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Friday, March 1, 2024

Culture Corner

The Arts Desk’s weekly picks for television, movies, books and music

Television: “Derry Girls”

If you’re not watching Netflix’s “Derry Girls,” you’re missing out on one the most screamingly hilarious shows in recent memory. It follows the shenanigans of Erin, Orla, Clare, Michelle and Michelle’s English cousin James as they navigate teenage life in Northern Ireland in the 1990s. “Derry Girls” is undoubtedly a comedy, but the Troubles loom in the background, and the serious moments when the sectarian violence comes to the fore are handled deftly. The pure hilarity of the gang’s hijinks has broad appeal, though a certain off-color sense of humor is required to laugh at the group lying to a hot priest about a dog pissing on a statue of the Virgin Mary to get out of their final exams. “Derry Girls” is witty, thoughtful and worth a binge-watch.

Movie: “Fried Green Tomatoes”

A wholesome, feel-good comfort movie if there ever was one. “Fried Green Tomatoes” is both the story of the Threadgoode family in 1920s Whistle Stop, Ala. and the impact of that story on Evelyn Couch, a dissatisfied housewife in Birmingham who hears the tale from Ninny Threadgoode, whom she meets while visiting a nursing home in the 1980s. The protagonist of the Whistle Stop story is Ninny’s sister-in-law Idgie, a feisty tomboy with a heart of gold. Though the movie isn’t as explicitly queer as the novel it’s based on (which you should read first!), it’s widely considered a lesbian classic, and it’s hard to deny that the relationship between high-spirited, fiercely loyal Idgie and sweet, strong, steadfast Ruth is a love story for the ages. Have tissues on hand.

Book: “Bread” by Scott Shershow

“Charming” is a word not often used to describe scholarly monographs, but that’s what “Bread” is. I was hooked by the book’s opening –– a passionate declaration of love for bread –– as I, too, am a worshipper of this crusty carbohydrate. “Bread” is readable poolside, which isn’t a knock on its scholarly rigor; rather, it’s to say that the clarity of the prose and of the argumentation make the book not only a fascinating read but a genuinely pleasurable one. Astute analyses of the political and economic significances of bread and its centrality to organizations of civilization and society are woven in with personal stories of sourdough starter misadventures and the intense sensual pleasures of kneading dough. It’s a wonderful read for object-oriented scholars, cultural historians or simply lovers of bread.

Album: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

If you weren’t baptized into the Church of Springsteen as a child like I was, go dig “Born to Run” out of your dad’s attic and give it a listen. Springsteen’s ability to give voice to the tenderness and vulnerability among expressions of classic red-blooded American masculinity is unmatched. Is there a more perfect, more evocative image in English verse than “Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge / Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain”? “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” has nothing on that. Ideally “Born to Run” is listened to while roaring down an open stretch of highway in an old Chevy with a pretty girl by your side on a sultry summer night, but if you can’t manage that it’s just as enjoyable through headphones on the way to class.

Written by: Emily Stack — arts@theaggie.org


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