Welcome to Six Ways to Sunday, your weekly digest of the things in pop culture and news that matter, from this weekend and for beyond.
1. PIGSKIN PICK-ME-UP
It’s a date that’s been circled on the calendar for months for many football fans: good morning to everyone on this Super Bowl Sunday. Football is, of course, a sport that is plump with narratives, and that’s true of this year’s championship game, too. In one corner, you’ve got the Denver Broncos, whose league-best offense operates with clinical precision thanks to the surgeon leading it, Peyton Manning, one of history’s greatest quarterbacks; on the other, you have the Seattle Seahawks, whose league-best defense smashes and gnashes and talks with the trashes, a team so fiercely good at stopping opposing offenses that when you play against them in a given series you’re as likely to throw an interception as you are a touchdown. It expects to be a classic showdown of guile against strength, to see whether defense truly wins championships or whether a high-octane offense can stop that cliche in its tracks.
Of course, field-level narrative is never enough to feed a starving audience for the two week gap between the conference finals and the Super Bowl, though this year has been particularly good for unusual stories. We were somehow distracted for a while by the outburst by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who curiously shocked us all when an ESPN reporter spoke to him after he made an incredible athletic play in the conference finals’ last seconds to save his team and send his own squad to the sport’s top game and he was–gasp–excited and confident. After that passed, there was the talk of Denver’s recent legalization of marijuana, and whether or not it would allow for the packing of a different kind of super bowl and how that would affect the game (and the players, apparently). And then, the comedic, including Gawker’s in-depth look as to who would win in a football game between actual broncos and actual seahawks.
But perhaps the best thing from this week’s Super Bowl coverage was the reminder that ten years ago, there was a landmark absence of coverage, specifically on the right breast of Janet Jackson for 9/16 of a second during the halftime show. Yes, this is the tenth anniversary of the “wardrobe malfunction” that was Nipplegate, and ESPN wrote an excellent recounting of it and its cultural meaning, tracing it as one of the last stands of a puritanical sentiment that has long since faded. “The halftime show represents ‘the last great moment’ of a TV broadcast becoming a national controversy,” writes Marin Cogan, “the last primal scream of a public marching inexorably toward a new digital existence.” Happy Super Bowl, everyone. Look how we’ve changed.
2. DECONSTRUCTING WOODY
The news itself isn’t new: back in 1992, director and writer Woody Allen was accused of sexually molesting one of then-girlfriend Mia Farrow’s kids, not long before he began a relationship with one of Mia’s adopted daughters, Soon Yi Previn. A controversial investigation cleared him. But when he won a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, his son Ronan offered this scathing tweet that brought it all back:
Missed the Woody Allen tribute – did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?
— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) January 13, 2014
Since then, Robert Weide, the filmmaker who produced a 2012 documentary about Allen’s life, wrote an unsolicited defense in the Daily Beast of Allen, who has not responded to any of the serious allegations. Weide’s post then sparked a profoundly emotional open letter from Dylan Farrow, the daughter who was allegedly molested, who spoke out about her charge for the first time and wrote the following as part of a blog post by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof: “Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.”
This is certainly no place for opinion in wading into this impossibly difficult matter, but at the very least, is an important moment to consider the intersection of the auteur and the art. Can we watch Manhattan or Annie Hall without considering the possible sins of the father? Does Alfred Hitchcock’s alleged terrorizing and stalking of star Tippi Hedren diminish his films?
3. GOODBYE, SETH MEYERS
You know, it’s hard to say we hardly knew Seth Meyers, who left Saturday Night Live to typically tearful farewells this weekend, but it feels true somehow. Watchers know that he’s been on the show for more than a decade, mostly as a head writer, but he also helmed it for a period of relative comedic infertility, as SNL has undeniably lost a ton of cultural capital over the course of the last few years. Now, thanks to the Lorne Michaels machine, he’s replacing one former SNL boytoy with another, as Meyers takes over for Jimmy Fallon who’s taking Leno’s job on the Tonight Show, which we’re sure will go great and without any problems or controversy whatsoever. I know at least one tall redhead working at TBS who agrees.
4. FELIX BAUMGARTNER’S DIVE
If you’re scared of heights, best not to watch this one: there’s new GoPro footage out of Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting descent from space in October 2012, and man, is it ever terrifying. Not much more needs to be added: the footage speaks for itself. We are puny specks in the grand scheme of things. Now I am weeping with existential angst.
5. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, FINALLY
It only took nine seasons, improbably, but the “legendary” CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother is finally coming to an end. That’s all well and good and, frankly, overdue–by the seventh season, the writing often snidely noted how long this story was taking, an open mockery of its fans who committed to it in good faith when the sharp dialogue sparkled and the series promised a reasonable conclusion. But the worst part of the decision to end it is that CBS just won’t let go: they’ve announced a spin-off that no one wanted, How I Met Your Dad, which honestly sounds like a desperate, facile pitch for the end of a meeting that execs weirdly took hold of. It will feature completely new characters doing the exact same thing as HIMYM, retelling the narrative of how a woman meets her future husband. Fortunately, TV history isn’t littered with terrible spin-offs, right? Sigh. The golden age of television, it maybe isn’t.
6. JORUN BOMBAY, QUESTLOVE, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF SCENE-BUILDERS
Music is peppered with important players who, for one reason or another, don’t quite make it in the mainstream. Fundamentally, that was the message of new Coen brothers’ flick Inside Llewyn Davis: talent often is irrelevant to fame. Which is why it’s really great whenever local legends get their shine, especially here, where our unusual inferiority complex finds us measuring our homegrown artists’ success by the standard of “do Americans know them?”
Still, this is very cool: Jorun Bombay is a venerable DJ and beatmaker in Halifax, and many would say that he was foundational in creating the surprisingly lively Halifax hip-hop scene there, one that has produced names like Buck 65, Classified, and Hip Club Groove, which history often forgets were Canada’s first hip-hop artists. He was one of the first to own a beat machine in the city, back in the early 90s; his house, for a number of years, was the happening hub of the community. But he’s toiled in anonymity for much of his long career, despite his importance on the ground level. Which is what made it all the cooler than Questlove, the afro’d drummer of iconic rap group The Roots and taste-making arbiter of musical prowess, shouted him out on Twitter as a living legend.
I nominate Jorun Bombay as the official hip hop instrumental president. All in favor….#Cotdamn!
— Questlove Jenkins (@questlove) January 10, 2014
— Questlove Jenkins (@questlove) January 31, 2014
— Questlove Jenkins (@questlove) January 31, 2014
He’s an unassuming and unlikely hero for an unassuming and unlikely scene. The largest Canadian city east of Montreal, Halifax is a magnet for adjectives like quaint, or polite, or the dangerously genial nice, strangers smiling as you pass, its houses dressed in painted pastels. People think of Halifax music, and they think of the fiddle and the bagpipes, never the microphone and the turntables. To find out about that, it just takes a little bit of work, a little bit of digging. Support from major artists like Questlove? That can only help.