TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
WORD ON THE STREET
Cooking During COVID-19
Meet Max Kanner
Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit
Dead Parents Society
Penn GenEq Offers a Home
UNDER THE BUTTON Don’t Worry Guys, I Don’t Have COVID
On loving feelings, begging for your ex to take you back, and Mitski
’ve been listening to a lot of Mitski lately—well, really only the one song. “What do you do with a loving feeling,” it asks. “If the loving feeling makes you all alone?” It’s a fair question, and one I really don’t know how to answer. My gut reaction has always been to use brute force, with no amount of last–ditch efforts enough to make someone reciprocate. After my first boyfriend and I broke up, I still gave him his Christmas presents—a shaving kit and some luggage accessories for all the traveling he’d do at his shiny new job—in hopes that he’d change his mind. We ended up making out on the edge of his bed. He also told me he needed space. Even now, I’m still a fan of the winding monologue that begs for forgiveness, for second chances, for us “to stop associating the toughest parts of adult lives with each other” (to quote the most recent triple text I’ve sent). Obviously, none of these pan out great for me. I wouldn’t be writing this if they did. But my penchant for the grand, slightly unhinged gestures reveals a larger truth: After something ends, its energy still lingers like stale perfume. As much as college is about new beginnings, it’s also about a lot of intangible yet palpable endings, which are the worst to come to terms with. Plenty of friendships will fade with no explanation, and you’ll probably start hating plenty of old passions seemingly out of the blue. There will be at least one morning where you wake up and ask yourself, “How did my life get like this?” The answer is that you grew up, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still crave how things used to be. It’s okay to want to introduce some of the past to the newer, more fully–formed you. But as you decide what stays and what goes, it’s important to remember that nostalgia fades, but your resolve to grow doesn’t. This week’s issue is about grappling with that heavy, loving
feeling—and how reckoning with loss often means accepting that it will sting in perpetuity. We examine why the end of John Mulaney’s marriage feels so personally terrible, and how re–makes of cult classics somehow always suck. More importantly, our feature explores another kind of unshakeable loving feeling: grieving the loss of a parent while at Penn, and the secret community that newfound absence fosters
Illustration by Isabel Liang SSSF,
Copy Editor: Brittany Darrow Cover Design by Louis Zhang
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“pls help. trapped in stroffice”
WORD ON THE STREET
My Journey Cooking During COVID–19 How cooking new recipes got me through the pandemic—and helped me explore my vegetarianism | ANIKA PRAKASH Illustration by Isabel Liang
hile I was stuck inside, I used cooking to quite literally spice up my life. When we half–returned to campus in the spring, I used my bedroom desk as storage space and took Zoom classes from my dining table, where I could use three hours of class time to simultaneously prepare dinner. Don’t tell my professors I said this, but the symphony of cooking quickly took precedence over the voices exiting my laptop speaker. I was far more attuned to the gentle rumbling of water boiling on the stove, the sizzling of onions and garlic in an adjacent pan, and the sharp sound of my knife colliding with the chopping board at each cut— though the chopping wasn’t particularly rhythmic given my lack of proper knife skills. By the time I heard the routine chorus of thank yous and goodbyes, I was ready to snap my laptop shut and slide it off the table, a hot plate of food taking its place. From April of 2020 until now, I’ve made it my goal to never repeat a recipe. There’s comfort in sticking with a dish that you know will bring you joy, but I knew that if I broke this personal rule, I would fall into the trap of eating the same four dishes after every tiring day. Luckily for me, my social media algorithms caught on pretty quickly, presenting me with an overabundance of dishes I could prepare. I could stop scrolling today and still have enough recipes saved to last me
a lifetime. I was even luckier with the diversity of these recipes, which put dishes from every cuisine at my disposal. Thankfully, most of them were already vegetarian or “vegetarianized,” but if they weren’t, it was easy enough to swap out the meat for some other form of protein like tofu or seitan. There is often a misconception—more so in the West—that vegetarians are constrained to eating salads, salad bowls, grain bowls, or other variations of vegetables thrown together with rice or quinoa. Even though this myth is fading, I think there's still a lack of recognition for other cultures that have already been making delicious, flavorful, and hearty vegetarian food for centuries. As I began preparing recipes from various backgrounds, I realized that I wanted a single congruous space to show people just how manifold vegetarian food can be. Though I made new, elaborate dishes multiple nights a week, I spent months agonizing over what my Instagram handle would be. One evening, after dumping an entire container of spinach into a pasta dish and watching it reduce to almost nothing before my eyes, I eventually settled on @honeyishrunkthespinach—a play on the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I began to post the archive of photos I had racked up over months. These photos were not (and are not) of the highest quality, and I did not (and do not) have a great following. However, there's still
so much satisfaction in scrolling through the 129 distinct dishes I've made to date, seeing their vibrant colors and the variety of shapes and textures, and remembering the flavor of each one in my mouth. From Japanese corn kakiage, to Persian crispy potato tahdig, to Korean potato and cheese balls, to South African spicy peri peri paneer, to Taiwanese three–cup tofu, there continues to be something comforting in seeing the world of food I made while physically constrained due to the pandemic, either at my home in New Jersey or in my dorm at Penn.
THERE IS OFTEN A MISCONCEPTION— MORE SO IN THE WEST—THAT VEGETARIANS ARE CONSTRAINED TO EATING SALADS, SALAD BOWLS, GRAIN BOWLS, OR OTHER VARIATIONS OF VEGETABLES THROWN TOGETHER WITH RICE OR QUINOA. I'm busier now that classes are back in person, and it’s much easier to stop at any one of the amazing food trucks on campus for a quick, delicious, and filling meal (the halal cart on 41st and Walnut streets will always have my heart). So, I’ve used this
as an opportunity to find dishes that are simpler to prepare while still retaining a well–rounded flavor. On Thursday night, after a full day of work and meetings, I returned to my room, drained and rinsed two cans of chickpeas, mashed them up with a fork, added chopped onions and peppers, mayo, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, sriracha, and more seasonings than I could count, and spread the mixture onto two slices of toast. Even though the meal only took 20 minutes of work, it tasted like the perfect way to end a stressful day. There's a poem by Ron Padgett called “The Love Cook":
Let me cook you some dinner. Sit down and take off your shoes and socks and in fact the rest of your clothes, have a daquiri, turn on some music and dance around the house, inside and out it’s night and the neighbors are sleeping, those dolts, and the stars are shining bright, and I’ve got the burners lit for you, you hungry thing. Through lockdown, through the pandemic even after lockdown, through long days and long nights of endless work, and even through the end of time, there’s no better medicine than the sensation of a unique flavor dancing across your tongue.
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MAX KANNER HOMETOWN:
New Orleans, La.
Philosophy, politics, and economics with minors in gender studies and consumer psychology
Penn Debate Society, The Wharton Alliance, Social Impact Consulting, Carriage Senior Society
This senior conducts independent mental health research for queer youth. | MADDIE MULDOON 34th STREET: What activity at Penn are you most passionate about? MAX KANNER: I’m closest with the people on Debate Society, but I’m probably most passionate about Carriage and what it stands for. STREET: Could you tell me a bit about your involvement with Penn Debate Society, and how that’s impacted your time at Penn? MK: Sophomore year, I was on the board as one of the vice presidents for Penn Debate Society. Penn Debate Society allowed me to take something that I found interesting in high school and then find community from it in college. Debate was really important for me growing up in New Orleans. It was a way to leave on the weekends and talk about issues that I wasn't able to talk about with my peers at school. Even though I'm not competitive debating as actively, I really appreciate the social aspect of the team because everyone has that intellectual curiosity. We all share that we were debaters in high school or
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debate now in college. STREET: You mentioned that you have an appreciation for Carriage and what it stands for. Could you tell me about your experience with Carriage? MK: Carriage creates this safe space for queer people at Penn to meet each other. Even though it's still the beginning of the school year and there haven't been a ton of events, I'm really excited to get more involved with that and see where it takes me. It's a really important thing to have at Penn. A big strength of the senior societies is that on one hand, people want to spend time with the people that they've known since [first year], which is totally cool. But on the other hand—especially with COVID–19 and having almost two years taken from us—I think it's important to branch out now more than ever. Especially if the senior society is a shared identity or shared interest like Carriage is, I think that's an even better thing. STREET: Describe the LGBTQ educa-
tion research you do. MK: Coming into Penn, one of my goals for myself was to explore my own identity and answer some of the questions that I wasn't able to even explore in high school. I made it a point to try and analyze gender and sexuality through a lot of different lenses. I've been able to do research across five or six different departments at Penn centering around mental health for queer youth. I've incorporated that into classes—whether it be a religious studies class, a sociology class, political science, philosophy, or in the nursing school, which is where I’ve taken some of the most impactful ones. I've been able to do research in all of those courses around this one beat. It's allowed me to get a good grasp on the subject, and also to take advantage of the different departments at Penn while exploring my own passion. That led me to my biggest activity, which is actually not Penn–related. When everything went online during COVID–19, I was looking for some-
thing to do to fill my time. I wanted to try to take what I had been researching and make an impact with it. I found this organization called Hope In a Box that provides LGBTQ–inclusive literature and curriculum guides to English teachers and librarians across the country. Sophomore and junior year, I was really involved in that. We were able to create this artificial intelligence professional development program that allows teachers to practice dealing with hard questions that they may get in the classroom. Things like, "What do you say when a student calls another student gay to mean weird?" Or, "How do you talk about these issues with parents at parent– teacher conferences?" It's a really great organization. The program that we helped make has been deployed at over 300 schools across the country. It's free professional development that's been extended to 450 teachers. What they do is so great, and it’s been a really reward-
ing part of my experience at Penn. Penn is what gave me the opportunity to research that and find that passion in the first place. So even though the organization is not Penn–based, it still had a big impact on my Penn experience. STREET: Tell me about yourself, outside of Penn and school. MK: I have a cat that I adore. I love playing video games like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. I love going on walks and cooking, even though cooking isn't my biggest strength. I worked on that a lot throughout quarantine. Honestly, the biggest activity that I do outside of Penn is Hope In a Box. Volunteering as a program coordinator takes up a lot of my time. All of these experiences have really allowed me to reform my sense of self. When you grow up closeted, you're growing up with a mask on your whole life. At Penn, in these different activities—whether it's from debate, Hope In a Box, or even just
research in class—it's really allowed me to deconstruct those 18 years wearing a mask and find who I am. STREET: What is your most memorable experience at Penn? MK: Spring Fling [my first year] is definitely one of my favorite memories at Penn. Spring Fling in and of itself was this magical time where it felt like the beginning of [first year] again and everyone was just having fun. My favorite memory then was when I met my current boyfriend outside of a party during Spring Fling. That's how we met each other, so I think that's my favorite moment at Penn. STREET: What's next for you after Penn? MK: This past summer, I was taking the LSAT. I don't know if I'm going to apply this cycle or wait, but I definitely know that next year, I'll be in New York working as a compliance analyst, and then hopefully going to law school sometime after that.
LIGHTNING ROUND STREET: Last song you listened to? MK: “Get Into It” by Doja Cat. That album has been ruling my life recently. STREET: What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you? MK: I think a lot of people wouldn't guess that I'm from the Deep South. I don't have a southern accent and don't have a lot of southern tendencies. STREET: If you were a building on campus, which one would you be and why? MK: I think I would be The Quad. The Quad is a fun place, and I have a lot of my favorite memories there. It's not always the prettiest, but it's a place where people have fun. That's what I think is something that's really important about Penn—people forget to have fun. STREET: Who do you look up to? MK: I really look up to my parents and what they do. I think that everyone learns a lot from their parents, and I wouldn't be here without them, literally and figuratively. STREET: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? MK: I would want to be able to move things with my mind. I think that's an underrated one. If you think about it, that could allow you to do a lot, and it would let me be even more lazy than I already am. STREET: There are two types of people at Penn … MK: Those that run to class when they know they're late, and those that just accept it and keep walking. STREET: And you are? MK: I would say that I've evolved. I think that as an underclassman, I was definitely a runner. Now, after COVID–19 and everything, I'm trying to take in Penn as much as I can. So, if I'm late for class, I just enjoy the walk.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2021 34TH STREET MAGAZINE
KACEY MUSGRAVES' STAR–CROSSED IS A TRAGEDY WITHOUT A VILLAIN The country–pop singer explores life after divorce in the follow–up to her award–winning Golden Hour. | FERNANDA BRIZUELA
Illustration by Alice Choi
hrough star–crossed, Kacey Musgraves narrates the cautionary tale of life after a beautiful marriage and a devastating divorce. Despite the hype she created surrounding her recent release—with promotional efforts such as interviews and a short film—she tells the story gently and thoughtfully, almost like a secret told to a close friend, in hushed tones and wistful sighs. Musgraves released the record, which she described as a “modern tragedy in three acts,” on Sept. 10. The record follows her critically acclaimed country– pop album Golden Hour, in which she welcomed listeners into a bright, shiny world accompanied by a lover who “[sets it] on fire.” During its first act, star–crossed retells the love story constructed in Golden Hour. The rest of the album, however, 6
leaves that romance in the past, mourning two lovers whose “golden hour faded black.” The record opens with the eponymous prelude, “star–crossed,” which immediately displays Musgraves’ angelic vocals before she begins to share the tale. The listener is immediately told what to expect: the tragedy of two partners who were “ripped right at the seams.” Musgraves spins a yarn that goes in surprising directions as the chain of events unfolds. She had promised a post–divorce record that would “burst the bubble” of her image as a “starry–eyed, rose–colored glasses kinda girl.” However, she doesn’t present an album filled with all–consuming anger or pointed fingers. In fact, her ex–husband, who would presumably be the bad guy, is barely a secondary character in the story. It’s a tragedy without a villain: two star–crossed lovers who just weren’t
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meant to be. Still, during the prelude, Musgraves emphasizes that “no one is to blame” despite the fact that the lovers “called all the angels to save [them].” However, she secures their ill fate by saying they must have gotten lost. Instead of anger, the album is primarily an encapsulation of nostalgia and melancholy. Musgraves doesn’t curse her ex–husband; she doesn’t even wish the relationship never happened. More than anything, she longs for the “simple times” before her failed relationship tarnished her perspective of the past. Following the prelude, the songwriter reminisces about the early stages of the relationship—retelling the events she first shared in Golden Hour, but with the benefit of hindsight. In “good wife,” Musgraves gives deeper insights into the dynamics of what the listener now knows is a failed relationship. Without this prior knowledge, however, the red flags might go unnoticed, as she sings about the couple’s need for each other. Even though she acknowledges she could make do without him, the “house just wouldn’t be a home.” Overall, Musgraves questions her role in the demise of the relationship. If everything were perfect–if life were a movie–the relationship would have worked out. The listener is left to wonder what destroyed it in the first place. The second single “justified” marks a change in the album, indicating the second act of the tragedy in which Musgraves switches from reflecting on a lost love to dealing with the emotional aftermath. She sings about the road to healing—as she sits behind the wheel of her car in the music video—going from hate to love, from “cry[ing] just a little” to “laugh[ing] in the middle.” Musgraves uses the track to come to terms with her decisions and the subsequent emotions. More excitingly, this section of the album dips its toe slightly back into disco–
pop, making you want to dance along while screaming the lyrics and admittedly shedding a tear or two. The best example of this is “breadwinner”—sonically reminiscent of “High Horse”—in which Musgraves gives the listener advice based on what she wishes she had known during her relationship. Sure enough, as the listener starts to expect similar themes to Olivia Rodrigo's “good 4 u”—burning bedrooms and psycho ex–girlfriend vibes—the album shifts once again. To close the project, Musgraves looks introspectively and explores what the future holds for her. She recalls wisdom her dad imposed when she was a kid: “Keep lookin’ up / Don’t let the world bring you down / Keep your head in the clouds / And your feet on the ground.” Musgraves uses the last couple of songs to restate her strength and resilience, still present despite the difficult times she faced. Sonically, the songs in the third act also signify hope— the soft strings paired with pop–disco beats point towards bittersweetness and lessons learned, but with a light at the end of the tunnel. The only major miss seems to be the tragedy’s conclusion, a cover of Violeta Parra’s “Gracias a la vida.” Although the lyrics accurately represent the journey of the album—thanking life for every gift despite its hardships—a stronger closing could have been achieved with a song penned by Musgraves herself. She manages to transform to transform the song to represent changes in her narrative: the song is warped at times, indicating different points of her story. However, some of these changes seem unnecessary to such an iconic song. Despite this, it is notable that Musgraves honored Parra by singing the song in Spanish. All in all, star–crossed is a successful successor to Golden Hour, continuing to tell a love story that enthralled so many. Musgraves gives listeners insight into the experience of a complicated relationship, where a time once full of love can lead to heartbreak, but also to major life lessons.
Illustration by Isabel Liang
he remix album is a strange format; its conceit inherently undercuts the original album, as if it needs improvement, while simultaneously offering up unnecessary new versions of old songs. Last year, Dua Lipa teamed up with the Blessed Madonna for Club Future Nostalgia, a fun but ill–timed release in the middle of a pandemic. In the case of Lady Gaga's Chromatica, its corresponding remix album Dawn Of Chromatica somehow both lacks ideas and overflows with them. Where the original skimped on forward–looking production in favor of radio–friendly sleekness, Dawn blasts its way through balls–to–the–wall hyperpop. But "hyperpop" as a term reduces this record's intricacies, and attempting to label each and every strand of genre here is a task better suited for Spotify algorithms than mortal humans. Dawn doesn't perfectly adhere to hyperpop's tropes, whatever they may be. If anything, the album accurately captures the state of hyperpop today, even if that's hard to define. Dawn of Chromatica is largest platform to date for the mercurial micro–genre. Gaga appears to have taken a decidedly hands off approach to Dawn, leaving executive producer BloodPop to take the reigns. Because of this, Dawn of Chromatica has no thesis statement written into it. Yet, the album's collection of queer collaborators make up for the apparent lack of direction with their own eccentricities. COUCOU CHLOE brings the wholesome and joyful "Stupid Love" down to her underworld, subsuming the song's absurd bass drop into a dark, addictive murmur of "freak out." Rina Sawayama and her close collaborator Clarence Clarity give "Free Woman" an extra boost of empowering energy. It's hard to resist cracking a smile on the street when you hear Rina say "Let's go, Gaga" in your AirPods. Conversely, Charli XCX and PC Music mastermind A.G. Cook manipulate the vocoded strut of "911" into a bewildering new form. It's not unlistenable and rather quite pleasant, but the placement of Charli's guest verse at the track's end confuses the ear. Not to be overlooked are LSDXOXO's saunter–worthy "Alice" rework, Doss' masterful interpretation of "Enigma," and Planningtorock's rousing rendition of "1000 Doves." And of course, there's my personal favorite—Arca's genius remix of "Rain On Me." The Venezuelan provocateur concocts a hypnotic potion from a total of four songs, borrowing from Changa Tuki as well as her own discography. In doing so, she transforms the original's staid radio fodder into a distinctly queer riot of sound. The result is nothing less than euphoric. As much pleasure as these songs offer, Dawn sags at times with the sheer amount of people on certain songs, namely Shygirl and Mura Masa's "Sour Candy" and the inane disasterpiece of the "Sine From Above" remix. Shygirl and Mura Masa's performances
DAWN OF CHROMATICA: A CONFOUNDING HYPERPOP FANTASIA The star–studded remix album is a document of the current hyperpop scene. | PEYTON TOUPS
are decent by themselves, but they both don't have a lot of room to breathe and rub up awkwardly against Gaga and BLACKPINK's lines. "Sine From Above," on the other hand, sounds like a ten–year–old boy's version of pop music, pondering what wack–a– doodle effects work best with the hardest–hitting drum machines. Not to mention that the song features Elton John, who sounds even more out of place than he did on Chromatica, as well as the producers Lil Texas, Mood Killer, and BloodPop associate Chester Lockhart. By the time you reach the end of the track's intense rollercoaster of vapid production choices, you're glad it's over. Dawn of Chromatica offers up a plethora of chaotic moments and celebrity names that may take a few listens to get accustomed to. It's a remix album you cherry pick, adding the best bass drops to pre-game playlists and eschewing the songs that collapse under their own weight. Danceable to a fault, Gaga's newest is average for her, yet a standout for the fledgling hyperpop genre.
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Four Movie Remakes Not Worth the Runtime Yes, He’s All That makes the cut.| EMILY MOON
ollywood has long perfected its fulfillment of “so nice they made it twice” movie culture with years upon years of oftentimes unnecessary reboots. Whether it's a new imagining of an iconic teen show like Gossip Girl or an old–time classic like Psycho, if you’ve heard of it, there’s probably more than one version. Now, with yet another reimagining of Ghostbusters hitting the studios in November and the Addison Rae–ification of the 1999 cult–favorite She’s All That, reboots are taking center stage on our screens. We’ll only know whether it’s for better or worse after the credits run, but for some of these recent remakes, our minds were made up after the opening scenes. He's All That, 2021 TikTok phenom Addison Rae makes her acting debut in the modernized and role reversed retelling of the 90's film She’s All That. In the original and reboot, both written by R. Lee Fleming Jr., a popular high schooler takes on a bet that they can transform a school outcast into a fellow popular kid. Surprisingly (spoiler alert), both protagonists fall in love with the subjects of their bet. The original She’s All That certainly wasn’t winning any Oscars, but the chemistry and charisma of leads Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook redeemed any cheesiness and rooted it in our cultural understanding of iconic teen dramas. In the 2021 reboot, first–time actress Rae delivers her lines flatly, and the script’s slightly dated and awkward feel doesn’t do her any favors. With sparks as hot as a damp log between Rae and costar Tanner Buchanan, He’s All That was painful to watch but probably a safe pick for a middle school sleepover or a young adult hate–watch. The Mummy, 2017 The 1932 version of The Mummy sports an 88% “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics agreeing that the horror movie set the tone for future mummy films to come, relying on creating a tense atmosphere instead of leaning on typical thrills. So when Universal Studios announced a remake starring legendary action actor Tom Cruise, expectations were high for the 2017 remake. Instead, Universal pumped out an uninspired and confused narrative that thought Cruise’s stunts and star power would be enough to distract viewers from its jumbled story and boring addition to the already long list of action–adventure movies just like it. With a paltry 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, the 2017 remake endures criticism about its reliance on Cruise's presence and its status as a money–maker rather than a film. If you’re looking to watch an action reboot, try Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle instead; neither of these 8
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Illustration by Alice Choi 2017 reboots will blow your mind for their originality, but at least you’ll have fun watching Jumanji. Poltergeist, 2015 Poltergeist (1982) is known and loved by horror fans as a sharply frightening paranormal staple, complete with its creepy and innovative use of a television set, but the 2015 remake falls short of its predecessor. While the cast does its best to uplift the movie, it just feels a little flat compared to the movie it pays homage to and perhaps sticks too closely to the confines of the original. The horror genre does see high–profile remakes of the genre’s pillars, like The Amityville Horror (1979 and 2005), but at some point we need to ask ourselves if it’s necessary in any capacity. The 2015 remake of Poltergeist wasn’t atrocious, but the scares felt all too familiar—something horror fans aren’t really looking forward to when seeing a scary film, especially in theaters. Adding too little of its own charm and twists, the 2015 movie feels like the knockoff version of an already great thing. The Heartbreak Kid, 2007 Funnyman Ben Stiller’s crowd–pleasing appearances in movies like Night at the Museum and Zoolander wasn’t enough to save his 2007 remake of the 1972 film by the same name. Both are billed as black comedies meant to explore the hypocrisy of love through humor, but Stiller’s reboot feels mean–spirited instead of subversive. Elaine May, director of 1972’s The Heartbreak Kid,
is widely credited for grounding the movie and pushing the envelope of comedy. Film critic Roger Ebert even said, “It’s a comedy, but there’s more in it than that; it’s a movie about the ways we pursue, possess, and consume each other as sad commodities.” In sharp contrast, Stiller’s version comes across as laden with cheap gags—instead of funnily unlikeable characters or questionable behavior serving as social commentary, viewers are just left with no one to root for.
Reviving an old franchise or putting a new spin on a classic doesn’t automatically condemn a movie, but these four reboots miss the mark on so many different levels. Especially with the long list of movies that successfully breathe new life into dated concepts, avoiding these four should be a breeze. But there’s always merit to sitting down with a group of friends and making an event out of watching a bad movie—so who knows, maybe one of these films will make your next movie night as notorious as these remakes were.
GOD COMPLEX: A DIFFERENT PHILADELPHIA Brings Criticism, Conversation, and Change to the Arthur Ross Gallery There’s no excuse not to take advantage of Roberto Lugo’s eye–opening exhibition. | JESSA GLASSMAN
oberto Lugo’s Philadelphia is a “home of Cornbread tagging in the streets,” and of “football with no pads,” where you can get “baseball bats to the face for steppin’ in the wrong neighborhood.” This Philadelphia is not so familiar to the Penn community—our home is more appropriately described by tree–lined brick pathways, long walks to DRL, and consulting club rejections. Lugo’s Philadelphia and Penn’s Philadelphia may exist in the same geographical vicinity, but they often feel worlds apart. God Complex: Different Philadelphia is Lugo’s juxtaposition of these spheres. His own experience as a North Philadelphian, Puerto Rican–American interested in history and the global arts pushes the boundaries of the exhibition’s institutional venue, Penn’s very own Arthur Ross Gallery. By trade, Lugo is a renaissance man: an artist, activist, spoken word poet, educator, and ceramicist. In 2019, the Office of the Curator, with a grant from the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, invited Lugo to curate an exhibition that drew from the University art collection— which holds over 8,000 pieces. Lugo decided to create an exhibition that placed his own work in dialogue with Penn’s. “I didn’t see a lot of representation in terms of the people that were painted or the concepts or ideas,” he says in a virtual gallery talk, “also, makers that are people of color or women or anybody other than a white man.”
Photo by Jessa Glassman Upon entering the gallery, the visitor observes Lugo’s intended dialogue right away. The gallery naturally progresses from portraits of early American politicians, hanging on walls the same color teal as Independence Hall, to Lugo’s own work, spread throughout a graffiti–covered space with a strong sense of racial justice. “Bridges” occupies a poetic space between these two dichotomous sections. The installation features a large pot depicting Benjamin Franklin on one side and Lugo’s father on the other. Visual elements, including the chain–like design behind the faces, emulate the architectural qualities of the Ben Franklin Bridge. The pot tells the story of Lugo’s father, who rode his bike over the bridge to New Jersey each day for work. Through this work, Lugo expresses immense gratitude for his father and other people in his life who worked tirelessly to help him get to where he is today. He pays homage to them in kind with his own creativity. “Bridges” was generously donated to Penn and will become a permanent fixture in the University collection. Once visitors have crossed the metaphorical bridge, they find themselves immersed in Lugo’s hand–painted pots, vases, and other work. The objects are decorated with ancient Greek motifs and feature the faces of influential Black individual. Lugo's style utilizes techniques from around the world like the Japanese Imari style or African and South Ameri-
can textile patterns. From the exhibition, it is clear that Lugo is capable of skillfully manipulating porcelain, “illuminating its aristocratic surface with imagery of poverty, inequality, and social and racial injustice,” according to Arthur Ross Gallery Executive Director Lynn Marsden– Atlass. Lugo’s “Street Pots” exemplify his trademark style. Each portrays two iconic Black figures like President Barack Obama and rapper Slick Rick or abolitionist Harriet Tubman and musician Jimi Hendrix. By creating unlikely pairs of influential people, Lugo makes a point about how no individual’s contribution is more valuable or worthy of celebration than another's—honoring them all for uplifting the Black community in their own way. His teapots achieve a similar effect, memorializing figures like Caroline LeCount, a teacher and Civil Rights Activist, and Crystal Bird Fauset, the first Black woman elected to state legislature in the United States. “These are my George Washingtons and Ben Franklins and my ancestry that created all these things for me to be able to go to college for something like pottery,” Lugo says. The graffiti that covers the walls of the gallery is just as engaging as the objects the space houses. Growing up in Kensington, Lugo’s primary exposure to art was through the Mural Arts Program, an initiative which is responsible for inspirational murals around the city. This in addition to graffiti, a skill passed on to him
as a young man by formative community role models. Working with Chop, a fellow graffiti artist, Lugo spontaneously graffitied the gallery walls, trying to achieve a layering effect common on city walls that get covered, sprayed over, and covered again. To Lugo, graffiti is an “art movement of overcoming oppression” that allows those who don’t have an art class to express themselves, thus leaving a meaningful mark on the community. As someone who has won a variety of awards and has displayed work in museums like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Brooklyn Museum, this exhibition at Penn may seem less impressive. Given both Lugo’s background and the school’s history, God Complex is actually incredibly personal and impactful. “My Philadelphia exists in the same Philadelphia that Penn exists in,” Lugo says. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to work with institutions like this in order to move the goal post in the right direction, which is us acknowledging these histories, doing away with celebrating just one narrative, and to be able to explore and support artists and thinkers with a lot of different experiences.” God Complex: A Different Philadelphia is a step towards that goal post, and is a free, convenient, and engaging way for Penn students to start breaking out of their bubble. It is undeniable that the exhibition will influence the art community on campus, in Philadelphia, and writ large far beyond its close.
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Photo by Arjun Jain
STEP INTO THE WORLD OF
Van Gogh's ART AT THE TOWER THEATRE Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience has arrived here in Philadelphia finally, and brings a universe of color alongside it. | MEHEK BOPARAI
n the digital age, the line between the tangible and virtual has become increasingly blurred. Content creators exist primarily online, and the title of "artist" has taken on a variety
of meanings and mediums accordingly. However, as we become accustomed to the process of modern art production, we may ask ourselves: Is there a way to revitalize the past?
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An answer can be found in Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Executive producer John Zaller describes the experience as a “360 degree sound and light spectacular, created with [and inspired
by] the works of Vincent van Gogh. It’s a combination of museum–style exhibition and digital immersive experience.” The project has been plastered all over social media advertisements. It has
popped up across several major cities such as New York City and Las Vegas, but originated in 2017 via showings across Europe. After several delays, the exhibition finally arrives here in Philly at the
Tower Theater. Since no original artwork of the post–impressionist painter hangs at the exhibition, the visit itself is quite different from the traditional museum excursion. Rather than strolling around and studying the
and it becomes difficult not to fall into a trance as the lights dance across everyone’s faces. This alone is worth the price of admission. Once you finally break out of this reverie, the rest of the experience has more to offer.
Rather than strolling around and studying the greats, you become a part of the art itself.
greats, you become a part of the art itself. Alongside life–size physical recreations of work, such as 1888's The Bedroom, where you can step inside the world of the artist, there are prints of different paintings hung alongside placards detailing van Gogh’s history. Closet–sized rooms feature 3D projections of the artist’s different appearances throughout the years. Of course, the heart of the project is a vast, open room adorned with floor cushions and visitors as they sit and marvel at their surroundings. This is the namesake immersive experience—cast all around the space is a light show that voyages through some of Van Gogh's most beloved and iconic artworks. For one fleeting moment, it’s The Starry Night (1889); the next, it’s Starry Night Over the Rhône (1888). The colors on the wall melt into one another to the tune of classical music,
For those who seek to create art themselves, there is a room to interactively color in black– and–white sketches of van Gogh’s most famous paintings, as well as a virtual reality simulation where the artist walks alongside you in the French countryside as you watch the landscapes depicted in his work. It’s unsettlingly beautiful, and achieves a new layer of depth for even the most frequent museum–goer. The Immersive Experience is a lovely visit for anyone looking to take a break from academics, or to try something unique when compared to anything they’ve been to before. It’s a romantic date spot, a charming time for friends and family, or even a nice pocket of solace for one to get away and just exist within and amongst the art. Students can snag discounted tickets for $25 and spend a morning gazing at the world through the infamous artist’s eyes.
Photo by Arjun Jain
A series of lectures to sound the alarm about the climate emergency, to call for large-scale climate action, and to share a vision of constructive and comprehensive responses.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN STATUE IN FRONT OF COLLEGE HALL
PERATURE CAN RISE IN TEMPERATURE 1.5 °C = THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT THE AVERAGE TEM`
ORDER TO AVOID THE WORST CONSEQUENCES OF GLOBAL WARMING. WE’RE ALREADY PAST 1 °C.
#1point5 Watch the livestream on Facebook or Twitter @PennSAS
Complete schedule and list of speakers
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DEAD PARENTS SOCIETY: Finding Community in Grief Uncovering spaces where open conversations about loss can bloom on campus | MEG GLADIEUX
“I just don’t know how to talk to my friends about this thing that I’m missing. It’s not that I’m sad—it’s just that there’s something that isn’t there, something missing that just makes everything a little harder."
t’s the club that no one asked to join. The only requirement for membership: having a dead parent. I’ve been a member since I was eight–and–a–half, when my dad died. We don’t have meetings, and there’s no official indoctrination, but those of us who have experienced the loss of a parent at a young age have an implicit bond that allows us to connect in a way that others just can’t understand. And once you’re a member of the club, you’re a member for life. I didn’t think my father’s death would follow me to college. I thought I could leave my father’s death out of my identity, back in my hometown. Instead, I realized how integral this childhood experience was to every part of my life, especially as I entered adulthood. I found that the subject of parents and family were topics I constantly avoided, a part of my identity I didn’t quite know how to express without sending conversations in still–nascent friendships into devastatingly uncomfortable spirals. It’s estimated that 1 in 14 children will lose a parent or sibling by the time they’re 18; having a dead parent is a more common experience than many think. Yet I struggled to find people I could relate to—after all, social conventions render grief taboo in public spaces. As a result, members of the club hide in plain sight. The death of a close family member is an experience that puts a barrier between you and everyone around you, something you carry that just can’t be articulated to those who haven’t gone through the same thing.
BEN KAPLAN Stephen Mack (C ’23) and I bond over our dead dads in the back of the Starbucks at 39th and Walnut. His dad died when he was 12. “There’s a lot of trauma, not just my father passing, but everything that came after,” says Stephen. “That’s hard to express
or explain to people, because it's a trauma that most people here [at Penn] are fortunate enough not to have had.” Stephen has been able to share his story with friends, but even so, what he’s experienced creates a degree of separation from the background of the typical Penn student. Some of the details of his father’s death aren’t things he feels totally comfortable sharing. Most people in Stephen’s life know that his father passed away, but everything else that comes with that loss is more difficult to express, especially when he doesn’t know people with similar experiences. “We carry these things with us to Penn, and it’s good because we have [physical] distance from them, but that distance isn’t necessarily there emotionally,” he says. Ben Kaplan’s (C ’22) loss is slightly more recent than Stephen’s or my own; his mother passed away in the spring of his senior year of high school from breast cancer. He tells me the whole story on a bench at 40th and Locust, from her diagnosis in elementary school, to remission, to her re–diagnosis during his junior year of high school, to nights praying in her hospital room, to the strangeness of the mourning period, to his family’s pilgrimage to Israel to bury her. “There are just certain things in life that are harder because a parent isn’t there,” says Ben. In high school, his mom had been his central source of motivation and encouragement. When he started college, he was missing an entire support system he had known for
most of his life. While his friends call their parents to talk about exams or their job search, Ben is forced to be more self–reliant as he enters into the adult world. “I just don’t know how to talk to my friends about this thing that I’m missing," he says. "It’s not that I’m sad—it’s just that there’s something that isn’t there, something missing that just makes everything a little harder." The experience of having a dead parent isn’t just the sense of loss; it also shapes the way we interact with the people around us, especially on campus. “It comes up more often than you think,” says Stephen. “People ask, ‘What do your parents do?’ and then it just becomes an awkward conversation.” Ben has experienced something similar. “I usually just say ‘doctors,’ he says. “And if they ask about my mom specifically—well, I just don’t know how to respond. It’s not always the right time to go there.” I can relate to their discomfort—when people ask me what my father does for a living, I have a dialogue with myself, a certain internal crisis: Should I lie or change the subject? I always eventually tell the truth, but saying, “He’s dead,” is usually a pretty good conversation killer. Ben, Stephen, and I have very different experiences of grieving our parents, but I can relate to almost everything they say. All of us have coped with the deaths of our parents, but the impact of the loss never goes away. “That’s one thing that people don’t understand, there’s repercussions that last years—decades, even—
"That’s one thing that people don’t understand. There’s repercussions that last years—decades, even—after a parent's death. It follows you.”
Photo Courtesy of Stephen Mack 12 34TH STREET MAGAZINE
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after a parent's death. It follows you,” says Stephen. “It’s weird—the people I speak to most now have no idea who my mom was,” says Ben. “No matter how long they’re in your life, your parents are such a crucial part of who you are. I just don’t even know how to open up about it.” Ben has a kippah that his mother crocheted for him before she died. It’s tattered, and the colors change shades in places because she ran out of yarn while making it, but he wears it every Sabbath anyway, even if he feels like others don’t understand why he has something so worn. “I don’t want to explain it. It’s just too awkward,” he says. There aren’t words to explain how you hold onto someone you lost or the seemingly strange ways you remember them. Ben holds his grief with his kippah and in the speeches he gives to remember his mother on the anniversary of her death. We don’t all have the same experience of loss, but what we have in common bonds us. Some write essays and poems. Others start nonprofits or run marathons. And for Jamie–Lee Josselyn (C ’05)—associate director for recruitment at the Kelly Writers House, instructor for Penn’s Creative Writing Program, and a member of the club since her mom’s death when she was twelve years old—expressing grief involved a podcast. The topic of dead parents has been a conversation around the Kelly Writers House for years. Students and staff at the Writers House, a center and home base for writers and community art programs, found an informal community by talking about their parents’ deaths, which for many was also a subject of their writing. Year after year, friendships grew over the shared experience of loss, often over cups of tea in the shared kitchen. This community calls themselves the Dead Parents Society. In fact, these conversations happened so often that Jamie–Lee Josselyn decided to turn them into an actual podcast, also called Dead Parents Society. Now, it’s created a platform for grieving people and students to come together both on Penn’s campus and beyond. It all started when Jamie–Lee won the Beltran Family Teaching Award in 2017, which allowed her to host a live event at the Writers House. She had an idea: What if Dead Parents Society became an official, live event? In the spring of 2018, writers gathered and read pieces about losing a parent in front of an audience: Dead Parents Society, live at Kelly Writers House. Then, Jamie–Lee received the Bassini Apprenticeship through the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, which allowed her to work with students on a lon-
ger–term project of choice. It was the perfect opportunity to make Dead Parents Society into something more official—to transform it into a true fixture at the Writers House and translate late–night kitchen conversations into a public practice of writing about and recording grief. Jamie–Lee is an avid podcast listener. “It’s very intimate, in a way,” she says. “I like to pretend I’m friends with the people who host the podcasts.” And because she considered every person with whom she had conversations about their dead parents to be her friends, it felt like the perfect formula. Thus, the Dead Parents Society podcast was born. The Dead Parents Society podcast isn’t a support group, nor is the community from which it originated. For grieving students at Penn, CAPS has “Living with Loss,” a grief support group for students coping with the death of a significant person in their lives. But, unlike a support group, Dead Parents Society is not just about coming together to talk about the trauma of a parent dying or coping with loss. It’s about finding community around everything that comes after the death of a parent, about having intentional conversations on how that loss shapes the way you view the world. “I think it’s something people want to connect over, but don’t always have the opportunity,” says Jamie–Lee. “We’re the grieving friends you always wanted.” In a post–COVID–19 world where more and more people are grieving, where conversations about mental health are becoming less stigmatized, the Dead Parents Society podcast might be the perfect platform for more open conversations about how death, loss, and grief shape the world we inhabit. Since the pandemic, Jamie–Lee has brought non–Penn students on the podcast to talk about grief more generally. Writers, teachers, and even fellow podcast hosts come together to talk about how loss, particularly loss of close loved ones like parents, shapes the way we live our lives. “I think that the conversations I was hoping to start back in 2018 are easier for people to have, not because of my podcast, but just because of what’s been going on,” says Jamie–Lee. Despite Jamie–Lee’s conversations on the podcast, having a dead parent is still isolating, especially as a young adult. “We don’t talk about it. Who knows how many people have gone through it here?”
There aren’t words to explain how you hold onto someone you lost or the seemingly strange ways you remember them.
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says Ben. He’s right—it's hard to know how many students at Penn are navigating life with a dead parent, and when conversations about loss are so difficult to have, it’s a challenge to find others with that shared experience. But when you do encounter a fellow member of the club, it’s easy to feel an automatic sort of affinity with them. “I think it's nice to have someone that, whether or not the story is even anything near similar to mine, the loss and the experience is similar to some extent,” says Ben. Jamie–Lee hopes that the Dead Parents Society podcast might help people feel more comfortable having conversations about death and grief. “I hope for the students, [the podcast] can be an outlet. We don't always feel like we can bring this stuff up, even though it's quite often on our minds,” says Jamie–Lee. “The reason we tell these stories and write these stories and talk about these stories on the podcast is not only for our own benefit. It’s for the benefit of other people, for people who have experienced the same things as us—a parent dying—but also people who haven’t,” says Jamie– Lee. It’s not just a podcast for people with dead parents, but an invitation to talk about death more openly. She hopes that the podcast can provide a space where people can find catharsis and community in conversations about death, even if they haven’t personally experienced such a loss. “It’s easy to minimize grief,” she says, “but I think by knowing that people are listening and feeling connected—possibly even people who share these stories but aren’t quite yet up for telling them—that’s a real service.” Somewhere down the line, Jamie–Lee envisions a Dead Parents Society anthology book that collects the stories of people who have written about the loss of parents and interweaves commentary from other writers with shared experiences. What began as quiet conversations among people with shared trauma has bloomed into a collection of voices and community of grievers. The important thing is keeping the dialogue around grief and loss alive for members of the Dead Parents Society everywhere. At the end of my conversation with Ben, I thank him for sharing so much of his story. He shrugs and says, “When someone’s a member of the club, it’s chill to say anything, you know?” We laugh. “Yeah, I know,” I say, because I do.
“We’re the grieving friends you always wanted.” JAMIE-LEE JOSSELYN
Photo Courtesy of Jamie-Lee Josselyn
SEPTEMBER 21, 2021 34TH STREET MAGAZINE
Penn GenEq Offers a Home for First–Year Students
Penn’s new pre–orientation program, Penn GenEq, provides a new affinity space for first–year students interested in gender equity work. | REMA BHAT Photo courtesy of PAGE board Content Warning: Mentions of Sexual Violence on Campuses
ight before the beginning of the semester, Penn hosts several pre–orientation programs aimed at acclimating students to Penn’s campus and organizations before first– year move in. This year, Penn GenEq was a new pre–orientation program that joined the other programs: PennCORP, PENNacle, PennQuest, PennGreen, and PennArts. Penn GenEq is pioneered by the Penn Association for Gender Equity (PAGE), an organization focused on gender and social justice. The pre–orientation program is centered around building an affinity space for first–year students interested in gender equity work. Right before the beginning of the semester, Penn hosts several pre–orientation programs aimed at acclimating students to Penn’s campus and organizations before first–year move in. This year, Penn GenEq was a new pre– orientation program that joined the other programs: PennCORP, PENNacle, PennQuest, PennGreen, and PennArts. Penn GenEq is pioneered by the Penn Association for Gender Equity (PAGE), an organization focused on gender and social justice. The pre–orientation program is centered around building an affinity space for first–year students interested in gender equity work. Serena Martinez (C '22), First Year
Coordinator at PAGE, says that Penn GenEq has been in the works for a long time. They were a freshman in PAGE when discussions of founding GenEq first began. “One of the main reasons that I wanted to run for First Year Coordinator, which is one of the jobs that I have with my co–worker, is because I wanted to try and make Penn GenEq a thing after three years of hoping it would happen. It was definitely a team effort of everyone involved,” says Serena. According to Serena, affinity groups are imperative for giving marginalized students a space to “flesh out” the topics they may not have been able to talk about in high school. They also highlighted the importance of first–year programs for educating other first years about sexual violence on campuses. “In addition to making space for people to explore their own identities and connecting them to other groups on campus where they can continue to do that, throughout their time at Penn... [The Orientation Program] was also about educating on sexual violence, how to support friends,” says Serena. This is because NSO is what's called a “red zone.” According to Inside Higher Ed, the first six to eight weeks of the semester are the time period when more sexual assaults take place than any other time of the year. Penn GenEq’s curriculum includes a
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presentation from PAVE (Penn Anti– Violence Educators) on bystander intervention and a presentation on sexual violence at Penn. In addition to these presentations, GennEq’s curriculum is diverse and varied in its lecture contents. Lectures include Transformative Justice & Pod Mapping by Pablo Cerdera, Who Does Feminism Serve? Identity Politics & Intersectionality, Capitalism & Class, and Trans 101 by PennNonCis. Penn GenEQ was a phenomenal experience for those who attended, and Street spoke with three first–years who participated in the program. According to Lex Gilbert (C '25), Penn GenEq was a place where they met their new friend group and got to learn about topics that interested them. “Going into PennGenEq, I did not know how lucky I'd be, but I found my crowd and those people have become my entire friend group. While there, I got to learn about things I had never thought of before, for example, transformative justice, healing, and pod mapping” says Lex. Clara Nolan (C '25), another GenEq participant, was drawn toward Penn GenEq because of its focus on social justice. “The fact that GenEq was just starting this year, it was like a pilot, and the whole premise of it was talking about intersectionality issues relating to feminism
and gender equity. I thought that would be most aligned with my interests” says Clara. First–year student Lila DiMasi (C '25) says that Penn GenEq was a nice continuation of her organizing work in high school as the president of her school’s Women’s Empowerment Club. She also said that her favorite part of the experience was the lasting connections she was able to make. “The most valuable part of it was the deep bonding that got to happen with everybody else . . . Every day we were talking about these, like, soul–deep topics” says DiMasi. Samantha Pancoe (C '22), the chair of PAGE, says that she hopes Penn GenEq can exist in perpetuity. “Our goals are to have PennGenEq recognized as a University Life Pre–Orientation Program, ensuring that it is able to run every year, and to welcome our new class of First–Year Fellows in the fall.” Pancoe hopes that PAGE will “keep pushing the boundaries of feminism through programming during Body Reclamation Week, Trans Day of Remembrance, and GenEq Week.” If you’re interested in beginning your journey into gender equity work, Serena recommends looking at a bunch of classes, clubs, affinity groups, and exploring advocacy and activism on campus.
Behind the Curtain of Social Justice Instagram Accounts It's unethical for white–led social justice pages to be ambiguous about their identity. | JEAN PAIK
othing describes the culture of “aestheticized” online activism better than the infamous Instagram infographic. Posted as a series of aesthetically pleasing slides, Instagram infographics usually attempt to share information on a wide range of social justice issues. Accounts such as @feminist, @so.informed (previously @ soyouwanttotalkabout), and @goodgoodgoodco are just a few of the social justice–oriented accounts that have recently skyrocketed in popularity—garnering thousands, if not millions, of followers. For years, people have criticized an over–reliance on bite–sized political posts and the performative activism that often results from them. As a graphic from Project Unsettlement succinctly states, “The revolution will not be propagated with Canva.” However, the question of who exactly runs these massive, ubiquitous Instagram accounts has recently entered the conversation around internet social justice. The account @feminist with 6.4 million followers faced controversy last year when it was exposed that the alleged owners were two cisgender white men. Articles by Cecilia Nguyen and Sam Sedlack chronicle the rabbit hole of connections between the alleged owners of the profile, Jacob Castaldi and Tanner Sweitzer, the agency they work for, Contagious Creative, and their sister clothing company, @chnge, which was frequently advertised on their social justice–themed account. Nguyen, Sedlack, and many others have argued that @feminist not only stole material from creators
without their consent, but also profited from their content through their multimillion– follower platforms—all without having to be transparent about their identity and privilege as cisgender white men. A similar chain of events occurred with the account @ soyouwanttotalkabout, now changed to @so.informed, which currently has 2.9 million followers on Instagram. Created in February 2020, the original page’s username was nearly identical to Ijeoma Oluo’s best–selling novel, So You Want to Talk About Race, which was published two years earlier in 2018. @soyouwanttotalkabout was originally created as a pro– Bernie Sanders resource, but it certainly benefited from the public’s heightened interest in social justice issues and anti– racist education during the protests for Black lives. Within just two months, @soyouwanttotalkabout’s follower count exploded from 10,000 followers in June of 2020 to 1 million followers in August. The account eventually expanded its content from information on the 2020 presidential election to a broader range of social justice issues in the form of aesthetic Powerpoint–style infographics. Just five weeks ago, Ijeoma Oluo went on Instagram Live to address @soyouwanttotalkabout and her interaction with the owner of the account. Oluo explained that her attention was brought to @soyouwanttotalkabout, and its uncanny similarity to her book title, around one year ago. At the time, Oluo reached out to the page’ s owner for more information, and asked about
who was running it. Her question about “who was behind the account [was] completely ignored,” but the owner instead offered to put up a disclaimer that the page was not affiliated with Oluo or her work. It was later revealed that Jessica Natale, a white woman, was the owner of @soyouwanttotalkabout. Natale disclosed her name and identity in the announcement of her forthcoming book, So, Let’s Talk About It: A Toolkit for Unlearning. In light of these events, many have rightly pointed out the lack of transparency from Natale and her decision to profit off of Oluo’s highly popular novel up until the announcement of her own book deal.
In fact, dozens of people have told Oluo that they believed @ soyouwanttotalkabout was run by her, and were misled by the Instagram account’s username. “It has been really frustrating to see these celebrities, these huge pages, share the work of a white woman that is capitalizing off of the work of other people of color and other marginalized populations,” Oluo shared on her Instagram stories. Natale later posted an apology to Oluo on Instagram, publicizing that she would be changing the account’s username to @so.informed and postpone her book release. Although people may now be aware of Natale’s identity, @soyouwanttotalkabout is emblematic of
a larger issue of transparency in online social justice spaces. The rise of the Instagram infographic has prompted the normalization of anonymous individuals posing as neutral social justice experts online. It's harmful and unethical for white Instagram account owners to be ambiguous— intentional or not—about their whiteness. Especially in social justice spaces, it's important for us to be honest about our positionality and the privileges that we may have. Further, we must be conscious of the spaces we occupy, and actively ensure that we properly credit and compensate BIPOC communities for their educational labor.
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JOHN MULANEY AND THE CULT OF THE PERFECT HUSBAND Mulaney’s seemingly perfect marriage was the crux of his comedy. But now that he’s in a new relationship, do fans have a right to care? | EMILY MOON
hen you think of John Mulaney, what do you picture? Last year, many would probably describe him as a the "nice guy" comedian, known for wit as sharp as his well–tailored suits and fairly wholesome bits like running out of space when writing "Happy Birthday" on a poster. Now, most would probably detail the unexpected reasons he’s been in the news: completing a stay in rehab, divorcing his wife, Annamarie Tendler, quickly entering a relationship with actress Olivia Munn, and then impregnating Munn after a few months together. Like many celebrity breakups and recouplings, Mulaney’s inspires considerable buzz from gossip magazines and Twitter users alike, but something feels different about this one. Mulaney, who said in his 2015 comedy special The Comeback Kid that he gives off the vibe of, “Hey, you could pour soup in my lap, and I’ll probably apologize to you,” has long since cultivated a sickly sweet image. He’s never shied away from including his marriage of six years with Tendler in his comedy shows—and his brand of 'doting husband with dominant wife' bits made fans connect with the couple, despite a lack of real–life familiarity with either of them. The overwhelmingly negative reaction to Mulaney’s divorce and whirlwind relationship with Munn has been met with an opposite reaction from people who argue that it’s strange to be invested in the life of celebrity whose job is to be likable. This debate about parasocial relationships is one that isn’t really that surprising, given how much brain space we generally invest into celebrities’ lives. Do we even have a right to really care about these people we’ve never met and never truly know? Parasocial relationships, a term coined in the 1950s, explain the psychological connection between members of an audience and the performers on screen. Especially for regular viewers of reality TV shows or talk shows, the often conversational and intimate nature of watching public figures creates the illusion of closeness. It’s easy to create an idea of a favorite celebrity based on their press tours or appearances on shows like SNL, but the actual disconnect between someone’s curated personality and their actual one can be brutal for crestfall1 8 3 4 T H S T R E E T M AG A Z I N E S E P T E M B E R 21 , 2 0 21
Illustration by Alice Heyeh en fans. Best explained by the adage “never meet your heroes,” parasocial relationships lead to a lose–lose situation for both the fan and the idol, and spark gossip about whether a specific celebrity is mean or nice. Maybe it’s wrong to care so much about a celebrity’s private life, but Mulaney has built so much of his comedy upon an image of himself and his relationship that he’s now shattered. The destruction of his lovingly subservient image stems from how rapidly his personal life changed. He went from being blissfully married with a wife his fans ran Instagram update accounts for, to dating an actress who's fallen out of public favor. The Internet has plenty of opinions about Munn as a person, most notably citing questionable lines from her 2010 memoir, Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek. Obviously, this isn't helping Mulaney out. Quotes from the book include, “I will fix America’s obesity problems by taking all motorized transport away from fat people. In turn, I will build an infrastructure of Fat Tunnels, where all the fat people can walk.” Her “funny” comment seems even stranger considering her response to a fashion blog’s humorous critique of her outfit in 2019, in which she accused the outlet of publicly shaming her weight and appearance. Olivia Munn doesn’t do herself any favors. If all of the controversies weren't enough, the abruptness of Mulaney’s divorce, recoupling, and pregnancy announcement sparked questions of infidelity—but have also inspired more lighthearted quips about
the situation. When Mulaney checked into a rehabilitation clinic in December 2020, Munn tweeted “Sending SO MUCH love and support to John Mulaney. You got this.” Now, Twitter memes about her apparent manifestation are cropping up in response. Despite a collection of memes branding their connection as kismet, people can’t help but feel a bit put off by their romance, especially because Munn has talked public about her obsession with Mulaney while he was still with Tendler. After meeting at a wedding, Munn admits she emailed Mulaney and had been “so obsessed with hanging out with and talking with him.” While he never answered her email, Munn’s longtime interest in Mulaney has heavily contributed to public disdain of their relationship. Still, for every person personally upset about Mulaney’s love life, there’s another who finds it strange that the Internet has clung onto an imagined interpretation of another person and is taking the news personally. The debate about parasocial relationships continues, especially in the context of a social media era where the illusion of familiarity with our favorite celebrities is stronger than ever. John Mulaney is allowed to do whatever he wants— but being a celebrity (particularly one whose job description centers around oversharing) means everything is out in the open for anyone to judge. Right now he’s in the middle of a PR crisis, but who knows? Maybe he’ll be joking about it in his next comedy special.
Digital Nomads: 'Workcation' or Colonization? Working from a vacation destination sounds like a dream, but the reality is more sinister than it seems. | KIRA WANG
Illustration by Lilian Liu
n the age of COVID–19, more and more Americans have swapped in–person work for virtual, raising the question: Why stay holed up at home when you could do your job from exotic spots like Bali, Cabo, and Tulum? This logic has paved the way for the rise of the digital nomad, a seemingly average person who travels while on the job, taking advantage of the mobility that telework provides. These digital nomads aren’t just mixing work and play; they’re also chronicling their journeys on social media. You’ve probably seen these digital nomads while scrolling through your Instagram feed. With a one–way ticket out of America in one hand and their MacBook in the other, digital nomads curate enviable social media feeds that make you want to live their easygoing lifestyles. However, the concept of the digital nomad is much less ethical than these influencers' online presences might make it seem. First of all, these nomads often take very little interest in the local communities and practices that surround them. They're mostly worried about how their adventures will look on their feeds. Instead of traveling to different work locations to experience new cultures, digital nomads often go to tropical places and still experience what work is like in America,
with its air–conditioned workspaces and plenty of smoothie bowls. Then they deem local practices as “inferior” to those they're familiar with. The influx of these travelers, who demand restaurants, offices, and shops that they feel comfortable with (i.e., that are westernized), has created a wave of transnational gentrification. Under this model, local populations are exploited for their labor while their communities are destroyed. For example, in Canggu, a surfing hub in Bali, rice fields are now being replaced with cheap bars, hotels, and nightclubs to attract more foreigners. These patterns of exploitation aren’t new—they’re reminiscent of how western countries have used the concepts of white supremacy and western modernity to “industrialize” and colonize non–western nations. Not only do digital nomads gentrify and perpetuate myths of western supremacy, but they also encourage others to do the same—treating the Global South as an escape from the daily grind. In an infamous Twitter thread, a user moved to Bali to “elevate” her lifestyle, calling it a “perfect medicine” and telling others on Twitter to also move to get away from American work culture. However, while foreigners might see Bali as a place to live a more luxurious life, tens of thousands of locals live in pov-
erty, with numbers increasing dramatically after COVID–19 destroyed the tourism industry. Relocating to places like Tulum to work while vacationing parallels age–old American patterns of imperialism. People not indigenous to an area disturb local ways of life, spread COVID–19 in places that don’t have easy access to vaccines, and overwhelm community resources. Digital nomads themselves often argue that they’re boosting these tropical econo-
mies and say that they’re the “future of remote life,” but local leaders are constantly telling people to stop the travel boom. While it's true that tourism and digital nomads can support local economies, it’s also important to recognize that tourism as an industry is inherently unsustainable. As destinations become more and more popular, tourists can sap a location’s resources until it becomes unappealing to those who want to use it as a vacation spot,
making it no longer “trendy.” Once this happens, locals are left with higher prices and fewer resources, and their way of life is drastically different. Many digital nomads need to learn that the Global South is not a playground. While these travelers have the privilege of being able to pack up and leave once they’re tired of a destination, the locals who serve them cheap drinks and açaí bowls have to live with the consequences of their takeover.
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OVERHEARDS Victim of the "Take A Lap" Phenomenon: "Drake? He reminds me of every man in Phi."
This week: Drake slander, soft boyfriend launches, and BBLs.
Not Well–Adjusted: "Did you take psych in high school?" Too Well–Adjusted: "No, but I did five years of therapy. That's gotta count."
Definitely Embarrassed: "Is it a soft launch or am I just embarrassed of him?"
Seeking a Fat Ass: "I wish the Rodin [COVID–19] tent gave BBLs."
Ariel Turning Back into a Mermaid: "I'm feeling fishy tonight."
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UNDER THE BUTTON
*Cough* *Sneeze* *Sniffle* Don’t Worry Guys, I Don’t Have COVID–19 | MERESA GARCÍA
Photo by Meresa García // The Daily Pennsylvanian
*Achoo* Whoops, sorry! Let me blow my nose. Anyone got a tissue? No? That’s okay! I found this crumbled one in my pocket *viciously spews snot* Luckily, I haven’t lost my voice just yet, but my throat hurts like crazy! I think that it gets worse as the day goes on. That’s when people start telling me I sound like Kermit, and not in a sexy way. *Hacks up a lung* And don’t worry guys, I know what you’re thinking! But
no, I don’t have COVID–19! I got tested yesterday and it came back negative. I won’t lie, I was low-key kinda stressed that I had it … but I didn’t really want to miss class, so I just kept saying it was allergies … Whatever it is, I know a lot of other people are experiencing similar symptoms, so I'm not the only one feeling crappy. And again, it’s not COVID–19, so we’ve really got nothing to worry about.
It is highly contagious *sneezes uncontrollably* and all, but honestly, this DayQuil Extra Strength is doing wonders — so no sweat if you do get it, because after the second wave, you’ll be fine! And I honestly don’t know why professors are making a big deal out of this because, like I said, it isn’t as if we’re spreading around COVID–19. So don’t go sounding the alarm over a few used tissues and a nasty cough.
REPORT: Wilcaf Nepotism Responsible for Rising Student Unemployment Rate | UTB STAFF A groundbreaking report done by the United States Department of Labor has found that the University of Pennsylvania’s student unemployment rate has skyrocketed in the aftermath of Penn Student Agency’s (PSA) ruthless hiring process.
“Yeah, I don’t know. All I know is that my friend’s little sister is really cool. So I gave her a job.”
One of the agencies linked to the largest increase of student unemployment rates since the Great Depression was William’s Cafe, otherwise known as Wilcaf. This particular group prides itself for being Penn’s premier organization (no elaboration needed, that’s it). When asked about this year’s hiring process, Wilcaf general manager Tara Mazu (C’22) commented, “This year we had so many qualified applicants, so much so that we abandoned any notion of a meritocracy and instead opted to go with people
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we already knew were certified vibe curators. Nepotism, if you will.” When questioned on the potential implications of nepotism and its impact on the economy. Mazu elaborated, “Yeah, I don’t know. All I know is that my friend’s little sister is really cool. So I gave her a job.” Wilcaf is currently under investigation by The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This article will post updates as the investigation ensues. Photo from Pixabay // CC 2.0
UNDER THE BUTTON
Student Awakes from “Quick 20-minute Nap” In Time to Witness Heat Death of Universe | IAN ONG Oops! In a cruel twist of fate, junior Nico Wright (C ‘22) overslept his 3 P.M. alarm, waking up just in time to witness the thermodynamic end of the universe. “At first, I was panicking because I thought I had missed anthropology recitation,” Wright related, rubbing his eyes. “But then I saw the remnants of existence decaying around me, and I knew that I had bigger problems to deal with.” It’s an all-too-familiar problem for students: a quick 20-minute nap for an energy boost devolving into a profound hibernation on the magnitude of 10^10^100 years. According to Wright,
it was definitely not something that he wants to repeat anytime soon. “Yeah, waking up and realizing that everyone you’ve ever known or interacted with has long regressed into a cosmic cloud of neutrinos and positrons — not fun,” Wright uttered as he stared onward into the starless expanse. What’s next for Wright? Will he ever perceive anything that resembles his home ever again? Well, you know what they say: “let sleeping Penn students lie.” “Screw this, I’m going back to bed,” Wright mumbled, slipping on his eye mask. “Wake me up when the next universe starts.”
Photo by Mislav Marohnić / CC BY 2.0
Engineer Uses 4-in-1 Wash Every 1-in-4 Days | IAN ONG He’s got it all figured out: last Thursday, Yacob Finnegan (E '23) revealed that he uses Irish Spring 4-in-1 wash every 1-in-4 days. “It’s all a matter of efficiency,” Finnegan explained. “Why would you do something if it’s not efficient?” To support his claims, Finnegan brought up how Irish Spring 4-in-1 could be applied indiscriminately to any part of his putrid, grimy body with relatively consistent results. According to his calculations, a single coating of the miraculous goo every four calendar days is enough to keep his stench percentage well below 50%. “Everybody tells me I smell like the gym locker room,” Finnegan said with a shrug. “I’ve never been there, so I can only assume that’s a good thing.” Like any engineering student worth their salt, Finnegan is working hard on discovering novel applications for the godsend that is Irish Spring 4-in-1. “Shaving cream — no. Sunscreen — no. Lip balm — no.” Finnegan muttered, moving down his checklist. “Toothpaste — maybe.” Who knows what the future will hold for Finnegan? We’re rooting for ya, buddy. “There’s still one problem I’ve yet to solve: No matter where I go, people appear to keep a distance of 10 ± 2 meters away from me,” Finnegan lamented, whipping out his calculator. “Looks like I need to rerun some simulations, I guess.”
Photo (with edits) by Art (RUS) Potosi / CC BY 2.0 and Martin Lewison / CC BY-SA 2.0
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