Pop Culture Roundup: This Week

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The Too-Easy History of “Suffragette” (New Yorker) 

Related Link Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: Suffragette, the Movie By Lara Vapnek (HNN)

You’d have to be a moral idiot to oppose a woman’s right to vote. And yet many of the people in Great Britain who opposed that right a hundred or so years ago were not, at the time, considered moral idiots—some of them have even gone down in history as esteemed, for other, unrelated activities. Among those opponents there were women, for a large set of complicated reasons. But you would not know any of this from watching “Suffragette,” directed by Sarah Gavron, written by Abi Morgan.
Of course, that’s not what the movie’s “about,” as if about-ness were a form of artistic predestination that absolves filmmakers of decisions about what to put into a movie. What “Suffragette” is in fact about is so substantial, so serious, and, at times, so surprising, that the movie’s lack of vision (both literal and metaphorical), its failures of imagination, its built-in inhibitions and shortcuts, are all the more unfortunate. They keep a decent and worthy, amiable and unchallenging film short of the greatness of the subject itself.

This computer historian blasts “inaccuracies” in “Steve Jobs” By David Greenish

I attended an advanced screening of Steve Jobs in Atlanta last Monday, October 12th. It will open in wide-release this upcoming Friday the 23rd. My simple review is that it was engaging, entertaining, and I would definitely recommend seeing it. However, with that said, I am seriously concerned that many people will think that what they see on the screen is mostly accurate. As a computer historian, I am particularly well versed with the history of Apple, the two Steves, Macintosh, Lisa, John Sculley, etc., so I know the real history vs. that of Hollywood movies. However, your average person does not know these things and is likely to walk away from this recent film assuming that most of what they saw happened that way. Does it matter? Do moviemakers have any responsibility to present historical people and events accurately? With such a well-known figure as Jobs, is it OK to play with events, date-order, people’s personalities, etc.? Where should the line be drawn?

Steve Wozniak Explains What’s Real and What’s Fake in Steve Jobs

In Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) faces off against Michael Fassbender’s Jobs multiple times, criticizing the Apple co-founder in a series of emotional confrontations. The thing is, those scenes never actually happened. The real Woz sat down with Bloomberg to discuss the film and how although the film captures the spirit of Jobs and his time at Apple, many of the scenes are invented.

“Maybe everything in the movie didn’t happen, but they’re all based on things that did happen,” Wozniak told Bloomberg. “Everything I say, every scene that I’m in, I wasn’t talking to Steve Jobs at those events. I don’t even say things like that, and I didn’t say them, but they were based upon [reality].”

In ‘Bridge of Spies,’ Spielberg Considers the Cold War

In “Bridge of Spies,” a gravely moody, perfectly directed thriller, Steven Spielberg returns you to the good old bad days of the Cold War and its great fictions, with their bottomless political chasms and moral gray areas. With a story that has been plucked from the historical record, given a nice dusting and a little sweetening, the movie centers on a 1962 spy swap involving a Soviet mole, Rudolf Abel; an American U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers, shot down by the Soviets; and an American student, Frederic L. Pryor, who had ended up on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall at the worst possible time. All were chess pieces in a ghastly game that, the film balefully suggests, continues without end.

Things You Won’t Learn From the New Steve Jobs Film By Eric Alterman

Apple is just as good at avoiding taxes as it is at making iPhones. In 2013, a Democratic Senate staff investigation found that by creating mail-slot entities all over the world and attributing its profits to them, Apple has managed to pay just 2 percent in taxes on $74 billion of income overseas. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, 18 of America’s largest corporations, led by Apple, deployed these tactics to avoid paying $92 billion in US taxes last year. And if that isn’t bad enough, Apple—which has $181.1 billion socked away in offshore accounts—is among the group of multinationals lobbying Congress to grant them a second repatriation tax holiday so they can bring an estimated $1.7 trillion home at the significantly reduced rate of 6.5 percent. The last tax holiday, passed in 2004, led to a cut of more than 20,000 US jobs and lowered R&D spending—directly contrary to the arguments made on its behalf, the Senate report found.  If only someone would make a movie about that.

Exploring the Cold War History Behind ‘Perfect Arrangement’

Julia Coffey wasn’t even born yet when her father worked for the federal government, but a distant bell rang in her mind when she read the script for Topher Payne’s “Perfect Arrangement,” a frothy but ultimately dark comedy set in 1950 Washington. It reminded her of something her father used to do.

Ms. Coffey, 39, plays Norma Baxter, a State Department employee whose job involves rooting out communists and other supposed menaces from the ranks of the government. “It’s my duty as an American to identify threats to our way of life,” Norma says, fitting right in as McCarthyism takes hold. “When your country calls, you answer.”

Everything You Need to Know About the Word ‘Suffragette’

Without the French language, English speakers wouldn’t have adulterycrimerevenuevirginstarts or wardrobes. Students of feminism also wouldn’t have the raucous historical footnote that is the difference between the suffragist and the suffragette, the namesake of a new film starring Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter that hits theaters on Friday.

Though the meaning of the word has broadened, it originally referred to a very specific—and controversial—kind of woman. The –ette suffix is a string of letters that came across the Channel—where the French still use it to denote that something is diminutive—and got absorbed into British English, before being shipped off to Americans in the New World. Over the centuries –ette has become a marker of things that are short or smaller-than-usual (cigarette = small cigar; roulette = small wheel), feminine and female (jockette = a female jockey; hackette = a female journalist), as well as imitative and inferior (leatherette = imitation leather; poetette = a young or minor poet).

By the time the early 1900s rolled around, -ette was widely known as a suffix that could be plopped onto the end of any word to convey that the thing was wee or womanly. So when newspapermen were tasked with reporting on a militant shift in the women’s movement that bubbled up in Britain circa 1906, away from polite petitions and editorials arguing for the right to vote and toward breaking windows, this suffix was brought off the shelf to mock the new wave of “hysterical” agitators and “violent cranks,” as one contemporary newspaper described them.

On Hamilton and Learning to Think Historically (AHA) 

The premise of Hamilton: An American Musical sounds a bit like a desperate high school history teacher’s last-ditch effort to engage apathetic teens: a hip-hop musical telling the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the less iconic founding fathers.

 In fact, history teachers and their students should be front-row at Hamilton. Not only is it an innovative and impressive stage production, it demonstrates a way to engage with history thoughtfully and creatively.

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