This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by editor Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
One year ago, Lea Michele was really ruining my day. RuPaul was proving to be a bit of a bitch, too.
It was the morning that The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, the pop culture website that myself and so many other people within The Daily Beast organization had spent months working on, launched. Some of us had been up overnight ensuring that everything was in order and looked good for the big public debut, and it was time to go live. Only there was a problem: Lea and Ru (and Kim Kardashian, Ryan Gosling as Ken in Barbie, and Groot) were not cooperating.
I had spent a very long time—if I’m being overly existential, my entire career—thinking of the perfect thing to say to welcome readers to this really exciting endeavor. I wanted something that would explain to them the balance between emotion and entertainment—true importance and utter silliness—that would be the driving engine of Obsessed. For myself and so many fans, pop culture is personal. And, dammit, it was personally crucial to me for that essay to have really pretty art attached to it—a gorgeous gif featuring those celebrities that our art department made. That gif was now breaking this brand new site every time we tried to attach it to the piece, delaying our launch.
At this point, I was so exasperated that my soul was blowing out my ears like the steam from an angry Fred Flintstone cartoon. But what happened next is something I’ve learned to rely on this last year: The team of passionate, hard-working geniuses working for The Daily Beast’s Obsessed will always come through—and so will my beloved celebrities.
The Daily Beast’s Obsessed is celebrating its first anniversary this week. We would never be so presumptuous as to ask for attention on such an occasion, which is why we published only a casual five stories paying tribute to how great our content has been, and turned our logo into one that’s birthday-themed with confetti.
Anyone who’s worked on this site this last year will concur on at least one thing. That includes everyone from our brilliant writers and editors—with their fantastically intuitive and and sometimes concerningly unusual minds—to the best-in-biz photo and social departments, business teams, and everyone whose sweat has turned into the glitter that makes this site fabulous: The reason Obsessed is so gratifying to work on is because we are in direct dialogue with the people who have the same intimate connection to the pop culture we cover that we do.
We indulge in all of this, everything from Real Housewives to Succession to Nicole Kidman’s latest wig, because we’re aware that it means something. This is a silly beat, and we have the keys to the clown car. But it’s also one that helps us process loss, enlightens us, makes us think about ourselves in different ways—also, other people in different ways—and moves us.
So it’s interesting to write this one-year update at this seismic, alternately invigorating and frightening point in the industry.
Our writers have never been more thrilled to do anything than cover Barbenheimer weekend. To have movies be back in such a magnificent fashion, with such enthusiasm, is almost unfathomable to me, after weathering these last few years. My entire family saw Barbie together. It was the first time in so many years we shared that experience that I can’t even put a number on it —and we loved it. I could cry thinking about it. And then there’s the people who I got to rave with Oppenheimer about. Sometimes, a person who does this job may wonder if people care. Spoiler alert: They care!
We’re also in the midst of a historic SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike, which has shut down Hollywood, limited the interviews we’re able to do for the site, and put the future of everything we presumably love—getting to go see Barbie; winding down with a new season of Abbott Elementary at night; watch the kind of content that changes culture—in jeopardy.
And it’s all because of a very simple thing: People who make a lot of money off the content we watch don’t think that the people who make it deserve fair compensation. As a writer, especially one who covers entertainment, that stings.
What is it worth that we’re doing this? I think about that every day.
I pulled up the very first Obsessed homepages from our launch a year ago, just as an exercise. On the day we launched, we posted stories about how hot and underrated an actor Lee Pace is (evergreen); profiled Joe Keery, who emerged as the best part of Stranger Things (still true); and contemplated the morality of reality series like The Bachelor. That same week, we reviewed the series finale of Better Call Saul, and ran an interview with Rhea Perlman in which she previewed the Barbie movie.
How was it that long ago, but also yesterday? Better Call Saul feels like a lifetime ago, but also it’s a show that we think about daily. And Barbie? We were writing about Barbie so much a full year ago that, not only did we interview Perlman, but Ryan Gosling in his Ken costume was our launch art. Everything is both so different now, but also the same.
The world is still as hard now as it was then. Maybe harder. There are days in which I’m preoccupied by all the things that happened that made this a really difficult, and often sad year for me. And there are times when I’m astonished by how thrilling and unbelievable some of the experiences I’ve had were—not to mention the people and interactions that imprinted on me in ways it may take a lifetime to fully realize.
I cried every day. Is it because I am old? Is it because I am tired? Is it because my life is that bad (rhetorical!)? I don’t know, but I can remember exactly how it felt to watch the film Spoiler Alert, about how a gay couple deals with the fact that one of them gets a terminal cancer diagnosis. It unleashed a dam of feelings about partnership, fears about the future, loneliness, and the beauty of love.
Bridget Everett’s HBO series Somebody Somewhere changed my life on a weekly basis, honoring the tragedy and the glory of a person who realizes how hard it is, especially as you get older, to reckon with the fact that you’re not satisfied with how your life is going. Two weeks ago I had to pause the new episode of Real Housewives of New York because I was crying too much at what was happening to pay attention.
I mention these things because they remind me of the importance of sadness in pop culture, because it can be so healing. And it’s something we’ve embraced at our colorful, spicy pop culture site, because I think we all know how crucial acknowledging the dark is to getting to the light of life.
This year, I also saw Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour and Kelly Clarkson’s Vegas residency. (If my creditors are reading this, an imposter is using my name to write stories for Obsessed and those charges are FALSE.) Those experiences struck me the same way that so much pop culture has been striking me lately: We’re finally in a place where we are going through it together.
I felt the energy at those concerts (though my performance’s attempt at silence during B’s “everybody on mute” directive was shameful). But I felt something similar as we watched The White Lotus, or screamed in horror at every new episode of And Just Like That. There’s nothing greater than a collective “WTF,” which we had at every stage of the Don’t Worry Darling press tour, or when we blinked dumbfounded at our screens as The Idol trainwreck unfurled.
But we’ve also been together while we figured out how to reconcile our enjoyment of anything this past year. No matter how much my heart wants to fly to heaven and sing a Céline Dion ballad because it’s so excited that this is how I’ve spent the last year working, there’s no denying what it feels like to do this as every day makes you wonder how our society has become what it’s become.
What I’m most proud of Obsessed’s writers for is their insistence that the issues of the real world never be divorced from how we consume pop culture. Looking at last year versus now, yes, I laughed at how much of what we covered then and now is the same. But I mostly marvel about what’s so different. We’re going through it all together now. And I look forward to laughing, crying, getting mad, getting excited, and—most importantly—feeling free as we continue on…together. Thanks for being a part of Obsessed.