What Happened to Amazon’s Bookstore?

A 2011 thriller was supposed to cost $15. One merchant listed it at $987, with a 17th-century publication date. That’s what happens in a marketplace where third-party sellers run wild.

John C. Boland was poking around the Amazon bookstore when he saw the science thriller “Hominid” for sale at dizzying prices. It was $907 from Sandy Dunes Surplus, $930 from Rocky Mountain Books and $987 from Open Range Media.

He didn’t need a copy. He wrote the novel and published it himself. List price is $15.

Mr. Boland has been selling books on Amazon since 2009. He lets the bookseller handle everything for his imprint, called Perfect Crime, including printing, billing and shipping.

“Best retailer on the planet,” he calls it. “They eat the competition’s lunch.”

Despite that endorsement, Mr. Boland sued Amazon at the end of August, accusing the all-devouring retailer of, in essence, eating Perfect Crime’s lunch. His suit says Amazon let Sandy Dunes and other vendors on its platform run wild with Perfect Crime titles, offering copies for ridiculous amounts. The sellers also bizarrely asserted that “Hominid” was published in 1602, a mere 409 years before it was actually issued, which further irked the writer.

The suit, in federal court in Maryland, offers a glimpse into Amazon’s dominance and perhaps its vulnerability. Amazon’s online store has surpassed Walmart, making it the largest retailer outside China. By delivering essentials and luxuries to those stuck at home during the pandemic, it helped many people navigate a bleak moment. Shipping times that used to be measured in days are now counted in hours. It is one of the few companies valued at more than a trillion dollars.

For all that success, however, Amazon is under pressure from many directions.

There are sellers like Mr. Boland, who say they are suffering from the Wild West atmosphere on the site; regulators, who are taking a closer look at Amazon’s power; unhappy warehouse employees, who would like a better deal; and lawmakers, who want Amazon to disclose more about its third-party sellers. There are also the devious sellers themselves, whom Amazon says it is having a hard time eradicating.

All of these critical groups could perhaps be dealt with. But there is one more that presents a much bigger risk: customers. As Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, once noted, customers are “divinely discontent.” Last quarter they got fickle about Amazon. After years of meteoric growth, its e-commerce revenue barely budged.

Maybe it was a blip. Or maybe shoppers are shutting their wallets in frustration.

“Amazon started as a bookstore, but it’s now a marketplace — an e-commerce bucket that any seller can put their stuff into,” said Jane Friedman, a publishing industry consultant. “The result is that the shopping experience has really gotten worse over time.”

The bookstore is the oldest part of Amazon, still central to its identity but no longer to its bottom line. It feels like where every Amazon shopping experience could be heading — immense, full of ads and unvetted reviews, ruled by algorithms and third-party sellers whose identities can be elusive.

Amazon denied all of Mr. Boland’s allegations in court, though it says it is striving to understand what happened. It rejected the idea that the consumer experience has gotten worse. But the bookstore’s less traveled aisles seem mysterious even to Amazon, like a neighborhood left by the authorities to fend for itself.

The overwhelming complexity and sheer size of Amazon is increasingly a political issue. Last month, the Department of Justice sued to stop Penguin Random House from acquiring Simon & Schuster. The combined firm would have an estimated 27 percent of the market for new books. But Amazon has much greater control over their sale. By some estimates, it has as much as two-thirds of the market for new and used books through its own platform and such subsidiaries as Abebooks.com.

“Should we care as a society that a single firm controls half of our most precious cultural commodity and its automation isn’t working right?” asked Christopher Sagers, the author of “Antitrust: Examples & Explanations.”

Earlier this week, Amazon ranked his book the No. 1 seller in the category of “Antitrust Law.” The second-ranked seller was “Mental Health Workbook,” which deals with depression and attachment theory. No. 5 was a book on the origins of Christmas. No. 15 was a true-crime tale about child murders. Eight of the top 20 books on the list had no discernible connection to antitrust.

“People think Amazon’s algorithms are better than they actually are,” Mr. Sagers explained.

Amazon declined to say what percentage of its book sales are done through third parties. (For the entire marketplace it is over half.) The overwhelming majority of these are legitimate vendors. Some are not. Mr. Boland’s lawsuit implies that Amazon does not make much effort to distinguish between the two. That, it seems, is the customer’s job.

“In some ways Amazon doesn’t really want to be a retailer,” said Juozas Kaziukenas of Marketplace Pulse, an e-commerce consultant. “It doesn’t want to do curation or offer human interaction,” two of the essential qualities of retail for centuries.

Offering tens of millions of items to hundreds of millions of customers prevents any human touch — but opens up a lot of space for advertising, and for confusion and duplicity. This might be good for Amazon’s competitors in physical bookstores, which have a much smaller and more tightly controlled stock. But it does not bode well for e-commerce.

It’s the paradox of plenty: The more things there are to buy, the more difficult it is to find the right thing among the plethora of ads and competition, new material and secondhand, quality and garbage.

“Amazon knows what I buy, how often I buy, what I search for,” Mr. Kaziukenas said. “But decades after it launched, it can’t answer a simple question — what would Juozas like to buy? Instead it shows me thousands of deals, with some basic filters like category and price, and hopes I will find what I like. Amazon is so much work.”

Once upon a time, when the dot-coms roamed the earth, the Amazon bookstore was a simple place. It had knowledgeable human editors, bountiful discounts and delivery that was speedy for the era. For the book-obsessed, it offered every publisher’s backlist, obscure but irresistible titles that had previously been difficult to discover and acquire.

The combination of all those things in one place was a sensation. Amazon quickly took market share from independent stores and chains.

Online shopping promised so much. When Time magazine made Mr. Bezos its Person of the Year in 1999, it marveled that the site was “alive with uncounted species of insight, innovation and intellect.”

Third-party sellers were an Amazon innovation in the late 1990s. Before that, stores either entirely controlled the shopping experience or, if they had a lot of sellers under one roof, were called flea markets and were not quite reputable.

Amazon in theory offered the brisk competition of the latter while exercising the oversight of the former. Bringing in third-party sellers was also a way for Amazon to champion how it was helping small businesses, which helped defuse controversies about its size and behavior.

A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a research and advocacy group often critical of Amazon, details the most direct benefit of third-party sellers to the retailer: profits. A third-party seller pays Amazon $34 out of every $100 in sales, the nonprofit institute calculates, up from $19 in 2014.

The money comes from fees, ads and premium logistics that make the merchandise more visible to potential buyers. Amazon called the report “intentionally misleading” because the site does not force sellers to advertise or use its logistics system.

Bookselling at Amazon is a two-tier system, said Stacy Mitchell, a co-director of the institute and the author of the report, “Amazon’s Toll Road: How the Tech Giant Funds Its Monopoly Empire by Exploiting Small Businesses.”

“Best sellers and other books that you might find at a local bookstore are almost all sold by Amazon itself at prices that keep those competitors at bay,” Ms. Mitchell said. “Then Amazon lets third-party sellers do the rest of the books, taking a huge cut of their sales.”

Amazon “doesn’t care if this third-party stuff is a chaotic free-for-all,” she added. “In fact, it’s better for Amazon if legitimate businesses don’t stand a chance. In the same way Amazon wants to turn all work into gig jobs, it wants to turn running a business into a gig job. That way it can walk off with all the spoils.”

Mr. Boland, a retired journalist who lives near Baltimore, found the chaos infuriating. A whole shelf of things he wrote and published were dated to ridiculous years like 1876, 1842, 1774.

“It’s deceptive advertising,” he said. “Why is Amazon, the champion of consumers, allowing this?”

Extraordinary prices for ordinary books have been an Amazon mystery for years, but the backdating of titles to gain a commercial edge appears to be a new phenomenon. A listing with a fake date gets a different Amazon page from a listing with the correct date. In essence, those Boland books were in another virtual aisle of the bookstore. That could power sales.

Last month, a search on the site for paperbacks published before 1800 yielded over 100,000 results. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign tract, “Change We Can Believe In,” was published in 1725, according to a seller charging $45 for it. Elsewhere in the bookstore it sells for as low as 25 cents.

“We do not allow the activity Mr. Boland observed and are working to correct” it, Amazon said in a statement. “It appears only a small number of these books were sold by third-party sellers in our store, and we have no evidence that any were counterfeit. We are investigating how this occurred.”

Mr. Boland takes the misuse of his name personally. “When a seller claims to have a 1602 edition that it’s charging nearly $1,000 for, it’s defaming me by implying that the book existed before I wrote it — i.e., that I’m a plagiarist,” he said.

Amazon argues in court papers that the same shield that protects Facebook and Twitter from being sued over posts by their users — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — protects it as well, even if the product is a physical item.

Mark Lemley, the director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology, said the company was probably right. “I don’t think Amazon will be liable for misstatements posted by others, and certainly not if it wasn’t aware of them,” he said.

Mr. Boland, who is acting as his own lawyer, said he made Amazon aware of the problem last spring but got nowhere. Only after his suit was filed did Amazon begin pulling the erroneous listings down. Perfect Crime’s damages, Amazon said in a filing, “if any,” were not caused by Amazon and “are vague, uncertain, imaginary and speculative.”

Some of the backdating sellers named in the suit are based in Dallas, leading Mr. Boland to suspect they are connected. Sandy Dunes, Open Range and Rocky Mountain all seem to have disappeared, or perhaps changed their name.

In 2019, Mr. Bezos celebrated the fact that Amazon’s two million independent sellers were doing so well. “To put it bluntly: Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt,” he wrote. They were pulling in $90,000 a year on average, the company said.

With a little fraud it’s possible for a third party to make much more, at least for a while.

The U.S. attorney’s office in the Western District of Michigan recently announced arrests in a case involving Amazon’s textbook rental program. Geoffrey Mark Hays Talsma was charged with selling his rentals of “Using Econometrics: A Practical Guide,” “Chemistry: Atoms First” and other volumes instead of returning them.

At Amazon, the customer is king. According to the indictment, Mr. Talsma profited by repeatedly saying he had received the wrong products. He said, for instance, he had mistakenly been shipped flammable products that could not be returned, like a bottle of Tiki Torch Fuel that was leaking. Amazon would then credit his account.

What’s remarkable is the scale, length and profitability of this alleged activity. Amazon allows customers to rent up to 15 textbooks at a time. With the help of three confederates, Mr. Talsma rented more than 14,000 textbooks from Amazon over five years, making $3.4 million, prosecutors say. His lawyer declined to comment.

It’s the same story over and over again, Mr. Boland said: “Amazon has done a great job of expanding the marketplace for books. It’s too bad they’ve decided not to police their own platform, because it’s leading to all sorts of trouble.”

Amazon acknowledges that some third-party sellers bring problems, including fraud, counterfeiting and abuse. The retailer says it has invested $700 million and dedicated 10,000 employees to combating these issues.

Those resources are not enough. In a policy paper published Oct. 18, Amazon said law enforcement, border control and other authorities needed to make “bold changes” to protect the integrity of e-commerce.

But Amazon has resisted requiring its sellers to share more information about themselves. It has opposed lawmakers’ efforts to demand more transparency, saying it would violate sellers’ privacy. Recently it signaled guarded approval of a weaker bill but noted that there were a few parts of it “that could be refined.”

Amazon gives writers and publishers broad latitude to sell anything, including the mediocre and the misleading. The store’s logic has always been that the good work will rise and the bad will fall. In the meantime, however, some readers get suckered.

Dave Grohl, the Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman, has just published his autobiography, “The Storyteller.” An outfit called “University Press” that is not a university press seized the opportunity to publish “Dave Grohl: The Biography,” which it paid Amazon to promote alongside Mr. Grohl’s book.

Like many of these types of books on Amazon, “The Biography” is written in what might be called “Almost English.” “It is undeniable that he has been instrumental in his own success,” a typical sentence reads.

Nevertheless, it sold. “The Biography,” which does not list an author, is now promoted with the tag “best seller,” just like Mr. Grohl’s own book. “The Biography” is No. 1 in New Age Music, Amazon says, right ahead of “Harmonica for Kids.”

Amazon featured as the “top critical review” of “The Biography” a comment by someone who is under the impression the musician himself wrote it. “Grohl should stick to songwriting,” the reviewer wrote. Other buyers, realizing the truth, were infuriated that they had been tricked into buying a pamphlet. Adding another note of confusion, Mr. Grohl’s book was mysteriously described as “Holiday Toy List.”

Other newly published pamphlets purport to summarize and explain Mr. Grohl’s own writing, although they, too, are written in Almost English. One pamphlet said it offered “an explanation of the indirect and figurative statements made by the writer to ensure an unadulterated Understanding.”

All of this is a long way from Time magazine’s swell future of insight and intellect.

“It doesn’t seem like anyone at Amazon is saying: ‘We’re junking the store up. We have to decide what’s best for the customer,’” said Ms. Friedman, the publishing consultant.

When the algorithms act, they do so boldly and bluntly.

After the Washington Redskins changed their name to the Washington Football Team, Amazon began dropping books with the name “Redskins” in them. “Fight for Old DC: George Preston Marshall, the Integration of the Washington Redskins, and the Rise of a New NFL” disappeared. So did George MacDonald Fraser’s historical caper “Flashman and the Redskins.”

Amazon did not intend to ban these books. In fact, it did not realize it had done so until a reporter told the retailer. It called the deletions a “mistake” and restored the titles.

Small presses say it’s hard to get Amazon to acknowledge a mistake, because it’s hard to get hold of a human being who could fix it. Valancourt Books, a publisher in Richmond, Va., that has won acclaim for its reissues of horror and gay interest titles, frequently runs afoul of the site.

“They will remove something but not tell you why they removed it,” said James D. Jenkins, Valancourt’s publisher. A recent case involved a new edition of “Devil Daddy,” a novel of demonic possession by the midcentury English horror novelist John Blackburn. When it originally appeared in 1972, The Sunday Times of London called it a “splendid ghoulish read.”

Amazon thought rather less of it.

“The subject matter of your book is in violation of our content guidelines,” the bookseller wrote Valancourt. “As a result, we cannot offer this book for sale.”

“We have to guess what might have offended a computer,” Mr. Jenkins said. “When it’s one book, how hard do you want to fight? But 90 percent of e-books come from Amazon. If they block a title, that’s a lot of sales you don’t have.”

An Amazon spokeswoman, Julia Lee, said, “Our review process is a combination of machine learning, automation and a large dedicated team of human reviewers, and sometimes, as in this case, we see human error.” She declined to say what the error was.

The real effect that Amazon is having on Valancourt is to diminish its ambitions. The publisher brought out an edition of “Carmilla,” a Victorian story by Sheridan Le Fanu that has become important in queer studies, with professional annotations and footnotes. But there are many less ambitious versions that slap a cover on an old text mined from the web.

“Customers complain to us that they can’t find our edition, or that they thought they were ordering ours but got some junk edition instead,” Mr. Jenkins said.

At least 20 editions of “Carmilla” are on Amazon. The Valancourt edition, which is indeed difficult to find on the site, features 1,206 reviews, some of which are clearly talking about inferior editions. “It didn’t include a forward,” one reviewer complained in Almost English, showing a picture of a different book. The Valancourt book has an introduction.

And so the story comes full circle. Amazon’s great gift to devoted readers in 1999 was to make every book in print available within a few days, and do it with a certain panache. Now the site is a maze of debris. Valancourt has given up.

“We’ve largely stopped producing scholarly editions of 18th- and 19th-century texts,” Mr. Jenkins said.

The bad is driving out the good, but Amazon pushes ahead with the automation.

Danny Caine, the proprietor of a bookstore in Lawrence, Kan., drew national attention when he wrote a letter to Mr. Bezos in 2019 saying that “your book business has devalued the book itself.” Mr. Caine is now writing a book, which he summed up on Twitter the other day: “Amazon is bad.”

A software program saw the confluence of “Amazon” and “bad” and sprang into action.

“We’re sorry for the experience,” Amazon said in an automatic tweet to Mr. Caine that rather missed the point. “Without providing any account or personal details, can you give us more insight on the issue you’ve encountered? Let us know. We’re here to help however we can.”Correction: Dec. 3, 2021

A photograph with an earlier version of this article was published in error. The image showed a man named John Boland who was not the subject of the article. The image has been replaced.

David Streitfeld has written about technology and its effects for twenty years. In 2013, he was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.   

Mike Pence’s publisher refuses to cancel memoir after staff protest

Simon & Schuster has said it will not pull out of a seven-figure book deal with Mike Pence after some of its employees called for the contract to be scrapped, stating that “we come to work each day to publish, not cancel”.

An open letter circulated by staff at S&S said that the publisher had “chosen complicity in perpetuating white supremacy by publishing Pence”, in a two-book deal struck earlier this month and reported to be worth $3-4m (£2.1-2.8m). The letter, which did not reveal how many members of staff had signed, said that the former vice-president had “made a career out of discriminating against marginalised groups and denying resources to BIPOC and LGBTQA+ communities”, and demanded his book deal be cancelled.

“By choosing to publish Mike Pence, Simon & Schuster is generating wealth for a central figure of a presidency that unequivocally advocated for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, misogyny, ableism, islamophobia, antisemitism, and violence,” says the letter. “This is not a difference of opinions; this is legitimising bigotry.”

Though in January S&S pulled out of publishing Republican senator Josh Hawley’s book over his part in the Capitol riot, S&S president Jonathan Karp told staff on Tuesday that the publisher would not cancel Pence’s deal.

“As a publisher in this polarised era, we have experienced outrage from both sides of the political divide and from different constituencies and groups. But we come to work each day to publish, not cancel, which is the most extreme decision a publisher can make, and one that runs counter to the very core of our mission to publish a diversity of voices and perspectives,” wrote Karp. “We will, therefore, proceed in our publishing agreement with vice-president Mike Pence.”

The employees also called for the publishing house to refrain from signing any more book deals with former members of the Trump administration, and demanded S&S stop distributing books for Post Hill Press. An independent publisher which focuses on “conservative politics” and Christian titles, Post Hill hit the headlines last week when it announced it would be publishing a book by by one of the police officers who shot Breonna Taylor, officer Jonathan Mattingly. While S&S subsequently announced it would not distribute Mattingly’s book, staff at S&S pointed to Post Hill titles which S&S still distributes, including embattled Republican congressman Matt Gaetz’s Firebrand.

“We impart to you the sad and unfortunate truth that we are actively making history right now,” says the open letter. “People will look back on this one day, and see that through our complicity, we chose to be on what is clearly the wrong side of justice.”

Karp said the decision not to distribute Mattingly’s book was “immediate, unprecedented, and responsive to the concerns we heard from you and our authors”. But he added that S&S has “contractual obligations and must continue to respect the terms of our agreements with our client publishers”.

Post Hill confirmed last week that it would go ahead with publishing Mattingly’s book without S&S, and declined to comment further.

Karp described the publisher’s role as “to find those authors and works that can shed light on our world — from first-time novelists to journalists, thought leaders, scientists, memoirists, personalities, and, yes, those who walk the halls of power”.

“Regardless of where those authors sit on the ideological spectrum, or if they hold views that run counter to the belief systems held by some of us, we apply a rigorous standard to assure that in acquiring books, we will be bringing into the world works that provide new information or perspectives on events to which we otherwise might not have access,” he wrote.

“When we allow our judgment to dwell on the books we dislike,” he added, “we distract ourselves from our primary purpose as a publisher – to champion the books we believe in and love.”

Pence’s currently untitled autobiography is set to be released in 2023.

Original Article – The Guardian

The Monster Publishing Merger Is About Amazon

Penguin Random House purchasing Simon & Schuster is not the gravest danger to the publishing business. The deal is transpiring in a larger context—and that context is Amazon.

In 1960, Dwight Eisenhower’s attorney general, William Rogers, read the paper with alarm. He learned that Random House intended to purchase the venerable publisher Alfred A. Knopf. Rogers began making calls to prod his antitrust division into blocking the sale. In those days, monopoly loomed as a central concern of government—and a competitive book business was widely seen as essential to preserving both intellectual life and democracy. After checking with his sources, Rogers discovered that the merger would yield a company that controlled a mere 1 percent of the book market, and he let the matter drop.

Not so long ago, Democratic and Republican administrations alike wouldn’t hesitate to block a merger like the one proposed today, which intends to fold the giant publisher Simon & Schuster into the even more gigantic Penguin Random House. How big would the combined company be? By one estimate, it might publish a third of all books in the U.S. This deal is so expansive that it’s hard to find an author to write about it who isn’t somehow implicated. Based on the odds, I suppose, it’s not terribly surprising to reveal that I’m published by Penguin Random House.

On paper, this merger is deplorable and should be blocked. As book publishing consolidates, the author tends to lose—and, therefore, so does the life of the mind. With diminished competition to sign writers, the size of advances is likely to shrink, making it harder for authors to justify the time required to produce a lengthy work. In becoming a leviathan, the business becomes ever more corporate. Publishing may lose its sense of higher purpose. The bean counters who rule over sprawling businesses will tend to treat books as just another commodity. Publishers will grow hesitant to take risks on new authors and new ideas. Like the movie industry, they will prefer sequels and established stars. What’s worse, a giant corporation starts to worry about the prospect of regulators messing with its well-being, a condition that tends to induce political caution in deciding which writers to publish.

But this merger is not the gravest danger to the publishing business. The deal is transpiring in a larger context—and that context is Amazon. The rise of Amazon accelerated the demise of Borders and the diminishment of Barnes & Noble. If it’s correct to worry about a merged company that publishes perhaps 33 percent of new books, then surely it’s correct to worry more about the fact that Amazon now sells 49 percent of them.

In the face of Amazon’s dominance, book publishers have huddled together in search of safety. Amazon’s size gives it terrifying leverage over the industry. Amazon, with its heavily visited home page, its emails to consumers, and its control of the search box on its site, has the power to make or break a title. To counter Amazon, publishers have sought to increase their bargaining power. They believe that they can match Amazon’s size only by growing their own.

When the government intervenes in a market, its actions are never neutral. One of the greatest mistakes of the Obama administration was the 2012 suit it brought against book publishers for working in concert to cut an e-book deal with Apple. The issue is not that the publishers were acting virtuously: They behaved like a cartel, which is illegal. It’s that the publishers were hardly the worst offenders. The government flogged the publishers for a technical violation of antitrust laws rather than constraining the most egregious monopolist, in spirit if not in letter.

It must not repeat the same mistake. The arrival of a new administration represents a moment to finally address Amazon’s lock on the book business; it’s a moment to focus on the core of the problem. Yes, publishers are oligopolistic and hardly sympathetic, but their continued health is essential to the survival of the book business, and thus the intellectual life of this country. If the government constrains publishers without constraining Amazon, then the government will merely accelerate the accumulation of untenable power in one single company.

Amazon has used the crisis of 2020, and the collapse of retail, to further consolidate itself, to create a business that owns the future of nearly every industry. Books were Amazon’s initial enterprise; they were the seemingly innocuous starting point for its plan to secure the economy’s commanding heights. The government’s treatment of the publishing industry is, therefore, a signal that it sends to every other sector of the economy. Nothing less than the survival of competitive capitalism is at stake.

Original Article – The Atlantic

Here’s Why Cis-Het Actors Should Not Play LGBTQ+ Roles — For Now

There has been much talk about who should play queer and trans roles over the past few years. As representation onscreen has gradually increased, the biggest roles have gone to cisgender heterosexual actors. This year we’ve seen films like AmmoniteMonsoon, and Uncle Frank following that trajectory. For trans roles, as actress Jen Richards contends on Netflix’s insightful documentary Disclosure — which delves into trans representation on screen, — this can be linked to the sometimes-fatal violence the trans community faces.

“In my mind, part of the reason that men end up killing trans women out of fear that other men will think that they are gay for having been with trans women is that their friends, the men whose judgment they fear, only know trans women from media and the people who are playing trans women are the men that they know,” the Out100 honoree explains. “This doesn’t happen when a trans woman plays a trans woman; Laverne Cox is just as beautiful and glamorous off-screen as she is onscreen.”

“When you see these women off-screen still as women, it completely deflates the idea that they are somehow men in disguise,” she continues. The point is inarguably the most salient of the film.

When it comes to queerness, the conversation is not the same. While this isn’t a conversation about the fatal violence that comes as a result of transphobia, it is generally a conversation about authenticity as well as opportunity. Richards spoke to the first point in Disclosure as well in regards to trans roles, wherein cisgender actors end up having to perform the “transness” of their roles as opposed to portraying fully realized characters. James Corden has been lambasted by critics for his performance of queerness in Netflix’s upcoming The Prom film in this way. But as Mackenzie Davis, an actor not known to be queer who recently starred in Happiest Season as a queer lead, explains in a recent Interview magazine feature, it’s also about jobs.

“The reason behind this push, I think, is not that everybody should be playing their own identity, but that people who have that identity have not had other opportunities in Hollywood,” she explained in the story which was an interview with Charlize Theron. “So please just allow the space for them to exist in this world, because trans people aren’t getting cast as the straight, romantic lead in a movie. Give them the space to occupy a corner of the industry that straight people, cis people, don’t need to venture into.” She only moved forward in her role for Happiest Season after deferring to the judgment of costar Kristen Stewart and director Clea DuVall, both of whom are queer. 

Theron, who has often played queer roles, didn’t necessarily agree.

“You’re right, there’s such a lack of opportunities given that at least let them have ownership in that space,” she said. “But I find that that’s almost insulting. I feel like a good actor is a good actor, and I can’t wait for us to look at nonbinary queer actors in the same way that we do hetero-cis actors.” Davis’s response boiled the idea down to a succinct point.

“I think that’s the goal, but out gay actors only recently are allowed to be romantic leads in movies, even though they have a husband at home,” she explained. “That’s something that’s happened in the last six years. It feels so recent. I think we’re going through this across so many parts of our society; we have to go through a really uncomfortable transition phase where we overemphasize something in order to normalize it. And then, at a certain point, we no longer need to overemphasize it. And the first step is, like, ‘I’m not going to colonize your space.’ That’s fine. There are plenty of roles for a cis white woman in the industry.”

And her points are valid. Earlier this year, Billy Eichner spoke out on the issue.

“I’ve always been fascinated in Hollywood with the limited options presented to actors, who present themselves as something other than masculine,” he told Deadline. At the time he was discussing his upcoming role of Paul Lynde in Man in the Box. “We might applaud them, and we might say, oh, they’re so funny, you know, but they have tended, in the past, not to be allowed to have the types of dynamic, chameleon-like careers that straight actors, who get the same level of admiration, the same level of respect, the same number of laughs, have been able to get.” According to Eichner, after we applaud gay actors for coming out we thank them, put them on magazines, and then they are taken off of casting lists. He also pointed to the fact that gay actors are rarely, if ever, cast to play gay icons onscreen. And while in an ideal world, gay actors and straight actors are equally considered for all roles, that’s not the reality that he has seen on the inside.

“I’m doing this rom com, about a gay male couple that I wrote and I’m starring in for Universal, that Judd Apatow is producing,” he explained. Eichner cowrote the project with Nick Stoller but also functions as an executive producer. “I was privy to casting discussions, and I would see when the casting lists were circulating, about which actors to call in for which role. There were so many straight actors on every list to play gay characters. And then, at the beginning before I raised my voice, for the straight characters in the movie, there were never gay actors on the lists for those roles. I saw it with my own eyes. It’s not a two-way street.”

It’s a complex and nuanced question, one that people truly come down on  different sides of. Earlier this year we asked Daniel Levy, cocreator and writer of the acclaimed series Schitt’s Creek for his thoughts. At the time he was starring in Coastal Elites and his character was a gay actor discussing many of these issues with his therapist. But Levy also wrote ans was involved with the casting of Noah Reid, the straight actor who played Levy’s love interest (and eventual husband) on Schitt’s.

“I think it’s a very personal and a very complex conversation,” he told Out. “In the case of Schitt’s Creek, Noah was playing a character who was not aware of his sexuality. It was a conversation that I had because Patrick started out as a character that we didn’t know who he was — he didn’t know who he was. We saw a lot of people for that role and [Noah] came in and there was something about what he brought to the table that I felt would tell the story as best as I possibly wanted it to be told.”

“I also knew that I was there to authenticate the experience and ground that experience and it was a choice that I made as a gay person for the story,” he continued. “I think it is completely dependent on the situation. Obviously I think that opportunities need to be given to the people who they are written for — I think that’s why we’ve gotten into this situation in the first place — but it’s complicated.”

That said, this holiday season has largely cast LGBTQ+ actors in LGBTQ+ roles. Opposite Davis in Happiest Season is Kristin Stewart, while Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza and Victor Garber, also make appearances. Lifetime’s The Christmas Setup stars real-life husbands Blake Lee and Ben Lewis. Jonathan Bennett appears in Hallmark’s The Christmas House opposite Brad Harder and Paramount’s Dashing in December has Peter Porte opposite Pablo Di Pace. Many of these projects also have queer writers and/or directors.

Original Article – Out Magazine

Trump takes a big bite out of Fox News, the hand that feeds his base

In his tweet, the president makes explicit the subtext at which he’s hinted in the past, when offering complaints about how Fox had “forgotten the people that got them there” — meaning, of course, his and the network’s shared base of conservatives and Republicans. Previously, he had chastised Fox for allowing Democratic voices on the airwaves without articulating the other side of the coin. Here, he’s just saying it: Fox isn’t helping to elect Republicans, which, it clearly follows, they ought to be doing.

‘Fox isn’t working for us anymore,’ tweets Trump in another blast at the network

To the extent that Fox still needs to deal with the fallout from Trump’s temperamental criticisms, the president’s explicit link between the network and electing Republicans will not make things easier. It needs to get advertisers to pay money for ad blocks, something that’s been trickier in recent years in the aftermath of relatively effective boycotts targeting hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham after their controversial comments. If a fabric softener’s marketing team is trying to decide where to buy 30 seconds of airtime, how enthusiastic will they be about doing so on a channel that the president thinks should be in the business of electing members of his own political party?

The irony of this, of course, is that Fox News has clearly been effective at helping to bolster Trump’s chances in November.

The evidence of that is overwhelming. Pew Research Center polling breaks out responses to questions based on media diets. Asked last November how they felt about Trump, more than half of respondents overall said they were cold toward him. Among Republicans, 71 percent said they felt warmly about the president. Conservative Republicans were even more positive: 83 percent said they felt positively.

View full article! – Washington Post

The New York Times: How the billionaire Koch brothers fueled the right-wing movement

In 1980, David H. Koch, one of the two billionaire industrialist brothers at the center of a sprawling and powerful political network, served as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential nominee. The ticket earned 1.1 percent.

But in the years since that failed run, Mr. Koch, who died on Friday, and his brother Charles, found far greater power and influence outside of elected office as they became two of the most prominent faces in a new era of megadonors in American politics, building a political apparatus that, at its peak, rivaled the Republican Party itself.

The Kochs and their network spent hundreds of millions of dollars in support of their particular brand of conservatism: One of limited government, more lenient immigration policy, free trade, free markets and limited corporate regulations — all while running Koch Industries, a conglomerate with annual revenues of $100 billion. But not long after they rose to become two of the most coveted political donors in America, they saw much of their worldview rejected by President Trump’s ascendant version of the Republican Party.

Because so much of their network’s money was funneled through an array of nonprofits, where full disclosure of finances is not required, it is near impossible to assess the full scope of their operations, but the influence is vast.

“The Koch brothers have been very strategically thinking about how best to shape politics over decades and at the same time they were amassing a fortune that would power whatever strategy they devised,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. She noted that they were especially effective working on narrow issues while pursuing a larger strategy.

“The Kochs,” she said, “have built an empire.”

“If not us, who? If not now, when?” opened a letter from Charles G. Koch to donors in 2010, inviting them to join what the Kochs called their semiannual “seminars,” gatherings of major contributors that would become the hallmark of the network.

The Koch-funded political operation would help propel the Tea Party takeover of Congress in 2010, spend an estimated $400 million on the 2012 campaign and fund heavily the Republican takeover of the Senate in 2014.

Along the way, the Kochs took full advantage after the Supreme Court sided with Citizens United and other rulings loosened spending rules. They became the most feared, recognized and loathed (by the left) Republican donors in the nation, surpassing even Karl Rove, as the boogeyman of Republican big money. In a sign of the vitriol around him, the hashtag #DavidKochisDeadParty was trending on Twitter Friday.

Matt Schlapp, who oversaw federal affairs for Koch Industries during President George W. Bush’s second term and is now the chairman of the American Conservative Union, said the most lasting legacy of the Koch network will likely be its funding of a large network of think tanks and universities.

“I give the Kochs and their network high marks on understanding that if they don’t change hearts and minds and build institutions that can educate people in the nonprofit world then the world will drift to the left, the government will continue to grow,” Mr. Schlapp said.

He said their direct impact on politics was less pronounced. “The best judgment you can give it is mixed,” he said. Part of that mixed legacy is linked to the rise of Mr. Trump. Some prominent alumni of Koch-funded organizations do hold high-ranking positions in the Trump administration. But the Kochs’ approach to governance, beyond curbing business regulations and cutting taxes, has often been sidelined, if not rejected outright, by the Republican Party under President Trump, who dismissed the brothers as “a total joke” last year.

Trevor Potter, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and the current president of the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, said the true Koch legacy was having “diminished our democracy.”

“The Kochs changed two things. First, the system went from transparent spending to secret spending,” Mr. Potter said. “The second was they were an important part of the wave of billionaires who took campaign spending to an entirely different level in American politics.”

Both developments, he said, gave average Americans a deep sense of disenfranchisement.

Parts of the Koch network have at one point touched on nearly every facet of the conservative movement. There have been separate organizations for outreach to Latinos (the LIBRE Initiative), veterans (Concerned Veterans for America), younger voters (Generation Opportunity) and older voters (60 Plus Association), for instance. A national political group, Americans for Prosperity, established outposts in the majority of states across the country.

“David Koch helped design and implement the center-right, free enterprise, activist wing of the political spectrum,” said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist of the United States Chamber of Commerce. “And he became a historical power player.”

The agenda for the 2010 Koch seminar was revealing. It included fighting “climate change alarmism and the move to socialized health care,” as well as “the regulatory assault on energy” — issues that would recur over in the coming years.

In 2014, the Koch network was at the center of the successful Republican efforts to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats. A network of six Koch-linked nonprofits had paid to air nearly 44,000 television spots by August of that year, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity.

Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was then the Senate majority leader, took to the Senate floor in early 2014 to declare that “Senate Republicans are addicted to Koch” (the name is pronounced coke), as the network’s television ads hammered Democrats in key races.

The sweeping Republican Senate victories that fall put Senator Mitch McConnell in power. He would use the majority to block some of President Obama’s final judicial appointments, most notably forcing a vacancy on the Supreme Court for nearly a year until it was filled by President Trump’s selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch in early 2017.

Environmental groups have denounced the Kochs, whose business empire includes oil operations, as “secretly funding the climate denial machine,” as Greenpeace put it, adding up to $127 million in such spending over two decades. Among the recent Koch brothers pursuits has been killing mass transit projects around the country.

“If someone has the freedom to go where they want, do what they want,” Tori Venable, Tennessee state director for Americans for Prosperity, told The New York Times last year, “they’re not going to choose public transit.”

The Kochs were perhaps at their peak in 2015, as the last Republican presidential primary was heating up. Koch officials outlined plans to spend as much as $900 million that cycle — possibly as much as the Republican Party itself. In a sign of their influence, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Carly Fiorina all trekked to a luxury hotel in Southern California to pitch the network’s donors in person that summer.

“I, for one, cannot wait to see who the Koch brothers pick,” President Obama joked at the White House Correspondents Association dinner that year.

But the Kochs did not get their pick. Instead, Mr. Trump would go on to win the nomination and redirect the party away from the Koch network’s brand of fiscal conservatism, and their preference for free trade and a more open immigration policy. (The Kochs did spend millions supporting Mr. Trump’s tax cut legislation.)

“Trump’s passion was clearly focused on stopping immigration and stopping free trade and that was pretty well unacceptable to the Kochs,” said David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that has longed received money from the brothers.

In mid-2018, Charles Koch, without naming Mr. Trump, warned of the “rise of protectionism” and those who were “doing whatever they can to close themselves off from the new, hold on to the past, and prevent change.”

Mr. Trump quickly responded. He attacked the brothers, saying they “have become a total joke in real Republican circles” with a “highly overrated” political network.

“Two nice guys with bad ideas,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

In a shift last year, the Koch network ran ads in support of a Democratic senator, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who was being challenged by a staunch Trump supporter, Kevin Cramer. Mr. Cramer won the election. This year, the network has signaled plans to stay out of the White House contest entirely.

Yet even as the Kochs have receded somewhat from electoral politics, alumni of their network continue to hold sway in Mr. Trump’s government. A former top Koch operative, Marc Short, for instance, served as Mr. Trump’s legislative affairs director and is now chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Schlapp’s wife, Mercedes, is a senior White House official. And a former director of communications for Koch Industries, Matt Lloyd, is a senior adviser at the State Department.

“It is really hard to quantify their impact,” Ms. Krumholz said of the Kochs. “It was enormous. It was pervasive.”

Original story: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/23/us/politics/david-koch-republican-politics.html

‘Publishing is still a business that is owned by white men’: Three women on race and genre

Martine Powers talks with N.K. Jemisin, Jasmine Guillory and Lauren Wilkinson about challenging narrow perceptions of race in literary genres. And Marian Liu on the segregation of American music awards.

The book publishing industry still has a long way to go
“Publishing is still a business that is owned by white men,” romance writer Jasmine Guillory says. “And you know the people at the top are all white men.” She’s not alone in her sentiment. Lauren Wilkinson debuted her novel “American Spy” with a black woman as the protagonist. Wilkinson grew up reading John le Carré and James Bond novels. She says she always noticed a similarity between all of the spy novels she’d read as a kid.
“They looked very very white and male,” Wilkinson says. So she decided to do something about it by writing Marie Mitchell as the main character of “American Spy.”
“I mean, for me this is a spy book, but it’s secretly just an opportunity to talk about a black woman’s feelings for 300 pages,” Wilkinson says.
Science fiction also faces the problem of inequality in the publishing industry. That’s why N.K. Jemisin chose to put black experiences of oppression in a distant, imagined future. She says, “In a lot of science-fiction stories, you know, the way that they choose to engage with [oppression] is by having aliens be oppressed.” Instead, Jemisin chooses to show how the black experience fares in the future with the “Broken Earth” series.
These women tell Powers about why the industry remains so homogenous and what challenges remain.
Original Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/podcasts/post-reports/publishing-is-still-a-business-that-is-owned-by-white-men-three-women-on-race-and-genre/

Ann Peacock VRP

Ann Peacock is a screenwriter who has written NIGHTS IN RODANTHE and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. She won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or Movie for A LESSON BEFORE DYING.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by BEI/REX/Shutterstock (560163eg)
Stephen McFeely, Chris Markus, Ann Peacock and Douglas Gresham
Novemer 12, 2005 Hollywood, CA
Stephen McFeely, Chris Markus, Ann Peacock and Douglas Gresham
There was standing room only at the first all guild screening of the new Disney / Walden Media production of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Photo by Alex Berliner ® Berliner Studio / BEImages

ManagerDavid Gardner (Artists First)
Lawyer: Don Steele (Hansen Jacobson Teller Hoberman Newman Warren Richman Rush & Kaller)
In the Media:
Ann Peacock To Adapt ‘The Nightingale’ For TriStar  |  Deadline  |  June 23, 2015
EXCLUSIVE: Ann Peacock (Chronicle Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe) has just closed a deal to to adapt The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah for Elizabeth Cantillon (Concussion) to produce at TriStar, which had previously optioned the title. The Nightingale is an epic family drama about two sisters living in France during WWII and follows them as one becomes a prisoner in her own home and the other fights for the resistance. It was published in February of this year by St. Martin’s Press.

The author Hannah, who is a former lawyer, has written 21 novels. Her other novel Home Front was optioned by Chris Columbus’ 1492 Films for the filmmaker to write, produce, and direct. That novel and Night Road both have the distinction of being on the NY Times bestseller’s list at the same time. The Nightingale has spent almost 20 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and is on a number of other best-seller lists as well.

Peacock, whose other credits include The First Grader and Nights In Rodanthe, is no stranger to epic family dramas and love stories. She has also cut a swath in TV with Alice Hoffman’s Dovekeepers for Mark Burnett and CBS and Ken Follett’s Fall Of Giants for Michael Deluca and ABC.

Cantillon’s credits include the cult comedy Galaxy Quest and the Banger Sisters.

Peacock is repped by CAA, Principato-Young Entertainment and attorney Don Steele.

Erin Gibson VRP

from her website]

Erin Gibson is an expert at mixing social commentary, political satire, and frank sexual talk into nice, neat little comedy packages. Based in Los Angeles, she co-hosts the award winning political absurdist comedy podcast THROWING SHADE, which has over 6 million downloads and was named by Rolling Stone as one of the top 20 Comedy Podcasts of 2014 and as a 2015 Podcast to listen to by Entertainment Weekly. A web version of the podcast is shot and distributed by Funny or Die, who is also producing the THROWING SHADE television series. She tours internationally doing live versions of the show with her comedy partner, Bryan Safi.

Previously, Erin hosted MODERN LADY on Current TV’s Infomania, which comedically criticized the way women are treated by the media.

As a writer and director at Funny or Die, Erin regularly impersonated Michele Bachmann and Megyn Kelly, in addition to writing and directing sketches staring Juliette Lewis, Jerry O’Connell, Teri Hatcher, Mary Steenburgen, Kaley Cuoco, Natasha Lyonne, and Taryn Manning. Erin created the successful GAME OF THRONES recap show GAY OF THRONES which she writes and directs, and who stars her real life hair stylist, Jonathan Van Ness.

As an actress and comedian, she’s been seen on KEY AND PEELE, THE KROLL SHOW, PARKS AND REC, CHELSEA LATELY, COMMUNITY, and clip shows galore. Erin’s a regular blogger for Huffington Post and is better than Taylor Swift when knowing if people are trouble when they walk in.

Literary Filmography:
GAY OF THRONES — 2013 – 2019
INFOMANIA — 2010 – 2011
Various FUNNY OR DIE Sketches — 2011 – 2019
Manager: Jennie Church-Cooper (Haven Entertainment)
Literary Agent: Adriann Ranta Zurhellen (Foundry)
Additional Agents: Silvio Lund, Justin Ongert, Marissa Hurwitz, Kenny Layton, Matt Malick (WME)
Twitter (36.2K followers): https://twitter.com/gibblertron
Instagram (43.3K followers): https://www.instagram.com/gibblertron
In the Media:
Jonathan Van Ness on the End of ‘Gay of Thrones’: “I’m Not Ready to Say Goodbye”  |  The Hollywood Reporter  |  May 17, 2019
Jonathan Van Ness clutches a comb and a pair of scissors as a groomer carefully readjusts the crown perched jauntily on the side of his head. Seated in a chair in front of him, Tiffany Haddish practices her lines for an upcoming scene.

It’s a Monday morning in May and the duo are shut inside an office-turned-set at Funny or Die’s West Hollywood headquarters, putting the finishing touches on the latest episode of comedy web series Gay of Thrones, which recaps HBO’s Game of Thrones each week. Moments later, Haddish nails the take. “Everyone on fire, OK,” she says before reciting a list of names meant to represent the townspeople who burned to a crisp on the previous night’s episode. “You got Donna, Lynn, Laurie, Shelly, Aaliyah, Rose, Brian, Darren and Ulysses. Everybody holding down the fort.”

Van Ness starts shimmying behind her and accidentally whacks the camera. “Oh shit, sorry,” he says with a look of guilt. “You killed that. I hope I didn’t fuck it up.” When the episode appears online the next day, Haddish’s perfect take makes the cut. So does Van Ness’ blooper in the background.

Six years after it began, Gay of Thrones is preparing to say goodbye as Game of Thrones, the show it has been sending up since its third season, comes to an end. And while the creative team behind Gay of Thrones admits that they’ve worked out a lot of the kinks since their early days, it’s unplanned moments like the one between Van Ness and Haddish that are part of the series’ charm. After all, the show was inspired by real-life conversations between hairstylist Van Ness and client Erin Gibson when she would visit his L.A. salon.

“When Jonathan was talking about Game of Thrones while he was doing my fringe, I was like, ‘This is funny, this is fresh, this is a point of view that no one’s going to have on this show,'” says Gibson, who in 2013 pitched the show to Funny or Die, where she was working as a writer and director. Jokes Van Ness, “Well, actually, it turns out I was watching Spartacus but I thought I was watching Game of Thrones.”

Gay of Thrones debuted during the HBO drama’s third season with Van Ness starring as a chatty stylist who recaps the most recent episode of the HBO drama while cutting hair. The show quickly gained a following. “It was an organic collision of something the Internet cared about, the world cared about and Jonathan cared about,” says Funny or Die CEO Mike Farah. “Erin could channel that energy and put it into a show that is both super funny and also a pretty informative recap.”

As the cultural significance of Game of Thrones has grown over the years, so too has Van Ness’ profile. In 2018, he shot to fame as one of the five stars of Netflix’s Queer Eye. While it’s hard to quantify exactly how much of an impact that has had on the show, Gibson says viewership has grown since last season, which streamed in 2017 while Van Ness was shooting Queer Eye’s first season. On YouTube, several recent episodes have notched more than 700,000 views. The series recently topped 17 million total views.

Van Ness credits Gay of Thrones for helping him forge a new career path in entertainment. “I like to say [Gibson] is like the Usher to my Justin Bieber,” he says. “I have always loved to do hair and be in the salon. Being behind the chair is the place that I felt really fulfilled and really, truly happy. That was my goal, to never need to borrow money from my parents for rent and be a self-sufficient adult person.”

During early seasons of Gay of Thrones, Van Ness, Gibson and the rest of the production team would write and shoot episodes on Sunday nights immediately after Game of Thrones concluded. Shoots would regularly run until past midnight because Van Ness often actually cut or styled his guests’ hair. Now, the writers gather Sundays to watch the episode together over bowls of Tender Greens salads and then shoot the episodes Monday morning, a schedule shift that has helped them land more high-profile guest stars including Anna Faris, Gabrielle Union and Kumail Nanjiani. Van Ness, who moved to New York between the seventh and eighth seasons of Game of Thrones, flies to L.A. each week to film the show. The goal is to get the episodes up online by midnight Tuesdays.

The show has evolved as the digital video business has shifted. At first, episodes were released on the Funny or Die website. They are now distributed across social platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat. “Because of binge-watching at places like Netflix, we’re able to make our episodes longer,” says Gibson. “Five minutes used to be the death knell for us. Now, last week’s episode was like seven-and-a-half minutes. We would have never done that two years ago.”

With Game of Thrones set to drop its final episode Sunday, May 19, the team behind Gay of Thrones have begun to contemplate life after the show. “I’m not ready to say goodbye,” admits Van Ness. “Those Sunday and Monday nights are very exhausting but they’re so fun,” adds co-exec producer and writer Matt Mazany. “It’s like summer camp. It’s exciting, it’s high energy. Then Tuesday comes and it’s like, ‘Oh, I miss my Gay of Thrones family.'”

There have been discussions about getting the group back together to produce specials that will look back on the first two seasons of Game of Thrones or check in on prequel series currently in development. “Everyone’s got things that they’re going on to,” says Van Ness. “It is fun to know that Gay of Thrones won’t be the last time that you see me. But I feel like we have to do something else someday.”

Erin Gibson’s Feminasty Is a Blazing Collection of Feminist Essays  |  The Stranger  |  Oct 17, 2018
For many loyal listeners, the hilarious and topical Throwing Shade podcast is a safe space to learn about the news of the week (generally bad) via comic geniuses Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi. They discuss issues “affecting ladies and gays” and have been doing so since 2011. The Obama era? Did we even have problems then? (Yes.)
Throwing Shade was the first podcast I ever looked forward to and I’m continually impressed by the things I see its co-host Erin Gibson create. Gibson was a political writer for the punchy, sophomoric Funny or Die comedy site even before she and Safi began collaborating on Throwing Shade. She also created, writes, and directs Funny or Die’s Gay of Thrones, which I am obsessed with and which stars her real-life hairstylist Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness.

Now Erin Gibson has produced a hilarious fiery screed of a book, Feminasty: The Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death, which functions partly as a teachable moment autobiography and partly as Gibson’s opportunity to take on some of the perennial feminist beefs of our time. (For example, Woody Allen: “Jesus take the wheel. ‘I liked her youth and energy’ is something a fantasy villain says before using an amulet to suck the life force out of a newborn.”)

Feminasty is an easy book to inhale. Gibson blazes across the page like a firework shooting over a landscape of ALL CAPS and italics for emphasis. It can be hard to keep up at times, but it works for her. It isn’t hard to backtrack as necessary. Feminasty reads like the Erin Gibson rants we’re frequently treated to on Throwing Shade, but the writing itself is much tighter. The asides and footnotes are all pertinent and charmingly snide. And there are sources. Gibson brought the realest weapon to the feminist fight: citations in the back.

Feminasty is a Best-Friend Book. Reading it feels like having a feminist hype-woman in your corner. She’s taking patriarchal bullies apart with the catty, flippant venom they deserve. She’s pouring you a glass of something bubbly. She’s making you laugh ’til it runs out your nose.

‘Throwing Shade’ Late-Night Comedy Gets Series Pickup At TV Land  |  Deadline  |  April 15, 2016
TV Land is the latest cabler to enter the late night arena. The network has ordered ten episodes of hit podcast and Funny or Die series Throwing Shade for premiere in January 2017.

The political and pop culture show, which will have a live audience, will air in the 11 PM timeslot. Erin Gibson (Parks and Recreation, Kroll Show) and Bryan Safi (Modern Family, Superstore) star as themselves, sharing their perspective on today’s hot topics.

The TV Land pickup comes amid an explosion of late night shows, including History’s upcoming Night Class comedy block, a companion to Craig Ferguson’s new late-night show, Join or Die, along with TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, TruTV’s Late Night Snack, and the list goes on.

Creators Gibson and Safi launched Throwing Shade as a podcast in 2011, a yearly, multi-city, sold-out touring stage show in 2012, and in 2013, Funny Or Die picked it up for a video series. The TV Land show will be executive produced by Gibson and Safi, as well as Funny Or Die’s Andrew Steele, Anna Wenger and Joe Farrell, and Charlie Siskel (Review, Tosh.0) will executive produce and serve as showrunner.