Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas faced calls to resign after he dropped terrorism charges against 12 people who were alleged to have links to Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.Islamist opposition party PAS, which controls two Malaysian states, threatened a “massive public rally” if the government did not heed its demands to fire Thomas, reinstate the charges and curb the powers of the attorney general.Thai junta ‘helped Malaysia cover up 1MDB scandal’: oppositionThomas on…
Nine people, including a head constable, were killed and several others injured as violence spiralled over the amended citizenship law in northeast Delhi. Section 144 has been imposed in northeast Delhi for one month. Stay with TOI for all the live updates.
A woman wearing vinyl gloves on a subway train. Guests donning masks at a sparsely attended wedding ceremony. People feverishly stocking up on instant noodles and rice. Friends calling each … Click to Continue »
It is the worst desert locust outbreak in decades for many countries in East Africa. City-sized locust swarms are attacking crops and threatening the food supply for millions of people. Dominique Burgeon, Director of the Emergencies and Rehabilitation Division at FAO, joins us from the organization’s headquarters in Rome. He points out that the governments of the region are unprepared to fight this scourge, and warns about the need to act now to avoid a full-blown catastrophy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said there are multiple signs that the suspected gunman who killed nine people at two hookah bars in Hanau acted out of right-wing extremist motives and racism. Read Full Article at RT.com
Beijing’s top envoy in Hong Kong has written to pro-Beijing politicians in the city appealing to them for unity with mainland China in battling the coronavirus, and criticising those he said were using the crisis for political self-interest.Luo Huining, the new director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, on Thursday sent a letter by email to local members of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, and top legislative advisory body the Chinese People’s Political…
Once upon a time, writing and sharing fan fiction on the internet carried a distinct stigma. Extending other people’s universes or characters was widely seen as an outlet for the uncreative, the unsocial, and the sexually frustrated.
Those days are coming to an end.
Last year, the fan-created and curated website Archive of Our Own celebrated 10 years of collecting and organizing more than 5 million stories and other works of art in every conceivable fandom. In November, AO3—as the site is known—earned a Hugo Award for its contributions to science fiction and fantasy. A number of recent academic books have made strong cases for fan fiction’s ability to teach writing through online communities built on the shared love of a particular work. Well-known authors such as Meg Cabot and Naomi Novik now proudly admit to getting their starts in the field.
Though fan fiction has a freshly burnished reputation and new avenues of distribution, the practice has been around for centuries. Some of the greatest literary classics are technically expansions of earlier characters and narratives. As entertaining as it may be to think about Dante’s Inferno as Biblical fanfic (#christianscriptures author-insert, rated M for Mature audiences), recognizably contemporary fan-fiction writing really got its start, at least in the Anglophone world, in the 18th century. Outside of academic circles, this historical background isn’t discussed much. But almost as soon as people started writing modern novels, readers began to find ways to continue the adventures of their favorite characters and share those stories with other enthusiasts.
Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, published in 1726, marked the beginning of this movement. Not long after its publication, readers started to imagine its hero, Lemuel Gulliver, in circumstances that either were only briefly alluded to in the text or they themselves invented; the more shocking the revisions, the better. Many stories took the form of what was essentially “fan art.” For example, the famous engraver William Hogarth provoked and amused with a graphic representation of Gulliver getting a Lilliputian enema. Though outrageous, Hogarth’s rendering was consistent with Gulliver’s character, a play on the original hero’s delight with the size of his own excrement in contrast to the miniature world of the Lilliputian people. From the start, artists were using the form to explore social taboos and sexuality.
Hundreds more fan-authored works followed, including a touching if bawdy series of poems by Alexander Pope in which the shipwrecked adventurer’s wife—barely mentioned in the original—complains that her husband is never at home to do his duties by her. When Gulliver returns from his final adventure, he has become so disgusted with the human race that he hides from his family. The fan-written Mary Gulliver was, understandably, put out by her husband’s newfound abstinence.
In the 18th century, as now, fan fiction was usually more explicitly sexual than its source material. There was plenty to set the imagination on fire in Samuel Richardson’s 1740 classic novel, Pamela, about a lady’s maid on an isolated country estate who resists the overtures of her boss. But readers also liked to envision scenarios where she gave in wholeheartedly. One reader who was particularly obsessed with reconceiving Pamela Andrews as unchaste was Henry Fielding, Richardson’s fellow novelist. Critical of Richardson’s puritanical overtones, Fielding resolved to imagine his own Pamela, who was only pretending to be a shrinking violet to increase the desire of her lord. In Shamela, Fielding constructed an alternative set of letters where, in true sexy-supervillain fashion, Pamela and her mother lay out their plans to entrap the squire of the manor. Apparently unsated, Fielding went on to write Joseph Andrews, a full-length gender reversal in which Pamela’s naive brother resists the seduction attempts of an older, landowning lady, the original squire’s sister.
As the literary scholar David Brewer points out, an essential part of most expanded 18th-century universes was the unwieldy, enthusiastic, and self-selecting community of readers that they created throughout Europe—essentially, the AO3s of their times. Although instantly sharing and commenting on fan work weren’t quite as easy then as they are now, the 1900s did see a rise in literacy among the middle class, thanks in part to the Industrial Revolution making printing cheaper and postal-delivery systems more reliable. Most of the earliest novels were epistolary, which gave readers a more direct sense of communicating with their favorite characters. Some of these stories even went mainstream. Fielding was the E. L. James of his day, his breakout success supported by thousands of readers, most of them young women—not to mention quite a few men who weren’t willing to publicly cop to reading books about maidservants.
In time, the original creators started trying to elbow in on these communities to exploit their commercial potential. Richardson, for instance, engaged in exhaustive correspondence with readers and even sometimes incorporated their commentary into future volumes. Arguably, this was an attempt to rein in audiences and their interpretive flights of fancy. Long before J. K. Rowling sued over the fan-fiction work James Potter and the Hall of Elders’ Crossing, authors tried to use public shaming and the law to prevent others from profiting off what they regarded as their sole intellectual property—with very little success. (The first recognizably modern copyright law—the Statute of Anne in 1710—gave authors instead of publishers the right to their own work for a period of 14 years. But it failed to address whether that protection extended to more nebulous concepts, such as characters and fictional universes.)
Like Rowling, most 18th-century authors made their peace with fan fiction, as long as the creators shared it freely and didn’t attempt to make money from it. In the late 1700s, the new discipline of economics provided a readily available argument for anyone who wasn’t already on board: Fictional universes, fanfic writers argued, aren’t a zero-sum game, but a self-multiplying abundance. No publicity is bad publicity, and fan works only increase interest in the original books and characters.
Something about 18th-century novel characters seemed to particularly invite these abundant reinterpretations. Until recently, academics thought that what the 18th-century novel invented was “realism”: writing about the lives of common people in great detail, instead of about the heroic exploits of the nobility or royalty. But more scholars are concluding that the Anglophone novel’s real innovation is something more complicated: characters who the reader knows aren’t real, but who seem like they could be. Their plausibility makes it easy to try them on for size. For example, when readers imagine Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy as romantic partners (by far one of the most common fanfic scenarios), they’re vicariously experiencing new forms of being or feeling.
In the 18th century, the need for flexible but realistic characters arose from the changes to marriage that the Industrial Revolution brought about. Upper- and middle-class marriages had been primarily about consolidating land and influence, but new professional jobs and routes to prosperity for men liberalized marriage and gave young people a larger degree of control over their choices. But with these choices came risk: Cads, rubes, and bad matches in general were the subject of many an early novel, including Richardson’s Clarissa. Richardson’s preface to the 1748 book lays out his point very clearly, which was to counter the (in his view) mistaken but widely held belief that a reformed rake made the best kind of husband to a proper young lady. Whom to marry was a complicated social, economic, and even moral choice, and one with lifelong consequences. Writers were happy to depict every aspect of that decision at great length, and readers were eager to argue with them that they’d made the wrong call (as many of Richardson’s readers did when they wrote alternate endings in which Clarissa and her partner made it work).
Modern fan fiction’s version of this exploration comes at a time when liberalization around sexual preferences, practices, and identities likewise makes it useful for auditioning socially costly decisions and roles in less risky environments than real life. Slash, the form of fan fiction in which writers take characters who weren’t sexually involved in the original work—often but not always of the same sex—is one of the most popular manifestations of the form. Writers can be Draco or Harry for an afternoon, or a player in a Fifty Shades–style sadomasochistic sex game, but retain the right to say, “Oh, it was only fiction.” Fan fiction’s reputation as an “unserious” form has in this very way made possible the deep dives and often moving explorations of human sexuality and romantic love that permeate the genre, even as fan fiction itself becomes less artistically stigmatized.
Fan fiction’s role in litigating the boundaries of relationships is one of its most enduring purposes. Only recently did some fans complain about and rewrite the ending of The Rise of Skywalker, the franchise’s latest mega-blockbuster. The conclusion satisfied neither those who wanted Rey and Kylo Ren to get together, nor those who deplored any possibility of the two hooking up. Where these twain meet, though, is in their sense of an imperative to rewrite better conclusions for their favorite characters. Fan fiction’s role as a collective project in popular ethics was ultimately what the 2019 Hugo Award acknowledged: AO3 may have officially earned the honor, but so did every writer who had ever been bold, brave, or foolhardy enough to share their work with the internet.
There are 14,000 people living in the remote Bailique archipelago in the Amazon delta, but the region is so remote that the state's presence is minimal. So every two months, a team of judicial officials comes to them and holds legal hearings -- on a boat.
Dating, freedom to divorce, women in the labor market and behind the wheel, foreign tourists, coed leisure – Saudi Arabia is becoming a society that wants to resemble the West. How do people live with all this sudden freedom, yet no hope of democracy?
The mystery of their disappearance deepened amid their mother’s abrupt move from Idaho to Hawaii with a brand-new husband, the suspicious deaths of multiple people connected to the couple and rumors of their involvement in a doomsday cult.
It’s easy to see, from the opening minutes of the new four-part Netflix show The Pharmacist, why its directors took one meeting with Dan Schneider and decided to structure a true-crime series around him. Schneider is an affable eccentric in a button-down shirt, an avenger who likens himself to Clark Griswold. He’s the stuff documentary dreams are made of. (“Don’t be an actor; you’re a real guy,” an offscreen voice tells him in the first scene, breaking the fourth wall immediately to emphasize Schneider’s stranger-than-fiction credentials.) His story is framed as a classic David-versus-Goliath showdown between a humble Everydad and a giant pharmaceutical corporation trafficking pills and greed across his home state. The setup demands a victory, and The Pharmacist delivers: A drug dealer is arrested, a pill mill is shut down. But how much of a victory is it, really?
Watching The Pharmacist, I kept getting caught between the series’ fealty to the conventions of a Netflix true-crime binge—the raspy, ominous score; the suspenseful cliff-hangers; the neat resolution—and the messiness of the story it was telling, one in which grief drove a man to dangerous, provocative, and sometimes harassing behavior, and for all his efforts, the “justice” he found meant a poor black teenager went to jail while Purdue Pharma made $35 billion in sales. This isn’t a narrative you can do justice to within a genre better suited to serial-killer profiles and inveterate scammers. It’s too complicated, too frustrating, too open-ended. “Did I do the right thing?” Schneider asks in the final episode, a question the series doesn’t seem to remotely want to answer.
Complicating things is the fact that The Pharmacist is really two stories in one. The first is one of devastating familial tragedy: In 1999, Schneider’s son Danny was killed while reportedly trying to buy crack cocaine in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward. Finding the police uninterested, Schneider decided to hunt down his son’s killer himself, stalking the neighborhood, bombarding strangers with phone calls, and finally badgering a woman to testify even though doing so forced her into witness protection. Along the way, he recorded everything. Truly, everything. The series is stuffed with archival elements: camcorder footage of Danny as a child, phone calls Schneider made to the New Orleans Police Department, even a tape of Schneider and his wife sobbing together after Danny’s death. (Listening to the latter feels uncomfortably like eavesdropping on the most excruciating moments of someone’s life.)
If Danny’s death were the sole focus of The Pharmacist, there might be more time to unpack some of the story’s snarls and the subtext of what happened to him: the roots of his addiction, the context of the crack epidemic amid urban white flight, even the motives of his killer. (Remarkably, even though the directors interview the dealer who shot Danny, they don’t seem compelled to ask why he did it, leaving the Schneider family’s search for closure unresolved.) But the loss of a child apparently isn’t uncommon enough to sustain a four-part series, and so The Pharmacist quickly turns to what happened next. Schneider, after taking time to grieve, returned to working part-time at a pharmacy in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. There, he began to notice clusters of young, seemingly healthy people filling prescriptions for high doses of OxyContin. This was in 2000, only a few years after Purdue Pharma had launched the drug amid fanfare as a seemingly revolutionary treatment for chronic pain. The Pharmacist’s directors, Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason (Fyre Fraud), include snippets of marketing material from the time, in which serene, glowing middle-aged Americans evangelize all the ways in which opioids have changed their life.
The series is at its most useful and revelatory in moments like these. The story of how the opioid epidemic began isn’t new, but The Pharmacist strikingly lays it out through the lens of one community, and how a crisis was enabled by different layers of human greed. The most resonant element the directors draw out is how the business of selling drugs is identical regardless of who’s doing it, even if the legal protection they enjoy is different. At the top of the pyramid are Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies. Purdue, in particular, is indicted in truly damning fashion by one of its former sales representatives, Chris Davis, who reveals that for all its talk of “appropriate usage,” the company knew that the kind of explosive sales growth it craved could only come from overconsumption. Lower down are sales representatives like Davis, chasing six-figure bonuses by courting “the right doctors.” Below him are those unscrupulous physicians, who dole out scrips for cash and reap the financial rewards. Then come the pharmacists, some swayed enough by the prospect of a $100 profit on a bottle of Oxy not to try to intervene. At the bottom are the unauthorized dealers, the only ones who ever seem to face consequences.
Up against this juggernaut of commerce and human frailty, Schneider may as well have been a lone fisherman trying to reel in a whale. Still, he was obsessive and tenacious enough to try. Seeing his son in the teenagers and 20-somethings picking up prescriptions, Schneider began interviewing them with a recorder in his pocket, asking them who their doctor was and sweetly trying to convince them that all they really needed was ibuprofen. He soon established that virtually every OxyContin scrip was coming from the same woman, a former pediatrician who’d set up a late-night practice in a part of town more commonly frequented for sex shops and motels that rent by the hour. So he began to build a case against her with the same intensity with which he’d chased his son’s killer, filming lines of people outside the clinic after midnight, pestering the FBI and DEA with calls, and gathering as much evidence as he could at work, to his boss’s displeasure.
Blessed are the whistle-blowers, The Pharmacist suggests. The reason the opioid crisis took so long to become a national news story, it argues, is that the people witnessing it on the front lines were steps removed from power and unable to make themselves heard. Schneider insisted on telling everyone what he saw, alienating law enforcement, federal agents, members of his community, and the man who signed his paychecks in the process. He was a good man trying to do the right thing. But the triumphant framework of the show clashes awkwardly with any analysis of how loaded the game was from the beginning. Every pill mill that was shut down simply pushed addicts to illegal street drugs, on which they were far more likely to overdose. While some doctors went to prison for abusing their ability to prescribe painkillers, no Purdue executives did. The Sackler family are richer to the tune of $13 billion thanks to OxyContin; that money helps them aggressively fight the lawsuits piling up.
This isn’t to say that Schneider’s story isn’t compelling (although it was more efficiently laid out in a Times-Picayune story from 2017), or that The Pharmacist doesn’t have moments of insight. But the popularity of easily digestible true-crime narratives has led to a glut of stories such as this one, ambitious and rote and unable to indulge in the skepticism or the soul-searching that subjects as consuming as the opioid epidemic merit. The genre’s substantial weaknesses—its preference for white victims, its reliance on murder for dramatic high stakes, its lack of care and attention for the people whose deaths it sensationalizes—are all on display in The Pharmacist, particularly in the story of Danny’s death. The narrative is sloppy when it needs to be meticulous, leaving loose ends fraying. And for all that Schneider talks about a “tunnel of hope” in the series, the ending reveals how little there is to be had. Since he started speaking out against OxyContin in 2001, a title card states, more than 400,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses, a number so staggering it dwarfs anything that a single pharmacist could possibly hope to achieve.
An Istanbul court has ordered the arrest of the captain pilot of a Pegasus Airlines plane that skidded off a runway at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen International Airport earlier this month, killing three people and injuring 179 aboard.
A tentative agreement sets an initial trust-building goal of a seven-day “reduction in violence” between the Taliban and the U.S. Then difficult talks begin, supported by the Afghan people’s embrace of their democratic progress.
Fu Ying’s fame as one of China’s most successful female diplomats may have faded since she left foreign service a decade ago, but on Friday the 67-year-old found herself in the public spotlight yet again.Rising from the audience of the Munich Security Conference, the chairwoman of the foreign affairs committee of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, posed a question directly to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives and one of the most vocal critics of…
Troy Sand's suicide devastated his large, close-knit family and shattered this tiny community of fewer than 1,200 people in northwestern Iowa. His death also represented a growing manifestation of despair in rural America – the number of farmers taking their own lives.
The three judges survey a competitor as they scribble notes about his performance. The young man before them is sweating, having completed a series of grueling exercises; the anticipation reddens his face as palpably as the tequila shot an onlooker hands him does. And then, the ordeal is over. The smirking judges render their verdict in dramatic, unambiguous Spanish: “Fallaste. No eres Mexicano.” (“You failed. You’re not Mexican.”)
So ends a particularly amusing and revelatory satirical sequence in the new Netflix series Gentefied, which premieres tomorrow. One of the show’s main characters, Chris (played by Carlos Santos), has grown weary of his fellow line cooks cracking jokes about his ethnic bona fides, so he offers a solution: They can quite literally put his Mexican-ness to the test. As Banda music plays, the Los Angeles native Chris is given an array of tasks. Among other things, he must name five Mexican states, showcase his zapateado in the back alley, and list three soap operas starring the queen of telenovelas, Thalía.
Chris navigates his hurdles with varying efficacy, underscoring the ultimate message of these loopy, physical-comedy-heavy scenes: For many immigrants in America, and especially for their first-generation children, cultural “authenticity” is an impossible target. The line cooks’ points-driven gauntlet is the most literal way in which Gentefied illustrates this point. Though at times didactic or a little simplistic, the show is rooted in the family at its center and the people they care about; it is most enlightening when it tries to untangle the contradictions that Chris and his two cousins face as their predominantly Latinx neighborhood changes around them—and sometimes because of them.
First conceptualized as a web series, Gentefied takes its name and core theme from a term that was birthed in the same neighborhood where the show is set. In 2007, a year after opening Eastside Luv Wine Bar in East Los Angeles’s Boyle Heights neighborhood, the Mexican American proprietor Guillermo Uribe coined the term gentefication, a portmanteau of gente, the Spanish word meaning “people,” and, of course, gentrification. Speaking with Los Angeles Magazine seven years later, Uribe, whose bar still sits adjacent to Mariachi Plaza, said the concept emerged when he “started to see the potential of improving the community from the inside out. If gentrification is happening, it might as well be from people who care about the existing culture.”
Boyle Heights has indeed been experiencing rapid gentrification, which some attribute to the influx of upwardly mobile Latinx artists and professionals, including some who grew up there. On Gentefied, Chris is the most obvious avatar of this demographic. Having graduated from college in Idaho, he’s returned to the neighborhood with grandiose culinary ambitions for himself. That dream, and his work as a line cook at a high-end restaurant, shapes Chris’s belief that catering to a wider range of tastes could weaken the threat that gentrification poses to his grandfather’s taco shop, Mama Fina’s.
Like Chris, his cousins Ana (Karrie Martin) and Erik (Joseph Julian Soria) don’t want to let a development-hungry landlord evict their Pop (Joaquín Cosio). But while Chris believes that the solution to Pop’s troubles is a trendier menu that will attract new customers, Ana and Erik fear that kind of shift would rob the shop of its soul. More important, they worry that a revamped Mama Fina’s would endear Boyle Heights to outsiders whose arrival would further displace longtime residents. Gentefied homes in on this conflict among the cousins, as well as the rifts that emerge between them and other members of the community. Though the inevitable changes to Mama Fina’s don’t arrive until Episode 7, deflating some of the show’s narrative tension, the cousins’ different outlooks capture the conundrum of gentefication. (In portraying how that process affects Boyle Heights, the Netflix show joins the riveting Starz drama Vida.)
To be sure, many of Gentefied’s obvious culprits of gentrification are white, and the show sometimes slips into caricature to make a point about outsiders’ arrogance. (In one scene, for example, a white male landlord yells at a Mexican store owner because she dislikes the mural he commissioned: “This is my building, and I’m making it better for you!”) But the production devotes more attention and care to the moments when Latinx characters challenge one another about the stakes of their neighborhood’s changes and their own roles in them. In one such scene, Ana’s girlfriend, Yessika (Julissa Calderon), confronts Chris with a bright-yellow flyer advertising a food tour clumsily titled “Bite Into Boyle Heights.” The event, organized by LA Weekly (perhaps a nod to the once-venerable publication’s recent gutting), targets customers outside the Eastside enclave. Yessika excoriates Chris for having added Mama Fina’s to the list of local restaurants for (primarily white) participants to discover. “Welcoming outsiders en masse with open arms like this is pushing people out of their homes and into the tents around every corner,” she says, later asking if he thinks that his “only option is selling out [his] community.”
These aren’t subtle lines, but Gentefied seeks to convey the sense of betrayal that can accompany decisions like Chris’s; for Yessika, it’s a personal affront. Perhaps fittingly, Chris also serves as a symbol for the Gentefied creators themselves, the Mexican and Guatemalan American director Marvin Lemus and his Mexican American co-writer, Linda Yvette Chávez. As the America Ferrera–produced show nears its premiere date, some local residents belonging to the activist group Defend Boyle Heights have voiced their displeasure with the attention the show has attracted to their neighborhood. “Gentefied is clearly trying to latch onto the popularity the anti-gentrification struggle has countrywide,” one recent post on the group’s Facebook page reads. “Gentefied is not showing solidarity with the repression activists face, but romanticizing these protests and stripping them of what actually gives them power.”
Even (and perhaps especially) as young Latinx artists, Lemus and Chávez have attempted to wrestle with their own roles in Boyle Heights’ ongoing shifts, both as individuals and as Gentefied’s keepers. “We went into it with letting people know like, ‘Hey, first of all we’re not here to speak for you all,’” Chávez recently told the Los Angeles Times, in a piece that also notes the show’s writers and producers established a rapport with community groups through a nonprofit organization Ferrera co-founded. “The intention has always been telling a story that illuminates something most of us ignore.”
The slipperiness of that “us” is what animates Gentefied, which is at its best when pairing these weighty considerations with community-specific humor instead of leaning too heavily into its stated mission to teach audiences about a complicated social phenomenon. While direct references to the current political climate and scenes of protest against “colonizers” can feel clichéd, quieter reflections resonate because of their emphasis on the connections between characters. As in the case of the obviously absurd Mexican test, Gentefied can hold both warmth and critique in the same scenes.