- The Washington Times - Friday, April 30, 2010

Going gay

“Holy Hotdog. Archie Comics - one of culture’s most enduring portraits of wholesome Americana - is introducing a gay. A gay male Archie character. His name is Kevin Keller, and he is blonde.

“Now I know some of you fellow Archie aficionados might be saying, ‘But Richard, isn’t Jughead kind of gay, too?’ And yes, you’d be right. Though the comics do sort of vacillate between a Forsyth P. Jones who is a rabid misogynist and a Jughead who is just sort of shy around girls, the ‘Jughead Is Gay’ read is a respected one in certain Archie circles. But this Kevin character is the real deal. Like an actual homosexual who says it out loud.

“Here is the summary from the press release: ‘Kevin will appear in September’s Veronica #202, in a story called “Isn’t it Bromantic?” Kevin Keller is the new hunk in town, and Veronica just has to have him. After Kevin defeats Jughead in a burger-eating contest at Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe, she desperately latches onto him. Mayhem and hilarity ensue as Kevin desperately attempts to let Veronica down easy, and her flirtations only become increasingly persistent.’ ”

- Richard Lawson, writing on “Archie Comics Welcomes a Gay to Riverdale,” on April 22 at Gawker

Peek at Salinger

“Displayed under glass in the hushed, marbled precincts of the Morgan Library in Manhattan, the letters of J.D. Salinger to his friend Michael Mitchell feel incongruous. Its not just their colloquial, occasionally profane tone, instantly recognizable to anyone who has read ‘Catcher in the Rye.’ Reading the personal letters of Americas most famous literary recluse would be discomfiting under any circumstances, but somehow it feels particularly transgressive here, under the vigilant eye of a security guard in a room that also houses a Gutenberg Bible.

“The Morgan, which held the letters in secrecy until now (apparently not even the curators were allowed to read them), has said that Salingers death absolved the library of any obligation to preserve his vaunted privacy. This logic isnt entirely convincing, and even the head of the literary and historical manuscripts department admits that Salinger would be ‘irate, to say the least, that were showing them.’ Is there any defense for violating the wishes of a man so private that, as he confesses in one of these letters, ‘I dont think I have ever in my life answered a ringing telephone without unconsciously gritting my teeth a bit’?”

- Ruth Franklin, writing on “The Read: J.D. Salinger’s Private Letters” on April 21 at the New Republic

Mainstreaming

“All brands are built around a unique promise or selling proposition, but as [Naomi] Klein argued, whatever a brand is supposed to stand for, it has little to do with the material facts of how the product is manufactured. Nikes ‘Just Do It’ pledge of individual achievement and Apples attitude of hip nonconformity could mask sweatshops, communities damaged by outsourcing, or an exploited environment.

“The anti-corporate activism chronicled in No Logo used this gap between what a brand promised to consumers and how its corporate parent actually behaved to perform a bit of public relations jiu-jitsu. When their bad faith was revealed to the world, the economic strength of the brand bullies became a major liability. The need to preserve shareholder value forced companies such as Shell and Nike to get their act together and make sure their corporate deeds aligned with their marketing froth.

A decade on, there is no question who won that fight. From eco- to organic, fair trade to locally sourced, sweatshop safe to dolphin friendly, sales pitches that 10 years ago would have reeked of patchouli oil and set the red-baiters on full alert are now thoroughly mainstream.”

- Andrew Potter, writing on “Revenge of the Brands,” in the May issue of Reason

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