Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?
This week: A year? In review?
Hi hi! So, there’s only one new article because I took this week off of ELLE.com so I could do a 29-hour workshop (over the course of a week) in Philadelphia of a new play I wrote. I used vacation days from my writing job so that I could go do more writing. I regret nothing.
It has been a very busy December but isn’t that always the case? I contend that December is, at the very least, 3 different months smooshed into one and I won’t believe otherwise.
So it always feels weird to do retrospectives because I’m always like “I don’t even know what time I’m in right now! I couldn’t tell you what happened in the past!” (This has been compounded for me now that I get advance copies of books. If someone asked me what my favorite books of the year are I’d probably say Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, published 1984, Magical Negro by Morgan Parker, published 2019, and I Know You Know Who I Am by Peter Kispert, which doesn’t come out for two months. Among many others.)
Anyway, here’s some stuff that maybe you saw, maybe you didn’t in this timeline or another.
Stuff You Definitely Didn’t See YET
A lot of my favorite things that I wrote this year won’t happen until next year or the year after like…
A couple other plays I wrote this year and love that I hope you get to see soon!
Crying on Television, a comedy about four black strangers in a fancy apartment building who are trying to find community, often through the shared language of TV.
I’ll Hold Out My Hand and My Heart Will Be In It, a karaoke play, a comedy about grief, a romcom, a delight.
Hmm.. what else, oh… right. Two books!
Here for It; or, How to Save Your Soul in America, a book of comedic essays about intersecting identities, awkwardness, and the stories we tell about ourselves. (Feb 2020)
Reclaiming Her Time, a retrospective book on the life, legacy, wit, and wisdom of Rep. Maxine Waters, co-authored with Helena Andrews-Dyer. (Sept. 2020)
Stuff You Might Have Seen!
Here’s my some of favorite columns of the year! With superlatives!
The empty gesture of cancelling a cartoon wedding is such a small pyrrhic victory. Thank goodness those young eyes didn't see the wrong thing and grow up thinking they could be rats wearing tuxedos. Can you imagine such a world? In instances like this, people often say that children are too young to be "exposed" to ideas like "same-sex attraction" and "gender." As if every child is floating through the world in an opaque bubble until the minute they turn 21 and the bubble bursts somewhere over Hell's Kitchen where they land, see two people with the same gender presentation holding hands, and immediately become drag queens or Pete Buttigieg.
Favorite column, runner-up
This is, and I cannot stress this enough, art. Shakespeare found dead in a ditch. Walt Whitman wigless! Emily Dickinson, pack up your knives and go home.
Favorite niche interest
CAN YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE ALIVE TO SEE THIS?! There are so many perfect things about this one-minute video starting with the selection of Hudson. Jennifer Hudson is not the only person who could tear the roof off with this song; Cynthia Erivo, Heather Headley, Jazmine Sullivan, and Patti Labelle also come to mind, among many others. But JHud seems to have built a comfortable melismatic niche out of showing up just when you needed her most, singing her face off (and your face, everyone's face; no faces!), and then bopping on out of there.
Favorite Animal journalism (tie)
The star-studded, digitally furred first glimpse of the conceptually bewildering film dropped. Directly on me. We all knew it would be a lot. I mean, it's Taylor Swift and Jennifer Hudson as cats singing on extra large furniture. We're not exactly talking mumblecore here. But the two minutes and twenty-three seconds of trailer that we were given are, without hyperbole, some of the most deeply disturbing images ever put on screen. Midsommar could never. Hereditary found dead in a ditch.
The agility course, a series of ramps, hurdles, and tunnels, is meant to be taken at top speed and with a gymnast's precision. Winky looked at the course and was like, "Okay, see what I'm not going to do is break a sweat, though," and set off on a leisurely trot through some but not all of the obstacles, pausing frequently for applause breaks and to just soak it in. Winky is out here manifesting that Lauryn Hill concert energy and it's magnificent.
Favorite paragraph (the imagined advent rant)
After Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced today that the House would move forward with drafting articles of impeachment, a reporter asked her if she hated the president. Pelosi, who was on her way out of the room, stopped in her tracks, whipped around, and said (I'm paraphrasing) "Okay, see sweetie, what we're not going to do is besmirch my good Catholic name out in these streets with talk about hate." And I am screaming. Today's events combine some of my favorite things: people yelling about their moral compasses, a dramatic return to a podium, and badass women leaders setting an entire room straight Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest-style.
The summary of the imbroglio reads like a MadLib titled "Wow, We're Really Doing This." First, Buzzfeed published an image of Northam's yearbook page from the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. Many Americans learned that medical schools have yearbooks and also that, apparently, in the 80s dudes were just putting any old thing in them. Northam confirmed that he was in the photo and apologized. But then a day later, he suddenly remembered that he had forgot that he wasn't actually in the photo. "In the words of that great black philosopher Shaggy, 'It wasn't me!'" He vowed to prove it even if it meant using, get this, facial recognition software. Or should I say, blackfacial recognition software. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Favorite headline, runner-up
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent spent the first day of the impeachment inquiry straight guzzling from a Nalgene tall boy of water on national television and I have never been more inspired in my whole dang life. The bow-tied bureaucrat took 48 ounces of pure H2O to the head over the course of the hours-long testimony leaving me, yes, I'll say it again, quid pro quenched. Am I thirsty for impeachment? Yes indeedy. Am I thirsty for anything else? Not after pounding a liter and a half of aqua like my boy George over here. I am hydrated as hell and ready to take on corruption and/or dry skin!
Third favorite headline
If there's one thing that's clear after the first Democratic primary debate, it's that Elizabeth Warren is currently hard at work on a plan to improve all of the candidates' conversational Spanish. Last night's debate featured 10 of the now-25 candidates running for president, plus 16 moderators, an omelet chef, a ball boy from Wimbledon, and, I'd be willing to bet, at least one person who just showed up and stood behind a podium and never got asked to leave. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Favorite muse: Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal has been performing a masterclass in press tour shenanigans while promoting the new film Spider-man: I No Longer Know What the Plots of These Marvel Movies Are, I Just Show Up Regularly Like I'm a Blue Apron Subscription. The actor, who constantly hints at deep reserves of chaotic energy, has opened up the floodgates as he makes the rounds with co-star Tom Holland. While an interview with Jake is never going to be your run-of-the-mill Q&A, there's something different happening here. Jake Gyllenhaal is Jennifer Lawrence-ing and it's glorious. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Okay, so the first thing you need to know is that Jake Gyllenhaal is one of our very best celebrities. Disagree? Grow up! I'm not going to sugarcoat the truth; adults are speaking here! The actor, who famously stands 5-foot, 11-and-a-half inches, max morning height, is 1) very talented, 2) a super zaddy, 3) probably very weird, and 4) game for anything. All four powers combined in a BBC Radio One interview he and pocket snack Tom Holland did while promoting the new film, Spider-man: Many Different Versions of Hotness for You to Consider. During a segment in which listeners call in to voice their unpopular opinions, Jake Gyllenhaal revealed himself as the biggest, hottest, and most enthusiastic Sean Paul fan. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Favorite visual jokes
This weekend, The Cut revealed its latest guest contributor, Senator Elizabeth Warren. She spends 500 words talking about the plot of Game of Thrones like a (more) political Jonathan Van Ness. She's really a fan and it's glorious. Anyway, we’re happy Warren published the piece and we’re definitely not envious at all, especially because we managed to get every other presidential candidate to write about their pop culture obsession for us. Every single one. All 75 of them. Here's a preview of some of the essays we're rolling out. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Favorite Maxine Waters
The Treasury Secretary clearly must have mistaken the House Financial Services Committee for the ball pit at McDonald's because he continued to act like it was playtime. He responded to Waters that if she wanted to keep him there and "grill" him, he would cancel his "important meeting" (rolling around on a pile of $100 bills like Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal). He warned however, "I will not be back here. I will be very clear. If that's the way you'd like to have this relationship." The reach! If I'd been in the room when this happened, I would have immediately packed my knives and gone home. I would have Ubered a horse and set off for the Old Town Road. The gall of this dude. The tia and temerity of this man! [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Favorite Complicity Huffman (tie)
Some—a very small number, I am sure—may also question why I, a wealthy person since birth thanks to the tireless grifting of my father and a minuscule loan from his father, would be against people getting anything for free. Some—one or two people at most—may find it ironic that I, a person who was given a high-ranking and totally undefined job in the administration of my father—would suggest that a guarantee of a job for other Americans would be a bad idea. And yet, here I am, a study of contradictions in earth tones. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
We chose to see Vice because it is our second favorite deadly sin. Shout out to greed, still number one in our hearts! Jared and Secret Service settled into those abhorrent reclining seats even though I warned them that Poor Butts have been in them before. They did not seem to mind. I assumed my regular movie-watching position: standing at attention four feet from the screen. I put on my 3-D glasses. The Secret Service told me that it was not a 3-D movie. I replied, "I think it is clear by now that I only see the things I want to see." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Favorite food journalism
I love that she is completely uninterested in the crowd, the cameras, or the speech that is happening, nor is she intimidated by any of it. This is a woman on a mission and that mission is Something to Dip This Pepperoni Slice In. Inspirational! Clear a space on Mt. Rushmore. And then change the name to Mt. Ranchmore. And then bring another ramekin to Table 13! I need my sauce! [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
Today a tempest in a tea party erupted after some conservative Twitter trolls posted a video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing to a Phoenix song during college. The video, which features moves taken from The Breakfast Club, is about as earnest and exuberant as they come, and somehow someone thought a video that made the new Congressperson look fun and young was a takedown. Conservatives have accused AOC of being many things, most of which she is not, yet somehow they failed to call her out for what she actually is: Lea Michele on Glee. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]
I’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming next week!
I don’t even know what time I’m in right now!