“One Year in the Dungeon” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.

S2: Hello, I’m Karen Hahn, and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest, one year in the Dungeon edition, it’s Wednesday, August 18th. Twenty twenty one on today’s show, we’ll be talking about the new movie Chota, about a young girl who’s the only hearing member of a deaf family who discovers a passion for singing. For that segment, we’ll be joined by guest Sara Novich. And then we’ll be talking about the new video game boyfriend Dungeon, which is a Dungeon crawler dating SIM which sees you dating your weapons who can turn into humans and back again. And finally, we’ll be talking about the new Slate podcast, one year with host Josh Levin, which covers all the important events that occurred in one year in this case, 1977. Today, I am joined by senior managing producer of Slate podcasts and co-host of Working June Thomas. Hi, June.

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S3: Hey, Karen. Thank you for having me.

S2: So delighted to be here because none of the normal culture Gabfest hosts are here. Also joining us is associate editor Marissa Martinelli. Hi Marissa.

S4: What are you talking about? I’m Steve Metcalf, neoliberalism, Taylor Swift.

S2: I want to hear where the rest of this impression is going.

S4: There’s nothing else to occupationally 1980s.

S2: Yes. Today we have a Bizarro edition of Culture Gabfest with three guest hosts, but we are talking about normal topics. The topics themselves are not Bizarro. I should make that very clear. They are normal topics and we are discussing them with the appropriate amount of solemnity. So for our first segment, we’ll be talking about the new movie Coda, directed by Sean Heter, which stars Amelia Jones as Ruby Rossi, a young girl who is the only hearing member of her deaf family. Her parents, Frank, played by Troy Concer and Jackie, played by Marlee Matlin and her older brother Leo, played by Daniel Durant, are all culturally deaf. The story revolves around her discovering her talent for and passion for singing and how that threatens to pull her away from her family, especially as their fishing business goes independent. And we’ll go now to a clip from the movie in which Ruby interprets for her father, played by Troy Concer at a meeting with the other local fishermen.

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S5: We’re tired of this shit. Go. Yeah, you don’t care if these guys regulators to death because you’re the only one making money here. No one’s getting paid what their cash is worth. My dad fished and his dad, so I’m going to fight like hell to stay out on the water. Yeah. Screw yourself. I’m done with the auction.

S6: Oh, yeah. What are you going to do?

S5: We’re going to sell our own fish. Any of you want to join us? Hey. Hey. What is it you like giving this asshole 60 percent of your paycheck? No way. Bring us your catch and we’ll double what you’re getting now.

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S2: And we’re now joined by author Sara Novi? Josh. Hi, Sara, so nice to have you with us.

S7: Nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

S2: So we’ll start, I think, just with general impressions of the movie. I watched it for the first time just a couple of nights ago and was really struck. I thought it was really amazing. Marissa tune Sara. What did you guys make of it?

S4: Yeah, I saw this movie for the first time recently and was struck by two things. First of all, this was a big deal at Sundance Film Festival. It won a bunch of awards there and was acquired for twenty five million, which for such a small family drama is a big deal. The other thing that listeners should know is that this is a remake of a French film, which I will butcher surely the pronunciation of the title Le Famille Bellear. Hopefully that’s close. But in translating it for an American audience, they changed a lot about it. And at the most fundamental change, I think, is the casting, because the original film cast hearing actors as the main character’s death family. And I think that it’s hard to understate what a big deal that is. For all that one of the lead actresses, Marlee Matlin, has been advocating for years. She really put her foot down and insisted on casting deaf actors. And in fact, I think Troy CATSA, who plays Ruby’s father in the movie, is very much the standout. And it’s hard to imagine this movie without him.

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S3: My first impression with before I read anything was, oh, I’m really relating to this because I have something similar in my life. I was the first person in my family to go to college and a lot of the drama is in this case, it’s about a hearing member of a deaf family who is different from them. Now, she’s always known that she’s different from them. They’ve always known that she’s different from them. But really, the story is about that separation. You know, she’s 17. You know, it’s the age where some kids might go to college, some kids might leave home to work or in this case, join the family business. And, you know, I had my own version of that where I was taking a different path from my family. And then I started to read reviews by deaf people, actually, maybe only one. I read a response from Jenna Beacon. And, you know, I’ll be honest, I felt a bit guilty, which is not the point. It’s not about my guilt. It’s irrelevant. But she pointed out some things that were as soon as you point out, like, oh, my goodness, yes, the film kind of makes these deaf people be powerless. They’re dependent on the hearing person in their family in a way that really valorise is the hearing and makes it seem like deaf people are incapable of, you know, self-sufficiency.

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S7: It’s complicated for me because on the one hand, we’re kind of starved for representation in Hollywood. And often we’re like cats, just like in the French movie. There are if there are deaf characters, it’s a hearing person playing them, usually badly. And then when we do see ourselves, we kind of have to contend with like, oh, that’s what that’s what you think. But at the same time, like I was, every time I see a deaf person on screen, I cry pretty much just because I get so excited. And this was no exception. You know, even when I saw the coda in real life signing at the inauguration, Andrea, I think her name was the credit that just like any time you get to see sign language on screen, I kind of like freak out and I’m rooting for that. So that happened here in Canada, too. And like, I love that. I think it’s kind of unprecedented to have three deaf leads in a movie. And I think I really you know, obviously Marlee Matlin is like a legend and you almost expect her to be amazing. And she was. And but really, I think Troy was kind of next level. And so then when then, of course, when you see hearing people writing about it, they’re like the breakout stars. Amelia and Amelia is talented, but she’s also kind of the straight, straight movie and a lot of ways.

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S4: Amelia, is Amelia Jones playing Ruby, the hearing character

S3: who I was surprised to learn is British. And so and she learned to sign for the movie. But even if she had already known signed, she would have. British sign language, so she would never have been a native speaker of sign anyway, right?

S4: The title of the movie and Sara I use the term as well as CODA, which stands for Child of Deaf Adults, which is interesting in this case because a coda is also a musical term and a major subplot of the French original and of this movie is that Ruby is a singer and wants to go to college for music. And I have to say, when I heard that premise a little bit, I rolled my eyes

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S7: because

S3: there’s

S4: there’s a little bit of a cutesy irony that assumes deaf people don’t appreciate music. And the movie does engage with that a little bit. But I was surprised by how much this movie is very conventional in certain ways. It’s almost you can predict beat for beat where it’s going in terms of Ruby has an inspirational singing teacher who is coaching her through. You can kind of see where the overarching drama of they have a fishing boat and they’re grappling with wider systemic issues in terms of lack of access and not there are apparently no interpreters in this Koda universe. And so it’s very conventional. It reminded me and a lot of ways of Lady Bird in terms of having a mother daughter relationship where family obligation clashes with going to college away to college. But in a lot of other ways, I feel like I’ve seen this movie a hundred times beyond the specificity of having a deaf family. I mean, you really can trace, OK, Ruby’s crush. This is how that’s going to work out, Ruby’s relationship with her mom. That’s how this is going to work out.

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S3: Yeah, and there was a slight twist like I mean, again, I’m seeing it all in my own life, but there are movies like Brassed Off or Kinky Boots, even where, you know, there’s some kind of art form that allows a person, a young person to to move out of their narrow little community, which is like, oh, it’s such a cliche. At the same time, it’s often rousing to you’re like, oh, my God, yes, sing, baby, sing. You know, like it’s it’s it makes you feel like very torn between the the cliche, but also it’s fun.

S7: Yeah. It’s pretty much kind of beat for beat Billy Elliot I think another one. But I mean I love Billy, it’s the same, same kind of problem where you’re like but it’s so fun, you know.

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S3: Yeah, totally.

S7: It’s particularly it’s particularly frustrating for deaf people obviously though, because it’s because we have such little screen time. It’s like a confirmation bias where people are like, oh, poor deaf people. Like so many times people come up to me it’s a weird thing to say to someone’s face, but ah, like, I would just die if I couldn’t hear music, you know, like people really think that. So that on screen is annoying. And I actually think the story of like a first gen college student, you know, just without the music she could have been studying anything is kind of more compelling anyway. Maybe that’s also my own bias as a freshman college student. But but I don’t think that we needed the music part for this to be an interesting story. I think the family is interesting. I think the conflict of the business is is interesting. I think all of the lack of access stuff is compelling. If the movie had been set like forty years ago and that was actually the case. ADA, of course, people are relying on family members to get interpreters today, you know, if you don’t get a court interpreter, that’s super illegal. So part of me wondered, like if there was a hearing or if there was a deaf writer of the movie that they would right away kind of be like, oh, this doesn’t make sense. I actually just assumed it was set in the past until some until Cleo took out of his iPhone or whatever. And I was like, wait, what about that the whole time

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S3: plot twist

S2: thing? Like it feels maybe more like a way to sell the story than something that necessarily helps it along. Like in terms of the logline, I don’t remember who said it, but calling it like cutesy like that is ultimately what it is or it’s like, oh, well, like they they won’t understand it or whatever. And even the ultimate ending of the movie, I’m not I won’t spoil it. But the ending also felt to me almost too cut and dry as well. Like I almost thought they were going to go the other route with it, because it starts like before the big decision. But when it cuts to the computer, whatever, I was like, oh, like it is just going in the very typical state kind of route, which was a little disappointing because I feel like maybe just because of the strength of the performances from especially Troy Concer, but also Marlee Matlin and Daniel Durant, where I was like, it feels like these performers can give a lot more to the story than is necessarily available to them.

S4: One thing I loved about Marlee Matlin character in particular is that she seemed to be having fun. Yes, she plays tends to play very much more buttoned up characters. And to see her be kind of messy was enjoyable for me because she does it so well.

S7: Yeah, it’s really nice to see death, Joy. That’s that’s definitely something that we see. Like if we get portrayed on film and TV, you get discrimination story. Something horrible happening to you. There was a lot of like they were having fun in this movie. They were having sex in this movie, which is another thing like that. People usually end up as like Tiny Tim syndrome, where you’re just like st-, kind of asexual, very innocent or sexually abused, which is, you know, also a true problem for kids who are cut off from communication from adults they trust. But this was this was fun and different from what we normally see, which I really enjoyed.

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S4: Was there anything you noticed Sara about the sign in the film that we may have just missed as hearing people who don’t sign?

S7: I mean, Troy is just such an amazing signer, like there’s different continuum gradients of ASL, like there in any language. And his ASL is like he’s like almost like a poet when he’s just talking. I mean, in ASL you have matching hand shapes and hand movements that kind of feel like they would rhyme almost. And he has his ASL is just really beautiful that there’s a scene where he’s talking about a condom. I was like on the floor laughing and and also thinking how how were they ever going to get a hearing guy to do this? Because that’s so much of a hassle is descriptive be a classifiers which are like specialized pronouns that you kind of use. To describe the quality of things, so it’s not like a one to one translation between words, there are signs that are like straightforward nouns or whatever, but then there’s all these different classifiers that you use to describe things and that’s what is so good at. And that’s what makes that scene so funny. And it seems it seems impossible like you’d have to learn ASL for four years and years and years and years. I mean, he’s he’s a native signer, obviously, Sara.

S4: Was there anything else you wanted to touch on?

S7: I hope that people watch this movie because I think that deaf actors deserve to be on screen. And I think that these actors were exceptional. And I you know, I also hope that people take this movie with a grain of salt because deaf people are not a monolith and they’re not helpless. I do actually think that the movie shows in the end that obviously they can do everything themselves. They were just scared, which is a human thing, not a death thing. And so I hope that people kind of look out for that rather than just take the confirmation bias that is kind of offered to them at times in the movie.

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S4: Watch till the end.

S2: All right. I think, uh, overall, that is a recommendation from the culture Gabfest for CODA

S3: for

S2: sure. So it is streaming currently on Apple TV plus. So you can watch it there. Sara. Thank you so much for joining us.

S7: Thank you, Josh.

S2: Before we get too far into the show, it’s time to talk a little business Marissa what you got?

S4: Our only item of business this week is to tell listeners about today’s Slate plus segment. This week, we’re answering a question from a listener. Emma wrote to us and said, Dear culture Gabfest, which writer living or dead would you nominate to write each of your biographies? And June actually suggested we add a second part to this question, which is who we would want to play us in our biopics. So we’ll answer Emma’s question and Jeunes in our exclusive slot plus segment later in the show. If you’re a Slate plus member and you have a question or topic that would make a good slate plus segment, feel free to email us at Culture Fest at Slate Dotcom. If you’re not a Slate plus member, you can sign up today at Slate Dotcom Culture. Plus, it’s only one dollar for your first month. And for that dollar you’ll get ad free podcasts and lots of bonus content, like our exclusive Slate plus segment. You’ll also get to hear members only programming on other slate shows like Slow Burn and the Political Gabfest and members get unlimited access to all the great writing on Slate Dotcom. You’ll never hit a paywall if you’re a slate plus member. So do us a favor and support our work by signing up at Slate Dotcom Culture plus again, that slate dot com slash culture plus thanks.

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S2: All right, for our next segment, we’ll be discussing boyfriend Dungeon, a new Dungeon crawler dating SIM video game developed and published by KFOX Games. So the premise of the game is that you’ve moved to a new town and you’re starting to get to know the people there. But as it turns out, some of the people are able to turn into weapons who you then take with you into dungeons to help you defeat manifestations of the things that are plaguing you in your real life. So we’re about to hear a clip from the game just to set it up a little bit. The voice, the very husky voice that’s speaking is Izak, one of the characters in the game who is able to turn into a IPE? I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that correctly, but actually is isn’t he?

S3: And iStock?

S2: Oh, you’re completely correct. Yeah. Juna’s obviously paid more attention to the details of the game than I spent

S3: a lot of time with Isaac Bizarro, a teacher.

S2: That’s true. And that’s exactly what’s happening in the clip. He’s the first sword that you meet or first weapon that you meet. And so he is sort of walking you through the basics of the game, telling you like what you have to be aware of as you go into these dungeons with him as your companion.

S6: Forgive me for remaining in this room. For now. It takes some effort to change shape and I’d rather focus on the lesson at hand. Your hand on my hilt is as good a handshake as any after all. Now, if you take a look around, you’ll see we’re in a mall. A Dungeon is a place you can confront your insecurities here. Your own psychology will create monsters to fight. I chose the mole because most people have fears that easily manifest here.

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S2: So the basic premise of the game is sort of two sections, one section is you fight your way through Dungeon, which is the pretty standard hack and slash of any video game where you’re fighting a bunch of enemies. But the kind of more attractive side of the game or the side of the game that more people are kind of hyped about is the dating game aspect for those of you unfamiliar with the term. It basically means one of the main engines of the game is getting to know these characters and getting to go on dates with them and sort of choosing who’s going to be your ultimate Dungeon boyfriend, as it were. And in that sense, it’s a little bit more of a visual novel where the story, the focus is less on the fighting. It’s a little bit more on the story and the relationships that you managed to develop with these characters. So all of us have managed to play at least a little of the game to varying degrees. I’m curious what you two Marissa in June, the thought of it.

S4: I’m really fascinated by the rise in recent years of dating simulators with just weird premises like a big breakout one a few years ago was a dream daddy, where you play as a dad who dates other dads in your neighborhood and there’s, you know, Raptor boyfriend where you’re dating a dinosaur. KFC released its own branded dating simulator where you’re romancing Colonel Sanders. There is just so many takes on it. And I found this one intriguing in that you really have incentive to spend time with a lot of different characters because you want to level up your weapon. Right. So I mostly focused on the area of the dagger purely because I needed a weapon that I could upgrade fast because of any particular attachment to her. But I really enjoyed the sort of double entendre and how they leaned into the weirdness of dating your sword right. At one point, a character sex you and he’s like, feel an extra sharp baby. Yeah, I was like, oh, it’s that kind of game. What about you, June? How did you find it?

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S3: Oh, I, I felt like I wasn’t having the ideal experience because I don’t have any experience playing these games or rather I haven’t played games on my on a computer for decades. Like the last time I played a computer game was when I had a PC and I think I was playing like age of empires and like hell. Yeah. You know, classic, which I guess is a SIM card. In that sense. I was slowed down by my inexperience, but I have to say I just thought it was weird. Like it was just weird. I guess it was a little bit appropriate because the kind of understory, I guess, of the dating part of it is that the character you whatever name you’ve given yourself, I gave myself the name Flo for some reason, has never dated, never been on a date. And so you’re kind of learning how to date, which, you know, there may be people who who are doing this experience, playing this game, who are in that position. But I myself, I’m in a position where I’m like kind of not dated for a long time. I’ve been in a relationship for a long time and it just kind of made me anxious, not about not having not figuring out how to use my sword properly, but just all the things of dating, of having to make decisions about who you’re going to get back to. My phone was always buzzing. Why do I have to keep, like, contact with people who I’m not enjoying talking with? But you got to. So it just it made me so anxious. And I get that that’s kind of, you know, as we heard from Isaac at the beginning, you know, you’re going to hear about your insecurities. But like, I didn’t enjoy that. I don’t want to know about my insecurities. Karenni sense let you play a lot of these games. Like, do you find it fun?

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S2: Yeah, I wouldn’t say I play a lot of dating Sims in particular, but of the three of us, I am probably the biggest gamer, which sounds like an insane thing to say about yourself in a positive way. But yeah, I really the thing I think about this game is like the Dungeon aspect is not my favorite part of it. I almost wish it was more leaning into the dating scene or visual novel aspect because I think that’s what it really does. Well, like, one of the things that I really enjoyed is that each of the characters has a different texting style where, like Isaac, the character that we heard in the clip is very formal. He uses like proper punctuation and capitalization. And he will be like, what’s the what’s the good emoji to use for this? Like, he’s a little buttoned up, whereas sonder, if anyone looks up his art, he’s the one who has a blazer but no shirt like he is constantly texting. Things like you up are like very short and curt kind of messages that are just very it’s very funny to see how they bring out the different characters. And that’s what’s fun about it. And I would say that’s generally what’s fun about dating Sims in particular, because it’s like who do I think has a really cute avatar? And then who is actually like who has a cool personality? Because I also played a little bit of dream daddy, when it came out, and I really liked the Goth dad, but his personality was like so pedantic that I was like, I can’t I can’t date this man.

S4: What’s weird about dating Sims in general and this one in particular is that it really boils down dating to an algorithm. Right, where you’re and I think the game is aware of this because at one point there’s a character who’s like, oh, I hate dates and having to figure out which dialogue option to choose because it’s true. You often get three choices. And if you say the wrong thing, you can tell that the character doesn’t like it and you don’t get as many points. And so in that way, it’s very cynical. Same thing with gifting. And this is true of a lot of dating. Sims, like you have an inventory and you have to decide, is this gift something that’s going to get me a lot of points or is this going to be a gift that they’re not really into? So there’s a certain cynicism there because you are very aware, I think, of the transactional nature of building relationships with these fictional people. But I think the tradeoff there is that dating Sims are asking something of you that even other forms of romantic escapism don’t ask of you. Right. Like reading a romance novel or watching a romantic comedy, you’re not in control in the way that you are here. And so I think that in addition to just being very engaging because you are making the decisions and trying to figure it out for yourself, you also have to be a little bit like, OK, I’m a person who’s dating in this game and I’m making these choices. And, you know, I did not come up with a cool name like Flo. I used my real name. I so often you had, like, Isaac being like Marissa. Let’s confront your insecurities together is like, all right, I think let’s confront insecurities together. So in that aspect of it, I definitely see why it could be really appealing. I found to that the Dungeon crawling was not as it almost got in the way. Yeah.

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S3: Can you just clarify what is Dungeon Crawley like? I know what those two words mean separately, but in the gaming context, Karen, what what does it mean?

S2: So it’s a pretty common genre of game. And what it basically means is like it’s typically like fantasy role playing. It’s just you have to get through a Dungeon word that’s like kind of the main thrust of the game, literally, like the Wikipedia definition of Dungeon crawl is a type of scenario in which heroes navigate a labyrinth environment, a Dungeon, battling monsters, avoiding trap, solving puzzles and looting any treasure they may find. And this is a pretty common I guess so I would say like the very classic, like Dungeon crawl mode is usually like in tabletop where tabletop gaming, where it’s like you’re going through a dungeon, you explore each new room, you discover what’s in there and and you can sort of, I think, glean the meaning kind of maybe more clearly, like as you’re playing boyfriend Dungeon, where again, it’s like you’re going through the mall in this case and room by room. Is there a treasure here? Is there new sword here? Is there something special about this room? So that’s basically the gist of the genre, if that makes sense.

S3: It does. Thank you.

S2: So as of now, there are seven dateable options. I would say that one of them is not really dating. It’s more just getting to know them because one of the characters, slight spoilers, is just a cat, a very sweet little cat named Pocket. So have you guys all seen, at least seen the avatars of all of these dateable options?

S4: I had to look some of them up because

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S2: I can drop a wiki link in the chat.

S4: It seems as though this is a long haul kind of game where you’re not going to meet all your options up front. Like, for example, I have met you. Meet Isaac right off the bat. You meet Valaria and Zehnder relatively quickly. But I saw from watching other people’s play through is that like there’s a K pop idol on level nine, which I did not get that far down. There’s a some sort I don’t even remember the type of weapon, but someone threatened me on the outskirts of town and I’m assuming that that person is romance novel. But right now our relationship consists of tried to kill me. There’s a blacksmith in the game who is not a weapon person who is sort of an antagonist, who does not stop texting you. And in fact, there was some controversy about this because I gather that this person is ultimately going to be a villain in the game. But they really are relentless and they have this sort of his name is Eric. He has a pick up artist mentality. He’s a really good example. He’s constantly hitting on you. He doesn’t take a hint, unlike a. Are characters, and so some criticism of the game was that there were not content warnings to let you know you were being stalked.

S2: I think the main criticism was that it wasn’t enough because I sort of am on the other side of the spectrum where I think, like it says like right up front when you start the game, like these themes will include like stalking, like this might show up in the story. And I felt like I was you can see the red flags in Eric’s behavior early enough that that plus the content where you can kind of see where the story’s going. I think the the straight the bigger problem with what’s going on is a lot of people are saying, like, I wish there was a way to opt out of this. But really the main thrust of the whole story is about you learning to deal with this guy is obsessive behavior and trying to, like, have more agency for yourself and learning how to deal with this in your life. So it’s more of a question of like, are you trying to just only do the dating and disregard the story that these developers have put into this game completely? Or like, what are you trying to get out of this game? Can you. Is it the fact that you think of dating Sims is very like fluffy or weightless kind of genre? Like, what is the bigger problem here?

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S4: I found that especially interesting because the few dating Sims, I’ve seen KFC aside, they usually do delve into heavier themes. They’re not just fluff. Right? Often getting to know these characters means uncovering their own insecurities. And sometimes they can touch on very heavy topics. Even Dream Daddy deals with things like, you know, anxiety and sham marriage, that kind of thing. So as much as some of these promises are silly, the games themselves can touch on some very heavy issues.

S2: So let’s get back to the good stuff. Maybe this is hypocritical to say after just discussing, like, what is it that you really want to do Zim’s? Are you not taking the standard seriously? But OK, but seriously, though, who would we date?

S3: Well, that was I mean, I have to admit that I did not get very far because my fighting style really needed so much of Isaac’s attention and I mostly spent my time with him. But I find that frustrating because I get that it’s a game and I get that to to proceed in the game. You just have to kind of spend time with these people. You got to put in the reps. But for example, Sonder, who’s the first non isaach person like I could see right through him, not because I’m this like super perceptive reader of people, but just because, like, he’s obviously kind of a dick. And I didn’t want to spend time with him, but I understood that I had to. I mean, he looks great. All of the people look great in like the art is really, really good. The music is really, really good. But ultimately, I didn’t want I didn’t want what they were offering any of them. I didn’t want to fight. I didn’t want to make out with any of them because they’re all the people that I met were so flawed, except Isaac seems like too nice. But he also says up front that he’s not for dating. So, like, I just it wasn’t giving me what I wanted,

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S4: I think has a great voice. Oh, my. He was my favorite one to actually fight with because I found him very encouraging and soothing in the Dungeon for that reason. But ultimately, the reason I went with Valaria was literally the gift I had was a bracelet. And she was into that. I was like, all right then seal the deal.

S2: I was I sort of wonder, June, if you if you might have like this game more, if you’d played it on the Nintendo switch, which is the way that I did it, because the controls, I think, are a little bit easier on console than they are on PC. I guess for anyone listening who does want to who is interested in playing this, it’s available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Linux and Microsoft Windows via Steam. I will say I did beat the game

S3: well,

S2: and I really liked the K Pop Idol character. I thought he was great seven and he’s the one that I ended up dating at the end. He’s a little bit Opie or overpowered as a as a as the term goes,

S4: the laser sword. Right, is a laser sword.

S2: Yeah, I love that. It’s awesome. I think it’s all the storylines are pretty good. I think the only person that I didn’t spend any time with was Sawyer because they’re like, I have to get to school.

S3: I don’t have any money

S2: to buy food. And I was like, you’re a child. Like, you shouldn’t be dating. Like, I don’t want to spend time with you.

S3: Oh, my God, that’s creepy. I don’t I mean, not not that creepy. I don’t mean literally, but like, I would be his grandmother. I don’t want to do it. And I’m like, no, that’s just weird.

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S2: Are you thinking of flow as your own age?

S3: Yeah. Yeah.

S4: I love that you made a fake name for her character, but still strongly identify

S3: who’s exactly me just with another name and blue hair. Yeah.

S2: Oh OK. Is that is that your ideal other self that you would have blue hair maybe.

S3: Maybe I’ve never, ever in my whole life like, but put any color of my hair, so we have this special video edition.

S2: All right, so that’s it for boyfriend Dungeon. Again, the game is currently out and does have an updated content warning and is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Linux and Microsoft Windows. All right. Moving on. For our final segment of the day, we’ll be talking about the new Slate podcast one year. So the show covers the people and struggles that changed America one year at a time. And each episode host Josh Levin explores a story you may have forgotten or one you’ve never heard of before. The first season of one year focuses on 1977, a year when gay rights hung in the balance routes dominated the airwaves and Jesus appeared on a tortilla. We’re now about to hear a clip from the sixth episode of the season Roots. The saga of Alex Haley

S1: Roots was the most watched television event in U.S. history. But it was more than just a pop culture phenomenon. Roots was also a corrective to the lies and stereotypes propagated in movies and textbooks.

S6: The narrative around it in the school system where slavery was what helped to civilize uncivilized African savage people.

S1: Now it felt like all those old destructive myths were getting left behind, replaced by something richer and more authentic, something true. That new real narrative came from Alex Haley.

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S6: It just seemed to me that if you really knew the story behind us as a people, if you really knew the way that those who are our ancestors had been brought out of what was their home land, that every one of us ought to weep, that that thing called slavery had ever occurred in human Ms.

S3: By Josh, you are a magnificent narrator, thank you for joining us today.

S1: Takes one to know Dungeon. Thank you.

S3: So every season one year brings a number of stories from a single year as as we said, the first season focuses on 1977. I love the show’s concept. It’s both a formal limitation and like a wide open canvas. We’ll spend a little bit more time on one episode in a moment, but I would love for you to tell us about the stories you chose to tell, how you thought about what kinds of topics you’d focus on, what you wanted to avoid, and how do you found the seven stories that you finally went with?

S1: Yeah, so we chose the year that we went with 1977 because it was an interesting time period where things in America did seem like they were changing and progressing. But also there was a lot of pushback, but also because it wasn’t dominated by one particular thing, like it wasn’t a year where Vietnam or Watergate loomed over everything that was happening in America. And so the value proposition here of like will tell you about a bunch of different, maybe smaller things and they’ll tell you about the whole world. It seemed like it was maybe more true with this year than other years. But we, like you said, the kind of limitation here is really not much of a limit at all. You can tell a story about anything that you want, any subject. And some of the stories like Anita Bryant, like Roots were ones that were enormous at the time and that people probably know a little bit about now and then. Like our final episode, the story about this family that found the image of Jesus on a tortilla, it was one that if you knew about it at the time, it was maybe from like a wire story, like a tiny item in a in a newspaper. And so that was an opportunity to tell the story behind that story. And so I guess the answer is like not feeling any particular obligation to tell any one story or any one kind of story which felt very liberating, that we could just choose the ones that spoke to us or the ones that felt like they would be best served by this kind of narrative treatment.

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S3: When you’re writing or podcasting about history, just to say events that happened in the past year, that’s history, there’s often a sort of clash between hearing how something played out however many years ago, because you want to allow 20, 21 listeners to understand how it felt to experience those events in 1977 as much as possible. But that sometimes causes a clash with contemporary attitudes and thinking, especially about the first episode, which was about Anita Bryant’s campaign against a gay civil rights initiative in Florida, and to state the obvious attitudes to LGBTQ people. And her rights have changed a lot since 1977. So how do you communicate that feeling of living through history without causing pain to contemporary listeners?

S1: That’s a great question. I mean, the LGBTQ plus that initialism didn’t exist right back then. And so it would be anachronistic to to use it and to kind of drill down to to a specific targets gets at the larger question, the kind of state of the art terminology back then with sexual preference. And that’s what the people on the gay rights side, that was the language that they used in this referendum, and it was the language that was used all across the country. And so rather than just say, you know, this was a bill about sexual preference and kind of move on, I did feel like, OK, we need to stop and explain, like, this is the broader context and this is why that term was used. And this is sort of to to get a little bit into that explanation, because that’s the thing that I think we found across all different sorts of stories is that you see the same kind of battles play out, but on different terrain, like the language that was being used and the sort of hateful language that was being used back then is being directed towards trans people today. It’s like, yeah, yeah, very kind of direct parallelism. And so in that case, it felt like that was a connection that listeners could probably make. Yeah. Themselves rather than having me spell it out. But that’s just a decision they have to make among the team about what are the things that we want to say explicitly. So there’s no kind of mistaking where we’re coming from or versus the things that maybe it would be more powerful for. The listener makes that connection themselves.

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S4: Josh the final episode of the season that’s coming up about Jesus on a Tortilla is probably my favorite of the whole season. And you mentioned that it’s not a world shaking story the way some of these other ones were. Can you talk a little bit about why you chose to include it?

S1: Yeah, thanks, Marissa. So it is a world shaking story for this family, like on a smaller scale. And it’s a story that I think it was Evan actually came across and doing our our research and are kind of just scrolling through the newspapers of Seventy-Seven. It was a story that became national, although never really front page news about. Yeah, this family that found that image of Jesus burned into obscurity and sort of all of the crazy things that happened to them afterwards and what it feels like to be not only the subject to instantly kind of become, I guess, the subject of national media interest, but also to have that interest be inflected by attitudes towards you because you’re an immigrant, because you’re a, you know, a Spanish speaker, because this is considered something that is weird or crazy. And this is an example of a story we could never tell if we didn’t get the full participation of the family, because it’s really about the story that they weren’t able to tell at the time. And so I just found it really rewarding and moving to, you know, hear them tell that story and hopefully other folks who listen to it will feel the same.

S2: I also have a question about the series. Listeners may not know that there actually are bonus episodes, three of them so far for Slate plus listeners. I’m curious how you sort of wrangle those together, what you decided could merit a little extra discussion, what makes those episodes special and something that listeners should look for?

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S1: Well, people who are Carentan fans should definitely be interested in this episode. So Chouteau, who is the kind of architect of all of our slate plus magic. Up with this idea of exploring further the culture of 1977, because back to what you said before, even if you focus down on one year, it’s just so enormous that where we didn’t do anything about disco, we didn’t, which seems like crazy. Like how can you do in 1977 without doing disco? We didn’t do anything about that. Know Beyond Roots about the television or the movies of 1977. And so just again, with this idea of like we’ll tell you a bunch of smaller stories and I’ll add up to like, what was it like to live, be a person? And this year, obviously, you’re going to be consuming the culture that. And Karen, you’re doing an episode about the movies of 77. And I loved love, loved the episode that Evan Chung, our producer, and Chris Motlanthe did about the music of 77. It’s just like those dudes know a crazy, crazy amount about music of every year. But to see them kind of go super, super deep and nerdy on 1977 on the bigger hits, as well as the smaller stuff that I thought no human had ever heard of was just awesome for me. And somebody who, like, did really learn about a lot about this year, but it had absolutely no idea about most of the stuff that they were getting into. But I loved it.

S3: Josh this show, at least as a listener, feels like a real journey of discovery. You know, I was alive in 1977. I was conscious. I was aware sort of slightly of most of these stories. But as somebody who was really, you know, working on every story, what really sticks out to you is like something you learned while making this show. They were like, whoa,

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S1: I guess we’re just coming off the Roots episode. That’s a great example of a story about something that really changed the world. It was a mass culture phenomenon, the likes of which we haven’t seen, I think, in maybe since then, but in decades at least. And it just raises so many big questions that are applicable beyond just roots. And if I could kind of distill it down to one, there’s this kind of question about truth versus authenticity. And Rits was so powerful and so important in the story that Alex Haley told in the book in the miniseries was accurate in a larger sense and was accurate in a way that past narratives about American slavery with Gone with the Wind, for example, were not it just kind of in some ways overrode those lies and stereotypes about slavery while at the same time itself. Not being true, and there were claims within it about, you know, that Alex Haley had been the first black American to go to Africa and traces lineage back there that just weren’t correct. And so just thinking about whether that actually matters, given how important and powerful and meaningful routes was and so exploring the messiness of that question, it was fruitful on its own. But I feel like it was also helped me think about a whole lot of other things, too.

S3: I know you didn’t make the show alone. Can you tell us about the other people on your team?

S1: Yeah, Evan Chung as producer and Matlin Ducharme as assistant producer. And the thing that I love about making a show like this is that it is really a team effort and I cannot do maybe seventy five percent of it. And just the kind of like audio wizardry here, as somebody who comes from the text side, I just kind of marvel at what we’re able to create. And I, I probably shouldn’t use the word we there, but yeah, just the the the way that it sounds, the way that it kind of comes across as an audio story, I have to give credit to those guys.

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S2: Josh, thank you so much for joining us to talk about one year the show. So amazing for anyone who hasn’t been listening to it already. You can listen to it wherever you get your podcasts.

S1: Thank you so much.

S2: And now it’s time for endorsements, June, what would you like to endorse this week?

S3: So I’m going to endorse something which I think it kind of surprises me. I’m not going to, like, act like people know my taste so well that it’s going to surprise listeners. But it’s a podcast called The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast. That makes sense. Right? But it’s by Christianity Today. It is a it’s like a narrative seven parter about the creation and the rise and fall, the clues in the name of an evangelical megachurch in Seattle and its charismatic leader. There’s the problem, Mark Driscoll. Now, I’m not a person of faith. So just as I’m sure I miss things in Coda that, you know, people who are part of the community that it’s centered on or should be centered on would have kind of picked up. So I just want to give that kind of disclaimer. But for me, it was super interesting as as an outsider to see parallels, you know, that so much that I could relate to about leadership and oversight and tolerating bad behavior because someone is a superstar who’s really bringing great results for the company or the effort. And it’s pretty well made. I also started listening to like Christian Rock afterward, because there’s the the the opening song. The theme music is like it’s a banger. So I just find it super interesting. The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast from Christianity Today.

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S4: I love the image of June, just like headbanging to Christian Rock alone with her cats.

S2: Now Marissa it is time for your endorsement.

S4: I’m going to take inspiration from our segment on boyfriend Dungeon and endorse a game that is near and dear to my heart, which is Stardew Valley. This is a game that’s been around a while, developed by Concerned EHP, who is certainly other people have helped him along the way. But it’s Eric Barrone. He’s been sort of a One-Man hurricane in terms of putting this game together himself. It’s a blockbuster game. And part of the reason I’m recommending it is because it was recommended to me by a dear friend and former Slate copy editor Dontae a Price who listeners will remember from our episode on the sentence. Dontae has fabulous taste in games. And when I first heard about Stardew Valley, I heard farm game and my eyes sort of glazed over. Right. It conjures the idea of like those time limit crop harvesting games that you get a lot of Facebook friends sending you invites for. And it’s not like that at all. I mean, yes, you do play a character who inherits a farm from your grandfather and you moved to this Stardew Valley, this idyllic little town. But there is so much variety contained in this one game. You can do some farming, you can go foraging, you can go fight in the dungeons. It’s a Dungeon crawler, much like we talked about. You can befriend and even date some of the villagers in town. And there are many, many mysteries to uncover. It’s very story. Rich and I highly, highly recommend it.

S3: How many hours have you played for me?

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S4: I prefer not to say

S3: I was shocked that playing games shows you like on steam shows you how long you’ve been playing Karen. I mean, how when you’re playing for hours and hours and hours, like, do you feel good about it? Or like, what’s your usual response?

S2: Depends on how much I’ve played at once, where it’s like if I’ve played it for a lot over like a few months and it’s like you played a million hours, I’m like, that makes sense because I played a little bit every day. But if it’s like in some cases I feel OK. Like when Animal Crossing first came out, I definitely played that just for an entire day. And I was like, I feel amazing. Tomorrow my time is going to look so much better. But there are other times where I’m like, I did not take care of myself that day and I feel terrible. So it’s it’s game to game basis.

S4: Yeah, sure. I think sinking a lot of hours into a game that you care about can be really satisfying. And I have to say, like I’m not above getting up and dancing around my room when I catch the fish I’ve been trying to catch nice. But it’s also it’s fun when you’re playing with someone else. I found that Stardew Valley, which does offer you can play with other people who can be farm hands on your farm like it was during the pandemic. Really valuable in terms of being a game with sort of very escapist, but also a game where, you know, you can all get on a call and and join in together.

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S2: I recently got into Final Fantasy fourteen. I don’t know if either of you are aware of that as an MMO RPG. I’m very a. Afraid for what’s going to happen to my time, I also mentioned to Marissa recently that I did finally download The Sims four, and I’m also very worried about what that’s going to do for my free time. Those are not my endorsements. I should be clear. My endorsement this week is for Wellington Paranormal. So this show has been airing in New Zealand for, I believe, three seasons already, but has only just started airing in the US. The first season is, I think, now completed in the US and is available to watch on Biomax. For anyone familiar with the movie, What We Do in the Shadows sort of horror mockumentary, it’s in the same vein, except it’s following the two cops from the movie as they try to contain Paranormal episodes around Wellington. It’s very cute and weird and funny in the same vein, and both Jemaine Clement and Tiko are involved with it as well. It’s very good, very charming, very fun. I like it a lot. Biomax, you should go watch it if you like that kind of stuff.

S4: That’s a winning pairing right there for sure.

S2: So that’s our show for this week. Thank you so much to our guests, Josh Levin and Sara Novi? for coming on June. Thank you so much for joining me this week.

S3: Thank you so much fun.

S2: And thank you, Marissa, for joining me as well.

S4: Thanks, Kiran.

S2: So you can find links to some of the things that we talked about today on our show page. That’s at Slate Dotcom Culture Fest. And you can email us at culturist at Slate Dotcom. Our intro music is by the composer Nick Brittelle. Our production assistant is Cleo Levin. Our producer is Cameron Drewes. I’m Karen Hahn. Thank you for listening. Hello and welcome to the blue section of the Slate Culture Gabfest. Today, we are answering a listener question that we loved. Alma wrote to us and said, Dear culture Gabfest which writer living or dead would you nominate to write each of your biographies? And I think Jeunes suggested that we add a second part to this, which is who would we want to play us in our biopics about? We’ll start with author Jun. Do you have an answer for this question?

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S3: I sure do, although I should say that it’s already happened. Alison Bechdel already wrote My Life Story at a Dykes to watch out for series like I. I felt so seen in that series, you know, which happened in real time because they originally appeared, as you know, comics that came out every two weeks and were actually responding to, you know, things that were happening in the culture. So I’ve already had that experience and it’s magnificent. But I think if a new and more specific rather than me general biography was was commissioned, I don’t have a specific writer, but I have a style of writer, which is a soap opera writer. I that’s a good one. I grew up watching Coronation Street especially, which is set in the north of England. All also operas do this book. Coronation Street, I always felt was particularly powerful because there were, you know, people who who lived in a village like I grew up in and they were, you know, making air quotes, ordinary people. But, you know, their lives were fascinating. And there’s always something, you know, to to to make my rather banal life like, you know, my middle managers existence into something fascinating. And just like come back next week, there’s going to be an even crazier development. So I guess I would say generic soap opera writer. What about you, Karen?

S2: Oh, me. I was going to go last, but I will go second. So for author, um, I like that you said a graphic novel author and I’m now wondering if I should have done the same thing. But the person I was thinking about is Mark Z. Danielewski, who wrote House of Leaves, which is a very famous, like experimental sort of book, um, which I think is less about thinking that he could really tell my life story really well and thinking that he could do it in a really interesting way, because it’s really such a strangely designed book. It’s there’s so much so many different kinds of like media in it and like a lot of footnotes like pages that fold out, pages that are missing parts. And it’s all really cool. And I like the idea of like some person picking up the book and being like, oh, like this is cool. Like, even if they don’t think, like, my life story personally is cool. So that’s my answer to that question. What about you, Marissa?

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S4: I also think the sort of aspirational writer who I think could possibly jazz up my life, which is I don’t know if it’s yet biography worthy. And that’s the late Terry Pratchett, because not only is he a fantasy writer, but I think that he is someone who has a knack for making the ordinary very funny. And that’s the charm of his writing in general, even as it’s set in a fictional universe.

S2: And so do we have answers as to who we would want to place in our biopics?

S3: I have known this forever. It’s it’s not even a competition. And I’m I’m always looking for opportunities to cast this person because it’s just the obvious, the obvious dream casting. And I would say that the role of June in June, the movie will be played by Tom Cruise. I mean, if it can be no other,

S4: that’s mean is June.

S3: Yes, yes. Yes. Here’s the thing. That movie would roll.

S4: That is the thing. You know, I’m green lighting it right now.

S2: We’re now redirecting all sleep sleep patterns

S3: to making this movie camera and stop producing and get on the phone with the with Tom. That is people on the phone. Karen, who’s playing you?

S2: I thought about this a lot, partially because, like, I have some favorite actors, but then I’m like, is it problematic if I cast a white person to play me in my biopic? Like, what? What is do you what do you guys say? Is that bad? Is that problematic? If I chose them,

S4: I mean, this is a fantasy movie inside your own head and you can’t blame yourself.

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S3: Yeah. Is this

S2: Outbrain poison, Diane, that I’m thinking

S7: about to go ahead and

S4: tell us who it is.

S2: So my my top choice is Michael Shannon.

S7: Oh, my bio pic.

S2: I think he can do anything he can.

S3: I mean, he could play he also if you if you needed to. Transform into a sword at some point, you could totally

S2: that would also you’ve seen my baby picture as is in my slack avatar. And he could do that for sure.

S3: For sure.

S2: So that’s my choice. What about you, Marissa?

S4: You both make such unconventional choices as I agonized over who actually looks like me.

S3: Tom Cruise looks totally like me. What are you talking about? You’re not. I can see

S4: Tom Cruise transforming into your Juhan.

S3: Looks that way. OK, what about you? Who who’s who’s played Marissa?

S4: I picked Beeny Feldstein’s. That’s a good one. Oh no. I don’t think we look terribly alike, but we’re, you know, chunky white, brunette woman. And I would hope that if they make a movie about my life, it’s musical, which is ironic because I can’t sing. But she sure can.

S2: What kind of like a conventional musical or like Hamilton

S4: rap musical or no carrot? I don’t think the musical of my life would be written by. No, I think it would be a much more Sondheim. For better or worse,

S3: it wouldn’t be it wouldn’t be an Italian opera.

S4: Would probably be an Italian opera. It would be very, you know, cheesy, that kind of thing. All the cool kids would roll their eyes at. Oh, that would be a different

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S3: kind of project.

S2: It’s so funny that we are all three women. I’m and two of us have chosen white men to play us in our Biomax.

S4: My fantasy movie studio is cutting ties

S3: with both of you.

S2: So both Jean and I have been canceled for this lovely

S3: segment for the first time.

S2: Today won’t be the last I’m doing OK. OK, so that’s it for this week’s Lamplugh segment. Thank you so much to Slate plus members for supporting our work. We really appreciate it. And please don’t cancel us for our choices.