You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)
The Lucy Liu and my girl, Drew—apologies to Cameron—of newsletters is painting melons, selling Snake Oil, and recontextualizing, uh, all of history.
Today feels like a day for a big pronouncement and that is: We are all Drew Barrymore. What did you think we were gonna say? Here at Spread Central, we were caught off guard by New York mag’s E. Alex Jung profile of the former Firestarter. Released at 8 AM today, it had both of us crying into our morning coffees for reasons that we’ll probably need to unpack, separately, with our therapists later. (Just as Drew would.) Jung captures Drew in all her messy, erratic, love-gushing, therapy-speak-ing glory; here is a woman who, he points out, has been famous since the first Reagan administration, working it out in real time, in front of us all, “feeling my own discomfort” with radical honesty, and seemingly pretty fine with putting her own unhinged, work-in-progress self out there. And, well, is there a Spreadier way to be in the world? Each of your Spreaditors feels an almost proprietary claim on Drew: Maggie chopped off and bleached her hair (with sub-Mad Love results) during the dancing-on-Dave’s-desk phase; Rachel worked at the local video store Video Library during the Wedding Singer era, and her nickname may have been Julia Ghoulia. Both of us, if you must know—OK, you didn’t ask but we’re going to tell you anyway—have lately been mourning the loss of our sparklier, more uninhibited, more spontaneously joyful, just generally Drew-ier selves, who seem to have been eaten whole by the high-functioning, harsh-talking, Type-A (pre-Che) Miranda Hobbes-ian grownups who took their place. Today, suddenly, the antidote is abundantly clear: We must start to ask ourselves, What would Drew do?
What’s your connection to Drew? Don’t lie to yourself, or to us—you know you have one.
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. Drew told us to tell you that our l’il old hearts just explode when you press that heart button. And when you pay to subscribe? Well, that is a next-level positive affirmation.
Princess Caroline, forever ready for her close-up.
In case you’ve forgotten—an entire pandemic has transpired in the years since this low-stakes brouhaha, after all—self-made internet confection Caroline Calloway was a Cambridge University student who racked up many thousands of IG followers (some of which she bought) and also a book deal in the 2010s by documenting her life in very long captions. In 2018, Calloway launched her “Creativity Workshop Tour,” which turned out to be the art-making equivalent of the Fyre Festival; in 2019, former collaborator Natalie Beach claimed in an essay for the Cut that she deserved much of the credit for Calloway’s fame, having ghostwritten many of said captions and helped out with her book proposal. The “canceled” Calloway turned to OnlyFans, where she took clients while dressed as literary characters…but topless, and then last year kinda-banished herself to Florida to save some money. Her memoir, now titled Scammer, is allegedly coming out this month (is it though? you still can’t preorder it on Amazon). In Vanity Fair, writer Lili Anolik visits Calloway at her now-deceased grandmother’s Florida condo and gamely walks the tightrope between delight and distaste for Calloway’s celebrity-seeking reindeer games. Anolik has clearly got Calloway charmed, enough to gather one delicious detail after another (her bookshelf roll call: memoirs by Audrina Patridge and PewDiePie). This is an ur-Vanity Fair story, accompanied by a photoshoot of Calloway in borrowed Batsheva and DesPhemmes. It’s also an ur-Anolik profile: jam-packed with dropped names and oddball details that took me down one Google rabbit hole after another (Rachel Rabbit White; Nico Walker; plus a lengthy round of Instagram Russian dolls that left me knowing way too much about Natalie Beach’s sister—yes, that deep). No surprise, given that Anolik’s ultra-dishy 15-episode podcast on the literary superstars who came out of 1990s Bennington College took me roughly four years to finish—in the very best way.—Rachel
RB, This story comes on the heels of that story—the Elizabeth Holmes puff piece that the New York Times Business section just so deeply wishes would curl up in a corner and die, but that keeps returning to haunt them. Quick recap: a couple weeks back, the paper of record gave the Theranos founder some fairly precious real estate in which to rebrand herself as Liz, a regular-voiced young wife and doting mother, on the eve of her incarceration for four of 11 charges for defrauding investors of over $100 mill. Vanity Fair reports that in an “all-hands meeting” last week, Times business editor Ellen Pollock told 80 staffers that she “didn’t give a f*ck” about the backlash. Isn’t it so convincing when people put it that way? So, yeah, we called it. Reading Anolik on Calloway, I was struck by how she dealt with her subject’s wrongdoing much more directly than writer Amy Chozick did in the Holmes piece—which is saying something, considering Anolik is writing about an internet influencer whose sins barely register as crimes whereas Holmes’s company, ya know, gave consumers false medical information. Interesting: Spread spies tell us that Chozick is in fact on quite friendly terms with Risa Heller, the uberpublicist doing a little crisis consulting for “Liz” (what do you wanna bet Heller came up with the name change?). Doubt this is the last we’ll hear about this one…—Maggie
Read “Caroline Calloway Survived Cancellation. Now She’s Doubling Down” here.
“Her current operational way forward—this media blackout—is fucking badass, and it’s rock ’n’ roll.”
Among the most delightful of magazine subgenres is the “Whatever happened to that guy?” profile, in which some lucky writer gets to track down some hero or freak from another era and put them in the context of now. The whole endeavor is easy breezy lemon squeezy for both writer and reader. Because our culture is sexist and life is unfair, you’ll find these portraits all over men’s magazines, but rarely do they appear in women’s magazines. This week, rare showed up in Elle wearing red pants and a white T-shirt. The writer is Melissa Giannini and the “guy” is famously reclusive White Stripes drummer Meg White, whom Giannini has been trying to track down and interview for years. While I won’t spoil the story here, I’ll just say that the piece is a well-executed love letter to a hyper-specific cultural figure and a heartfelt reframing of music history. It also includes a cameo from White superfan Olivia Rodrigo. If you’re a features editor at a women’s magazine, please read—and repeat!—Rachel
Read “Searching for Meg White” here.
Can a male critic pan a female-led show about sexism?
In terms of fired-up fan bases, the lovers of the Aussie comic Hannah Gadsby aren’t quite up there with the Beyhive but, put it this way, I wouldn’t want to tangle with them. New York Times art critic Jason Farago must not share my hesitance. Gadsby, the genderqueer and nonbinary comedian who, in their 2018 hit Netflix special Nanette, went on a tear about Pablo Picasso, saying he suffered from the disease of misogyny (“I hate him, but you're not allowed to”) was recently invited to play curator by the Brooklyn Museum. “It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby” puts a handful of Picasso’s works among those by prominent women artists, with Gadsby’s own words running alongside as a sort of comedic/curatorial device. Well, Farago is not impressed. In a scorched-Earth takedown, he accused Gadsby and the prominent (female) Brooklyn Museum curators who built the show of trading in bad jokes rather than insight or perspective. Gadsby’s “juvenile” blurbs, he writes, “‘function a bit like bathroom graffiti, or maybe Instagram captions.” He even argues that much of the women-artist work on display has little to do with Pablo at all; the paintings chosen from Nina Chanel Abney and Mickalene Thomas, “draw on the example of Manet, not Picasso.” Zoinks! “The Pablo-ms begin before you even enter the first gallery,” wrote another (male) critic, Alex Greenberger, in ARTnews, calling the show “disastrous.” Funny thing. In a post #MeToo landscape, not only is it increasingly high-risk for a male critic to trash a show by prominent women about a sexist man—also, female creatives are no longer taking criticism lying down. Posting a photo of herself with Gadsby and their fellow curator, Catherine Small wrote, “that feeling when it’s Pablo-Matic gets (male) art critics’ knickers in a twist.” Morris reposted the image, adding, “A @nytimes critic got very emotional about our show” and a GIF of “sorry not sorry.” And another museum higher-up captioned her post, “Come @ us haters.”1 Um, you go girls? Except, I can’t help noticing that no other critic—of any gender—has yet come out of the woodwork to defend the show. If we reflexively write off criticism as sexism…what happens when the harsh critique is right?—Maggie
Read “With Hannah Gadsby’s ‘It’s Pablo-matic,’ the Joke’s on the Brooklyn Museum” here.
The boobtacular now.
When it comes to “evergreen” subject matter, there’s one topic that will never, ever go out of style: The wide world of human breasts. Remember way back when the Cut did that draw-your-own-breasts extravaganza? Absolutely delightful! Remember when Elle came out with that moving homage to one’s own bazooms? Well, I do because I worked there at the time! In keeping with this grand tradition, and as a brilliant grab for eyeballs belonging to those outside the art world, T magazine this weekend published an ample piece on the state of the breast in art. I’d give the endeavor a 38C.—Rachel
Read “The Artists Depicting the Power and Strangeness of Breasts” here.
You know she does Snapchat.
Florence Pugh is on the cover of Time as the actress who “might just save the movie star from extinction.” The article gets at many of Pugh’s strengths—her breathtaking beauty, her emotional control, her extreme watchability—but there’s something else about Flo that I think makes her the screen queen of right this moment: She’s our first post-vanity superstar. The Oscar nominee has 9.2 million Instagram followers, for whom she routinely contorts herself or captures herself from angles I know any woman of my generation—famous or mortal—would categorize as ungodly. But Pugh is so gorgeous and so confident in that uniquely Gen Z way that what we big sisters think of as unflattering codes instead for her as instinctive and winning. Don’t buy it? Click here.—Rachel
Read the Time profile here.
It’s complicated (also not).
Watching the internet work through the emotional stages of Kim Cattrall joining the new season of And Just Like That… (debuting 6/22): Oh honey, Samantha is baaaack! Don’t get ahead of yourself people, it’s just a cameo. But what does it mean—I thought she hated those people? Well, they say she had some conditions. Oh please, let’s just leave Samantha in the aughts where she belongs. But while we wait, let’s reprise her looks, shall we?
Because everything changed on June 24, 2022.
It’s been one very full year since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizations overturned Roe v. Wade. To mark that earth-shaking anniversary, Vogue is releasing what seems to be a series of essays about the necessity of abortion, the first by novelist Megan Abbott. Abbott, who’s written a slew of crime thrillers and worked in prestige TV, turns to a corner of her own history, when her boyfriend of four years revealed he wasn’t as pro-choice as she’d trusted him to be. (Though he thought pro-choice policy was necessary, he believed the decision to have an abortion to be morally problematic.) “We thought we were one,” she writes, “but we are in fact violently two.” The conversation began with talk about a friend’s IVF treatment, which led the boyfriend to ask the essay’s title question, “You’ve Never Had an Abortion, Have You?” To the now-ex-boyfriend Abbott, outraged, responds without responding—the question so judgmentally phrased she won’t dignify it with an answer. Which is fair. But throughout I couldn’t help wanting to hear Megan Abbott’s abortion story! You know, if she’s had one. Deep breath. Honor Megan’s boundaries…—Rachel
Read “You’ve Never Had an Abortion, Have You?” here.
Alien backs and yummy mummies.
I came across the aforementioned Vogue story this weekend while aimlessly scrolling next to my kid, who was waiting for me to look up from my phone and pay attention to him. (Parent of the year over here, folks.) “Wait, Mom, go back!” he yelped as I scrolled by Abbott’s essay. “What is that, an alien? Oooh, a superskinny alien?” He was talking about the photo that accompanied Abbott’s story: a black-and-white of a white woman sitting on the floor in a bra, her back to the camera—her posture giving us, what, sad? Lonely? Fallen over?—the model so wraithlike, I was glad my five-year-old interpreted her as an alien life-form. Also this weekend, I spotted an Airmail story with a highly clickable headline, “Weightwatchers Kids Are Now Parents”: As a child, Lauren Bans bonded with her mother over dieting; as a parent she is now taking a totally different tack with her own child. The photo shows a skinny model-y white lady luxuriating on a beach blanket with a kid and a bunch of food—her body the very epitome of the calorie-counting Bans is talking about rejecting. Both of these stories—Abbott’s on abortion, Bans’s on diet culture—reflect the very real editorial shift that has happened in women’s magazines over the past decade or so, toward a more evolved worldview. Yet both are illustrated by the same old thing: fashion-y photos of ultra-skinny women looking sad, or happy, or lonely, or bored. (Hmm, maybe they’re all just very hungry?) Rachel, you and I know the forces that lead to this kind of photo selection all too well: Even if an article is about something godawful, the magazine-world rule is that imagery must be somehow stylish or beautiful, “artistic” and “aspirational.” And while photo editors have endless archives of skinny white lady pictures from which to pull, the supply of evocative, non-crappy images of regular-bodied and/or diverse women is as slim as the models on the page. (As slim as the profit margins of a print magazine…?) So you have a choice: Your story about, say, midlife mental health could end up next to a “haunting” photo of a skinny sad lady, or it could end up next to this. Art departments, we know what you’re up against! But let’s come up with a creative workaround, shall we? In women’s mag land, far too many stories say the right thing but still look stuck in the publishing world of the early aughts.—Maggie
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Another tangent in the Gadsby mess: the Brooklyn Museum still has a wing called "the Anne A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art." Woof.