Stuck in the Suburbs

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S1: The following program may contain explicit language and.

S2: Friday, July 31st, 20 20 from Slate’s The Gist, I’m Mike Pesca. The NBA is back. Don’t worry, I won’t regale you with my critique of Lonzo Ball two 13 shooting night. I like Zion Williamson.

S3: I’m on a strict actual basketball minutes, but even if you don’t like basketball, you might find that interesting that the first two points were scored by Rudy Gobert, the Utah jazz player who mocked covid-19 during a press conference in which he purposefully touched all the reporters microphone and then proceeded to test positive for covid-19. This shut down the NBA and pretty much all of America. Where do you go, Barens? Like the Louie Gohmert of the NBA, if Representative Gohmert didn’t pronounce the T were seven feet tall, French black and actually contrite because he honestly didn’t know better, I thought the NBA did a great job positioning their games inside the greater picture of social activism. Both teams, all the coaches, the referees kneeled before the game. The phrase Black Lives Matter was painted on the court. The game announcers, Iron Eagle patriotic name and Stan Van Gundy Moral Beacon went way beyond platitudes. And they’re framing of the issues and their causes important to players. And all the players did this thing where they dropped the names on the back of their jerseys for statements. So we saw freedom, peace, vote, Black Lives Matter. C.J. McCullum went with education reform. He went to Lafayette. Tremont Waters went with stand up. He is five foot ten, but also going with stand up for Michael Porter and Robin Lopez, who are six foot ten and seven feet. Respectfully, Lopez sporting an additional few inches of hair. Stand up. Yes, definitely. Definitely stand up. But Robin, maybe not in the front row for you. In an extreme irony, the tradition of fake names or statements on the back of jerseys in place of names that was created by the NFL, whose players don such phrases as Big Daddy Dedé. And most famous of all, he hates me. Now, I say ironic because the NFL was owned by the WWE, which inducted Donald Trump into its Wrestling Hall of Fame and whose president, Linda McMahon, was an actual member of Trump’s cabinet. So from those roots, we got a fast break where a quality found education reform for the outlet who kicked it back to how many more on the wing trifecta as enough looked on helplessly and the foreign born players. This was great, too. They had slogans in their languages. So the Dallas Mavericks have ten guys named Equality and then four guys named Equality and Slovenian, German, Spanish and Latvian Spanish for equality is equal, dad. The Miami Heat player Andre Iguodala went not with Iguazu dad, but with group economics, which is very Cornell west of him. I did notice that Joe Ingles, the Australian three point specialist who plays for the Jazz, was the one player in the entire NBA to choose as the name on the back of his jersey ally. All these activists, the statement maker, these vocal members doing the work and just one ally. We can use a couple more, I say, in the NBA assists still count on the show. Today, I spiel about some of Trump’s lines of electoral attack. The suburbs getting a little too much shine. But first, Mark Duplass is a filmmaker, actor, writer, musician and the impresario. Yes, apt word of the HBO anthology series Room one, window four.

S4: It’s the show with the most restrictive setting one hotel room, but the least restrictive rules for what counts as a TV show. I talk to him about making those rules often. What makes for a good anthology program in this conversation? That’s up next.

S1: Mark Duplass, along with his brother Jay, are directors and actors, their films include Jeff, who lives at home, Cyrus Bluejay. Actually, I don’t think Jay was associated with Blue Jay. There is an irony. I just love the movie Blue Jay, which Mark wrote. Mark is the creator along with Jay of the anthology series Room One for all. The action takes place in a four hundred square foot hotel room, which you might think limits the action more than it actually does. It’s in season three, which jokes will be the last season unless he reaches just one person and maybe that person is the owner of Amazon or something. Hello, Mark, how are you? I am doing just fine. How are you? I’m doing great. So creativity definitely needs rules to bounce off of like a rubber ball needs a wall. And so you made some write. You made some along with your brother with this show. How do you decide what rules to impose on yourself?

S5: We talk a lot about the efficacy of limits in creativity, and it’s kind of part and parcel with how we grew up making art, which is that we had no access to the quote unquote real way of making art. We had no access to the industry and anyone who might want to help us do it. So we just made up our own way of doing things with the available materials around us. And that felt very right to us. And maybe that’s because it was a part of our initial process, or maybe it’s because of who we are, but that ethics still continues to feel very right to us. I think if you gave me one hundred million dollars and a bunch of movie stars to make a movie, I would feel very paralyzed by that, by the fear of having to deliver that to one hundred million people to make it a success and satisfy so many people. But if you tell me what interesting, strange thing can you make with three hundred fifty square feet, four walls, two actors and only twenty five cents, that’s when I start to spark into my creativity. And it’s not a novel concept, but something that people have done for years. This a really cool story about Igor Stravinsky, who became very creatively paralyzed once he realized how well he could orchestrate as a composer. And he was now swimming in the sea of infinite possibility and had no way of making any decisions because of that. So he would have people come over and and write down a random grouping of instruments on a piece of paper. And then he would cover up that side and then they’d have people write random numbers next to each instrument. And then he would have OK, I got seven oboes, three clarinets, two violas, five bassoons. And I have to write with this and those limits would inspire him. And that’s not very different from what we’re doing with Romona for now.

S1: Do you think that there’s a difference between creativity that is imposed externally, like during the Hays Code? Two people kiss on screen. They had to have a foot on the ground. You just couldn’t show certain things. And from that, some of the rules of film noir arise. But it was because of an external restriction as opposed to the Stravinsky method or the Duplass method where you’re imposing it on yourself.

S5: Yeah, I mean, to me, at the end of the day, it’s kind of the same thing, because once you get immersed in the the act of making art, for me personally, I don’t often think about what are the origins of this structure that we’ve created for ourselves. And also, I think it’s important to know that in the case of self-imposed limits, there’s always this part of the back of your mind that’s thinking, but also when am I going to break these fucking rules? And that’s part of the fun, too. And you should allow yourself the chance to do that every now and then. We have certainly rationalized some things with the show and we have stretched our rules a lot.

S1: So let me ask you, this is a creative question, a question about the creative process that I have, which is normally you work on feature films and this is an anthology series. Does that affect your life as you go about life and you get an idea, a spark? Do you find yourself when you’re working on a feature film? It’s a kind of convergent thinking because you’re trying to solve problems maybe within the script or you have ideas, but you know where it goes and the bigger structure. And it strikes me that maybe an anthology series can be very much a divergent creative thinking process, like let’s just have totally unconnected ideas that still works. Is there a way to manage that or hone that kind of creativity when you’re inside mentally inside one project versus the other?

S5: Well, I think it depends on the anthology series you’re making. We, for better or for worse, have such a consistent tie in between episodes because they’re all in the same room and you’re looking at the same stuff. Every time that we are not ever grasping for themes or tie ins, we’re actually grasping for ways to make them as different as we possibly can so that we don’t become stale. So I think we have a little bit of an easier task in front of us in terms of Diversa. Buying them, as opposed to trying desperately to connect them in some authentic way, that doesn’t really make sense. And so as to that problem of how do we make them different and not the same, the solution really presented itself, I think, in the middle of making season one, where if I’m being totally honest, I think when I started this show, it was much more my pet project. And and it was a way for me to tell the different kinds of stories that I perceived as being off brand with Duplass brothers, as it was currently known, and wait for me to strike out and just get weird in the midnight section. And I did that. And then I quickly realized, oh, there’s kind of only one season worth of stuff where I’m going to be mainly authoring it before it starts to repeat itself. And this also happened to sort of serendipitously or maybe not serendipitously coincide with the time where Jay and I were really realizing the the depth as to how creatively, artistically co-dependent we were on each other as artists. And and the long and the short of the of that relationship is that with the end of Togetherness, our HBO show that ran for just a couple of seasons there, we started to realize that we were about to start repeating ourselves if we hadn’t already. And it took us a long time to figure out why. But our our dime store analysis of why we started to tell a somewhat repetitive tale. And if you look at our our credits from the Puffy chair to Sirius to the pentathlon to Baghdad, to even togetherness, you’ll see a lot of stories about male intimacy and about men who are either brothers or best friends trying to be very close and trying to figure out how to do it while also being individuals, which is exactly what Jay and I have been dealing with for the last 30 years of our lives together. And I think that when you make bad art for a while, like Jay and I did in our teens and twenties, and then when you finally make something good, what happens to you is that you think, well, this is the only thing I have to offer, so I’m just going to do this. So we stuck so steadfastly to that thing that we didn’t realize that we might have the skills now to break out of it. As fully developed filmmakers and as a role model for really was the first place where I allowed myself to deeply collaborate with people other than my brother. And that has been one of the best things that’s happened to me, I think, in my entire creative career, because while it is, it has been sad to see the relative demise of of that just brother Adam that was so exclusive and fun and safe for a while, I’m able to tell better and more interesting stories by collaborating with different people, because I can’t tell you how often I would come up with a movie idea or a TV show idea. And I would say to myself, this is so great, I would love to see it. I can’t make this because either, A, it’s going to be cultural appropriation for me to tell a story or B, I’m not authorized or good at telling these stories. And then when I just said, well, that’s OK, go find the partner who knows how to tell the story. Right. Or even better, tell them the inkling of your story, find out how it coincides with their story and use your platform to help them. So Romona for has been like a big journey of me discovering that like to be a successful artist right now, it doesn’t have to mean I’m executing my vision. It can also mean I’m using whatever platform skills, mentorship, uncle energy I can to give somebody else a shot to do their thing that for whatever reason, they haven’t had a chance to. And that has been the big click in my creative life lately. And it is what has made Ramona for so special to me.

S1: Yeah, big on CalEnergy, the avuncular force right there. Yes, I’ve heard that. Is this the first anthology series and I don’t know so much about the BBC, but it strikes me that this might be the first anthology series that has no genre because The Twilight Zone didn’t have and Black Mirror, they don’t have the same characters. Black Mirror has some motifs, but you know what the genre was going to be. And therefore it kind of dictated a number of the beats and in fact, a lot of the flipped endings. Same with American horror stories and Alfred Hitchcock and and Spielberg’s amazing stories. So I’m I’m wondering if you know of any other anthology series that all bets were off in terms of genre, character, everything except set?

S5: No, I don’t know of any. And I think that there’s a couple of reasons for that. And there might be some good reasons for that. I’ll be honest with you that we’re the only one because it’s a very. Civic thing to ask a viewer to come to your show and not know what you’re going to get and be excited about it. I think what what we watch television shows for in particular, is the comfort of knowing what we are going to get and whether that is I want to go get some fucked up shit from Black Mirror or I want to be with my high school self and watch friends again when life was simpler and just be in a coffee shop. That is what normally attracts people. And the fact that I got as many viewers as I did coming to be surprised by the roulette wheel of the show was a pleasant surprise to me. And I’m I will always be grateful to HBO for allowing me the chance to try something that that all data and all intellect will tell you should not work from an audience perspective. They want to know what they’re going to do and we don’t offer that. The benefits of that, of course, are that it leads for a much more active viewing. You have much better chance of being surprised and thrilled by what’s happening in front of you. You just have to be the kind of person who likes all different kinds of stories. And that is that is never the kind of show that’s going to bring in Game of Thrones numbers. And I and I really do commend HBO for letting me do four seasons of this show, knowing that there was always going to be a certain a certain cap on how how big we were going to be over three years.

S1: Are there any characters or any I don’t want to say themes or any plots that actually you wish you could have more time to develop and get into. Maybe you will.

S5: Yeah, that’s a good question. I think that it’s a good place to be as a creator. If you wish you had more time with any of your stories or characters, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should get that time because you might already be worn out or the audience might be worn out. It’s OK to leave people wanting in terms of audiences, and I think it’s OK to leave you wanting as a as a creator. That being said, there have been a couple of characters. My really good friend, Jennifer LeFleur, who plays Karen in the Fumo episode, which opens up Season three. That was such a delightfully strange character, not dissimilar to my character I play and the movies I’ve made. And people just were obsessed with her. And we did for a little while. We were like, oh, should we continue this? What should we do? But but ultimately, the bite sized nature, I think a role model for and we are we do have a half hour block to make these, but they tend to land more twenty two to twenty four minutes. We try not to overstay our welcome. We try to throw you off the cliff at the end and keep you excited as opposed to dragging it out.

S3: The final season of four is currently airing on Friday nights on HBO. Mark Duplass is the creator and director of many of those episodes. Thanks so much, Mark. Thanks for having me, man. And now the spiel. Donald Trump is engaged in a few projects, fundraisers, photo ops, nightly pressers, reluctant mask advocacy. We know he’s a deal guy and a big picture guy and making comments while he’s about to get on a helicopter person, which is where he was when he revealed that he was another type of person. Well, I’m a therapeutic. Honest, yeah, he’s a therapeutics person, but what he really is and what’s informing all these decisions is that he’s a narcissistic person and a down in the polls person, but that becomes irrelevant because he is a political person. He is involved in a political fight and he doesn’t seem to be doing that well in it. So much of the time he has these outbursts and he chooses different targets of derision. So it’s hard to know. Is this a strategy? Is this a bad strategy? What’s on purpose and what’s just because he can’t help himself? So I wanted to focus on the things that are on purpose, the parts of his fits of pique that someone on his political team approved of and thought might be a good line of attack. Let us review. The main one was to be the economy.

S6: So about that US economic growth shrank thirty two point nine percent in the second quarter. That is by far the largest quarterly drop since record keeping began in nineteen forty seven.

S4: It is about four times the worst quarter that we saw during the Great Recession more than a decade ago. Chief economist Nariman Behravesh of IHS Market calls this a horrific GDP number.

S3: That was CNN and NPR today. So without the economy to campaign on, what is the Trump 2020 campaign emphasizing fear, safety and crime. So how does a president who is president during a rising crime use the increase in crime during his presidency as a selling point by scaring you with the notion that his opponent is worse? In this Trump campaign ad, a scared old lady tries to call nine one one, but only gets an answering machine. And the cold comfort of Sean Hannity making spurious claims in the background.

S7: Joe Biden said he’s absolutely on board with defunding the police. Listen closely. Yes, absolutely. Hello. You’ve reached nine one one. I’m sorry that there is no one here to answer your emergency. Call you as soon as we can.

S3: So there you heard Joe Biden say the word. Absolutely. After the assertion that he wanted to defund the police fact check. That is actually what Joe Biden said. He actually said. Absolutely, absolutely said. Absolutely. Case closed. Let’s go home. Well, actually, you might not believe this, but some greater context reveals that he didn’t say absolutely in favor of defunding the police. He was being interviewed by activist Adi Barkan, who has ALS and speaks through a computer generated voice program. In this conversation, Biden begins to talk about some reforms he favors. He mentions increasing funding for mental health clinics and training, opposing no knock warrants on drug busts, keeping records so that you’re fired by one police department. You can’t move on to the next one so easily since the end of this answer. If you get the sense that it’s long. It is. And he’s talking about.

S4: Well, you’ll hear military equipment for police, a surplus, military equipment for law enforcement. They don’t need that. The last thing you need is an up armored Humvee coming into a neighborhood just like the military invading. I don’t know, anybody could become the enemy. They’re supposed to be protecting these people.

S3: And this is the answer where the inculpatory adverb was uttered.

S4: We agree that we can redirect some of the funding.

S3: Yes, absolutely, we can redirect some of the funding becomes Joe Biden wants to defund the police, that statement saying that Joe Biden thinks this, that was judged a lie by most fact checkers. Pinocchio pants posited as being quite a flame. Now, Trump is also making a related play for suburban voters, announcing that he’s eliminating a federal program that just ended the rule on suburbs, you know, the suburbs.

S8: We will fight all of their lives to get into the suburbs and have a beautiful home. There will be no more low income housing forced in to the suburbs. I abandoned and took away and just rescinded the rule. It’s been going on for years. I’ve seen conflict for years. It’s been hell for suburbia, rescinded, abandoned and took away.

S3: But did he revoke, repeal and abrogate? So we’re talking about a rule that dates back to twenty fifteen and that is behind the tweet. I am happy to inform all of the people living their suburban lifestyle. Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood. The tweet referred to the affirmatively furthering fair housing rule, which has been called by MIT researchers who studied it the most significant federal effort in a generation to advance fair housing. Voters should know that the Trump administration had suspended the rule in 2018. So this new proposal isn’t new, but it is kind of a blow to fair housing. Fantastic hope that worked for you. It probably won’t. And here’s why. Trump’s problem with this tweet as an election play is that he accepted generation who regarded Queens as too rustic before fleeing to Gotham, doesn’t understand the suburbs. He’s obviously saying something scarily racial and trying to dredge up scary images. But when he speaks of the beautiful suburbs and the suburban lifestyle dream, he’s actually dog whistling to a breed of dog that does not hunt. Now, this is a little different from the crime argument. Maybe you heard both of these. You say these are both ridiculous. They’re based on lies, they’re misleading. They have no appeal to me or any person that I would associate with. But I want to point out the difference, because when it comes to crime, people do fear crime. There are many negative associations with crime, but there are few positive associations with the suburbs. True, people live in the suburbs and they might like their own suburb. But think about the place the suburbs maintain in the American consciousness. If you did a focus group and did a word association, phrases that would come up would be things like soul crushing, suffocating, certainly words like boring and informative. It’s hard to find a positive mention of the suburbs in any visual media that is not in black and white.

S4: And this is not a new sentiment, this conception of the suburbs, this classic suburban housewife with their pearls and her spatula who says things like, well, the Hendersons at dinner.

S3: That was from the pilot episode of Desperate Housewives, which aired more than 15 years ago. The anti suburban sentiment by now pervasive, has been in the culture for decades.

S4: I want to thank you for your point of view. I know how difficult it must be for you to overcome all those years. Upper middle class suburban depression, shitty suburban wasteland.

S6: I was thinking, Nancy Wheeler, she’s not just another suburban girl who thinks she’s rebelling by doing exactly what every other suburban call does until phase passes and they marry some boring one time jock who now works sales and they live out a perfectly boring little life at the end of a cul de sac.

S3: That was 10 things I hate about you from nineteen ninety nine. Thirteen reasons why not from twenty eighteen and stranger things from this year, but set in nineteen eighty three and four. These aren’t edgy sentiments expressed in obscure indie fare. These are mainstream and extremely popular TV shows and movies. This isn’t a punk rock thing, but if you want that, we got that to. Green did not have strong backing of the suburbs, the Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs also don’t have nice things to say about the suburbs. Most artistic depictions do not. And the reality agrees not just on hard to measure quantities like boredom, but on things like poverty. Poverty is rising higher in the suburbs than in rural areas or in cities or on drug overdoses, the highest rate of which was in the suburbs, according to Pew today. Nate Cohen of the New York Times wrote that the Trump play to suburban voters might not work because, quote, Overall, just 38 percent of voters in the suburbs approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance, compared with 59 percent who disapprove. My contention is not only do suburban voters not approve of Trump, they don’t really approve of the suburbs. Oh, like I said, they might like their town or their school or their neighbors. But as a category, the suburbs are not something to preserve. They’re not the stuff of dreams. Maybe they’re not the stuff of nightmares. They’re more like the stuff of being tired and tiresome, which actually describes most suburban residents attitudes towards Trump and this particular attempt to rouse their passions.

S2: And that’s it for Today Show, Margaret Kelly produces the gist, the name on the back of her game, Jersey, is choral group economics. Daniel Shrader produced the gist. He plays under the uniform with the name. Well, it’s just the unamused emoji. Alicia Montgomery is the executive producer of Slate podcasts. The back of her jersey reads Nifty The Gist. You may know me by my uniform name. He slayed me. I’m proud that produ Peru.

S9: And thanks for this.