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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    This article contains sexually explicit material and may not be NSFW.

    Although the porn world has as many kinks, fetishes, and niches as there are stars in the sky, there are perhaps few as perplexing as “gay-for-pay,” an extremely lucrative and popular gay porn genre that’s exactly what it sounds like: straight men having sex with each other or other gay men for money.

    From a hetero perspective, it’s a bit difficult to understand the appeal of gay-for-pay, in part because there’s really nothing analogous to it in straight porn: While straight men might have a suspicion that the two bored, long-taloned lesbian porn stars half-heartedly stroking each other’s breasts might not actually be lesbians, the fact that it’s two women having sex supersedes how convincing their performances are. For gay-for-pay fans, the appeal lies at least in part in the fact that the men’s performances aren’t convincing; they’re turned on both by the fact that they’re watching two men having sex, and by the fact that those two men aren't actually turned on by each other.

    For this reason, gay-for-pay prompts a lot of questions from people outside the industry: Why are these ostensibly straight men having sex with each other? How do these ostensibly straight men get turned on during scenes? And perhaps the most common question of all: Just how straight are these ostensibly straight guys? Are gay-for-pay porn stars actually gay?

    The upcoming reality TV show Broke Straight Boys will address these questions, and more. Created by the folks behind the eponymous, hugely popular gay-for-pay porn site (if I have to type “NSFW,” you’re not doing the Internet right), Broke Straight Boys promises to deliver all the romance, intrigue, and inebriated emotional breakdowns of The Real World or The Bachelor—except instead of trying to have sex with one eligible suitor, the boys are all having sex with each other. Here’s the (mostly SFW) trailer:

    IFrame

    Set in CEO Mark Erickson’s mansion in Colorado, where gay-for-pay performers fly out at least once a month to shoot content, Broke Straight Boys will offer a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of straight men who do gay porn, as they struggle to navigate their relationships with their families, their wives and girlfriends, and each other. The SFW series—viewers watch the before-and-after of the boys shooting their scenes, but the “during” is only available on the website—is currently being shopped to television networks, and Erickson and supervising producer Damian McKnight are hoping for an early 2015 release date. The Daily Dot caught up with McKnight and Erickson to learn more about the series, its stars, and the phenomenon of gay-for-pay porn.

    This interview has been condensed and edited.

    So why a reality show for straight men who do gay porn?

    Well, everyone’s interested in pornography. The Internet is run on pornography. Most of the top traffic sites on the Internet are actually porn sites. So we decided to take it to the next level and show the guys making the porn, the men involved in doing the porn. The twist, for us, is that these guys are actually straight and live straight lives. They come and do porn and they come to Denver to shoot four or five days a month, and they have a lot of money to spend, more money than normal. The idea for the show really came from the incredible mix of personalities these guys in the house have.

    What are their reasons for doing gay porn?

    Many of these guys are married, many have girlfriends, but they do porn on the side of their straight lives, either to supplement their income in general or they have other things they have to support. A lot of them have had run-ins with the law, so they have to pay court fees. A lot of them are felons, so they can’t find a job without their criminal history being revealed. It’s actually harder for them to find a job having a criminal record than it is for them having a history in porn...

    A lot of these guys come from small towns in places like Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas. It’s harder to find jobs there in that kind of rural environment, and if you’re a felon or you’ve had run-ins with the law you can’t find jobs with some of the larger companies in town. If you’re working at McDonald’s and making seven, eight bucks an hour, that’s no way to support a family or support yourself. A lot of these guys will come out and make really good money in a weekend that’ll help support them for a month.

    Can you tell me more about the monetary incentive? How much money do gay-for-pay actors make, compared to how much your average gay porn actor makes?

    Gay porn [actors] in general make a lot more than straight porn. We won’t give you the numbers, but we would say straight guys and gay guys who do gay porn make significantly more than gay actors. We’re not sure why that is, but one of the ideas we have is that in straight porn, the women are the stars, and the guys are just props to pleasure them. The women get more exposure and respect in the industry, and for gay porn it’s the male stars. So they pay very well, but the straight sites, the gay-for-pay sites, pay even more. It’s not really a lure, but it’s an incentive to get these straight men to do things they wouldn’t normally do, to act outside of themselves.

    Can you give me an example? What is one of the back stories featured on your show?

    One of these guys is named Denver Grant. He’s a former Marine. He did two tours in Afghanistan, and when he came back he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which limited his options as far as what he could do at that time. So he contacted us and got into porn. He’s been with us for over a year: A lot of our models have been with us over a year, and have a long shelf life. He has a girlfriend—a fiancée, actually—who’s OK with him doing porn. But the more he does it, the more he realizes that he wants to concentrate on starting a family, keeping his fiancée happy, and also getting out of porn, which he knows is going to follow him forever. But he loves women. We have a tour every summer of different Gay Prides, all over the nation. Denver has done a number of them, and we’ve heard stories of him hooking up with girls, and once he tells them he’s a porn star—not only a porn star, but a gay porn star—they eat it up. That’s pretty much his M.O. for picking up women.

    One of the biggest questions we’re asked is: Are these guys really straight?  But we have guys on the site who are very straight. As far as fantasizing about men, looking at men, wanting to have a relationship with a man, they have no interest whatsoever. It’s purely, strictly, sex for money. Some of these guys’ friends will say, “Oh, you’re not really straight because you do gay porn,” but we don’t say to gay men, “Oh, just because you slept with a woman once doesn’t mean you’re straight now.” There’s a fun way we do it in the show, by getting down to proving which of these guys are straight and which ones aren’t. I won’t say how we do it, but we answer that question.

    A lot of people who hear about gay-for-pay wonder, if they do self-identify as straight, how do these men become physically aroused to the extent that they can perform on screen? Do you address this in the show?

    We do. There are guys who come here and once they get in that studio, they hightail it out of there. They want the money so bad but they leave before even the first kiss. Some of our guys do it and you can tell they’re uncomfortable the whole time, and we may have to stop the scene, and they never come back again. It’s a mix.

    Are there any tips and tricks you employ on set to keep the guys aroused? I don’t know if you guys use a fluffer—I feel like that might be, like, a 1970s construct, but how do you ensure they stay at performance level?

    The guys who do the scenes, they’re allowed to bring their cell phones into the studio for watching porn, so if they’re having problems getting sexually aroused they’ll stop the scene and watch porn on their phones or think about their girlfriends and wives. They have all sorts of different mind games they play with themselves to stay aroused throughout the scene, but some of these guys are pros at this. They get in the studio, they’re erect right away, they’re erect through the whole scene, and they know how to give a great performance and turn it on and off.

    Which makes sense, because straight performers might not be attracted to their scene partner either, but if they’re good performers they can turn it on and off regardless.

    Right, and it’s interesting, because we find that our gay performers on our gay sites are a bit more picky about their scene partners. If they’re not attracted to that guy, they’ll be less aroused. With a straight guy, it’s just sex. So they’re aroused no matter what.

    How do the wives and girlfriends generally feel about their partners doing gay porn?

    Many of the wives are cool with it. [The way they see it, their partners are] having sex with other men and not other women, so they figure it’s not cheating. But as you’ll see in the show, one of the guy’s girlfriends is not cool with it. We have another model, Kaden Alexander, who goes on a date with a girl, and they’re having a good time, and she asks him what he does. He told her he was a model, so she was taken aback by that. He tells her he’s a porn star, and he does gay porn. So that’s the icing on the cake for her, and she leaves. It’s hard for these guys. Some of them use it as a hook to pick up women, but some of them who want to have a relationship, it’s really hard for the women involved with these guys, because of what they do.

    We’ve talked about why these guys do gay-for-pay porn, but what is the appeal of gay-for-pay from the perspective of gay audiences? Why do gay men get off on watching men who ostensibly aren’t gay, and aren’t attracted to each other, having sex?

    It’s an interesting question. I think it’s that throughout life, gay men shun their gay side and keep it hidden. They don’t really come into who they really are until they’re 18, they go away to college, or they’re in an environment where they feel comfortable coming out. Sometimes they come out as bisexual early on, sort of as a way to transition into coming out as gay. But a lot of gay men’s attraction to what they like develops at an earlier age. And a lot of those guys happen to be jocks, straight guys, football players, soccer players, this really masculine ideal for what we believe is beautiful.

    So with that, you start an attraction to straight men, because they’re the guys who are unreachable. If you have two men in front of you, you pick the one who’s not good for you, the forbidden fruit, over someone who’s more accessible. So that’s where we believe the appeal comes in. These are guys who live straight lives, and there’s something about seeing guys reach outside of their comfort zones and their boundaries that is so hot. They’re the guys you always wished you could get with.

    I asked my friend about this once—he’s a fan of your site—and he said it’s because it’s like masturbating to the guys who used to bully him in high school.

    Yeah, a lot of what you’re attracted to begins in high school, because that’s when you begin to blossom sexually. There’s always those hot football players, those hot baseball players, you’re attracted to, and then in real life, in the gay world, they’re a little bit harder to find, because I believe as gay becomes more OK I’ve seen a lot more guys not acting as masculine as what our fantasy guy may be. And then a lot of attractive gay men only become attracted to other attractive gay men, which leads the Average Joe out in the cold. So they turn to straight porn to find what they’re attracted to.

    You mentioned earlier that before coming out, some gay men  will identify as bisexual, sort of as a transitional phase. How often does that happen with your models? Is it common for these guys to come out and say, “You know, I think I might enjoy having sex with men” after shooting for you?

    When guys apply on our site, they have to specify what their sexuality is, and we only take guys who say they’re straight. For some of these guys, the first time they have sex with a man on camera is with us. So that’s happened a few times, the guy will come back and back and back and have sex with more guys. During a given shooting week, you could shoot anywhere between three to six scenes, so this is their chance to feel it out and see if being gay is for them, and sometimes they’ll be like, “I’m still straight, but I do enjoy having sex with men.”

    Sometimes we’ll see a guy come in and through his evolution on the site come out or figure out he’s actually gay. We don’t shun that. Some of the guys on our site have come out, and we still use them, but when we cast we always cast straight guys. We see that on the show. There’s an interesting twist at the end where you see our cast members start to explore what their sexuality really is.

    What’s the dynamic like between gay performers and the gay-for-pay performers? Is there a hierarchy in the industry? Do the gay-for-pay performers look down on the gay performers, or vice versa?

    The gay performers will question if the guys are really gay. There have been times where we’ve had the gay performers and the straight performers in the house at the same time, and we’ve seen our gay performers hit on our straight performers, and it just doesn’t happen for them (laughs). But the straight men actually are very supportive of the gay performers. A lot of the straight performers really look up to the gay men, because they understand the scrutiny and the homophobia they have to deal with. Once the family members find out, they undergo the same scrutiny and experience the same issues that gay men do when they’re first coming out. So they understand what it feels like to be in that situation.

    There have been a number of instances of gay-for-pay performers losing their jobs or being shunned after people found out they did porn. How common is this?

    It’s definitely common. We’ve had a number of our performers lose their jobs, their careers because of this. We had one guy who wanted to be a police deputy really bad, and his supervisors found out he was on Broke Straight Boys, and he was relieved of his duties, even though it was his dream job. People lose family members, partners as well. On our show, one of our characters had a problem with his girlfriend, who was from a well-connected family. She knew what her boyfriend did, but her family always asked her what he did, and when she finally came clean with them they made her break up with him.

    How aware of they are the potential consequences of doing gay-for-pay porn before they shoot?

    We talk with each model in the casting process, and let them know this is one of the largest gay-for-pay sites out there. We tell them it’s not a matter of if they find out, it’s when they find out, but I don’t think they’re fully aware of what could happen beforehand. That’s not to say they’re stupid. A lot of these guys are really smart. One of them who’s not with the site anymore supported himself through medical school and now he’s a surgeon. It hasn’t seemed to have affected his medical career, but who’s to say in five, 10 years it won’t?

    One of our models, who’s not on the show, he lives with his family and they don’t know what he does. They think he just goes to Denver every month on vacation. We have one model who lived with a foster family, and when his mother found out she woke up at 6am and told him he had 15 minutes to get out of the house. So he immediately called us and we got him a plane ticket out here and found a place for him to live. These models spend anywhere from a week to two weeks with us every month. We become very close to them. We try to foster a sense of family with them. It’s a dysfunctional family, it’s a family that has sex with each other. But it’s a family nonetheless.   

    H/T Queerty | Screengrab via Broke Straight Boys TV/YouTube



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    As of July 1, every TV station in the U.S. now has to provide info on their political ads, not just top 50 markets. It’s part of a 2012 FCC vote for disclosure of political ad spending, which required all stations to provide info going into the 2014 elections.

    The Internet Archive is debuting a new program in the Philadelphia TV market in which every political ad will be searchable before the Nov. 4 election. The Archive’s volunteer-assisted dedication to indexing important chapters of history has become its quiet strength, and now it’s attempting to help shape the future in real time.

    Earlier this year, the San Francisco-based nonprofit began digitizing the incredible VHS collection of the late Marion Stokes, a Philadelphia woman who recorded the local and national news every day for three decades. Her son, Michael Metelits, told the Daily Dot he hoped her collection might help people with a narrower view of politics get a sense of the “historical sweep”:

    "This isn’t the first time Afghanistan's been a problem, this isn’t the first time a particular politician has been in the news. This is going to provide a sense of the rhythm of news stories, for people searching for a particular politician. My hope is that it deepens public perception of not only how news was made, but the actual politics underlying the news, to help people have a more informed, intelligent engagement with politics."

    The same reasoning could apply to this new project: All the info about political ads in that market will be searchable 24 hours after airing, and content will be viewable online. It’s crowdsourced fact-checking and reporting on a regional level, making the public the watchdog. If it works, Roger Macdonald, director of the IA’s television archive, could see it migrating to other cities. 

    “We’re evangelists for the perspective of open," he says. "We try to demonstrate practical implementations… a series of data tests at scale, for what society could do. [...] We’re kind of a friendly library ridge between the disruptive techlandia and more scholaric ways of treating media.”

    Philadelphia is the fourth-largest market in TV, and within the diverse city, according to Macdonald, there are three very contested congressional elections for the House of Representatives. This year, wherever there are key battleground races, there could also political "dark" money. So how could the public map that? Macdonald references a project done by MIT’s Center for Civic Media, that utilized the IA’s TV news archive and mapped coverage of the Trayvon Martin murder case via Media Cloud, offering a bigger picture of the bias, trends, and agendas that went into the reporting. 

    The Daily Show and, more recently, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight are good examples of how to effectively set up and utilize the “gotcha” clip of a politician or government group. Macdonald agrees the IA could facilitate that for this new project, but admits the writers at the Daily Show are much funnier.

    “We’re just a library, but what the Daily Show has really demonstrated is just one of those use cases. The gotcha. And that’s not trivial. That’s pretty deep. That’s a tool of accountability, and may well shape people’s future behavior. But others feel that that just scratches the surface.”

    In 2012, the Sunlight Foundation, a D.C. nonprofit that advocates for transparent and open government, debutedPolitical Ad Sleuth, a database that tracks the number of political ads in different television markets, as well as the “dark money” behind them. (You can do a little influence exploring here.)

    In a blog posted July 1, the group provided a state breakdown of some of the ads being tracked, such as Koch brothers- and Generation Opportunity-funded ads in Lake Charles, La., and found airtime has been purchased through November.

    Kathy Kiely, the Sunlight Foundation’s managing editor, says the number of stations required to file online went from 230 to roughly 2,000. Before July 1, that Lake Charles market didn’t have to file. Now, it will be easier to see if there’s critical reporting or fact-checking happening in those markets, and, possibly, who let the dark money in.

    “We thought we’d organize volunteers and build a tool and allow people to crowdsource this info,” Kiely says of the Political Ad Sleuth. The Philadelphia project will archive TV contract info so it’s searchable by time and date, and you can “actually trace the ad to the group, and then the money behind it.

    “It will also make the broadcasts [around the ads] available,” Kiely explains.

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, is a champion of the project, and stresses its importance for journalists as well as communities. 

    “Archiving political content makes it possible to track political trends across time and assess media effects that would otherwise be missed because scholars couldn't access the messages producing effects," she says. "Accessible content also increases the advocacy community's ability to hold those issuing the messages accountable for their content.”

    The Internet Archive’s database for this project won’t be up until August, but Macdonald is hopeful. 

    “We’re breaking a lot of new ground," he says. "And it’s not just the Archive. It’s the Archive and those who come to us saying, ‘We’d like to do this, how can you help us?’” 

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons |Remix by Jason Reed 


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    Of July 4, Kanye West performed at London’s Wireless Festival, and before performing “Runaway,” he led the audience on a 15-minute chase through the mind of Kanye West, touching on fame, celebrity, Spike Jonze, Gucci, dreams, Pharrell, creativity, and Nikes. You know, a typical Kanye West intro.

    Even more impressive and/or infuriating: Large portions of the speech were performed with Auto-Tune, and not everyone was as into it as Kanye. The dedicated souls at Vulture transcribed the entire speech. An excerpt:

    “But if you’re a creative and you want to create, and you just want to create more, this is exactly what I’ve been fighting for. So if you hear me talking about Louis Vuitton or the Gucci Group or anything like that. I’m not dissing Louis Vuitton, I’m not dissing the Gucci Group and shit. I’m just saying, don’t discriminate against me, because I’m a black man or because I’m a celebrity, and tell me that I can create, but not feel. Cuz you know damn well there aren’t no black guys or celebrities making no Louis Vuitton nothing. They let Pharrell make those glasses, and we liked them, right? They let me make those shoes, and we liked them right?”

    Right, right. West also performed in a mask, which led him to comment on why he’s not afraid of wearing a mask or “saving face,” because he’s a man of his word, and just wants to “make something awesome”:

    “And I’m telling you right now as I stand on this stage, all this shit that you heard me talking about, I’m gonna come and back all that shit up. You don’t know how hard it was to get the Nikes, that wasn’t my fault. They try to control y’all and try to control me. And when I was in my negotiations, they told me, “We don’t negotiate with celebrities.” That’s like a terrorist. They talk to you like it’s fucking terrorist.”

    Here’s your Sunday meditation:

    H/T Vulture | Screengrab via MrCliffordIrving/YouTube


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    Congratulations. If you paid attention during YouTuber Brett Domino's last lesson on how to write a pop hit, you should be well on your way to millions of untold riches and incessant earworms by now.

     But if you're having trouble making your song rise above the rest of the ubiquitous bubblegum pop songs out there, Domino is back with part two of his manifesto, complete with catchy chorus-writing tips and Auto-Tune at the ready.

    The best thing about Domino's lessons is how rooted they are in roughly 85 percent of the pop music you've been mindlessly consuming for the last decade or so. Apart from the fact that these lessons clearly seem to stem straight from the K-Pop Academy of Songwriting, the hit Domino manages to whip up is actually pretty catchy. Cheekily inspired by Iggy Azalea, Domino somehow manages to drop the bass and the names of European cities, and it all works beautifully.

    We'll be singing this from Tokyo to Rome.

    Screengrab via Brett Domino/YouTube


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    Pink Floyd haven’t released an album in 20 years. On Saturday, new material was announced in the most Internet way possible: via Twitter.

    Polly Samson, a novelist and wife of Pink Floyd’s singer and guitarist David Gilmour, ever-so-casually dropped a BTW bomb, and divulged that a new album, titled The Endless River, would be out in October. It’s late keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Rick Wright’s “swan song,” but it’s not clear whether the album is strictly 1994 material, or more recent. A representative for Gilmour confirmed to Rolling Stone that the album is coming out.

    Cue the Pink Floyd fan-valanche. The album already has a Wikipedia entry, which states “[t]he announcement made by Samson was immediately followed by backing vocalist Durga McBroom, who posted a photo of her alongside Gilmour in the recording studio, affirming Samson's announcement and later stating that the record will consist of "all unreleased material.”

    Ah yes, the Twitter-Wikipedia one-two punch. Is this how we're announcing albums now?  

    Photo via steve/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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    Along with the announcement that filming will be going on hiatus thanks to Harrison Ford’s injury, Star Wars has revealed two new cast members.

    Young actors Crystal Clarke and Pip Anderson were discovered during open casting calls for Star Wars Episode VII. Both are new to this kind of big-name film franchise, with Clarke making her film debut next year (in a mermaid fantasy movie called The Moon and the Sun), and Anderson working as a professional freerunner thanks to his YouTube channel full of parkour videos. 

    Anderson’s parkour channel, piptrix, indicates that he’s probably been cast in a stunt-based role. A young Jedi or Sith lord, maybe?

    You can also catch a glimpse of his acrobatic skills in various TV commercials including this Sony Spider-Man ad, which seems to be the most high-profile thing he’s done so far.

    “The Star Wars universe has always been about discovering and nurturing young talent and in casting Episode VII we wanted to remain absolutely faithful to this tradition,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. She’s not wrong. Mark Hamill was barely known until he was cast in A New Hope, and these days even a very minor role in the franchise could make a young actor’s career.

    The last major movie to use this kind of open casting call was Harry Potter, and it’s entirely possible that Star Wars Episode VII may turn actors like Crystal Clarke, Daisy Ridley and Pip Anderson into the next Emma Watson or Daniel Radcliffe.

    Photo via StarWars.com


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    John Oliver, whose HBO hit Last Week Tonight took last week off, won’t let something like a little hiatus stop him from reporting on the past week’s biggest news story.

    Despite everything Oliver could’ve possibly predicted, he stuck with the utterly predictable this time around: Independence Day "or, as they call it where I'm from," says Oliver, "the Day of Colonial Aggression." And, of course, it wouldn't be the Fourth of July without fireworks.

    And so, with excruciating detail, Oliver described what was probably your Fourth of July weekend fireworks experience, from the parking hell to the explosive finale.

    All that’s needed is a mention of our inability to watch fireworks without having our phones out and it’s a perfect picture.

    Photo via Last Week Tonight with John Oliver/YouTube


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    Sir Paul McCartney might be giving Bill Murray a run for his money. On Saturday night, he helped two fans get engaged.

    This happened at his show in Albany, so it wasn’t as random as Bill Murray crashing an engagement photo. McCartney, who'd recently been hospitalized, noticed two neon signs out of the many fans hold up at his shows. One said, “He won’t marry me ‘til he meets you.” The other said, “I’ve got the ring and I’m 64.”

    The couple, Claudia Rogers and John Dann, met on Match.com eight years ago, and they were invited on stage by McCartney, so Dann could finally pop the question—and, of course, sing “When I’m Sixty-Four." 

    H/T The Wrap | Screengrab via squintyt4e/YouTube


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    Because nothing says "Fourth of July celebration" like a pair of Italian plumbers.

    At the Welcome America! concert in Philadelphia, which concludes the weeklong Independence Day celebrations each year in the country's birthplace, a couple performers felt that the crowds deserved a bit of nostalgia. DJ Jazzy Jeff, Jerry Ellis, and headlining act The Roots dropped some 8-bit beats as they produced a rap-style mix featuring music from the first Super Mario Bros. game. Naturally, the crowd enthusiastically responded, bouncing along to the latest version of their old favorite.

    This rap remix of the theme music was decidedly better than the previous attempt back in the late 1980s.

    Following the concert, which included additional performances from Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, and others, the crowd was treated to the annual fireworks display. Presumably, it looked a little something like this.

    Screengrab via 6abc.com


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    While you were spending your three-day weekend locked in your house playing Kim Kardashian’s new video game and getting bedsores in the process, the real Kim was experiencing a reality vastly more terrifying than that.

    Like a nightmarish episode of The Twilight Zone, Kardashian was apparently stuck in the gorgeous paradise of the Hamptons without any cell reception, thus unable to post beachy summer bikini pics. Which begs the age-old philosphical question: if you were in the Hamptons but didn't Instagram, were you even in the Hamptons?

    Unable to tolerate third-world standards and, no doubt, yearning for the vitriolic comments that flood her postings, Kardashian chartered a helicopter to New York so she could once again snap selfies. On Sunday, Kardashian posted a selfie alongside frequent human prop-slash-hairstylist Scotty Cunha that read, "Bye Hamps!!!! YOUR CELL PHONE RECEPTION SUCKS!!!! Have to go to the city real quick to Instagram!!!"

    But given that this is a woman who spent four days slaving away on filter choices and lighting to perfect the most popular photo on Instagram, is it such a stretch to imagine that she would charter a helicopter for the sole purpose of social media? 

    In all honesty, we should be paying for that helicopter ride because of, as Kanye West once said, “how important Kim is to the Internet.” Forget securing safe water in Africa—someone get started on the Kardashian selfie fundraising campaign. 

    H/T malaymailonline.com | Photo eviaevarinaldiphotography/ Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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    Wendy’s is making a big push for the return of its pretzel bun, to the point of recruiting Boyz II Men and Jon Secada to sing theme songs for it. In addition to nostalgia-mining, the fast food chain released a music videos satirizing ballads. To give them a modern twist, the lyrics are made up of social media comments.

    Yes, brands love their social media stunts, and this video chronicles the news of the pretzel bun’s demise, the subsequent heartbreak, and then the elation when it comes back, all in an effort to get #pretzellovesongs trending. It’s a real white-knuckle thrill ride through emotions.

    You might suddenly find yourself wanting a pretzel bun burger from Wendy's. 

    Boyz II Men’s take is supposed to be released this week. This preview sounds pretty promising.

    Wait, is that Boyz II Men wearing emoji masks?

    It really is a glorious time to be alive.  

    Screengrab via Vevo/YouTube 


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    Shane Dawson addicts, rejoice! The YouTube comedian's feature film debut is closer than ever, with a first trailer of his film Not Cool released over the holiday weekend.

    Dawson’s stint at feature filmmaking is part of an as-of-yet-unaired Starz show The Chair in which he and another filmmaker were each given $900,000 and the same script and told to bring it to the screen. In addition to directing, Dawson also stars in the film as Scott, a high school graduate longing for the glory days of his youth during his first Thanksgiving home from college. His version of writer Dan Schoffer’s script looks to be right up the alley of his longtime fans, with his crass humor style and at least one instance of Dawson dressed up as a woman. However, the trailer also shows a character arc beyond what Dawson usually produces in short-form, and a lot more opportunity to showcase other talents and frequent collaborators like Lisa Schwartz. (Warning: Trailer contains some content that may be NSFW.)

    Of course, it’s not often a trailer ends with a minute of excited vlogging from the creator, but that’s just Dawson’s style. 

    “I just want to thank you guys,” goes Dawson after the trailer finishes. “I know it sounds cheesy and lame, but I am so grateful and I love you so much. And because of you guys, I made a movie.” 

    The competition’s winner gets $250,000 determined by digital and ticket sales, making us feel a little bad for competitor Anna Martemucci and her film Hollidaysburg, as she has just over 1,600 Twitter followers to Dawson's social media empire (12.1 million YouTube subscribers and 2.1 million Twitter followers). 

    Still, it's anyone's game, and that's very cool.

    Screengrab via Shane Dawson/YouTube


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    How many hours of Netflix do you watch a week? Do you find yourself scrolling through the site’s vast ocean of titles, playing Goldilocks? This one’s too long, that one’s too sad, this one’s too European. If so, Netflix might want to pay you to watch movies.

    While the company relies heavily on member reviews and personal recommendations to shape feedback, they also have a “tagger” program, which involves roughly 40 volunteers who view titles in the Netflix database, and tag them with words that describe the film, like “dark,” “emotional,” or “cerebral.”

    Todd Yellin, Netflix’s VP of Product Innovation, came up with the tagging program nearly a decade ago, when he first came on board. Back then, recommendations were based solely on those member star ratings. He told Techradar that "for some people it is a bit of a nice challenge to give things a star rating but for a lot of our users they considered that work.”

    "We still offer ratings but it is not as important nowadays. The core stuff for us now is paying attention to what users watch. That can tell us how many categories they like so the tagging effort started heading in that direction."

    They're currently in recruitment mode. Today, Netflix released a promotional video in an effort to, for the first time, recruit taggers in the U.K. and Ireland and expand its cultural scope. The job listing states:

    ”Successful applicants will be responsible for watching and analyzing films and TV programmes that will be streaming on Netflix in the future. The tagger will deconstruct the films and programmes and describe them using objective tags.

    This “tagging process” is the first stage of the Netflix recommendation system and works in concert with advanced algorithms that generate highly personalized suggestions for every one of Netflix’s nearly 50 million members, offering them an individualized set of titles matching their tastes.”

    Those with a background in film are encouraged to apply, and you can work from home. Sounds like a dream job, right?  Now if only they could hire someone to keep me awake for the first 10 minutes of a movie I spent 30 minutes picking. Or, better yet, a soothsayer who knows exactly what I want to watch. 

    Illustration by Jason Reed 


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    Rooster Teeth is shattering records. After reaching their Indiegogo goal for a forthcoming feature film in less than 24 hours, the company has gone on to host the platform's No. 1 funded film in history.

    In one month the Rooster Teeth team raised 382 percent of its originaly $650,000 goal, surpassing $2.4 million in funding with the help of more than 37,000 supporters, a metric Rooster Teeth founded Burnie Burns called out during his VidCon keynote in June. He emphasized that viewcounts as low as 25,000 (the number of supporters at the time of VidCon) would be seen as a failure, but that number of committed fans was all it took to make Rooster Teeth's film dreams a reality, and then some.

    The Rooster Teeth community has had ample time to grow into a powerhouse. The company has spent 11 years creating Internet content, with its main YouTube channel boasting 7.5 million subscribers. With long-running series like Red vs. Blue and newer outings like RWBY, the Rooster Teeth team felt the next logical step was a feature film.

    The funded film, Lazer Team, is described as a live-action sci-fi comedy that takes places after a message from outer space is decoded to reveal that Earth is not alone, and that the galaxy isn't safe. No word yet on when production is slated to begin.

    Screengrab via Rooster Teeth/YouTube


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    We’ve all seen Neil Young singing modern-day tunes over the past few years thanks to Jimmy Fallon’s spot-on impression of him, but now we’ve been given something many Crosby, Stills & Nash fans have been dreaming of for years: a reunion.

    Well, sort of. Young himself didn’t show up on The Tonight Show as Bruce Springsteen sometimes does when Fallon impersonates him, although when David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash showed up as musical guests on on Fallon's show, he couldn’t resist getting the band back together.

    Fallon’s Young starts off singing an acoustic rendition of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” by himself, but it isn’t long before Crosby, Stills & Nash make their way onstage to join him. Even if you’re sick of the song by now, it sounds almost nothing like the original.

    And CSNY fans, make sure you stick around to the end.

    Photo via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube


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    Warning: This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful, and Hannibal.

    This year marked something of a tipping point for Game of Thrones. Ratings suggest HBO viewers were happy with the show’s high body count and full-frontal nudity, but its casual attitude to sexual violence has becomeincreasinglycontroversial. All those jokes about sexposition and beheadings were finally beginning to turn sour.

    Four seasons in, most of the surviving women in Game of Thrones have been raped (Cersei, Gilly, a great many minor background characters), constantly live with the threat of rape (Arya, Sansa, Brienne), or are sex workers.

    Intentionally or not, GoT has created an insidious kind of rape culture for its female characters to inhabit. And while it’s weirdly exciting to worry about whether Tyrion or Jon Snow will survive to the end of the episode, the fear that Sansa or Arya could be raped is a different matter entirely. After all, no one watching Game of Thrones has ever had their head chopped off or been forced to fight a horde of ice zombies. Sexual violence, on the other hand, is all too real.

    •••

    The typical explanation for Game of Thrones's sexual content is that the show is a realistic depiction of a world inspired by medieval Europe, when life was cheap and rape was supposedly everywhere. As many critics have wryly pointed out, dragons may be acceptable, but a rape-free environment was apparently deemed too unrealistic.

    The high rate of sexual violence in GoT can partly be attributed to the original novels, but the way women’s bodies are filmed throughout the series is another issue altogether.

    Game of Thrones includes a great deal of narratively unnecessary female nudity and sex scenes, to the extent that viewers started complaining that the gender divide between women (who are naked in practically every episode) and men (no dongs allowed, huh?) was growing too obvious to ignore. CollegeHumor even made a parody video where female fans asked for more men to get naked onscreen, and actor Kit Harington eventually commented in an interview that he was in favor of more male nudity—so long as it wasn’t him.

    There’s nothing intrinsically terrible about including a ton of gratuitous sex scenes, just as long as you admit why those scenes were filmed. If GoT is just a sexy cable entertainment show, sure, why not show a few boobs to liven up an otherwise boring exposition scene?

    Except this poses the question of which genre Game of Thrones is meant to be. Is it a medieval grindhouse series that purposefully capitalizes on people’s desire to see hot girls get naked amid all the assassinations and political intrigue? Or is it a sweeping fantasy epic that delves deep into the horror of the human spirit? The latter ostensibly has an excuse to include sexual violence on a regular basis; the former does not. Not unless Game of Thrones is trying to say rape is entertainment.

    Obviously it’s not impossible to combine populist entertainment with smart writing and worldbuilding. However, it’s difficult to defend a show that’s touted as gritty and realistic but hired at least six porn stars to play prostitutes—a role that usually consists of standing around in front of the camera, being naked and available while other characters talk.

    This idea of GoT as a gritty historical drama is further undermined by stories like actress Natalia Tena being told she wasn’t allowed to have pubic hair for a nude scene (despite playing a wilding who lives in the forest and doesn’t appear to wash or own a hairbrush), or director Neil Marshall reportedly being ordered to include more full-frontal nudity in the Blackwater battle episode. The underlying message here is that women’s naked bodies are there for decoration and titillation.

    •••

    Criticisms of GoT’s dubious gender politics are often interpreted as either a puritanical desire for censorship or killjoy feminism. But there is at least one other cable show that provides the same kind of adult entertainment without resorting to the blatant objectification of women.

    In a similar vein to Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful is a big-budget series that airs on a subscription cable channel, where it has free rein to include adult content. It also falls into the same broad category: a historical fantasy show populated by famous and critically acclaimed actors, most of whom are British. 

    Penny Dreadful is a Victorian melodrama pastiche, with all the ominous monologuing, over-the-top gothic seances and murky London cityscapes you might expect. The writing and acting are excellent, but you’d hardly accuse Penny Dreadful of being forbiddingly highbrow. This is a show where Frankenstein’s monster works backstage at the Grand Guignol theatre, Dorian Gray has blood spat on him by a consumptive prostitute during sex, and Eva Green regularly gets possessed by demons while hunting down a character from Dracula.

    Like GoT, Penny Dreadful is framed as a high-quality fantasy series aimed at adult audiences. But unlike GoT, it doesn’t use its adult rating to promote completely gratuitous female nudity and sexual violence.

    Because the majority of characters in Penny Dreadful are male, the first few episodes see far more full-frontal casual male nudity. Female sexuality isn’t portrayed as entertainment for the viewer, but as something individual to the characters and their surroundings. Even the way the sex scenes are filmed differs greatly from GoT, which has always relied on textbook examples of “male gaze” camerawork when filming female bodies. The impression one gets is that when women take off their clothes in Game of Thrones, it’s so that we can look at them, whereas people in Penny Dreadful only get naked when the situation demands it. 

    When GoT viewers reacted negatively toward the Cersei/Jaime rape scene this season, the episode’s writer and director presented conflicting accounts of what the scene was intended to mean. Against all evidence to the contrary, the director claimed that the sex “became consensual,” whereas the writer described the scene as “horrifying.” This came across as a depressing sign of how little the GoT showrunners must have discussed the impact of sexual violence on their show, not to mention why they included this rape scene in the first place.

    As the season wore on, the Cersei/Jaime situation annoyed fans even further, partly because there was no real emotional payoff from either character and partly because it didn’t happen that way in the book. A rape scene had been written into the show for no apparent reason, with the only explanation being that Westeros is a dangerous place and that Cersei and Jaime’s relationship was pretty fucked up already. 

    •••

    A Song of Ice and Fire is full to the brim with so-called adult material. A sanitized adaptation would be ridiculous. But just because HBO gives adult-rated dramas the freedom to do basically whatever they want, that doesn’t mean the immediate response should be to launch headfirst into filming as many naked prostitutes as humanly possible.

    What we’re seeing here is misunderstanding of how to use that adult cable rating to a show's advantage. If you want to make a fun show with tons of gory battle sequences and gratuitous sex scenes, that’s cool. But it’s disingenuous to suggest that you can label it as a serious, gritty drama without acknowledging its cavalier attitude toward sexual assault. 

    Over on NBC, Hannibal has spent the past two years proving that you don’t need a subscription cable network to create a truly adult show. Hannibal Lecter still eats human flesh on a regular basis, but NBC simply can’t show the same kind of material as HBO. This has forced the filmmakers to be smarter about symbolism and subtext rather than relying on pure gore, which in the long run has counted in the show’s favor. Like a bonsai tree, trimming Hannibal down to its core has caused it to flourish.

    Game of Thrones is reaching a turning point in the way it decides to treat its female characters. Rape scenes and female nudity were two of the most-discussed topics during season 4, and a repeat of the Jaime/Cersei situation would likely cause a lot of viewers to switch off.

    Either the showrunners should give up and admit that Game of Thrones is purposefully aiming for grindhouse-style sexploitation, or they need to think seriously about that “adult” rating and start talking about sexual violence like actual grown-ups.

    Photo via Game of Thrones Wiki


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    Gaming vlogger Jordie Jordan decided he needed to make a change in his life and get outside of his comfort zone to affect his overall health. He's walking four miles a day and broadcasting it to his half-million fans.

    Jordan began his quest a little over two weeks ago with a video titled "Transformation!!!" In it, he begins by stating that he's been having a lot of trouble with his self-esteem lately, and that part of his plan of action is to start a walking regimen to help slim down his 450-pound figure.

    "I've never attempted a walk this long," he explains. "I have to do something different from what I've been doing, [since] what I've been doing doesn't work."

    Jordan is not a stranger to addressing personal issues or his beliefs on his channel. Now mixed in with his gameplay footage and industry discussions, he's making daily vlogs of his walks, documenting his improvements and challenges for an entire year. Seventeen days in, he's already seeing postive responses from his fans.

    Keep up the pace, Jordan; we're definitely in your cheering section.

    Screengrab via YouTube


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    The workspace where MythBusters's Adam Savage built Han Solo's blaster and a box for a traveling stuffed beaver is naturally a bit of a mess, but thanks to some animated help from a little creature called a Zeebler, things got just a bit more disheveled. 

    Savage's nostalgia for his father's shortform animation inspired him to invite modern shortform animator Marty Cooper to the Tested workshop to discuss his process and create a custom animation for the space.

    "Every time I make one of these, I'm sure it won't work," Cooper explained. His process usually takes about a day from concept to execution, and his style is very hands-on. So hands-on, in fact, that you see his hands in most of his shoots. His specailaty is bringing animated creatures into real-life environments by creating Sharpie and Wite-Out art on acetate sheets, and having those low-budget cell animations interact with real-world settings thanks to stop-motion video. He shoots it all on his phone.

    That's one way to make office life more exciting.

    Screengrab via Tested/YouTube


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    Nash Grier is a 16-year-old Vine star who currently has 8.7 million followers on the app. He recently got a movie deal with fellow Vine sensation Cameron Dallas. He’s hanging out with Justin Bieber.

    In his spare time, he makes jokes about AIDS being caused by “fags.”

    This Vine clip apparently appeared back in April, and in it Grier makes a joke about an HIV public service announcement, screaming the word “Fag” as the punchline. Grier has since deleted the Vine, but popular YouTuber Tyler Oakley posted the clip on Sunday, and called him out:

    Grier’s image is one of wholesome, handsome boy next door. Many of his vines include his little sister, and he often posts references to the Bible on Twitter. Back in April, New York magazine published a profile titled, “Nash Grier: The Jesus-Loving Vine Star.” An excerpt:

    “Nash, who is from North Carolina, is a God-fearing Christian who frequently consults his iPhone’s Bible app while on the road. “I don’t use cuss words, I try not to do anything awful. You don’t want to lower your audience,” he says. He shares that Jesus-camp vibe with dozens of other social-media luminaries. A recent Nash video bore the caption “Y’all twerk more than you pray these days #HolyBible #GasPedal.”

    On Sunday, Grier posted an apology on Twitter:

    But a few people brought up his old tweets:

    This isn’t the first time Grier has said something ill-advised on the Internet. Last December, he enraged both fans and critics when he posted a video to YouTube in which he, Dallas, and JC Caylen gave advice to girls on how to be more attractive. A majority of Grier’s fanbase is teenage girls. Often, those girls defend his actions—and that's a problem. 

    This seems to be a troubling trend with Vine stars who are currently getting movie, TV, and brand-endorsement deals. Scroll through the account of Brittany Furlan, who was recently in hot water after joking about rape with an actor on the red carpet during the Daytime Emmys, and you’ll find quite a few questionable clips. In fact, scroll through the "popular now" page, and you'll find a lot of racist and sexist material, much of it from teens.  

    Vine can be an important place for exploring identity, but it can also be a platform for perpetuating racist and sexist stereotypes, misogyny, and hate speech. Ironically, Grier posted a video yesterday in which he and Dallas address the “hate comments” addressed at him:

    Combined on Twitter, Vine, and YouTube, Grier speaks to more than 14 million fans. When he’s spewing garbage like this to young people, that’s a dangerous thing. When you’re a 16-year-old Internet star, the things you say carry weight.

    Illustration by Jason Reed


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    Justin Bieber, the King Joffrey of Canada, has done a lot of inexcusable things of late. If he’s not offending half of Asia with an Instagram post, then it’s multiple videos surfacing of a younger Biebs spewing racial slurs. But before you start another petition to deport the Canadian pop teen turned maniacal tyrant, let’s not forget that it’s never too late for redemption.

    JB has a long way to go before being back in Americans' good graces, but posting a video of Tom Hanks in yarmulke dancing to “This is How We Do It” is a really strong way to make amends.

    The video was taken in Whistler, British Columbia, over the weekend at the wedding of Justin’s manager, Scooter Braun. Bieber serenaded the couple with a rendition of The Beatles' “All You Need is Love,” and later busted out a duet of “Call Me Maybe” with Carly Rae Jepsen. But nothing can compare to the glimpse of entertainment heaven that is Tom Hanks taking charge of the dance floor to Montell Jordan’s 1995 R&B hit.

    As always, we give thanks for the great rabbinical scholar, T.Hanks. 

    H/T Jezebel | Photo via Wikimedia Commons


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