Charred to Perfection
The marshmallow and graham crackers of newsletters is gettin’ all melty, thinkin’ about glowing rappers, do-gooder celebs, and grifters both royal and not so much.
Spreadlings, we call this meeting to order!
Back on Features Meeting days at Elle, few pitches got the green light as fast as new-and-different ways to tackle the subject of women and ambition—a formula that seems to be just as effective today. Indeed just this year, the ambitious undertaking that is reading the entire newsstand and internet each week to give you the Spread (what, us, martyrs?) has introduced us to “soft ambition” and the “reframing” of ambition in Marie Claire, the “ambition penalty” in Glamour, and the relationship between ambition and the patriarchy in Vogue (pegged to the Swift-Alwyn breakup, natch). Meanwhile, another hot topic this spring has been the science of friendship (the Atlantic may as well devote an entire vertical to the topic). Put ’em together and whaddya got? Why, ambitious friendships, of course! Now here’s a topic your Spreaditors know something about! In Elle last week, writer Rainesford Stauffer brought us an essay spun off from her new book, All the Gold Stars: Reimagining Ambition and the Ways We Strive, in which she argues that an ambitious friendship is an intentional one—each party shows up for the other (done) and each articulates her needs, even if it means exposing vulnerabilities (work in progress). Well, if Stauffer says we should ask our friends for what we need, and she’s a foremost expert on the topic, we guess it would be rude not to let it rip here. So here goes: Friends, please “like” this post—just tap the little heart button? Oh and also: Please share us with your friends and urge them to sign up? Oh and another thing: If you’re feeling real generous, please consider becoming a paying subscriber?
Gracias y de nada,
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. What does this ambitious friend duo have in the hopper for your precious ears? Find out this coming Friday, 6/23, when we guest-host an ep of the excellent media-insider podcast Print Is Dead. More info on this to come; for now, we’ll leave you with a few tantalizing hints about the fancy women’s mag-world SupaStah we exclusively interviewed. Ready?
….Who’s got a lilt like Ed Sheeran and a wardrobe like Prince?
….Who’s got a killer Yorkshire pudding recipe and a kinship with Tilda Swinton?
It’s _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _, that’s who!
“Walking around with her now is like walking with the Empire State Building.”
It’s not every day—understatement alert!—that a women’s magazine cover stalwart gets an eight-thousand-word profile. (“Gray boxes,” as art department folk have been known to call large expanses of text, do not pay the bills like fashion pages do.) But this week, the New Yorker has stepped in, delivering a jumbo profile of Sarah Jessica Parker by Rachel Syme. We know you don’t think you need this but please, for us, print out this novella-length article. Breezy and satisfying, and with a few small surprises, it may be the best beach read of the summer. As the second season of And Just Like That… barrels toward the streamer formerly known as HBO Max (this Friday, 6/23), the profile gives New Yorker-level access to the famously fastidious—and often obsequious—Manhattan institution1 that Parker has become: One minute we’re observing SJP as she assists a customer at her West Village shoe store, then we’re joining her and AJLT… creator Michael Patrick King at work in a sound booth, then we’re her date to the ballet—though not before a rendezvous out at Coney Island! There’s something sweet, too, about how seriously SJP takes her role as the steward and protector of Carrie Bradshaw, the idea, and of Sex and the City, the cultural phenomenon that’s meant a great deal to so many people over the past quarter century.
If Sarah Jessica Parker is earnest, nonbinary actor Sara Ramírez is, uh, what’s a better word for way beyond? Ramírez, aka Miranda’s much-memed nonbinary love interest Che on the achingly PC AJLT…—whom Maggie cannot go a week without mentioning in this newsletter—also has a big profile out this week, by New York mag’s delightful chronicler of nightlife/the SATC diaspora, Brock Colyar. While Ramírez insists that they are not their character, they sure do have a lot in common when they are “holding space” and otherwise speaking in social justice- and self-care-isms…which seems to be most of the time! Bless Colyar’s heart for doing the hard work of keeping things fun around here.—Rachel
Read “Why Sarah Jessica Parker Keeps Playing Carrie Bradshaw” here.
Read “Hey, It’s Sara Ramírez” here.
Harry and Meghan, “The Fucking Grifters.”
It’s like Six Flags, but better: when you’re riding the pendulum of public opinion to and fro on the Sussexes, the ride never ends, and you don’t have to shell out $16 for a slice of pizza. The ex-royals just backed out of their multiyear podcasting deal with Spotify, and Spotify exec/Ringer founder (I’m not going to go through the full list) Bill Simmons took to his own pod to say the thing we’re not supposed to say anymore about them but everyone secretly suspects may be true: “The F**king Grifters. That’s the podcast we should have launched with them. I have got to get drunk one night and tell the story of the Zoom I had with Harry to try and help him with a podcast idea. It’s one of my best stories … F**k them. The grifters.” So Bill, Let’s talk contract negotiations. How much of their $20 mil deal do they get to keep after producing just 12 podcast eps? And, depending on the answer to the above: Are the grifters actually the two smartest people in Hollywood?
Elsewhere in Podcast-Podcast-Podcast [insert Jan Brady whine] Media Saturation: Nepo baby and Fidel Castro wannabe Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—whose podcasting wife Cheryl Hines we talked about last week, and who caused a ruckus unspooling a bunch of antivaxx bunk on Joe Rogan’s podcast—argues in the New Yorker that he is the perfect podcast-era presidential candidate.—Maggie
Rethinking our bodies, ourselves.
My latest, and last, Spreadbaby will turn one next month, and with that milestone on the brain, I’ve been thinking about my bod even more than usual. Also, talking about it more than usual (sorry Maggie). About how, since I started trying to have babies six years ago, my body—from infertility treatment and pubic symphysis to two births and the gargantuan hormonal fallout of it all—has been so intertwined with everything that’s happened to me, even this newsletter. It has all felt so…biological. So, reading Helen Lewis’s new Atlantic piece, the A+ feminist in me felt momentarily thrown: Lewis writes about the new reactionary feminist movement—which preaches that everything is dictated by the biological reality of being a woman (or a man). Reading about these biological essentialists—TERF queens whose tenets range from not allowing people born different sexes to play sports together to somehow rationalizing that birth control is the enemy—I realized that as biologically obsessed as my life has become in recent years, I’m a long, long way off from identifying with these extremists. But I highly recommend Lewis’s piece as it deftly uses those fringers to put into perspective the shifting attitudes within mainstream feminism: both among generations and between the US and the UK. (If you’ve ever wanted the Cliffs Notes on what I’ll call Sally Rooney Feminism, this article doubles as just that.)—Rachel
Read “The Feminists Insisting Women Are Built Differently” here.
Let’s hear it for the boys?
In 2020, writer Joe Keohane took to Men’s Health to declare an “epidemic” of something most of us had never considered: paternal postpartum depression. Epidemic, eh? This week, our patron saint of no-BS parenting, Brown University economist Emily Oster, dedicates her ParentData newsletter to the subject, publishing a Father’s Day-timed essay by The New Fatherhood newsletter-er Kevin Maguire, who says that, conservatively, 10 percent of men suffer paternal postpartum depression. Vastly oversimplifying both men’s stories while, yes, also taking a bit of a “tone” here: Now that men are trying to do part of what women have always done when a baby arrives—nighttime feedings, staying at home with an infant—they too are feeling sad and disconnected, sometimes even despairing, and wondering what the hell is wrong with them (and, Maguire says, maybe being kinda shitty partners as a result: blaming their partners, tuning out, resenting everybody). Look, any one of the life changes that comes with parenthood could make you unhinged. Sleep deprivation alone can make you hate your life and everyone in it. So I don’t doubt the depression piece. But, Rachel. Not to go all reactionary-feminist on the whole thing, but postpartum literally means after giving birth, and postpartum depression is not just about losing sleep. It’s a real fun cocktail, at least partially the result of having one’s corporal self taken over by an alien life form, then torn asunder, and having your hormones run amok—indeed, a large percentage of maternal PPD begins during pregnancy, before the baby even arrives. All I’m saying is: Shouldn’t postpartum, a word describing a physical experience, be reserved for the birthing parent? Angry hordes, please address all responses to Rachel@thespread.media.—Maggie
Read, “Paternal Postpartum Depression” in ParentData here.
Read, “The Unrelenting Agony of Being a Depressed New Dad” in Men’s Health here.
Calloway & Beach, a love story?
We rang in Caroline Calloway Season a couple weeks ago with Lili Anolik’s Vanity Fair profile of the internet’s favorite princess of cancellation/de-cancellation. (Calloway’s book is still not available for preorder on Amazon...) Now Calloway’s scruffy former friend Natalie Beach, the one who outed Calloway’s scammy ways in the Cut in 2019, is now bounding back into the spotlight (which at the same time is Calloway’s shadow—funny how that works), with her own book of essays, Adult Drama. In an excerpt in the Cut, Beach spills on her life since her original essay went viral. Here’s the three-word summary: Thrilling, lucrative, Hollywood.—Rachel
Read “The Essay That Started It All” here.
How has J.Lo not starred in this movie yet?
When I read Xochitl Gonzalez’s debut novel, Olga Dies Dreaming, earlier this year, I found myself wishing for the nonfiction version. Gonzalez was once, like her protagonist Olga, a high-end NYC wedding planner. In the book, Olga bilks her overprivileged clients in ways minor—overordering custom linen napkins so she can use them for her own niece’s reception—and fairly major: upselling booze she gets cheap from a Russian mobster. Throughout, what I really wanted to know was: Wait, does this really happen? In the Atlantic (where she is now a contributor), Gonzalez tells the true story. While she doesn’t confess to pulling any fast ones, she does pull back the veil, so to speak, on the entitled behavior of her former clients, adeptly examining the class issues at work in their fabulous displays of wealth, defending much-maligned wedding professionals, and tracing how the “wedding industrial complex” got its start: TheKnot.com, we’re lookin’ at you. (“The Knot created a community; it made being a bride an identity. And it transformed weddings into a competitive sport.”) As someone who has never quite recovered from the guilt of blowing oodles of dough on my own nuptials (which were well shy of the kind of events Gonzalez is talking about) I found this super juicy and also somewhat comforting in terms of my past excesses: The average American wedding now costs $30,000, whaaaa? And people now take out specially advertised “wedding loans” (interest rate, 30 percent) to cover the costs, huuuh?—Maggie
Read or listen to “The Fake Poor Bride” here.
How should we feel about the fact that our kids are under the influence of a man called “MrBeast”?
At a book reading a couple months back, I randomly mentioned that my eight-year-old’s North Star was some guy named MrBeast. Women all around me perked up: Really!? Yours too? That’s how I knew that Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast—the YouTuber who inspired my son to ask if I’d help him “blow up the house with elephant toothpaste”—was a thing. In the New York Times Magazine, Max Read meets the third biggest star on YouTube, who architects grand-scale pranks and gimmicks with real philanthropic benefits for his 161 million channel subscribers. MrBeast fans hope he blows up their house with elephant toothpaste (aka great hulking bins of exploding foam that render it uninhabitable) because not only will they be YouTube famous, but he’ll also buy them a new house. Not only does he give away wads of cash and new houses, he also donates, say, cochlear implants to the hard of hearing and cataract surgeries to the vision impaired—not by ones or twos, but to hundreds of people…because the bigger the stunt, the better the views. Virality was not a matter of luck, but of mastery. (“I woke up, I studied YouTube, I studied videos, I studied filmmaking, I went to bed and that was my life,” Donaldson has said.) Read’s story gets at the icky feeling I have watching these videos. Something just doesn’t feel quite right. Is MrBeast getting astronomical views because he’s doing good works? Or is he doing good works (pretty glibly, it usually feels) only to get the views?—Maggie
Read “How MrBeast Became the Willy Wonka of YouTube” here.
The Fashion Person’s answer to Buy Nothing Facebookers.
For a week now, a corner of my brain has been constantly churning with one question: “If I were to buy only five new items of clothing or accessories over the next year—what would they be?” Last year, a Berlin think tank published a report blaming fashion’s environmental footprint on overconsumption by wealthy shoppers in rich countries, and decreed, according to Business of Fashion: “To keep the industry’s greenhouse-gas emissions in check, in line with global efforts to stave off catastrophic levels of climate change, affluent consumers in places like the US, UK and France should be limited to an average of five new items a year.” In response Financial Times fashion editor Lauren Indvik pledged to only buy five new things this year. The “fashion advocacy group” Remake lobbied its 155,000 IG followers to buy no new summer clothes. And TikTok “deinfluencers” (which, come to think of it could also describe my status on that platform!) are also urging followers to buy less. I truly love the five-item idea, and while I have not yet committed to it, my brain and my feed are working overtime, researching what I’d buy if I did. Which is half the battle, right? (Don’t answer that.)—Maggie
This week in the Spread Book Club….
Former Elle and Glamour editor Mattie Kahn, whose bona fides include interviewing Jill Biden, has a big book out! Yes, the excellently titled Young and Restless: The Girls Who Sparked America’s Revolutions has been released into the wilds of bookstores everywhere; we recommend you order it from the Spread’s very own little Bookshop right here. Congrats, Mattie!
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Speaking of New York icons, Parker Posey also pops up in this week’s New York, in an interview with Choire Sicha (who should do more of this kind of thing). The conversation is dishy and weird in the best Posey way (I found her memoir You’re on an Airplane, on the other hand, to be so far out I couldn’t even get through it on audio) and even briefly gets into her relationship with Ryan Adams. Read it here.