S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. I’m Stephen Metcalf and this is the Slate Culture Gabfest, What’s love got to do with it, Ed.. It’s Wednesday, April 7th, 2000, and twenty one. On today’s show, we continue moving through the various Oscar nominations. This week, we discuss best picture nominee Judas and the Black Messiah. The movie tells the story behind the assassination of Fred Hampton. At the time, the charismatic leader of the Black Panthers in Chicago stars Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton and Keith Stanfield as William O’Neal, the tormented informant who helped bring Hampton down. And then Tina is the documentary on HBO about the legendary singer. Tina Turner recounts her years of abuse by Ike Turner, but also, in a way, rebukes us for paying too much attention to that one aspect of a remarkable woman and her remarkable career. And finally, Naomi Wolf was a feminist icon. Maybe she still is. She’s certainly now something of a crank. We discussed this with Slate’s own Rebecca Onion. Joining me today is Alegra Frank, who is a senior editor at Slate Alegra. Welcome back to the show.
S2: Hi. Thanks for having me again. So excited to be back.
S1: Yeah, it’s wonderful. It’s your sophomore appearance. And now we can sort of officially say you’re gunning for Julia Turner’s job.
S2: Hope Julia does not tune in this week. But I am here assuming I don’t hit a sophomore slump. So fingers crossed for me.
S1: OK, fair enough. And of course, Dana Stevens is the film critic for Slate Dotcom. Hey, Dana. Hello. How are you?
S3: Pretty well. How are you?
S1: Yeah, good hanging in there though. I will add, Dana, you’re going to drop out for one of the topics when we discuss the Tina Turner documentary with Jack Hamilton of Slate.
S3: Yeah, that’s right. But I’ll be here for everything else.
S1: After the assassinations of Dr. King and Malcolm X, it looked as though Fred Hampton, supremely charismatic and supremely young head of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, might carry their legacy forward into the 1970s, Hampton brought a special emphasis to hands on social services to the urban poor, but also what we would now call, I think, an intersectional commitment to all poor people. And therefore, he was a bearer of a very self-conscious and very left proletarian politics. And this brought him to the focused attention of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. In December 1969, a 21 year old Hampton was gunned down in his apartment by the Chicago police in an event that has long been regarded as an outright assassination. Judas in the Black Messiah recounts one critical aspect. I mean, tells the whole story, but but focuses on one critical aspect of the U.S. government’s persecution of Hampton, its recruitment of an informant and mole, William O’Neil, who went undercover as a panther and eventually became close to Hampton as a security chief. This is as much as it’s also a kind of biopic of Hampton in a way. It’s also about the tortured and ambivalent internal dynamics of O’Neill. Played beautifully by Keith Stanfield. Jesse Plemons plays the FBI agent who flips O’Neill. So in addition to being a revolutionary and a leader, Hampton, as portrayed in the movie, is also a charismatic pedagogue. In the clip we’re about to hear, Hampton, played by Daniel Klyuyev, stands in front of a classroom and teaches his fellow Black Panthers about the movement
S4: Somali to find for what was a violent conflict between two or more bodies. Would you say, be a war with hippies combat? Both Jim and I take it a step further and say that you go to across the nation should be considered occupied territory, but. Oh, well, how about politics? How would you define politics by the winners? You know, elections, elections can be part of politics. And but we in a party is got a Chairman Mao’s definition of politics. He said war is politics with bloodshed and politics is war without bloodshed. Civil war is politics with bloodshed just to throw it out. That’s what I mean. It means every time the shoot down unarmed brother or sister in the street, Daley pull the trigger in made Tricky Dicky Nix is the fattest, most filthy pig in a P.
S1: Alegra, let me start with you, this is pretty astonishing film now.
S2: Yeah, I really enjoyed it. I think that, you know, this is a story that has been discussed to some degree, the Black Panthers, but not in such a way where characters to call them that have been sort of humanized. Like my experience with the Black Panthers is more in these sort of anodyne documentaries and are included in larger pieces on the civil rights movement. So I really appreciated getting to actually see Fred Hampton as a fuller figure, as well as the fact that this is such a, you know, an emotionally gripping story with William O’Neal, the FBI informant who ended up helping to facilitate Fred Hampton’s murder. I mean, it’s just a really intriguing story that hasn’t been told very much in the mainstream. But I’m curious to hear both of your thoughts, because also, since the film’s release, I’ve read a lot of sort of opposition about how it images Fred Hampton and politics in the Black Panthers and their influence and significance.
S3: I mean, this is really going to be a personal reaction and not an analysis of exactly how I would have seen this movie doing anything differently. But I was a little disappointed in this movie, to tell you the truth. It had been so hyped and so praised. I was so excited to see both of these two actors who do both give brilliant performances. But there’s something muddled about the conceptualization of this movie of this to this twosome. Right? I mean, it essentially is a movie with without a lead. Both of these two guys are up for best supporting actor, which you could argue is one of those cases of, you know, quote, category fraud at the Oscars. Are they leads or they colleagues? I appreciate that the movie doesn’t have a single main character that it focuses on, but a combination of the fact that it has you know, this this big ensemble cast is a pretty epic story. You know, it’s telling the story of about three very tumultuous years in the lives of a lot of people. And there’s something kind of scattered about this movie’s focus that kept frustrating me. I kept feeling like licky Standfield endemically are so powerful as these characters. And yet I don’t really understand the motivations, particularly of Bill O’Neil, the Keith Stanfield character, who is the FBI informant. We see a lot of scenes with him, you know, being taken out for fancy meals by the FBI agent, played by Jesse Plemons, who’s who’s working in. And I guess we get a sense that like Judas, right. As in the title, he’s doing this for the 30 pieces of silver. He’s doing this because it keeps him out of jail and it pays him money. But he stanfield’s it is an actor who brings so much complexity and intensity to this performance. There’s so much behind his eyes that I wished the script understood the character as well as he seems to be struggling to understand the character. I don’t know if either of you found this either, but actually maybe since the only audio clip we’ve heard did not involve Keith Stanfield, who arguably is the protagonist of the movie. Let’s listen to a little clip from him. This isn’t one of the scenes with Jesse Plemons, who plays the FBI agent who is implanting him as a fake Black Panther.
S4: Hey, listen, I’m out, Roy, I’m out. Calm down. Calm down, Bill. Fucking calm down, all right? I was almost killed, man. I’m crazy in jail. I did a damn job and I’m out of work. What do you mean? That’s not how it works.
S3: I didn’t really understand that character’s motivation. I hadn’t learned much about the Black Panthers are about Fred Hampton that I didn’t already know going in. And also that this is kind of opening up another question, but that there were just a lot of secondary and tertiary characters who were important for a few scenes, but who otherwise were people that we barely knew. And maybe that that goes to this feeling that it’s that it’s rushed. I mean, I’m the one who’s always complaining that things are padded and why do they need to be longer TV shows. But this, I think, could have been a season of TV more profitably than compressed into the running time.
S1: It was the acting and the scene setting and the situation are better, I think, than the screenwriting in ways that I found frustrating, because there’s something. Especially horrific about this act of betrayal as it falls upon O’Neill and, you know, Alegra, there’s this incredible framing device, which is that in the late 80s and early 90s, PBS did a multi-year series called Eyes on the Prize about the civil rights movement in America in which they interview O’Neill. And I don’t you know, you can go on YouTube and see the minute, minute and a half interview. It’s excerpted in the movie and the movie opens with Standfield as O’Neill doing the interview and essentially being asked, like, how do you feel about this legacy that you were this informant and him giving this evasive and tortured answer? And the movie ends with the actual footage of O’Neill giving the answer. And I don’t want to give away the consequences of that interview. But I mean, the man could not live with what he had done that his conscience to me is almost as much at the center of this movie as the charisma and the political implications of Fred Hampton.
S2: Yeah, I mean, that’s something that I both found really compelling, but also sort of frustrating in thinking about the film later on is that William O’Neill is this figure that I did not have any real familiarity with other than just as a name. Right. I didn’t have any sense of who he was going into this film, but I felt like and as Dana said, I didn’t I still left without having much of that sense. And even though he is the Judas in this, you know, and the Judas in the black messiah paradigm. And we do know how his story shakes out in real life and understanding this tension of becoming really committed or becoming really involved, at least with the Black Panthers versus also having this other agenda for his own, you know, self gain. That is such a really that’s such an interesting balance that he has to maintain. And yet I felt as though I didn’t have quite the understanding or at least the sense of how much this was weighing on him, which made the the final note that, as you said, we will not give away, even though it’s always funny when it’s like, let’s not spoil this historical fact. I know. I know.
S3: But it really does come as a twist at the end of the movie.
S2: Yeah, it really it was one of
S3: the more powerful moments.
S2: I thought it was a really interesting directorial choice on the part of Shaka King who directed this film. And he’s talked a lot about how how long he’s pursued the story and finally actually realizing it. And so I found I found that choice to be interesting. And just a lot of his choices as a director I’m not particularly familiar with. Do you guys know much about Chocho King and his work?
S3: Well, I mean, part of why I maybe got too hyped for this movie and was was had such high expectations going in that they couldn’t have helped being dashed is that it’s a really interesting second project for Shaka King. I don’t know if either of the two of you saw Newlywed’s, which is his only other feature film. He’s done shorts and but Newlywed’s is from a while back. It’s from I feel like it’s almost a decade ago now and it’s just so different from this. It’s a really small scale, low budget movie. Not unusual for a director’s first movie. That’s a stoner comedy about about a black couple, basically about two two stoners who are in love. And it was really fun and sweet. And so to see what he would do with this very different project, this big sweeping historical biopic just was seemed fascinating to me. And I still am very curious to see what he does next. It’s exciting that he got to make a movie this big for a second movie with Ryan Coogler is the producer. But there’s something about this movie, and I think I agree with Steve that it has to do more with the screenplay than with the acting or the direction that fails to cohere around any one set of relationships or set of ideas is there’s so much going on and there are so many people and there’s so much action happening on screen at every moment that I don’t feel like we get to really sit down and get to know the three or four most important characters that, well,
S1: I feel like the Alegra, this is often a problem with historical moviemaking to begin with, which is that, you know, very often people don’t leave very detailed records of their own experiences as a quote unquote historical actor, or when they do, they’re very sketchy or totally self-interested and semi credible. And so filmmakers are faced with a choice, which is to take from the public record what the public record already knows and therefore the public already knows and kind of retell it. So it feels like a fictionalized documentary or to extrapolate from what’s known and confect something that works as a film, as a piece of dramatic art. But then then you’re moving beyond the. Facts and I often find these movies attempt to have it both ways to be interesting, intrinsically interesting as stories they falsify or blur the history and try then to get both satisfactions in of like, oh, now I know what really happened with Fred Hampton, which you may or may not from watching this movie. It sounds like you’ve done a lot of reading on that.
S2: Yeah, definitely. I found I found like, you know, this film spurred me to do some supplemental research because it did sort of have to straddle that line of, OK, how much are we adhering to? What ultimately I mean, if we think about it, Fred Hampton, when he died, he was, what, twenty one, was it? Yeah. So he was very young and William O’Neil was 20. So there isn’t that much of a historical record to really build off of. So trying to create this film, that balance that does strike that balance of, OK, we are educating the viewer, but also trying to tell a compelling and moving story. I feel like, you know, is a particular challenge here, which is actually why I feel like Dominic Fishback and Deborah Johnson. I think that was what really her character in that partnership with her. And Fred, I found to be the most winning part of the film. And I think one coming out of the film, watching it for the first time, she was really what stuck with me.
S5: You get to go out and talk about Diana revolutionary death and how your body belonged to the revolution because you don’t have another person growing inside your body.
S2: She is the one who survived. She’s still alive. We actually see at the very end of the film that there’s a brief clip of her and Fred Hampton Junior, their child together that she gave birth to after Fred died. And so she is sort of the one lasting peace of this time and giving her so much of the spotlight and really creating this wonderful character with her. That, to me, was perhaps the film’s greatest success.
S1: Mhm. Yeah, I agree with that completely. All right. Well the movie is Judas in the Black Messiah. It’s rentable at very streaming platforms. Check it out. We want to know what you thought of it. All right. Moving on. All right, before we go any further, this is typically where we talk business in the course of the podcast. What do we have, Dana?
S3: Stephen in Slate. Plus, today, we’re going to talk about cultural evangelism. This is based on a letter from a listener who wanted us to talk about experiences we’ve had in the past, trying to persuade others to love some cultural products that we love. Did it work? Was it a good idea in the first place? And do we like to be evangelized to? So we are going to take that listener question and expand it just to a larger question of, you know, what it means to browbeat others into your cultural loves. So Slate plus members will get to hear that bonus segment at the end of the show. If you are not a slate plus member, you can sign up today at Slate Dotcom Culture. Plus, it only costs a dollar for your first month. And for that dollar you get access to ad free podcasts and lots of bonus content like the segment I just described. Once again, you can sign up for that program at Slate Dotcom Culture Plus. And if you’re already a slate plus member, thank you so much for supporting us. And we’re always open to emails at Culture Fest, at Slate Dotcom. If you have ideas for future bonus segment, we love hearing from you. OK, Steve, what’s next?
S1: It was too unlike me my life, says Tina Turner in the new HBO documentary about her life called Appropriately Tina. And it struck me as just a perfectly wonderful Cohen. In a way, it was too unlike me, my life. And you see, certainly over the course of the documentary, I think you see it immediately, almost like a thought. You see what she means, that she, in her essence, is the most alive, affirmative, seemingly self empowered creature imaginable, in addition to being one of the greatest soul and pop singers who ever lived. And yet, for most of her career, she’d been nothing but exploited and abused. She’s described in the course of the documentary at one point as, quote, Rock’s original Mick Jagger. And I guess that’s a compliment in a way. But what it really means is she pioneered a sound and attitude, a stage presence that white men stole from her and turned them into superstars while she remained stuck in a creative marriage in a marriage marriage with Ike Turner Turner. As the documentary makes clear, it was a musical pioneer himself and and a genius in his own right. But he was also a horrific abuser and a thief of her identity. Ultimately, in some respects, the documentary details Turner’s hard life. But what I love about it also, and we’ll get into it is how little she wants to be known for the way her story is typically told. In fact, she’s told it that way in a book co-authored with Kurt Loder. But the movie ultimately, I think, is not only about how extraordinary she is as a human being and as a talent, but it’s a it’s the story of a woman breaking out of of bondage, bondage imposed upon her. It’s an extraordinary movie. It’s on HBO. OK, so in what we’re about to hear, it’s Tina talking about a 1981 interview she gave to People magazine, which was a watershed in her own life and career, but also in the national conversation about domestic abuse. It’s it’s the interview in which she really went finally fully public about what she’d endured from her former husband, Ike Turner. Let’s listen to the clip.
S5: I didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to stop people from. Thinking that I can Tina was so positive, I mean, he was it was that we were such a love team or a great team and it wasn’t like that. So I thought, if nothing else, at least people would know.
S4: Tina Turner is a legend, a major influence on rock stars like Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger once she was teamed with her husband, Ike. Now she’s on her own trying to establish herself as a star. Once again,
S2: my life with Ike
S5: was one that a lot of maybe people are familiar with the husbands, that that is a practiced brutality. Yeah, yeah. Nobody talks about sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic abuse, abuse, period. Our generation is the generation that started to break the silence.
S1: And by the way, the last voice we hear, there’s Oprah Winfrey, who plays a big role in in in the documentary. We’re joined now by Jack Hamilton, who’s Slate’s music critic. He’s also professor of American and media studies at UVA at the University of Virginia. His book is just around Midnight Rock and Roll in the Racial Imagination. Jack, can’t think of a more apposite guest for this topic. How’s it going?
S6: It’s going great. Thanks for having me on. I’m always happy to be here.
S1: Yeah, it’s great to have you back. You you loved this movie. Why don’t you just describe why?
S6: Yeah. I mean, it’s it’s just a wonderful movie. I mean, it’s really interesting because it’s it’s actually fairly conventional in many ways. You know, it’s sort of it hits a lot of the kind of standard musical music documentary beats it precedes roughly chronologically and tells sort of, you know, fairly standard story. But it has all of these really great devices, including the use of archival interviews, which just work incredibly powerfully. Like you mentioned, the 1981 People interview, which was a total landmark. And there’s also a lot of raw audio from the interview she did with Kurt Loder for what would become ITN. And it gives this real immediacy and just intimacy. I mean, that’s like the word I keep coming back to with this documentary is just there is you feel like you are sort of living with this woman kind of for the first time, which is really incredible considering how long Tina Turner has been massively famous and how many times she has sort of put herself out there in these very courageous ways. But this feels really I don’t know, I just I think it’s really one of the one of the best music documentaries I think I’ve ever seen.
S2: I really enjoyed it as well, and Jack, as someone who is very familiar with prior Tina documentaries and a lot of these interviews in the book, I wonder, did you still find this to be illuminating? I mean, I think like on the topic of it being a good watch, it certainly was. But did you find yourself learning new things or getting new perspectives on Tinas? Very well reported story.
S6: Yeah, I did. And I think they I think part of it is that there’s been a way that Tina’s story has kind of always been in some ways framed in proximity to Ike and in sort of relation to her marriage, like, you know, the first part of her career. She’s one half of Ike and Tina. And then really in the 80s and beyond, she becomes this kind of superhero survivor figure who is and, you know, you have the 1993 biopic, What’s Love Got to Do with It, which was a big hit and, you know, on a bunch of awards and stuff. But, you know, Ike is really central to that movie. And there’s a way that this documentary, without minimizing the role of Ike in her career and in her life, really feels like this is her story in a way that I haven’t read her second memoir, which was published a few years ago. But I Tina is also very much her memoir that came out in 1986, which is the basis for what’s love got to do with it is very much a lot of it’s about her marriage. And so this documentary just felt a lot more like this is me, you know, like it’s like and she kind of says that a number of times. Like, one of the things I thought was really interesting is she talks about private dancer and her comeback in the 80s. And she said to me it wasn’t a comeback because to me this was me for the first time, like, this wasn’t me coming back. This was me, you know, taking the stage. It’s like almost more of a debut.
S2: I felt like, you know, this is such a traumatizing and re traumatizing experience to have to constantly talk about what happened to her. And, you know, seeing her at the end with her lovely Swiss husband in their beautiful castle, like, I completely understood. You know, of course, she doesn’t want to talk about this anymore. She’s 80 years old and still having to relitigate Ike’s legacy in relation to hers. And even though she very much is, you know, both of both of you have said she is saying this is not you know, it never come back. I am Tina Turner and I stand alone, as, you know, a success and a legend in my own right, which no one would argue. It’s still it’s impossible to extricate Ike from that even in this kind of circumstance where it is like Tina at the forefront. So I’m curious for you, Jack, what you thought of this idea of this being like the final word from Tina and if you found it satisfying in that sense?
S6: Yeah, I did. I mean, it’s really it’s so rare, I think, that you can that an artist has a chance, especially an artist of her magnitude has the opportunity to sort of go out like this. And it is really framed as a swan song like I mean, she seems an incredible physical shape. I mean, she’s she seems like 30 years younger than she actually is, at least. So, I mean, I don’t think Tina Turner is going anywhere anytime soon, but she does seem to be basically done with public life. And that’s made clear both by her and her husband at the end of the documentary. And there’s like a real kind of elegance to like this kind of departure, you know, and sort of leaving on her own terms. And there’s nothing about I’m guessing the movie kind of came about in relation to the Broadway show which premiered, I think, shortly before the covid thing. I’m guessing that that’s sort of the genesis for this, you know, in terms of a sort of publicity blitz kind of thing. But there’s yeah, there’s nothing about the movie that that feels anything other than just like really beautiful. I think, you know, this isn’t something that there’s nothing about this movie that feels like it’s, you know, trying to goose catalog sales or something like that. Like it just feels it feels really natural. And yeah, again, just like this really lovely sort of farewell to her public.
S1: It’s it’s totally my fault as the quote unquote, host of the segment, but we’ve skipped the important middle step here, which is the Christless moment where, you know, Tina emerges in the 80s as a as a as a global pop rock superstar. And what I found really fascinating about that was in the run up to that moment where Tina becomes Tina as we know her, you know, she had four kids that she had the support and Ike had fleeced her of everything. The divorce she got in the divorce, she got screwed out of all of the Ike and Tina back catalogue. She almost got screwed out of her own own name, which is a stage name. But he almost got the rights to the name Tina Turner, which is, you know, just it’s just it’s just an astonishing smack in the mouth. As you’re watching the documentary, do you think that almost happened? She retains the name. It sounds as though she she effectively said, you just have to leave me with this. You can have all this other shit, but you have to leave me with the name Tina Turner. So she has four kids in the name Tina Turner, and that’s it. Other than her God given talent, American radio is racist about how to categorize her, because in America, as they made clear in the documentary, popular music was, you know, heavily a segregated business. There was a sense, according to according to a supposedly like almost like platonic market segmentation, you marketed, you know, race, quote unquote, race music in one way and white music in another way. And there was pop and there was rock and there was soul and R and B and these things didn’t mix. And so then the guy who believes in I’m sorry, I don’t remember his name, but the guy who really believes in her and does help her resurrect her career has this song he wants her to record. And it’s been previously recorded. It is the single funniest. It’s almost like an SNL skit attempting to show you the whitest music and did some white pop, you know, kind of, you know, what was George Michael’s first band and wham, yeah. It’s like wham minus minus, minus the song called What’s Love Got to do with it.
S2: Do it, no.
S1: And Tina Turner is like, I don’t wanna record that song sucks, I do not want that song, and they talk her into it. And as soon as you hear that opening, I mean, it’s just one of the great singles of all time, she turns it into a kind of genre list. Mm hmm. But in the best sense song. Right? It’s like a soul song, a pop song, a rock song. And she becomes a stadium at.
S5: What’s love got to do with it, what’s?
S7: But I said for sure. What’s that got to do with it
S5: would be rather me?
S1: And one more detail sorry Jack, that I thought was very important here is that in order to do that, she almost had to abandon the American market first for the English market, because in England, funnily enough, they don’t racially categorize music in the same way. And so blurring these boundaries for them was not some fucking ontological problem they couldn’t overcome. And so she sort of broke over there first. But it is an amazing moment in the documentary. We hear those songs and to me, those songs are just like they’re in my in my DNA.
S6: Yeah. I mean, it’s a great point. And it’s something that going to just plug my own book. Exactly. Which I write about. But it’s like, you know, 20 years or a little less than 20 years earlier, you see basically the same thing happened with Jimi Hendrix, who’s got to go to England to, you know, like he’s playing this kind of music that people are like, you can’t you know, the American record industry. A lot of them are like, no, you can’t be a black guy and playing music like this. And he goes to England and that is what, you know, sets him on his journey. And Tina herself goes to England and England is. Yeah, you know, I mean, certainly England has plenty of its own racial hang ups, but the recording industry there in the early 1980s is in a different place than it is in the United States. And it’s interesting that Tina, her breakthrough year is 1984, which is just a major, major year in American pop music. Michelangelo Mattos just wrote a great book about the music of 1984, Can’t Slow Down. And yeah, I mean, in 1984 is, you know, Thriller is dominating still, even though to come out in late 1982, 1984 is the year that Prince, like, definitively breaks through with Purple Rain. And so there’s just a lot going on in American music. There’s a real kind of reshuffling that’s happening and seeing a benefits from that, you know, and it is something private Dancer is an incredible album. And as you mentioned, what’s love got to do with it is just an incredible single. And at the time it went number one, she was the oldest female artist to top the Billboard charts. And yeah, I mean, it’s just an incredible accomplishment. And it was something that many, many people in the American record industry thought she was done and certainly didn’t think that, you know, a black woman in her 40s could become, you know, one of the highest selling artists on the face of the earth, which she did. And it’s pretty incredible.
S2: All I can say is I hope that I am able to move around like this or in my 40s or
S1: my eighties
S2: because I am not even close and I am 27.
S1: Are there any other ships of mind you’d like to talk about sailing? Because that one can feel real. All right. Well, Jack, as always, a pleasure to have you back on the show.
S6: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.
S1: Thanks for coming on. All right, well, we’re joined by Rebecca Onion, Slate staff writer and historian, to talk about the legacy of Naomi Wolf, who roughly 30 years ago published the book The Beauty Myth. Rebecca, welcome back to the podcast.
S2: I’m so glad to be here.
S1: You begin your piece by saying first, it must be said Naomi Wolf is a covid truth or actually want to make that second in order of operations here. If that’s all right, sir. Would you just give for our listeners a quick summary of the main argument of the beauty myth and just, you know, remind us what a huge book it was?
S2: Sure. Well, so this is a book that it moves thematically. And it’s its main argument is that because women have made at the point that the book was being written in the late 80s, early 90s, have made a lot of progress into the workplace, the response on the part of culture has been to create ever more stringent beauty expectations. So she talks about beauty and in the workplace, she talks about she’s obsessed with plastic surgery, eating disorders. That was a huge one and one that I really resonated with me as a teenage girl. Beauty products themselves like creams and potions and such. And so she she’s drawing from history. She uses a lot of statistics and she also engages in quite a bit of sort of like imaginative writing about interpersonal scenarios. And the book was a huge hit when it was published. And since writing the essay, I found out that it’s assigned a lot in sort of like feminist studies classes still to this day. And so it’s reached a lot of people for you.
S1: That book 30 years ago was the foundational text to talk a little bit about what Wolfe meant to you and why.
S2: Yes. So the Beauty Myth was published, was published in Britain, I believe, in nineteen ninety in the United States in 91. And I got my hands on it somewhere between 95 and 97, I think. And I was like profoundly changed by it. After this essay came out, I said to someone on Twitter that I, I feel like my politics were like. Seventy five percent came from the beauty myth for a while. And this was during a period where, you know, I was in high school, early college had like a highly like I don’t know if the word is absorbent mind or like generative mind, like you have that sort of mind at that that period of life where you just, like, are ready to really care about something intellectual. And for me, that was the realization that all of my sort of like personal stresses and traumas and feelings about being a teenage girl had like a political foundation. So the book makes ties, all of those feelings to something that I think she frames. When I looked back at the book as like a plan or a plot to try to keep women distracted and like at a lower quality of life, even as they are moving into the workplace in the 80s and 90s. And so all of my, like, annoyances and and fears were sort of justified by this book.
S1: And then so what were two things, as I understand it, returned you to it to reread it and reappraise it. Now, the first is, you know, the 30 year anniversary. It’s an excuse to look back on something that was, you know, instrumental in yourself, understanding and self understanding of of many women. At the same time, you know, she’s been on a bit of a public losing streak. Naomi Wolf, can you just discuss that a little bit?
S2: So she has sort of been a little bit of a conspiracy theorist in an online way for a little while. She she went on the Alex Jones show starting I believe I found that she went on in 2009, 10 and 11, which is an interesting thing to say, because actually Alex Jones, I think, used to be a little bit more like less firmly right. Than he is now. But whatever the side issue. But she you know, she went on to talk about sort of authoritarianism in American life, which she sees as something totally different from what we would probably categorize as authoritarianism. She started posting pictures of clouds to Twitter that she claimed were looked like they were manufactured in some way. So not quite a chem trails idea, but sort of a related idea. Probably the most high profile thing was that in twenty nineteen she was promoting she went back to to finish her PhD, I believe, at Oxford in poetry, and she wrote a book, I believe, that was derived from her dissertation about 19th century sexuality. And sort of her argument was that that gay men were being executed for being gay. In Victorian England, it’s called outrages, and she got sort of famously busted on the BBC live by an interviewer who figured out that she had misinterpreted the sources that she was using to to argue for that these executions had happened.
S5: I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened.
S2: Well, that’s a really important thing to investigate. What is what is your understanding of what death recorded means? Death recorded. Undeniably true that she did misinterpret them and made kind of like a basic mis assumption about them, and that resulted in her book being withdrawn from publication in the United States. So that was the biggest thing before covid. But then throughout covid, she’s just been like on a complete tear of sort of she’s entered into the covid skeptic, lock down skeptic world. She seems to come at it from like a humanistic perspective, which, when I look back at the beauty myth, made perfect sense to me that she is sort of most interested in the idea that Americans are being like oppressed by fear and therefore are not living in like their best lives. So it should tweet things about how, you know, like kids are are not making eye contact anymore because of masks. And they’re like lower faces are like sagging downward because they’re so used to wearing masks. She is very invested in the idea that, you know, this entire covid thing has been made up in order to get people under stricter government control. There are so many examples on her Twitter that it’s like hard to even, you know, cite them. But every once in a while, over the past year, an especially egregious one will surface. And finally, when it’s truly egregious, one surfaced, we decided that it would be a good time to to look back at the book. So the beauty myth was obviously like your inauguration into teenage feminism, but then you sort of graduated into the teen magazine space and you talked a lot about how that has since evolved as well. And I’m curious to hear more about your perspective on how teen magazines kind of run parallel to more or more or similarly problematic works like the beauty myth, reading the beauty myth again. You know, it’s a lot of it is is weirdly is dated and a lot of different ways, perhaps, obviously. But one of the major ways is that this her analysis takes sort of took place before a lot of women’s culture sort of embraced the idea of empowerment, which we can have a lot of conversation about whether or not empowerment as it’s as it’s conveyed in women’s media is like actual empowerment or whether wellness culture actually helps people feel well or, you know, whatever it is. But but I think what you might be referring to is the fact that after I read the BMF and after I went through college, I ended up working at a teen magazine. And and I, I it was it just a real education and motive? Because the major thing about the beauty myth is that despite the fact that it’s not it has a conspiracy mindset, despite the fact that it explicitly says various times, she says, of course, that like, no one made these decisions to do this. But then throughout the book, they’re sort of like a persistent returning to the idea that somebody did make the decision or that like this is this whole sort of apparatus of what she sees is like oppressive culture is is occurring because someone is benefiting from it and that the person benefiting from it is has erected it and put it into into motion. And when I was working at a teen magazine, I just felt like I just didn’t see that. Or maybe that was happening in some further back conference room that I wasn’t privy to. But but but, you know, it was it was like a million different decisions being made in a million different ways every day. And sometimes they worked out to the better and sometimes they didn’t work out well, in my opinion, if if well means sort of like presenting a feminist viewpoint in a inside a teen magazine that it just did it did not seem as coherent as the beauty myth makes it appear.
S3: Rebecca, I was really struck by a moment in your essay about rereading Naomi Wolf after 30 years. At this point you made about nature and about her. It seems like there’s some sort of connection you’re drawing between her wanting to tear down, you know, what she sees as the artificiality of the beauty industry in that book. And and these things that you’re talking about now is like sensing that clouds in the sky are not a natural shape. Right. Or that children don’t smile during covid. And you have this great story from the beauty myth or example from the beauty myth, where you say that she sees women as too afraid of the sun and that you know, that there’s all these products, sunscreen. You know, the idea that the sun is a villain is this is this antifeminist gesture which again is attributed, you know, to this vague something beauty industrial complex that’s out there that isn’t within us. And that made me start thinking about just what a different generation of feminism. I don’t know what wave it is that we’re in now compared to then, but that our understanding specifically in Millennial and Gen Z, generations of beauty, glamour, you know, grooming, skincare, makeup, all of those things have changed so radically and they are so connected. I mean, we might see this is conspiratorial, too, but they are so connected and, you know, YouTube make up tutorials, et cetera, with empowerment and with something that flows from the woman herself. Right. And I’m not sure how I’m turning this into a question, but we’re just a very, very different place culturally with with money. Power.
S2: Oh, yeah. I mean, I feel like the number one thing to do now is to seem to wear makeup and then seem like you’re not wearing makeup like which takes a lot of artifice. Right. I know that. Yeah, exactly. But your point about the the speech she made this point that she felt that the beauty industry’s obsession with photo aging, the idea that that women shouldn’t go in the sun because it’ll do damage to their skin was sort of undermining this this inherent, like, affinity for the Earth that women have, which, first of all, like that is that is something that, you know, is has been I hate this word sorry has been problematize by a lot of, you know, the idea that women are sort of like more natural is like a like a deeply held cultural idea that is both good and bad for us as women and has like a long history. So to see her sort of express it in the book as like a given was. Kind of like a little bit like jarring to me, and it sort of comes back to this idea that, like the feeling that I had upon reading the book, which I sort of realized again and again this the author was only twenty eight when she wrote the book. And it felt like when I read it, when I was young, I didn’t see this. And now that I read it, now I see that it sort of felt like the kind of book where like a wide ranging generalist mind had read a lot of interesting things and had had attached them all to her experience and thrown them together in a May launch.
S1: You know, one one moment I really loved in your piece, Rebecca, was when, you know, you give her her due, is having this kind of weird clairvoyance about the relationships between men and women. And you quote this passage that I found very interesting, what becomes of the man who acquires a beautiful woman with her, quote unquote, beauty, his sole target, he sabotages himself. He has gained no friend, no ally, no mutual trust. She knows quite well why she has been chosen. He has succeeded in buying a mutually suspicious set of insecurities. He does gain something esteem of other men who find such an acquisition. Impressive. And that’s a that’s a wonderful passage, just
S2: beautifully with great right and everything
S1: and subtly observed untrue and prescient. And, you know, and it gets up to for someone like me, one of the most important aspects of feminism for me personally, which is that its implications for men are astounding. Right. And and ought to be astounding. It’s that, you know, part of the equation is the revolution in and male mentality that’s implied by, you know, a feminist critique I found that is completely remarkable, right?
S2: Yeah. Yeah. The book is full of those. Yeah. And I but I see now I read that stuff and I’m like, yeah. Like maybe she should have been a novelist, you know, like, like, you know that it’s a direct line for me between that and sort of imagining the kids who’s who is. I have forgotten how to smile because of masks. Um, I’m like yeah that’s like another sort of like a little imaginary scenario that rings very true to some people. But in that situation, it doesn’t ring true to me at all. And it just made me think again about her strengths and and maybe maybe a little bit less mad at my teenage self. You know, I’m like, yeah, I can see why. I can see why.
S1: What a wonderful form of therapy, though.
S2: I know after I after I we have to republished this. Someone on Twitter said, oh, like we should there should be like a series different people revisiting the books that changed them as teenagers and trying to see, you know, what they what they what they read like now I was like, oh, we should steal that idea for Slate Dotcom. Consider it a signed Rebecca. There you go.
S1: All right. Well, Rebecca Onion is a staff writer for Slate, a friend of the program. And Rebecca, great to talk to you again. It’s been too long.
S2: Thanks so much.
S1: All right, now is the moment in our podcast when we understand. What do you have, Steve?
S3: I’m going to risk a complete ostracisation and mockery by endorsing
S1: Legro would never do that.
S3: And actually, I wish Julia were here to defend me because I think she might defend me against what you’re about to subject me to. But you know how you have this long standing running joke about me being a huge lush who spends all my OFF-MIKE and some of my on mike time just glugging down alcohol?
S1: I you know, Dana, the first step is admitting you have a problem. If you want to call it a big joke, that’s OK. But, you
S3: know, I’m still in denial. No, in fact, I am a very moderate drinker, but I do love my wine and I’m actually endorsing a wine. I don’t know if we’ve ever done that on this show before. And I swear to God, this is not a product placement, although there are wine companies that advertise with us. This is completely my own discovery, an obsession. But when I was trying to think about the last week and what was sort of my biggest discovery of the week, it was honestly this incredibly delicious wine that I’m now obsessed with and inventing meals around so that I can go and get a bottle of it to match. It’s kind of a special occasion. You wine, it cost more than I usually pay as I Google it. Now I see that depending where you are in the country, it’s somewhere in the 20 to 25 dollar range. So if you feel like splurging on a bottle of white, that is a really unusual white. Let me try to describe it in a way that doesn’t sound so wine snob that Steve will just reduce me to dust. But it is a white wine that I guess made by some technique that makes it close to an orange wine. Right. So it’s sort of golden colored. It’s also organic. So it’s sort of cloudy. So it’s this weird looking thing when you pour it where it’s not clear and it’s not light colored and it is just so interesting and delicious. And the word that occurs to me for some reason is tiny. It is a tiny looking and tiny tasting wine and
S1: a little wine
S3: that’s so special. So it’s from Catalunya, which is also just a part of the world I’ve always wanted to visit. I love Catalonian cuisine. So now I’m kind of obsessed with just taking a trip to that part of the world and drinking these wines while looking over beautiful landscapes when all this covid is over. So we’ll put a link to this on the show page. And, you know, depending where you live, you might or might not have it near you or maybe you could order it. But the wine is called La da da da free suk. It’s a Catalonian name, I guess, for the region that it’s from and it’s a white Grenache, and I don’t know enough about wine to describe it further than that, but it’s delicious and I’m obsessed. So we’ll link to it on the show page.
S1: I mean, I love everything about that endorsement. What part of it would I find risible?
S3: I’m really, I guess just the bushiness, just the utter bushiness of me, you know, endorsing my my fancy Catalonian wine.
S1: Are you kidding? Like I am the bobo from hell, right? Like I am the I am the eater and the keeper of the cake. When it comes to bourgeois bohemianism, I, I love this. I first of all, a wine that has not only kind of you know, so I guess it’s prolonged skin contact of a white that gives it the what we would think of as the off color, the orange color. I love that. I love the look of it. I love the taste of that. But also that it is Mercè, that it’s got a kind of unfiltered it’s like Dana, are you kidding?
S3: Well, there’s some wine. It’s like, you know, there’s some wines that you you think they taste delicious and then you kind of forget about the taste as you’re drinking them with dinner. And then there’s wines that every single time you take a sip you go, wow, that was a sensation. And this is one of those.
S1: I love it. Oh, my lord. No, that is that’s marvelous. Alegra, what wine are you endorsing?
S2: I was going to say I have the most unrefined palate, especially when it comes to wine. So I just go for the cheapest glass on the menu, whatever I can or the cheapest bottle.
S3: It’s a great it’s a great blessing. It’s one of those things that you don’t want to know about. The higher you know, it’s a little bit like perfume in that way. It’s like you don’t want to start experimenting with the higher reaches because then you’ll never be able to afford one you like again.
S2: Exactly. Exactly. But I’m very happy for you, Dana, and I hope that everyone buys you a bottle in exchange for this great recommendation. I am endorsing something very different from wine, although I enjoyed it very quickly, as I generally do with my cheap wine. It’s a new Netflix series called Warren Stories. It’s half hour episodes. I think there were like six or eight of them. I watch the whole thing in one setting the other night. And it’s a it’s a series based off a book by Emily Spivak about people’s sort of personal and cultural attachments to clothes. So the way each. It goes, is there sort of a larger theme of maybe community or survival or family, and they interviewed different people about an item of clothing from their lives that connects to that larger theme. So the first episode, for example, is about community and how clothing can bring you closer to groups of people. But it’s actually really funny because the very first group of people they interview are nudists. So it goes completely against the premise or so it seems. But these nudists, I believe that the item of clothing they cherish are like their crocs, which is like the only thing they wear. They wear crocs because they’re like, oh, we would never put our bare feet on the sidewalk. That’s disgusting. Which true. But it is it’s really funny because it’s these nudists talking about how wonderful and freeing it is to not wear clothes. But most of the rest of the show is people talking about like a pair of boots that were really significant to them or a scarf or a dress. And it’s just a lot of really sweet stories from people and, you know, not like famous people, just regular average people from around the country and getting a little insight into their lives and why clothes are so important to us. I mean, I think we all have items of clothing we can’t bear to throw away because of the sentimental attachment. And as someone who has a very a dresser that doesn’t have deep enough drawers, I’m constantly trying to figure out what I can throw out. And it’s so hard because there are stories, there really are stories behind every article of clothing. And so that really resonated with me. And it was just a really fun watch, you know, not to self serious or maudlin, just clearly it has a sense of humor about the whole conceit.
S3: So if it’s such a great idea, can we say the title one more time? I want to see it.
S2: Yeah, it’s called Wawn Stories, so it’s adapted from a book of the same name. So it’s a half hour, half hour hour episodes on Netflix. Really fun, breezy watch.
S1: We should do it on the show and have you back to talk about it.
S2: Yeah, definitely.
S1: Relatedly, Alegra, so I think you’re for your first appearance on the show. I asked you for your feelings about the pop star Hozier and you delivered you hit a grand slam. I wanted you to, you know, totally finger him as a complete nerd. Listen, which was the point. Brilliantly done. So here you go. Here comes another pitch right down the middle of the plate. You ready?
S2: Yes, I’m excited.
S1: Have you watched call my agent.
S2: I’ve heard of it. I have not washtubs. Sorry, I can’t judge you.
S1: I’m sorry. So neither Dana nor Julia has has, you know. Well, first of all, they don’t listen to my endorsement, but on the off chance that they do, you know, they don’t ever take the advice. But wait,
S3: I just emailed you that I’m dying to see. Call my agent. That’s so high on my list of things to see. And by the way, I love Hozier, so I don’t know what kind of hozier violence was happening that I wasn’t privy to, but I’m standing up for it.
S1: Fair enough. But the, um. But anyway, I, I mean, I’m just sort of reinforcing it on a weekly basis because I keep bingeing successive seasons of it and loving it more. I just think it’s I mean this is so no value add to our listeners because I think I’ve already said all of these same words previously. But as I go deeper into the show, I only like it more and I really, really want us all to watch it and to have Lauren Collins back on the show to discuss with us if she’s seen it. But I have to give you a little value-add now. So in addition to that, I’ll say that a listener wrote in. Saying, you know, you love these Steve, you love these Melbourne indie bands from the 90s, have you ever heard Life Without Buildings? Oh my gosh, I love this band. They’re they’re really, really cool. Really fun, really unusual. Amazing lead singer who just seems to, you know, sort of extemporize her way through some of these songs. Beautiful voice, but a lot of it’s spoken word.
S7: Solutions to the nation’s.
S2: Now, that’s something I can co-sign on now that’s a good read.
S1: Oh, yeah, meaning you know that band.
S2: I do. They’re great. I’m only familiar with I guess they only had one album and say I’m only familiar with one of their albums, but the only one
S1: that’s so cool. Yeah. Any other city is that. Yeah. I mean it’s just a great record.
S2: Really great. The Lean Over is a fantastic song.
S1: Yes I agree. And sorrow. I mean it’s just a it’s a great record and there’s something, there’s something really familiar but also totally original and absolutely mesmerizing about that, that singer. Anyway, Alegra, that’s awesome. I’m glad you know them and like them. Yeah. Thank you for coming back on the podcast. This was great.
S2: Thank you guys so much. It was really fun.
S1: Yeah, really fun. Dana, as always, just a complete pleasure.
S3: A joy.
S1: You will find links to some of the things we talked about today at our show page, that Slate dot com culture fest, and you can email us at Culture Fest at Slate Dotcom. We love getting e-mails. We really do. Please send them and we can interact with us on Twitter. It’s at Slate called Best. Our intro music is by the wonderful film composer Nick Batel and composer composer Nick Brittelle. Our producer is Cameron Drus. Our production assistant is Rachel Allen for Alegra, Frank and Dana Stevens. I’m Stephen Metcalf. Thank you so much for joining us. And we will see you soon.
S3: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Select Peace segment of the Slate Culture Gabfest. Today I am joined by Stephen Metcalf and Alegra Frank to discuss a listener question. Or rather, this is sort of a variation on our own interpretation of a listener question. I’ll read the original question and then talk about how we decided to expand it for the segment. The listener wrote in to say, The plus segment I would love to hear is stories about the times that you were successful in convincing or converting or evangelizing about a piece of culture to a previously skeptical counterpart. How culturally persuasive do you think you are? So we batted this around and thought that we would maybe, rather than try to find a specific instance of this, expand it to the general question of cultural evangelism and whether or not it’s worthwhile, enjoyable, desirable to be on either the giving or receiving end of cultural evangelism. I’ll start with you, Legere, because you’re our special guest this week. Can you either cite a specific time that you have made a case for something, have not made a case for something, or do you want to make the case against making the case for pieces of culture? Or should we just let people like what they like? What’s your position on this?
S2: I think my position has evolved over the years. I think when I was younger and this sort of like headstrong, brash teenager, I was very into the cultural evangelism as a sort of like point of pride of like, yeah, I have great taste. So you have to watch this film or you have to listen to this band. And then, you know, if people picked up on it, I would be like, yes, validation. And I think I’ve stopped caring so much about that. I you know, I take people’s recommendations in in fits and spurts and I offer recommendations. But like, I’m not, you know, offended if people don’t take me up on them. I’m sort of just like doing my own thing now. But I will say, even though I was the kind of person back in the day who very much wanted to give people Wrex, because it would make me feel good about myself, I was also very impressionable. And when I think about this topic, I think about how I was in eighth grade and I just had watched Arrested Development for the first time after it ended. And I fell madly in love with Michael Sarah, which is just something I own about myself.
S3: And he’s the perfect eighth grade. He’s like a teen beat love. So that’s kind of
S2: perfect for, like, sad girl nerds. And so I just like everything he was into I decided I would be into. And so, of course, he wasn’t like evangelizing so outride because it’s not like I knew him or was ever speaking to him. But he was like a big fan of Weezer. And that was something he talked about a lot in like interviews and would post covers of Weezer songs. And so I decided I had to be a big fan of Weezer as well, based off his, you know, tacit recommendation. And so now Weezer is one of my favorite bands of all time, which also is, you know, feel free to judge that as well. But yeah. So evangelism definitely left a huge mark on me, even if nowadays I don’t I don’t really subscribe to it quite as much.
S3: Oh, I love that Michael. Sara gave you so much even though you never really met.
S2: Never really met. We met in an emotional sense.
S3: I guess in some ideal world you have his heart. Steve, what about you? I hope that you have a story that good to share. Well, I’ve heard you do plenty of evangelizing on the show, by the way. So you’re not allowed to say that you’re not in evangelizing.
S1: Oh, no, no. I’m the opposite. I evangelize about everything. I mean, you know, culturally related. It’s the disease almost. But but, you know, one instance I’m very proud of of converting someone is you know, I’ve had this, you know, I don’t know, not twenty year, about maybe twenty years at this point. Running argument with Jody Rosen about optimism and pop and rock ism and indie rock and Taylor Swift and on and on. A totally virosome. Not us. But and you know. There’s this indie Australian pop band that really very few people know that had some they had some success down there, real success down there. People in the music world, in Australia, remember them fondly, I think. And they had some success in England and just virtually no success here. And they’re kind of nerdy, very sweet, called locksmith’s. Right. And I think it was only 20 years into listening to the locksmith’s. I realised it was a pun on the word locksmith. I don’t know anyway. Yeah, it’s I don’t know why that hit me so late in the day, but anyway, but that’s they’re like nerdy this whatever. But the songwriter behind them is, I believe is a genius, like a legitimate songwriting genius. And so even though for Jody Rosen, you know, indie kind of, you know, indie bands that never broke big, that are the darlings of, you know, nerdy music critic types is not his thing at all. He is very much into pop craftsmanship and workmanship. And I just regard this guy, the songwriter. This band is just, you know, up there with some of the absolute greats. I think he’s a beautiful storyteller, rhyme maker, Melodist and on and on. And I pushed it. I think I pushed on Jody multiple times before he finally gave in. And unless he’s totally bullshitting me, he like talks to both of us. Dana and Ted. In other news, I
S3: fucking love the Luxford worked. You’re you’re spreading the gospel worked on that one. Yeah.
S1: I mean, the guy. And it’s like I and my friend, the journalist David Grann, is the same thing. It’s like years and years ago I said, David, you should, because he and I actually have substantially similar music as David Tritle Xmas, trust me on this. And he just clicked on the wrong song. And if you get the wrong one, you’re like, these guys are just charming little nerds. Like self impressed. No, not self impressed, but charming, unprepossessing almost to a fault nerds. And he just didn’t groove on it. And recently he emailed me and was like, oh my God, I finally fucking gave them a real chance. The guy’s a genius, right? Like, I actually think that that’s not a totally inappropriate label for his songwriting. I just think he’s he is the most underrated songwriter alive. And everyone’s forgotten. His band, Alegra, he sounds like you’ve got a lot of music nerd in your DNA. I’m going to send you my little playlist of their music if you check it out. I would be very honored.
S2: Yeah, definitely.
S1: That was a big that was a big instance of of proselytizing and then having that huge satisfaction. But I turn it back on you, Dana. There’s a psychology here, right? There’s some there is some some people feel a weirdly disproportionate psychic benefit pushing something that they really cherish on to someone else and having that person respond to it. It’s almost like you created the thing or something. There’s some proprietary satisfaction about impressing your taste in something, admiration for something on someone else. Right. Am I onto something?
S3: Yeah, there is, but I relate to it very differently. And it’s just occurred to me while listening to you guys talk that maybe I relate to it differently because, you know, I because I have this this platform as a critic to do that all the time, you know, I mean, in a way, that’s what being a critic is is evangelizing. Right? I mean, if you love something, you’re making the case for it. If you think it’s overrated, you’re making the case for that. And you’re constantly making cultural arguments, attempting to persuade people. And maybe as a result of that, I don’t get off on it that much in my personal life. I mean, granted, when it lands, it’s fantastic. Like Steve, when you discovered I capture the castle through me and started proselytizing for it on my behalf. Right. But there’s so many other times that it doesn’t land. And when we were planning this segment, our producer mentioned a feeling that I’m so, so familiar with, which I just had recently in a story I’ll tell you of, you know, pumping something up so hard to someone you care about so much and then you’re watching it with them and you can just tell that they’re not getting it. And it’s just the worst feeling. And it and it ruins your experience, too. And you start to question, well, why did I love this thing so much? I wanted
S1: to smell. Yeah, why do I suck so much?
S3: And that just happened to occur to me and my partner with our daughter, who is finally old enough to watch Freaks and Geeks, which is one of our favorite shows ever, and one of the most, I think, perfect seasons of TV of all time. And we have the box set of it with a bunch of great extras. And I know that she likes a lot of the actors on it. She’s a big fan of Jason Segel and specifically Jason Siegel’s children’s writing, which is a whole other story. He does that now. But yeah, she was really hyped like a show about high school, which I just started, and it’s got Jason Segel in it. And I can’t wait to watch it with my parents. And then she didn’t really get it. I mean, she didn’t hate it, but you could just feel her squirming and wanting to leave. And she didn’t want to watch a second episode and just said, it’s not really my thing. And and it was really hard. It was sad. It made me sad that I had built it up so much because I think if I had more casually sort of put it on and had her wander in, she might have really liked it. So that’s a personal story of evangelization falling flat. But on a professional level, too, I have to say that I’m not that into that side of being a critic. You know, like you will not find me voting in. Brackets on film Twitter about which is the greatest movie of 1993 or really cheering on movies for the Oscars that much, although I might get an underdog, I’m excited about for one specific category. But in general, the idea of criticism as kind of bludgeoning of others with your own point of view and getting them to accept it just it feels it feels too violent to me. I guess I kind of feel like that has to happen in the review, you know what I mean? So I’m not going to go around outside of the thousand words that I’ve already devoted to writing about something, trying to get someone to like it further beyond that. And I don’t particularly like when people do that to me. I mean, I love having something excitedly shared in the mood that we do in the endorsements. But the idea of browbeating someone at all because they don’t share your cultural taste just seems to me like such a terrible blunder.
S1: No, that’s the worst. But, Dana, I’ve, I, I, I think of your. Among your many distinctive strengths as a critic is that. Ability to write criticism. From a very definite point of view, that’s very much your own, that is not based in anything like a thumbs up or thumbs down or sort of definitive judgment or it it it it’s it’s it’s it’s powerfully delivered without being opinionated, which is a remarkable, you know, needle to thread. Right. That’s that’s quite a little, um, that’s quite a small target that you hit. On the other hand, do you feel occasionally. That kind of endorphin flood of here’s a thing not many people know about it either yet or it’s been unjustly ignored previously. I’m going to play an instrumental role in trying to turn it into the success that it deserves to be.
S3: Yeah, I think that is a little bit of a different category. And that usually has to do with something that, for whatever reason, is underrepresented. Right. I mean, it’s a really low budget movie that didn’t get great distribution or, you know, it comes from some community that isn’t often portrayed on film. There are movies that I make that kind of case for. And I often think about the movie Atanas You Out The Fast Runner. I don’t know if either of you have seen that movie, but when that movie came out back in the early 2000s, I evangelized about it all the time because it just seemed like a movie that would never be discovered unless you went around talking about it to everyone. And it is quite extraordinary. It’s yeah, it was from 2001. It was this this Canadian film that was, I believe, one of the first major productions directed by an Inuit filmmaker. And it’s all about a legend, an old Inuit legend. That is kind of an action really almost kind of an action story and also a romance, but filmed against these incredible backdrops of, you know, just snowy tundra made with a very low budget on digital film. But it just looks so gorgeous. There’s just nothing like that movie. That’s Jawad. And I’d love to go around pressing it on people. So I’ll make that my my evangelisation for this segment. But that shows you how little I do it, that I have to go back 20 years to remember a time that I was really sort of grabbing people, you know, like the Ancient Mariner and trying to make them go off and see the fast runner. But all that in the context of, you know, again, I mean, I get to sit here weekly and evangelize in a way about about whatever I’m thinking about. So I think this is probably a different question for somebody who’s producing weekly criticism and for just regular people in their daily lives. And speaking as a friend, I guess I like to be evangelized to I don’t want to be bludgeoned, as I say, but it is really fun when somebody calls you up excitedly about a piece of culture they want you to experience. All right, well, thank you to the listener who wrote in with that that question that really gave us something to run with, I think. And thanks to you guys, Stephen Alegra, for discussing it.
S2: Yeah, thank you.
S1: Yeah, that was fun.
S3: And to all of you listeners who subscribe to Slate plus, thank you so much for supporting our show and we’ll talk to you next week.