Today I launch my new website Tasteful Rude, as part of the Brickhouse Cooperative, a group of journalists . I’m the editor-in-chief, and one of the writers. Tasteful Rude’s editorial voice eschews politeness in favor of truth-seeking and fun. It is Tasteful Rude’s mission to abide by Edward’s Said’s commandment: “Criticism must think of itself as life-enhancing and constitutively opposed to every form of tyranny, domination, and abuse.” Here’s my introduction:
When I was a little girl, I sipped black coffee.
I also dreamt.
One of the things I fantasized about was growing tall. My family does produce statuesque Mexicans so I believed that this goal was attainable. As a result of early childhood caffeination, I topped out at five feet. Tasteful Rude, however, is the manifestation of another early dream.
Like many families, mine strengthened its bonds through communal television watching and one of the weekly programs we (nerdily) enjoyed together was 60 Minutes. The newsmagazine taught us about a range of current events, issues, and public and private figures and my brother, sister, and I would warm the couch as the program’s correspondents shed light on our weird world. (There were, though, moments that I suspected we were being lied to. I saw the episode where then-Governor Bill Clinton told journalist Steve Kroft that his relationship with Gennifer Flowers was “friendly but limited.” MENTIRAS!)
In addition to philandering politicians, 60 Minutes also introduced my siblings and me to criticism, commentary, and satire and while I found the show’s reporting interesting, what really secured my status as a fan was a treat that concluded the program.
“I could do that!” I thought as we laughed at “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney.”
I adored Rooney, a masculine frump who Morley Safer once described as “having the demeanor of an unmade bed.” Rooney did my dream job. He drew his paycheck by having an opinion and spreading it and he’d launch his weekly commentary, which he delivered as a monologue set to a curmudgeonly cadence, from a desk messier than my dad’s. “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” inspired me, proving to me that a commentator didn’t have to be cute for people to listen to her. A critic could be as ugly as Andy Rooney as long as she made what she said about the world compelling.
Rooney typically began his monologues by describing a situation that seemed undeserving of further consideration. However, as Rooney complained, it grew clear that he’d identified a problem in need of critical attention. The opening lines of a 1980 segment demonstrate Rooney’s approach: “It’s a mystery to me why people fight to have either a political convention or the Olympics held in their city. It’s like bidding to have World War III fought in your area because of all the money the war brings local businessmen.”
With a cup of black coffee in hand and “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” in mind, I would pace my childhood home, practicing cultural criticism:
“It’s a mystery to me why my mother thinks I won’t recognize that Santa Claus’s handwriting looks identical to hers. What does she take me for? An elf? While I might be short, I…”
“It’s a mystery to me why my best friend’s father hides his Playboy Magazines under the bathroom sink. The magazines are filled with beautiful women! Why not display them on the toilet tank? It’s important to show guests hospitality and…”
“It’s a mystery to me why I must shop for a training bra. I have nothing to train. As Judy Blume wrote in Superfudge…”
My understanding of criticism, commentary, and analysis has evolved but my concern and commitment to these phenomena remain as strong as ever. For better or worse, Tasteful Rude is influenced by early touchstones like “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” and it’s not a mystery why I prioritize shit-talking. Shit-talking entertains. It also paves the way for justice. Criticism is a tool of liberation, mine and yours, and I look forward to taking this caffeinated journey with you.
Yours in shit-talking,
11 December, 2020 www.tastefulrude.com