Carve your own path

by Megan Shelton

November 1, 2017

Vulture staff writer Angelica Jade Bastién spoke to students as a guest of the Goldring Arts Journalism Program

A photo of Angelica Jade Bastién
Angelica Jade Bastién Molly Gibbs

The majority of Angelica Jade Bastién’s work as a pop culture critic focuses on horror, science fiction and film noir. Bastién established this niche not because of work that was assigned to her, but because she carved it out for herself. Bastién uses these genres to discuss what she considers her “beats”: Hollywood history, gender dynamics, genre construction and acting.

Some of Bastién’s most popular and notable pieces to date include “The Beguiled Subtly Tackles Race Even When You Don’t See It,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale's Greatest Failing Is How It Handles Race.”

“I think as a black and female writer it’s very easy to just get stuff that deals with race or gender and that’s sort of it,” Bastién, staff writer at Vulture, said during her Oct. 23 talk at the Newhouse School. “I’ve loved horror films and science fiction since I was a kid. When I started writing, I knew I wanted to do that.”

Every critic has dissenters, but as a woman of color, Bastién noted that some of the criticism she receives focuses more on who she is than what she’s writing about, specifically on Twitter. In the same way that journalists utilize social media to make their stories read or heard, some readers or listeners use it to express disrespectful opinions. As an “act of self-care,” Bastién decided to block Twitter comments from users she does not follow.

“[It] has nothing to do with people being like, ‘Wow, I thought your take on “Flashpoint” was dumb.’ It’s not those comments—it’s the racist, sexist comments that can be very overwhelming,” she said.

Bastién discussed how her identity as a black woman has affected her career and success, as well as some obstacles she has had to overcome in her field.

“I think being a black woman…has made it more difficult to find my place,” Bastién said. “It’s not like there are a lot of black women critics who have come up before me. You have to carve your own path, which makes things way more difficult, but I love a challenge.”

When asked her thoughts on refraining from incorporating personal experience into critiques, Bastién chuckled. “I do the complete opposite,” she said. “I think this idea that as a critic you’re supposed to…be this objective person, on-high, doling out criticism and whatever, is untrue.”

Some of her best advice for aspiring writers and critics: This is not a job that everyone is capable of doing. It is much more than just binge-watching movies and television series; you have to “write about what others can’t.”

“I’m a black woman from the South,” said Bastién, “and that affects my language, base of knowledge and how I approach everything in my life.”

On continually paving her own path within the world of criticism, Bastién said, “It can be tricky, but I think it’s very well worth it. We need more women of color in this field.”

Megan Shelton is a junior public relations major at the Newhouse School.