Talk Hole: GameStop the Presses!
ERIC SCHWARTAU: I was just frantically scrolling through Twitter. I felt like I was cramming for a test.
STEVEN P-H: Is that why you’re a half-hour late?
SCHWARTAU: No, I decided to take a shower at 7 p.m.
P-H: In solidarity with your shower, I’m deciding to be very relaxed. Unlike the manic energy I brought to our last column.
SCHWARTAU: Yeah, we had to edit out your unabomber tirades about the coup.
P-H: Maybe he wouldn’t have unabombed if he had a column.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, he had a cute cabin in the woods.
P-H: Ted Kaczynski—queen of working from home.
SCHWARTAU: The original neurodivergent maker/creator boyboss.
P-H: I’m wondering if I should have a cocktail or a glass of wine or neither.
SCHWARTAU: We need to get things moving, but do feel free to raise your hand if you need to use the restroom or grab a water.
P-H: I’m trying to pinpoint the exact sort of veil I need to offer pithy takes on a patchwork of topics that are semi-current but also semi three weeks ago.
SCHWARTAU: I don’t think you need anything, but are you thinking more matcha veil, or like, white wine veil?
P-H: I wanna get married in a matcha veil.
SCHWARTAU: I feel like matcha is also a really cute color for a dress.
P-H: The matcha hue is criminally under-used in formal settings. I feel like matcha has a kind of girl-at-the-mall connotation—a sort of “finals week” messy bun, pajama-bottoms-ness to it. An unseriousness. But matcha is actually a rather elegant color.
SCHWARTAU: It’s sounding more bridesmaid now. Okay, thought on weddings: why aren’t weddings more like tours? Imagine a wedding tour: you grab your tux, hop in a bus, then recite your vows at venues in various cities where you have a following. And by following I mean friends.
P-H: I don’t think a lot of fiancées have such significant audiences in that many cities. Most people have what, 410 followers? 30 percent are foreign bots, 10 percent are domestic bots… that leaves about two cities tops: Austin and Philly.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, I’m not saying every show is sold out.
P-H: Maybe it’s more of a DoorDash wedding—the vows come to you. Your doorbell rings and this couple you know from college is standing there in their masks doing their eternity realness drag. Maybe there’s a distanced flash mob. And you’re like, “aww.”
SCHWARTAU: I just think the pandem made it clear that destination weddings are, in fact, not required.
P-H: Okay, I just got some tea about Congress. You know Ed Markey, the senator of Massachusetts? So Lily [Marotta]’s dad’s cousin’s other cousin in the 1970s dated Ed Markey’s brother Richard and—apparently—he was really bad at reading.
SCHWARTAU: The brother of a senator can’t read? Brb, gonna storm the capitol.
P-H: Maybe let’s start talking about the main thing.
SCHWARTAU: SOPHIE or finance?
P-H: Finance. Actually, I guess SOPHIE is the main thing for our community.
SCHWARTAU: Maybe they’re related, but I think we’re gonna have to figure out how by talking.
P-H: Let me thread the needle. Okay, I got it. Redditors pumping up stocks like GameStop and AMC represents a sort of bedroom nostalgia for when technology was more physical—holding a PS1 game jewel case in your hot little hands at the mall. Sitting in an air-conditioned theater with your parents or a serial masturbator two rows behind. It was freeing—it allowed you to enter another world, to escape the drudgery of suburban ennui. SOPHIE’s music accomplishes the same thing, but 20 years later. It’s freed a generation of young folk who feel imprisoned by social media, by our avatars, by surveillance. SOPHIE said, “There’s still a future here, there’s still unknowns, robotic stuff can still be sexy and gay and new.”
SCHWARTAU: Well you certainly tried to make a connection there. I think it’s that people are vulnerable and people are the stock market and the stock market is money and money is fake but fake is real and reality is vulnerable. We need to protect our stocks and we need to protect our stars.
P-H: I actually agree with you and I recant my previous statement. It’s about caring for other people. So much of the stock market is adversarial, a vicious violent casino. But what if it wasn’t just this evil Death Star controlled by the masters of the universe who live in haunted, leaky spires on Central Park South? What if it were—
SCHWARTAU: —a stock mall, and we’re just getting Cinnabon and trying on clothes?
P-H: The market as a non-liminal space.
SCHWARTAU: Non-liminal makes me want to say agora.
P-H: The agora wasn’t just a place to find the finest pots and wares, it was also a place to get the gossip. To hear Perecles talk politics. To hear Socrates ask random questions. You could get freelance work there editing tablets. Find sailors, find a husband!
SCHWARTAU: And the stock market is all gossip—male gossip, which we call insider trading. But is there really a difference between insider and outsider trading if Elon Musk can just tweet something about a company and its stock skyrockets? It’s about gaining access to information, and in the case of GameStop, that information was on Reddit.
P-H: Well, any industry is built on the concept of expertise and gatekeeping—you don’t know as much as this person does, so you have to trust them to do it for you. It’s the same thing in fashion. I don’t know how to sew a shirt so I have to trust H&M to do it for me.
SCHWARTAU: Not sure I would trust H&M. I feel like I bought a shirt from there once and it shrunk. It might have been Zara.
P-H: I do think part of the issue is that perhaps you are putting these very cheaply made shirts in the dryer when you should be hang-drying.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, I’m not going to do any of that, personally. I think the problem is maybe that I just hand my laundry off to someone who doesn’t care about me. But I guess if it needs to hang dry I should be communicating that information to my laundry broker.
P-H: We need more brokers. The broker is essential if for no other reason than it offers human contact—and we forgo that chance far too often! It’s a terrible tragedy when people skip the actual deli at the supermarket to get pre-sliced, pre-packaged “deli style” deli-evoking ham from the dairy aisle, and the poor ham broker sits there alone!
SCHWARTAU: I love when a stranger sees you pondering the ham and offers a tip like, “I’ve tried this ham and it’s $2 cheaper and ten times better than that other ham.” I mean, I also have trust issues with that, of course, but in general what I’m saying is that I enjoy receiving information from nameless strangers.
P-H: Information is erotic. I’m still attracted to that guy who gave us that stock tip on our Friday Drag Race Zoom.
SCHWARTAU: You wanted more than the tip. You wanted the whole trade.
P-H: Should we share this stock market tip in the column, so that other people invest and it will go up and we’ll create our own bubble?
SCHWARTAU: I absolutely think we need to share that it’s like a cryst—
P-H: Wait, shh!
SCHWARTAU: Wow, greedy!
P-H: Okay, but I do want to talk about the stock market for a second.
SCHWARTAU: We are talking about the stock market.
P-H: [Off camera] Mmm, this is delicious babe, thank you. [On camera] My cocktail broker just brought me this.
SCHWARTAU: Is that with the new bourbon?
P-H: Old fashioned, new bourbon. This is the one I bought at the Wall Street liquor store after our photo shoot—from my bourbon broker—who said it’s a collab between a Japanese whiskey distillery and a Kentucky distillery. He also said it’s probably going to go up in price.
SCHWARTAU: It will taste better when it’s more expensive.
P-H: Here’s my issue: GameStop vs. hedge funds—“the little guy” vs. “the big guy”—is a false narrative. Shorting gamestop isn’t “evil” just because you’re nostalgic for a physical retail space where you can buy Madden 2014 off the shelf. If you can bet on something going up, you should be able to bet on it going down—otherwise what, everything goes up forever? That’s the whole problem with capitalism in the first place. Expand, expand, expand. Open more Old Navys than you opened last year or the sky will fall. We need contraction! The Native Americans practiced controlled burn forest management and it was highly effective.
SCHWARTAU: We need a controlled burn of Old Navy.
P-H: Also, sorry to be a Debbie Downswing but the only way to make money is to sell your stock. So everyone who bought GameStop during the frenzy but didn’t sell at $350 is now left holding the bag. And they’re mostly the “little guy.”Although I’d be interested to see their BMI.
SCHWARTAU: Stop the steal! I think it also has to do with the fact that, like a meme, the GameStop stock can be completely divorced from its original context, which is a store that sells games.
P-H: 10 percent of Gamestop buyers believe in brick and mortar video game retailers. 90 percent just want to be where the meme is.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, we’re all just on the internet and can’t go anywhere. Someone on Grindr just asked me where I was from, and I was just like, what kind of question is that? I’m from the grid. I’m from Grindr. We belong to the apps we use.
P-H: He was just making conversation.
SCHWARTAU: I guess I was mostly annoyed because he was not hot or interesting.
P-H: The question “Where are you from” is only problematic when the person asking is not hot.
SCHWARTAU: I think this destabilization moment stems from this conflation of games and reality. It’s like, how is a role-playing game different from Q—or the stock market—when it’s all accessed through the same portal? Everyone is just searching for meaning in this endless barrage of information.
P-H: Can we say “finance” instead of the stock market? We’re letting diversified wealth management firms off the hook here. The ruse of the finance sector is it allegedly funds all the other sectors of the economy—banks give loans to small women-led topiary firms, queer-baiting hospitals invest their pensions in an oil and gas ETF, etc. But we know that the finance sector mostly just enriches people who work in the finance sector.
SCHWARTAU: Well, who do you want to be giving out money, the government?
P-H: The government can print money like a well-oiled HP-36668492 Brother series. We don’t need the stock market to create cash out of thin air.
SCHWARTAU: But without financial markets it would be more socialist, centrally-planned economy vibes—
P-H: —but you’re implying there’s daylight between the government and the banks, when in reality Janet Yellen and Goldman are in cahoots.
SCHWARTAU: No, I understand that the banks are too big to fail, that they’re the government’s favorite kid who can do no wrong. [Steven makes a face] Is everything okay?
P-H: A cocktail glass just moved across my coffee table on its own.
SCHWARTAU: Okayyyy. Janet Yellen heard us talking.
P-H: The FED is in the room.
SCHWARTAU: Janet be yellin!
P-H: Anyway, this whole rise-of-the-Reddit-everyman-with-Cheeto-covered-sweatpants-slaying-the pinstriped-Goldman-Sachs-honcho moment is going to fade because people have no attention span. This is why the MAGA revolution won’t happen, and why the leftist revolution will never happen either. No one has the attention to stick with anything longer than a few weeks.
SCHWARTAU: I am a perfect example of this. Last column, I was talking about how obsessed I was with Taylor Swift, and now I’ve completely stopped caring, and I’m like, “Who is this corny ass bitch?”
P-H: The Swiftie uprising has been canceled.
SCHWARTAU: And then I was kind of going through a SOPHIE moment, which is something we’ve been trying to transition into talking about for the whole column. RIP, obviously.
P-H: It’s so sad. I don’t want to be schlocky here. But I will say I think that her music is….. gay.
SCHWARTAU: You know, there was this quote circulating about her being like the loudest and the brightest star. It’s that contrast between the softness of her person and the hardness of her music that made her a really confounding and beautiful figure.
P-H: My experience with SOPHIE was I saw her perform live at Primavera Sound in Portugal. It seems like a very canonic SOPHIE experience—it was my birthday, I was on ecstasy, I had a threesome with a weird couple, I woke up in a house with a painting of Michael Jackson staring at me. It was beautiful and transcendent and irrevocably queer. She sort of gave you that permission with her glassy, elegant stillness. And in fact, she literally didn’t move her entire set—just swayed to lasers and fog and gay people went off around her. It wasn’t about her, but it was. Everyone shined.
SCHWARTAU: Seeing her in the “It’s Okay to Cry” video, I was just like I can’t believe this person actually exists.
P-H: My good friend Michael said something I thought was really emblematic of her appeal—he knew that if he ever played a SOPHIE song around his family, his parents would hate it.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, she’s more of a club vibe. I’m not throwing her on the six disc-changer and having a glass of wine.
P-H: I’m sort of that Boomer parent when I’m at home—no Charli XCX in the parlor, only Spotify’s “Jazz in the Background” please.
SCHWARTAU: I just feel like her talent was so immense but she was also vulnerable. We need to protect each other.
P-H: This is our thesis: we need to look out for each other. We need to give each other stock tips. We need to be there for our fellow queers.
SCHWARTAU: Hold the line!
P-H: Fuck Wall Street!
SCHWARTAU: I want to talk about the book we were given by our ex-editor Carina [Imbornone] because I want to get more books from people.
P-H: I think that’s a really, really good point you bring up about sort of discussing the free swag you’ve been gifted as an influencer and inserting it into your content. Not so much that people might get an understanding of the particular swag in question, but so that you can continue to get swag in the future. So that swag-givers see you made good on your promise, even though you didn’t actually promise anything, you just said, “Sure, send me free stuff.”
SCHWARTAU: Zero promises, 100 Boyfriends. Which is the name of the book. I actually imagined it as a coffee table book of like 100 famous boyfriends through the ages, which it’s not.
P-H: I would like to see that book. If anyone wants to make a coffee table book of 100 boyfriends throughout history with full-bleed gorgeous imagery, I would love to receive it for free.
SCHWARTAU: Yeah, when I got this actual book with words in it, I was like, okay well now I have homework.
P-H: Your misunderstanding of 100 Boyfriends reminds me of my initial misunderstanding of Crazy Rich Asians. When I heard the title I thought it was gonna be about these badass rich bitches in Singapore, who are super slutty and live in hotels and use daddy’s plastic and fuck bankers and rule the town. And it was actually a slow rom-com about a middle-class girl getting married.
SCHWARTAU: You thought it was going to be Ocean’s Eight.
P-H: I thought it was gonna be Bling Ring.
SCHWARTAU: Well, now we have Bling Empire.
P-H: Which we can’t talk about it because it’s a Netflix show, and that was one of our New Year’s resolutions.
SCHWARTAU: Right, it’s in our contract.
P-H: I liked Bling Empire, but it doesn’t have enough drugs. It’s a little tame.
SCHWARTAU: It’s so wholesome.
P-H: It’s like, okay, they’re just going to a 6pm event?
SCHWARTAU: Very book launch, but for a book about like, being a good mom.
P-H: Books like 100 Boyfriends. If I added up everyone who I’ve ever said, “Oh yeah, he’s my new boyfriend,” it would be about 100 people. That includes like my five actual boyfriends and then 95 people I’ve either hooked up with once or just made eye contact with and was just like, “he’s my boyfriend.”
SCHWARTAU: Kind of like how you only made eye contact with this book.
P-H: Which brings up a really interesting question about the binary—the words “boy” and “girl” are incredibly fun, light and buoyant. They’re easy to throw around. They suggest these really fun, casual afternoon personas that can go from day to night in a heartbeat. Whereas “man” and “woman” feel really stilted and really stodgy.
SCHWARTAU: Right. So we’ve covered the title of the book.
P-H: Again, obviously, neither of us have read it.
SCHWARTAU: I read some. You said you want to talk about art at some point.
P-H: Oh, I was just gonna say this—the Trump era was horrible for art. Maybe it’ll be better now.
SCHWARTAU: I went and looked at art the other day, for the first time in forever, and it did feel good to be walking around with my headphones just kind of examining things I didn’t feel pressure to buy. I saw Jamian Juliano-Villani.
P-H: I went to that opening, like, a month ago and somehow didn’t get COVID. I had an opinion on the show but now… I can’t remember. Someone needs to be my memory broker.
SCHWARTAU: My feeling is that this type of sly work is all meme derivatives, packed up and sold in painting form. It’s 60 percent subprime memes packaged as a painting career and the bubble is going to burst. But she’s making money, which is the most valid reason to practice art in New York City, so I think it’s a fair criticism.
P-H: I think her work is very commercially viable and that’s brave. It’s big and bold and it’s colorful. What’s interesting is I rarely see a show anymore that doesn’t have a painting of a girl in a bathroom, or a bedroom, or on her phone, or all three.
SCHWARTAU: I feel like good art has multiple possible outcomes for meaning. There need to be at least two ways to interpret it. Like, is she on her phone, or is her phone on her?
P-H: You love ambiguity. You’re non-binary. I’m binary.
SCHWARTAU: Speaking of Ella Emhoff, let’s talk about our neighbor.
P-H: The Parsons princess. She really represents the false hope of “people like us” ascending to the halls of power. It’s like, is she Reddit because she’s a fake bisexual knitter or is she Wall Street because she’s a Miu Miu-wearing high-ranking government official’s stepdaughter?
SCHWARTAU: A skinny girl is getting attention. You’re jealous.
P-H: And now she’s a model. Next up it’s a talk show. Then a bespoke subscription coffee service.
SCHWARTAU: I’ve never heard her speak. Models aren’t known for speaking typically, so she’s kind of traditional in that sense. And let’s just say it’s not exactly revolutionary to wear a Prada jacket.
P-H: What’s revolutionary is that people care about the stepdaughter of a vice president. Not everyone can be Hunter Biden, son of a president. But anyone can be the step of a vice. Maybe I’m the stepdaughter of a vice president somewhere? I’d have to go double-check.
SCHWARTAU: America’s first Second Stepdaughter.
P-H: Put her on the $20 bill.
SCHWARTAU: It’s really insulting they announced the $20 bill thing without even figuring out the $2,000 bill thing. You’re just checking off the easiest thing on your to-do list.
P-H: Liberals love symbols. We haven’t defunded any police but we’ve taken down statues. We’ve renamed military bases that drop bombs on Yemen after Sojourner Truth. We’ve got Ella with a modeling contract. And Harriet Tubman on a $20.
SCHWARTAU: I think you mean Harriet Tubperson.
P-H: And now everyone’s gone from ACAB to… I was gonna say CAB but that’s not right.
SCHWARTAU: Well, originally I thought ACAB meant All Cops Aren’t Bad.
P-H: That’s what it means now that Biden is president.
SCHWARTAU: There were so many cops surrounding the Wall Street Bull.
P-H: You think if I get beheaded for taking a photo with the bull that people will—
SCHWARTAU: Post about it? Yeah.
P-H: —post about me.
SCHWARTAU: I would def do like a slideshow of pics. I was thinking about that today, actually, about dying and whether people would be sad and make a slideshow.
P-H: You just have to hope that your death occurs when there’s not some other big news story happening.
SCHWARTAU: The true meaning of six feet under. Buried in the feed because everyone’s talking about buying Dogecoin.
P-H: No offense but your death would have to be pretty riotous to get attention. It would have to be like “Bushwick columnist thrown out of a moving train by Vladimir Putin.” There would have to be a real angle.
SCHWARTAU: Is that a challenge?
P-H: Maybe a triple Grindr murder.
SCHWARTAU: Sometimes I hide my kitchen knives when I have a Grindr person come over.
P-H: Nothing sadder than getting slain in a railroad.
SCHWARTAU: We should probably end the life of this column, too.
P-H: Okay, everyone—stay safe, hide your knives, triple mask.
SCHWARTAU: Find the vaccine.
P-H: Send it to us.
SCHWARTAU: Milk that sixth Pfizer dose out of the bottle.
P-H: Send me your sixth! Hashtag #sendthesixth.