Why Is Media so Obsessed with the Drunken Canal?: A Hater Reports
The Canal girls are just another addition to media’s love affair of complicated, politically incorrect, and above all, beautiful white New York women.
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So we’re absolutely clear — yes, I am a hater. Now that that’s out of the way: why is media so obsessed with The Drunken Canal?
The Drunken Canal is a free newspaper created by Claire Banse and Michelle “Gutes” Guterman, recent college graduates and attractive white women. Per a New York Times feature, their collaboration “started as a kind of a joke for Ms. Guterman’s and Ms. Banse’s friends around the triangle known as ‘Dimes Square,’ which gets its name from the restaurant Dimes.”
Outlets eagerly emphasize that the girls behind the Canal are controversial. Headlines salaciously note that the Drunken Canal women actually enjoyed the pandemic: “They Had A Fun Pandemic. You Can Read About It in Print”., and from the one issue I managed to grab, they published ableist and xenophobic words like “retarded” and “jipped,” and an essay where the writer compares being Irish in England to being Black in America (“Being Irish means the other kind of Jew,” he writes. Then later, “Can’t stop repeating the N-word in my head. I would never say the word aloud, but I cannot stop the booming echoic stampede of N-words within my own mind”).
But for many legacy publications, all of which overwhelmingly employ white people, this inflammatory editorial judgment coming from a beautiful white girl is cool. It’s aspirational. Now, because of glossy media attention, including the New York Times feature, it has transformed from a joke to a bonafide It Girl operation, much like how the children in Animorphs evolve from human to omnipotent Russian circus bear.
“All I can think about when I meet them,” writes Steff Yotka for Vogue, “Gutes in a black dress, blazer, and pearl necklace; Banse in white jeans and a cropped Eckhaus Latta cardigan, is not how wrong they are, or whatever the naysayers think, but how right they are.”
Well, block my Depop profile and call me a naysayer. I don’t think these girls, neither of whom have any real experience with media or had any intention to enter it, are deserving of widespread, big deal media attention. They themselves were even a bit confused by it. In Interview Magazine, Guterman remarks on how “when we started The Canal, I by no means thought it would turn into this. We thought it was going to be a joke. A serious joke, but a joke.”
Meanwhile, media workers of color (hehe, hi) struggle to land even a byline in any of these publications, let alone multiple photoshoots and confirmations of “how right they are.” On a good day, I typically get a $250 direct deposit and a Vulture commenter asking if I’m being a stupid bitch on purpose or by accident.
Really, none of this should upset me. It’s not new — the Canal girls are just another addition to media’s love affair of complicated, politically incorrect, and above all, beautiful white New York women. We have Elizabeth Wurtzel, Cat Marnell, and more recently, Caroline Calloway and Dasha Nekrasova. The last two are friends with each other, even going on each other’s podcasts. This is genuinely all Carrie Bradshaw’s fault.
When I was a kid dreaming of being a writer in New York City, the place I grew up, I pictured a tall, effortlessly thin woman. Her hair was straight and chestnut brown, like fashion editor Jenna in 13 Going on 30, or maybe long and blonde, like women’s magazine writer Andie in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. She had an office in Manhattan. She wrote things particular to her and her life. She was nothing like me, and I would never grow up to be her.
When I eventually decided to grit my teeth and enter journalism despite my economic background, despite my tower of student debt, despite the fact that my mother always told me that writing wasn’t for people “like us,” I had to kill this dream writer in my head.
I stomped on her with her own Manohlo Blahniks (how can she even afford them?), and threw a stone through her West Village apartment (it must be rent controlled). I embraced my shitty apartment with four roommates. The sidewalk outside of it smells like piss, not Santal 33. I chase after checks, not after clout and men investment bankers. I hear rumors that everyone who got a Texas Monthly internship graduated from an Ivy League college, and I get angry. But it doesn’t seem like legacy media gets angry with me.
Legacy media and their writers want to keep the implausible, gorgeous New York writer alive. Many people in power positions will bat their eyelashes online about how they value fair pay and how they totally support diversity in the workplace. Then, it seems they log off of Twitter, shake hands with each other, and agree to celebrate all these transgressive apolitical New York women. It reinforces that media is for the wealthy, glamorous few. This decision has no empathy, no real regard – no matter how many black squares they post – for how that feels to the little girls in the world who want to be writers, but can’t be that.
But we’re in a new piece of history — workers of color are not afraid to call out inequality, leave jobs, and point over and over again to the many ways legacy media seals itself into an ivory tower. We don’t all live in New York because even the most powerful scions of media don’t pay enough, and we’re talented. We see your photoshoots and the deserving non-white writers who will never get one. We’re done with the fantasy of the controversial white New York writer. We want to build something better. You should, too.