Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
Am I suspicious of the recent proliferation of paparazzi photos of Zoe Kravitz (winner of the amicably divorced parents lottery) and Channing Tatum (winner of the "bachelorette party dancer-to-international superstar" pipeline lottery) hanging out together? Yes, obviously, I am. We don't get to this late in the mid-apocalypse and this far into the evolution of the Celebrity Couple Publicity Pyramid Scheme to take every new Hollywood pairing at face value. I see two famous people suddenly linking up and I get my sleuth hat on and my conspiracy theory caftan out the closet.
When People Magazine tells me two heretofore un-associated celebs are pressing their symmetrical faces together I now respond "Hm. And what do you mean by that?" I react to Tinseltown dating news like its a Russian phishing scam in my inbox. (By which I mean I immediately call someone younger than me and demand "SHOULD I TRUST THIS?" To which they reply, "Why are you calling me instead of texting?")
I'm not saying that I don't believe famous people with a vested interest in maintaining the attention of the public don't fall in love or like or whatever the kids are doing these days (Tulum?). I'm just saying that when it comes to bold faced names making bold faced claims on bold faced flames, I sometimes have my doubts. These controlled, well-placed claims--what's the reason?
That said, have I devoted my entire week to following the saga of Zoe and Chan running bopping about town? Obviously. I am a human and I love romance and Nora Ephron rewired my brain a few decades ago. WHY WOULD I? Yes, the internet is the worst thing in the world but WHAT IF it's also the beautiful epistolary device that brought Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks together in You've Got Mail? Every questionable choice I make in life is made on the off-chance that reality could reveal itself to be a You've Got Mail situation. (Or really a Sleepless in Seattle situation, because--as I've said before--Tom Hanks, the owner of a book conglomerate who is destroying a small business, is the villain of You've Got Mail. It sits heavy in my spirit and I don't know what to do about it.) (Not to say that Greg Kinnear is the hero of You've Got Mail. My God! I just don't know. I think Meg Ryan should have decided to put a pause on her love life and taken Jean Stapleton on a How Stella Got Her Groove Back trip for a few months. Meg Ryan's like "You know what? I'm going to do me for a while. Out of office message ON.")
But Chan and Zoe are not Tom and Meg and I don't know whether that's a good thing or a bad thing but I hope they're happy and that neither one of them wants to start a multinational book conglomerate. Look, they are both very talented and attractive and while I do believe that we, as a society, have moved beyond the need to admire literally anymore, I do like them both a lot and wish the best for them and also reserve the right to take it back if they do something out of pocket like post an anti-vax meme or besmirch Prince.
See this? This?! Suspect! Too idyllic! In this climate? Riding a bike like the main characters in a YA novel! Skipping class to go eat ice cream! Nervous about who is going to ask whom to the sock hop! Outsmarting the government agents who are trying to capture E.T.! Wait, I think I've lost the thread. I'm dazzled by the strange beauty of two millionaires reenacting a scene from Stand By Me (I don't know if they ride a bike in Stand By Me but it feels like they do, you know, energetically.)
Oh no! Vibes too strong! Can't resist! WHAT'S UP WITH CHANNING TATUM AND BIKES? Ya boy has a low Uber score and strong quads? Whimsy???
I'm honestly spiraling because 1) I have never looked this put together going to the market in the pandemic. Whenever I need a dozen eggs or go buy my 19th bottle of paprika because I've forgotten that we have some already, I always look positively bedraggled. I act like my mask is an invisibility cloak. I've taken to wearing whatever shirt fits which, alas, is usually a shirt with some huge writing on it that then invites people to look longer, making me paranoid that I am being recognized (no one around these parts has ever heard of me or any other Black person). It's a whole thing. 2) This picture has the vibe of "it's raining on vacation so I guess we'll make a nice meal or something – oh this AirBnb doesn't have any pots or pans so I guess we have to get this little aluminum roasting pan now hmph – okay well let's not make it a whole thing sure we'll have a small passive-aggressive argument next to the olive bar but you know what it's not about the olives and we're just going to have a nice time – we will, okay? Oooh, look, flowers. Yes, ambiance. What a lovely vacation – Oh, pick up some toilet paper; we have no idea where they keep it in this place. Bleak. Should we leave the rest for the next folks or take it home? We'll figure it out later."
I have spent my entire week thinking about two people going grocery shopping, riding a bike, and laughing over iced coffee. Ya boy is shewk over some stock photos. What a world!
Let's Hang Out!
My next play, an all-ages outdoor show called The Ever Present, opens a week from Saturday in Philadelphia! It's free, it's fun, it's outdoors, it's an hour. It's great for families with kids or adults who like to have fun or celebrity couples riding bikes. This is the second all-ages show I've written and I endeavored to give it an energy that feels like a mix between a Muppet movie and a Pixar movie--big jokes, fun storytelling, physical comedy, and maybe a moral or two. Director Brett Ashley Robinson and the cast of five superb Philadelphia performers are so amazing and I think it will be a lot of fun.
Also! Look at this banh mi puppet that J. Bean Schwab made for the play! I mean!
I keep forgetting to include posts to my pop culture essays on Previously On... Recently I wrote about the new Lizzo track, "Rumors," and the meme-ification of classic shows! This week I'm writing about the mystery and the magic of Britney Spears' online presence.
Random Thing on the Internet
They got Al Roker out here on the news reenacting The Tempest again and I just don't know, y'all. Dressed like the killer in I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Practicing the journalistic technique of "Sitting in the splash zone at Sea World." Y'all, let this man go wring out his socks, y'all.
Water is wet. Report at 11.
Al must have heard me talking about him, though, because he got on Jonathan Capehart's show and told me and everybody else who questioned this choices to go mind our own dry business. Hmph!
Oh no! Vibes too strong!,