On Spiderverses and Neoliberal Folly

It’s pretty difficult for a film to live up to the reputation of being the number one rated film ever on Letterboxd, a title which, however fleeting and however idiotic, indicates at least some profound level of widespread resonance. It happened last year to eventual best picture winner Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, a pretty good film that probably didn’t deserve either its instant canonization or its inevitable toxic backlash. Now it has happened to Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse, the sequel to 2018’s Into the Spiderverse and (importantly) prequel to the impending Beyond the Spiderverse due next year. The already slightly tired avenue of multiverse storytelling seems a key way to inspire extreme reactions, allowing for “justified” maximalism while simultaneously awakening that same pseudoscientific fervor that tends to unite brands of filmbro as disparate as Rick and Morty stan and Christopher Nolanite. Being a multiverse skeptic myself, Across the Spiderverse appeared primed to ignite at least one man’s backlash: my own.

PINERO | The Real College Admissions Scandal

We call education an “investment,” which typically refers to money spent with the eventual expectation of a return. My rough calculation of the number of students and the average cost of tuition indicates that over $400 billion is “invested” in college every year. For scale, with that money you could own JPMorgan Chase, Facebook or Johnson & Johnson and still have the equivalent of Alaska’s GDP to spare. This week, dozens of parents and administrators were arrested on fraud charges in relation to a sprawling scheme for admission to some of the nation’s top colleges. These parents “invested” six- and seven-figures to cheat on standardized tests and manipulate the athletic admissions process to ensure their children’s acceptance.