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TV/Film Culture cheat sheet: “Queen & Slim,” Megan Thee Stallion, and more

Mar. 9, 2020
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Watch: Queen & Slim (2019, dir. Melina Matsoukas)

Good art should challenge the norm, but at a time when mainstream feminism has become digestible enough to exist within a capitalist system, art that doesn’t follow the script is “problematic” and therefore “canceled.” Watering down feminism rids it of its nuances, and so Queen & Slim, a Bonnie and Clyde-esque tale of a black couple on the run after killing a white cop in self-defense, is a welcome change. It presents the audience with a meditation on the justice system that’s more gray than black and white without faltering to be politically charged. 

With Beyonce’s “Formation” music video as director Melina Matsoukas’ other most prominent credit, it’s not surprising to see her feature debut be similarly stylistic. Both mutely colored and unapologetically black, Queen & Slim plays it a lot safer, but powerhouse performances by Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Smith-Tuner solidify the shaky screenplay. 

That said, the central love story is what will keep you watching. The two’s chemistry, like everything else in the film, isn’t immediately apparent, instead built slowly and deliberately. The macro is inspected through the micro: the audience is almost never given insight into the incident outside the couple until they meet a kid midway who not only recognizes but reveres them. This culminates in the film’s most provocative sequence, in which scenes of a riot pleading for the two’s freedom are interpolated with them in a beautifully lit sex scene. 

The script has its faults, but Queen & Slim didn’t deserve to fly over everyone’s heads amidst last year’s semi-dreary cinema offerings. Artful and masterfully crafted, I know I’m not alone in hoping this will be the kind of movie that gains its well-deserved cult following well after its initial release.

Queen & Slim is available on digital now.

Listen: Suga by Megan Thee Stallion

Anyone who doesn’t know Megan Thee Stallion at least knows of her. With a fanbase that’s practically the entire Internet, the 25-year-old rapper seeped into the mainstream by coining the now viral phrase “Hot Girl Summer,” first in a tweet and then in the cover of her mixtape Fever. 

Her name once again flooded timelines as fans got #FreeTheeStallion trending after news broke out earlier last week that a contract dispute with her label 1501 Certified Ent. was preventing her from releasing any new music. Last Wednesday, however, after being granted a temporary restraining order, she announced that not only was she releasing Suga after all, but it was coming out two days later.

With nine tracks including her already released single “B.I.T.C.H.,” Suga shows off Megan’s lyrical prowess and a newer, more vulnerable side of her despite its limited length. In a conversation with Vanity Fair, she said, “This one is just gonna be an introduction to my newest persona. Her name is Suga and Suga basically is just going through it, but she getting through it, she’s just not afraid to say when she’s wrong, she’s making mistakes, and she’s messing up, but she’s still strong at the end of the day.”

While Megan did plan this album as something longer (it was slated for release on her late mother’s birthday, May 2), the set of songs she decided to release is promising. It’s hard not to feel excited to hear the full-length album as the artist intended—but for now, we’ll be streaming her collab with Kehlani until our ears fall off.

Stream Suga by Megan Thee Stallion here.

Tune in: Complaints to HR podcast

From the usual media depiction of the film nerd as a guy with glasses manning the front desk of your local DVD rental place to the fact that it’s always men who are insistent on testing your movie trivia knowledge, film always seemed like a boyzone. And I absolutely hate that, because it isn’t true at all. A week into making an account on film social network Letterboxd, I was following and getting followed by so many teenage girls who love film, revering movies hated by the adults around us and hating the ones they all loved.

The first two minutes of Complaints to HR’s latest episode is just film fan Amanda complaining that chocolate pancakes don’t and shouldn’t work, speaking with the same reverb and passion she has when she talks about The Invisible Man, Emma, and Little Shop of Horrors later on. Not even half a year old, this podcast on movies and TV has quickly become a prominent feature of my long commutes, offering funny commentary and relatable insight not just on culture, but culture I actually find interesting. Her laidback and unapologetically overly-enthused approach to something usually so gatekept is the perfect antidote to a niche infamous for its pretentious tendencies. If you need further proof that teenage girls will indeed save the world, Complaints to HR has an episode in which Amanda draws parallels between Cats and the latest Nolan, Tenet. 

Listen to Complaints to HR here.