Pop Culture Free Time November 2021 (Taylor’s Version)
Howdy and welcome back to Pop Culture Free Time for November 2021. First of all, yes, there was no installment of this series last month. Everything I took in was just very okay or something I’ve already mentioned. Second, if you have no idea what’s going on here, then the simplest answer is that this is my report on the best pop culture I consumed for the month. Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s start talking about that pop culture.
November 2021 Free Time Book Chat
image via Flatiron Books
After a month of disappointing reads, I finally got to plow through some good ones. That’s my measure of a good book, by the way–does it make me want to rip through it in a desperate race to find out how it all ends? Here are some that did.
First, there’s Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger. Girl meets boy (on a dating app), then boy ghosts girl. It turns out that she might be lucky, though, because other girls he met were never seen again. Then again, he’s not the only one with secrets and surprises.
And speaking of surprises, I also really dug Alice Feeney’s Rock Paper Scissors. While I liked Feeney’s previous books, like Sometimes I Lie and His & Hers, I avoided this one for a while. I’ve grown a bit tired of the mystery/thriller version of the “marriage plot,” which tends to be a lot of whining from a married couple about how their spouse just doesn’t get them anymore. Whine, whine, just might have to murder them now, I guess.
But I should have known to expect more from Feeney. Her book, about a couple taking a disastrous trip, is so much more than a whingefest. Once you learn that the husband has face-blindness, then you’ll think you know where this is going. But the plot leaps and twists out of your grasp, which I always love.
Finally, another great book was A.R. Torre’s The Good Lie. Someone’s been abducting and killing teenage boys. However, one escapes. But is he telling the truth about his miracle and the killer he evaded? Is anyone? This is a mystery/thriller, so probably not.
Overwatch: TV and the People Who Watch It
The Sex Lives of College Girls, image via HBO Max
While I already wrote about the premieres of Chucky and Dexter: New Blood, I’ve continued to watch both. Chucky has turned out to be the delight it was from the beginning. And although I was nervous about Dexter, given the way the original series ended, the revival has been a pleasant surprise. I don’t know if I’d want to see another season–the second season of The X-Files revival gives me pause. But I like what they’re doing with this one.
I mentioned Squid Game in the last update, the September 2021 Free Time. I hadn’t finished the series at the time, but now I have, and I’m pleased to report that reader, it whipped. On that note, I sought out more deadly games action with Alice in Borderland. Although it’s not the same story as Squid Game (so far), it’s just as thrilling.
But if you’re eager for more Korean TV, then you should check out Hellbound. All of a sudden, demonic creatures (who look like Bigfoots rendered in scorched railroad ties) start dragging folks to hell. Fun times do not ensue.
And in a vastly different change of pace, I’m also really into The Sex Lives of College Girls. It’s from Mindy Kaling, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that its vibe is reminiscent of her Never Have I Ever. This show is much more adult, though, as the title indicates. But like NHIE, it’s really funny.
Predictably, of course, I’m still watching a lot of reaction channels. My latest find is Me, You, & The Movies, which is, as they describe it, “just a husband & wife watching movies together.” Another channel is What We Watchin’?! It’s three gals watching some movies, but mostly TV shows, particularly of the comic book sort.
Listen Lady: The Things That I Heard
First, let’s talk about podcasts. I started listening to True Crime Campfire, which I find quite charming. Hosts Whitney and Katie tell stories of true crime in my favorite way, concise and clever. They also tend to steer away from what Last Podcast on the Left calls the “heavy hitters”–the more infamous serial killers and such. Instead, they tell lesser known stories, the kind you might see on Dateline or any of ID’s output.
While most of their stories–or at least, the ones I’ve listened to–are about murder, the other podcast I discovered in November is about a different kind of crime. However, it’s almost more shocking. Sweet Bobby tells the tale of a catfish, and as I wrote in our Comic Years slack, it’s one of the most insane things I’ve ever heard. Years of watching Max and Neve may have you thinking you’ve heard it all, catfish-wise. Still, this story is a jaw-dropper, if only for the time and size it involves.
But podcasts weren’t the only thing I listened to. As I mentioned in the last Free Time, I was eagerly awaiting this month because it would see the release of Red (Taylor’s Version). More importantly, it would see the release of a 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” All the rumors were true, and it is magnificent.
The original version is a classic–a masterclass in pop songwriting. Through it, Taylor tells us about a failed relationship with you-know-who. The genius of the song is in the details, as it describes a kind of person many of us have known. You know, the kind of person who’s “so casually cruel in the name of being honest.”
In the expanded version, she fleshes out those little details. In doing so, she paints a much more elaborate picture of a gaslighting older partner that, again, many of us have had the misfortune to love. It’s both a critical evaluation of a doomed relationship and a searing missive to someone who didn’t treat her with care.
And to no one’s great shock, I love it. It shot to the top of my most listened to tracks for THE MONTH within a week of its release. All of the added lines are killer, but I’m particularly fond of that new third verse. “The idea you had of me–who was she?” will live rent-free in me forever.
And that’s my Pop Culture Free Time for November 2021. As always, tell me in the comments or on our social media what you got into this month.
featured image of Alice in Borderland via Netflix
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at [email protected]