For all the flack that influencers get, there’s something telling—maybe even honest—about this definitively internet-era career. A lot of us don’t like to admit it when we’re followers rather than trendsetters, but to even call someone an influencer is a tacit admission of the plasticity of human desire. Shiny social media profiles exert their little influences over us, sponsored ministrations leaving fading fingerprints on our brains to break our banks. No one is immune to advertising. Our susceptibility is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, humans are social creatures. Regardless of the mediation of the digital world, isn’t it natural to be touched and changed by human voices, human faces?
Let me begin by admitting that I’m not exactly a horror film fanatic. As someone whose youthful indiscretions include choosing Cinema Studies as an academic discipline, I’ve survived a substantial stake of horror films, but when it comes to being scared, real life is sufficient. For me, the question is not, “which horror film is scariest?” or even, “which horror film is best to see at the Royal at midnight?” but a far homelier question: simply, why? This year’s Halloween might be in our rearview now, but scaring the lights out of each other is an annual ritual with deep cultural roots. What gives fear its perennial popularity, and what gives horror cinema its immense popularity, not just this time of year, but throughout the seasons?
After a couple of years of absence from the music industry and public eye, Lorde has returned with her third full-length album, Solar Power. It’s starkly different from her previous work, and yet still deeply personal to Lorde herself – an important aspect of both her debut album, Pure Heroine, and its critically acclaimed successor, Melodrama. In Solar Power, Lorde reflects on environmental and natural themes, her distaste for celebrity culture, and her continued growing up since becoming a star.
“I’m not lonely, baby, I am free,” sings Hayley Williams on her debut solo album, Petals for Armor, and her relief is palpable as she hums, “Finally.” She is singing of her home and of finding peace in her daily routines, which has taken on a new meaning since the pandemic has turned our homes into workplaces, classrooms, and the site of most of our everyday activity. Williams is known best as the lead singer of the American band Paramore, which has released five studio albums since 2005, but it took Williams until 2020 for her to strike out on her own (even as she reassured fans that her solo album did not spell the end for Paramore). It’s not that Paramore has ever held her back artistically; it is simply that now, Williams embraces the opportunity to dive into a narrative that is identifiably her own.
Martin Scorsese wrote a passionate essay published in Harper’s Magazine this month, critiquing streaming services as catalysts of the downfall of cinema as an art form. His piece acts as much as an ode to the creators, whose works he grew up watching, as it does a farewell to the medium he loves, as it succumbs further to the grip of the invisible hand amidst the pandemic. As one of the great moviemakers of our time (broadly speaking), the Wolf of Wall Street director makes several valid points. But although he specifically curses streaming platforms, I believe tech’s larger impact on society should shoulder much of the blame.