Three Articles About Pop Culture Phenomena

Slate: A Definitive Ranking of the Avengers’ New Hairstyles in Endgame

Avengers: Endgame offers many surprises, but foremost among them is the haircuts. While a couple of these new hairstyles have been spotted in the movie’s trailers by eagle-eyed viewers, Marvel kept most of them under lock and key, rightfully regarding them as one of the film’s biggest twists. What do our heroes’ updated manes reveal—and more importantly, how do they look? Below, we count down the Avengers’ new 2024 ’dos, from worst to best.

As a person who recently made a BIG HAIR CHANGE that just happened to coincide with a big life change, I totally sympathized with this post. (Especially the part where I haven’t really figured out how to style my new hair yet.)

Vox: “Khaleesi” became shorthand for a strong, empowered woman, but Daenerys Targaryen may be Game of Thrones’ final villain.

The showrunners didn’t just decide Dany was good until they needed her to be bad. Her story was always supposed to end this way, but it’s hard to capture a book character’s nuances — and, you know, her budding despotic tendencies — on a show that also has to give screentime to dozens of other characters. Our culture’s rampant Dany identification is the result of flat characterization: If all her choices are framed and marketed as unambiguously feminist and just, the audience will buy it. If the show had played sinister music or put a darker filter over her scenes, would the audience feel the same way about her?

I don’t actually think Dany will be the final villain—but I do think she’ll have to account for her actions.

Longreads: When Did Pop Culture Become Homework?

Creating art to dominate this discursive landscape turns that art into a chore — in other words, cultural homework. This is where people start saying things like, “Do I HAVE to watch Captain Marvel?” and “feeling a lot of pressure to read sally rooney!”and “do i have to listen to the yeehaw album?” This kind of coercion has been known to cause an extreme side effect — reactance, a psychological phenomenon in which a person who feels their freedom being constricted adopts a combative stance, turning a piece of art we might otherwise be neutral about into an object of derision. The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman called it “cultural cantankerousness” and used another psychological concept, optimal distinctiveness theory, to further explain it. That term describes how people try to balance feeling included and feeling distinct within a social group. Burkeman, however, favored his reactance as a form of self-protective FOMO avoidance. “My irritation at the plaudits heaped on any given book, film or play is a way of reasserting control,” he wrote. “Instead of worrying about whether I should be reading Ferrante, I’m defiantly resolving that I won’t.” (This was written in 2016; if it were written now, I’m sure he would’ve used Rooney).

Fun fact: I tried reading Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends, got a few chapters in, and decided I was too old for the book—not because I was older than the protagonist, since I read plenty of novels about people both younger and older than me, but because the questions the characters were trying to answer were questions I had already outgrown.

In other words: not every pop culture phenomena is for everybody, and that’s fine. ❤️

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