Children of Desire

From the November 2015 Print Edition

My sister and I were preschoolers in the 1980s. Once upon an afternoon, our mother instructed us: If ever she were unable to pick us up and had to send another grownup in her stead, she would impart to that grownup a “secret word.” If ever a grownup approached us, neighbor or stranger, claiming that our mother wanted us to go with him in his car, we were to require of him this “secret word.” If he did not know it, we should run to the nearest policeman. We rehearsed. Our mother: “Hi, little girls. [Lies, lies, lies.] Why don’t you get in my car?” Our line was: “What’s the secret word?” Continue Reading »

Triple Crown Sublime

From Web Exclusives

There are no teams in thoroughbred racing. Or rather, everyone who follows racing is on the same team—at least for a few weeks in the late spring, when the three races are run that make up the Triple Crown.The lack of partisan fandom in racing has something to do with the brevity of its stars' . . . . Continue Reading »

The Psychologization of Everything

From Web Exclusives

The enormous Duggar family has been in the public eye since their TLC reality series, 19 Kids and Counting, premiered in 2008. In the lineup of TLC shows about oddball families—the twins-plus-sextuplets family; the polygamist family; the little-people family; the hundred-proof hillbilly family—the Duggars are distinguished by their amazing fecundity, and by their commitment to baby-names starting with J (Josh, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph).They are distinguished, too, by their vocal affiliation with Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull—hierarchical and pro-procreation movements within Evangelicalism, which strike some observers as creepy and cultish. The Duggar kids are homeschooled and don’t mix much with the outside world; this, too, strikes some observers as creepy and cultish. All of the Duggar girls perm their hair and wear long skirts—sartorial tics that some observers find creepy and cultish. Did I mention that all the Duggar kids’ names start with J? (Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedediah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin …) At a certain point, this starts to look creepy and cultish. Continue Reading »

Freakish Belonging

From the November 2014 Print Edition

Michael Alig was paroled this May into the world he helped invent. Starting in the summer of 1987, Alig reigned as the most fabulous party promoter in New York, paid by club owners to orchestrate havoc in their venues with his retinue of camera-ready freaks. He, in turn, paid his acolytes to trick themselves out in new costumes—grotesque, jejune, softcore, hardcore—every night. For their pains, the “Club Kids” were booked on Geraldo and Donahue and covered daily by Page Six, the much-read gossip section of the New York Post.In 1996 came the final outrage: Alig confessed to killing and dismembering his drug-dealing roommate. Applause was heard from admirers of his after-dark performance art—murder being the ultimate shock to bourgeois sensibilities. More-staid observers saw the murder as just the sort of sordid thing that happens among antisocial lowlifes who move to the big city. But whatever revulsion may have greeted this gruesome act, Alig’s style of freakish fabulousness has caught on since he went away, spreading far beyond the New York club scene. The misfit has gone mainstream. Continue Reading »

Fear of Children

From Web Exclusives

In a scene cut from The Exorcist’s 1973 theatrical version, Jason Miller’s Fr. Damien Karras sits with Max von Sydow’s Fr. Lankester Merrin on the stairs of the MacNeil house, and the two Jesuits discuss why the child Regan has become a monster. Continue Reading »

Mad Men Takes a Second Look

From First Thoughts

Mad Men’s Season Seven, Episode Seven (“Waterloo”), the half-season finale, may look a bit like a rerun of Season Three’s “Shut the Door. Have a Seat” and Season Six’s “For Immediate Release”—both episodes in which a crisis precipitated a . . . . Continue Reading »

Mad Men Gone Schizoid

From First Thoughts

Season Seven, Episode Five (“The Runaways”): A very disjointed episode of Mad Men. Don Draper is marginal to most of its action; two watchable characters (Roger Sterling and Joan Harris) are absent from it entirely; and we endure two eruptions of gratuitous weirdness, one in the form of kinky sex, the other in the form of sexualized mutilation. Altogether, we find the story de-centered and distinctly schizoid. Continue Reading »

Megan Must Go

From First Thoughts

Season Seven, Episode Three: A very eventful episode of Mad Men. Two story arcs move us forward, though one (strangely compelling one) does not. Are Don and Megan Draper finally over? In the major arc before the first commercial break, Don speaks long-distance to Megan’s agent and learns that . . . . Continue Reading »