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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: What it's like to have your childhood made into online content

Settle down in a comfy chair with some of the week’s best longreads.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.

We’ve hand-picked some of the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. ‘Sharenting’

mother-live-streaming-with-son-on-smart-phone-with-ring-light-at-home File photo. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

In this piece, a former child influencer speaks to Fortesa Latifi about what it’s like to have your childhood monetised and shared on social media, from endless hours of recording and rerecording to her first period being turned into a sponsored post. 

(Cosmopolitan, approx 9 mins reading time)

Now a young adult in her 20s looking back on her childhood, Vanessa says the reality of the blog being the family’s main source of income put an enormous amount of pressure on her. “There was this idea that you have to look perfect and pretty and like nothing is wrong all the time in front of the camera,” she says. “And if it seemed like I wasn’t trying hard enough to maintain that image, like my smile wasn’t as bright as it should be or I didn’t say a line with enough enthusiasm…that would usually devolve into accusing me of not caring about our family. I was told by my mom, ‘Do you want us to starve? Do you want us to not be able to make our payment next month on the mortgage?’”

2. The old, red bike

A beautifully written essay by Iain Treloar about family, aging and love that focuses on the bike passed down through generations. 

(Escape, approx 14 mins reading time)

I guess I always had some distant awareness of the fact that the red bike was a part of family history stretching further back than my period of guardianship, but I was too caught up in the everyday to really engage with that story. There was Life Stuff to deal with: big things like relationships, work, family, as well as all the little things we get hung up on, thinking they’re big things. Covid-19 was a kind of a reset, though. More time at home with the kids. A more poignant relationship with my older relatives, particularly my Grandma over in South Australia, who I used to see a couple of times a year but who I now hadn’t seen for two years. And the whole time, growing increasingly dusty and rusty, the red bike and the secrets it held lay waiting under my parents’ floorboards.

3. Radioactive waste

trash-floating-on-the-marseille-shore-line-bouches-du-rhone-france-water-pollution-is-largely-caused-by-human-activity-and-has-had-a-major-impact-on-our-local-waterways-and-their-ability-to-be-heal File photo of waste floating on the Marseille shore line in Bouches-du-Rhône, France. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

In an extract from his book, James Bradley explores how our waste has reached the deepest and most remote parts of the ocean.

(The Guardian, approx 15 mins reading time)

Possibly more disturbing, though, is the growing accumulation of microplastics in the ocean depths. Some microplastics are the result of larger plastic objects breaking down in the water. Others, such as the tiny plastic beads used in face scrubs and other products, are deliberately engineered. Increasing amounts are also a result of the growing use of artificial fibres such as polar fleece, many of which shed huge quantities of tiny filaments every time they are washed. In the upper layers of the ocean, microplastics have invaded the food chain, collecting in higher and higher concentrations as one moves upwards through the layers of predation. In some parts of the Pacific, there is now more zooplankton-sized plastic than plankton, meaning animals such as whales and birds are consuming microplastics in large quantities, leading to malnutrition and damage to many organs as the microplastics collect in their tissues.

4. Dr Becky

The Instagram-famous child psychologist has built an empire out of giving parenting advice online. But her popularity raises questions about why parents are so eager for solutions to begin with.

(The Cut, approx 21 mins reading time)

“Our kids are always paying attention to the way we give attention to them. How present we are, how available,” said Kennedy. But a device-free home, she added, is not realistic. Instead, she suggests parents spend dedicated periods of time — however long or short they deem appropriate — playing with their children with their phones hidden away (“For me, it has to be behind two doors”). “Our devices steal our sense of enoughness,” said Kennedy to murmurs of agreement. To endure the separation from our phones, she recommends we get “really hyperbolic” and say to ourselves, “There’s nothing in the world more important than what I’m doing right now. And I’m doing enough.” That nagging, unanswerable question of what constitutes enough is what has given rise to the Dr. Becky phenomenon. Among many of today’s parents, there is a twin desire: for reassurance that they’re doing their best and for guidance on how to do better.

5. ‘The Callahans and the Murphys’ 

the-callahans-and-the-murphys-marie-dressler-far-left-sally-oneil-bottom-left-lawrence-gray-bottom-right-1927 A poster for 'The Callahans and the Murphys'. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The 1927 silent film by MGM that told the story of two Irish immigrant families living in a tenement caused outrage when it was released, with the Irish diaspora lodging complaints about its stereotyping and the Catholic Church demanding it be withdrawn.

It was withdrawn, and all copies of it were considered lost. But the US Library of Congress and Irish Film Institute recently released two clips.

(The New York Times, approx 8 mins reading time)

I am a first-generation Irish American who is fairly steeped in the reflections of me and mine in popular culture — from the simian Irish caricatures of Thomas Nast to Christopher’s nightmare in “The Sopranos” that hell is an Irish bar called the Emerald Piper. But my ignorance of “The Callahans and the Murphys” sent me deeper into the well of curiosity. The plot, I learned from news accounts and MGM records, centered on two tenement Irish families in a place called Goat Alley, where, a title card explained, “a courteous gentleman always takes off his hat before striking a lady.” Mrs. Callahan (Dressler) and Mrs. Murphy (Polly Moran) are quarreling friends with large, commingling broods; the Callahans’ daughter is dating Murphy’s bootlegger son. There are fleas and chamber pots and thumbed noses and a St. Patrick’s Day picnic that — hold on to your shillelagh! — devolves into a drunken brawl.

6. Solidarity

Astra Taylor and Leah Hunt-Hendrix write about the importance and effectiveness of organised protest and look back at some of the most famous examples.

(The Guardian, approx 18 mins reading time)

In opposition to the power of money stands the power of the many – at least in theory. In practice, things are more complicated. As Hume noted long ago, power does not flow from sheer numbers alone. What matters is not merely absolute numbers but organised numbers. Without solidarity and organisation, numerical advantage doesn’t mean much. It doesn’t matter if there are thousands of workers and only a handful of bosses if those workers lack a union, or if there are millions of citizens and one dictator if people are too atomised and afraid to try to topple the regime. Yet history has shown time and again that even a proportionally small number of people, if they are well organised, can have an outsized effect. People getting organised is what brought down slavery and Jim Crow, outlawed child labour in the US and elsewhere, and overthrew the legal subjugation of women. If it wasn’t for people acting in concert, universal suffrage would not exist, and neither would the eight-hour workday or the weekend.


An oral history from 2020 on ‘Marge V The Monorail’, the episode of The Simpsons that many consider to be its best ever.

(VICE, approx 21 mins reading time)

By season four, The Simpsons had entered what many now consider to be its golden age (although, at the time there were already suggestions that it was losing its way). “Marge vs. the Monorail” (S4, E12), with its grand scale, silly asides and abundance of absurdist humour, represented a stark departure from the show’s established formula. While initial reactions were mixed, it’s now widely regarded as one of The Simpsons’ best-ever episodes. With a script by Conan O’Brien – then an energetic young comedy writer – and meticulous yet joyful direction by Rich Moore – who subsequently won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature with Zootopia – the result is a wild ride, as charming conman Lyle Lanley convinces Springfield to spend $3 million on a monorail through the power of song alone. Disaster ensues until Homer saves the day, with the help of Lard Lad Donuts.

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