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On her sixth solo album, Queen Bey got real about infidelity in a relationship across 12 tracks and an hour-long film. Lemonade sparked online furor over whether the songs alluded to her husband, Jay Z, and incited a vicious Internet witch hunt for the mysterious “Becky with the good hair.” The album tells a complete story, and by the end of it, love for each other conquers all — and Bey’s created a critically acclaimed, socially relevant smash-hit record. That’s what you call turning personal pain into sweet, sweet lemonade.
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Nora Ephron’s Heartburn
Ephron’s 1983 novel breaks down a breakup in excruciating detail. Inspired by the dissolution of her own marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein, who famously had an affair with English politician Margaret Jay. Heartburn was adapted into a film starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson in 1986.
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The prolific writer-producer-director said in 2014 that “everything I’ve done, in a way, is revenge for the people who canceled Freaks and Geeks,” speaking to EW’s Dan Snierson as part of a Q&A at PaleyFest, where Apatow was honored with the PaleyFest Icon Award. Since the series’ cancellation in 2000, Apatow has continued to work with many of his collaborators from it, including James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel. “It’s just like, ‘you were wrong about that person and that person and that person, and that writer and that director,’" he said in the Q&A. "I really should get over that.”
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Norman Mailer’s An American Dream
Mailer, who has never been accused of being a feminist, wrote some of his frustrations with his ex-wife Lady Jeanne Campbell into his 1965 novel An American Dream, in which the protagonist strangles and kills his estranged wife. Campbell called it “the hate book of all time.”
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Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”
Fans have speculated for decades who the arrogant subject of Simon’s 1972 song might be, and she finally revealed the answer in 2015 — or part of it, anyway. While Simon has confirmed that the second verse is about Warren Beatty, she says the rest of the song is about two other men, neither of whom she has named publicly. Whoever they may be, we can probably safely assume that they both think the song is about them.
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Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada
Weisberger wrote the bestselling 2003 novel, which got the big-screen treatment in 2006, not long after she ended her tenure as Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s assistant. Weisberger has said in interviews that the “devil” Miranda Priestly, editor of the fictional fashion magazine Runway, was not based on Wintour, but the similarities are hard to miss.
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Swift is famous for putting her personal life directly into her lyrics — but that doesn’t mean she’s naming names. “The fact that I’ve never confirmed who those songs are about makes me feel like there is still one card I’m holding,” she said in a 2015 interview. Still, there are a few that are pretty unmistakable: “Dear John,” from her 2010 album Speak Now, is widely believed to be about Swift’s ex John Mayer; “Style” from 2014’s 1989 is likely about Harry Styles; and fans speculate that that same album's “Bad Blood,” which Swift has said is about “another female artist” who betrayed her, calls out Katy Perry.
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Dreamworks’ Shrek pokes a lot of fun at Disney, from its Disneyland-esque Duloc to its depiction of the fairytale characters being persecuted by the tyrannical Lord Farquaad. There might be another burn hidden in there, too: Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who left Disney in 1994 after a falling out with studio chief Michael Eisner, might have gotten a last little bit of revenge on his former boss with the depiction of Lord Farquaad. Rumors abound that the Shrek villain was based on Eisner, from his face to his control-freak tendencies. Also, Farquaad is extremely short; Eisner is not, but he had famously made rude remarks about Katzenberg’s diminutive stature that came out in court.
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Michael Crichton’s Next
Crichton apparently doesn’t take criticism well: A few months after journalist Michael Crowley wrote an unflattering article about Crichton in early 2006, the novelist’s book Next included a character named Mick Crowley who sexually abuses an infant. Crowley called the use of his name for the character (which also shared various elements of his own background) a “literary hit-and-run.”
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Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River"
Timberlake has never confirmed that his onetime love Britney Spears was the inspiration for “Cry Me a River,” but it is widely believed that the song, which was released just months after their breakup in 2002 and is about a cheating ex-girlfriend, was directed at the pop star. “Now there’s just no chance for you and me, there’ll never be,” Timberlake croons, “and don’t it make you sad about it?”
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Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
There’s a line in Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy naming the worst poet in the universe as Paul Neil Milne Johnstone of Redbridge. Johnstone was a real person — and in fact a real poet — who was a classmate of Adams’. The mean shout-out to Adams’ childhood rival was changed in later editions of the book, to the slightly altered Paula Nancy Milstone Jennings.
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Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know”
The most common guess as to the subject of Morissette’s angry single from 1995’s Jagged Little Pill is Full House star Dave Coulier, who dated the Canadian singer a few years before the song’s release. Morissette’s lips are sealed, however: “I will never say who it is or isn’t about,” she told EW in an oral history of the album. “But it was interesting to note that people were falling over themselves to take credit for it. You know you don’t sound like the greatest guy in the world, right?”
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Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window
Hitchcock and producer David O. Selznick had a famously dysfunctional working relationship, clashing continuously over the course of their seven-year contract, which began with 1940’s Oscar-winning Rebecca. Close viewers of Hitchcock’s 1954 classic Rear Window have pointed out that the killer Lars Thorwald, played by Raymond Burr, bears a suspicious resemblance to Selznick.