Gen Z probably doesn't care about Madonna's Instagram
Read to the end for a really good Garfield meme
I’m performing at another internet culture event in New York City next week! It’s at Caveat in the East Village and I working on a very special end-of-year presentation for it 🤔. There’s also an incredible line up of guests for this including Slate’s Allegra Frank, YouTube creator Carlos Maza, NBC News’s Brandy Zadrozny, author Grafton Tanner, Insider’s Rachel E. Greenspan, podcaster Bridget Todd, and a bunch more. It’s going to be a blast! Hit the green button to buy tickets.
The Nancy Reagan Blow Job Info War
This story is very funny, but I also think it’s extremely illustrative of how impossible it is to understand what’s going on anymore. It all started with Madonna posting a rather risqué Instagram photo at the end of November.
The photo was taken down by Instagram because part of the pop star’s nipple was visible. So she reuploaded it with a bigger heart emoji covering her breast, writing, “I’m reposting photographs Instagram took down without warning or notification….. The reason they gave my management that does not handle my account was that a small portion of my nipple was exposed. It is still astounding to me that we live in a culture that allows every inch of a woman’s body to be shown except a nipple. As if that is the only part of a woman’s anatomy that could be sexualized.”
About 10 days after Madonna successfully reuploaded her pic, the New York Post published a story titled, “Hey Gen Z, Madonna has every right to be sexy on Instagram at age 63,” which went very viral on Twitter because millennials are extremely desperate right now for ways to feel cooler than Gen Z. (lol imagine millennials thinking they’re the sexually adventurous generation.)
I’m always curious where these Gen Z trend pieces come from. The NY Post story cites three Instagram captions underneath Madonna’s photo:
“Madonna..hun, you’re old enough to be 90% of instagram’s Grandma… [the] majority of us don’t want to see some nanny with her bits out.”
“I would be so ashamed if my 60+ mother posted pics like these on IG…”
“Ew, Grandma, put on some clothes.”
I went into the comment section this morning and two of the most popular comments are actually accusing Madonna of ageism for using beauty filters with a bunch of others criticizing her for comparing Instagram taking down her original nipple photo to “the lies we have been raised to believe about the pilgrims peacefully breaking bread with the Native American Indians when they landed on Plymouth Rock!” Also, I found one of the users that the NY Post cites in their trend piece as a Gen Z “puriteen,” but they’re actually a British mom of two who runs a cupcake business on Facebook. In fact, the overwhelming majority of angry comments underneath Madonna’s photo are from old people. I mean, what Gen Z kid is even following Madonna in 2021?
Anyways, the NY Post did successfully kick off another aging millennial outrage cycle. The View even did a segment on how offended Gen Z is by Madonna’s Instagram photo. Though, hilariously, The View couldn’t even show Madonna’s photo because they’re on broadcast TV. I also dug through Twitter looking for any sort of large-scale sex negative anti-Madonna content from seemingly progressive zoomers and came up short. Same with TikTok, the platform that generation actually tends to hang out on. The majority of the content I found was just from millennials arguing against no one. Though, there was one fairly viral tweet from a Gen Z account slutshaming Madonna.
It was posted by the 21-year-old sister of right-wing media commentator Ben Shapiro, who compared Madonna’s current behavior to how Nancy Reagan was acting around the same age.
A few points of context: Abby Shapiro going by the handle “Classically Abby” isn’t random. It’s part of a growing right-wing aesthetic movement where far-right and right-wing users fetishize some kind of imagined “classical” past — whether it’s Greco-Roman architecture, the American 50s as imagined by the American 80s, or Crusades era Europe. I’m sure Shapiro posted this tweet and really thought she had made a great point. Unfortunately, though, she didn’t really google Nancy Reagan too thoroughly.
The top reply to Shapiro’s tweet was from writer Zach Heltzel who shared a screenshot of a Village Voice article describing a passage from a biography about Reagan that goes into great detail about how, uh, renowned Reagan was for giving oral sex to various men on the MGM lot back in the day.
Heltzel, in a subsequent tweet, wrote, “For the record, there is nothing wrong with Nancy Reagan being promiscuous in her youth, just like there is nothing wrong with Madonna being provocative in her 60s. If you really want to find ways in which these two women are different, look at how they responded to AIDS.”
Both of Heltzel’s replies to Shapiro went viral and kicked off a huge Twitter trending topic. “Ben Shapiro’s sister tried to slut shame Madonna and inadvertently caused all of twitter to learn that Nancy Reagan had a gluck gluck 9000 America is back baby,” Twitter user @gldivittorio wrote.
And, now, if you search “Nancy Reagan” on Twitter, it is nothing but a sea of jokes about how good the former first lady was at giving blow jobs.
This whole little story is both very funny and also basically how everything works now — a reaction of a reaction of a reaction to a thing that didn’t actually really happen. Yeah, Madonna posted a nipple pic to Instagram, but it wasn’t the faux socially progressive Gen Z puriteens who were upset about it, it was American conservatives and prudish middle-aged millennials on Instagram, many of whom only decided to comment on the story because they had read a news story or watched a View segment incorrectly claiming that Gen Z was “offended” by it. And then, most hilariously, by the time the conversation actually went viral, it wasn’t about Madonna at all, but, instead, just thousands of people dunking on Ben Shapiro’s sister and making jokes about how good Nancy Reagan was at performing oral sex.
The Most Horrifying Thing About A.I. I’ve Ever Read Maybe
Fortune published a truly upsetting story over the weekend, written by Yana Zalesskaya, a design researcher at Design Partners. It’s titled, “Meet your new A.I. best friend” and it has a deeply chilling description of a near-future hell world where artificial intelligences follow you throughout your whole life:
Imagine a future where people elect to have an A.I. companion whose relationship with you begins at birth, reading everything from your grades at school to analyzing your emotions after social interactions. Connecting your diary, your medical data, your smart home, and your social media platforms, the companion can know you as well as you know yourself. It can even become a skilled coach helping you to overcome your negative thinking patterns or bad habits. It can provide guidance and gently nudge you towards what you want to accomplish, encouraging you to overcome what’s holding you back.
Drawing on data gathered across your lifetime, a predictive algorithm could activate when you reach a crossroads. Your life trajectory, if you choose to study politics over economics, or start a career in engineering over coding, could be mapped before your eyes. By illustrating your potential futures, these emerging technologies could empower you to make the most informed decisions and help you be the best version of yourself.
Here’s the thing, though, this is already happening. Facebook’s algorithm has technically been tracking me since I was 16 years old — that’s half my life. Your Spotify history, your Netflix homepage, your YouTube data, all of those things are already influencing your life in ways both conscious and unconscious. It’s not unthinkable to imagine a world where that core idea becomes more sophisticated.
Is there a version of the world where personal A.I.s that follow you from birth to death are a good thing? Maybe. I guess? Like smart phones, personal A.I. life companions will absolutely allow us to do things that we could have never imagined before, but, also like smart phones, there is literally no version of A.I. that exists right now that isn’t predicated on a lack of privacy and the further entrenching of global corporate monopolies.
It’s hard to get excited about a bunch of code that will track your whole life and live in all your devices. Sure, it may help you remember things more easily and find new stuff to read and watch, but there is no country on Earth with regulations in place to make sure the data it’s collecting on you won’t be used to exploit you somehow.
But, either way, if you’re thinking about this stuff, the Fortune piece is worth reading if only to get a better sense of what the ruling class is dreaming up for the rest of us.
r/Antiwork Vs. Kellogg
Reddit’s r/Antiwork subreddit, which has quickly become the digital hub for Great Resignation, is organizing a campaign against Kellogg, which is currently trying to hire workers to replace the ones striking for better wages. Users on r/Antiwork are flooding the Kellogg employment portals with bogus applications in an attempt to overwhelm their HR platform.
Kellogg has added a CAPTCHA to its employment pages, which now circumvents any sort of scripts that users were using. But Redditors have also created a Google Doc that lets you quickly create a cover letter and resume to manually submit.
Anywho, most large corporations have very good digital infrastructure, so I’m sure old gigantic companies like Kellogg are definitely prepared to deal with DDOS attacks and astroturfing campaigns from an increasingly emboldened global workers’ rights movement.
An Update On YouTube’s #Toeigate
Last week, I wrote about the YouTuber Mark Fitzpatrick, who goes by Totally Not Mark. He makes reviews about anime and recently had over 150 of his videos copyright-striked by Toei Animation, the Japanese studio behind huge anime franchises like Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, One Piece, and Digimon.
Over the weekend, Fitzpatrick posted and deleted a really emotional video update that detailed some recent developments with the situation — he had a few videos reinstated — and it featured a personal appeal spoken in Japanese to One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda. He then unlisted his previous videos about the Toei situation and posted this blank video with just a short audio message explaining that he’s giving up the fight to get his videos back and is taking a break for the remainder of the year.
The heart of the issue is that Toei is a Japanese company and that Japanese copyright law expressly forbids modifying someone else’s intellectual property. Throughout many of his videos, Fitzpatrick explained that he was simply critiquing and reviewing Toei properties, which should fall under fair use. But that’s exactly the kind of thing a big Japanese animation studio does not want or care about. There are some massive cultural differences at play with this story and while it’s heartbreaking to see a small YouTuber get completely dogpiled like this, when it comes to Japan, fair use is not a defense.
If you’re curious why Fitzpatrick would care so much about old videos, beyond just wanting them for prosperity sake, YouTubers with big back catalogs can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in passive adsense money. Especially if they have a channel like Fitzpatrick’s, which can easily be binged and doesn’t really age.
It’s also unfortunate that Fitzpatrick deleted his previous videos about all of this. In one video that he posted over the weekend that has since been pulled down he explained that a YouTube rep told him that he could get a feature for his channel that would geofence his content from Japanese audiences, thus hopefully clearing up the copyright issues, but his account wasn’t “eligible” for it. Apparently, the YouTube rep recommended that he apply for a multi-channel network, or MCN, the YouTube equivalent of a record label, which, for a fee, would give his channel a geofencing capability.
This entire thing is a mess and there really doesn’t seem to be any easy answers for what could be done to fix this. Though, it does seem like a lot of this comes down to the fact that YouTube is a global platform, but doesn’t currently offer creators a complete set of standards and tools to navigate various countries’ very different copyright laws.
Crazy Frog Wants You To Know He Understands If You’re Anti-NFT, But He Will Not Stop
First, Crazy Frog, the EDM demon that makes ringtones, is back. Last year, as reported by the newsletter B-Net (RIP in peace), Crazy Frog’s Twitter account reactivated. And that account is now promoting NFTs. Crazy Frog is releasing NFTs on a marketplace called MetaBeats in 10 days.
On Friday, the Crazy Frog Twitter account issued an apology, of sorts, kind of, saying they understand that people are upset about them launching NFTs, but they explained that one reason they were making Crazy Frog NFTs was to combat Crazy Frog crypto scams (lol ok). Though, it is an interesting idea and I do wonder how much of the current crypto asset gold rush is motivated by the same impulses from large companies.
Then, in another tweet, the account wrote, “WON'T cancel the NFTs.”
This whole thing is sort of reminiscent of the Neopets NFT controversy from October, but, unlike Neopets, I’m not totally clear if there are actual Crazy Frog “fans” that “care” about the “brand” enough to be upset that it was cashing in on digital assets.
I Love The Random Restaurant Bot
I love this account. It’s called Random Restaurant and every half hour it posts four photos from a random restaurant somewhere in the world. It’s hypnotic and also beautifully lofi in a weird way. Though, I’m also a person who can spend hours on Google Street View. So maybe other folks won’t find this as captivating as I do.
A Really Cool Nine-Year-Old Eve 6 Music Video
The Eve 6-naissance has resulted in my YouTube homepage filling up with the band’s old music videos. Their two big singles, “Inside Out” and “Here’s To Tonight” gave me the lifelong personality disorder that’s called “being an emo fan.” But I admittedly had not heard much of their stuff released after their initial breakup in 2004.
This video for their 2012 song “Curtain” popped up and it’s pretty cool! But even cooler is the making-of video which you can watch here. My recommended viewing order is the video, the making of, and then the video again.
Let’s Break Down The Sean Lennon Undertale NFT Thing
If you didn’t know, Sean Lennon, John Lennon’s son, is super into NFTs right now. Earlier this month, he posted a tweet promoting SkullxNFT, which he claimed were “not for the faint of heart.” To be clear, we’re talking about JPGs of different skulls.
Lennon’s tweet was quote-tweeted by musician and internet creator Leon Chang, who wrote, “okay i’m sorry this is funniest nft post on here now. i don’t think john lennon’s son posting undertale papyrus ahegao nft can be beat”
There is a lot in that sentence, so I want to explain each piece one-by-one for you. First, Undertale is a video game created by Toby Fox. Fox was the composer for the web comic Homestuck. Undertale is an RPG about going to hell (basically) and it features two characters that have become very popular since the game’s release, Sans and Papyrus, who are both skeletons.
An “ahegao” face is a Japanese term that defines an exaggerated orgasm face that is commonly featured in animated or hand-drawn pornography. It’s defined by eyes rolled back and a big tongue sticking out. Real-life ahegao faces have become more popular in live action pornography over the last few years, though. Belle Delphine, the British Instagram model who went viral for jarring and selling her bath water a few years ago, was known for making ahegao faces while cosplaying as different popular anime characters.
About six years ago, artists on sites like DeviantArt, Reddit, and Tumblr began drawing Sans and Papyrus with ahegao faces. Why? Well, Undertale is a pretty serious and emotional game, so I assume there’s a bit of fun being had there, but also people on the internet are perverts. So, of course there are people drawing erotic fan art of the Undertale skeletons. Here’s the most well-known Undertale ahegao picture. (It’s safe for work, I guess?)
And this brings us back to Sean Lennon’s tweet. As people in the replies have pointed out, many of the SkullxNFTs have an uncanny resemblance to erotic ahegao fan art of Papyrus from Undertale.
So, there you go! Sean Lennon’s a crypto guy and he’s super into NFTs that look like Undertale porn. But this isn’t the first time that NFT art has had a bizarre resemblance to fetish art. The Lazy Lion NFT line looks a lot like furry art.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a really good Garfield meme.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***