What’s Good is a weekly column collecting TV, music, movies, and miscellaneous cultural ephemera worthy of your time. Why? Because we like it. Check back Fridays at lunchtime for your guide to what is good.
I’ve always wondered if I could train myself to be a sociopath. What’s not to envy about being someone who doesn’t have to feel so much, or anything at all? Who doesn’t cry at Puppy Twitter or Fiona the Hippo videos? How much easier is the life of a person who not only doesn’t have to struggle to control their own emotions, but also has the manipulation skills to control someone else’s? (This is why I tried to read Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight, a memoir, as some form of self-help guide. It didn’t work that well.) It’s not just achieving Rihanna levels of give no fucks; it’s to be chemically hard-wired to not even recognize a fuck if a truckload of them were dropped off in your yard.
How good does that sound? Probably great, to teenagers. That’s why I loved the first half of Netflix’s End of the Fucking Earth so much —teen boy James convinced himself he was a sociopath so thoroughly he was ready to murder in cold blood. In the end, he wasn’t, he just wanted to avoid dealing with all the feelings associated with being alive and 17. Teen girls especially are usually portrayed as having so many feelings and no way to control them — which is why I found the movie Thoroughbreds so refreshing.
Amanda (Olivia Cooke of M and Earl and the Dying Girl) and Lily (Anna Taylor Joy of The Witch) are high school students in a rich suburban enclave. Amanda, who recently killed a horse and is in psychotherapy while awaiting a criminal trial, has been officially diagnosed as antisocial — she’s spent a lifetime figuring out how to mimic human emotion convincingly. She reunites with Lily, a peaches-and-cream, Peter Pan collar–type of rich girl who just got kicked out of Andover and is now living with a stepfather who wants to cut her off. Lily claims to feel “everything,” and so naturally is attracted to someone who feels nothing. They become friends and soon hatch a murder plot to take out Lily’s stepdad (Paul Sparks of House of Cards).
The movie is incorrectly billed as a Heathers-esque dark comedy for the Instagram era — but if you come looking for laughs, you’ll be disappointed. First-time writer and director Cory Finley treats the material as more chilling than amusing. Even the ubiquitous Teen Movie Party scene lacks any sort of beer-bonging joy. What does make it fun is the moment it becomes clear that Amanda isn’t the only sociopath here, she’s just the only diagnosed one.
The movie gets a dose of humanity from Anton Yelchin: In his last role, he turns the dumbest lines about getting rich into pathos-filled works of art. He’s so consistently heartbreaking as a small-town drug dealer who gets bribed into murder that you’ll probably want to join me on my quest to cultivate sociopathic tendencies.
Stage Crew! Put on Your Best Blacks
Is Rise the musical theater show that finally makes musical theater kids seem like the cool, sexy, rebellious, harmoniously gifted hellions they really are? Maybe! Let’s assess.
I’d say Rise is like Glee meets My So-Called LIfe meets Friday Night Lights. Josh Radnor (who is fine, he’s fine) plays an English teacher who needs more. So he takes over the school’s annual musical from Rosie Perez and chooses to stage not Grease but the sexually charged Spring Awakening, a show for real drama kids. This is an era in which the kids sing along to Hamilton. They can handle it.
We’re one episode in, and though admittedly the pilot is bumpy, we’ve already got the three R’s: Racial conflict, Repressed sexuality, and Rowdy adults. If you are a onetime theater kid, there is much to love here — like figuring out why your theater teacher was so fucking invested in the fall play. Turns out they needed it more than you did. Plus, there’s no way I’m giving up on a show that includes musical theater’s greatest fucktrack, “Touch Me.”
Why Do I Like This Song So Much?
G Sleazy is a problem. The hook of this song is predicated on women having sex with him for money and gifts; he is a rapper who looks like a club promoter who preys on NYU students — and yet, I find that I can no longer deny the fact that “No Limit” is the bop to end all bops. I can no longer deny that I will dance to this, in the most disgusting way, every single time it comes on. Not only that, I will put it on every PARTY! and workout mix I make. It’s good enough that I’m contemplating going to see G-Eazy on tour. What voodoo magic do you work, sir? (Probably just putting Cardi B on your song.)
Wash Your Ears Out
For a shame-free listening experience, may I recommend the R&B artist Serpentwithfeet? If you’ve ever listened to one of those admittedly emotionally affecting Sam Smith songs and thought, I wish Sam Smith were black, talented, mind-shatteringly creative, and interesting and not Sam Smith, you’ll like this. The full-length album drops in June, but listen to this single now so you can say you’ve been a fan forever.
The song “bless ur heart” is the Phantom Thread of love songs: beautiful and weird and optimistic, a singular song about a singular love. It should have been Alma and Reynold’s first dance.