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While You Were Offline: Black-ish Shows TV How to Handle Race

Hey, CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter, do you happen to have a tweet that illustrates how topsy-turvy our modern world has become?

Yeah, that’ll do. With American Idol losing to American Blowhard in the ratings, this was a week in which one TV show brought the Internet together while a casting decision for another tore everyone apart again. A week in which Facebook had to deal with its own graffiti problems and Facebook realized that it couldn’t please everyone all the time, and—in one last glimmer of light!—Mindy Kaling figured out how to make the Presidential race mean something. Are you ready for a week with (gasp) no Trump and no Kanye? Here, as ever, are the highlights of what else was happening on the world wide web over the last seven days.  

Just When You Thought It Wasn’t Possible, Television Offers An Unexpected Communal Moment

What Happened: ABC sitcom Black-ish aired an episode dealing with race relations and blew the Internet’s collective mind in the process. Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces What Really Happened: The very idea of a “special episode” of television that gets everyone talking the next day seems archaic these days, but that’s what Kenya Barris’ show provided this week with “Hope,” an episode that featured the main characters discussing race relations and police brutality. The day after it aired, the Internet couldn’t help but excitedly talk about how bold the episode was in dealing with the topic. On Twitter, the episode killed (Ta-Nehisi Coates live tweeted his viewing, even, leading to this wonderfully meta moment):  

And, like all classic TV episodes, one speech was pulled out by many as the defining moment:  

The Takeaway: And they said TV didn’t bring people together anymore. Of course, it’d be better if they weren’t brought together by a shared sense of dread in an unjust world, but it’s a start!

Like Unto A Thing of Whitebread

What Happened: The identity of Marvel’s on-screen Iron Fist was revealed—but this time, staying true to the character’s comic book roots wasn’t welcomed by fans.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, media think pieces

What Really Happened: The news broke Thursday that Marvel Studios had found its Iron Fist, with Game of Thrones‘ Finn Jones named as the actor to bring Danny Rand to life in his upcoming Netflix series. Blonde-haired and blue-eyed, Jones is perfectly positioned to bring the comic book character to life—which made many people upset.

The problem isn’t just Marvel’s obsession with generic white dudes as leading men (although let’s maybe talk about an intervention after we’re done), but that Iron Fist is a concept that relies on the idea of a white guy discovering a hidden Asian kung-fu society where he becomes the chosen one and does kung-fu better than anyone else. No, that’s not problematic at all. The issue of whether or not casting an Asian actor would make Iron Fist less troublesome has been discussed in comic circles before, but with Jones actually named, the debate started up anew.  

The Takeaway: Marvel got beat up for its choice, even though some noted that it was pretty much a lose-lose proposition for the studio: either they upset fans demanding fidelity to the original comic book material, or they upset those hoping for a little more diversity in casting. However, that’s not exactly an even trade-off; as writer Marc Bernardin pointed out, an Asian Danny Rand could have still played with the outsider-in-an-alien-society trope:  

Not All Facebook Comments Matter (Thankfully)

What Happened: Facebook’s boss has to tell employees to stop being racist douches, thereby confirming everyone’s worst feelings about tech bros.

Where It Blew Up: Blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Bad things are afoot at Facebook, with a leaked company memo revealing that Mark Zuckerberg has been forced to condemn “malicious” attempts to replace the phrase “black lives matter” on company walls with the phrase “all lives matter”.

“We’ve never had rules around what people can write on our walls,” Zuckerberg wrote, “Regardless of the content or location, crossing out something means silencing speech, or that one person’s speech is more important than another’s… This has been a deeply hurtful and tiresome experience for the black community and really the entire Facebook community, and we are now investigating the current incidents.”

The memo made it clear that the latest incidents of this happening were not the first, and that the subject had been condemned previously.

The leak was widely reported across the Internet, with it feeding the idea of tech companies as morally compromised in some way.

The Takeaway: Facebook is, understandably, not officially commenting on the situation, but don’t be surprised if there’s some public show of support for Black Lives Matter from the company in the near future in an attempt to demonstrate that Facebook isn’t staffed by bigots. Hey, maybe this is a good time for Zuckerberg to give Kanye that $53 million he was asking for.

A Woman Without A Catalog Interview Is Like A Company Embarrassed By Its Politics

What Happened: Never let it be said that clothing brand Lands’ End is political. No, really, don’t say that—the company is so against that idea that it pulled a quote from its online catalog in case anyone got the wrong idea.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Lands’ End launched its “Legends Series”—”our ode to individuals who have made a difference in both their respective industries and the world at large,” as the company described it—in its spring catalog. There was an interview with feminist icon Gloria Steinem, and a line of products featuring the logo of the ERA Coalition, which would earn the organization $3 for each item sold. Seems straightforward, right?

Not so much.

The piece linked in Erickson’s tweet complained about Steinem’s “pro-abortion” activism and suggested that it was this kind of thing that made people turn to Donald Trump, while the subtly titled Life News shared the fact that, in response to conservative upset shared on its Facebook page, Lands’ End had actually removed the interview from its website and dropped the ERA Coalition-branded merch as well. If Lands’ End had hoped no-one would notice, well, that didn’t go so well, with everyone catching on. It didn’t help when Lands’ End apologized for the Steinem interview in a statement that read, in part, “We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t.” Now, of course, the company is facing a second boycott from the opposing side:  

Good job, Lands’ End! The Takeaway: Mark this one up to a marketing win like few have ever imagined. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it’s a simple (and, you’d think, obvious) one: have the courage of your convictions, corporations. Playing the cowards’ game and trying to please everyone really isn’t going to work out well for you.  

Actually, Let’s Just Start The 2017 Oscar Race Right Now

What Happened: Okay, so Johnny Depp might have played Donald Trump in a Funny or Die biopic, but Mindy Kaling knows who the real star of the Republican race is. Where It Blew Up: Twitter What Really Happened: Mindy Kaling proved what an optimist she really is earlier this week by identifying the upside of the current Presidential nominee race:  

A quick response came from screenwriter and college roommate of Cruz, Craig Mazin:

Others, however, were not so in love with the idea… because they didn’t think that Carell was the right man to bring Ted Cruz to the big screen when a more obvious candidate might be available. One that Kaling herself has worked with, in fact…  

Of course, there’s always this guy…  

Actually, scratch that, because guess who’s into the idea?

Oh, and now we have a studio as well:  

Some fans have questions about the plot of the movie, as you might expect…

But don’t worry, Elizabeth! That’s already baked into the poster, it seems.  

(Actually, have you seen that almost 40% of people think that Cruz might actually be the Zodiac killer? It’s gotten so bad that the Washington Post actually ran a piece to debunk the rumor. Politics this year is a weird place, y’all.)

The Takeaway: Look, clearly this is going to happen. It’s almost enough reason to make Cruz the Republican nominee, just so that the movie can end on an up note. (Well, until the general election, of course.)

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