This is a bit of a heavy week for What I’ve been Reading. But sometimes, getting serious is necessary. Let’s talk about cultural criticism and drug-resistant germs, shall we? (An odd pairing, I know.)

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about the culture wars lately – the neverending feud that seems to have engulfed the entire Internet, which, to present a somewhat skewed perspective, involves hordes of angry people expressing misogynist and racist thoughts about any mainstream artistic endeavour that makes a stab at inclusiveness. As someone whose politics are best described as “bleeding-heart ultra-liberal techno-socialist,” it would seem natural to place myself on the opposite end of that conflict, facing off against the angry hordes. But I find the conflict increasingly tiresome, pointless, and frankly, prone to making smart people say very stupid things. Take Captain Marvel, for example, a mostly subpar film with a mediocre lead performance and non-existent character arcs that I nonetheless feel compelled to defend just because nasty people hate it for shitty, misogynist reasons. Writing for The Outline, Jeremy Gordon expresses similar sentiments: the Internet amplifies the most polarized opinions on films, TV, games, etc., and their resulting salience gives them undue importance in the cultural conversation. Thus, the discourse about a film like Captain Marvel is less about what the film is than what it represents. Like Gordon’s piece, I don’t have solutions, but I hope that at least this starts a dialogue about the knock-on effects of the culture wars.
  • On a tangential note, Gretchen Falker-Martin has written a piece for her Patreon about the negative effects of heavily policing art. One of the consequences of the culture wars has been that big-budget productions have turned into cultural battlegrounds; consuming MCU films is “woke,” while consuming the Snyder DC films is “unwoke,” for instance. This implicitly equates mass-market consumption with activism, and it attributes undue positive/negative intent to major corporations. Meanwhile, smaller creators and independent media are policed for the slightest transgressions. Even if similar policing occurs for major titles, they’re guaranteed to rake in enough cash to weather the consequences. Smaller projects don’t have that financial cushion. I don’t 100% endorse everything in this piece – I think it places too much blame on consumers rather than social marketing/engineering that amplifies their reactions, and I don’t think consuming sanitized media is childish – but I still recommend reading it, because it’s insightful.
  • Finally, Matt Richtel and Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times write about antifungal-resistant Candida auris, a blood pathogen that has caused serious infections in hospitals all around the world. Part of the reason such superbugs emerge is because of the overuse of antifungal agents in agriculture. Until these practices are curbed, superbugs will keep appearing, and one of them might become the next serious epidemic.

That’s all for now, folks. Tune in in a few weeks for more linky goodness!