The Waves

What’s Next for TV’s White Guys?

Whether they’ve been good-guy dads or charismatic antiheroes, white men have always been TV’s default protagonists. Where do they go when someone else gets to be the main character?


Episode Notes

On this week’s episode of The Waves, Slate TV critic Willa Paskin and Vulture staff writer Kathryn VanArendonk talk about the precarious position of white men on TV this summer. Their conversation, inspired by Kathryn’s recent piece in Vulture, TV’s White Guys Are in Crisis, surveys the history of white men on TV, from the good-guy dad to the complex antihero, through to our current moment, where shows like Rutherford Falls and Kevin Can F**k Himself position their white guys as obstacles, and The White Lotus overtly asks, would we prefer white guys to disappear entirely? Willa and Kathryn get into it.

After the break, our hosts contrast these shows to their glaring exception, Apple TV’s Ted Lasso, which allows its white guy lead to be uncomplicatedly beloved. Is his charming take on progressive masculinity too good to be true?

For Slate Plus members, Willa and Kathryn contribute to our regular segment, Gateway Feminism, where they talk about one thing that helped make them feminists. For Willa, it’s the young adult series The Baby-Sitter’s Club, by Ann M. Martin, and for Kathryn it’s the Western TV drama Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.


Kathryn recommends three things: Felco garden clippers, the Toniebox, and the TV series What We Do in the Shadows.

Willa thinks you should check out Richard Powers’ novel The Overstory.

Podcast production by Asha Saluja filling in for Cheyna Roth. Editorial oversight by Susan Matthews and June Thomas.

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Each week a pair of writers and guests talk through one news story we can’t stop thinking about, and unpack what gender has to do with it.

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