If I Say Jezebel 3 Times Will Something Happen to My Y Chromosome?

Author Empathy: 9
Characterization: 8
Didacticism: 7
Catharsis: 10
Sophistication: 6

Jezebel effing rocks, man. It's a publication with a pronounced--dare I say screeched? (No, I take it back!)--viewpoint that is admirably tenacious in following up on their coverage when called into question. It's no coincidence that usually the following up marches to the tone of "oh hell yes we were right." The simple truth is that even considering the great volume of their opinionation, Jezebel's angle of approach frequently proves to be dead on.

As the above link indicates, I'm focusing on this article by Jenna@Jezebel detailing the backlash against the talents of a 13 year old fashion blogger. The writing in this article is quite capable, it's more than up to the task. The task, however, is the what really elevates this piece: the clarity and sense of justice in the viewpoint is more exhilarating than the sophistication of the prose itself.

This article is so well positioned: a behemoth of the old fashion writing guard (Elle, via its editor) is spearheading a quite ridiculous attack on a tween blogger and the powers at Jezebel, somewhere in the universe of bloggers and fashion writers themselves, have espied the conflict and brought their authority as established big girls to the defense of the little girl. The form this defense takes is an attack on a pillar the old authority. Glorious!

The most killer fact is the close that Jenna@Jezebel finishes with. In fact, it's THE BEST PART:
Jenna@Jezebel in a pseudo-empirical defense of the idea that the 13-year-old writes her own stuff
A quick survey of the writers for this site revealed a raft of early over-achievers. At 13, Latoya Peterson was writing poetry that people assumed she must have plagiarized. Anna North won an essay contest and met the mayor of Los Angeles. I sent a short story in to New Zealand's oldest literary journal, without mentioning my age — and they published it and sent me a check....then [Dodai Stewart] wrote a screenplay, which she imagined would star Bruce Willis. Is it really that preposterous to think that Tavi Gevinson's talents and interests are her own?

I've always thought that a lot of Gevinson's appeal to the fashion crowd relies on the fact that she, with her unapologetic bookishness and self-described intense fashion "fangirling", reminds some of the major players of themselves, at her age. Perhaps this backlash is coming from people who remember how they were at 13, too — and recognize that they weren't at Tavi Gevinson's level of proficiency. Not by a long shot.
  BECAUSE: It might only have had a tinge of vicarious desire to have been like Tavi OR it might have only been a casting of Jezebel's lot in with Tavi's OR it might just have pointed out, by sterling example, the quality individuals that the attitude Tavi's detractors are espousing will NOT lead to. OR It might do all of that in one effective sequence. (Yeah, it does it all.) Also, how often are you able to brag so blatantly without looking bad in the slightest!?


One strange feature of reviewing this article is that, because Jezebel is such a dynamic blog, there are extensions to it. The link at the beginning of my post (and here) is the more extensive addendum but I love the brevity of this one:
"I don't recall ever saying she had a 'Tavi team,'" writes Slowey, who had compared Gevinson to fake author JT Leroy.
 This second sentence of the two sentence post is abruptly vicious in how it counters the vagary of Slowey's statement with declarative fact.  The pace of "Slowey, who had compared..." is more effective than something like Slowey, who definitely is on record having compared....  Some writers would have opted for the more emphatic serving of Slowey but Jenna@Jezebel went the restrained route, underscoring whose side the facts are on.

In this series of posts, Jenna@Jezebel never oversteps her status as arbiter and reporter but uses stylistic techniques to communicate her sense of what little girl is in the right and what big editor is in the wrong. The result is lucid and unflinchingly accurate.

So, regarding the title of this post: Jezebel Jezebel Jezebel-- is that a rush of womanhood I feel!?

...Aww, nuts.          (I know, but I couldn't resist.)


R. Emmet Sweeney's Power of Articulation

Author Empathy:8
Catharsis: 7

When I read film reviews, I operate under the assumption that the critic I'm reading knows more about the general subject of cinema than I do. It's how things should be and even when I've seen the movie in question and think I've caught a slip-up on the reviewer's part it doesn't change my assumption. E.g. in here I pointed out that I didn't think a certain naked sunbathing neighbor was as drop-of-a-hat available as David Denby insisted. Yet my sureness about the scale of knowledge of movies that D.D. possesses remains unchanged. This is how reputations (D.D.'s, The New Yorker's) work and it makes my reading life easier.

So I'm not phased by little discrepancies that run contrary to my assumption simply because of that assumption. Trusting your critic is important. But there is a way to abuse my relative ignorance. By pointing it out. Like a jerk.

Isn't that hypocritical? Accepting that I know less but then becoming angry when someone who knows more articulates the same exact sentiment? How can I increase my knowledge--which I might want to do if I'm going to be such a big baby about it--if I can't stand to witness an authority flexing her brain?

Well, no, it's not hypocritical. I'm only asking that the authority be a bit gentler about flaunting the old grey matter. This negotiation--of trying to show some of your voluminous knowledge for my benefit while not intimidating me into frustration by the very same display--is, I think, the core struggle of teaching. In the terms of this blog it is the struggle to score well in both DIDACTICISM and AUTHOR EMPATHY.

Recently I read a piece that negotiates this exchange sooo fucking well. R. Emmet Sweeney's article for IFC.com, "The Most Subversive Performances of 2009," may actually have tightrope walked my personal limit for how smart an author can show himself to be without costing me an ounce of reading pleasure.

The craziest part, for me, is the beginning: he quotes and summarizes a 1966 essay by some likewise genius movie critic. "EW! GROSS!" was the reaction I expected from my sensibility until I realized how compelled I was by the idea Sweeney has presented. (I'm a big proponent of keeping quotes from decades-old peer reviewed articles trapped in the ghetto of academic writing, you see.)

 It's in delivering on the promise of an idea from 1966 that Sweeney really whirls. Here is a section you might expect in an a very good film review:
Hall oozes his way on-screen with an ingratiating tenor that drawls out corporate double-talk with an ease and smirk that makes everything he says sound like a dirty joke.
That is a description that piques my interest in a movie that I would have maybe seen for free before reading it, maybe. With some brief appraisals of the movie beforehand, Sweeney has done the expected job of recommendation well. But, continuing, he elevates his description to match his pronounced goal:
The key to his performance, though, is the whiplash-inducing quality of his movements. He continually starts in a relaxed position, echoing the molasses-slow speed of his voice, until he lands on a point of emphasis, when he curls up his lip or wields his hands like a pen knife, slashing the air like he's slicing open a patient. These pinprick movements pay off in an astonishing fashion in the final sequence,
It's a methodical breakdown in language with just the right amount of precision. When Sweeney says "the key to his performance, THOUGH," (emphasis via me) he is passively pointing out that THOUGH he just delivered a totally satisfying explanation of Hall's acting he is going to go further. He'll present a sample of what he saw with his professional's eye in the most direct way possible with no critical jargon--just great writing.

Now I would actually pay to see "Gamer." But that's only a side effect of Sweeney's purpose, which is way cooler. More importantly, he rewarded an individual performance with a righteous description of why it is so good. That he helps his reader understand what that quality actually consisted of has the potential to actually further the cause of rewarding good acting by educating people on what that might look like.

And then he does it again with another actor, four more times. This is smart writing with a purpose, and both those combine for a 10 in DIDACTICISM, something unachievable if Sweeney didn't level with the audience he was writing to (i.e. empathize from that authorial place).

As a counterexample, check out this article, which effectively disregards AUTHOR EMPATHY in favor of DIDACTICISM. Even though I initially came to White's review in search of a things to tell my friends regarding why I so disliked "District 9," I know that if I brought up his points in conversation, especially if I used his tone, I would end up punched in the face. (NB: I read this awesome NY Magazine article about White and want to reiterate that it is the hypothetical ME who would be slugged for using his "District 9" argument, NOT HIM.)

All I'm saying is that if I was a betting man and if DIDACTICISM and AUTHOR EMPATHY could be converted into physical weapons and if fights involving such weapons could be arranged and if R. Emmet Sweeney and Armand White could be persuaded into such a bout...well then, I'd put my money on R. Emmet knowing that the odds would bring it back to me tenfold. Hype is a known killer--but White has a true reputation, not hype. Unfortunately, dissing your audience's intelligence can be just as lethal.