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Her memoir included anecdotes of behaviour towards her younger sister that struck some as very suspect, such as masturbating while her younger sister lay in bed next to her, or bribing her for kisses on the lips.

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I couldn't agree more. For all I know she asked her sister for permission before including said anecdote in the memoir, but considering that a few years prior she'd gotten into trouble for outing her sister to their parents without her sister's consent, I wouldn't be remotely surprised if she never bothered to ask her.

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Dunham’s literary territory is the daringly confessional essay, which was a la mode in the 2010s, particularly among the NYC art crowd into which she was born (her parents are both semi-famous contemporary artists). In that space there’s a tacit competition to see who can air the most provocative, jaw-dropping details of their lives. I think Dunham was trying to take the batons of Sylvia Plath and Phillip Roth (masturbation and chronic anxiety are recurring motifs in all her work). I don’t love her style and she’s a bit grating, but I get what she was trying to do. Not my tempo. Like you, I appreciate emotional restraint. Still, her story about her sister shouldn’t be treated like some unforgivable moral crime. It’s just salacious. Americans fancy themselves freethinkers, but we are a deeply repressed people.

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Not American, but I think a teenager masturbating while their sibling (who is six years younger than them) lies in the bed next to them is gross. If that makes me "repressed", so be it. It's not appropriate behaviour around a prepubescent child.

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If we’re thinking of the same incident, Dunham wasn’t a teenager. The original article about this, which went viral, misreported her age as seventeen. In the memoir she was actually seven years old when she looked at her sister’s vagina and then got freaked out and told her mom. I never inspected my younger sibling’s genitals, but child psychologists say this is normal, common behavior. That sounds right to me.

I truly didn’t mean to suggest that you are repressed. I just think the enduring controversy over Lena Dunham is insane. There are so many horrific acts of mass violence in this world, vast poverty and suffering. To fixate on this one woman’s uncomfortable childhood sexual exploration strikes me as a serious misalignment of priorities. Dunham didn’t help herself by angry tweeting about it; celebrities managing their optics on sensitive topics via Twitter rarely goes well. But who can blame her for reacting to gross misreporting with defensiveness?

According to Dunham’s sister, “harm” is something determined by the individual who experienced the act, not society at large. She doesn’t feel harmed by her sister. That’s good enough for me.

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May 16, 2023·edited May 16, 2023

Oh sorry, I think we are talking about different incidents. I’m not sure what I think about the teenage masturbation story, because I haven’t read that part of her memoir. Poor boundaries, then and now. But it’s still germane that her sister says she doesn’t feel she was abused.

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Technically speaking, some arguably problematic, but really pretty normal, behavior when she was a child. (Children are weird!!!) And a handful of problematic quotes. But in reality: she was a very irritating public personality. And a mix of boomers and uber-woke trumped up some charges and elevated them. But, really, I think it just boiled it down to her being annoying and rubbing people the wrong way.

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Seriously. I'm sort of baffled at the overlap in the Venn diagram of who bothers hating Lena Dunham and who runs Taylor Swift fan accounts. I thought that would be like "30-somethings with unmade TV pilot scripts" and "teen girls" respectively with zero overlap. Maybe my mental model of the Internet is very outdated.

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Yeah, I apparently missed the latest evolution of Lena Dunham hate completely. In my mind she's only hated by grumpy conservative Boomers upset that she's pro-choice and talked about her period on television.

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IIRC in the very first episode of Girls her parents cut her off to try to make her grow up and accept some responsibility for her life. That strikes me as far more sympathetic to the older generation.,

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banned for commenting without reading

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Guy must’ve thought this was reddit.

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I think the deference to fans is a result of pareto distribution - the 20% of fans who are the most absolutely insane probably account for 80% of the income she receives. These would be people who buy all the merch, special releases of her stuff, etc.

Not saying that it's good, but there's a reason that businesses put up with a lot of crap from their most devoted 20% of customers - if they don't they lose our in a hugely disproportionate way.

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*lose out* not *lose our*

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I think the standard sales terminology is "whales" vs. "fishes".

I'd be curious to see if there's a correlation. Intuitively you'd expect that a person who spends a huge chunk of their disposable income on e.g. Star Wars memorabilia might also spend far more of their free time than they really should talking about Star Wars on social media. But I can imagine that not being the case. Taylor Swift's most devoted fans can't JUST be the people who talk about her 24/7 on Twitter, given that she's enormously popular even among demographics not known for using Twitter very much.

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Yup, I'm a 30-something millennial and a few of my friends are "Swifties", own the merch, going to *multiple* Eras tour shows, etc. They are not on Twitter and they don't call her their bestie. lol

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It's an unforced error we've seen brands and corporations make again and again over the last decade or more: the erroneous assumption that Twitter is representative of real life, and that what Twitter users are raving about/getting incensed about is representative of what the average person in the real world is raving about or getting incensed about.

Obvious example: among Twitter power users, JK Rowling is probably a more widely and intensely despised figure than Adolf Hitler. (No comment on whether this opprobrium is warranted.) If Twitter was representative of the real world, you would expect a new book by JK Rowling to sell like a lead balloon. But her latest book went straight to #1 in the UK charts.

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Not to mention "Hogwart's Legacy". Or Bud Light for that matter.

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Great juxtaposition.

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People have this notion that there is no cost to attempting a boycott. “Hey- worst case scenario- we tried- and best case we do some real good for the world” but it’s not true. A failed boycott is much worse than doing nothing- it demonstrates that you have no power and you will not be feared moving into the future. Some corporate entities might have had some qualms doing business with Rowling pre-Hogwarts Legacy boycott. Seeing the result- I guarantee none do now.

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Disliking JK Rowling more than Hitler is definitely and seriously abnormal. Those who are incapable of grasping her position on spaces for women who have been monstrously treated by men is a willful act. And for those of you who will respond by calling me the names Rowling has been called, I suggest you do some reading as to what Hitler created and presided over. Now I’m pretty sure Rowling isn’t building up a Fourth Reich, but then again I don’t get my news from Twitter

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This 20% of demented fans driving 80% of income may hold some truth. I mean look at the 20% of hardcore Bud Light fans that went off the rails when Bud hired Dylan Mulvaney to rep their beer. Fake outrage is the playground of these 20%ers who ruin it for the 80% of us normal people out there.

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I honestly think the Kid Rock video and subsequent conservative backlash to Bud was just performative outrage to keep the trans outrage going. It's like when the same cohort of people burned their Keurigs and NFL gear. I'm honestly perplexed by that kind of outrage.

But maybe people really love Bud Light that much to get head-popping mad.

I find these virally on-line cultural outrage things fascinating to follow on occasion because when I talk to people in my social circle most have no idea that such a thing happened and are confused that it's a "thing" or don't care.

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Bud Light has genuinely crossed over though. A 20% drop in year on year sales is massive.

For context it's the #1 selling bear in the US. There has been speculation that it would eventually lose that crown but there is a chance that it happens this year because sales are tanking.

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There may be some of that, but in my experience with the less online, the Bud Light fiasco is more about busting balls than boycotting. In short, you stand to get made fun of by your buddies if you order a Bud Light.

We'll see how long it lasts, but Bud Light has essentially been Nickelbacked.

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Interesting, I imagine there's a large crossover between Nickelback fans and Bud Light drinkers.

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Removed (Banned)May 15, 2023
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What I find funny is that one of the leaders of the boycott, Matt Walsh, is actively insulting his audience by going on and on about how terrible of a beer Bud Light is. Doesn't seem to realize that the people boycotting actually like the stuff and that's why they're upset.

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`Taylor Swift’s music is actually good'

To each their own...

Bud Light is good for what it is: a very, very light Pilsner. It's not so much the beer as the style that people dislike. Technically it's a marvel. Has a consistent taste all over the world, from can to can, which given its light body is even more impressive. I even believe that the breweries even change the amount of certain ingredients based on the price of the commodity (e.g., more/less corn, wheat, rice).

Calorie for calorie you get more alcohol with Bud Light but there is a sharp drop-off in taste between it and regular Bud (light Pilsner).

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May 15, 2023·edited May 15, 2023

Lagers, in general, are not my style (like a good Doppelbock in the spring, though) so I may not have a discerning enough palate to differentiate between those beers. The engineer in me appreciates the technical complexity of producing these beers so consistently, though.

If it's hot, humid, and I've idiotically been weeding the garden in the afternoon sun, they're all fine with me.

The Iowa/Minnesota contingent of PBR-type drinkers seem to like Grain Belt. Personally, I will not drink any beer that comes out of Schell's brewery.

A problem is all in the eyes of the beholder (problematically, as it were).

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It started off at 12% and it's up to 20% now. Bud Light is an unfortunate example of actual virality.

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Like I actually had no idea Bud had hired Dylan as a "celebrity" to rep their beer until I saw headlines about the backlash and Kid Rock's shooting up cases of beer. Like is your self-worth that tied up in a terrible beer?

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To be fair to Bud there wasn't really an advertising campaign, it was just a freebie to an "influencer" that blew up in their faces. Like I said, it's an example of genuine virality. When random people pick it up and then start riffing on it you are pretty much over.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF3RMDogWV4

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I think this is an insightful comment that gets at what the real incentive is. Even if there are plenty of Swifties offline - and I don't doubt there are - I'm guessing that people who are loud and irritating about Taylor online are disproportionately likely to be "whales" rather than "fishes". And even if some Swifties aren't on Twitter, some of them read fan blogs, join forums, etc which are likely to be run by the same Swifties on Twitter. Brands think it would be a mistake to ignore them or tell them to fuck off, and I'm not sure they're wrong, but I'm also not sure they're right (to Freddie's point, just because evidence suggests boycotts don't often work and customers are reasonably likely to buy again even if you alienate them a lil bit)

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This is the best High Dudgeon bit of writing I've seen in a long time. Keep it up.

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I felt like a similar dynamic played out with the recent John Mulaney special. Mulaney wasn't just a comedian that had a drug problem, which led to the dissolution of his marriage. He was a Wife Guy who had committed a moral crime against his fans. I was just blown away by how many people would name-drop his ex-wife's name in comments or reviews. What the hell? Was the special funny or not? I don't care how bad you feel for his ex. Way too many people were personally invested in a marriage that was none of their business.

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I think I felt hurt/betrayed by John Mulaney for like two days as a wife but then I got over it. Adults have messy lives, things aren't perfect and if they still can make you laugh, watch their special or buy a ticket.

It wasn't my favorite special of his though.

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Yeah, that special was long on charm and short on jokes.

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What's a "Wife Guy"?

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I want to know this too.

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In Twitter argot, a heterosexual married man who's unironically in love with his wife and values their partnership above maintaining the appearance of coolly disinterested detachment.

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Good lord. This begs the question: who the hell is ironically in love with their wife?

I had to look up 'argot' for this btw. -_-

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Is this supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing?

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That's the bad faith reading of it, people that use the phrase in earnest take it to mean a man who 'uses' his relationship with his wife to gain social clout.

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That actually seems like the opposite of the definition given above. Or at least incongruent.

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Yep.

People use the phrase to imply that we should not believe the performance of wife-love. The earlier definition is defining the phrase in such a way as to imply that we should not respect the phrase-users' lack of belief in the love of the "wife guy".

In my (limited) experience, people are most often called "wife guys" after they've been caught cheating on their wives. And that's probably just about the only time the phrase should be used, because the implication of insincerity is really inappropriate otherwise.

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It’s because both of those opposing definitions are correct. Both of those guys are wife guys. Broadly, a wife guy is a man whose relationship with his wife is a fundamental part of his identity online.

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WTF? If you're cool and married you have disinterested detachment? Is this really a thing?

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I knew almost nothing about Mulaney going into his special and found it profoundly unfunny (despite containing a few laughs). He kept the comedy and what little tragedy he was actually willing to share so far away from one another that it all felt totally inconsequential.

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His monolog from his most recent SNL hosting gig was a much tighter, much funnier version of the material from this special. I enjoyed the special, but admit it wasn't his best.

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If your gonna cover her fan behavior you need to take a look at how she mobilized them in the fight for her music rights with the scooter Braun debacle. Some artists develop a two way street with their fans and are more susceptible to the ensuing toxicity. Lena I think is more due to politics.

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Sure, but again, I have no particular desire to defend Taylor Swift. I am interested in pointing out precisely that kind of perverse dynamic. Like I said, one type of entitlement feeds the other.

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What, pray tell, is "the scooter Braun debacle"?

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this is what your quoted search term turns up: https://www.thinkhousehq.com/insights/the-scooter-braun-debacle.

It'll get you up to speed.

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I was kind of hoping that a scooter would be involved.

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May 15, 2023·edited May 15, 2023

"the parasocial era prompts the worst behavior from fans and celebrities alike." and .... "It was inevitable that technological changes would outpace the cultural evolution necessary to absorb them. "

The first part seemed to be always there, but simmering in the geographic corners of the planet. My sister had a Donny Osmand superfan friend in the 70s who seemed nuts, even to me as a 7yr old... But the second part, put us all in some weird Twilight Zone/Black Mirror episode with the volume cranked up to 1,100.

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someone once said that the internet hasn't so much changed human social behavior as intensified it - see casual dating in the past compared to swiping on Tinder, etc

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More on topic, I was just talking to a friend about how strange it is that our culture seems to push everyone to try to be at least mini-celebrities. You're expected to live your life publicly, and it changes the way you approach everything you do - instead of experiencing your life, you're more like a director, framing and contextualizing shots and text in real time to create an illusory persona for others to interact with. The ultimate dream is that you can gain a large following of people interested in your constructed persona.

It's like Erving Goffman gone off the rails - while there's an element of performance in all human interaction, now there is an element of mass performance in all human interactions. And it's turned real relationships into fandoms and fandoms into bizarre parasocial monstrosities.

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I've seen this a lot with how some people carry on friendships like their on a reality TV show. Either a friend is a "bestie" that has your back unilaterally or they are some kind of "frenemies" clouded by the drama of the day. The unified ideal persona doesn't allow for friendships with complicated people.

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Exactly. Tons of people under 40 act like there's always a camera rolling for some reason. Instant, accessible, mass-consumption video is turning everyone into some sort of self-promoter for their own persona. Everyone thinks life is a constant audition, wtf happened here?

Like a twist on that first 80's MTV song: Video Killed our Reality's Soul.

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The scary thing is that there is always a camera rolling as long as someone has a phone. It's like the panopticon except everyone is their own tower observing everyone else observing them (into infinite regress) and trying to change the perceptions of the people they're observing.

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I was at a birthday party recently and we were all a little drunk and dancing and letting loose, and sure enough, someone has their phone out, recording it all. It wasn't my party, and I didn't know this person, but I was kind of annoyed that I was out there flailing around looking silly in a small group, but here it was being recorded to no doubt go on someone's social media. I'm pretty over it.

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A few months ago I was in a bar with the girl I was seeing at the time and a group of her friends. One girl was too busy documenting the whole event to actually engage in the conversation: taking photos and selfies of her with every permutation of friends in attendance to post on Instagram.

At one point she asked someone to take a photo of her holding a pint of Guinness.

I asked her "why do you want a photo like that? You don't drink." (It was somebody else's pint: she'd ordered an orange juice.)

She said "I know but I look cooler like this."

So her social media presence isn't just heavily curated: it's actively deceitful.

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Bastet, thank you for not putting this human in my life.

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My closest friend in the world, as much as I adore her, will obsessively Instagram everything she does. I know without a doubt that I do not photograph well and so if we're having dinner or whatever, tasting the food is the important part, not looking at it, and I absolutely do not want to BE in any photos. It's an entirely unnecessary element of modern life.

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I can't name any Taylor Swift songs, she's just not my thing, but if she told these people "if you think you own me, fuck right off.", I'd buy one of her albums. (and then probably give it to my niece or something).

I'm one of those original Metallica fans who think Metallica stopped making good music right before the black album. However, I respect that they do what they want and not what I want. Their old albums aren't going anywhere.

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Same for me with the band Baroness - I don't really like anything they did after their "Blue" album, but am grateful for their amazing albums that exist. I think it would be really weird to feel like they owe me more of what I want.

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Hey. The Black Album was great.

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May 16, 2023·edited May 16, 2023

72 Seasons is very good too, imo. Looking forward to seeing them in a few months.

Their overall career has been way more interesting and fruitful than the thrash bands who just stuck with thrash, imo.

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Same here re: Metallica. Sometimes I ponder the strong positive association I still maintain for them, given that I was in elementary school during that generally recognized Justice/Black album cutoff, after which their output has been hit or miss at best for the *vast majority* of my life. How incredible were those first few records in that case?

On a side note, the “this is happening in the year [this year]???” construction from one of the screenshots in the article is possibly the most singularly irritating internet tic extant. There’s nothing special about this or any other year. I can’t believe people are still saying that in the year 2023!!

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“Their old albums aren’t going anywhere is how I feel about TV On The Radio”. They wanted to do other things, and that’s totally fine! I didn’t dig the new stuff, and come back to Young Liars and Return To Cookie Mountain <shrug>

Meanwhile, by American Dream the LCD Soundsystem formula felt stale, so I dunno. The fact that both are almost 20 years ago, and I was in my early 30’s, is far more salient to me :-|

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“Their old albums aren’t going anywhere is how I feel about TV On The Radio”. They wanted to do other things, and that’s totally fine! I didn’t dig the new stuff, and come back to Young Liars and Return To Cookie Mountain (shrug)

Meanwhile, by American Dream the LCD Soundsystem formula felt stale, so I dunno. The fact that both are almost 20 years ago, and I was in my early 30’s, is far more salient to me :-|

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Lulu and S&M are underrated. Their cover/video of `Turn the Page' opened up the interpretation of that song wonderfully.

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Has anyone seen Adam Curtis's documentary "Century of the Self"? "Being what we buy" was a concept and practice intentionally manufactured by Freud's nephew (pairing products with psychological needs) and it is arguably one of the most profoundly influential decisions of modern life.

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Amusingly, Freddie wrote an entire article about how that meme is widely misinterpreted in the context of the show itself: https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/you-have-to-assume-everyone-is-terrible

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Ha! I edited my comment to take out all of the personal stuff, but I DO remember that column and loved/think he nailed it. I guess I should say, "That meme the way people interpreted it, and not its deeper significance in the context of Don's psychology and the show."

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Your comment got me thinking about the word power social and thus discovered in the OED this reference: "Coined by U.S. sociologists Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl (see quot. 1956) to describe the kind of psychological relationship experienced by members of an audience with regard to performers in the mass media, especially television." with parasocial behavior, certainly predates television. recently, I accidentally came across a mediocre Paul Newman movie about Judge Roy Bean in which the title character is obsessed with Lily Langtry much as people are obsessed with Taylor Swift.

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so interesting! I suspect the tendency has always been there, it's just - like everything else - exponentially heightened in this communications landscape!

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I always feel so smug when I think about how lucky I am not to be one of these permanently alienated public figures with no personal life whatsoever.

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Human beings are designed for small bands of a few dozen hunter gatherers. Add massive populations and social media and this is the shit you get.

What did Lena Dunham do that was so objectionable?

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Her memoir included anecdotes of behaviour towards her younger sister that struck some as very suspect, such as masturbating while her younger sister lay in bed next to her, or bribing her for kisses on the lips.

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I agree that artists shouldn't always do what fans want (or, more precisely, that they should do what fans don't know they want yet instead of what fans explicitly say they want).

However, I also think that kind of attitude can be used to excuse poor writing. I'm thinking in particular of how the writers of "Game of Thrones" became so enamored with "subverting viewer expectations" that in the last two seasons the viewer expectations they subverted started to include things like "making logical sense" and "paying off things that are built up."

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RemovedMay 15, 2023·edited May 15, 2023
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Removed (Banned)May 16, 2023·edited May 16, 2023
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Your dismissal of Han's unflattering dotage is hasty; it's the most relatable and human treatment he has ever gotten. Han was a small-time smuggler when we met him, and he knew it full well, armoring himself with insecure braggadocio. By grudgingly seizing an opportunity for heroism, he manages to seduce a princess. But he cannot deny his nature; the relationship eventually fails, and he reverts to his lowlife ways. True story.

Worlds apart, Han Solo and Leia Organa are still connected by love and fear for their difficult child: a sad and beautiful consequence of a doomed class collision. No need to consult Conrad for this familiar and poignant tale of the human condition.

A true feminist conspiracy would have given Leia something, anything, more interesting to do on her own, instead of taping poor Carrie's jowls into a taut rictus and shuffling her into the tired, inelegant role of General. Let's see some badass warrior crone Jedi mastery; show the children a hero can look like an aged woman, skillfully applying her low-inertia weapon with grace and contemplation. Instead, the reek of ageism and--yes!--patriarchy pervades her impoverished footnote in Abrams's text.

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Removed (Banned)May 17, 2023
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The Lore is difficult to penetrate for this casual, but General appears to be a battlefield promotion--and a commission subsequently resigned. I attribute Solo's marital trouble to his restless, renegade nature, and not vice versa. He's no more inexplicable than a WWII ace turned motorcycle gangster.

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I only saw the first movie of the new trilogy, but wasn't there a trilogy where the third movie went back and retconned a lot of stuff in the second?

Plus wasn't there some complaints about the kamikaze maneuver in the second film? If you ships can just warp into other ships then isn't the most dangerous weapon an unarmed cargo ship piloted by suicide bombers or an autopilot?

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RemovedMay 15, 2023·edited May 15, 2023
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The kamikaze attacks were actually spectacularly ineffective though after an initial period of success. The real story of the kamikaze is one of a novel tactic that rapidly became less effective as the enemy adapted.

In addition the entire Japanese armed forces circa WWII had a policy of death before retreat--there are stories of Japanese trainees who died during training exercises because they were required to ask permission before drinking from their canteens, permission that was never given. Plus look at all the Japanese troops who committed suicide with hand grenades rather than surrender or who just hung out in the jungles of the Philippines for decades rather than given up. That ethos may be foreign to American and Western sensibilities but it clearly wasn't an obstacle for the Japanese in building military cohesion.

On the other hand, what defense is there against a ship warping into another ship? It's clearly presented as something that can't be defended against. So why not keep doing it?

As for the retconning, the fact that it even happened at all is kind of remarkable and signifies a creative failure somewhere along the line.

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RemovedMay 15, 2023·edited May 15, 2023
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I think the primary reason for the kamikaze attacks was that Japan was running out of trained pilots. Recall that the kamikaze were overwhelmingly individuals like college kids who had gotten a deferment. The real pilots that the Japanese had left they preserved, guiding in waves of kamikaze before retreating themselves.

Also from what I recall a good part of the US response to kamikaze attacks was picket lines farther out protecting the big ships with screens of destroyers and fighter aircraft. When you are such a terrible pilot that you need a real pilot to guide you into your target it goes without saying that you are pretty much a fish in a barrel in a dogfight.

My suspicion is that the guy responsible for the second movie didn't take it seriously and the decision to use a genre breaking device like the ship ramming is symptomatic of that. It's something that matters to the fans but is much less important to everyone else.

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The Luke stuff was already set up with the prequels showing the hubris of the Jedi, but the way they went out of their way to put Poe Dameron in his place, implying that he shouldn’t worry his wittle head about the Rebel fleet being wiped out, and let the big girls take care of everything (when the big plan was simply “Run Away!”), felt like a meta middle finger to me.

I’m not even saying the same plot points couldn’t have been used, just the – well, bad writing – made it very off-putting, like I was sitting through an After School Special instead of watching Star Wars.

I don’t mix it up online regarding this, and wasn’t interested in doing so anyway, but I still haven’t seen The Rise Of Skywalker. I’ll get around to it eventually, I guess (kind of how I felt about the prequels; that’s how great a pull the original trilogy has on me: I *still* feel obligated to watch this shit).

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I actually considered mentioning "The Last Jedi," in my comment, but decided not to because I didn't want to be long-winded, and because TLJ's writing is more "uneven" than "bad." I think TLJ is interesting because it contains examples of subverting fan expectations in bad ways and good ways.

For instance, I thought it was very clever to reveal that Rey's parents were nobodies, and to have a theme of looking forward to the future and finding your own way. I thought most of the Rey/Kylo/Luke stuff was pretty good. What I thought was bad writing was the way Rian Johnson dealt with all the plot threads and mysteries that were set up in "The Force Awakens" that he wasn't interested in. He doesn't answer any questions about Snoke, he just kills him. Phasma is unceremoniously killed as well. Finn gets sent on a wild goose chase to some boring casino planet that doesn't advance his story from the first movie at all. I think the common thread is that Johnson's writing was good when he actually tried to answer questions the previous movie had brought up, and bad when he tried to ignore questions that didn't interest him. I think that that is bad writing. It isn't just that fans expect a Star Wars movie to be a certain way, it's that they expect things that are set up to be paid off, for questions to be answered, and for characters to follow some kind of arc.

It's a hard question to determine to what extent a writer doing something different is refreshing a property with new ideas, and to what extent a writer doing something different is misleading the audience about what kind of story they are in for. I think artists should challenge and surprise their audiences, but I also don't think they should make the audience think they are investing their time in something completely different than what they are getting. In general I think that some fan criticism of TLJ was on point, but some other was completely off-base.

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OK, but this is a very vital distinction: that's a complaint about the ART produced by a creator. It's not a complaint about the creators themselves, their personal lives, their morals.... And that's exactly the kind of distinction that has been systematically erased, the product of someone's work and the person themselves. But they're totally different!

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How about artists do what artists want and pray that there's a market?

Because when you cater to the demographic you get mediocre, plastic shit like Disney...and Taylor Swift I suppose.

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Yeah but you get so much money though.

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A lucky few do, but given the number of people who are striving to become celebrities I think it's basically lottery odds.

Unless your parent is a movie or rock star to begin with I think it's comparable to planning on making a living by playing in the NBA or NFL. And at least with athletics the people who actually make it have some talent. Henry Rollins has got plenty of horror stories about "musicians' who can't play live because they can't keep time.

So given that the chances for financial remuneration appear to be slim why not make art for the sake of making art and let the rest take care of itself?

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May 15, 2023·edited May 15, 2023

When you front a punk band that knew 3-chords and you start complaining about musicianship, you shouldn't cast too many stones.

Mark E. Smith of the Fall purposely chose musicians who couldn't play well because he didn't want them screwing his vision up. But then he discovered, thanks to guidance from Brix Smith, that actually having musicians who could play, a more stylized look for the band, and maybe write songs with legible lyrics you can actually have some success.

BTW...I actually like Rollins. His spoken word stuff is pretty good. The HRB was intense to see live but I wasn't a huge fan. If you haven't, check out Jello Biafra's spoken word albums.

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There's a story about the Ramones about when they started out and they couldn't play their instruments. At a live show some guy in the audience yelled "You guys can't play" and they responded "So fucking what?"

Eventually of course they got better. Maybe they only played three chords but at least they could keep time. Even by punk's standards (and Rollins) that should be the minimum floor of competence.

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May 15, 2023·edited May 15, 2023

Sure, but in Taylor Swift's case we're not talking about the situation of a new artist deciding what approach to take; we're talking a person who's already achieved mega-stardom, and whether they should make a pivot away from the approach that's worked so far, and go in a more "authentic" (terrible term, maybe "idiosyncratic" is better) direction. I'd certainly like to see them do so, but I certainly understand why they might find it financially risky.

And for new artists who are starting out and seeking success, it's easy to see why they'd look at somebody like Swift and decide that the mediocre-plastic-shit method is a really good career path. Even if the chance of "making it" is slim, it can still really look like a lottery worth playing.

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First, Taylor Swift could never work another day in her life and still become a billionaire.

But what's the point? I don't think that she has any particular vision. I think she's just another crap, plastic pop star.

Second, I don't think that artistic vision and commercial success are always mutually exclusive but there is a distinction to be made between somebody who wants to, for example, write and somebody who just wants the social cachet of "being a writer". What's the primary motivation? To follow your muse? Or to be rich and famous?

There are cases where I laugh and have to wonder how somebody became rich and famous. David Lynch for example.

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Define 'catering' to the market? One could argue that one of progenitors of catering to the market was Bowie in which he changed his musical directions several times over his career that tracked with changes in musical taste. Bowie moved from early Brit-folk-pop to glam rock to plastic pop to rock to electronica. Bowie was a man of massive talent and part of that talent was knowing when a good thing was over creatively. This made him a "genius" in many respects vs. bands who oeuvre never departs from the early recordings that kick started their careers and thus you get mediocre shit.

My big complaint about Taylor is that she has talent but every song is so over-produced and fine tuned w/ multiple song writers and producers that I think her talent gets buried in the process. I find this to be true for other larger-than-life singers/entertainers.

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As a counterpoint, look at Bob Dylan. He changed styles as well _in defiance_ of his market/audience. There are plenty of reports about concerts where the audience would applaud his folk stuff but boo when he changed over and started playing rock.

As for Bowie I think you could make the argument that he was responding to his artistic environment. There's nothing wrong with artists responding to the community of artists and Bowie was clearly interested in music in general. It's why somebody like Flea of the Chili Peppers can talk about his favorite blues artists and why influences from jazz, the blues, etc. sneak into genres like rock and pop.

As for Swift, what's "talent"? People who can sing are a dime a dozen. What matters it the massive infrastructure behind them in terms of writers, producers, engineers, etc.

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With Dylan, I'd argue that he showed even more defiance toward his audience when he moved toward explicitly Christian music at the end of the '70s. His tours for much of 1979-80 were *exclusively* Christian music, and kicked off with 14 shows at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre. Talk about taking a polarizing message into a hostile environment!

Some of this stuff has to be heard to be believed, and this goes as much for the performances as for the sermonizing between the songs. This wasn't feel-good Jesus stuff. It's aggressive, and the lyrical content can be pretty uncomfortable, but it's also some of my favorite Dylan music because it's hard for me not to get swept up in the power of the singing and the performance.

I'm trying to imagine who might be a comparable figure today, and what the response might be if they did something similar.

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Michelle Shocked got canceled for condemning homosexuality because of her Christian faith. I think what really confused people is that for years her audience assumed she was a lesbian.

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Haha, I think she was far from blameless in encouraging that assumption!

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I initially was going to mention Dylan but I hesitated because I think his stylistic changes were different in that he was counter-acting against his own marketability. When you suddenly find yourself the lodestar for the folk scene and as a result reject that via electrification only to become even more popular. Dylan and Bowie both responded to their creativity and the market/cultural forces that were shaping much of what was happening everywhere in the late 60s and early to mid-70s. I'd say one artist that has basically told the industry to F-off and still be successful is Van Morrison as well.

If you want to dismiss singers outright because singers are a dime a dozen then you'll be dismissing a lot of influential singers who had teams of writers and producers behind them.

Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Frank Sinatra, Joe Cocker, Bowie, Sam Cooke, Janice Joplin, The Drifters, etc. Taylor has bought into the machine because it benefits her. That's fine. I don't think you get to that level being a mediocre singer. And like I said, she has a handful of songs that are enjoyable as pop songs go but I don't think she should necessarily garner the pull she does. It's very much marketing.

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I'm not sure I would classify Billie Holiday as a "great" singer in the conventional sense given how distinct her voice was. I'm not a big fan of Dylan but at the end of the day he has been hugely influential, maybe to the level that people are still talking about him in a hundred years, whereas most of the people you listed do not rise to that level and his nasal intonation is (in)famous. Is anybody going to be talking about Taylor Swift in twenty years despite her prettier voice? I doubt it.

Sure, Dylan and Bowie were tremendously influential but they were in turn influenced by the times, the culture and their fellow artists. Dylan for example was a huge fan of Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower" and adjusted his own performances accordingly. Creative types benefit from being in contact with other creative types so that ideas can cross pollinate.

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Huh? I'm not sure if you're trolling or not at this point when you say the people I've listed don't rise to the level of Dylan. I suppose if one takes a narrow view of what defines lasting influence. Dylan's reached the point where he's unintelligible as a singer. His fame rests largely upon the nostalgic back of 4 or 5 albums that boomers turned into classics.

Holiday and Simone are well know and influential jazz singers whose influence still continues. Swift is like Sinatra in the sense of being a smart business person who can also sing and surround themselves with talented people. Now will people be talking about the musical influence of Swift in 20yrs? Hard to say but they will certainly discuss her cultural influence.

And yes, creative types benefit from being in contact with other creatives types. To wit, Swift singing on the new National album. Maybe some of that Sad Dad Rock will rub off on her next LP.

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Madonna is another example of this. You could argue it's not really working anymore when you look at album sales, but still selling out stadiums at hundreds of dollars per ticket is a sign she's still selling something that people want.

But I would also argue her and Bowie (and others who have survived the long-term) are less about "responding to the market" than they are just keeping up with what's fresh, and getting inspired in their own ways. Any artist who just creates the exact same thing over and over isn't going to inspire anyone eventually, as you mentioned. Everyone is susceptible to culture and being inspired by other new things, and discovering new forms of expressing themselves. That's what they should be doing. I don't necessarily see that as nakedly exploiting the market, but, as artists, simply paying attention to what other people are doing and responding to it in their own ways.

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Oh I think at some point some of these artists who fade away and "come back" find that a majority of their fans are coming to see them purely out of nostalgia. Garth Brooks is very upfront about this when he tours. It's not really to promote his newest album that no one bought but to cash in on the nostalgia of his fans and listening to them drunkenly shout along to the chorus to Friends in Low Places.

I recently went to see New Order in concert and they played a variety from their catalog - new and old material as well as Joy Division songs and they really put on a good show. I enjoyed the new material as much as I enjoyed the old and was happy to hand over $100/ticket for that experience.

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Oh yeah, I agree 100%. Perhaps comparing making fresh, contemporary music and selling out stadiums is not exactly the same thing.

As for your New Order experience, two of my favorite bands are The Cure and Depeche Mode, and I have seen them both live numerous times, and they also do a great job mixing old and new stuff. So I totally get that!

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DM and The Cure I've seen several times as well. I'm hoping to catch DM on their upcoming tour. I'm interested to see how the new "group" will sound live. Unfortunately I missed the Cure passing through town. I haven't seen them live since the Disintegration tour.

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Keeping in mind their target demographic, it took more balls for Lynyrd Skynyrd to write "Saturday Night Special" than all the punk rock anthems and Sixties protest songs ever recorded.

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May 15, 2023·edited Aug 18, 2023

I also thought that by burning through untold nonrecoupable record company millions reworking a rather idiosyncratic Axl Rose vanity project that kept getting pushed back over and over again amidst a kaleidoscope of players, producers, studios and songs, "Chinese Democracy" was a better and more effective "fuck you!" to the recording industry than anything the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, or any of the other critical darlings could have dreamed of.

A meta "fuck you", even - if you want to call an elaborate, decades-long practical joke that even the joker isn't in on "meta".

But, since even on their best days, GnR was butt rock and definitely not the sort of act that converted English Lit majors whack off to, they never got the credit.

I'm not even a GnR fan, and certainly not a W.Axl Rose fan, but I find the story to be funny as hell.

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There is an example of a big budget movie where an artist did whatever they wanted, and that was "The Room" (2003) by Tommy Wiseau. It was successful, but not for the reasons the artist wanted it to be.

If you try too hard to please audiences you get plastic stuff like all of Disney's live action remakes of their animated classics. If you don't try hard enough you get self-indulgent stuff like "The Room" whose only entertainment value is how terrible it is. If you strike a happy medium you can get something worthwhile, like Disney's original animated classics, (before it ran them into the ground with sequels and remakes)

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"The Room" turned out the way it did because Wiseau had a horrific car accident and suffers from TBI. It's why he's a little off and "The Room" is so odd.

On the other hand there are plenty of accomplished filmmakers who worked on passion projects that were initially horrible flops but that over time have come to be recognized as classics. "Citizen Kane" being the most notable perhaps but also "Night of the Hunter" and numerous others.

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You are right that there are lots of examples of successful passion projects, but there are also a lot of examples of instances where an artist failed to turn their vision into something that spoke to others. "The Room" is a particularly egregious example, but others that occur to me are "The Phantom Menace," Rob Zombie's "Halloween II," and "The Nutcracker 3D" (the one where the Rat King is a Nazi Andy Warhol for no discernable reason). Or on a more basic level, think about all the beginning writers whose main character is a Mary Sue version of themself.

I definitely agree that pandering to audiences and making something generic and plastic is a common failure mode for art. But there's another failure mode which art critics typically call being "self indulgent" or "impenetrable." I think it comes from artists who stay true to their vision, but fail to find a way to communicate it to their audience. Works like "Citizen Kane" are able to strike the balance where the artist has a strong vision, but has also found a way to share that vision and make it appealing to others.

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Again, "Citizen Kane" bombed when it came out. Robert Mitchum's favorite role was in "Night of the Hunter" and it is recognized as a minor classic today. It was a box office disaster.

There is no correlation between artistic merit and commercial appeal. If anything there's probably an inverse relation.

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Right, what I'm arguing is that there isn't always a correlation between artistic freedom and artistic merit either. Sometimes allowing artists free reign to do what they want results in them producing high-quality, innovative art. Other times it results in them producing self-indulgent art that indulges their artistic bad habits.

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Last sentence reads: "They don’t that know you (or I) exist, and they never will." Should be, "They don't *know that*...".

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You dared correct Freddie's writing. I expect and demand he come down on you like a bat out of hell. As a paid subscriber, he needs to do what I want.

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"Now, if I was Taylor Swift - worth half a billion, got a dozen Grammys, celebrated as an icon, and now 33 years old - I would just tell angry fans to fuck off."

By just ignoring her fans while letting them mortgage their houses to buy a concert ticket isn't Swift doing exactly that?

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Yeah, see, that's the thing: as satisfying as openly condemning your extremist fans might seem, it's generally a much better business strategy for Swift --or any other brand with fans -- to simply ignore them and let them keep doing their thing, because they still buy your stuff.

Of course, there are circumstances in which that no longer becomes possible (like, when stalkers start getting into your house), or in which it becomes a better business play to proactively address things (for example if your craziest fans start associating your brand with something really damaging, like neo-Nazism or whatever -- google "Games Workshop Warhammer 40k neonazis").

But outside of those circumstances, there's a good practical reason why both mega-stars and global fandom brands don't generally tell the CHUDs to fuck off. CHUD money still spends.

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The craziest thing about the last few years though is that there are brands that are trying to cater to one political base. What's mind boggling about that is that it should be obvious that in polarized times if you cater to one side that means alienating the other.

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I don't hate any of these people.

I do ignore them.

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