Dirt: Wu-Tang / Paris Hilton rumors / DaBaby

Our weekly recap from Eliza Levinson.

Dirt is a daily email about entertainment.

Eliza Levinson recaps the week in streaming.

I never know how to open these so I’ll just start typing! Hello! 

This week on the internet (and outside), someone threw a shoe at DaBaby during a concert at the Rolling Loud festival in Miami, probably because DaBaby made homophobic and untrue statements about people with HIV during the concert; Ben Affleck touched Jennifer Lopez’s butt on a yacht; Bezos got fillers to go to outer space and rumors started that Paris Hilton is pregnant. She’s not, but I want this truly gorgeous fit

via @papermagazine

This week in my one life on this planet I decided to watch the television show Sexy Beastsand saw INTO the void. What is it with Netflix reality TV shows? They’re all, like, very expensive-looking and particularly mindless; even Selling Sunset, my personal fave Netflix reality TV show I’ve binged, feels like eating Jolly Ranchers. It’s not just the aesthetic, though — clearly, the production value is higher with Netflix reality TV than other shows: last year’s Love Is Blind brought together a particular genre of desperation — very “everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it” ––with a hollow, perfectly coiffed set; five hastily-purchased wedding dresses; and the animatronic hosting of the Lacheys, crucially without any Andy Cohen (/Bravo producer) winking knowingly to camera. 

Incidentally, while writing this very newsletter, I discovered updates about both Love Is Blind and Selling Sunset: in what will surely be an epilogue both unnecessary and bleak, this week, Netflix released the allegedly “heartbreaking”Love Is Blind: After The Altar. MORE interestingly (to me personally), I was completely gobsmacked to learn that Chrishell Stause and the famously single, Sunset Boulevard real estate owning bald and tiny titan Jason Oppenheim are DATING (what happened to that guy from Dancing With The Stars?). Is this a promo for the new season? Is it real? I don’t care, I just want to watch Davina try to sell that fucked up $75 million Beverly Hills house for that very scary man and Christine put on her freaky little outfits and strut around. 

Dispatches From the Panopticon: Citizen App Will Pay NYers To Livestream Crimes

This week in tech dystopia, news broke that socially acceptable video surveillance app Citizen is “hiring people in the Big Apple at a starting rate of $25 per hour to run around the city and start streaming crimes to the web in real-time.” I’m not sure what this is called in America, but in Germany, where I live, spying on your neighbors for money is historically Not a good sign. 

And Citizen must know that, too: as the New York Post reports, the job posting — hosted by a “third-party casting agency” called Flyover Entertainment —  has since been removed by the app, though a Citizen spokesperson did eventually acknowledge that one “frequent” Citizen streamer, @cgutter_, “was being paid by the app.” No shit: as Theo Wayt writes for the Post, @cgutter_ “has streamed 1,600 videos that have racked up 1.52 million views, according to his profile.” 

In a twisted way, Citizen is doing exactly what other streaming platforms are also doing right now: paying users to create content, encouraging use. As reported in previous issues of this very newsletter, Instagram and Facebook are doing their best to rival TikTok, offering a total of $1 billion in incentives for influencers to use Instagram Reels (among other IG- and FB-specific features) instead of posting to TikTok. Citizen’s employment of this scheme is particularly disconcerting, relying on our less-evolved rubber-necking tendencies.

A Tidal Wave of Sexual Assault, Discrimination Allegations Rock Gaming World

This summer, “more than 70 people in the gaming industry, most of them women” have taken to Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, and TwitLonger to call out “gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault” in gaming.  

According to coverage about the allegations by Taylor Lorenz and Kellen Browning for The New York Times, Pandora’s box was opened following a June 19 tweet from @Hollowtide, who — without naming names — described “someone else at the top of the d2 directory” as a “scum lord,” hinting at skeletons in a closet: “people don’t even know the awful things they’ve done.” 

In response to the tweet, “three female streamers … decided to come forward about their experiences with the gamer in question,” who, it was revealed, is gaming streamer Lono, also known as SayNoToRage. 

In response to the allegations, Lono released this apology video, part of what Lorenz and Browning consider to be a seachange from GamerGate in 2014, “when women faced threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture. Now, some are optimistic that real change could come.” Lono has also since lost his sponsorship from Astro Gaming, which announced that it would be penalizing two other accused streamers for being the subject of similar allegations. 

One of the more significant responses was the resignation of Omeed Dariani, who had served as CEO of Online Performers Group, “a talent management agency that works with many streamers.” Dariani’s resignation followed allegations of sexual misconduct from Twitch streamer Molly Fender Ayala. 

As of July 29, 2021, 420 submissions have been made to this spreadsheet of “Survivor Stories,” self-described “accusations” of instances of harassment, sexism, and sexual assault. 

New Yorker Profile On Leftist Podcasts Inevitably Starts Shit

This week, Andrew Marantz kicked off the latest in “dirtbag left” discourse with a piece in the New Yorker entitled “The Post-Dirtbag Left.” In the piece, Marantz juxtaposes Know Your Enemy — a friendly, if nerdy, facts-and-research-based podcast hosted by two democratic socialists –– with the freeform Bernie Bro “comedy” stylings of Chapo Trap House. Marantz muses lightly (perhaps optimistically?) on how Know Your Enemy offers a possibility of reviving a popular earnest leftism, a contrast to the navel-gazing, nihilistic, and only marginally thoughtful ennui popularized by the dirtbag left. 

Inevitably, Marantz’s article ignited weary and/or defensive response from Chapo (and Cum Town or Red Scare listeners, whatever), most notably because his piece implies that the hosts of Chapo Trap House were partially responsible for Bernie Sanders losing Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement: pillowed in parentheticals, he writes, “(In the crucial weeks before Super Tuesday, the dirtbag left devoted much of its energy to strafing Elizabeth Warren’s supporters, an approach that may have helped cost Sanders Warren’s endorsement.)”

Marantz also points out that, since its inception, Chapo Trap House has become “the second most lucrative project on Patreon, grossing about two million dollars a year.” 

US Sells Wu-Tang Album Reclaimed From Martin Shkreli

This week, the United States government sold off Once Upon a Time In Shaolin, a “one-of-a-kind” album by Wu-Tang Clan formerly owned byconvicted felon Martin Shkreli. In 2015, former “pharma bro” Shkreli incited ire –– and got arrested –– for multiple counts of fraud, most significantly Shkreli’s immoral price hike of a “life-saving” medication used for AIDS patients (and others) by 5,000 percent. 

Following Shkreli’s arrest, the former hedge fund and big pharma tycoon had to turn over the album to the US government. He had purchased Once Upon a Time In Shaolin for $2 million. Details have not been released about who the buyer was, or how much it was bought for, but the sale means that Shkreli has fully paid off the $7.4 million he owes to the government as part of a forfeiture deal. In an interview with CNBC, Shkreli’s lawyer said that the 2021 resale of Once Upon a Time was “substantially more” than what Shkreli originally paid for it. 

Tough Times Ahead For Hollywood? 

Since LA reimplemented its mask mandate last week, multiple high-profile events in Hollywood are being shut down, like a cast Q&A to promote Ted Lasso. Reporters at Variety are speculating that another Hollywood lockdown could be imminent: according to Elizabeth Wagmeister and Clayton Davis for Variety’s “The Take,” multiple TV and film productions including Westworld and American Horror Story were forced to shut down production due to an outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases. 

It wasn’t just in the US: in the UK, Bridgerton, Matilda (an upcoming Netflix movie version of the musical), and a planned Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, also have had to halt production due to COVID outbreaks. I bet Tom Cruise, wherever he is, is losing it.

Another Hollywood shutdown would be just the latest in an unrelentingly difficult year. Disappointing the hopes of the industry, including theater owners, anticipated summer blockbusters like Black Widow and Space Jam both “suffered steeper-than-normal declines in their second weekends of release,” report Brent Lang and Rebecca Rubin for Variety. Both films overperformed expectations on their opening weekends, but by week two, revenue fell 70% at the box office. 

Black Widow was made simultaneously available in theaters and on Disney Plus, where viewers could rent the new film for $30. It’s not that people aren’t watching the movies, but that they’re both not going to the movie theater or paying to stream the films: the Variety article cites “a surge in illegal downloads of the Marvel film.” As a result, write Rubin and Lang, theater owners are frustrated with distributors for using this time to experiment with release strategies after already being so hard-hit by the pandemic, a point emphasized by the National Association of Theater Owners (also known as NATO, lol). 

“With the exception of F9 and A Quiet Place Part II, it seems like a pattern is emerging,” Peter Newman –– head of the Tisch School of the Arts’ MBA and MFA programs –– told Variety. “High-visibility movies have big openings and massive drops if they’re available on some form of video on demand that week.” 

Olympics Updates: Tales From The Curséd Event

Unless you’re living under a rock, you probably know that record-breaking gymnast Simone Biles elected not to compete at this year’s Olympics at the eleventh hour. Eventually, Biles revealed that she would not be competing because of her mental health, citing the extreme amount of pressure on her to succeed. 

“At the end of the day, [athletes are] human too so we have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do,” Biles explained to journalists covering the Olympics. 

The gymnast’s decision to step out of the event only exacerbated worries from the Olympics’ TV advertisers, who have “begun to wring their hands” at the decline of viewers tuning in to watch the Olympics on TV. Instead, reports Brian Steinberg for Variety, TV viewership of the Olympics opening ceremony –– typically the games’ biggest night for ratings –– plunged 36% since 2016. An unnamed NBCUniversal executive described the ratings for this year as “disappointing.”

Simone Biles was not the only American athletic celebrity with a surprising last-minute ouster from the Olympics: tennis player Naomi Osaka also pulled out after losing to Czech tennis player Markéta Vondroušová. Though Osaka has not publicly disclosed why she decided to leave the championship, multiple media outlets including The Guardianand NPRtied Osaka’s decision to her recent Instagram post describing her struggles with depression and anxiety, as well as her aversion to speaking with the press. 

~Catch up on Dirt~

- Daisy Alioto cosplays having “an expensive experience” listening to The Row’s Spotify

- Jason Diamond interviews food photographer Noah Fecks 

- Caryn Rose pays tribute to kinetic sand ASMR

- Patrick Nathan on a curated speed tour through the unusual internet 

Streaming news

— animated childrens’ show Arthur is ending after 25 years on the air — Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk was rushed to the hospital this week after collapsing on set due to a “heart-related incident.” The actor is now in stable condition — with body bags as props, protestors stood guard outside of Facebook’s Washington, DC office, holding signs that read “DISINFO KILLS.” The action was intended to push Facebook to take a stand against people using the site to spread disinformation about vaccines —Dial-up sound, eat your heart out: Japan has “broken the internet speed record,” with researchers using “a combination of rare earth metals, a new kind of fiber optic cable, and a fancy laser system” to fly at a jaw-dropping 319 terabits per second. Previously, the fastest internet speed (recorded in August 2020) was 178 terabits per second —influencers Connor Wood and Remi Bader have launched Tok Show, a podcast about TikTok — a dangerous trend: the TikTok Blackout Challenge is responsible for the deaths of three children in the US. In Italy, the death of a young TikTok user doing this challenge in January prompted the country to outlaw the use of TikTok for anyone under 13 — Joey Jordison, the first drummer in the heavy metal band Slipknot, died this week. He was 46 –– Britney Spears’ new attorney has filed a motion to remove the pop icon’s father from her abusive conservatorship — speculation begins that a new record of previously-unreleased Amy Winehouse songs could be in the works — Universal will make a new trilogy of Exorcist films, starring Leslie Odom, Jr. Ellen Burstyn will be reprising her role from the original films as the possessed Regan’s mother —Pen15 is releasing a new special animated feature and I am very excited


— the womens’ skateboarding competition at this year’s Olympics –– Pen15’s Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle on Jimmy Kimmel ––  a politician in Fiji is using Twitter for the first time and it is very sweet. An excerpt from The Guardian: “Upon learning that the acronym ‘TL’ meant ‘timeline’ and not ‘Tailevu’ – a province in Fiji – he wrote, “this has caused me much anxiety”— a yoga channel that I’ve been loving lately –– Last Podcast on the LeftDemocracy Now —Faye Webster’s newish album I Know I’m Funny haha Selling Sunset— By Eliza Levinson