What Does the Fox Say?
The Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri of newsletters has resurrected our giant pink puffer coat from the Goodwill bin.
As you well know by now, we—like so many parents all over this great nation of ours—have been teetering. We’ve blamed husbands, children, snow days, and quarantines. But now that it’s February, the shortest month of the year and one that we’ve never heard associated with the word “dry,” we are trying something new. To steal a phrase from our father during what we remember as every second of our adolescence, we are attempting to buck up. As we write this, we sit—well medicated!—at our shiny new parent-desk, while our toddler shrieks “upppppppp” on repeat from her side compartment. Don’t mind her! Let’s focus on the good news that’s unfolded since we last talked: The Bidens are cat people now, and the First Feline is adorable despite that basic name. (Willow? We’d have voted for Tatiana. Ms. Coolidge if you’re nasty.) Rihanna is having a baby girl with A$AP Rocky. Do we “know” it’s a girl? No, we do not, but reading the tea leaves of her announcement garb—fuschia and bejeweled—we figure it’s either a girl or a flock of flamingo$. Elle’s latest cover star, Mary J. Blige, will perform at the Super Bowl on Valentine’s Day Eve, which piles one fake holiday atop another. Who wants to chase their Applebee’s Cheetos Wings™ with a cereal bowl’s worth of conversation hearts? OUR KIDS DO. Also there was something about Spotify and Neil Young (who we saw drone on at the New Yorker Festival once) and Joni Mitchell (queen) and Joe Rogan, who we’ve never heard of. Wait, let’s google…WHAT? THIS GUY MAKES $30 MILLION A YEAR ON HIS PODCAST AND PROUDLY ADMITS TO NOT PREPARING FOR IT? HUH? OUR FACE FEELS HOT. Deep breaths. Move over toddler, we’re climbing into your compartment for a nap.
Rachel & Maggie
PS: Share us! Heart us! Talk to us! Whatever your love language—go for it! We see you, we hear you, we love you, and we’ve got “words of affirmation” and an “act of service” for you right heeeeere…
A Supreme shake-up.
With Roe hanging by a thread of dental floss, SCOTUS’ flair for the dramatic was already at a 10. But then last week came along and cranked up the dial. No sooner had we digested the airtight case that the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer presented against Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas—a scheming right-wing wing nut who even Trump thinks is wackadoo—than we learned that Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring, likely to be replaced by the nation’s first Black female Supreme Court justice. Let’s talk Thomas first, shall we? If you’ve only read about Mayer’s story, or maybe listened to Mayer on Fresh Air, you gotta fix that now: As I read, I kept picturing Mayer in a basement clutching a huge spool of red twine, staring at a wall of photos and news clippings, cackling victoriously as she connects the dots from A) the dark money conservative pressure groups she belongs to, to B) the basket of deplorables (some likely to testify before the Supreme Court) Thomas has honored at her annual “Impact Awards,” to C and D and beyond. The Ginni Thomas problem was an open secret in Washington for years: Readers, what happens now that everybody knows a justice’s wife—“the only person he really listens to,” apparently—is thisclose to the lunatic fringe? Now as for Breyer’s seat: Republicans have already worked themselves into a froth about “affirmative action,” conveniently ignoring the fact that their patron saint, Ronald Reagan, also pledged to nominate a woman—after running afoul of women voters by failing to support the ERA— hence Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Here are the top three names currently in the mix and where to read about them:
Ketanji Brown Jackson: Said to be the odds-on favorite, she was Biden’s pick to replace Merrick Garland on the influential federal appeals court in Washington. And more recently, she was part of a three-judge panel on the DC Circuit that said Trump had to turn over documents to the Jan. 6 committee. Read Ann E. Marimow’s piece on Jackson in the Washington Post.
Leondra Kruger: The first Black woman to serve as editor-in-chief of the prestigious Yale Law Journal. At 45, she’s a California Supreme Court justice who served in the Justice Department for six years during the Obama administration—and is no stranger to the Supreme Court: Kruger has argued a dozen cases before SCOTUS. Read Adam Liptak’s profile of Kruger in the New York Times here.
J. Michelle Childs: James Clyburn’s pick served on the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina for more than a decade and, like Biden himself, is the product of a public school education who did not graduate from the Ivy League. Biden has talked about his desire to diversify the court in more ways than one, and Childs would be the first justice who attended a public law school since Justice Sherman Minton, who retired from the court in 1956. Also Lindsey Graham likes her??? Read Michael S. Schmidt’s New York Times rundown here.—Maggie
Maggie, At the risk of making this whole thing feel like a beauty pageant (y’all remember the 2020 Veepstakes? Its effect was way too similar to that of my Bachelor Fantasy League), I want to know who you’re rooting for. For the fun of it, I’m on Team Childs all the way—thanks to the Clyburn boost (Jim knows a winner!), her non-Ivy background (same here!), and that smile of hers (I like warmth, sue me). Though of course I’ll be jumping for joy no matter which of these brilliant women the Uncle-in-Chief chooses.—Rachel
RB, After reading this story about Leandra Kruger, then the youngest California Supreme Court justice in modern history, flying into L.A. with her four-week-old (and her mother-in-law in tow) to be present for court hearings, I think I'm team Kruger. But it would be a thrill to see any of these women don that particular black robe.—MB
Read “Is Ginni Thomas a Threat to the Supreme Court?” here.
In a stroke of brilliance, the New York Times Magazine put Temple Grandin in the hot seat this week. Whether or not you’ve watched the entire Claire Danes miniseries about her life or read Oliver Sacks’s 1993 New Yorker profile of her1, you should read this interview with Grandin—the 74-year-old animal-welfare advocate who’s changed the livestock industry and also the way we as a culture think about autism, expertly driven by Talk columnist David Marchese. Marchese’s big ask of Grandin, perhaps America’s most famous living person on the spectrum, is what she thinks about the widespread but unproven belief that vaccines are linked to autism. Grandin is constitutionally against talking politics (she’s a pragmatist who believes it gets in the way of her tactically oriented work), which results in a tête-à-tête that’s illuminating in different ways than you might expect. It’s also another Marchese master class in the art of the interview.—Rachel
Read “Temple Grandin Wants Us to Think Differently About Kids Who Think Differently” here.
She’s crafty! Quiet? Nah.
Every day, I thank my lucky stars (and God, too) for my family, my friends, my health, and one Julia Fox. Fox has burst onto the international tabloid scene not a second too soon: She is a sparkling nameplate necklace amid the tarnished tangle that is this winter; a swaggering, black-eyelinered bird tweet-tweet-tweeting (and tweeting) above the knee-deep sludge that lines my driveway. Should I continue with these gorgeous metaphors? My point is, she is FUN to have around and we appreciate that Ye is just kind of…going with it? This is Julia’s world now—something even he seems to understand. For Vanity Fair, Kenzie Bryant puts her finger on why the 31-year-old former dominatrix is so intoxicating and such a New York-specific figure:
“The thing that really sets Fox apart from the models and fellow actors, the influencers and the socialites, is that she talks. She talks and talks. And she’s not talking about this thing she’s selling on Instagram or that thing she’s selling on TikTok. She’s not always talking about a movie that needs promoting or some other project. She’s not always filtered through a publicist or anonymous sources, though anonymous sources abound around her. She’s talking (and talking and texting) to the press, on her podcast, on Instagram about whatever she wants to talk about.”
Bingo! If you haven’t yet read Fox’s Interview mag diary on her first dates with Ye, eat your heart out. If you haven’t watched her steal Uncut Gems, I recommend doing so (it’s on Netflix)! If you haven’t replayed this Instagram post 40 times like I have, here it is. If you haven’t listened to her podcast, Forbidden Fruits… Well, I’ll just say she is exceedingly casual and candid and New York-y, and if you really want a bite, try the January 13th episode, which is mercifully just 20 minutes and features chatter about her thing with Ye and also drama with her baby daddy. Yes, this woman also rounds out her lengthy multi-hyphenate with mother to a one-year-old, and I feel confident she’d want to go on a playdate to Carbone with me and my own one-year-old if only someone would introduce us!—Rachel
Read “Julia Fox Is the Celebrity We Deserve” here.
Trayvon would have been 27.
On February 26, it will be 10 years since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. New York marks the anniversary with a special issue that is, among other things, a celebration of Black female talent. Edited by the Cut editor-in-chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner and author Morgan Jerkins, the issue starts with a striking cover portrait of Trayvon by mixed media artist Deborah Roberts, and features Yale Law historian Elizabeth Hinton on the return of mass protest, author and Rutgers professor Brittney Cooper on standing your ground while Black, art critic/curator Kimberly Drew on the misguided empathy of white artist Dana Schutz’s controversial painting Open Casket, and trans activist Raquel Willis on Black trans lives. In an essay on Black motherhood that lawyer and author Derecka Purnell has called “the hardest story I’ve ever written in my life,” she takes on the mammoth task of weaving together the grief and activism of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, with that of Mamie Till-Mobley, who buried her 14-year-old son, Emmett, in 1955. All of these stories are accompanied by a detailed timeline of the decade that is perhaps the most powerful piece of the puzzle: It notes the deaths of victims whose names we can’t forget (Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery) but also pivotal moments in American culture (the release of Get Out, Colin Kaepernick refusing to kneel for the national anthem), providing stark evidence of how far we’ve come, and how far we haven’t. One of the final events in the timeline is the January announcement from new NYC mayor Eric Adams that he will refund NYPD plainclothes anti-crime units—units that were disbanded in June 2020 amid the summer of protests against police violence. But taken as a whole—and released at the very moment Biden undertakes the nomination of a Black woman to the Supreme Court—the issue itself does seem like a sign of progress: A decade ago, the talents it features (the women in particular) did not have the platform they have today.—Maggie
Check out the full issue here.
Prenatal testing became a hot topic when the New York Times rang in the New Year with a dazzlingly researched, controversially framed front-page report about false positives in screenings for rare disorders. (Upon the article’s publication my fear was it would deter pregnant women from opting into the screenings, which are a life-changing medical breakthrough.) In a guest op-ed yesterday, writer Amy Julia Becker argues that the problem with prenatal testing is actually the lack of information and counseling that comes with it. It’s a worthy read from a passionate mother of a now-16-year-old with Down syndrome, but don’t stop there: Since we launched the Spread last fall I’ve been looking for a hook to recommend Sarah Zhang’s Atlantic tour de force about what we lose as the number of people with Down syndrome dwindles due to prenatal screening and genetic testing. “Powerful” doesn’t even cut it.—Rachel
Read “I’m Thankful Every Day for the Decision I Made After My Prenatal Tests” in the New York Times here.
Read “The Last Children of Down Syndrome” in the Atlantic here.
Entering the great green room.
We have been reading Goodnight Moon a lot around here lately, whether it’s bedtime or not. Fine by me—that creepy bunny lady whispering hush beats Brown Bear and Dear Zoo and Where’s Spot? any day of the week. So it felt as if Anna Holmes’s posthumous New Yorker profile of children’s book trailblazer Margaret Wise Brown was a little gift to me specifically. Brown, who died in 1952 at age 42 of a blood clot, was a renegade both in work (focusing on the sensual and visceral as opposed to narrative arc and moral instruction) and in life (she had two male fiancés and a female lover of ten years), and she sounds so interesting and fun and wild and moody—like someone who would read the Spread!—the piece made me feel a little blue in my longing to know her. Or at least to obsess over her as a living legend. I found some consolation in the fact that James Stillman Rockefeller Jr., her fiancé when she died almost 70 years ago, is 96 and still in her thrall—just as she’d have wanted it.—Rachel
Rachel, I want to sit in on a New Yorker ideas meeting one of these days and find out who’s behind the rush of stories featuring age-old, woman-written children’s lit. There was the profile we pointed out a few months ago about the rebel-creator of Harriet the Spy. And then last week the carrot-top spitfire Anne of Green Gables, my personal fave, got reinvented for the A.I. era in a humor piece by Weike Wang that was so brilliant that at first I got totally sucked in: I thought there was a virtual reality experience via which one could be Anne…to find a kindred spirit in Diana and have Gilbert pull my braid…sigh. Imagine my distress to learn it was all a joke!
Read “The Radical Woman Behind Goodnight Moon” here.
Sex, lies, and the video tape that created the internet.
I know exactly what my circa-1996 self would say if I told her about my semi-irrational excitement, circa 2022, about the debut of a biopic (tomorrow night. Hulu. Be there) about Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. She’d say: Gross! People in 2022 still know about Pam and Tommy? Also: What…what happened to you? 1996 me was a teenage snob who read Virginia Woolf (sort of) and listened to Kurt Cobain (loud), and considered herself well beyond caring about the sexcapades of pneumatic Baywatch babes. (Winona Ryder, on the other hand…) What can I tell ya, young self? You turned out to be a basic B with a deep craving for high-low fare rewriting the tabloid tales of your own youth. As Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk points out, there is no shortage of long awaited “Hindsight is 20/20” upendings of late. See: I, Tonya, #FreeBritney, Lorena, AHS: Impeachment, and the You’re Wrong About podcast. (Also coming soon: In Heidi World, writer Molly Lambert will retell the Hollywood Madame saga in pod form.) Pam & Tommy features Sebastian Stan2 as “a lanky, overornamented toddler, covered in tattoos and chunky piercings” and Lily James3 as “every pin-up doll come to life, all blonde hair, plumped lips, and plumped boobs, with narrowed eyes that could read as emptiness or wariness.” Over at Airmail, George Kalogerakis reminds us that Pam and Tommy matter for a reason—it was their leaked sex tape (not Kim’s!) that more or less invented the internet, after all. For those who prefer their ’90s lowbrow-philia in an audible form, there’s always New York mag’s deep-dive Tabloid pod on the horndog duo, which came out last summer and was hosted by sex writer Lux Alptraum—though given the particular visual power of Pam and Tommy, two people hyperaware of how they look to each other and the rest of the world, this one seems made for TV.—Maggie
Read the Vulture review here.
Read “No That’s Not a Boom Mike in the Frame. That’s…Tommy” in Airmail here.
Listen to “The Pam and Tommy Sex Tape” season of Tabloid here.
This is an article that should be dragged out of the archive on a regular basis—it singlehandedly shifted our perspective on autism, and for many people was the first time they heard the term
We first fell in love with Sebastian Stan when he played Jack, closeted crown prince of Gilboa, on the gilded and underrated NBC drama Kings, which was kinda-sorta based on the story of King David from the Bible. Sadly, it’s not streaming anywhere—except for for $1.99/episode rentals on YouTube—but we will send out an alert if/when that changes.
The Spread once had brunch with Lily James and then-boyfriend Matt Smith (Young Prince Phillip) at the Egg Shop on the Lower East Side. And by “with” we mean “several tables over from” but there was awkward eye contact. Because we were staring at them.