There's Comfort in Seeing People Help Each Other

(Even in a movie full of barf and prosthetic weiners)

Before you read any further, let me start by saying that my mom and sister still haven’t forgiven me for dragging them to see Team America in the theater on Thanksgiving Day, 2004. So, if you ever do take a movie recommendation from me, always add a big grain of salt to your popcorn.

That brings us to Bad Trip, which premiered on Netflix last month and which I watched over the weekend. And like Team America, it has the kind of extended barf scenes, gratuitous raunch, and carefree scatology that makes a parent never trust her son again. Here’s the synopsis:

Eric Andre runs into his high-school crush Maria, played by Michaela Conlin, then convinces his best friend Lil Rel Howery to join him on a road trip to New York City in a foolish bid to win her heart. They steal the bright pink car owned by Lil Rel's incarcerated sister, played by Tiffany Haddish, and their journey takes them through loud, ill-fated mishaps at a country bar, a roadside zoo and much more. The twist in Bad Trip is that each scene is also an elaborate prank, blending fiction with reality - with the mayhem taking place as real unsuspecting strangers react.

There’s usually something mean-spirited about this framework, even when it’s funny. Whether it’s The Daily Show or Sacha Baron Cohen’s personas, watching someone prank people that we already expect to say or do terrible things makes us laugh, even as it’s upsetting on a cosmic level.

But the difference with Bad Trip is that the pranks are self-contained. In other words, while the action is happening, the people nearby are more bystanders than victims. That means that when things go horribly, uncomfortably wrong throughout the movie, nearby strangers generally react with compassion and rush to help out as best they can. Maybe it’s the social isolation, maybe it’s the cumulative effect of the last few years, but the experience of watching this was weirdly reaffirming for me. Also, Tiffany Haddish is incredible. (Skip this one, Mom.)

Speaking of people trying to help, over at Marker, I wrote about the rise of Oatly, the quirky plant-based alternative milk that, depending on where you live, either (a) may sound vaguely familiar or (b) is so passé by now. From the piece:

The company has been around since the 1990s, but its recent journey from obscurity to cult status to ubiquity is the result of good branding, great timing, and a calculated global push. After more than 20 years in operation, Oatly debuted in the American market in 2016, long after the backlash toward terms like “foodie” and “third-wave coffee” had blown away like so much quinoa chaff and finickiness about food had become a consumer virtue instead of a social liability.

This year, the company, which leans on its eco-friendly status to stand out from most other milks, had its first Super Bowl commercial, made its national debut at Starbucks, and plans to go public, potentially with a $10 billion valuation ahead. How they pulled it off is pretty wild. Check it out here.

Lastly, as a newly minted resident of Yonkers and a former 90s teen with frosted tips, I’m vaguely obligated to pay tribute to rapper DMX, who died at 50 on Friday and who was a more complicated person than he was given credit for. From Jon Caramanica’s very good appraisal:

In a devastating interview last year, he explained that the person who first encouraged him to rap was also the one who first exposed him to crack, forever intertwining the art that was his salvation with the addiction that constantly threatened to undo him.

Over the past few days though, this beloved clip of him singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been making the rounds again. The three best things about this:

  1. The level of commitment

  2. The fact that he knows all the words by heart

  3. His sheepiness at the end about making sure he got the names right.