“Magic or Manipulation” Edition
S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.
S2: I’m Stephen McArthur, Mississippi Slate Culture Gabfest, Magic Word Manipulation, Ed. It’s Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021, and Russia locked down is, I believe, the first kind of major ish feature film made both in and about the pandemic and lock down. It stars Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Hedgy for it’s a rom com heist and you can find it on HBO, Max. And then Derek Delgaudio is in and of itself, was an off Broadway show. It stars The Illusionist, Derek Delgaudio. It was filmed and now it’s viewable on Hulu. And finally promising Young Woman is the movie we discussed last week. A review of it has been called out as ageist and sexist, and we discussed the ensuing controversy.
S1: Joining me today is Julia Turner, the deputy managing editor of the L.A. Times. Hey, Julia. Hello. Hello. And of course, Dana Stevens is the film critic for Slate Dotcom. Hey, Dana.
S3: Hello, Stephen.
S1: All right, Joey, let’s dig in. In the movie Locked Down, we have a very pandemic’s set up, a youngish couple living in London have broken up, but thanks to covid, they’re still cohabiting to begin with. There was something of an odd couple, racially and class wise. She’s white. She’s very corporate in her careerist ambitions and has just won a big promotion. He’s black, a delivery driver, a recovering addict, and has recently been furloughed from his delivery van job for roughly the first hour of the film. We have no exit meets rom com set up as the couple works the way through all of the sex substitutes. They bicker, they rehash, evade, recriminate, and they relapse a little bit. She starts smoking, which she’d given up and he dabbles a little bit with drugs. But as we move into the second hour of the picture, the two begin to conspire to steal a valuable diamond from Harrods, the London department store, and thus we antwine up with one another. Two questions. Will they pull off this rather daring heist? Mostly amateurs when it comes to thieving and will they rediscover their love for one another? The movie’s written by the Peaky Blinders creator Steve Knight. It’s directed by the wonderful Hollywood veteran Doug Liman. In the clip we’re about to hear, this comes from the heist more. We’ll call it rom com, part of the movie. And you’ll hear the two principals, Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Edu for you want to hear a confession this morning.
S4: I overslept because last night I took opium. Yes, yes, much worse than your cigarettes, I liked opium of little green bulbs from the garden. Yes, I did. Oh, garden is full of heroin. You go to be on the washing line. It’s like the Helmand province. Ten years since smoking isn’t so great either, you know, and I’ve had some setbacks lately.
S5: Yeah, well, you know what, Paxon, you know that green smoothie that I have in the morning since Paris? There’s two shots, if I can it just two. But no, I’m not. Not every morning. But some mornings I do what I have done. You know, you think I’m so happy and normal. It’s because I keep getting promoted.
S4: People get confused. I’d never accuse you of being happy. And no more, Linda, because I’m not.
S5: All right. I see.
S4: Concept should have been an artist, you are unhappy in an outwardly happy let’s pretend it’s all fine female way and I am unhappy in a obviously thwarted and I just can’t go down this road again, OK?
S5: Milk, bread, wine, cigarettes, eggs. Yeah. Fuck you. I’m buying flour. Wait, do you have a mask?
S1: Dana, it was the time had come around to, you know, put a movie inside the wretched confines of the pandemic. What did you make of this one?
S3: I mean, this movie was such a fascinating experiment. I’m very curious what you all think, because I heard such divided reactions to it among among critics when it first opened a month or so ago. It, as you say, is really unusually paced for it for a heist thriller. The Thriller plot doesn’t really kick in until probably the second half of the movie. And as a result, I think feels too rushed. I don’t really quite understand this complex plot. They have devised a diamond from Harrods, nor do I care that much about it. But that first half of the movie which we heard the clip from, which you describe as a rom com, but in a way is almost more like a romantic drama. I mean, it’s some pretty heavy stuff happening between these. This estranged couple still trapped, living together in the pandemic I thought was really promising. And that the experimental quality, the fact that it felt like it was shot in a kind of guerrilla way in this empty London on the fly, gave it a lot of energy and an unusual kind of kind of feeling for this type of romantic comedy slash drama. I honestly didn’t know whether the couple was going to end up together. I didn’t know and still don’t know whether they should end up together, because as you can hear in that clip, they both have a lot of problems and seem to have broken up for very good reasons. And I think the energy and intrigue of that first part and just the strength of those those two performances in those two very specific characters carried me through the entire movie and made me glad this movie exists, even though whenever I would read one of the many reviews that trashed the sloppy plotting of the second half and thought that the whole thing was kind of a tossed off, smug exercise, I could see their point of view as well. So I’m not sure that I would send all my friends running to see this movie. But what the hell it’s streaming yallock down to. I think there are worse things you could do with your two hours.
S1: All right. We get to what the hell from Dana. Julia, where do you fall on those?
S6: My main response to this was too soon, like I was both, you know, impressed by someone kind of running into the void and trying to make art and compelled by the lead performances, which are great. You know, there’s the you know, it feels like you’re watching a play. It’s got a little bit of who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf energy. Just a couple arguing for a while there. But I also was just like, I don’t want to look at this yet. Like, it’s true. This was that particular moment of the pandemic, which, by the way, we’re not out of, you know, lots of people who can who are lucky enough to be able to be locked down or still locked down. And increasingly people are pulled into their workplaces that may or may not be safe as the rules change all over the place. But the sort of like what the hell is this new life feeling of the first few months has evolved into like, oh, God, still here. When will it be over? Which is a different moment.
S7: But the kind of alarming crispness of like, what is this life and what was the old life and what is my life? And, you know, the sort of crisis of what even is this planet, what even is being alive. Possibilities of that early, startling moment. Of course, that’s an interesting place to situate a drama or a heist, I guess agree that the Frankenstein of both here is a little odd, but, um. Yeah, I don’t if I had just turned this on and was not compelled to finish it for the show, I think I might have been like I watch this in 10 years when I can’t really remember what it was like, which is not necessarily a response I’m proud of, but it’s the one I had.
S1: Mm. I, um, I have to say I did not connect with the material here really at all. I, I, I would have liked to. And it has that Dana, as you said, you know very perceptibly in your review, it has that feeling of a Soderbergh like one of those, you know, Soderbergh’s whole thing is I’ll make one for you Hollywood, but one for me. And a lot of is one for me. Projects, including the one we just talked about are sort of under baked in a strategic way. Why he wants to see what will happen in front of a camera when you have non actor actors or non scripted scripts. And this had that feel, that gorilla feel while being fantastically overwritten. I would say to me that was the defining off-putting feature of the film. Is that it? I think there are a couple of ways to work around not knowing exactly what you’re doing because you’re on a supremely abbreviated schedule to produce something. And one is to. Gesture with pseudo profundity and silences and long looks, and the other is just to write the shit out of it in a kind of half panic. And this this I found this movie painfully verbose. I couldn’t stand listening to either one of these characters speak because they were both mouthpieces for the same, obviously quite verbally gifted writer. And I felt like that was an excuse to not draw either with very much clarity and to kind of hit the audience with this weird fog, you know, and and hope. They kind of didn’t notice that it was actually bizarrely underwritten for all of the verbosity, for all of the logorrhea. It was actually, you know, and a lot of the gestures like X drug addict and the class difference. And I thought all of those were actually quite, quite broadly delivered there. There are odd cameos that don’t quite work. So Ben Kingsley, who’s always best when he’s evil, it’s like he’s spent his career playing off of the fact that he was, you know, just a visual synonym for Gandhi in all of our minds initially has just since become so good at playing a bit bizarrely, you know, like or just like like kind of disorienting, like a moral character. He’s he’s kind of good as the dispatcher. You get you get Ben Stiller is the kind of heartless corporate doofus boss who promotes her, even though she’s almost telling him to his face that he can fuck off and take the job and shove it in frozen like that.
S8: Can you hear me?
S9: Yeah, I can hear you. Just your face is frozen.
S8: This look of exasperation.
S1: Like there are kind of Little deLites, but they’re just not integrated, and then as Julia, as you say, it’s a total Frankenstein. I mean, I, I found the. Heist plot, just preposterous and slapdash, I just I mean, I sound so negative, I usually find something I really like and can kind of hang my hat on. But this time I just felt myself I just kind of garage door of Vueling. Alienation came rolling down with a clatter on a slab within the first three minutes of the movie, and it never lifted at all. I don’t think I liked anything about this movie. So I apologize to all of the brilliant people who. Put their creative efforts to it. I just I didn’t respond to this material at all.
S10: Yeah, you’re you’re that diatribe has me both nodding along and then, like, limping to defend the film. At the same time, I have contradictory impulses, like the it took me a minute to get into there, kind of over Tourky arguments at the beginning. And I think, again, it’s just their performances sort of carry the kind of speechifying prose for me in a way that I eventually got into and came to care about, um, on the highest point.
S7: I mean, the notion of two people accidentally doing a heist without really planning it is is potentially funny because the point of so many heist movies is to revel in and have fun revealing to the audience the like crackerjack mechanics by which the heist is pulled off. So a bunch of doofuses making some bad decisions and getting lucky is a different way to show a heist. And I think that’s plausible. But there are a bunch of plot holes in what happens in those scenes that make the end of the movie completely implausible. And so, you know, if this is a comedy of remarriage, essentially right, which is a venerable Hollywood form, it’s really hard to celebrate, you know, any rapprochement between these characters because it is very implausible that they would be where the film puts them at the end of it based on how they conduct themselves. And so it contributed to the kind of cardboard ness of the feeling of everything here.
S1: OK, there was one thing I kind of liked about this movie, a running joke about the name Edgar Allan Poe, which was the draconian gun over the fireplace that has to go off before the movie ends. It does kind of go off. I kind of like that.
S9: Whoa. That was to me the absolute worst part of the movie, as I think I didn’t say in my review, because I didn’t want to spoil it, because that is a running joke. But me and several other critics had long Twitter thread conversations about how stupid that Edgar Allen Poe plot point was. So it sounds like Steve and I had the exact opposite reaction because his favorite thing was my least favorite thing.
S11: And I think what I liked the best may have been what he liked the least. I agree that the dialogue is stylized. No characters would really speak in the way that and Hathaways and she would tell a joke for his characters speak. But that to me seemed like part of the writer leanness of this of this Steve Knight script. And maybe it’s that I like those Steve Soderbergh Fly-By-Night movies, you know, let them all talk. The most recent one, The Meryl Streep on a Boat movie, was one of my favorite movies of last year in a way, precisely because it has that let’s put on a show on a boat kind of feeling. And this has this feeling of let’s put on a show and a pandemic. And I guess I just appreciated that energy. I also think that the characters were somewhat unusual for characters in a romantic drama. Chiwetel, edgy for his character in particular, was just not a typical dude character in a romantic comedy. I mean, he’s really whiny. He’s really depressed. He’s he’s incredibly negative and pessimistic. That seems to be the reason that they broke up. And and I just sort of love that he got to be a romantic hero while also being this not particularly heroic or masculine type. And I like the dynamic between them. I’m sorry. Again, I don’t think that this movie completely works and it arguably totally falls apart in the last 20 minutes or so when the heist plot comes in. But I still respect that it’s out there. And I hope that this weird time in history where there are so many limitations on what filmmakers can do, that it will get other filmmakers thinking about what they might be able to do under these constraints.
S1: OK, you’re here. It’s a locked down. It’s on HBO. Max, check it out and tell me I’m wrong. All right. Moving on. All right, now is the moment in our podcast we usually discuss our business if we have some data.
S3: What what do we got, Steve, in business this week, we’re going to carry through with a tradition we’ve been doing on and off throughout pandemic times, which is talk about some aspect of our own lives and how the quarantine era has affected it. And this time around, it’s going to be friendship. This is loosely pegged to an article by Amanda Moule in the Atlantic called The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship. It’s sort of about the tertiary ties that we have, not close friends and not even necessarily second tier friends, but just people in your social world that you no longer get to interact with because of the circumstances of our time. So we’re going to talk about not only that article, but our own experiences with, you know, this kind of tertiary relationships and how they’ve changed. That segment, of course, is for Slate plus members. And if you want to become a slate plus member and are not one yet, as always, you can sign up at Slate Dotcom Agriculture plus. And if there’s anything you’d like us to talk about in a future Slate plus segment, you can always send us an email at Culturalist at Slate dot com. All right, back to the show. Steve, what’s next?
S1: The full title of this show on Hulu is Derek Delgaudio is in and of itself, but what what to call it, what to call him. It’s so wonderfully mystifying and destabilizing. There’s it’s something of a magic show. It’s crossed with the quite heartfelt autobiographical monologue. It’s salted with throughout with incredible blarney and crossed with a meditation, a kind of quite serious philosophical meditation on selfhood as seen from both the inside and the outside. It premiered the show premiered in L.A. in 2016, went on to New York City, where it played off Broadway for a run of well over 500 performances. People who saw it were floored by what they’d seen. It was filmed by the director, Frank Oz, and now we have it on Hulu. Delgaudio has said, I want to do for magic what Duchamp did for art. Break it. And he does. He breaks magic. He also pulls quite hard at your heartstrings and completely fucks with your head. I mean, this is really an astonishing thing to watch. There’s some impressive sleight of hand in which he demonstrates his powers as a traditional magician, which are, you know, I mean, absolutely unsurpassable. He gifted at, for example, a close up card trick. But really the highlight of the show are these two audience participation tricks that they go so far beyond anything I’m familiar with. You’re trying so hard to understand how it is even possible, even conceivable in this Newtonian in the Newtonian universe. Right. To pull these things off anyway. Both the stage version and the film version, I should say, were directed by Frank Oz. It’s on Hulu. And in the clip you’re about to hear, you know, throughout the show, there are these little parables about magic and sulfa that Delgaudio tells. And here’s one of them. There’s a light.
S8: The slide happens every day. It happens at the same time every single day. If you stare out towards the horizon, right as the sun hits it, you’re going to notice it’s very difficult to decipher anything that’s standing between you and the sun. This time is called The Time Between Dog and Wolf. This expression, the time between dog and Wolf, it comes from the Middle Ages. It was a cautionary expression that parents would use to scare their children, make sure that they got home before it got dark. You better get home before the time between Dog and Wolf. As it is at this time of day, it’s very difficult to distinguish friend from a foe at a distance. It’s hard to tell the difference between a dog and a wolf. And by the time it gets close enough to you for you to make out what it really is to the. I never saw this as a dangerous time, though I I always saw this as a time of possibility. It’s a very specific moment for metamorphosis. For me, this was the time when a dog could also be a wolf.
S1: Julia Turner, Dog or Wolf, what do you make of this?
S10: I don’t know how to not sound churlish. Oh, I. I both I both recognize how much artistry and mastery there is in both the mounting of this as a stage show clearly, and in the work it took to convert it from a satisfying stage show that was dependent on a lot of audience participation into a pretty satisfying recap slash facsimile of that stage show for a film documentary audience. And I guess part of the idea of quote unquote breaking magic is you reveal some of the tricks of the trade around how you manipulate cards. Um. But still, fundamentally, the magician’s art is manipulation and part of what I think. Gives this kind of a feel good sense of catharsis is that instead of manipulating the audience to think that physical objects have done impossible things, he’s manipulating the audience emotionally. And I didn’t like it.
S9: I didn’t like the feeling like I don’t know, I just felt I don’t like being tricked.
S7: And that’s fundamentally what magic is. And it’s a this is a very kind of handhold. The cathartic humans are beautiful. What if we could be truly seen, bla bla bla bla bla bla like. OK, but and I cried like I cried like 10 times watching this, like it worked on me that I came away feeling like I don’t want to be in a room with that guy.
S2: OK, so Julia Turner, Wolf, now it’s in his third.
S9: I am the opposite. I’m a squirming lap dog just licking the face of this. If this magic special I mean, unlike Julia, I do like being tricked.
S11: Like, I am really a sucker for any kind of magic show in general, and especially a magic show that does any sort of deconstruction of magic the way this show does. This guy in the past has had worked with Ricky Jay, the now late Ricky Jay, who was a great magician and also a great magic historian and some and somehow, even though he doesn’t do it all the same sort of tricks or have the same sort of patter, he seemed to be in a tradition with someone like Ricky Jay, who is sort of carrying forth old traditions of magic, like the card manipulation you were talking about, Steve, which is absolutely incredible. I mean, not just tricks, but just simply his ability to, you know, deal and shuffle and just just manually manipulate cards is really stunning.
S8: Taught myself how to shuffle and you take one and another and another. Eventually I could speed up, start throwing as many as I like I the variations on these things I taught myself the cuts. I learn how to do them one handed. I taught myself how to riffle shuffle using my leg. Eventually I didn’t need my leg.
S11: But also he wants to open these new frontiers, right of what what magic can be or do, which involve these two audience participation tricks that we can’t talk about or give anything away about because they really are the heart of the special. But I watch this with my whole family and we were all completely dazzled by it and all said we really wish that we had been there in the room at the time at the show, that it would be incredible to see a show like this on stage. But I also have to say that this works extremely well as a filmed special, and that’s not something that’s easy to do, obviously, with any stage show, but especially with something involving magic. Right. Where the tricks in some way depend on you believing that there’s no technological intervention, which there always could be on TV. But the emotional arc of the show, what it reminded me of to some degree, is an earlier show that we talked about, a filmed stage show, which was what the Constitution means to me. Right. Which we talked about a few months ago. Also a one person show in which, you know, someone stands up on a stage in front of a few sort of props in the background. They’re going to become useful later and unfolds the story that starts out funny and light and gets more autobiographical and personal. It didn’t involve audience participation as much as this. And I think overall, I like this more than what the Constitution means to me. But they both had that similar arc of sort of opening up what you thought the show was going to be into something else. It is certainly true that there is emotional manipulation involved, but it seems like the audience is all in. I mean, I don’t think anybody who we see in the several different shows that Frank was filmed, I mean, we should say that it wasn’t filmed over just one night, but over many nights, so that at times you see a trick happen or parts of a trick happen with several different subjects. I think in part to prove that there weren’t audience plants. Right. And there really were different people coming to the stage every night. And those people all seem really transformed. I mean, if Julia cried ten times, I mean, I think everybody in that audience is practically is seen weeping at one point or another because of the way that the audience participation tricks that we can’t talk about, expose things about them and about their own, you know, relationship to to their identity.
S1: Yeah, I was I agree that the distinctive thing about it is a magic show, which was a word he doesn’t like to use. And who can blame him is so reductive given what he’s created here. Is, is this relationship between. A kind of manipulation that we enjoy and find entertaining that we give ourselves over to, which is the manipulation of an illusionist and emotional manipulation, which I think we think of pejoratively. Right. Like if something if we find a person or a work of art emotionally manipulative, we find it it kind of cheap and almost as if it’s targeted us. But I also think that duality is just such a like like very self-conscious and kind of philosophically posed. Dualities are at the heart of this. So all of the parables are about how what it feels like to be yourself and how others see you and categorize you, how you internalize your anticipation or your sense of how others see you into your own identity, to the point sometimes where you give your own identity completely over to the collective judgment of others. And but then also his duality. Right. That’s the whole parable of Twilight, not letting you know whether something is a wolf or a dog. He says pretty explicitly, what am I? Am I a wolf or a dog? And implied in that is, who are you, audience member or are you like my, you know, quote unquote master, or are you the lamb that I’m going to, you know, high off with? And there is a way in which he’s both and playing off of both in ways that are genuinely sinister. And by the way, I think are what make magic as practiced by the absolute masters like Ricky Jay. So almost frightening because there is this way in which they are we know we know the laws of nature are universal and inflexible and that they applies equally to the magician as to the rest of us. And yet there’s something dark about those arts. Right. Like there’s some weird, primitive sense that maybe they can be bent to the will of one. You know, supernaturally endowed and therefore quite sinister figure, and it’s it’s playing on a pretty deep cultural memory about that, even in an age of science when we know it’s not true. And so that, to me, Julia, is what made the emotional manipulations of it. Weirdly acceptable is that he’s like he told me up front that he’s maybe a wolf, maybe a dog or maybe both. So maybe I’m like the person whose face he’s looking. Or maybe I’m the little lamb that’s about to be whisked off and made into a summary, you know, meal.
S10: It’s so interesting that interpretation of it, Steve, makes me like the show a lot more like if it seemed to be actively engaging in, um, kind of teasing or scaring the audience about what he might be about to do to us, but.
S7: I didn’t it didn’t feel to me in the like staging of the show that he was really very actively suggesting that the wolf, his wolf Venus might include what he was doing to us, like at every moment where he portentously turns around and stares at the backdrop behind him and then pauses and sort of fake stutters and then looks at the audience and wonders whether he’s good or bad. I, like, don’t buy it. He thinks he’s good, like he knows he’s good. And if he were really if he were in it sort of feels like there was this other path, the path where I was like in casinos where I was bad. But the path where I’m helping you find your inner humanity is obviously good, like it felt to black and white if he’d if he’d really been fiddling with. Whether what he was doing to us was good or bad, that would have been so much more interesting to me. Basically, I like the show you’ve seen better than the one I saw, but I think I may have seen the actual show.
S1: I maybe your version of Hulu is broken. But but but. But the but but the preamble to the whole thing asks whether he basically says I’m about to like lie and tell the truth, which is effectively what an actor. I mean, he is an actor delivering an autobiographical monologue and, you know, take out the magic completely. Right. And I just think about. How disturbing in a way, being an actor is for an actor and for the rest of us, this person who inhabits an emotional truth, right, therefore is kind of an ultimate truth teller, that acting is in some regards, you know, in the age of reproducible media like, you know, TV and film, acting in some ways is the great art and certainly the great underappreciated art. You know, it brings us in the presence of human truth in a way. At the same time, that person is totally telling a lie. You’re not that fucking person. You’re not the you’re not the person who just whatever. You’re not the person who’s actually grieving. You’re a technician of falsehood, of human falsehood with your own and your instrument for this falsehood is your voice, your face, your own eyes as they cry, you know, your body, your physical being, your being itself. And it’s like I thought that he was. On to that in a weird way, that’s what he was about to say. He says at the very beginning, he says something like this is about telling the truth and lying at the same time. So I don’t know. I don’t know. Dana, settle it for us.
S9: I guess I have a hard time settling it because I don’t I don’t see Julie’s point of view.
S3: I allow I allow her to to feel manipulated and tricked and bored and whatever she feels by this show. But I did come out of it with this sense of just amazement and wonder and in a way not wanting to have those two trex resolved. And I just accepted that, you know, what he was up to was, by its nature, as you say, you know, a kind of employment of falsehood in the service of truth. And I gave myself up to that illusion. You know, I guess I didn’t really ask myself, you know, do I want to spend the rest of my life in a room with Derek Delgaudio? I just wanted to have those that hour and a half, you know, in in a live show with him.
S1: All right. Well, it’s on Hulu and we’re sort of split. And this one, I think we all agree. You should look, we recommend watching this.
S3: And can I add, I think that I think it’s great to watch it with other people. I don’t know if you guys did or not, but often when I’m prepping for this show, I’m watching things alone. This time I dragooned my family and it was great both because we all enjoyed it and because it was so fun to talk afterwards about how those illusions might have been pulled off.
S7: I degree into my family and spent the whole 90 minutes sort of embarrassed that I’d hauled them into this thing. No one liked it. We were all a little like, oh, I don’t know, I watched it all alone, but wished I had dragooned.
S1: So I’m right in the middle. But all right. This is one of those ones where I need, like, a lot of tiebreaking emails to come flooding in. So watch it and tell us what you thought. All right. Moving on. All right, something a little unusual for our show, we’re going to kind of revisit a topic, but not really. The topic has expanded in a new, unexpected and by and large unfortunate direction since we talked about it last week. The movie promising young woman stars Carey Mulligan. It’s a feminist revenge genre picture that’s very hard to slotted into any traditional genre. If you want more on that, you can listen to last week’s segment anyway. The subsequent controversy involves a variety review by the critic Dennis Harvey. Before I quote from it, I should say that this review came out close to a year ago on the occasion of the movie’s premiere at Sundance. OK, here we go. Dennis Harvey writes, Mulligan, a fine actress, seems a bit of an odd choice as this admittedly many layered, apparent femme fatale. Margot Robbie is a producer here, and one can perhaps to easily imagine the role might once have been intended for her. Whereas with this star, Cassie, that’s the character. Where’s her pickup? Bait gear, like bad drag. Even her long blonde hair seems to put on the flat American accent she delivers in her lowest voice register. Likewise, seems a bit meta, though it’s not quite clear what the quote marks around this performance signify. So that’s the offending paragraph, supposedly offending paragraph from the initial review. So on the occasion of the release of the movie in the past month, Carey Mulligan was interviewed by The New York Times and she was apparently offended by it. She said, I read the Variety Review because I’m a weak person and I took issue with it. And then she pauses before going on to decide she wants to go there. And she says, I felt like it was basically saying that I wasn’t hot enough to pull off this kind of Roo’s variety apologized. Subsequently, they said that the magazine regrets the insensitive language and insinuation and minimized her daring performance critique himself. Dana kind of goes on and on here, but the critic himself said, I’m a six year old gay man. I don’t actually go around dwelling on the comparative hotness of young actresses. There have been other responses as well, what where do you come out on this?
S3: I mean, I kind of feel like after reading up on this, looking at the timeline and looking at some of the social media response, I’ve really, really come around to the critics side, honestly. And I don’t say that only because I’m a movie critic who would like not to have to apologize for reviews a year after they were written, when I first saw the kind of, you know, Twitter outrage threads beginning about how Carey Mulligan had been reduced by a sexist male film critic, I think I was probably on the side of those defending her. Then when I started to look into, for example, the the timeline, how long this review had existed online without offending a single soul, the fact that it was a generally positive review of the movie and the fact that the observations he’s making about her appearance have to do with her suitability for the character and not with her, not with her actual, you know, physical endowment of beauty. I mean, as we talked about in our promising young woman segment last week, it’s this very highly designed movie. Right. The look of the characters, very specific. The whole premise of the movie is that this character goes out kind of beating men into trying to rape her. Right. And then subsequently getting her revenge on them in various ways and. I just don’t think that I don’t think that it was really her appearance that was in question, it may be that bad drag was not the most tasteful way to describe her appearance in the movie. But it is true that she has been gotten up by the makeup and costume designer in a way that is sort of a very artificial ised femininity. Margot Robbie herself, who is a producer of the movie, said in an interview unrelated to this whole flap and well before it that she might have been a more obvious casting choice for that main character than Carey Mulligan. And I think that has to do with the way we perceive Carey Mulligan right. As a period actress, as someone who generally plays nice girls and innocent girls and, you know, shows up in in the costume of some other era. And the idea of her is this contemporary femme fatale was an unusual casting choice. So the more I look at it, I really I really think I’m not somebody to rail against council culture, but I just don’t think that Denis Harvey needs to be canceled for this review. Maybe, you know, he could be lightly censured by his magazine or, you know, issue a rewording or rephrasing, as they sort of did at the top of the review. But the idea that, you know, he’ll now have to live on in infamy as some sort of misogynist just seems completely absurd and unfair.
S10: Yeah, I’ve been wrestling with this, too. I mean, because I think on the one hand. It’s not the most felicitous way of I think it is genuinely possible to read his review in a couple of different ways, you know, he’s claimed in an interview since that he was, you know, talking about the artifice involved in the role. But that doesn’t really quite get to the question of why a customer and an actress of Margo Ravis calibre couldn’t have made her. You know, seem less of the kind of bombshell Barbie that she has seemed in some roles and made her seem a little bit more like a normal girl who’s putting on a putting on a costume in in the same way that Carey Mulligan plays the role. Um, so I don’t think that he necessarily made his point that, well, if in fact, that’s what his point was. And I do think that Carrie Mulligan’s interpretation of it is plausible, but, um. The thing that troubles me about it is that.
S6: You know, the president, the variety sets here by apologizing for this review and apologizing for it in the rash of awards season, when they have Carey Mulligan participating in one of their pre awards conversations, where she also commented further on this flap is all a little fishy, like the job of a critic is hard. And I say that not quite counting myself among their number, which I guess you could count me here, that’s part of what we’re doing here. But I just like your job, Dana, and your specific job of like week in, week out. I’ve got to say what I think about things and say what I think about things before. I know what everybody else thinks about things and just hang on the courage of my own convictions about stuff like that’s really hard. It’s hard to do that. And you have to have a lot of faith in your own judgment and taste and a lot of dexterity in articulating the points that you want to make about something. And you’re you know, you’re not always going to nail it. Like even Dana doesn’t always nail it perfectly. I’m sure you would confess. Maybe you wouldn’t.
S9: I hope that was storming off. Mike, right now we’re doing it live.
S6: But, you know, so he didn’t put his thought out there in a way that made it impossible to interpret him as a. Misogynist, I don’t think that warrants I mean, certainly I don’t think it warrants the cancellation of his career, he’s written about not being sure whether he’ll continue to have work with that group variety or spoken about that in interviews.
S10: Um, but I don’t know, appending a note of like this, this criticism was bad seems pretty extreme.
S3: Yeah, especially because that note mischaracterizes the supposed problem with the piece. That thing about that, we didn’t mean to minimize her daring performance, I think is the language they use. We’re sorry. The way that this review minimized her during performance, it doesn’t minimize her performance. It actually praises it. He has reservations about the movie, as did I. But he says only good things about about her performance. I mean, I should specify that Dennis Harvey is not a friend or even acquaintance of mine. I have no idea who he is. I’m not at all sort of trying to protect a colleague or something. But when I think about what it would mean for criticism if every actor or director or screenwriter or cinematographer who was upset about something a critic said about them could get traction in the press a year later by naming them in an interview, it just it doesn’t feel fair. You know, that person has a a really big platform. They have a huge following of, you know, people who would love to hound anyone who criticize them on social media. The idea of this happening to me is a critic that I would accidentally word something in a way that offended someone and then be jumped on by, you know, masses of their followers is it just seems like a bad precedent to set. And when Carey Mulligan prefaces her statement by saying I was weak and looked at my reviews, I mean, I understand that as well. It’s a very vulnerable position to be a performer who has to read criticism on you. And this is why I have always said if I were in the position of the people that I write criticism about, I would I would not read my own reviews. I would you know, I would make someone do it for me and maybe filter the opinions or something, because it’s just it’s a very hot button area. And I don’t think that there should be that social media should allow this direct communication, you know, where you can just point to a critic by name and say, I don’t like what that person said. I mean, unless it’s something on a far more offensive level than we’re talking about here.
S10: I mean, this is the part where I think it gets tricky is like. For any critic, your assessment of. Whether a performance works or whether it’s believable or, you know, I mean, even my critique of Derek Delgaudio, like, I don’t really buy that. He’s a he’s really worried about whether he’s the wolf. He seems like smugly convinced that he’s not to me or at least worried about the part of the wolfish part of him that I’m worried about. And part of that has to do with him kind of looking like the friendly neighbor kid, you know. And what is it about my assumptions about doughy faced white men of a certain age who haven’t gone grey yet, that that leads me to not buy him as a bad guy. Right. Like, that’s there’s there’s kind of years of. Bias and I don’t know, like why do I think that about that, about the way he looks? Is that a reasonable way to think like. Is that problematic for me to think that like. Yeah, maybe. And so if I have criticism of that show that’s based on assumptions about appearance that are themselves embedded with all kinds of cultural history, like it’s not quite as simple as critics should just be able to say what they want to say. And I guess one more question. I was like, what would be the review? The problem problematic, problematic enough to warrant. An apology like there probably is something, right, so what’s where is the line and why doesn’t this cross it?
S1: Well, you’re not going to draw that line ahead of time, probably. I mean, I, I one thing I’ll say is that, you know, setting aside this specific complaint, you have to. I think a history of two kinds of power, exercising themselves and coming, you know, into conflict with one another. The first is the power with which, you know, men in Hollywood have praised women, actresses and both used them, used them up, abused them and treated them like, you know, meat, basically. And so there’s a you know, obviously been a key, thanks to Harvey Weinstein, a massive reckoning with that history. And, you know, the story I always come back to because it’s so paradigmatic of the 1980s when they were casting Flashdance and the executive called in a bunch of construction workers to tell him which of the three finalists was the most valuable. And there’s just something, you know, and that’s the basis on which the choice was made. And it’s like. There is, I think, a lot of collective both shame and guilt about that, about that history, and so it’s understandable that the sensitivities are are on a kind of hair trigger basis against which is the relationship of stars and star power to publications and their critical judgments about the industry that they cover and. The resentment that creative people in Hollywood feel towards critics is so deep and so volcanic and so resentful, and I understand that it comes from a place of vulnerability, but the degree to which the power of the studios, especially over things like access, can be. Used against the people whose job it is to render a disinterested, an arm’s length judgment about the final product to me is also really repellent. And I see how both of these things are kind of colliding with one another in a big way over the issue of, you know, Carey Mulligan’s performance. The only other thing I’d add is that at the very beginning of the movie, I think the very first time that she, you know, dolls herself up and imitates, you know, a woman essentially falling to pieces because of alcohol at the end of a long night, therefore making herself bait for these predatory men. Two of the men talking about her who’ve seen her spotted her across the room. And you can tell that they’re sort of in their own weird broek covertly deciding which one is going to go ahead, you know, and and move in. You know, they talk about her looks in that way like she’s supposed to look. They say she’s too old, isn’t she too old? They have these derogatory ways of talking about her that, you know, the movie has baked into it the idea that she’s kind of a drag act and looks like a drag act. So I think that that’s something the critic kind of missed about the about the film. And in fact, you know, I think that was important to the movie and and and and I think Robbie would have been exactly the wrong actress to play that person. Not that she couldn’t do it. I mean, given her Tonya Harding turn, but I understand why you would have. Now, am I getting into the same trouble as the critic?
S9: I mean, no, no, no. That’s that’s what’s weird about the review.
S10: Is that the point? He’s the point he claims to be making about about the movie is one that suggests that Carey Mulligan is the better choice that Margo Roby rather than the opposite. And so the fact that he’s like the the review is not. Not fully baked, I mean, Richard Rumsfeld, who writes the weekly Hollywood newsletter, the anchor had kind of a long discussion of this and in his subscription newsletter last week, in which he also pointed out that the condition of writing reviews for trades at Sundance is like. Gruelling and not exactly conducive to really letting every film marinate and turn out your most perfectly turned phrases like people are running around there on buses, they’re tromping through the snow, they have no feet.
S6: They’re seeing a gazillion movies a day. They’re you know, they’re trying to get ravis up quickly before the competitors.
S10: Like, it’s understandable that someone would not have. Produce their finest work in that context. But like, there’s a logical flaw to the to the defense he’s making of his review today.
S3: Right. That is a good point, Julia. And this is something that I saw a lot in in threads from critics about this little flap when it emerged last week that people were saying, you know, if you’ve ever reviewed movies from a festival, you know how how how very likely it is that you would in felicitously words something as you’re filing your fifth review of the day, you know, rushing off to your to your next movie. And they were talking about how maybe we should rethink that culture as well. But I just wanted to make a note that, you know, something we haven’t mentioned here is the editorial role of variety in all of this. I mean, I guess we talked about them sticking the apology up above the review. But, you know, it was also in their power to have not allowed that wording to run in the first place, to have assigned a woman to review the movie instead of a man not saying that a man can’t review a movie by and about women. But, you know, Variety has been criticized in the past, in the recent past for their hiring practices and for, you know, having a mainly white and mainly male staff of critics over the years. And I think that there are questions about Variety’s editorial culture that that are bigger than whether Carey Mulligan was offended by the wording of this particular review.
S1: All right, well, we’ll link to all of the relevant articles on our show page, you can check them out there if you haven’t already. And of course, as always, I mean, we’d love to hear what additional thoughts, sharpening thoughts you have on the subject. All right. Moving on. All right, now is the moment in our podcast when we endorsed Dana, what do you have, Stephen?
S9: I’m going to sort of re re endorse. I think I have talked about the oh, I’m sorry. Endorsement.
S3: OK, yeah, maybe I shouldn’t be endorsing, but I to say my caveat from every endorsement is that this is a pandemic era reappraisal of something that I loved before, but that I now have a whole new use for because of our times of entrapment. So does that get me off the hook for talking about. It’s not just it’s not just boringly recycling, I promise. It’s rediscovering something that I already loved and I now love in a whole new way. And that thing is and I think, Julia, you’ll remember what I’m talking about because I think I sent you there or maybe you already knew about it. The website explored Dog with the live nature cams from all around the world. I you did send me this, but I don’t know if I ever really fell down the rabbit hole. Say more. Oh, I think you’re going to love it in particular because of your your birdwatching propensities. There’s a lot more than birds to watch, but so explore. Dog is this website that is essentially a bunch of live cams from around the world at various nature preserves, you know, sanctuaries for animals. There aren’t any at zoos, I don’t think, but they’re basically in wild places or sanctuaries made to reproduce wild places that just have live cams placed around the site. And you can click around. It’s extremely low tech when you go on the site. It’s basically a grid of different squares. And one of my top most visited sites because I love elephants is the Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa. There’s also this wonderful institute that breeds service dogs so you can watch them raising their puppies, but they’re very unmanned cameras. It’s not like cute animal videos. It really is just live footage of whatever is happening there. And oftentimes it’s nothing at all. You’ll go to some sort of owl sanctuary and you’ll just see an empty nest in a tree. And the camera just sits there for hours and you wait for the owl to come. Anyway, I already loved Explore Dog, but I’ve sort of discovered this new pandemic use for it. I used to use it more like a sort of YouTube site. Right. I’d sort of channel surf and look for fun animals. Oh, there’s some hippos taking a dip. And now I’ve kind of discovered that during pandemic times it’s like a window onto the world, right? I mean, the place I work, the place I’m taping from right now is a basement. My office is in basically a laundry room in the basement, so it has no windows. And it was snowing all weekend. It was beautiful and snowy outside. And I was thinking, gee, I wish I had a window that I could look out at the snow and I wound up opening up explore dog and just simply finding a beautiful landscape. I think it was in Minnesota or something where snow was coming down and various water birds were walking by and just sort of using it as an open window on my desktop.
S11: I have two laptops on my desktop, one for research and one for writing, and I just started to use one of them as this window onto the world. And now I’ve gotten into this tradition that every day I find a new, beautiful place to visit, sometimes a faraway, exotic place that’s warm and different, but often lately, just a place that feels a little bit like it feels outside here right now, a winter landscape and set it up and just sort of check it through the day. And so you’ll wander away and then come back and hey, there’s a wolf in the wolf preserve, just napping right in the middle of the the den. And it’s super fun to watch during the day. So explore dog as my pandemic window. That’s my endorsement for the week.
S1: Julia, what do you have?
S6: I didn’t want to chime in earlier, but I also have kind of an endorsement or a second half of an endorsement, I haven’t actually endorsed this before. But in one of our conversations, I mentioned this, um, daily newsletter that aggregates right wing media. And we got a few emails from people saying, what is that? That sounds useful. And after our conversation with Charlie Warzel a few weeks ago in which he said, don’t read their stuff, just read the people covering it, you don’t want to fall down that dark rabbit hole. I was briefly disinclined to look at it, but I really find it useful every morning to just remind myself that there is a huge swath of media that is very indulgent of conspiracy theory and lies and that lots and lots of people are consuming it.
S10: Like it just feels like an important. Uh, beacon in my work as a journalist, to remember that audience, the audience for that work that it exists out there and that the ecosystem that tries to serve it is really robust and it’s often frightening. But a number of I mentioned it without naming it, so I will not name it and endorse it if having a dose of right wing, uh. Media in your inbox feels like something that might be right for you. It’s called the writing and are staying at the writing dotcom.
S3: So, uh, that’s my endorsement that essentially cancels out the piece brought by Explore Dogs so you can get back to your state of anxiety.
S1: You repeatedly played the whelping puppies if they get to be too much for you. All right. Well, here’s my endorsement. I am now on season two of the French spy show, the bureau, which can be found somewhat circuitously on Amazon Prime, though I think you need to via Amazon Prime, also subscribe to the Sundance Channel. I’m telling you, just like like do it on a trial basis, just you have to watch the show. Now that I’m three quarters of the way through season two of it, I feel like I’m watching. It’s the one show that is doing for me what The Wire did when I watched it the first time around. I mean, the eight there were many defining great features of the wire. But I would say that the fact that it was produced by a boots on the ground beat reporter in Baltimore and his coproducer was, I believe, a 20 or 30 year veteran of the Baltimore public schools, there was a degree of just like thick descriptive authenticity to it. You felt as though these people had seen up close the reality that they’re describing to you. And so the genre elements go down in this way. That’s so much more delicious in a sense. And and the bureau is this is, as I said, a spy thriller that. Came out of, I believe, hundreds of interviews with spies, diplomats, you know, kind of deep state types in France, and so its authenticity, it just feels as though it’s just real enough to make all of its other aspects so pungently delicious. I mean, it’s just unbelievably good television. I’m attempting to, like, pound the table on this one. I really rate this right now is one of the ten best, most pleasurable viewing experiences I may have ever had with television. The word that I hear from friends is that the first two seasons are genius. The third is good in the fourth wraps it up competently. So it may fall off after this. But I’m just telling you, if you are looking to stream something superlatively good, I really recommend the bureau find it on Amazon Prime. You might have to subscribe to Sundance. It was so worth it.
S12: Julia, thank you so much. Thank you. Merci. Dana, that was a fun one. M.S. SCBA, you’ll find links to some of the things we talked about today at our show page, that Slate dot com culture fest. And we love it. We really do, especially I think this show should inspire a lot of emails. That Culture Fest at Slate Dotcom. We also have a Twitter feed at Slate called Fast. You can interact with two of us there. I’m not on it, but our producer is Cameron Drus. Our production assistant is Rachel Allen.
S1: And our intro music is by the wonderful Nick Brittelle. For Dana Stevens and Julia Turner, I’m Steve Inskeep. Thank you so much for joining us. And we will see you soon.
S3: Hello and welcome to this last segment of this Slate Culture Gabfest, today, we are going to discuss weak ties and friendship during the pandemic.
S10: We are prompted in this by an article in The Atlantic by Amanda Marshall called The Pandemic is Resetting Casual Friendships, which explores and sort of morns a type of friendship that is harder to perpetuate through zoom in the group text, but just sort of the acquaintance, tangential kind of friends, people you see in the world, um, and, you know, talks a little bit. How about how the pandemic has made us miss those types of connections and observe and think about the value of them differently. One thing that struck me in reading this article is that in a prior conversation, maybe a plus conversation, when we talked about what we would want to do if we had one break day from lockdown, all of us chose activities that, um. Would have put us in proximity to some weak ties, you guys both chose working in a coffee shop, right, sitting there for a day, being surrounded by chatter, having kind of public bustling anonymity.
S9: You know, maybe I chose a library, but did you really? OK, yes.
S10: Maybe maybe, you know, the barista or the docent or the research librarian. And then there’s some other humming activity of of of strangers who are close. Um. And I said I wanted to be at a dinner party where I knew, you know, I forget what my percentages were, but 60 percent of the people were dear friends and 40 percent were like interesting strangers. Um. And I talked about missing the serendipity of getting to know people, uh, and. I thought this article was really interesting because it pointed out one of the emotional hardships of the year and framed it in kind of a new way. So I’m curious, Steve, do you miss weak ties?
S6: Who are the weak ties in your life you’re not seeing or talking to? And how do you feel about not seeing or talking to them?
S1: Oh, I miss them terribly. I mean, it’s it’s funny because my life pre pandemic was very close to being as close almost as anybody’s to being like my life post pandemic. You know, I live in the kind of middle of nowhere I was exaggerating. But I mean, you know, I live in the country. I live in a house. My principal relationships are with my nuclear unit. And but it only made that much more obvious to me how much this kind of peripheral, you know, lubricant or sort of, you know, the the part around the the apparatus. You know, when you don’t live in a city, right. When the sun sets in the winter, it like two freaking p.m. and there’s no artificial light anywhere. And your world just sort of goes dark, you know. It turns out when you do have town based interactions or social like your sense of belonging to a world is so attenuated to begin with that you go out into it needing to talk to the guy at the wine store who’s a friend, a real friend. And you know where I would say yes. I mean, I would say real friend, but but, you know, I mean but then a host of other people, you know, people at the coffee shop or restaurants or, you know, I mean, all of that is what makes your world a world. And taking away all of those incidental interactions is. There’s so incidental and you didn’t know it until they were gone, how? Critical they were, and then I would also add to that just in the few people you do encounter out in the world in those emergency or whatever as needed, you know, grocery runs and on and on, just seeing only half of humanity’s face. I mean, every stranger, you only see half their freaking face. It’s it’s it’s going to be just very interesting to disentangle what the cumulative effects of this. You know, pseudo sociability has been on us, Dana, which which weak ties are you missing?
S3: Wow. I mean, just even thinking about that category makes you start to get weepy for how social your world used to be without you recognizing it. Right, Steve, like when you talked about your friend at the wine store. I mean, I wouldn’t go so far as a friend. It’s more like a, you know, a nice service relationship. But there is there’s a great clerk at our wine store that, you know, knew exactly my taste and knew our dog’s name. And it would always be fun to wave at him and chat when we went by. And now, you know, we order things from that store to be delivered. And I never see that guy. And there’s and all of our lives are full of those little nuances, which are what give your neighborhood texture and give your life shape. And unlike you, I mean, I live in this very dense urban place. So even though they may be, quote, weak ties, there are a lot more of them where, you know, I see the person who runs the yoga studio, whether I’m going in for a class or not or wave at that person, all those relationships are gone. In fact, that studio has closed since the pandemic started, as many of my favorite businesses have. But one thing that doesn’t come up in this this, I think, very interesting piece by Mendham all about the kind of tertiary friendships that that give our lives texture is social media. And I know, Steve, that you’ve gotten off Twitter, I think was before the pandemic started, but you haven’t revisited it at all. And, you know, obviously, Twitter is not everybody’s favorite social media site, but the idea that social media could in some way not stand in for but be a different version of this kind of texturing seems really compelling to me. I mean, I understand the toxicity that people experience and I understand taking time away. And as you guys know, I take every weekend away. But I really can’t imagine having gotten through this past year without people that I know mainly on Twitter or even colleagues that I know in person in real life, but now experience only on Twitter. That’s kind of like my workplace now in a way. For example, when we were talking about the Carey Mulligan variety flap. And you know what that meant for critics. I know about that because, you know, I chatted about it with fellow critics on Twitter, maybe more than I would have done before the pandemic, because that’s the one place we can encounter each other. We’re not going to run into each other at a movie screening or something. So it seems like that is something to take into account that we can’t necessarily have the same purist relationship to social media of regarding it as this, you know, bad week Thai place that we shouldn’t be spending our time in favor of the real textured world because the real textured world is not there for us right now. One thing so it was interesting, we were struck by this article and then in the course of putting together our research packet, Rachel, our production assistant, found, you know, it turns out that people have been writing about her.
S7: We’re really missing weak ties. And what is the social science research and weak ties? You know, since April of last year, there have been several articles on the subject. One thing that I found reading them all is I couldn’t none of them quite articulated for me exactly what I’m missing. They talked about sociological research that suggests that you’re more likely to get a job through your weak ties than your close friends. They talked about how these relationships ground you in a sense of community, and I think that’s part of it. But I, I don’t know. There was something else. Like, there’s a. There’s a. Sense of potentiality in an acquaintance or a weak friendship that is exciting or feels world opening like, I don’t actually think I’m going to become friends with, you know, half the people I knew around the neighborhood where I where I live. But. You could you know, and I can’t tell if that’s part of a response to the particular life phase I was in when the pandemic struck, but, you know, I moved to a whole new city in the middle of my life where I have some dear friends and beloved family, but, you know, don’t have anything like the kind of network that I had in New York after living there for 20 years and, you know, spent the first year figuring out like, where do we live? Where where do the kids go to school? What are we doing? I got this new job and had just like literally my New Year’s resolution for 2020. All right. Twenty twenty was OK. This is the year we’re actually going to, like, make time to, you know, have all those coffee dates and dinner dates and dates with, like all the people, you know, all the sort of you know, the guy from my husband’s high school that also knows this other person I know that we were going to meet up with. And the person who lives, you know, the guy who used to work at Slate, who lives in Burbank, which is far away, but we should get the kids together one day. Ditto Long Beach, like, you know, that there’s just like all of these sort of old half ties and then new people we’ve met through people. You know, we had one really fun dinner party with a couple nearby who seemed great. And then I haven’t talked to them in years. You know, just we were sort of like, OK, this is the year where we start to build our life here a little bit more. And instead we were like, nope, we’re just going to hang out with each other and then zoom with friends who live somewhere else like. So I guess maybe I’m focused on that potentiality because of the phase in life I’m in. But it was going to, you know, sort of being in mid-life but like actively seeking new connections, which is not always where one is in midlife. Um, but yeah, I don’t know. All of these articles identify that this is a real lack, but none of them quite had a satisfying to me description of what it is that the lack is like. What why is it so right? Why is it so important to feel like you’re part of a community? Why is it so nice to know the wine guy? It is. It is nice to know the one guy.
S1: It makes some sense, though, because what do you when when you think about the nuclear family, I mean, boy, that comes late in our I mean, incredibly late in our biological evolutionary process, you know, development, but also kind of late in our cultural evolutionary development. You know, a bunch of people living in a house with a 30 year mortgage. And it’s just the immediate family. And it’s you know, there’s supposed to be both, you know, deeply affective ties, but also economic ties. And I mean, all of it produces enormous confusions, I think, in part because it’s just not a very deeply rooted it’s so universal in natural versus how shallowly rooted it is and human experience in some ways. And it turns out that. You know what you surround that with in terms of a more old fashioned sociability that without which I don’t think we would have survived as a species. Right. Like, you know, it’s suddenly it’s artificiality and intensities becoming. I say this is a person who loves his immediate family and in some ways relished, you know, having his kids, you know, imprisoned in his house, you know, these couple of age girls, a good way to run away off with their peers and get away from, you know, their father.
S9: But it was the wicked witch in a fairy tale, imprisoning them in a tower gleefully.
S1: Oh, it was no, it was great. But it’s like all these other things around it. I mean, it just it to take those away heightens the unnatural naturalness of it. But then the only other thing I’ll say very quickly is that Julia, it’s so funny. It just sounds to me and I don’t mean to be stereotypical or reductive, but it sounds to me that you are so paradigmatic early and early middle age where you feel as though this phase is coming to an end and therefore you want to make the most of that last openness and the hopefulness about new people, which is really understandable. I am greeting you from the far bank where like Newnes is something you feel aversion to and just want to triple down on the old comfortable pair of shoes. And and and that also intensifies it. Right? It’s like it’s like that also is is. Yeah, but I don’t want to totally closed off. I actually I need all these incidental things, this, this peripheral sense of like openness and newness is what you know makes the come for. It’s comforting. Right. As opposed to confining.
S7: Maybe I’m trying to think I frame it as so geographic, like just the just the fact of moving 3000 miles in the middle of your life. And I think there’s a big component to it. But it’s true that maybe some of it is mindset or age, like I used to tease my husband when we’d go to, you know, the like, parents’ nights at the kids’ preschools in New York because some of our dearest family friends growing up were this couple that my parents met when, you know, when they were in their late 30s, early 40s and we had young kids on the same block. And, you know, so I sort of felt like, oh, you know, the acquisition of True Life Friends is not over. Maybe we’ll meet some people here. And when I met my husband, moved to L.A., I had a much easier time making friends because his attitude towards those things was like, let’s switch gears and talk to each other like enough with new friends. I like my old friends. So maybe it’s just a constitutional interest in new people. That’s that will travel with me coast to coast. But yeah, I don’t know. I really miss Discovery, like, you know, and there’s a lot it’s fun to work at a big organization like every new project I do. I meet someone new ish here and or get to know them better differently, which is fun. Um, but yeah. I don’t know, I don’t know why they’re so good. But it’s true. All the articles that have said we miss them, we miss them.
S3: I mean something else that came up in a couple of these articles that I haven’t experienced personally, but a couple of my close friends have is starting a new job during the pandemic. Right. I mean, how do you make those ties, those incredibly important ties with people that maybe you don’t work directly with, but you see at work every day and, you know, you either exchange ideas with them or hear them exchanging ideas with other people. I’m not even a Slate office person. When the Slate office exists and is open, I only would go in usually once or twice a week to record a podcast, but there would always be some contact there. There’d be, you know, a chat with Mike Pesca in the hallway, you know, that would give me an idea for maybe a movie to review. And even just in relation to making this show, there’d be interactions with the producer and our producer, Cameron Drewes, who’s wonderful, started with us since the pandemic started. So we have all met him only on Zoome, with the exception of when I brought him a tiramisu last weekend and realized that he lives about two blocks from me. So all the time we’ve been assuming we could have just basically been shouting out a megaphone at the window at each other. But those kind of things, right? I mean, I used to bring in little treats all the time for producers and production assistants if I had, you know, extra baked goods lying around at home or something. And so those kind of things are gone. And that really changes your relationship with someone. I mean, now that I’ve given Cameron tiramisu, I will probably produce me more mercifully and more stupid things that I said.
S7: Dana is the wolf. I want to stipulate that that Cameron and I did work in an office together when I still worked at Slate. And I have I have met Cameron as Cameron. I have sat on a park bench and had conversations. So, um, for full disclosure.
S3: But to finish that thought, I just I have two good friends who have started at, you know, big organizations, big legacy kind of magazine organizations since the pandemic started. And they don’t. No, they’re colleagues and they don’t they don’t feel secure. I mean, they may enjoy their work, but they don’t feel like they don’t yet feel secure in their workplace, that they sort of know how the hierarchy works or who to ask about what or whether they’re really up on the, you know, not just the office gossip, but sort of what the publication is looking to do next. It just seems like a very disorienting way to start a job. And I’m glad I didn’t end up in that position myself.
S10: All right, well, among the weak ties in our lives are all of you beautiful listeners, and hearing from you and your experiences of a pandemic has been one way in which virtual weak ties have been perpetuated. So thank you all for listening and for supporting Slate and its work by being plus members. And thank you, dear Dana and Steve, my my close ties who are far away. We’ll see everybody next week.