Popping culture so you don’t have to.

Christmas Is About 'The Princess Switch'

And 'The Princess Switch' is about willfully deceiving the ones you love :)

I thought about starting TATBT's Christmas coverage with a Hallmark Countdown to Christmas classic; after all, there's Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe (lady Darcy!!!), Mingle All the Way (Christmas-themed dating app!!!), and A Shoe Addict's Christmas (bow to your queen, Candace Camerone Bure!!!) to choose from.

I thought of ranking Netflix's six new original Christmas movies.  I thought about a lot of things while I watched these films, and my mind was given ever so much space to wander during dampness-free snowball fights and horseback rides through blizzards wearing nothing more than a blazer…

But then I watched a certain little Netflix number and I realized — what are we doing here? Obviously nothing is going to beat The Princess Switch.

Netflix saw Hallmark's official entry into the ironic pop culture zeitgeist as Americans sought any form of formulaic comfort last year, and they said: Oh, you've been doing this for decades with nothing but love for the genre in your heart, a nondenominational prayer to Santa in your hands, and the budget of an upper middle class 9th grader whose parents are trying to teach them some fiscal responsibility? Well TOO BAD — we're about to make the Stefon skit of Christmas movies.

This Princess Switch has everything: two Vanessa Hudgenses, two fictional nations, a baking competition, a doppelganger switch, swoon-worthy royals; plus fluffy ass snow banks for a-fallin’, an omniscient child wise beyond her years, an omnipotent old man whose ability to transcend time and space is never explained who is definitely not Santa, and of course: orphans in need of presents.

Most importantly, The Princess Switch has what I've realized over two seasons of research into original Christmas programming is the most vital Christmas movie trope of them all: emotional manipulation, lies, deceit, and confusion of the innocent.

These movies will tell you that the "real meaning of Christmas" is love; they will tell you it is friendship; they will tell you it is family; they will put the label of Christmas on any number of vague ideas throughout a 90-minute runtime, like, "The true meaning of Christmas is progress," or "What better time for considering the concept of retirement than Christmas," or "Christmas is all about compromise."

And then there’s the matter of what Christmas is not about: Christmas is definitely not about presents (but the idea of anyone not having presents on Christmas will send any number of former Full House or Party of Five or Hangin' With Mr. Cooper stars into raving hysterics). Christmas is not about big houses; it's not about being perfect or making money or wearing appropriate cold-weather layers. It most certainly is not a about the birth of Jesus Christ, and don't you dare suggest it…

For its part, The Princess Switch makes two things abundantly clear: Christmas is about heterosexual romantic love. And it is not about "gestures."

But that's what these movies tell you with words. What they tells you with plot and action is that if your holiday relationship is not built on equal parts whirlwind romance and grandiose lies, it is simply not a love worth making.

Whether it’s Danny Glover creating an elaborate Truman-Show-style set-up on a train, or a rich lady pretending she's your best friend of 15 years so that you’re suddenly falling in love with her, even though you've only ever felt platonically toward her before because she used to be such a stickler for the rules, but now she spontaneously pulls you into snowbanks…the love of Christmas movies is based on a fake-snow mountain of deceit.

But Christmas isn't about honesty! It is, for some reason, according to every modern Christmas movie I've ever seen, entirely about establishing romantic love at any costs. So let's back up:


Despite my reservations about the execution, in theory alone, The Princess Switch calls for perfection by calling on a truly exemplary "thank u, next” line-up: The Parent Trap, The Princess Diaries, and Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper.

Vanessa Hudgens plays Stacy DeNovo (Hallie/Mia/Pauper Barbie, as it were), a baker and small business owner from Chicago who looks and acts exactly like Gabriella from High School Musical. Vanessa Hudgens has not aged in a decade, and her voice has possibly gotten even younger. But whenever I need a good cry (thrice weekly), I think about Vanessa slaying "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" as Rizzo in Grease: Live mere hours after finding out her father had passed away — and after that performance, I would follow her to the ends of the earth.

So color me shocked when I briefly thought I was going to have to hate Vanessa Hudgens. See, Stacy has a heterosexual male best friend of 15 years, Kevin, who is her baker sous chef, and they are definitely not fucking, so don't even ask.

Well, unless you're Kevin's adorable daughter Olivia, who asks her dad repeatedly why she won't make this nice, pretty, stable female presence her new mom. And listen, as a haver of many platonic relationships with men, I am a firm believer that men and women can be friends…

Buuuut, maybe not if you’re both single, hot, and each other's only friend for 15 years. Y'all gon' look at each other sideways one time real quick, and find yourself in a precarious position. And hey, maybe that's happened, Kevin just isn't telling a 10-year-old about it. What he does tell Olivia, is that Stacy is great, she simply isn't his type because she's "kind of intense" whereas he is more spontaneous.

Spoiler alert: Kevin ultimately falls in love with a woman who looks exactly like his best friend, but is less intense, and does this not go against everything that Hallmark movies have ever taught us???

Given what I’ve learned on the Hallmark Channel, I was under the impression that all women are uptight, Type-A, workaholic harpies only redeemed by their love of Christmas…and all men are sentient flannel beards who live in their hometowns and patiently await the return of an intense women so that they can opposite-attract to each other…and she can pretend that going from being an interior designer in New York City to a boutique owner in Bumfuck, Kansas will be totally fulfilling, and his life can go on as normal but now featuring a sentient flannel non-beard as his wife…

But I guess—this isn't Hallmark. This is Netflix, and not only will they bend the laws of reason and propriety to bring romantic love to two different Vanessa Hudgenses at Christmastime, they will also throw the binding laws of Hallmark out with the spoiled eggnog.

Aaaaanyway, Stacy actually does prove herself to be intense and entirely unlovable when adorable Kevin and adorable Olivia inform her that after her breakup with "Paul" they wanted to cheer her up, so they submitted an application to her very favorite baking competition, and now the fictional country of Belgravia is begging to pay for her to come compete in their televised cake competition.

And Stacy DeNovo looks at the golden embossed invitation, and into the sparkling eyes of tiny Olivia and whines:

Apparently Christmas was a very special time for Stacy and her ex "Paul," so she just doesn’t feel up for an all-expenses paid vacation and chance to become an internationally-recognized baker.

But when Stacy runs into "Paul" just moments later with his new girlfriend on their way home for Christmas with his family, Stacy is suddenly inspired to inform "Paul" that she also has big plans: an all-expenses paid trip to Belgravia for their famous Christmas baking competition where she will become an internationally-recognized baker.

And that's when I decide I can like Stacy again, no matter the psychological torture she willfully unleashes against my new boyfriend, Kevin. Because I don't like ungrateful lovelorn dummies, but I do stan a petty queen doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. So whatever, let's go to Belgravia, Stacy, bring your stupid hat!

Oh you're already on it…

GREAT.

How Ariana Took Back the Chick Flick

AND PROBABLY SAVED CHRISTMAS TOO???

TATBT is back, baby! As for last week's complete absence, I will simply share this exciting personal news with you: I have married Nick Jonas.

JUST KIDDING, I REALIZED ON MY WAY TO THE AIRPORT FOR A WEEK-LONG INTERNATIONAL TRIP THAT MY PASSPORT WAS EXPIRED, AND I HAD TO GET A NEW PASSPORT AND A NEW ITINERARY, AND IT ENDED UP BEING A MUCH LONGER (AND BETTER) TRIP THAN I WAS EXPECTING, BUT IT DEFINITELY CREATED SOME SCHEDULING CONFLICTS.

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Aaaaanyway, you didn't really expect a simple explanation did you? This is not a simple place! I am not a simple person! And neither is Ariana Grande, and I guess that's why I can't stop talking about "thank u next," an already-iconic emotional dexterity anthem, now paired with an equally iconic not-your-average-nostalgia music video. [Ed. note: And also because so many of you asked me to write about it, and I will do literally anything you tell me to! If only someone had told me to renew my passport…]

Recreating a series of (mostly) teenage chick flicks for the song’s music video could have undermined the previously discussed emotional maturity of "thank u, next." But in execution, the song itself ends up elevating these films to the societal standing they've always deserved. Because teenage girls deserve your fucking respect!

What continues to strike awe into my cold, dead heart about the events that inspired "thank u, next" is that, with a few tweets, one song, and now, one music video, this Polly Pop-pet of a singer has managed to completely turn her whirlwind engagement narrative around from "that poor thing doesn't know what she's doing" to "oh she a bad bitch who knows what she's doing, huh?" 

Mean Girls, Bring It On, 13 Going On 30, Legally Blonde: don't let anyone call these romcoms. Not because romcoms are bad — they're incredible — but because the romantic storylines in Ariana's chosen movie muses are C-plot at best. These are movies about young women finding their way through life, independent of romantic entanglements, though they do occasionally crop up with a Luke Wilson, or a Jonathan Bennett, or what have you.

But no, these are not romcoms; these are, in all their pleated, patent leather glory: chick flicks. When Ariana sang, ‘Cause her name is Ari / and I'm so good with that, she declared her extremely astute transition in genre as well. And the "thank u, next" video cements it.

Thank You Next Bring It On GIF by Ariana Grande

Chick flicks are routinely written off as silly or lacking in merit, as though stories that center on girls and women — and especially on girls and women enjoying themselves — are somehow less consequential than films about prep school boys having a really tough go of it.

But in the "thank u, next" video, Ariana boldly reclaims the chick flick for all of us who should be proud of making our way through some shit and still having a good time with our friends, and maybe flirting with their brothers in a wallpapered bathroom. CAN WE LIVE?

Thank U Next GIF by Ariana Grande

Like Torrence, Cady, Jenna, and Elle Woods before her, things might have gotten off to a rocky start or Ariana, but these are women who can handle it. And, oh, the end result is somehow even better than the already exciting description of: "Ariana Grande & Friendz recreate classic 2000s chick flicks"! Let me put it this way:

Tired: Using Bring It On as a cultural reference point

Wired: USING THE BRING IT ON TOOTHBRUSH SCENE, PINNACLE OF HETEROSEXUAL PRETEEN DESIRE

Tired: Trapping Mean Girls in a nostalgic amber when its commentary is as pertinent now as it was 14 years ago

Wired: BRINGING BACK VOICE OF A GENERATION, THE "ARMY PANTS AND FLIP FLOPS" GIRL

Tired: Acting like 13 Going On 30 is not a classic

Wired: INCLUDING THE LESSER KNOWN 13 GOING ON 30 WITH THESE OTHER, MORE POPULAR MOVIES IN YOUR HUGE DEAL MUSIC VIDEO, EAT YOUR FUCKING HEART OUT BIG!

And a record-setting 55.4 million views in the first 24 hours suggest that I am not alone in being charmed by Ariana's confident retaking of the chick flick narrative. This video has everything:

  • Australian pop prince Troye Sivan as part of the Regina-George-esque rumor mill

    Thank You Next Troye Sivan GIF by Ariana Grande
  • The burn book (foretold by the track art) with so many not-exactly-burns on Ariana's past lovers, including a few HUUUUUGE easter eggs…

  • Ariana's former Victorious Nickelodeon co-stars feature prominently, including Elizabeth Gillies as a perfect Lindsay Lohan in the Mean Girls scenes, Daniella Monet as a Bring It On cheerleader, and Matt Bennett reawakening my pre-teen loins as a perfectly grumpy, tooth-brushing Cliff. Victoria Justice was not included, and I'm not sayin' nothing' 'bout it…

    Thank You Next Matt Bennett GIF by Ariana Grande
  • Ariana-as-Elle reading up on Immigration Law & Policy 

  • All the return cameos, most especially Jennifer Coolidge in all her gorgeous rhinestone'd denim

    Happy Jennifer Coolidge GIF by Ariana Grande
  • And the brand new cameo we never knew we needed: Kris Jenner playing the wannabe “cool mom[ager]”

    Thank You Next Kris Jenner GIF by Ariana Grande

Bearing in mind the montages, the outfits, the sly double entendres, the cameos, and the elevation of the chick flick to represent your current state of mental growth, the only question that remains is...

Russell Falcon@RussellFalconWhat would your ‘thank u, next’ music video references be?

I'll start:

10 Things I Hate About You

If there was a fifth film chosen for the "thank u, next" video, one has to assume it would have been 10 Things I Hate About You. Although it's not as aesthetically in line with the glitter and the glam of the other four, who could possibly resist saying: "I like my sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack"? Well, obviously Ariana could, but not this 90s kid. 10 Things I Hate About You is my very first definitive choice: give me 1999 Kat Stratford crunchy waves and a RBF to match, or give me death.

Romi and Michelle's High School Reunion

This is my 13 Going On 30 pick. This movie does not get the respect it deserves. I was eight when it came out, and surely I never saw it in my adolescence until it had been edited within an inch of its life on TBS, but then…oh then, did I SEE it. I was obsessed with their hair, their fruit-themed outfits, their amazing boobs — how did they make them look like that?!

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To this day, I am confident there is no greater achievement in aesthetic beauty than Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino busting into their high school reunion in metallic babydoll dresses, platform heels, and diamond chokers, choosing to be themselves: not the inventors of Post-It notes, just a couple of fashionable weirdos in love.

Never Been Kissed

I'll be honest, this one is just to get to make out with a hologram 1999 Michael Vartan on a baseball field. I have never claimed to be as strong as Ariana; I am simply me: a person who wants to make out with Michael Vartan in a baggy v-neck sweater over a crew neck t-shirt while a Beach Boys song plays.

The Devil Wears Prada

I emerge out of the cozy late-90s waters for thigh-high Chanel boots, and thigh-high Chanel boots alone. But, of course, in this imagined reenactment, I'm not Andy Sachs — I'm Miranda Priestly. Always Miranda Priestly. 

Because, you see, the chick flick genre represents millions of joyous laughs and countless happy tears, and so, it's sort of comical how one might think that, by disregarding them, they've made a choice that exempts them from the culturally femme, when in fact, they're benefiting from the very stories that nurtured and inspired generations of young women like Ariana Grane to grow and learn and better themselves…

All from a bunch of "chick flicks." Priestly out

Thank U Next Middle Finger GIF by Ariana Grande

Stay tuned later this week for some festive Christmas movie coverage! Could be Hallmark…COULD BE VANESSA HUDGENS DISPLAYING EVERY CHRISTMAS MOVIE TROPE KNOWN TO WOMAN IN NETFLIX’S THE PRINCESS SWITCH. And please — oh, please — respond to me in kind with your “thank u, next” movies of choice.

Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas Is Upon Us

TATBT is flashing back to when we first fell in love/fear with 'The Christmas Train'

With Thanksgiving finally almost here, that chill in the air and gratitude in our hearts can only mean one thing: It’s time for Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas.” The titular Countdown starts before Thanksgiving; it features as many movies as Hallmark was able to make using only three unpaid interns, a selfie stick, and one Conair curling iron; and it stars every middle-child character you kind of remember from every 90s sitcom you kind of forgot.

But what if I told you that last year, Hallmark got a bunch of very famous actors to star a truly maniacal little trip into the Christmas upside down? Part Most Dangerous Game, part Thomas the Tank Engine, with a splash of peppermint schnapps, The Christmas Train came into my life at just the right time last year, and now I share it again with you here in preparation for 2018’s Hallmark Christmas coverage.

Oh, that’s right — it’s a TATBT TBT:

HALLMARK HALL OF FAME: WHAT’S IN A CHRISTMAS TRAIN?

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I recently watched my first ever Hallmark movie and, for a style of film that is entirely about two straight white people falling in love at Christmas because they accidentally fell on top of each other in a snowbank, I have a surprising number of questions. They are:

  1. Is Danny Glover a psychopath?

  2. Is Danny Glover an angel of romance?

  3. Can Danny Glover be both?

  4. What exactly is a Christmas Train?

I will try — and I will fail — to answer these questions for myself, for you, and for Danny Glover’s family. Don’t worry; explaining the entire plot in great detail will not spoil the film for you because the only thing that spoils the plot of a Hallmark movie is the first five minutes of a Hallmark movie. And yet, here I am, utterly shooketh by the last five minutes of instant Hallmark classic, The Christmas Train.


Most things in the world currently feel like a self-pollinating trash heap made entirely of onion peels, used dental floss, and ghosts; so in an effort to treat myself, I decided to become someone who watches Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas.”  Admittedly, this is not an organic way to come to the Hallmark altar. As far as I know, I am the only person to ever actively seek out their first Hallmark Christmas movie. These movies are built to be discovered in fits of Thanksgiving boredom so paralyzing that no one in your family is able to muster the physical or mental strength to change the channel.

But once you’ve tasted that sweet, sweet mindless sauce, life will never be the same without it; Hallmark Christmas movies are the meth of TV cinema. 

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In any given Hallmark Christmas movie, there is a man; there is a woman; they do not enjoy each other upon first meeting. Or, at least, the woman does not enjoy the man. The woman rarely enjoys anything. Except Christmas — the woman fucking loves Christmas. Like, travels-with-a-reusable-tote-full-of-ornaments-just-in-case-she-comes-across-a-naked-spruce, puts-candy-canes-in-her-dirty-martinis, would-make-out-with-a-moose-should-the-binding-laws-of-mistletoe-so-demand-it kind of love.

It is unclear exactly why Christmas, a technically religious holiday based on an infant-cum-savior born to a virgin teen, is synonymous with romance in the eyes of Hallmark. To be fair, the romance that every Hallmark man and woman find is also quite virginal. In Hallmark movies, people drink but don’t get drunk, they hold coffee cups constantly but never seem to be rushing to the bathroom, and they have sexual tension but absolutely never have sex. You’re lucky if they even kiss, and it’s usually not until the last 20 seconds of the movie so as to avoid any possible risk of tongue stuff. Tongue stuff, I guess, is not what Christmas is about.

Christmas is about a kooky cast of characters with notable traits like “an accent!” and “lurking around corners!” and “Danny Glover!” It’s about gal pals with slightly dead eyes and a solitary passion for listening to the protagonist’s love life qualms. It’s about snow angels, and jewel tones, and not exposing your collar bone. A lot of times it seems to be about being a writer of some kind and/or an original member of the cast of Full House.

You can find all this and more in The Christmas Train, which I would now like to explain to you, because it is boring for 90 minutes, and then nosedives into a 48 Hours episode in the last 10. It’s incredible.


The most important thing to know about The Christmas Train is that there are a lot of characters to keep up with. The least important thing to know, according to Hallmark Hall of Fame film The Christmas Train: is exactly what a Christmas Train is.

As a viewer, you’re simply thrust into a glittering train station where everyone is talking about hopping aboard the Christmas Train. And the majority of them seem to be writers, there to “find a story” about riding that Christmas Train that all the hottest magazines and literary journals are clamoring for. Or as Hallmark explains it, “A journalist embarks on a cross-country train ride at Christmas having no idea this journey will take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart as he rediscovers people’s goodness, holiday magic, and a love he thought he’d lost.” The rugged terrain of his own heart!!!

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That journalist is Tom Langdon, played by Hollywood’s hottest Guess Who card, Dermot Mulroney; that love he thought he’d lost is Kimberly Williams-Paisely, titular bride from Father of the Bride; that rugged heart-terrain is explored via the helpful meddling of a charming Danny Glover and gotdang Joan Cusack, who one IMDb reviewer describes as, “a little bit corky.”

If you think that cast pedigree sounds steep for a Hallmark movie, you’re right. If you think that will make any difference in its quality, you are wrong. Every Hallmark movie has the exact same quality and that quality is the artistic equivalent of a participation ribbon. “Oh, you watched The Christmas Train?” “I did.” “And how was it?” “It was a movie.”

Going into The Christmas Train, I was already pretty fascinated by the idea of a real-life screenwriter writing a film about a Christmas Train where one of the fictional characters is a screenwriter writing a film about a Christmas Train. There’s just a lot to unpack there…

Now imagine the Psych 101 fireworks that went off in my head when The Christmas Train’s credits revealed to me that this little gem was written by none other than Neal and Tippi Dobrofsky. A MARRIED MAN AND WOMAN WROTE A MOVIE ABOUT A CHRISTMAS TRAIN WHERE THE LEAD MAN AND LEAD WOMAN BOARD A CHRISTMAS TRAIN IN ORDER TO WRITE A MOVIE ABOUT A CHRISTMAS TRAIN AND ARE ENGAGED TO BE MARRIED BY THE END OF THAT CHRISTMAS TRAIN MOVIE.

Either the dynamic Dubrofskys are the most egotistical writers in the world, or the laziest writers in the world; either way, I am deeply envious of their career, and I’m sure their 27 shared TV-Movie writing credits help them sleep at night, likely nestled inside their third home in Telluride where they pay people to ski for them as they drink from diamond tumblers and hand roll cigarettes in $100 bills.

On The Christmas Train, however, it’s a much more humbler affair: sleeper cars the size of Apple Stores, enough Christmas décor to make any Hallmark heroine jizz tinsel, and a leather-tufted dining car fit for a Dubrofsky. 

This particular Christmas Train (are there more?? who knows??) begins in D.C. where Dermot Mulroney used to be an important journalist. The movie tells us this by subtly lingering on a “Manchester Award for Journalistic Excellence” plaque in his apartment, quickly followed by a neighbor saying, “I loved that article on sofas you did in Ladies Weekly.” Ah, yes, a completely plausible statement, a completely plausible article, a completely plausible publication — ladies be couchin’, amiright?

On 'The Bachelor,' If You're Not First, You're...Probably Living Happily Ever After

Arie and Lauren are pregnant! Presumably with the world's very first silent baby...

Beloved TATBT reader, I do apologize for the lack of newsletters this week. All cards on the table: I've been quite sick, and am leaving for a Parisian trip on Saturday, so when I haven't been frantically popping Sudafed, I've been frantically shopping for the least cheap-looking cheap leather leggings available on the internet.

So I'm in kind of a weird place right now! What I’m saying is: I am high as a poorly flown kite on off-brand Sudafed and running solely on white hot anger at myself for never even glancing at a French Duolingo ad…

But no matter my current ability to construct sentences, I could not let one more moment pass by without making note of a major goings-on in Bachelor Nation...

** This is where I pause to say that if you're someone who came to TATBT not knowing that it is, in fact, a reluctant Bachelor stan account — hi, hello, please stay here forever and shop our wares. I hope you can still enjoy this reluctant Bachelor stan account that talks about boring strangers with the familiarity of a tight-knit nuclear family, and the significance of a pending nuclear war. **

The news comes from our lame-duck-Bachelor Arie, that end-piece of bread you've been reaching past every day for two weeks, until finally it’s the only piece left, and you lift your hands in praise when you spot a fleck of mold on it, because now you can throw it away without feeling the pang of privileged guilt that would have come if you had thrown it away from the start, for there was never a time, nor a plane that existed in which you would have actually eaten this flaccid piece of bread…

For you are not Lauren, one of two women in America willing to make their matrimonial sandwich with Arie.

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The first woman willing to do so, of course, was Becca K, the second ever first-place Bachelor contestant to ultimately finish last, and then be given the truest first place prize she could hope for: being named the next Bachelorette. Before her, this exact same thing happened to Melissa Rycroft who was proposed to by season 13 Bachelor Jason Mesnick, then dumped by Jason Mesnick so that he could go crawling back to the runner-up whom he initially dumped for Rycroft: Molly Malaney, to whom he is still married and has a family with.

Still with me? Good.

Because the actual news here is that this traumatic paint-by-numbers path to a lifetime of happiness has worked once more: Arie and Lauren are expecting a tiny prop for their DIFFERENT EYEWEAR frames — AKA, a baby — in advance of their January wedding. This is lovely news for them! By all accounts (@ariejr and @laureneburnham as it were), and despite that time he chose another woman over her, Arie and Lauren are utterly in love: silent, boring, wordless, real, true, TV-transcending love. 

Which forces me, a noted Bachelor historian, to point out that even though the male-led Bachelor franchise maintains a truly unromantic 4.5 % success rate for the final couple staying together (thank you Sean Lowe, and all that sex you stopped having), the rise to power of this Bachelor trope wherein the lead proposes to one final woman, then swiftly dumps her and begs the runner-up whose heart he recently shattered to take him back — that method has a 100 percent success rate!

The "Still Together" column on The Bachelor (U.S. TV series) Wikipedia page has exactly one green "Yes" wedged in between 21 red “No” cells, but it also contains two very important footnotes:

So, what does this mean??? 

I truly have no concrete answers for you. I am asking: How are there two-out-of-two instances where begging the woman you put in second place on national television to take you back results in marriage and babies, and only one instance out of 22 attempts where the first-choice-fiancé ultimately results in marriage and babies, as The Bachelor construct intends it to?

Does this circling-back to one's second place choice after breaking up with one's first-place choice actually happen much more often than we're privy to? Are there second-place finishers out there who are forced to respond when, say, a Ben Flajnik shows up on their doorstep: Thanks but no thank, I much prefer vacations to Sayulita and a lifetime of spon-con income to taking back a man who publicly chose another woman over me. 

I know it couldn't have happened with Juan Pablo because there is no way in hell feminist icon Clare Crawley would not have publicized that sweet, sweet vengeance to the world. But did, perhaps, Farmer Chris go crawling back to Becca Tilley [ed. note: a recent People's Choice Award winner for Favorite Pop Podcast 2018, WHAT IS HAPPENING] and she just politely declined and never said anything about it?

I think not. I think — and stay with me here — there might be a small flaw in the romantic structure of this monogamy game show we watch.

The math for success has always been there: if you present me with 30 decent-looking dudes with a hint of a job and a whisper of emotional intelligence, I could probably marry one of them. I couldn't marry any of them — but once I weeded through the ones that consider exercise a necessary from of bonding and the ones that brag about not having TVs but watch a shit ton of Netflix on their laptops, I'm sure I could marry one of them.

The problem, it seems, is in the picking. It must be noted though, that The Bachelorette Wikipedia page (even with the recent breakup of Kaitlyn Bristowe and Shawn Booth, RIP), features six-out-of-fourteen green yes boxes in the "Still Together" column. So, the ladies seem to do a slightly better job than their male counterparts at the choosing of a permanent partner under an immense amount of pressure and very little personal contact.

Do I think that Bachelor-elect Colton Underwood — who took the duration of three Bachelor-related franchises to decide that he didn't like Tia enough to actually inform Tia that he didn't like her — will be able to pick a matrimonial mate in one fell swoop? Absolutely not. I'm not confident Colton can put on one of his many awful jackets each morning without first consulting a YouTube video.

But if the Bachelor franchise could just look into the success rate of reneging on one's original proposal, choosing the runner-up instead, and living happily ever after; if they could somehow incorporate their male leads’ consistent inability to make correct choices on the first try…

Well, 30 years down the road, we might just get that season of second-generation Bachelor contestant spawn I've always feared/dreamed of. 

Will I Ever Stop Being Emotional Over Ariana Grande's "thank u, next"?

Seems unlikely :)

You can go ahead and tuck all your favorite diss tracks into whatever dusty receptacle holds the VHS tapes, socialized patriarchy, and Nokia phone chargers down in your basement. Because in this season of thanksgiving, Ariana Grande has given us something better than a coy, petty break-up anthem: in “thank u, next” we have been gifted with an enlightened bop of gratitude.

As it seems to so often with people younger and wealthier than me, this all started with a tweet. Or rather, with a Saturday Night Live spot following the not-exactly-shocking dissolution of Ariana and Pete Davidson's engagement.

A few weeks after the breakup was made public, Davidson jokingly asked on an SNL promo if musical guest Maggie Rogers might like to marry him. She said no; he snarked, "0 for 3." Ariana then tweeted, "for somebody who claims to hate relevancy u sure love clinging to it huh"; deleted it. Tweeted "tag yourself I'm Maggie"; hilarious; deleted it. Tweeted the now iconic “thank u, next”; seemingly once again regretted her hasty retort; deleted it.

These are the sassy comebacks you might expect from a young pop star annoyed with her ex. But given the time and artistic space to elaborate, the title track from Ariana’s next project, “thank u, next”, has turned out to offer something much more unique. This is no clap-back — this is Ariana's round of applause for herself.

Ariana hasn’t just given us a new kind of diss track, she’s given us a new kind of love song: a romantic tribute to self-love (and no, I don’t mean masturbation, mostly because that is its own genre altogether). "Thank u, next" also happens to feature some of Ariana's best annunciation yet, I think, because it's important to her that this time, we hear every word…

Thought I'd end up with Sean

But he wasn't a match

Wrote some songs about Ricky

Now I listen and laugh

Even almost got married

And for Pete, I'm so thankful

Wish I could say, "Thank you" to Malcolm

'Cause he was an angel

“Thank u, next” doesn't just reference a few of Ariana Grande's ex-boyfriends by name — it does so in the first verse. Four boyfriends; four breakups; four lessons learned in the painful, patient reality of love. There is nothing coy about this break-up ballad, because as Ariana seems to be telling us that she's learned: there is nothing coy about love, at least not real, adult love. And in "thank u, next" Ariana shows herself to be a grown ass woman.


Listening to this song, I had no idea how it emotional it would make me. Not only witnessing someone's emotional growth, but having them invite you along for the journey in real time through their art? Oh yeah, I cried. Sure, I cried. Because I feel proud of her, and I feel proud of myself, and for anyone who's done the difficult work of moving on. A song did that.

Love is a thrill unique to each relationship that music so often attempts to universalize, but heartbreak — baby, that's so run of the mill, it takes a mere few words to relate to heartbreak. It is a deep, deep artistic well. Breakups are what made Adele an icon, and what Taylor Swift goes back to again and again. And there's still plenty of room for that in music because just as the pain of a breakup is universal, it is also timeless.

But what comes after heartbreak? Well, ideally: growth. The singularity of this track’s empowering message is what makes it so novel: the song isn’t about them. “Thank u, next” is about Ariana.

I know they say I move on too fast

But this one gon' last

'Cause her name is Ari

And I'm so good with that

If “thank u, next” dismisses anything, it's not Ariana's past relationships, which she clearly states have imprinted on her for better and worse. But of the outsider's notion that these relationships, in their youthful magnitude, were mistakes. Just because something is ill-advised does not make it a mistake. It may make you immature, or willfully ignorant, or far too patient — but it doesn't make you wrong.

The outside world might see Ariana Grande as someone who has had a lot of boyfriends, and therefore, made a lot of mistakes. But if the Bachelor franchise has taught me anything [ed. note: it has not!], there are those who see themselves as people with "a lot of love to give" and there are those who...would never even consider using a phrase like that because they have just your average one-to-two-serious-relationships amount of love to give.

She taught me love

She taught me patience

How she handles pain

That shit's amazing

I've loved and I've lost

But that's not what I see

'Cause look what I've found

Ain't no need for searching, and for that, I say…

Thank you, next

Perhaps Ariana has more love to give than most, but "thank u, next" assures us that she's taking on the emotional responsibility of her own mental well-being. We stan a self-reflective pop princess.

Truth reveals itself with time alone, and Ari is getting there. And she's taking us with her in such a startlingly joyful way. Look no further than her debut performance of “thank u, next” on Ellen to understand that this song about breakups and pain and learning is still an undeniable celebration.

Before "thank u, next" I'd only ever been an Ariana Grande fan from afar. But a joyful anthem about moving on, coupled with First Wives Club cosplay? I now understand that she is a businesswoman, an artist, a skilled musician, and a subtle comedian all wrapped up in a Limited Too trench coat.

One day I'll walk down the aisle

Holding hands with my mama

I'll be thanking my dad

'Cause she grew from the drama

Only wanna do it once, real bad

Gon' make that shit last

God forbid something happens

Least this song is a smash

With the humanizing stumble, the inescapable swell of emotion, and her friends, frequent collaborators and "thank u, next" cowriters Victoria Monét and Tayla Parx supporting spunkily be her side, it is an imperfectly perfect performance.


It would be easy to look at this song and the Ariana/Pete breakup, and say: Ah, yes it was Ari who had the Big Dick Energy all along. But I don't think that's true. BDE, for all its silliness, is defined by exuding an effortless satisfaction with oneself. What Ariana is saying in "thank u, next," and what she's often shown through the vulnerability and candor of her public-facing platforms like Twitter is:

This. shit. takes. effort.

Ariana Grande@ArianaGrandelmaoaoo this is funny as fuck but in all honesty therapy has saved my life so many times. if you’re afraid to ask for help, don’t be. u don’t have to be in constant pain & u can process trauma. i’ve got a lot of work to do but it’s a start to even be aware that it’s possible. 🖤O

🦠kyridescence@hellakyra

who is ariana's therapist and are they accepting new clients

Surely this "thank you, next" sentiment will be swiftly co-opted into funny memes (check), a Whopper commercial, and a little further down the road, a 2020 Presidential campaign. And that's fine. It's pretty broad—and not at all terrible—advice when taken out of context.

But in context, Ariana's "thank u, next" is not a simplistic dismissal of exes, nor a thoughtless platitude about moving on. It's about unloading the angry burdens of our past to pave a way forward with gratitude and graciousness. Even if Ariana, that little minx, did drop her record-breaking banger 30 minutes before Saturday's East Coast airing of SNL

Hey, if Ariana has taught us anything [ed. note: she has!], it's that there's no reason self-improvement can't be productive and at least a little bit of a smash at the same time. As I think the saying goes: Revenge is a dish best served smokin' hot, in a white pantsuit, serving transcendent emotional realness.

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