Culture Gabfest “Licorice Dystopia” Edition
S1: This Ad Free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. You.
S2: I’m Dana Stevens and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest Licorice Dystopia Edition. It’s Wednesday, March 16th. And on this week’s show, we’ll discuss Severance, the new Apple TV series that’s about a corporate dystopia where work and home life are split into two separate parts of the employees consciousness. Ben Stiller directs Adam Scott, Patricia Arquette and many, many other stars. Secondly, we’ll talk about Paul Thomas Anderson’s 10th feature film, Licorice Pizza, which is nominated for an Oscar in three different categories this year Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. This is a movie that has earned both rapturous reviews and considerable pushback from some quarters. We’ll discuss. And finally, in an era famed for its fractured attention spans, why is it that the long form YouTube video and we’re talking very long form, like five hour discussions of old TV shows, is enjoying an unexpected golden age. We’ll discuss a Vox piece that makes this argument. I am joined, as always, by Julia Turner, deputy managing editor of the Los Angeles Times. Hello, Julia. Hello. Hello. And because Steve is off gallivanting about to parts unknown, which he will report back on in a couple of weeks, we are joined by Allegra Frank Slate senior editor. Hey, Allegra.
S3: Hi. Sadly not gallivanting, but that’s why I haven’t been on the show in a while. I was gallivanting prior to this episode.
S2: I’m glad you got to gallivant, and I’m glad you got to meet Julia. I never done a show. We’ve done so many L.A. shows without you, Julia, I’d never one with you.
S4: I’m pro gallivanting, but I’m also so excited to finally get to do a show with Allegra. Thank you so much for holding down the fort while I was off having a baby. I’m grateful.
S3: Yeah. I’m excited to have you back and finally chat with you.
S4: All right. A lot of hype. A lot of hype for this combo.
S2: So Severance on Apple TV is a nine episode first season. It’s been okayed for a second season already. It comes from the mind of creator Dan Erickson in collaboration with Ben Stiller, who directed six of the nine episodes. And it’s a stacked, stacked cast from Adam Scott and Patricia Arquette to John Turturro, Christopher Walken. Everywhere you look, there’s another really good actor. This show falls somewhere in between, I don’t know, a Twilight Zone episode and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a kind of psychological sci fi set up where in an unnamed place and time doesn’t seem to be far in the future. It seems to be in our own time. There is a company called Lumen which produces We Know Not What. Nor do its employees know exactly what Lumen is doing. But it’s a company that operates on a very, very dubious ethical principle, which is that a particular floor of this building allows its employees to choose a process called severance, whereby if I get this right, a chip is implanted in their brain that switches off their consciousness completely in between work and home. In other words, their work life and their home life are experienced by two separate parts of themselves, neither of which can remember the other. So as we join this strange corporate culture in the first episode, a brand new employee played by Britt Lauer, is about to be inducted into the strange world of the severed floor of the Lumen Corporation. In this clip we’re about to hear, which is from the first episode of the show, you’ll hear Mark played by Adam Scott, who is a veteran employee of the company, introducing this new employee, Hayley. Ah, to the strange rules of corporate culture at Lumen.
S1: Hey. Hey.
S5: So it’s tomorrow now?
S1: Yeah, well, it’s Monday.
S5: It was a weekend just happened. Yeah. I don’t even feel like I left.
S1: Yeah, that’s how the nights and weekends feel here.
S3: Like nothing.
S1: Oh, you get used to it. I find it helps to focus on the effects of sleep since we don’t actually get to experience it. You may feel rejuvenated or happy. Less tense in the shoulders. Spry.
S5: So it’s nine.
S1: Outside. Yeah. They stagger the entries too, so we don’t meet on the outside. Important, apparently.
S3: So I guess we’re not friends.
S1: I guess not.
S2: All right. I’m going to start for analysis of the show with you, Allegra, for the reason that you showed me this weekend that you have for your phone wallpaper, nothing but a montage of pictures of Adam Scott. You were a huge, long standing Adam Scott fan. And so I presume that you have strong feelings about this show in which he, I have to say, does extraordinary work and appears in nearly every scene in a very demanding dual role where he plays essentially right. These two split sides of his own brain. So Adam Scott included. But the whole show. What do you think of Seven’s.
S3: Yeah I mean definitely Adam Scott is a big draw for me. Wherever wherever he goes, I follow. So it’s nice to see him in a more dramatic role than we’ve seen him in quite some time. I’m struggling to think of the last non comedic thing he’s done and certainly Seven’s is, I won’t say bereft of comedy. It’s not completely joyless, but it’s a much darker, much darker show than I even maybe anticipated. So I’ve watched every episode that’s currently aired. So five episodes, I think there’s nine episodes total in the season, but I am not really enjoying it. I am not really enjoying the show at all. And I’m kind of disappointed because, you know, I like the concept of there is this dystopian secret world in this company that exists outside of time in its own way like this. This company is steeped in mystery. Adam Scott doesn’t even understand what’s happening because, you know, yeah, the whole the whole premise is that no one who works there knows what’s going on outside of work. They don’t remember what happens to them. But the mystery of what is happening at this company is unfolding so slowly for me that it honestly feels kind of painful to be watching because I feel like from episode one it is very clear that things are bad. This is not a good place by episode two, you know, I feel as though we should have moved the ball forward more quickly than we have in terms of the employees, whether that’s Adam Scott or his new colleague, Hayley is her name, you know, actually having some made some headway toward getting out of this company, which is something that she is trying to do and has failed to do and barely made any made any steps toward doing in any successful, you know, level in episode five, which is more than halfway through. I just feel like I just feel like very little has unfolded.
S4: I am with you, Allegra, and I feel extra disappointed because I feel like the concept of doing a show right now about alienation from work, it’s a great, great moment post two years of pandemic for a really smart, really interesting show, exploring our dependency on work, our alienation from work. Yeah, we get out of work, but we don’t get out of work. Like the concept is so exciting and the cast is so exciting. And then the show just felt a little bit like high on its own aesthetic supply. There’s like a moment in one of the first couple episodes where John Turturro seems to be, you know, his in his care, his character in the office seems to be suffering some kind of glitch or I don’t know, maybe it’s an effect of the procedure or something. Anyway, he, like, hallucinates some bubbling black ooze creeping over his computer. And you just get this feeling that the creators were like, and it’s going to look.
S5: So cool in the ooze. Oh, yeah, I don’t.
S4: It’s sure. But, you know, it’s it’s a challenge for any creator of a dystopian narrative, right? Any portrayal of a dystopia in which humanity and humanism is squelched to, like, figure out how you stood enough glints of recognizable humanity in it for you to find people to root for and to actually proceed and be curious about all the dystopian mysteries that the thing will unfold. And Adam Scott is like a good bet for that, right? Like he’s, you know, we know him as like the affable, slightly misfit, kind, warm, but with sometimes a little dark edge, the way his character had on big little lies or party down. But, you know, he’s a good bet, but it’s just a lot. I mean, the one thing I loved was his relationship with his sister in the outer world. And there are moments between them where you feel like, oh, yes, that’s the human civilization that’s even worth fighting this corporation for. But like the rest of the outer world also seems super mannered and. Unappealing. So, like, why even fight to get out? Dana.
S2: I love.
S5: I love.
S2: Colleagues. You’re wrong. You’re both wrong. Well, she was brilliant. I wish that Steve was I wish Steve was on the show this week because I have the feeling that he would be with me on this one. All right. I’ve heard a lot of people critique the show is being slow moving and it definitely is a is a red herring filled show in the way that, you know, it’s strewing a bunch of clues and forcing the viewer to try to figure out what Lumen does, what Lumen makes. You know, why these these people chose this this procedure that traps them inside the office experientially. It unfolds those things slowly. But it doesn’t do. I never felt that annoying feeling like the show Lost always gave me from the very first episodes, and people took seasons and seasons to figure this out. And from the very beginning I sort of thought Lost doesn’t know where it’s going or what it’s doing, and it’s just throwing weird things at us to make us experience, you know, cognitive dissonance for no reason. Severance, on the contrary, seemed to me so meticulously thought through in its worldbuilding. That’s what I loved about the inside of the office, is that, you know, you are being given glimpses very slowly, just as the other employees are. And that leaves so much time for character development. So, Allegra, to hear you say that you didn’t feel like you knew who these characters were, at least when they’re in the office. I agree that I would like a little bit more time outside and as the season progresses and I have seen all nine episodes, you do get more time outside with with each of the characters. But I got to know so well, you know, people like John Turturro’s character, very different from the kind of person he usually plays, you know, not somebody who’s who’s a big showman, like kind of outward character, but someone who’s very repressed and inward. But you slowly, slowly get to know him. Or Zach Cherry’s character, who at first comes off as, you know, somebody who is completely duped by the corporate language and the kind of cult like business speak of the office. But who reveals himself to be someone very different with more more of an inner life than that? But above all, I just thought the show is exquisitely well-written. I mean, it’s just it has such a unique vocabulary and use of language and the way that that lumen philosophy, which the Patricia Arquette character, who is this mysterious overseer of the these individuals on the Senate floor, is is such a fantastic portrait, I think, of a true corporate believer, someone who has completely bought into this almost religious cult like language about Lumen Industries. She she plays it with such ferocity. And she’s it’s a really chilling performance. We also haven’t really mentioned the look of the show, but I think when scouting sites for this show, Ben Stiller and his team found this this incredible laboratory. I think it’s Bell Labs or is the old Bell Labs in New Jersey. It was designed by Eero Saarinen, right. Who designed the tulip table, who designed the JFK Airport terminal, who has this very specific, you know, high modernist style. And that space is just used so effectively to create an extremely chilly, labyrinthine, strange world within the building. I just all I know is that when I finished the ninth and final episode of this season, which does not resolve all of those mysteries and ends on a huge cliffhanger, I was desperately scrambling to Google. When is the next season of Severance coming out? So I’m going to be intense in table pounding because you guys are so nonchalant and I want listeners to give this show a chance.
S3: You telling me it ends in a cliffhanger is making me not want to keep.
S5: Saying I grant you.
S4: Liking it is making me very intrigued and making me feel like I should give it some more time. Like it does not seem up your alley at all. Dana, I’m stunned. But from you.
S2: I wonder why you think it doesn’t seem up my alley? Because I don’t. You don’t think of me as liking sci fi or you don’t think of me as liking the head cliffhanger mysteries or what?
S4: Because I think this seems like pretentious and hollow and I think you usually see through that.
S5: Was it. I know. No. Or I think.
S4: You’re such a like humanist. I don’t know. I think it’s a TV show that’s it certainly sets up intriguing puzzles and they’re good performances. I just found that affects listeners of it. Really deadening. I mean, did that not bother you at all? You were just like, give me more money, towns and more highways.
S2: I mean, I think, again, this may have to do with having seen the whole season because obviously a show that starts out being about repression, which is really what the severance setup is about. Right. I mean, it’s about what would it be like to block out your workday, which everybody has had that experience. And the writer Dan Erickson has talked about that, that he had a corporate job in the past where he used to just start work in the morning and think, I wish I could turn off my brain for the day. And that was sort of the germ that got this story started. And so naturally, the first episodes that are setting up the world in which everyone is repressed and severed are going to be lacking in that kind of human warmth. But I feel like the whole movement of the show is about, you know, how the repressed returns end and how people’s passions will out in the end. And so, yeah, definitely by the later episodes in the season, there is all kinds of, you know, furious violence and passion boiling beneath that surface. So, no, I don’t think of it as a bloodless show at all, but it is certainly a show that is a portrait of a bloodless world. So you have to commit to that world. And if it really just chills you to the bone or bores you so much, you don’t want to continue, then I guess you can bail.
S3: I just it’s just like I find a show like this to be. There’s so much deep, intricate worldbuilding that could be happening more than it is happening already. And the fact that, you know, I have so many questions I think is not intentional. Like, I am not questioning things because I’m intrigued. I’m questioning things because I feel as though I should know them already of like a little bit more of what these people are actually doing every day, a little bit more about how long they’ve been there. So it’s just the the amount of questions in the very slow speed of it is why I am just like, oh geez, another one of these shows where it’s just going to be all mystery and I’m never going to know the answers.
S2: It’s funny, there’s nobody who gets more annoyed than me at that kind of show. Yeah, and yet I find this one utterly compelling, so go figure. All right. Well, it’s Severance is on Apple TV. I really hope that at least listeners that are slightly intrigued by my love for this show will give it some sort of chance. Go, go a few episodes in and see if you can make it through. And if and when you do watch, please write us at Culturefest at Slate.com and let us know what you thought. All right. Moving on. All right. Now it’s time for this week’s business. And our only item of business this week is to tell you about today’s Slate Plus segment this week. That segment comes from a listener question, as it has been a lot lately. We’ve got a lot of good questions on the pile. This week’s question comes from a listener named Emily, who writes in about something Julia said in relation to a recent segment on the movie Nightmare Alley. Emily writes Hello. In a recent episode, Julia mentioned her lack of interest in fictional works based on carnivals. I would love to hear more about that. And if the others also have aversions to films or novels set in certain places or along a certain theme? That is a good question. I too want to know about Julia’s blockage when it comes to Carnival based entertainment. So if you want to hear more about that and other aversions that we may inexplicably have to certain subject matter or themes in movies and TV shows, let’s do our Slate Plus segment this week. If you’re a Slate Plus member, you’ll hear that at the end of the show. And if you’re not, of course, you can sign up at Slate.com, slash culture plus. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Liquors Pizza is set in the place and more or less the time, slightly before the time where he grew up. It’s the early seventies in the San Fernando Valley, and a high school student named Gary Valentine, played by Cooper Hoffman, the son of longtime Anderson collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman, meets and falls sort of platonically in love with We’ll get into what their relationship is, but meets and becomes fixated upon an older woman, a young woman in her mid-twenties named Eleanor Caine, played by the singer Alana Haim. And the two of them proceed to embark on a series of peripatetic adventures. We’ll talk about what some of those adventures are. But this is really a movie that’s not about plot. It’s more about feeling, about mood and about the unfolding of this specific relationship in this specific environment. Let’s listen to a clip from near the beginning of Licorice Pizza. This is, I guess you could call it the first date of Gary and Ilana. They are out having a drink at Tail of the Cock, which is an old Hollywood hangout that he likes to hang out in. He’s a former child actor who’s trying, with not much success, to transition into being an older teenage actor. In this scene, you’ll hear Alan and Gary discussing the future of his career. So how did you become such a hotshot actor?
S6: I’m a showman. It’s my calling. I don’t know how to do anything else. That’s what I meant to do. I mean, ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a song and dance man.
S5: Ever since you were a kid. Song and dance man. Where are your parents?
S6: My mom works for me.
S4: Oh, of course she does.
S6: Yes, she does. And my public relations company.
S2: And your public relations company.
S5: Because you have that. Yes. In. You’re an actor.
S4: Yes. And you’re a secret agent, too.
S6: Well, no, I’m not a secret agent. That’s funny.
S5: Are you joking?
S6: Oh, no, I’m not.
S5: That’s a lot.
S1: Gets complicated.
S5: I’m sure you know that math homework you have to.
S2: Do after everything. Julia, I’ll start with you. This time. I wonder whether the very meandering nature of the screenplay is something that irritated you, put you off, intrigued you. I feel like I almost can’t defend my love for this movie. I just. It’s more of a feeling than anything else. This is, as I said, a movie that’s about vibes rather than about plot. It’s a movie that requires a lot of patience from the viewer because you’re watching these two young and very confused people meander through a period of their lives where they themselves don’t know what they’re doing or what comes next. And I wonder whether you had the patience to stick with them through that and felt the kind of affection for the world that Anderson evokes that I did.
S4: I loved it unabashedly. I think I liked it more than any other Paul Thomas Anderson movie I’ve ever seen. I’m not someone who’s a, you know, massive fan of Boogie Nights or Magnolia. They’ve always seemed a little chilly to me. And there’s you know, these people are not quite human. They’re like supercharged. They’re they’ve got a bit of old Hollywood patter in them in the way. And as you can hear in the clip we just listen to. But their series of escapades is just so beautifully doled out and so pleasurable and rendered in these like bright, sunshiny seventies colors and doesn’t have the kind of dreary palette you find in so much modern cinema. I was really smitten and I think part of I was smitten. You know, there’s been a lot of commentary about the, you know, age gap and what it means to portray such an age gap. But I felt like the movie was about the Elena character’s uncertainty and kind of being caught between being a kid and being a grown up and trying to figure out what that means and using her relationship with him to progress and avoid the future. And then I felt I felt that without learning it on the movies, I really sensitive portrait of or of a, you know, kind of real confusion and it’s not glamorizing relationship. Exactly. It’s not suggesting I don’t think it’s trying to make like a anti cancel culture point about age gaps or anything. It’s just like here’s two people who connected as people sometimes do and feel ambivalent about it and have their own process around it. And I don’t know, I enjoyed that part. The critique so the critique about the age gap, I would lay aside the critique about the scenes with the Japanese restaurant owners wives. Those are, you know, some minutes of this on that. I think it could have stood cutting or serious rearranging, and they seemed like they were supposed to be a comment on the racism of the time. But they seemed to they seemed yucky. So I didn’t like that.
S3: Yeah. I mean, I completely agree with you, Julia, that the the bigger issue, I think, is the, uh, John Michael Higgins character of the Japanese, the American restauranteur who has Japanese restaurants. With a Japanese wife for changing Japanese wives. I found that to be pretty uncomfortable and offensive in the way that, you know, they had him doing little accents to talk to his wife. It was just it was super distracting for me. But thankfully, you know, the it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the movie overall, and neither did the sort of May-December relationship at its heart. I think I just like you, Julia. I saw it more as a lot of times movie. As much as I liked Cooper Hoffman. So I was watching it from her perspective more than anything. And so I saw Gary as sort of a little gnat in her ear, who was intriguing to her, understandably. He’s definitely an intriguing and very charismatic guy, and I didn’t really find their relationship anything but, you know, a natural magnetism to this particular soul who especially at a time in L.A. life, where she is just kind of flitting around different things and doesn’t really have any trajectory. You know, someone who does have ambitions is very attractive. And I think her saying that she loved Gary is more you know, her her love for Gary is more inspired by that relationship of I am meaningless and rudderless and you are the complete opposite. So I didn’t totally mind it. You know, I’m not always one for the May-December plotline, but I thought it was pretty inoffensive here. And overall, yeah. Like, you know, I loved Ilana so much. I loved Ilana. Haim’s performance probably helps. I’m a big Haim fan and seeing her whole family in there, too, I just thought she was so natural, which especially, you know, Gary being so postured and having such a particular way of comporting himself, it was a really nice contrast. And as her first frickin movie role, like I thought, she just, you know, hit it out of the park. I could not stop watching her. And I loved every minute she was on screen.
S2: Yeah. I mean, she’s the idea of casting two unknowns. I mean, Alana Haim is known for something, obviously is known as a musician, but certainly not an actor. And Cooper Hoffman has never been in a movie before. There’s something that, for one thing, Paul Thomas Anderson’s power in, you know, at this point, reputation as a filmmaker allows him to do right. He can construct a big budget love story around to unknown actors, which is interesting in itself. And that also gives these two this kind of untutored quality. I mean, they’re on screen alongside. We can get into some of these side characters. But, you know, Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn. There’s big movie stars appearing alongside them. And the fact that they don’t quite fit in, that they look like normal kids, for example, that that gives it this quality of of naturalism and almost freedom. You know, there’s a kind of freedom to the sense of their relationship that they feel the way that young people falling in love do, that they’re outside of the world that they’re in, and they’re sort of running through it as if it’s their backdrop. There’s lots of running in this movie, a great deal of cinematic, running against beautiful sunsets and backdrops.
S4: Nobody runs that much in Los Angeles, just like pedestrians at a high clip is like the the main mode of transport.
S2: Setting it against the backdrop of the energy crisis of the seventies. Right. So that there’s there’s a few scenes where the things that they’re running through are basically stalled traffic, people waiting on gas lines, etc.. It just underscores what I was describing as, you know, this movie about the mobility of youth, you know, set against the backdrop of this stationary, established, built world. And and that was that’s all done without, you know, putting those ideas forth as ideas. I loved how many ideas in this movie have gotten across visually or sonically, you know, rather than through dialogue. The dialogue is very meandering at times. It almost appears improvised, but I don’t think it is at all. I think, you know, it’s all very scripted very carefully in such a way as to sound natural. And that’s kind of the paradox of this movie, is that it to me also had this feeling of exuberance and freedom and, you know, this feeling of passion. But it’s also a very built object, you know, that’s been very carefully crafted in all its details. And I think Anderson balances those two things really well.
S3: Yeah, I want to go back to the the length of it and not to harp on how long things feel or not. But this certainly to me, I was watching and was thinking, is this almost over or is there like another half hour left? And that’s not to deny it, but I think that just speaks to just how breezy and how engaging these characters were. Because it is. It is. As you said, more about a vibe and less about a plot. You know, there’s so much happening to these characters in a slow fashion, but also not so slow that they’re not able to bounce around to multiple things. You know, they’re very actively changing their their interests and their purpose. Oh, and throughout the film, you know, which also allows for all those sort of bit almost cameo appearances from these famous actors. So kind of reminded me of like a TV show in that way of like it’s mostly just experiences and adventures over the course of almost two and a half hours, which I liked.
S2: Yeah, it’s roomy. I mean, it did feel roomy than long. It feels like a space that you can inhabit. And I know in my case that I wanted to keep inhabiting. You know, I think it was long enough and didn’t need to be longer. But I also felt a kind of sadness when it ended. It immediately wanted to watch it again. Let’s talk about some of these episodic scenes with other actors. There’s a long passage of the movie where Sean Penn and Tom Waits become important characters only for that passage. Then they kind of drop out of the narrative. There’s also a much praised and much left out segment involving Bradley Cooper playing John Peters, the famous Hollywood hairdresser that Warren Beatty in Shampoo is partly based on. And and I wonder what you guys think of these these set pieces. I mean, if nothing else, they’re a chance for some really good actors to sink their teeth into some good comedy and some some big hammy roles. But what did you think of the episodic unfolding, Julie? Did you have any favorites or at least favorites there?
S4: They’re so nicely balanced. Like they each have their own weight in interesting ways. I mean, the Bradley Cooper one is just so fun. I understand why it’s been the most noted and the most praised.
S1: You know I am. Yeah. Do you know who my girlfriend is? I wish I had Barbara Streisand. Yeah. Like sands. Like the ocean. Like Barbra Streisand. No, but. Streisand sand. Streisand. Streisand.
S4: That performance is wild. And then what? The Gang of Kids plus Allen has to do to extricate themselves from the bind they find themselves in is just like a great little bit of white knuckle slapstick drama. It’s very comedy, like, you know, totally engrossing. But I liked how they all, you know, essentially they’re just these questing young people. And, yes, they’re 15 and 25. But psychically, I think they’re closer in age. And it’s true that you can be an old 15 in a young 25. And, you know, they find this kismet. And then they keep brushing up against the different fears of the adult world. They there’s a, you know, but slapper in the first scene where we mean ALLEN There’s the arbitrary nature of criminal justice. When Cooper’s character gets pinched by the cops and it’s it’s treated as terrifying. There’s the flamboyant Hollywood prankster. And, you know, Allen is like very nearly physically harmed by him. They near you know, there’s real danger, real adult danger in the world in all of these capers. And they have a very caper tone, but like actual harm and consequence are abounding in a way that I think, you know, causes the amount of character to wonder whether she’s avoiding her future in adult life by hanging out with these kids, or, in fact, she’s found it because she’s found a person who’s like a partner in crime who has her back in the face of all this danger. And it’s just kind of this beautiful little through line. And each one adds up to push her towards where she finally lands in terms of her relationship with this charming kid who’s full of full of his own energy and momentum. And I don’t know, the whole thing just worked well, minus the Japanese restaurants, but so much of it worked so beautifully and sweetly to me and just felt so, so human. I mean, down to the fact that as the friend I watched it with noted, they have human skin. Like, when is the last time you saw actual human complexions on a screen of any kind? Like just that they all are like a little sweaty and have pores and have, like, you know, it’s just. It just feels so fresh.
S3: Yeah, I saw a lot of him on. I think it was probably Jimmy Fallon talking about how dentists have been reaching out there on Instagram after watching the movie or just seeing her doing press because of her teeth, which, you know, I love her teeth. She loves her teeth. But I think even just like an actress coming on and having in daring to have crooked teeth and no makeup is something that is so rare, especially a new actress.
S2: All right. Well, the movie is Liquid Pizza. It’s still playing in theaters. If you’re going to theaters now, I would recommend seeing it that way because it’s a wonderfully enveloping experience. But if not, you can also find it out there on some streaming platforms, including Google Play and Amazon. And if you have thoughts about Licorice Pizza after you’ve seen it, I’m very curious where you fall. We all happen to love it, but I’m curious what our audience thinks. And as always, you can write us at Culturefest at Slate.com and let us know. A lot has been said about the video essay and its ever shifting parameters. Tick tock sudden unwavering rise has proven the viability of bite sized content. Yet the prevailing popularity of video essays from new and old creators alike suggests otherwise. So, writes Terry Wynne in an article in Vox about the video essay Boom. Her argument is that even though we are in an era of fracturing attention spans, when nobody can look at a screen for more than 10 seconds at a time without clicking away to another screen. On YouTube, long form videos are thriving for some reason. Especially generations. Years younger people are loving sitting down in front of incredibly long and sometimes absurdly detailed analysis of pop culture, discussion of contemporary phenomena from their favorite YouTubers in longer and longer form, sometimes longer than the cultural product itself that the video essayist is talking about. We wanted to start off by listening to a clip from one of these long form video essays. This is a very popular YouTuber named Mike’s mike, and here he is taking a part at great length and detail in an hour and 52 minute long video. The TV show Pretty Little Liars. Let’s listen to a clip.
S1: Okay. So this is how it’s going to work. We’re going to go through Pretty Little Liars Seasons 1 to 7, going to the plot and character details for each season. All 160 episodes from all seven seasons. And each season is assigned a color of string, and the string color designates relationships and plot interactions between the characters. So in this video, we’re going to cover season one, which is Red, which is already put up on the wall. Season two, which will be in green. Season three, which is in blue. Now we’re doing all of season one, all of season two in the first half of season three, which in total is 60 episodes. Then for part two, I’m planning on finishing season three during season four and season five. And then the final part will be season six and season seven.
S5: Clip is so unfair. Like, these are not my format.
S4: But they’re not all people explaining the extreme lengths they’re going to go to.
S2: I love that he’s literally tying string to a two pin pushpins on a board.
S4: That’s like the shadiest clip that Cameron has ever selected for the show. Props to you, Cameron.
S2: I mean, I’m just laughing that the two of you were talking about how slow severance was to get started. I mean, the entertainment value offered by any individual minute is so much greater than that set up. But maybe that is not fair to Mike’s mike, who I understand is a very popular YouTube creator. So he must be doing something besides talking about how long he is going to talk about something.
S4: I mean, I think he knows that talking like that’s funny. That’s a bit I think like the elaborate insanity of the depth of interest there.
S2: I mean, what is going on here? Like, I’m going to turn to you because you are the youngest person on the panel today. Answer for yourself. Not that I’m actually even critiquing this phenomenon. I just legitimately don’t understand it. I’m also not sure to what degree this is a real phenomenon or to what degree it’s sort of like an invented trend. I mean, obviously, there’s always going to be some tranche of people out there on the Internet consuming all kinds of content. But is it really the case that there is this increasing viability of these very long form personal essay videos?
S3: Oh, yeah, it’s completely a phenomenon. And so it started really back in 2012 ish, which is sort of what’s gotten at in the article, is that YouTube prioritizes watch time over view counts. So even though it seems like, okay, if you have 20 million views on your 32nd video, like theoretically that sounds way better than having a million views on your four hour video, but a million views on your four hour video means a lot in terms of, you know, making money off of that video because watch time, it’s far easier to monetize. They can add way more ad breaks. So a lot of YouTubers have now been increasingly inclined to release longer and longer videos. And the best way to do that is in forms like this of like going through entire TV shows that are pretty popular and doing sort of absurd takes on them, either recapping them in funny ways or picking apart various themes with tons of sourcing, which is why they’re known as video essays. And I have become just a really huge fan and know tons of other people who are as well of watching these YouTubers break down things that a lot of, you know, critics don’t take so seriously. And I’ve come to really appreciate that. And, you know, one example I point to a lot is this one eight hour recap of the show Victorious, which is a Nickelodeon TV show that Ariana Grande Day was famously on. Not a show I liked, but yes, there is an eight hour recap and I will watch it because I want to know why someone has 8 hours of things to say about Victorious and it has 2 million views, and it’s a sequel to a five and a half hour long recap of Victoria’s. That’s 4 million views. Like people have a lot to say about these things, and that alone is fascinating to me.
S4: Yeah, that’s so interesting. I mean, I had not. I just don’t I turn to YouTube for like research around specific things or to monitor my children’s, you know, selection of Minecraft experts to look at. It’s not my own place for rest and relaxation, but when I went and checked out some of these videos, I was like, Oh, it’s just podcasts. Like, this is just podcasts. But on a different channel, it’s like podcasts for people who are video people like, yeah, it’s a lot of random creators enjoying their, their ability to self-publish on a platform where anybody can find them to pursue their passions, to display their humor, to do that in a mode that allows them to have kind of quick cutaway jokes, to elaborate visuals they’ve concocted or like Ryan cheeky use of meme slash like stock footage with the Getty watermark still on it. And there’s kind of like a there’s a commonness in the humor I found in some of them, which is that there is a general sense of wryness that that they are setting themselves as experts, but they are obviously just randos on the Internet. That makes them sort of appealing. Like like they’re they wear their authority lightly and as a joke. I’m massively generalizing here, of course, about a huge genre that probably has all kinds of things within it. But having seen both having watch videos ranging from a like deep explication of iCarly and its presence as a series. And then I also learned about the existence of Bread Tube, a kind of socialist subset of this. And then I watched some Australian guy tell me how to become a bread tuba. So his explanatory essay was about making explanatory essay videos, which was like way inside the or a Boris. But what these two things had in common was a certain, like ironical self-awareness of the ridiculously of anyone setting themselves up as an expert at this moment in history. I know I like I kind of get the appeal even though it’s not my bag and it feels similar to the conventions of podcasting where, you know, at various levels of professionalism, people can sit down with a microphone and sort of be like, you know, adopt the like anchor voice and be like, welcome to the blah, blah, blah. Like today’s show we’ll talk about blah, blah, blah. Like, yes, we do that. This is a show. We’ve been doing it for 15 years, but also, you know, you can just kind of adapters, conventions.
S3: I love the Julian, I are on the same page. First time we meet and we’re just in sync.
S3: Wait, so, Dana, did you end up watching any of these? I am very cute.
S2: Yeah, I watched. I watched as far as I could get into them. And I guess I’m familiar with the phenomenon because I do see I mean, I was the one just saying, is this really happening out there in the world? But I see my own teenage daughter watching things like this. Sometimes I’ll be surprised how often we’ll watch, say, a movie, a classic movie together or something. And then I find her searching it up, you know, and there’s some guy talking about all about Eve, you know, at his at his desk, with his with his webcam on. I mean, I agree with Julie that the homemade part of it has has an appeal. And the idea that everybody can put on their own show, I guess I don’t quite see why these have to be visual. And maybe that that comes into what you were saying, Julie, about them basically being podcasts where you can see people talking, not many examples of the ones that we link to anyway have much visual interest. I mean they’re called video essays, but it isn’t as if the person is usually expertly editing clips together in some interesting way or creating an interesting visual background. I mean, most of the time what I was seeing really was sort of a flatly lit person sitting at their IKEA desk with their webcam on, yammering on, and I don’t quite see why that’s nailing people to their seats, but I suppose that your listening modality might be as if it were a podcast, right? You might have this on and be going about your business, not necessarily glancing at the screen that often. It’s a form that seems like it has possibilities that are not being explored by a lot of the creators. But I mean, I guess if they’re popular and getting views anyway, maybe they don’t have to add a lot of visual appeal.
S3: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of YouTube in general, ironically, is not super visually appealing. Like a lot of vloggers make their money by just talking about their lives. And oftentimes there isn’t much in the way of, you know, visual in in that. And I think people are just interested in seeing young people who are smart and like the things that they like and observing them. And of course, also the fact that you can have them on in the background and you’re not totally missing much is very helpful. That’s absolutely how I watch these things because I am always looking at at least two other screens. I am part of the problem. So yeah, I. And I think having little visual content to actually be looking at is pretty crucial. There are some video essayists who are pretty popular that do have more clips that they use more clips. Jenny Nicholson is one who breaks down content. Usually that’s like Disney related, fandom related. She did like a really great video on Dear Evan Hansen that use a lot of clips.
S7: Intellectually, you know what Ben Platt looks like and that he is a normal looking man. But in this film, there is something twisted and unnatural about him. Like you’re looking at a mission impossible style mask of his face, and then they drop, you know.
S3: To the point that Julia made of these being kind of like podcasts you can put on your TV, like you can totally just listen to these things and not miss much, which is what I really like. I mean, that’s why I will sit and play a video game on mute while I am watching five Jenny Nicholson videos in a row and realizing it’s two in the morning.
S5: Yeah. I mean, I think just.
S4: Like the transition towards multi-screen, attention is one that. That is really shaping what gets made and what gets consumed and what’s popular and like. That’s probably always been true. There have been households that have the Today Show on in the background like I, you know, we don’t listen to radio in the car and I just like wonder what information my children will not learn from not having just had like soothing NPR voices, you know, telling you what the capitals of various places are in the background, quietly, your whole childhood, like multitasking, is not like invented in the 21st century, obviously. But, you know, my kids want like three screens at once and I find myself doing it with audio. Like, you couldn’t pay me to think of YouTube as like, what a pleasant place to, like, hang out at the end of a stressful day. Like, the site is so ugly, the like videos look so unappealing. There’s like, you know, three and a half minutes of, like, garbage warm up at the beginning of everything. It just seems like a very inefficient conveyance of entertainment. But that’s just taste, you know, and the fact that my job requires me to, like, sit looking at a screen all day. So when I’m done with that, I want to, like, have something in my ears. But now my eyes. And increasingly, I’ve become agnostic about whether the thing that’s in my ears has attendant visuals that I’m ignoring. Like I’ve totally started listening to TV shows as though they’re radio plays because I, you know, feel like I’ve exhausted the podcast universe. So what’s the difference between me basically listening to Veronica mars with like some light looking up at the screen during confusing moments versus this? I don’t know. It does seem like a form that’s designed for a modern mode of consumption that, you know, is really different than the mode of consumption that is sort of assumed by cultural media, including possibly us. But I don’t know that I’m going to dig way in to this world, but I found myself in this funny alternate universe and I was like, All right, respect you guys. Enjoy yourselves. I’ll see you later.
S5: Yeah, I think.
S2: I’m kind of with you, Julia. I mean, I personally might be a little bit horrified that it seems like the aesthetic, the visual aesthetic of these is sort of the less work put in, the better. Like, look how unprofessional I am. Now listen to me talk for 5 hours. But that is just my own, you know, much edited podcasting self in someone who’s used to thinking, well, we must present information in the most concise and economical possible way. I guess if you don’t enjoy having it presented in that way, you might be just in the right place. But yeah, for me too. YouTube is a place where I go to look for specific things, to do research, to find little clips that I know I’m looking for and not a place that I’m going to hang out as if I were watching TV.
S3: I do want to say, like, you know, a lot of these videos are not visually inventive or exciting, but there are certainly a lot of essayists who do put a lot of work into creating animations. And obviously there’s a lot of research and a lot of content consumption. One of my favorite guys is Tim Rogers, who is also a he is known as a writer who writes like 20,000 words on video games and pulls in from like philosophy and ethics. And he’s he’s kind of a nut and I love him. But he also does very long video essays. And one of my favorites is on this obscure Japanese RPG.
S1: Hello and welcome back to video games. I’m Tim Rogers. You are watching the action button review of Tokyo Machi Memory Audit, a video game whose title we can translate as Heartbeat Memorial or Heart Throb Memorial Developed.
S3: It’s a five hour video and I know he spent hundreds of hours working on this thing and he has many videos that he has talked about, the amount of time he spends simply editing and exporting. And so I have to give these people a lot of props because it’s not so easy to do.
S2: You know, we’ll put links to this article and also to maybe some of these YouTube creators on our show page. And maybe people can go out and sample if they’re not familiar with this phenomenon. And let us know what you think about long form videos, pro or con. Once again, that would be at Culturefest at Slate.com. Now is the time in our show when we endorse something that we loved in culture this week. I don’t have to go first this time because I’m hosting so Allegra, I’m going to start with you. What was something that you encountered that you want listeners to know about?
S3: So I’ve been listening to this podcast from the comedian Connor Ratliff, whose work I’ve been a fan of for many years now. He has done bit parts on shows like Search Party, and he’s known from the Upright Citizens Brigade scene back in the mid 20 tens. And he currently has a podcast that has reached its culmination. It’s called Dead Eyes. And it’s about how in 2000, he, Connor, was fired from Band of Brothers by Tom Hanks himself. Tom Hanks told him that even though they had just given him the role, he was taking the role away from Connor because he had dead eyes, which was a very traumatizing experience for him. So traumatizing, in fact, that he made a whole podcast about it 21 years later. So it’s a it’s very funny, but also a moving listen because he doesn’t just obsess over this one event in his life. Thankfully, he also interviews other comedians, actors, directors, people in Hollywood who have been fired from dream jobs or have done the firing or have had, you know, TV shows they’ve worked on be cancelled at the last minute. So he’s talked to, you know, Judd Apatow, Paul Feig, he talks to even Damon Lindelof and, you know, Ryan Johnson. He talks to a pretty unique group of people. But the show just, I guess, technically ended it reached the real culmination last week because he, Connor, finally got Tom Hanks to come on the show to talk about why he fired him, not that Tom Hanks really would remember, but landing that Tom Hanks interview is kind of the best way that a show like this could end. So I guess that’s a little bit of a spoiler, but it was in the news last week for this reason, so you should definitely check it out. It’s every episode is about 40 minutes. There’s 30, 31 episodes. So it’s kind of long. Kind of long. But I’ve already made it to episode 24 and I just started listening last week, so you can do it. It’s very funny, very worth it.
S2: I feel like the theme to this week’s Slate Culture Gabfest is This object is very, very long. Should it be this long or not?
S3: Yes, absolutely. This is one that I think maybe didn’t need to be this long, but if it took him doing it for this many episodes to land that Tom Hanks interview, it was worth it.
S2: All right, Julia, what have you got for us this week?
S4: I’m going to continue my set of California bragging vegetable related endorsements. A couple weeks ago, I endorsed the Vegetables Cookbook from Alice Waters. Today, I am endorsing Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden. This is a cookbook that I have a bit of a love hate relationship with. He’s a chef from Portland, Oregon, who has lots of delicious recipes that are designed for your farmer’s market finds. And each one of them requires like 47 steps. He seems to think you should cut all vegetables on the extreme diagonal and then soak them in ice water for 20 minutes before you do anything with them. All of which makes cooking kind of a pain in the butt. However, we’ve been feasting on Haru k turnips this year, which I had not really encountered before, and I was like, What do I do with these turnips? And who came through for me? Josh McFadden in six seasons had this like really delicious turn up and turnip green salad with poppy seeds and yogurt and all kinds of interesting stuff that I wouldn’t have thought to put in a salad. So I just want to endorse Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden and her turnips, which I think are ending their season here in Cali. But those of you in colder climes where it’s not yet spring can start looking out. When you’re farmers markets open up, you’re poor only part season farmers markets sad northeasterners.
S5: Oh, you’ve.
S2: So completely left behind and renounced your Yankee identity. I love it.
S4: Now, come on, I need some sunshine and some turnips fresh out of the California soil.
S2: All right. Well, to move on to my own endorsement, since we were talking about video essays and I was questioning, well, what’s so video about them, what’s the visual part? And why are we looking at this particular thing on screen? And it seems like, at least with the particular YouTubes we were talking about, the answer was often, well, what’s on screen is somewhat indifferent. And that’s part of the point. I wanted to endorse someone who makes video essays that are extremely visual and beautifully edited and really kind of do the most they can with that medium. I mean, I guess video essay could mean all kinds of things. And this is something quite different from what we were talking about in that. Segment. This really is more like really a short film, I would say, and I may have endorsed this person’s website on the show before when we talked about the movie Columbus. Julia I’m not sure if you were here when we talked about Columbus, the film No. 2017, that’s about essentially architecture. And the love of architecture is so up your alley.
S4: I know I missed that and I’ve been meaning to see it. Since when? To put it back on the list.
S2: Well, as it happens, the director of Columbus, whose name is Kogonada, he goes by just that single name. He’s a Korean-American filmmaker who’s pretty mysterious. He goes by this pseudonym. Nobody knows very much about his background. He likes to keep his personal life very private. But what he was doing before he made his first film, Columbus, in 2017, and he has just come out, I should say, with another a new movie called After Yang that I haven’t seen yet. Supposed to be great. But how he made his name was in making these video essays that he posted on his website, and they were so successful that he eventually started to be commissioned by various places and magazines to make video essays, but he started off just making them for himself and they are just gorgeous. If you go to Kogonada, Tor.com, KOGO, Neda Tor.com, you can see it’s a beautifully designed site, too, but you can see all these little thumbnails that you click on to watch just little mini movies, most of which are reflections about other movies or about filmmakers, but which also, you know, incorporate they use editing beautifully. They use voiceover in a sort of dreamy fashion. It isn’t, you know, him giving a lecture on the film. It’s more clips from the film themselves and the way they’re put together that that put forward the idea. So to give you an example, he started off with a video on Breaking Bad that he was so successful with that he started to get commissions. You can watch that there. There’s an absolutely gorgeous one called Hands of Bresson. This just about the way the French filmmaker Robert Bresson uses hands in his filmmaking. And so it’s a it’s a big thematic montage of how he films his actors hands. There’s one about Richard Linklater’s films called On Cinema and Time that talks about the way he uses, you know, aging in real time in, for example, the Before Films or Boyhood. And there’s one called Mirrors of Bergman. It’s just about Ingmar Bergman’s use of mirrors in his films. So as you can imagine, this is a kind of a cinephiles delight. These films are mostly in black and white, often about black and white movies, and they’re all edited by him as his feature films are as well. And they’re just a wonderful place to explore cinema, but also through the eyes of a very particular and I think really visionary filmmaker so Kogonada dot com. Check out the video essays there. Well, that does it for this week’s show. You can find links to some of the things we talked about on our Web page, Slate.com slash Culturefest. You can also always email us at Culturefest at Slate.com with feedback about the show or ideas for Slate plus segments for the future. You can also write us an email at Culturefest at Slate.com where you can suggest ideas for a future slate plus segment, or just give your feedback on this week’s show. Our producer is Cameron. Drew’s. Our production assistant is Nadira Goffe. For Julia Turner and Allegra Frank, I’m Dana Stevens. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.
S4: Hello and welcome to the Slate Plus segment of the Slate Culture Gabfest. Today, we take a listener question from listener Emily. She writes, In a recent episode, Julia mentioned her lack of interest in fictional works based in carnivals. I’d love to hear more about that. And if the others also have aversions to films or novels set in certain places or along a certain theme. I avoid work set in prisons, for instance. I get it. It’s horrible that you’re stuck there, but I don’t want to be there with you. Which has meant that I have missed out on some seriously acclaimed films and novels, but I just can’t bring myself to get past it. All right. I love an opportunity to read a question addressed to myself in the third person and then also to further elaborate on a weird peccadillo that I have in my culture viewing before I return to my aversion to carnivals and any other aversions. What do you guys have cooking dinner? You’ve been hosting us. Let me let me turn to you first. What’s what doesn’t appeal to you or as a critic, are you just constitutionally have to dip with evil, equal fervor into any world?
S2: Yeah. You know, I definitely have to try. You know, I feel like probably as a week in, week out critic, more than your average viewer, you have to resist those resistances. But they’re still there for sure. And this is a great thing to think about. I feel like as this conversation unfolds, I will explore more of them. But the first thing that came to mind, although this can be well done, I feel like too often it is not well done enough for me. Are addiction stories. Like it takes a lot for a story, especially a biopic that’s about somebody’s slow spiral or fast spiral into addiction of some kind to to make me really want to engage. And in part, that’s because it’s such a cliché ridden genre, of course, and that, you know, there’s always going to be certain beats that that have to be hit in a biopic about addiction. But I think a part of it for me as well is just like a primal horror about the idea of being addicted to a substance. You know, I think that that’s not something that I’ve dealt with in my personal life or in my close family life. Of course, I know people who are, you know, recovering alcoholics or have some kind of past history of addiction. But it’s not something I’ve witnessed up close a lot of times. And it’s really scary to me, especially if a movie really does a good job at setting up a character in a life and making you care about them in their world. And then you watch them just kind of destroy themselves. It’s it’s really hard. So it’s a combination of resisting that because it’s overdone and resisting it because it is personally scary to me. The slow descent into addiction story. I think on a on a less personally disturbing note and just just something that I find irritating is the occult. I really don’t care about the occult and I don’t find it scary. And almost none of my favorite horror movies revolve around something like, you know, Pentagram, which is possessions, things about the underworld. There are a few exceptions here, and I can think of some horror movies that have that subject matter that I do regard as great films and legitimately scary. But often and this happened with the show Yellowjackets. For me, when there’s a show or a movie that is dangling these little red herring hints about, Ooh, maybe the occult is involved in some way, especially if the show believes in the supernatural and actually thinks there’s some sort of, you know, demon managing the proceedings. I almost immediately lose interest that happened to me with the movie Hereditary as well, which I found tremendously scary and promising for the first hour or so. And the more that it started to be about, Oh, Grandma is in a cult, the less I cared about it. So I guess that’s what I would go with. For starters, addiction stories and stories of the occult.
S4: All right. Those are those are two thought provoking examples. Allegra, what do you have for us?
S3: I really hate anything that’s to do with slavery. Ever since I was like, I remember distinctly learning about slavery for the first time in first grade because my teacher read as some, you know, kids book about it. And then we went on a field trip to go watch a movie about it and it was like traumatizing to me. I just was so upset and disturbed by the fact that this was a thing. I was like, Mom, Dad, please tell me this wasn’t like I was so scandalized by this as I should have been. Like, it is disturbing. So ever since then, I’ve just been like, I can’t deal with this. Like, I tried to watch the Underground Railroad last year because I love Barry Jenkins. Everyone raved. I couldn’t. I watched like three episodes. It was just too upsetting for me. I can’t read novels set during that time. Documentaries about it, it’s very off putting. I did watch 12 Years a Slave, but I was, you know, not a pleasant experience. I loved the movie. It’s an excellent movie, but never, ever, ever, ever going to watch it again. I cannot deal with anything about that period of time. Also, the other thing, on a much lighter note that I don’t care about at all and don’t. Care to watch any content on? With one big exception, is hockey a.
S3: Big love or slavery?
S5: All right. We’re going to come back.
S4: Around to slavery. But. But proceed with hockey.
S3: Like, I don’t I’m not good at any sports. I don’t super love sports, but I will watch the Olympics and love it. And if there’s a good documentary or show about a sport like I will probably be turned on. And I loved The Mighty Ducks as a kid, but that was very much in spite of the fact that it’s about hockey. I think it’s a really boring sport. I don’t care about it. I don’t. It’s not that it’s hard to understand, but I don’t understand it. Like I will never watch Miracle. I don’t care. Like when I walk.
S4: Around, we found where we part ways.
S5: Oh, God, I’m sorry. I just don’t care.
S3: Like, it’s just a bunch of dudes in really big bulky, you know? I don’t care. It’s just not interesting. Like, I don’t like football either, but I am far more likely to watch a movie or show about football than I ever am about hockey because I just hate it. Doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t understand.
S2: It doesn’t seem like you’re missing out on a huge amount of content because I can hardly think of any movies or TV.
S5: Shows, said hockey.
S3: I remember I studied abroad in the Czech Republic during the Winter Olympics, and I think that’s when I made this connection. And of course that’s like a pretty specific.
S4: Yeah, tough, tough place probably to not care about hockey.
S3: Yeah, but it was like hockey was everything. Like everyone was like, we have to go watch this hockey game. It was everywhere. You could not avoid it. And I think it was just like that maybe cemented for me. I don’t care about the saying, I don’t know.
S5: I just have to say the.
S4: Media as posting in the chat about a movie called Go Figure where the plot is a figure skater who has to join the girl’s hockey team to keep his cool fellowship.
S3: In that movie. Nadira. Don’t you worry. I was there for the figure skating. I was. Otherwise I was like, This sounds terrible. Not worth it. Not worth it.
S2: She gritted her teeth and tolerated the hockey in order to get to the skate.
S3: And he was like, You need to get out of that school. It’s not worth keeping that scholarship if you’re the.
S5: People you’re gonna.
S4: Watch. Miracle for for Kurt Russell, if nothing else. I mean, just, just to, to put aside hockey for a moment and loop back around to your other suggestion. I mean, I know so many people who are just like, nope, to slavery content. Like fundamentally it’s not entertainment. And no matter how serious or edifying or morally righteous a re-examination of that period is or how much there could be an argument that like America needs to look at its past in order to make a better future. You know, I have a friend who’s like my movie buddy for all our culture. Gabfest watches in the neighborhood and he’s like, No, I will not see the Harriet Tubman movie with, you know, I will not like I just slavery as entertainment is a nonstarter. So I think you’re not alone in that in that view whatsoever.
S3: It’s not particularly entertaining. It’s hard to make it entertaining.
S4: No. And and or it’s I mean, it feels like most of the motives of people these days who make entertainments about slavery are trying to reckon with really interesting and important questions about race in America and democracy and history. Like the motives don’t seem like, let’s put on a show and tap dance. You know, it’s it’s it they seem like serious projects, but it it just fundamentally even to make the serious point, you’re using all the tools of entertainment in ways that I think my friend finds suspect and and I totally get it.
S2: The same argument is often made about Holocaust films, right? I mean, the idea of Claude Lanzmann Shoah was, you know, let’s make a film about the Holocaust that doesn’t re-enact you know, that is not a reenactment. That is a different way of exploring a piece of history that is too painful to be kind of recycled into into a normal feature film format.
S4: Right, right. No, I was once calumny on the Internet because it was actually the year that 12 Years a Slave made a slave came out. I had never seen Schindler’s List like I never had to see it on a school trip. And if you didn’t see it on a school trip, like what night are you like? You know what? Let’s pop in the VCR tonight, like Schindler’s List. Let’s just cue up the Holocaust. Like if it never came to me as part of any filmmaker, historical, uh, you know, curriculum. And so anyway, I’ve found a bunch of people at Slate who were in a similar boat, and we all had a Schindler’s List watching party. And I wrote a piece about like what it meant to reckon with, like, serious history films. And the internet objected, or at least certain quarters of it did. But, uh, yeah, I’m. I was trying to think. Beyond carnivals, which I can’t even really articulate why. I remember trying to read Geek Love, which was like a novel that people loved when I was in my early twenties and just like struggling to finish it because I just found the whole world sort of. Squalid and freakish and just, like, uninteresting. So, like, I like weird things and weirdness, but not that I don’t know. I don’t. I’m not, like, spooked by it. It’s not like a phobia. It’s just a just an aversion. I think another area of like. In nerdiness of interests. Horses, like, just not interested in your horror story. Wow.
S3: Okay, this really is the part of the show. Just. As someone who geek love is one of my favorite books and was a horse girl, even though I’ve never been on a horse ever in my life and have no interest in doing that.
S3: No. We’d say more about horse content. You just don’t find it interesting.
S4: I find horses terrifying. This actually is a phobia. Like, they’re so fucking huge and fast. And I don’t know, I’m, like, not indoors this. And I don’t know. They always seem like weird story. Like, I love a story about a, like, loner girl. Weirdo. Bring me your Emily of new moon. Bring me your and of Green Gables. You know, bring me your Joe, your tomboys of of young adult fiction past. But I don’t know.
S2: No National Velvet. Oh, my God. The book and the movie are so incredible. They were so, so important to me when I was a teenager. Yeah, here I am with. I’m with Allegra. Except that I actually like horses themselves and actually writing them. But yeah, I absolutely loved, of course, content of any kind as a teenager. And still to this day, just watching a horse run, you know, I mean, horse racing is a very cruel sport, so I have a hard time watching it. But that clip of Secretariat winning the Triple Crown, I still sometimes go back and watch that and remember what a thrill it gave me in 1973 when I was a little kid watching that happen. Just a running horse. What could be more beautiful?
S5: Yeah, horses are beautiful.
S4: I just don’t want to watch content about them.
S3: I will say most content I watch. I really love the movie Seabiscuit. And I used to watch horse racing. Yeah, but, you know, a lot of horse content for children is often made fun of because it’s like it’s really silly and weird, and people are like, almost a weird, psychosexual stuff. There’s a lot of writing about how horse content for young girls in particular is like part of their sexual awakening because horses portray this strong sexual energy. It’s a lot. There’s a lot. And being that is the case. That’s not the case.
S2: What’s wrong with that? If there’s a kind of, you know, warming up for adult sexuality by kind of, you know, loving the beauty and strength of horses? I don’t know. That seems like a a perfectly healthy and fine place to start get started.
S4: It’s just too much about my own sexuality. But it does not involve not talking like it does not involve like just like wordless hulks of muscle, which I understand is some people’s sexuality. But like, maybe that’s it. It’s just like, yeah, and there’s no version of sexuality that doesn’t involve banter to me. And horses are terrible at banter, I think.
S3: I think that’s the reason I am also that I also scoff too, even though I was definitely into that kind of content. But yeah, I mean, I like I like a chatty boy with good quips and a horse has no quips.
S4: No, they’re very, very low on quips. They’re very sincere. It’s it’s stressful. All right. Somehow we’ve gotten into the sexual property horses. I think it’s time to conclude this segment of Slate. Plus, thank you all very much for supporting Slate, supporting and listening to our show. Thank you so much, Allegra. So fun to meet and chat. We will be back next week.