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The Week In Recommendations 5.10.23
Profile of a fraudster, buzzy TV shows (one terrifying, one romantic), and Mother's Day sales.
This is the free edition of Rich Text, a newsletter about cultural obsessions from your Internet BFFs Emma and Claire. If you like what you see and hear, consider becoming a paid subscriber. Our latest podcast was about Scandoval, which VPR-watcher Emma explained to non-watcher Claire. Rich Text is a reader-supported project — no ads or sponsors!
We’ve been reading…
The fascinating, albeit borderline irresponsible New York Times profile of Elizabeth — excuse me, I mean Liz — Holmes. The profile that reads like a press release for Rehab Ur Image Inc., in which reporter Amy Chozick gets completely taken in by Holmes, a known grifter and medical fraudster who clearly hopes to indefinitely delay serving the 11-year prison term she was sentenced to in 2022. I learned that our gal Liz is just one of the moms, “in a bucket hat and sunglasses, her newborn strapped to her chest and swathed in a Baby Yoda nursing blanket.” And that baritone voice she was known for, and that Amanda Seyfried masterfully aped in “The Dropout”? Gone. After reading Chozick’s piece, in which she, to her credit, admits that she got snowed by Holmes — “Amy Chozick, you got rolled!” says her own editor — I had to read sharp response pieces like Laura Bassett’s for Jezebel and Rebecca Onion’s for Slate as a palate cleanser. -Emma
This is interesting, because I was going to say the same piece! But I’ve actually been sort of baffled by the responses, because it seems to me that Chozick was trying to write not a rehabilitation of Holmes, but a takedown. If she really got rolled, she wouldn’t admit she got rolled; she’s copping to it because she’s trying to depict the push-pull of being seduced by the act of a conwoman, while pointing out that it is basically a con. I have read a lot of the reactions wondering if I have lost my mind, or if I read a different piece entirely. But look, I’m not really here to defend Chozick. None of the above means that the piece was responsible, or well-executed, or well-framed. It’s a classic NYT way of framing a piece about a Bad White Person, actually: wrap it in all the hallmarks of a soft-focus puff profile, while slyly sneaking in incriminating details. (See: every time the NYT has tried to profile a white supremacist.) It’s a too-clever-by-half approach to a profile of someone who is causing or has caused direct, enormous harm! Just dignifying the subject with all the deference and humanizing detail that go into this kind of piece creates the impression that they are deserving of sympathy and understanding, while directing attention away from the suffering they’ve caused others. The subtle details Chozick deploys to undermine Holmes’s new persona have far less impact than just the headline and glamor shots of Holmes that dominate the piece, let alone the sheer quantity of lifestyle-porny anecdotes about her croissant-and-berry-strewn mom-of-two routine. So I guess I both agree on the merits with the critiques, and disagree on some of the specifics — but in the end, whether Chozick meant to or not, she certainly created the very strong impression that she thinks Holmes deserves a better deal. -Claire
We’ve been watching…
Lately I’ve been striking out on new shows (and, to be honest, old shows). For those who are still watching “Ted Lasso,” Greg and I still are as well — except that at some point mid-season (right around the hour-long “Sunflowers” episode that many viewers, to be fair, rapturously adored) we realized that we were no longer enjoying ourselves at all. The episodes have become interminable, the jokes are few and far between, the storylines are proliferating too quickly for them to be well-connected or well-explored. And while we agree with the show’s politics, the earnest public service announcement approach has become the default mode for exploring them, and I simply don’t find it artistically or comedically compelling. What’s been fascinating to me, though, is how divided the audience has become: on the one side, viewers like me, who found the first season a bit sappy but surprisingly sharp, and who now feel the show has lost its edge; on the other, devoted fans who are happy to spend as much time as possible with characters they’ve grown to love, and who revel in the show’s sweetness.
I also tried to watch “Dead Ringers,” a show no one could accuse of lacking edge. An Amazon Prime show starring Rachel Weisz as twin OB/GYNs, “Dead Ringers” follows the sisters as they care for patients and try to launch a clinic where they could try more avant-garde (and ethically iffy) fertility treatments. Weisz is magnetic as Elliot and Beverly Mantle, and the show takes a daringly dark and gritty approach to the topic of pregnancy and childbirth — topics we usually see depicted through a gauzy shroud of cliché. Personally, it was a bit more gritty than I could bear. The first episode features some truly upsetting moments, including a stillbirth scene I would love to be able to unsee. But it was intriguing enough that I wish I’d been able to stomach it, and it seems like a great binge for someone with a sterner constitution than myself! -Claire
Finally started the Bridgerton prequel, “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story,” a six-episode mini-series which focuses on — you guessed it! — a young Queen Charlotte. I had been hearing good things since the series dropped last week, and though I’m only one episode in, I’m definitely hooked. The costumes are sumptuous, the actors are gorgeous, and the storyline is compelling. India Ria Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest make an excellent pair, as young Queen Charlotte and King George III. (And I’m told the sex scenes are… steamy. Which frankly was missing in season two.) Truly everything you’d want from a “Bridgerton” show. Can’t wait to keep binging this one. Who’s with me? -Emma
We’ve been listening to…
The last week was about catching up on new episodes of podcasts I already love: Foretold, Normal Gossip, Maintenance Phase’s dive into Oprah’s war against beef, and A Little Bit Culty’s dive into the Children of God cult (and what it has in common with the U.S. military). Nothing so new this week, but lots of audio goodness. -Emma
I am also fresh out of new pods and music, which apparently are the hardest thing to find new sources of on a weekly basis. This week I listened to the latest “If Books Could Kill,” which was part one of a dissection of Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler’s “Nudge,” the book that inspired President Obama and other liberal policy-makers to leap on the behavioral economics bandwagon. The idea of it — that we can meaningfully change people’s choices by changing the way we offer them those choices, thereby fixing huge social problems and politics as we know it — always made a fair amount of sense to me, so I never fully got the leftist backlash against it. But after listening to a more detailed rundown of what’s actually in the book, and the evidence for its effectiveness… I get it. Learning that they described an effective ad campaign against littering as a “nudge,” when it’s clearly just a public awareness campaign, was what broke me. -Claire
We’ve been buying…
Mother’s Day sales! A few of my favorite maternity-friendly brands are having, fittingly, big sales this week.
Tradlands, which I have often raved about, has a selection of items on sale this week, including some of my personal easy-wearing staples: the perfectly slouchy Shelter cardigan, the swingy Nico dress, the comfy Glenn long short, and the Kindred button-front midi dress, which I just took advantage of the sale to try out.
Christy Dawn is extremely far over on the expensive end of my price range, so a 30% off sale would be an excellent time to try one of the marked-down styles! I’ve resisted this sale so far, but I keep eyeing the smocked-bodice Brooklyn dress, given that stretchy is my friend right now.
Storq is more of a proper maternity brand than the above two, but while all their clothes are maternity-suitable, they’re not maternity-exclusive. (They’re all designed to be wearable “before, during and after,” though in my experience, this works better with tops and dresses than pants — waistbands can only stretch and contract so much.) And they’re having a 20% off sitewide sale this week! I’ve previously talked up the sweats and my cozy-rib pants, but I also live in my drapey Easy Button-Up, Go-To Nursing Dress, and Lounge Set. -Claire
Thanks to Claire, I’ve discovered the joys of Tradlands! (And as she has already pointed out, they are having a Mother’s Day Sale.) I am not pregnant, but I have been living in my Shelter Cotton Cardigan — the perfect cardigan, truly! — in Desert Sage. It’s soft and slouchy and the color is the loveliest light green. Also a huge fan of the Nico Dress in Birch. As someone who works from home, I need clothing that is comfortable to sit at a desk in, and isn’t quite office-wear, but also makes me feel like I’m an actual adult. Tradlands’ well-made basics accomplish these tasks. -Emma
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