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Daily Reads: The ‘Selma’-Ferguson Connection, This Year’s Hidden TV Gems and More

Daily Reads: The 'Selma'-Ferguson Connection, This Year's Hidden TV Gems and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential
news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. The “Selma”-Ferguson Connection. The Michael Brown ruling has many lamenting how little black lives matter to Americans, especially when law enforcement is involved. Mike Ryan of ScreenCrush, a Missouri native, writes that he didn’t make the connections to Ferguson while watching “Selma,” but that last night’s ruling makes them all too clear.

During an early scene in “Selma,” Oprah Winfrey appears as Annie Lee Cooper, a woman who is trying to register to vote—her legal right to do—in Selma, Alabama. The system is rigged. She’s first asked to recite the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which she does. She’s then asked how many county judges are in the state of Alabama, which she answers. She’s then asked to name every single one of them…While watching, a viewer—let’s be honest here: a white viewer, me—might at least try to take solace in the fact that these events took place 50 years ago. That this really couldn’t happen today. Naïve. Read more.

2. All Horror Should Be Directed By Women. This week sees the release of Jennifer Kent “The Babadook,” the horror movie that critics have been talking about since Sundance, and one of the most remarkable things about it is that it avoids most of the musty tropes plaguing male-directed horror. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker writes (somewhat hyperbolically) that it’s proof that all horror should be directed by women.

It would curb so many antiquated tropes: the use of young women, say, underdressed or not dressed at all, who are barely fleshed out as characters before that flesh is coveted, wounded, or worse. Beyond that, the law would restore horror to its rightful place as a chamber of secrets, ripe for emotional inquisition…This is about a woman in peril, yet it has no truck with the notion that she is a mere victim. At times, indeed, the peril seems to be, if not her fault, at least of her own making. Is she the sum of all fears, or the root of them? Read more.

3. Is Any of Bill Cosby’s Legacy Worth Salvaging? 
People are still unsure of whether or not Bill Cosby’s art can survive the sexual assault allegations currently plaguing him. The bigger question: should it? Inkoo Kang of The Village Voice tried to figure that out.

“The Cosby Show” likely won’t survive — not just because the sitcom’s wholesomeness emphasizes the duplicity of Cosby’s 2014 persona, but because it’s no longer necessary. Even before it went off the air in 1992, it ushered in a burst of black sitcoms during the Clinton years — “Family Matters,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Martin,” “Moesha,” and, of course, “Cosby” spin-off “A Different World” — that exponentially increased the variety of black representation on the small screen. The Huxtables are no longer the only black family on the primetime block. Read more.

4. “The Hunger Games” Is About Racism. “The Hunger Games” series challenges young readers and viewers to think about totalitarian states and class warfare, but there may be another bit of social relevance at the film’s heart. Christianity Today’s Alissa Wilkinson writes about why the series is about racism, or “more accurately, the things that animate racism now.”

Often at the core of racism is a sort of banality of evil: a system that has so shaped the imaginations of the people who were born into it that it’s difficult to notice it’s even happening. And even when we do see it, it’s hard to break free. Because seeing the truth can hurt. I think that is the sort of racism that “The Hunger Games” sets up. The Districts represent an explicit, institutionalized stratification—based in this case on geography, work assignment, and also somewhat on color: as one student pointed out today, it’s either significant or troubling that Rue’s home District 11, who are farmers, is depicted as nearly all black. These Districts are kept subjugated by a by-then ancient media spectacle—the Games—in which the victors are nearly always those with the money and time and resources to train their children to win. Read more.

5. The 30 Best “30 for 30s.” ESPN’s “30 for 30” has given filmmakers from Albert Maysles to Ava DuVernay great showcases for unconventional, offbeat stories in the sports world. The show’s fifth anniversary sees the DVD and Blu-Ray release of 50 episodes, and to mark the occasion, Noel Murray selected the 30 best episodes of the series for Rolling Stone.

“Venus Vs.” (Dir: Ava DuVernay). 
 The “IX” in the “Nine for IX series” refers to Title IX, the federal law that requires public institutions to provide equal opportunities for men and women to participate in extracurricular activities like athletics. The first “Nine for IX” episode details how Venus Williams carried on the fight of tennis legends like Billie Jean King before her to get equal prize money for both genders, swatting away the same maddening, nonsensical arguments against equality that forced Title IX into existence. Read more.

6. This Year’s Hidden TV Gems. This year has brought some of the most obsessed-over new shows in ages, from “True Detective” to “Fargo.” But there are plenty of hidden gems on television, and Grantland’s Andy Greenwald tries to bring them to your attention.

There’s nothing in the DNA of “Jane the Virgin that you haven’t seen before. What’s unique is that you’ve never seen it all at once. “Jane” is, simultaneously, a soap-streaked telenovela, a sly and tender family drama, a noisy comedy, a passable cop thriller, a metafictional head trip, and a genuinely affecting romance. It’s at once ludicrous and utterly sincere; it’s often hard to tell if the show is winking or blinking back real tears. Read more.

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