Pomo Picks

What to Read, Watch, and Listen to This Week: June 24

The Portland Monthly team shares the content keeping us sane.

By Portland Monthly Staff June 25, 2020

Michael Cimino and George Sear in Hulu's Love, Victor

Image: Courtesy Hulu

The news is stressful. We get it—we write it! Maybe you’re protesting, maybe you’re donating, maybe you’re keeping tabs on the way your representatives are responding to the present moment, maybe you’re buying from one of these Black-owned Portland brands. Keep doing that!

Staying engaged is a marathon, though, not a sprint. You’re gonna need breaks. When you take one, consider checking out some of the stuff keeping us sane (or somewhere close), which we’ve collected here in our weekly culture roundup. 

The Devil's Highway

OK, OK. Lately my picks have been intense—but important, I think. They’ve been a lot to think about: systemic racism, police brutality, oppression. So let’s take it easy this week with … immigration. The Associated Press recently detailed horrific conditions inside a Texas migrant detention facility where more than 200 infants, children, and teenagers were being held without adequate food, water, or sanitation. Between the continuing protests and these child detention facilities along the border, the All Lives Matter folks must be super busy standing up for every single one of those lives. It's also worth mentioning the Trump administration is determined to end DACA, an Obama-era program that protects immigrants who entered the US illegally as children, within the next six months. 
While it’s not exactly about DACA or child detention facilities, Luis Alberto Urrea’s 2004 book The Devil’s Highway is a gravely beautiful, surreal depiction of illegal immigration. In it, we follow the border crossing of 26 men in 2001 through the desert of southern Arizona, aka "The Devil’s Highway." All the while, Urrea examines US-Mexico border culture, from Border Patrol agents who themselves are afraid of the desert’s harsh terrain to the coyotes and smugglers who traverse these lands. The Devil’s Highway is intensely tragic, deeply profound, and increasingly important, even 16 years after its release. –Gabriel Granillo, digital editor

Everything's Trash, But It's OK

I have been working on my unhealthy relationship with Twitter, where perilous news comes so fast your heart races and head spins. Breaking away from the screen requires something that can hold the attention better. Right now, that’s Phoebe Robinson’s Everything’s Trash, But It’s Ok. I came to know her through the 2 Dope Queens podcast with Jessica Williams back in 2016 when we all desperately needed a laugh. Then I read her fantastic first book You Can’t Touch My Hair, and it cemented my eternal love. The latest book from the pop culture expert is a series of essays that reveal her life through amazing personal anecdotes that'll make you keep flipping that page. The chapters titles—"Money is a Trifling Heaux and Also Your BFF,” “I was a Size 12 Once for Like Twenty-Seven Minutes,” and “How to Be Alone and Only Mildly Hate and Lukewarm Love It”—are a glimpse into the delight that will come with this book.
Robinson = 1, Twitter = 0. –Eden Dawn, style editor

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

Known for his hairstyling expertise on Netflix’s Queer Eye and for playing the leading role in comedy web series Gay of Thrones, Jonathan Van Ness’s ceaseless sass, unparalleled cat-loving, and “YES honey!” energy have never once disappointed me. Each week on his podcast, Van Ness sits down for a 40-minute conversation with an expert on something he’s curious about, from senator Elizabeth Warren talking about the 2020 presidential election to Bill Nye the Science Guy educating us on climate change. His interview with Alicia Garza, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, is an especially worthwhile listen. This podcast and all of his work are what the world needs right now. –Lauren Carlos, editorial intern

John Prine

“I remember every town / And every hotel room / And every song I ever sang / On a guitar out of tune.” The last song John Prine ever recorded—his voice gravelly sweet and warm as a hand-knit scarf—dropped earlier this month. Prine’s death in April from COVID-19 complications still hurts, but what a legacy in all that music—songs given to the grit and humor and pathos of human existence. Start somewhere: the 1971 songwriting masterpiece "Angel from Montgomery," 1999’s crackling ode to coupledom "In Spite of Ourselves," the emotional weight of 2018’s "Summer’s End"... anywhere, really, in nigh on six decades of tunes. There’s a generosity in his writing and a comfort in his voice that helps you, remembering everything, put one foot in front of the other all the same. –Fiona McCann, senior editor at-large

Love, Victor

Life is full of discoveries, and when I was bedridden with mono and strep throat at the same time in the bleak winter of 2016, I discovered that I will lose my absolute shit for a teen soap. Across those five fateful weeks spent flat on my back, I shotgunned Gossip Girl and changed forever. The intervening years have thrust me down subsequent rabbit holes: The OC, of course, and Euphoria, and Netflix's Élite, and (god help me) the first couple seasons of Riverdale

Over the weekend, my nasty habit plopped me in front of Love, Victor which, in addition to scratching my teen soap itch, scratched my "anything gay and happy, but not too happy" itch. Spun off from 2018's Love, Simon and disowned by Disney+ for acknowledging that sex exists, Love, Victor focuses on a closeted basketball player (Michael Cimino) who moves from Texas to Atlanta and attends the same high school Simon did in the film. He befriends his neighbor, has long talks with Ana Ortiz (because she plays his mom), crushes on an unavailable barista, and dates the beautiful, popular Mia (Rachel Naomi Hilson, who is fucking sensational, and steals the show) to pass as straight. All the while, he Instagram DMs Simon for gay guidance, which comes in the form of phoned-in voiceovers from Nick Robinson.

Look. What do you want from me? It's dumb to rate art on a scale of utility, but it's also impossible to watch Love, Victor and not think "damn, I wish I had this when I was 16." Part of what makes the show work is its pointed response to the criticisms lobbed at Love, Simon: Victor is Latino, his parents are religious, they struggle to make ends meet. The show doesn't foreground any of this, but Victor's dilemma generates palpable stakes where the bland-but-lovable movie sometimes lacked them. It's also very much an ensemble piece, and it wrings real feeling out of Victor's sister, out of his parents' marital issues, and especially out of Mia's family life. 

At the end of the day, nobody will be citing Love, Victor alongside Judith Butler. It's often stiff and ridiculously safe and sometimes its plot points literally contradict themselves. But I would be a big dumb liar if I said it didn't make me cry, and feel cradled, and remind me—in the episode where Victor flees to New York for a glimpse at Real Gay Life and experiences no fewer than three group hugs—that queerness is a privilege. Happy Pride, I guess. –Conner Reed, arts & culture editor 

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