Culture Gabfest

The Culture Gabfest “Free Rein on Some Gargoyles” Edition

Slate’s Culture Gabfest on the Notre Dame fire, Missing Link, and “Old Town Road.”

Notre Dame Cathedral
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock and Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images.

Listen to Culture Gabfest No. 551 with Dan Kois, Stephen Metcalf, and Dana Stevens with the audio player below.

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On Slate Plus, the hosts discuss their own personal histories with Notre Dame.

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This week, Dana, Steve, and Dan Kois are joined by the New Yorker’s Lauren Collins to discuss the fire at Notre Dame, the renovation work she’d been reporting on at the time of the tragedy, and the cathedral’s long history of restoration and change. Next, they take on Missing Link, the latest film from stop-motion animation studio Laika. The studio is renowned for its commitment to the craft, which has led to hits like Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings—so how did this one go so wrong? Finally, the gabbers consult Hit Parade’s Chris Molanphy on the controversy around “Old Town Road,” unpacking the reasons for its exclusion from the country charts, how and why genre is policed more generally, and whether we still need to draw these distinctions in the first place.


Links to some of the things we discussed this week:

• “On the Roof of Notre-Dame, Before It Burned” by Lauren Collins in the New Yorker
• “Why Notre Dame Matters, in One Victor Hugo Passage” by Constance Grady in Vox
• “In Paris, Worn-Out Notre-Dame Needs a Makeover, and Hopes You Can Help” by Aurelien Breeen in the New York Times
• “What’s Been Saved and What’s Been Lost in the Notre Dame Fire” by Molly Olmstead in Slate
• The Slate Podcast Endorse-O-Matic
• Chris Butler’s Missing Link
• Henry Selick’s Coraline
• Travis Knight’s Kubo and the Two Strings
• “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X
• “34 Ghosts IV” by Nine Inch Nails
• “The ‘Old Town Road’ Controversy Reveals Problems Beyond Just Race” by Chris Molanphy in Slate
• “Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ Is a Fascinating Turning Point for Country Music” by Joseph Longo in the Daily Beast
• “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus (Remix)
• “‘Old Town Road,’ Lil Nas X and the Long History of Country-Rap” by Jon Caramanica in the New York Times
• “Wrangler On His Booty: Lil Nas X On The Making And The Magic Of ‘Old Town Road’” by Rodney Carmichael in NPR
• “How TikTok Made ‘Old Town Road’ Become Both A Meme And A Banger” by Lauren Strapagiel in BuzzFeed


Dana: The Hilliard Ensemble’s album Perotin


Dan: Keiler Roberts’ Chlorine Gardens and Lauren Weinstein’s “Being an Artist and a Mother,” the 2019 winners of Slate’s annual Cartoonist Studio Prize

Steve: James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name, and particularly the essay “Princes and Powers

Outro: “Autumn Moods 2” by Andreas Boldt

This podcast was produced by Benjamin Frisch. Our production assistant is Alex Barasch.

Feel free to email us at or interact with us at @SlateCultFest on Twitter. You can follow all of Slate’s culture coverage by signing up for our newsletter and liking our Facebook page. And come to our live show in New York on June 8th!