Welcome to the latest edition of BuzzFeed News' culture newsletter, Cleanse the Timeline! You can subscribe here.
I’ve been wanting to read Chloé Cooper Jones’ Easy Beauty since it came out earlier this month, and Tomi Obaro’s review (below!) gave me the push I needed. Speaking of recommendations, Stephanie McNeal recently discovered the world of basic bro fashion influencers, who help their followers understand baffling items like shorts. (Frankly, I also do not understand shorts.)
Elamin Abdelmahmoud is back on his Ben Affleck beat, this time wondering why the actor hasn’t tackled all that many biopics in his long career. And Michael Blackmon makes the case that critics of Chlöe Bailey should just learn how to mind their own business.
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Estelle Tang, senior culture editor
Welcome to Read This, where we recommend something old or new to add to your ever-growing book pile.
Easy Beauty: A Memoir by Chloé Cooper Jones
I haven’t stopped thinking about this memoir since I first read a galley back in February. Jones, a freelance writer whose profile of Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed Eric Garner’s killing, made her a Pulitzer finalist, writes candidly about her experience as a disabled mother, wife, and daughter. She juxtaposes ruminations on ancient notions of beauty with the reality and cruelty she often experiences as someone who has sacral agenesis, a condition that gives her chronic hip pain, a limp, and short stature. Doctors assume she can’t get pregnant. Two men debate the ethics of being born disabled right in front of her. Jones is a very unsentimental writer; she writes candidly in a manner that doesn’t always flatter herself. But that’s why the book is so powerful. —Tomi Obaro
Hi, and welcome to Like and Subscribe, Stephanie McNeal’s column about the accounts she just can’t stop following on social media.
The Basic Bro Fashion Influencers Teaching TikTok How to Wear Shirts, and Also Shorts
Last weekend, my husband, Brian, and I were out to dinner when he started to tell me about some clothes he wanted to buy for an upcoming trip. He whipped out his phone and proceeded to show me what his favorite fashion influencers were wearing.
“Wait,” I said. “You follow fashion influencers on TikTok?”
It turns out my husband and many other basic boys have started to do what my friends and I have been doing for years: following creators who teach you how to dress.
There’s a growing niche of TikTok guys who show their peers how to elevate their style. Take Ethan Glenn. Glenn posts his outfits, hauls, and sponcon for an audience of over 300,000. This isn’t groundbreaking content. But considering that a whopping 84% of influencers doing sponcon on Instagram are women, it’s noteworthy that more guys are finally getting in the game. After years of women running the fashion show online, it turns out that men want to be influenced too.
Glenn and his ilk cater to your basic bro. They aren’t pushing the envelope here; they are simply showing viewers how to pair together jeans, a shirt, and a nice pair of shoes. Glenn opened a recent haul video by showing off a pair of Stüssy basketball shorts he had bought. Basketball shorts! Another male fashion influencer, Darius Boles, recently posted a video declaring his love for a workman-style Carhartt coat.
“I’ve never owned or worn a sweater vest before…but I gotta say, I like how I feel,” influencer Albert Muzquiz said in a recent video where he tried on a gift from his roommate. (“I don’t think I could pull that off,” Brian said to me sadly.)
It’s clear from the comments that these influencers’ services are much needed. “Plz style with shorts, idk what summer fits to make with them,” one burgeoning fashionista (fashionisto?) wrote on a recent video of Glenn’s about a pair of Adidas Samba shoes. “Can u make a video talking all about ur pants,” asked another.
None of this is incredibly revelatory, but I think it’s great that guys are getting in on the game. After all, everyone wants to know how to dress, and female fashion influencers have long established a successful model of just how to do it.
Now, it’s time to get on LTK and start making bank. Swipe up, fellas! —Stephanie McNeal
Welcome to Cause and Affleck, a column in which Elamin Abdelmahmoud thinks deeply about the most important subject in the world: Ben Affleck.
Why Doesn’t Ben Affleck Do More Biopics?
This week, it was announced that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon will team up to star in an as yet unnamed movie about Nike and Michael Jordan, with Affleck also directing. This is exciting for two reasons: 1) any new Ben Affleck movie news is good news, and 2) this allows us an opportunity to investigate Affleck’s relationship with a genre he hasn’t spent much time with: the biopic.
Affleck will play Nike cofounder Phil Knight, and Damon will star as Sonny Vaccaro, who dreamed up the Michael Jordan endorsement deal and relentlessly pursued Jordan in the mid-’80s. Before the deal was made, Nike wasn’t even second best among the sportswear brands — it was a distant third. The Air Jordan deal rearranged the world of sports apparel, and Nike went on to reinvent itself as the giant it is today.
Despite Affleck’s versatility as an actor — he has spanned all genres, from spy thriller to rom-com to sports movie — he has spent relatively little time with biopics. Two come to mind: Hollywoodland, where he played former Adventures of Superman actor George Reeves, and Argo, the 2013 Oscars Best Picture winner he directed about the Iran hostage crisis, where he played CIA agent Tony Mendez.
The meager biopic count on Affleck’s résumé is a mystery. Compared with other men of his generation of actors, he has played relatively few real people. For example, Damon has seven biopic credits (and his eighth is on the way). Will Smith has four. Even Brad Pitt has depicted four real-life figures.
His seeming indifference to the genre is certainly not for lack of ability. Hollywoodland may have received mixed reviews, but Argo stuck the landing. Perhaps, for a celebrity of Affleck’s caliber, it has become harder to play a role and completely disappear into it. And unlike Damon or Pitt (or, until recently, Smith), Affleck’s celebrity has always been publicly complicated. It is not that Affleck is more famous — it is that his fame has carried more baggage. Perhaps he is bound by the fact that any attempt at re-creating a real person onscreen and attempting to imbue that representation with sympathy will quickly give way to his familiar face and all we have projected onto it.
All of which makes the Nike movie a fascinating prospect. Why is Affleck choosing to play Knight? The answer may lie in Knight’s distance from us. Yes, depictions of real people can be more complicated for actors, but Knight is one of the 30 richest men in the world, and a billionaire many times over. Affleck will likely not worry that his rendering might negatively impact Knight’s life. With that out of the way, he can just focus on the work. —Elamin Abdelmahmoud
Welcome to I Like the Sound of That, where Michael Blackmon goes deep on a song he’s currently obsessed with.
“Treat Me” by Chloë Bailey (2022)
The moment a pop star decides to fully lean into their sex appeal is practically a rite of passage at this point. People freaked out when former Mickey Mouse Club member Christina Aguilera shed her good girl image in 2002’s outrageously raunchy music video for “Dirrty.” I recall public reception to the video being extremely negative, a trend that continued for years afterward; even four years later, a 2006 profile of the star in the New York Times called it “a sweat-drenched disaster.”
We’ve seen many artists try on new images, from Britney Spears gyrating onstage at the 2001 VMAs with a python resting on her shoulders to Rihanna boldly revealing, “Sticks and stones may break my bones / But chains and whips excite me” on 2010’s “S&M.” These in-your-face statements typically signal a graduation from one particular identity to another. (Of course, not all stars go through a transition like this. “There are also big stars who never go through pop puberty. Adele seems destined to remain functionally chaste in her work,” wrote Rich Juzwiak in Jezebel this past February.)
Chlöe Bailey, whom most know as one half of the duo Chlöe X Halle, is the latest star to publicly horn up. The sisters, who are signed to Beyoncé’s Parkwood label, have begun working on separate projects: Halle will star as Ariel in the upcoming The Little Mermaid live-action remake, while Chlöe has been gearing up to release her debut solo album. Last summer, Chlöe released “Have Mercy” to modest success: The song peaked at 28 on the Hot 100 and has since been certified gold. In the “Have Mercy” video, she seductively licks what appears to be a marble bust of a man’s head, and in another scene eagerly pats her crotch. Chlöe has received plenty of criticism from people who find her progression from child to adult too much to handle; denizens of Twitter have deemed her persona as much too sexual. (Others have deemed her new approach underwhelming, describing it as “giving christian mingle” or “trying too hard.”)
Thankfully, she hasn’t listened to detractors. Her fantastic follow-up song, “Treat Me,” was just as sexy. The video expands upon Chlöe’s dedication to self-love, with four distinct scenes, one of which features the singer dousing herself in syrup while onlookers ignore the sweet dishes in front of them — they only have eyes for Chlöe. The song itself features an interpolation of Bubba Sparxxx’s “Ms. New Booty,” and the lyrics urge the listener to “treat me like I treat me.” So Chlöe isn’t merely offering her body up for someone undeserving or dancing seductively while pining for a guy — she already knows her worth and emphatically tells her would-be lover that he better know it too.
Chlöe has said in the past that she’s becoming more comfortable with her body and recently talked about how little money artists make from music, so it seems likely that she is simply expressing herself the way she wants. Instead of trying to keep an artist within the limited conception you have of them, why not let a burgeoning Black woman pop star experiment and figure things out for herself? She recently told fans about her influences, which included queen of disco Donna Summer and the eclectic Imogen Heap, among others. For me, that’s when everything about Chlöe began to click: the sensuality, the blending of musical genres, and her vision for her own art. It might do Chlöe’s haters some good to actually listen to her music for what it is instead of what they want it to be. Chlöe is immensely talented, with a knack for producing stellar songs and blessed with the kind of dazzling, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing right now” voice that doesn’t come around very often. While everyone else is following fads and chasing hits, she’s seemingly trusting her intuition and sharing her gifts with the world on her own terms. Who cares if she’s extra? She certainly doesn't. —Michael Blackmon
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