Hot Takes: ABBA Nostalgia, #FreeGunna, Balenciaga’s Identity & more

Moore weighs on this week's hot topics

While summer is basically upon us, things are still moving at a rapid pace, leaving very little time for us to slow down, relax and clear our minds. Alas, the news doesn’t seem to share the same sentiments. In the world of pop culture discourse, things actually seem to be more chaotic. 

Simply attempting to tune all this out is definitely an option, but hearing whispers of the online drama is too tempting. You get pulled back in, having to know the latest news and online drama.I definitely fall victim to this on a daily basis. But because of that, I can give you my hot takes on everything going on. From the strangely enduring nature of a certain fashion house, to the fallout of a physical altercation between an airline employee and an ex NFL player, there is much to get into this week.

What I’m watching  

Recently, I’ve been catching up on the second half of the second season of the ‘Owl House,’ a Disney fantasy series. Catching up with the show has been a little painful, after it was unceremoniously cut short by Disney, with the announcement that this would be its last full season. This means that plotlines and arcs that likely would have taken place over the course of several episodes have now been minimised to happen in just one episode. 

For example, a B plot between Willow and her friend-turned-bully-turned-friend-again, Amity, as they work out the new dynamic in their friendship seems to be solved as soon as it’s introduced. The show runners have certainly handled the unforeseen circumstances as well as they can, but it’s sad being reminded of what could have been in each episode. As someone who became invested in several Netflix series’s around the time that they became notorious for cancelling shows, it feels particularly sour. Fingers crossed that the next show I start isn’t given the same familiar announcement.

What I’m listening to

Recently I’ve been taking a walk down memory lane and listening to the discography of the Swedish pop group ABBA. ABBA is a band that I used to associate most with my mum’s preferred car trip soundtrack . It was a familiar part of my childhood that I paid much attention to but in retrospect, I really enjoyed it. I have to thank TikTok yet again for introducing—and in this case re-introducing me—to good music .

Songs from the album ‘Voulez-Vous’ in particular have been played on loop. The ending of “Chiquitita” and the entirety of “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! always get me in a dancing mood. The iconic “Dancing Queen” also makes it impossible to not sing passionately along to. I think I need to schedule a viewing of Mamma Mia.

Dolce and Gabbana remain un-cancellable

The topic of cancel culture comes up on a daily basis in online discourse. However, this past week because of the wedding of the internet‘s second most bizarre couple, it has come up yet again. Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian recently tied the knot, with the ceremony taking place at Dolce and Gabbana’s Portofino Villa. D&G’s distinct designs were worn by the couple as well as their famous families who were in attendance.

This led people to ask the now familiar question, ‘isn’t D&G supposed to be cancelled?’ Dolce and Gabbana has had several incidences that have incited online fury, including racist and homophobic actions. A notable example is when they released an ad showing a Chinese model eating pizza with chopsticks, with several more incidents following this. It seems that with the Kardashians seal of approval, D&G escapes responsibility yet again for their actions. That is until the brand make the same mistake yet again.

Every time the founders expose themselves, there is uproar. Yet, every time this seems to have no lasting effect. Their designs continue to pop up on notable figures and now has been a major part of a highly publicised ceremony. D&G is a brand that exemplifies the overstatement of the effects of cancel culture. It’s difficult for a truly powerful person to get cancelled. It’s even more difficult for a brand or an institution to be cancelled because they remain faces to the average consumer, so their crimes feel less personal. While I wish I didn’t have to see their designs pop up so frequently, all there is to do is side eye the people who continue to wear their designs.

United Airlines and protecting the everyday Black person

Seeing slap-related news still triggers me, after the never ending discussions on the incident between Will Smith and Chris Rock at the Oscars. Unfortunately, this kind of news seems inescapable. Yet another slapping incident has occurred, but this time a much more bloody one. In a now viral video, a United Airlines employee is shown slapping a passenger, who happens to be the former NFL player Brendan Langley. Langley responded by punching the employee until he was knocked over, resulting in a bleeding head wound. United Airlines has since announced that the employee has been fired.

There have been a few incidents lately where I’ve seen a famous Black person gets support and wonder,  ‘What would happen if they weren’t famous?’ It reminds me of a similar where Black Panther director Ryan Coogler got taken away by police officers at a bank for no reason. He was let go fairly quickly and physically unharmed but would the same thing have happened if he didn’t have a recognisable name? 

The situation with United does seem a lot more complicated as Langley has since been arrested and may have instigated the situation (although he claims to have been defending himself). The fact that United took any action at all feels pleasantly surprising. I just hope the same energy would have applied if it had happened to a regular non-famous Black customer.


Gunna’s arrest and the criminalisation of rap

Artist Sergio Kitchens, also known as Gunna, has been arrested on charges of conspiracy to violate the RICO Act, with references to his song lyrics and music videos used as evidence. Gunna’s lawyer has since made a statement calling it ‘deeply problematic’ for this to be used as evidence, implying that it sets a dangerous precedent on crime and artistic expression.  

The focus on Gunna’s song lyrics certainly does leave a bad taste in my mouth. Black people have historically been looked at with disdain for engaging with rap whether through consuming or creating. Rap is something that is often seen as criminal in and of itself, while also being heavily associated with blackness.  This is not the first time that rap lyrics have been used to prosecute a musician. There have been several examples across the years from Bobby Shmurda to Drakeo the Ruler whose music and videos were used against him in a murder trial that he was since been acquitted of. This YSL case feels like one of the many ways that all actions of Black people are policed.


Balenciaga’s show and the power of controversy

Balenciaga is a brand that has attracted much attention in recent years for the strange nature of their marketing. For those in the know, their strange Instagram feed, which most of its pictures having since been deleted, featured an array of pale bodies contorted into all manner of shapes, with a lack of cohesion that made it seem almost like a fashion shitposting account. This output by the brand seemed to both intrigue people and keep them coming back for more.

Their 2023 NYC Show Spring 23 Collection took place at the New York stock exchange. With gimp suit-y latex headpieces accessorising every outfit, and the strange gait of the models, the show had an off-beat nature that reflects the current state of the brand. With many taking to the internet to discuss the peculiarities of the show, many others also praised its innovation. Whether through their shows or through social media, Balenciaga is effective at keeping people talking.