“I’m so sick of people shaming women for being sensitive or vulnerable. It’s so bizarre to me.” Winona Ryder is talking about the press and its tendency to pathologize female emotions, but she could also be talking about her lead role in Netflix’s Stranger Things playing a frantic mother whose child has mysteriously disappeared. The supernatural, Spielbergian ’80s-era drama, created by newcomers Matt and Ross Duffer, has attracted an enthusiastic and vocal viewership, but Ryder seems almost confused by some of the questions she’s been asked while promoting the show. “They use the word passion. ‘Did you feel passionate about it? Is it a passion project?’ ”
This isn’t the only time I’ll be treated to her strangely charming “I just got here from another planet” tone. Ryder seems more comfortable with discussions that exist one meta-level up, analyzing the perplexing ways of the press — even as we sit for two hours talking at the white-hot center of celebrity-interview clichés, the lounge of the Chateau Marmont, where several different waiters hover over our table, more attentive and slow to exit than nurses in a nicu ward.
It’s a bold novelist who dares write from the perspective of the opposite gender in these sensitive times. A man who decides to explore the sexual and emotional makeup of three generations of women must, at every turn, check his privilege, avert his “male gaze” and for the love of God, no “mansplaining.” In his new novel, “The Inseparables,” Stuart Nadler has successfully braved this potential minefield in order to bring us the wonderfully authentic Olyphant women.
Wry and playful, except for when densely allusive and willfully obtuse, “Ninety-Nine Stories of God” is a treasure trove of bafflements and tiny masterpieces.
Today, Northern California has been taken over by a tech-boom generation with vastly more money and a taste for the existential pleasures of problem solving. The first hints of change appeared in 2005, when local restaurateurs sensed that it was time for a new culinary style with a new lifestyle fantasy. That’s when a leading San Francisco chef named Daniel Patterson published an essay that blamed the “tyranny of Chez Panisse” for stifling Bay Area culinary innovation. Next came the 2009 Fig-Gate scandal in which the chef David Chang, at a panel discussion in New York, said, “Every restaurant in San Francisco is serving figs on a plate with nothing on it.” Northern California erupted with an indignation that Mr. Chang called, in a subsequent interview, “just retardedly stupid.” Mr. Chang added that, as he put it, “People need to smoke more marijuana in San Francisco.”
Six years ago, I published a story about a live octopus hot pot I ate in Queens that hinged on a video of the cephalapod writhing across a hot stew of vegetables. Predictably, animal rights activists skewered me for my insensitivity, and as someone who wrestles constantly with questions of ethical eating, I can’t say that I blame them.
But I’m more uncomfortable with that piece today because it was sloppy journalism: it was a story built solely for page views, and to accomplish that goal, it removed an aspect of Korean food culture from its broader context and exploited its oddness for the American audience. Worse, I, a white woman who grew up on the Wonderbread cuisine of middle America (and had eaten Korean food about 10 times before writing that piece), potentially shamed Korean readers for their food habits while elevating myself for being “brave” and trying such a “bizarre” food.