Superbowl Redux

Wes left for another business trip yesterday morning, so for the third year in a row I was left to my own devices for the Superbowl. The previous two years, I’ve caught up on the best commercials the day after. This year, I decided to take a stab at being relevant by ignoring the game itself and turning the volume back on for the commercials and halftime show.

First of all, can I just say that the Tide commercials with David Harbour killed me? Those were so funny, and if possible made me like him even more. I thought his Twitter antics were endearing, but then I saw him riding tandem on a unicorn with the Old Spice guy and my fondness intensified.

The Dodge Ram commercial with Dr. Martin Luther King’s voice imposed over it nauseated me. I was scowling so much that my son actually asked me if I was okay, and it wasn’t until he said that that I realized how much my irritation was showing on my face. For shame, Dodge. Have you learned nothing from Pepsi’s ill-fated ad from last year with the girl who’s pregnant and was on that show with a bunch of people whose names inexplicably begin with the letter K?

The Verizon first responder appreciation ad made me cry, as did the Budweiser water one. I’m a sucker, what can I say?

Many of this year’s commercials were good, in my opinion. I do, however, have to single out Diet Coke for a minute.

Last week, Wes took me out for a movie and there was a Diet Coke ad that ran with the previews. It was of Gillian Jacobs, who was fun in Community, and she gave us her unasked-for permission to drink Diet Coke or run a marathon or live in a yurt if we wanted to.

Um, thanks? And also, why is Diet Coke equating its beverage with these behaviors?

Unimpressed with this ad already, the mango Diet Coke (ewww) came on and somehow my regard for whoever is doing the advertising for Diet Coke sank even lower. In this commercial, a wan young woman takes a sip of Diet Coke Mango and starts awkwardly dancing, without music, all the while saying she’s not sure why it’s happening.

It’s awkward to watch, utterly uncompelling, and actually made me not want to drink Diet Coke ever again. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what the pitch meeting for these commercials must have been, but I can only imagine it involved a lot of Xanax and shrugging because these commercials are the advertising equivalent of, “Meh. I guess?”

As for the halftime show, I don’t really know what to say. Lots of people have been unkind to Justin Timberlake, but I thought his dancing was quite good and the show was fine. He was operating at a disadvantage, I think, because he hasn’t been relevant as a pop musician in a long time. None of his hits are current, so he was kind of an odd choice to begin with.

I was half hoping Janet Jackson would make a surprise appearance and he would publicly apologize for his role in the ill-fated show they did years and years ago, but it didn’t happen. I also kind of hoped Andy Samberg would come out and the two of them could recreate some of their SNL Digital Short songs together. That would have been awesome.

Oh, well. All in all, the Superbowl happened. The game itself was exciting, the commercials were mostly good, and David Harbour remains charming and funny.

What was your most or least favorite moment of the game?

Me, too

On Facebook right now, there’s a movement wherein women post Me, too to spread awareness of how widespread the issue of sexual assault is. I’ve been thinking about these disclosures a lot, and posted this on Facebook in response. I’ve copied it here because I feel strongly about what it says.

The Me, Too disclosures have been on my mind a lot. For every female acquaintance or friend of mine who speaks up, my heart breaks a little. That these women, these strong, articulate, educated women have been violated and humiliated by men who by and large escape the encounters unscathed is wrong in every way.

The reason the disclosures have been bothering me is that very few of the women I know well can say they’ve never been harassed, molested, or raped. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to about this. It’s something almost all of us have done our best to put behind us.

What this tells me is that this isn’t the kind of thing WOMEN need to be more aware of.
In short, what I’d like to see all over Facebook is men speaking up and owning up to the times they pushed things too far, did something they weren’t supposed to, or made a woman feel uncomfortable. What I’d like to see is men holding EACH OTHER accountable.

I’ve been sexually assaulted three times in my life. Two of those times I was underage and my assailant was more than twice as old as me. I promise you, those guys didn’t bother themselves a bit about their actions, because we were all taught that men can’t be held accountable for their libidos.

It’s time for men to hold themselves accountable. It’s time for the perpetrators to feel shame, not the victims. The women I know who’ve been assaulted have all found strength in each other and found ways to move on. We, by and large, have each other’s backs on this.

It’s the men’s turn. Speak up. Own up to it if you’ve messed up and do better in the future. Call other men out on their predatory behavior. Raise a future generation of men who will respect the women in their lives because YOU demonstrate respect for the women in your life.

It’s time. Past time, really. We’re 3D printing body parts, for crying out loud. I think being respectful of women isn’t too much to ask.

Throwing Fellow Writers Under the Bus

I’m reading an interesting book right now called Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction by Benjamin Percy. It’s interesting as it deals with many of the concerns in my genre: Violence (how and when to do it), set pieces, designing suspense, etc. Percy’s writing is fun to read for the most part (though I will admit to getting frustrated while reading the beginning of the book. He waxes long and poetic about his childhood, which has little to do with the purpose of the book).

I read something last night, however, that genuinely surprised me. He was explicating the restraint writers should use when inflicting violence on our readers, and the fine line between authenticity and gory indulgence when he mentioned the writing of both Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis. To wit:

“That’s what the work of Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis occasionally feels like: a special kind of CGI meant to sour your stomach…Their flamboyant style aestheticizes the mayhem, as if the authors love what we are meant to despise. They linger on the violence, wallow in the gore, celebrate it to such a degree that I can almost see them smirking, hear them snickering, and they essentially become that kid we all went to middle school with – Cody: big ears, buzz cut, braces – who would fake a punch, and then, when you startled, would screech, “Two for flinching,” and sock you twice in the shoulder. Don’t be a Cody. Nobody liked him.”

Why did this surprise me? It’s not because I disagree. I haven’t been able to stomach Palahniuk’s writing since Survivor for precisely this reason, and I despised American Psycho so much after watching it that I’ve never agreed to watch it again despite many impassioned pleas for me to give it another chance because the violence is symbolic and a commentary and blah blah blah.

No, I was surprised because it’s quite rare for an author to publicly disparage a fellow author in this way. There’s an unspoken code of honor amongst authors that our critics are hard enough on us, so if you can’t say anything nice, keep your mouth shut and change the subject. (With the notable exception of Dan Brown. For some reason, it’s always fine to make fun of his writing, which doesn’t bother him in the slightest as he laughs at all of us plebes from his castle).

In a book like Percy’s, there’s plenty of room to use various authors’ work as an example of what to do, instead of what not to do, and up until now that’s almost exclusively what he’s done. That was why I was so surprised to see these two getting singled out. It’s possible they write their stories in precisely such a way as to elicit this kind of disapproval, in which case this was a smashing success.

I thought I’d open this up to all of you and see what you think. How do you feel about violence and gore in storytelling? Any pressing thoughts on either Chuck Palahniuk or Bret Easton Ellis that you’d like to share? Hit me up in the comments section!

Thoughts on Passengers

I’m sure that everything that’s needed to be said about the movie Passengers has already been said, but I finally had the chance to see it this weekend and simply had to get some thoughts down on digital paper about it. It spurred a discussion between Wes and I that spanned two days, which I think makes it remarkable because really, how many movies do that?

For those unfamiliar with the story, SPOILERS Continue reading

An Open Letter to President Trump

Dear President Trump,

I do not envy the tasks before you. You’ve inherited a country that’s divided on almost every issue, constituents who are spoiling for a fight, and a media machine that seems determined to thwart every move you make.

Regardless of how anyone feels about you or your plans, that is undeniably a tough row to hoe.

Much of the blame for the state the country is in can be placed at the feet of the media. You can’t vilify both candidates for over a year and then expect everyone to feel safe when one of them eventually wins. That said, the fault likely lies with us, too, for believing much of it.

I’m not going to tell you how to do your job. You won a highly contentious election, so you obviously have some idea of what you’re doing. All I’m asking you to do is simple: Unite us as a people.

Sounds simple, but it isn’t, because what I’m asking you to do is give us something to believe in. To be an example of a good man, to represent our country well, and to serve the people of the United States. It’s going to be extremely difficult, and a ton of work, but, to be honest? I’m rooting for you. Really I am.

I didn’t vote for you, but you are now my president and, as such, I genuinely wish you the best of luck. Bipartisanship has done little but ensure that half the country is miserable for four-to-eight years. Average citizens have lost faith and trust in the people we elected to serve us, and our politicians can’t seem to agree on anything because there’s now too much pride at stake to ever concede on anything.

I believe the official term for it is “special interests,” but what it boils down to is that people are more concerned about their personal priorities than they are about considerations of the greater good.

So what I’m asking you to do, begging, really, is to be a peacemaker. Many of the people you are now responsible for are terrified. Reassure them. They don’t understand your choices. Please explain them, patiently.

A country where no one can agree on anything is like a game of tug-o-war. Everyone is working as hard as they can to make sure no one goes anywhere. Find a way to convince people it’s safe to work with you by being the kind of president we can rally behind, and I have hope you might just be able to turn things around.

And for my part? I promise not to get in your way. I’ll give you a fair shot, because really, what sense is there in hoping you fail?

Congratulations, Mr. President, and welcome to the White House.


Erika Mitchell, just an average, ordinary citizen