface–level environmentalism. As consumers, we must carefully choose where we spend our money. By remaining environmentally conscious and critical of false advertising, we can create a market where it isn't in businesses' best interests to greenwash. There are plenty of brands that are making genuine efforts to foster sustainable consumption in every aspect of their business models. Let's support them instead.
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DOESN'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT HER
he title of 'influencer' doesn’t quite capture the nuanced personality of Serena Shahidi, better known by the internet as @glamdemon2004. She’s more than an online character—she’s a qualified extremist. She’s pretentious yet intelligent enough to warrant it, authentic yet detached enough to escape vulnerability, interesting yet unbothered about the way she is perceived. In fact, she fittingly describes the majority of the current online scene as “monotonous” in comparison to her content and approach. Yet her reception has been stellar: Her largest platform resides on TikTok, where she has amassed over 370,000 followers and nearly 21 million likes. The 21–year–old junior at the Fashion Institute of Technology rose to fame following the onset of COVID–19, where she recorded her hot takes about romance in her New York apartment. At times, it can be dificult to decipher if you are watching a 21st-century progressive feminist deconstruct dating stereotypes, or a '50s pin–up model listening to herself talk. But do not mistake that for an insult—Shahidi blends the two facets of her personality so effortlessly that her cross–sectioned niche itself has become the brand, her aesthetic the intermediary between traditional high–brow culture and contemporary chaos. Her go–to drink order is an espresso martini, yet her beloved iced coffee order features lots of blueberry flavoring from Dunkin’ Donuts. “It tastes like battery acid and Splenda. That’s what I like,” she says, laughing from the corner of her bedroom. When introducing herself to me, she deems her persona as one who “likes to ride the line between sincerity and irony.” Before the pandemic, Shahidi performed stand–up comedy and embarked on the process of formulating her stage presence. There is no point in trying to fit inside a 1 8 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E M A RC H 4 , 2 0 21
box, she says, but rather you should capitalize off of what you actually like about yourself and want to enhance. “I like to just be what I think is interesting; I feel like most people on the internet are not interesting.” Last August, Shahidi decided to utilize her hot takes for more than the 60 seconds TikTok allows and began a podcast, Let Me Ruin Your Life. With 21 episodes and several guest hosts (often other TikTok influencers), Shahidi breaks down the relationship between the digital world and actual world while offering advice on how to embrace self actualization. At the end of every week, her fans eagerly refresh the program’s page in hopes of hearing about her coveted Tech Boy interactions, or how to find respite in the newest stage of lockdown. Yet her listeners have been surprised with much more. Shahidi does not shy away from probing into widely accepted ideas as a young woman. She heavily disagrees with footing the bill on dates, accepts that the choice to wear makeup is not independent from the male gaze, and tastefully goes on tangents about how trends on the internet are not as boldly feminist as they are portrayed to be. Choosing which parts of yourself to enhance leads us into the conversation of choice feminism. Shahidi has often ridiculed this new facet of feminism, which is the idea that each individual activity a woman does in her daily life is inherently feminist because she is a woman making her own choices. A woman choosing to wear mascara is feminist, and the act of making coffee in an empty apartment liberates her from the patriarchy. “I think the idea of, like, liberal or choice feminism or whatever you want to call it, came along because it was just more palatable than other forms of feminism … [It’s] a lot easier for men to wrap their heads
Viral TikToker Serena Shahidi tells us all about how she navigates romance and the patriarchy, on and off screen. | MEHEK BOPARAI
around.” However, she says, this only works to reduce women's roles because no one chooses to brave the conversation about sex equality outside of the simple framework that “men and women should be equal.” If choice feminism thrives in the context of women relinquishing a free meal or wearing lipstick everyday to prove their autonomy, Shahidi says that it results in more harm than good: “I think it's important for young women to learn that feminism isn't necessarily about giving things up. It's not necessarily about sacrificing parts of your femininity or parts of your life to become more like men.” Giving things up as a woman in the dating sphere especially is not an option. When Shahidi moved to New York as a naïve 19–year–old, she began dating an investment banker and quickly realized that this was not what she wanted to have to do in order to procure the traditional stability a woman would sacrifice her freedom for. “I certainly believe in women dating up, but I think if you have to give up a part of yourself to do it, it's not really worth it … There are statistics that prove that marriage shortens women's life spans while lengthening men's—so if you think that giving something up to date a man as a woman is going to be worth it, or beneficial to you, it probably won't be.” Beyond simply advising women not to give up parts of themselves while dating, how do we begin to gain these parts back? The answer is not on the screen. Social media trends have saturated the online stream lately to showcase women in traditionally sexual roles, such as thirst traps, that appeal to the male gaze. Girls in their 20s have always been encouraged to dress nicely when going out, in pursuit of free alcohol and luxury treatment. While there is nothing wrong or shameful about wanting to feel sexy or cute on or offline, Shahidi urges us to ask ourselves if we truly are the only ones benefiting from participating in these trends, and if we’re okay with the answer. “The part that bothers me is when we act as if appealing to the male gaze is inherently progressive, because nothing's changing when we say that it is … We're still doing the same thing — we still look the same way.” This change in phrasing can be apparent especially in the concept of women wearing regular everyday makeup for their own sake; Shahidi says there is nothing wrong with “slapping a face on,” to feel cute in the eyes of others as well as yourself, but the problem arises in choosing the regular activities of everyday life to be the means of female liberation.
Outside of navigating the internalized and externalized male gaze, Shahidi expanded upon her philosophy of dating as a young, heterosexual woman, and argues that your own opinion of your life is still the most important. Women often are burdened with the task of appearing to be enigmatic, or too busy to be reached, in order to be alluring to men. Shahidi says regardless of whether you choose to come across that way, you should not live your life worrying about dating to the point where you calculate how you are perceived. Women should date for the sake of having fun and something to pass the time, not to fulfill a vacuous hole that only a romantic partner can occupy. This is true especially in college. In a life not laden with the COVID–19 pandemic, Shahidi would frequently go on several dates a week— more as a semblance of social life rather than in pursuit of a forever partner. She says it taught her how to define her standards for the future: “It's very surprising, but very pleasant, how much people will attempt to impress you and attempt to work hard for your affection … because I don't like giving it to them loosey–goosey.” On her podcast, she advises listeners to portray themselves in luxury settings on their dating app profiles so that others will associate them with high–class dates and standards, rather than simply pandering to the "cool chill girl" aesthetic young women have been fed by popular media. Dating is low–stakes in Shahidi's eyes because she recognizes the value of her
time and chooses to spend it on what she calls the opposite of "grind productivity"—doing activities that genuinely interest her regardless of how lucrative they may prove to be. Whether this means going on an art history spiral one Thursday night or becoming infatuated with Bitcoin failures, this type of productivity prevents us from wasting that time wallowing in agony over not being motivated to grind. Above all else, Shahidi urges us to move past the self–deprecating humor and mindset that has tinted most of Gen Z culture. To everyone consumed with Zoom learning and crafting the next best tweet, she wants to remind us to still live our best moments offline. And based on the quality of her content that we see, you can only imagine the fun she has away from the camera lens.
Illustrations by Rebekah Lee
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The fate of the femme fatale in the 21st century | GABRIELLA RAFFETTO
t’s the 21st century. In the United States, women vote, work alongside men, have legal rights and access to birth control, and obtain high education degrees. The #MeToo Movement has publicly called out sexual harassment in the workplace. Congress has never been so racially and sexually diverse as they are this moment. But despite these cracks in the ceiling, why does it still feel like women are treated as 'the second sex'? Why does every powerful woman have to contend with being labeled a bitch? This fight is embedded deep within the roots of patriarchy. The derogatory term 'bitch' originally referred to a woman acting like a rowdy female dog in the heat. Of course, comparing a human to a hormonal animal is in no way a compliment, and overtime, the term 'bitch' has taken on many meanings. As discussed in Netflix’s History of Swear Words, 'bitch' became associated with a promiscuous woman and is generously applied in this context. From Regina George in Mean Girls to that fake Taylor brunette cheer captain in the music video for “You Belong With Me,” we all know a classic bitch when we see one. But these weren’t the first femme fatales in American culture. Let’s browse through our high school reading list, shall we? The Crucible features one of the most notorious femme fatales of all time: the man–stealing girl–who–cried–witch Abigail Williams, with whom our protagonist, John Proctor, must contend. Another seductive power player in the literature canon is East of Eden’s Cathy Ames, who sets the American standard for Grade–A bitches with her heart shaped face, secretly murderous streak, and whorehouse business she uses to keep men in their place. Both Miller and Steinbeck’s pieces of historical fiction were published in 1950s America by white men. Could these pieces perhaps reflect the male fear of powerful women? Reading these stories in the 21st century, many students find holes in these classic bitch portrayals. For instance, shouldn’t we consider both Cathy’s and Abigail’s traumatic pasts as potential influencers in their 'immoral' paths? Should we not pity these young women who, in the eyes of 2 0 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E M A RC H 4 , 2 0 21
Illustration by Alice Choi
men, may have been wreaking havoc, but in the eyes of many female readers, are simply trying to survive patriarchal societies? It’s become so commonplace for white misogynistic writers to demonize potential threats to male dominance that many readers readily accept the established femme fatale archetype. But looking at these characters through a modern feminist perspective, we might see Cathy Ames and Abigail Williams not strictly as villains, but also victims to American rape culture. Flash forward to the eve of International Women's Month in 2021. In art, business, and politics, society still suppresses full female self–actualization, splintering women into multifaceted identities. In some of our most celebrated leaders in pop culture, we watch individual revolutions in the female spirit. One of the hardest roles a woman has to break artistically is the 'good girl' mold society originally scripted for her. Celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift, who started careers during their childhood, are prime examples of this struggle against society’s investment in perpetual innocence—primarily, perpetual female innocence presented in youth. Taylor Swift has taken a strong lead in redefining who she is as a woman, breaking out of the little girl mold by killing the old Taylors in her 2017 music video "Look What You Made Me Do." Much like Cathy Ames, whose girlish facade feels like a betrayal to all the men who fell for her, many fans felt swindled by Swift's change in attitude. But like the O.G. femme fatales we read about, why shouldn't Swift change her attitude? Why should Swift, a 31–year–old self–made woman, have to be exactly who she was when she was 16 years old? We don't hold the same expectations for the Jonas Brothers or Justin Bieber. Female celebrities, like Swift, are faced with the decision of either avoiding or exploiting their sexualities. Why can the James Bonds of society get away with routine promiscuity, while the one–time–thing Hester Prynnes get branded with a Scarlet A for all to see? Despite Swift’s many suggestive performances that refute her childhood innocence (particularly following her releases of reputation and Lover, with her
new wardrobe in fishnet stockings and a body suit), we all still want to view her as the 'Old Taylor'— little Miss Tennessee with an acoustic guitar, singing about high school sweethearts. And although the virginal youth stigma is misogynistic, artists like Swift and Cyrus have ultimately benefitted from society's good girl typification. But unlike many white female artists who we try to perpetually see in a state of innocence, BIPOC female celebrities experience the opposite. Black and Latinx celebrities are continually fighting against being overly sexualized. Pop artists such as Cardi B and Lizzo are constantly portrayed by the media as hypersexual figures. The music industry itself reinforces this stereotype by choreographing sexually suggestive songs and music for BIPOC singers. Some artists, like Lizzo, outwardly acknowledge the sexualized boxes society has pre–prescribed, singing, “I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that bitch.” In these ways, 21st–century badasses are reclaiming the once offensive term 'bitch' by becoming “that bitch.” Other artists also refuse to feed into the music industry's sexism. Billie Eilish is known for being so conservative about placing her body in the public eye that she wears overly baggy clothes. Eilish once lamented to a reporter, "Though you've never seen my body, you still judge it, and judge me for it. Why?" Pop and indie artists like Alessia Cara and Phoebe Bridgers react similarly to our patriarchal society through both their music and stylistic choices. Bridgers is most recognizable in her skeleton pajamas, while Cara wears a masculine, oversized suit and tie on the cover of her album Growing Pains, suggesting not only the struggle of growing up, but growing into womanhood in a man's world. Looking at our fearless femme fatales of the decade, it’s time for us to reverse the stigma that comes along with being a powerful woman. Though there remain many glass ceilings to break, the cracks have been deepening more than ever, especially with the first female vice president inaugurated this past January. It’s about time to be that girl, that badass, and in Lizzo’s kind words, 100% that bitch.
Illustration by Alice Heyeh
WHEN K–POP MEETS NAZISM It isn't the first time Nazism has infiltrated K–Pop. | KATHRYN XU K–Pop has had another Nazi scandal. In this case, Sowon, a member of K–Pop girl group GFriend posted an image of herself embracing a mannequin dressed in Nazi attire to her Instagram. The backlash was swift and immediate— Sowon deleted the image, and her management company, Source Music, released an apology the very next day. The statement is reminiscent of many typical K– Pop or broader celebrity apologies: It comes from the company as opposed to the artists, laments upon the ignorance that led to such a thing being posted, and fails to state exactly what they’re apologizing for. “Sowon was also very surprised to learn about the meaning of the photo, and deleted it immediately,” Source Music stated. (Sowon is likely aware of Nazi Germany—in a live broadcast with fans, group member SinB revealed that Sowon’s name was saved in her phone as “Kitler,” a portmanteau of Kim, Sowon’s surname, and Hitler.) To suggest that K–Pop, or, to boil it down almost over–simplistically, Korea, is unaware of World War II would be incorrect. Many notable scandals have occurred when various Korean celebrities, particularly Korean American ones, engage with Rising Sun iconography, the symbol of Imperial Japan and an emblem of the atrocities that Japan committed, such as the Nanjing Massacre or the sexual enslavement of Korean women. Tiffany, formerly of Girl’s Generation, was once criticized for using a Snapchat filter with the rising sun emblem on it, and actor Steven Yeun was criticized for liking an Instagram post where someone was wearing a shirt with the symbol. The juxtaposition of these types of scandals—anger directed against Imperial Japan while posting images with Nazi iconography—in K–Pop are formed from, or at least highlight, certain disconnects in histories. One other example of such an
incident is when BTS once did a photoshoot beside a Holocaust memorial and photographed rapper RM wearing a Nazi–inspired hat. These old photos were cycled through the internet again in 2018 after member Jimin was photographed wearing a shirt celebrating the atomic bombings of Japan (where an estimated 70,000 Koreans were exposed to the blast and 40,000 are estimated to have died instantly). In both broader situations of responses to Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan, ignorance is the greatest tool of exoneration and criticism. Sowon, BTS, and the companies behind them, Source Music and Big Hit Entertainment, should have known better than to take images next to Nazi iconography, or maybe they were genuinely unaware of the gravity of the situation. Tiffany and Steven Yeun should have known the history of the rising sun image, or they were born in America and were maybe unaware of the weight of the images. Perhaps the issue is with education. It's clear that American schools certainly don’t teach the history of Imperial Japan for any more than one week, and, at the same time, debating the 'validity' of the atomic bombings is a common classroom exercise. It is a far, far reach to say that a lackluster high school education is the reason for, say, posting an image hugging a Nazi soldier and then failing to deliver a personal apology for doing so. Either way, the failure of education is something that has happened, and, on an international scale, something largely outside of fans’ control. The question then turns to how a celebrity might genuinely learn from such an experience or whether or not it’s even possible for fans and consumers to expect such a thing. As it stands, especially with current fan culture, the possibility of celebrities and idols who are not actively seeking to change on their own to genuinely learn from their mistakes seems more
and more far–fetched. It’s not that we need more kindness, necessarily—those who are hurt by things like supporting Nazis and Japanese imperialism are never obliged to give the celebrity the benefit of the doubt or accept their apologies—or because of any so–called 'cancel culture,' but instead, celebrities are not compelled to learn from their mistakes because of the stan culture surrounding celebrities and how criticism is taken. K–Pop especially provides an interesting microcosm for these issues. Blame shifts from creator to company and back again. As in the above tweet, Sowon is not actually from Big Hit Entertainment; she’s managed by Source Music, so you can’t attack Big Hit. In the case of BTS, the band is often lauded by fans as being in control of their own image and music in an industry where that is rare. However, in the case of their Holocaust photoshoot, it was actually the fault of the company who asked for such a thing. There are fans who would jump on anyone who dares to criticize their idol. At the same time, there are people who will genuinely take atrocities committed by an idol and crow about it, declaring that “they knew it from the beginning” and to “stan [x group] instead.” Wrongs are turned into pieces to participate in fandom wars, and the initial horribleness of everything that has occurred is forgotten. K–pop is rife with issues such as anti–Blackness, racism, and sexism, but it’s difficult to achieve any sort of productive conversation about those topics, nor would celebrities be able to parse through anything said (presuming that they, of course, want to, considering that they have little to no incentive for doing so). As the blame game is played by fans to either exonerate or condemn—"It's the company. No— it's the idol. No…"—it is not a surprise that things like this just keep on happening and likely will M A RC H 4 , 2 0 21 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E 21
UNDER THE BUTTON
Relief! Spikeball Season Continues Strong Following Sports Cancellation Meresa García
ollege athletes are still reeling from the recent announcement that the Ivy League will not move forward with spring conference competition, given the worrisome trends of the ongoing pandemic. Disheartened by the news, students wonder how much longer sports will have to endure the virus’ damaging effects. However, not all is lost this semester. Amid the gloom and uncertainty, the Spikeball season has managed to remain unaffected by COVID-19 and will continue with spring competitions. “It’s more than just a
game,” said captain and game coordinator Remy Miller (W '22). “Spikeball was there when I needed it the most. Quarantine hit me really hard, and the only thing that got me out of bed was knowing that I would be able to bump that yellow ball.” This Spikeball season has a record number of 20 teams all vying for a place in the championship, where only five will have the chance to compete for the coveted Golden Net Trophy. Some teams have even received sponsorships from groups such as Wellness at
Penn, Bon Appétit, Penn Student Government, and the Social Planning and Events Committee, all of which have provided funding for uniforms, practice equipment, advertisement, and other general fees. Spikers are gearing up for the first round of matches, which are scheduled to begin in early March. Although many have difficulty balancing the fatigue of online classes and the muscle soreness of grueling late-night practices, student-athletes are willing to do whatever it takes for the game that has given them so much.
Photo by Meresa García / The Daily Pennsylvanian
BREAKING: If Wendell Pritchett Sees His Shadow, We Get Vaccines Before May
Photos (with edits) by Doug Kerr / CC BY-SA 2.0, Penn Law
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t some point between now and some time that isn’t now, Punxsutawney Pritchett will emerge from his hallowed home and determine whether or not he is able to see his shadow. The ruling could not come at a more critical time, as it will decide whether Penn students will receive vaccinations this spring. Pritchett's ocular observances have had a long histo-
ry of determining outcomes of University life. In 2018, Pritchett saw his shadow, so CupcakKe was hired to headline fling. Last year, when he didn’t see his shadow, he announced that all students should rapidly abandon campus and finish the semester online. Most of the year Punxsutawney Pritchett remains inside his log, only emerging to take note of his shadow
and send the most essential of emails and … um … honestly not sure what else he does … Wharton senior Elton Chost is really looking forward to the shadow revelation ceremony. “It makes me feel better knowing the odds of him seeing it are 50-50 right now,” said Chost, “I’m just so glad it officially, concretely, definitely either will or won’t happen!”
UNDER THE BUTTON
Penn to Introduce PennOpen Pass+ For High-Paying Red Passes Matthew Frank
mid endless financial struggles for the University, Penn has found a new, sustainable revenue stream: PennOpen Pass+. When students get red passes, they’re normally restricted to their dorms or Sansom Place West. With Penn’s new subscription service, that all changes. For $50 a week, students with red passes can go wherever they want: dining halls, other college houses, Center City — you name it. Not only is this a massive win for Penn administration, it also relieves a lot of the tension certain Penn students have been feeling. “One of the biggest fears I’ve been having is that, if
Photo by Disney // CC 2.0
I’m out every weekend, when I catch COVID-19, I’ll have to spend like two weeks just by myself,” freshman Richie McMrich said. “With PennOpen Pass+, I really feel like my needs are met, and I’m glad that my other friends who haven’t caught COVID-19 yet won’t have to quarantine either. As for the other kids that get it and — for whatever reason — can’t get PennOpen Pass+, well, that’s tough luck. Maybe don’t go out being so COVID-19-unsafe when you know the consequences.” On top of providing benefits for those paying for the subscription, Penn is also clamping down on students in isolation to make them more
enticed to purchase it. From now on, those in isolation will have their PennCards deactivated so that they won’t have access to their respective bathrooms. For Penn, it’s a waiting game. Once their dorm is filled with urine/shit, they’ll have no choice but to tack on the extra $50 a week to their tuition. Additionally, for $100 a week, students can purchase a PennOpen Pass+ VIP subscription, which lets those with red Passes opt out of wearing masks entirely. The University feels that this multi-tiered subscription model is the best way of doing the most amount of good for the “community at large.”
Exclusive Hot Bitch Location: The High Rise Stairwells Julia Ellis
ant to look like the most exclusive, hottest bitches in Philadelphia? Under the Button did all the hard work for you and found where they like to hang out. Trust us — if you hang around these places long enough, you’ll feel yourself getting sexier.
High rise stairwells
Look at your fine ass trying to reach your little step count for the day. Are you breathing heavily through your nose because you’re out of breath, but don’t want to admit you’re so out of shape that you can’t climb six flights of stairs? Hot bitches are weak.
The forbidden top floor of Huntsman Hall
If you’re not supposed to go up there, then why do the elevators let you off?
The 10th floor of the Acme parking lot
Sexy bitches take pictures here at golden hour. It’s the perfect spot for broke bitches to make TikToks and for you to pretend to be an influencer, if you can stand the weird stares you get from the people getting in their cars.
The bottom of the Bio Pond
Hot bitches go for swims in ponds. We don’t make the rules.
Everyone knows the hottest bitches don’t actually go to Penn. It’s probably not too late to transfer.
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