Why the Internet Thinks Lea Michele Can’t Read

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S1: So we were like, Oh, maybe Leia can’t read jokingly.

S2: And we were like, Ha ha! And then it was like, Oh, yeah, every.

S3: Time.

S2: Rachel Hampton And I’m a Laker Frank and you’re listening to. I see. Why am I?

S3: In Case You Missed It.

S2: Slate’s podcast about Internet culture.

S3: And Alegria is here with us to talk about the most important Web site on the Internet. Because, yes, Tumblr is up to something again. Something.

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S2: Good question, Mark.

S3: It seems like.

S2: It. I don’t know. I mean, we’ll we’ll see. Well, we’ll talk about it and we’ll figure out, because I have mixed feelings. But earlier this month, on April 20th, 420, baby Tumblr blazed it. They launched a Tumblr blaze, which is this new sponsored post service. So the way that works, it’s like any Tumblr user can pay to have a post of their choice shared across different people’s dashes because like the way that Tumblr works is that it’s really just who you follow and their content of choice that you see. So it’s not really just random people, right?

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S3: Yeah. So they’ve kind of toyed with an algorithm sized feed. There’s a for you tab on the mobile app that you can look at that is purely just content from people that you don’t follow. But the historical Tumblr experience is purely dictated by who you follow. Except for now, where you can pay $10 for 2500 impressions, up to $150 for 50,000 impressions. And of course, because it’s Tumblr, they ran a special on launch day, which if you forgot, was on for 20. So you could spend $4.20 for a thousand impressions, up to $420 for 150,000 impressions Wolf.

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S2: The thing is, I love that it’s impressions. It’s not like automatically guaranteed likes or blogs. It’s literally just people looking at your content.

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S3: Not at all. And it’s just like this will appear in somebody’s feed. I would also like to thank the many listeners who know me so well and put on the Tumblr blaze, including at Sofi, underscore going on Twitter and see a in our email inbox. Thank you for making sure we didn’t miss this incredibly important news.

S2: I feel like a lot of people are saying this is smart, that Tumblr finally is figuring out a way to monetize its website in a manner that maybe is useful to people. But I still am skeptical. Like Rachel, what do you think?

S3: I at first blush thought that this was a great idea for Tumblr because it kind of embraces for me the mythos that is somewhere which is being able to just do extremely chaotic shit for no reason. I’m thinking about Misha pocalypse. I’m thinking about when that stupid copy pass existed. That was like, look at all the colors of the sky. And it was a super long post that took up your entire dashboard for several scrolls, and then there would always be a fucking jump scare. So like The Babadook at the bottom of the post and this feels like something that, you know, a Tumblr user. I can’t imagine having this feature back then because people were just paid $10 to fill your entire feed with this fucking. Can you look at all the colors of the sky? It’s just a tool that’s pretty cheap that gets your shit post in front of a bunch of people you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to see your shit pose.

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S2: Yeah. Which like a yeah. For the the point of being chaotic and making people laugh or freaking them out or annoying them like it’s funny. It’s funny to think, okay, I’m just going to spend for 20 plays it and I’m going to blaze it and I’m going to make a thousand people laugh today or I’m going to piss them off. I guess that is fun and very Tumblr.

S3: I feel like the the post I’ve seen most often is someone taking a screenshot of a Tumblr post that was sponsored and it was just look at my dog. Like, that’s a great use of tinder.

S2: Okay. Yeah, that is actually great for everyone.

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S3: I think one of the issues with Tumblr is that it’s kind of hard to find new people to follow sometimes because you can get really inflated into your own dash or finding new people to follow who aren’t already in your interest. So if you’re like mad deep into like, you know, like the lamest fandom you’re going to know a lot of people in the lame is fandom. But what if you. For people in my fandom. Oh, and so this gives you a new kind of discovery tool because you’re going to be seeing posts from somebody who you didn’t previously follow. I’m add to it.

S2: Yeah. I mean, I’m happy. I’m happy for Tumblr innovating and hopefully, hopefully it’ll work out. Especially because tumblr has been on our minds lately more than usual, because there was some talk about something that we all remember as Tumblr memes back in the news. Lea Michele of Glee Spring Awakening. That’s kind of really it actually scream queens, I guess you mostly know her from Glee and she is back in the news right now because there’s a documentary about Spring Awakening, which was the Broadway musical she starred in back in the late aughts. And it’s coming out on next Tuesday, May 3rd on HBO Max. And a lot of wild stuff has been coming out about her relationship with her co-star.

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S3: I do remember that she admitted that her co-star, Jonathan Groff, who is a gay man, had never seen a vagina before. And so she took it upon herself to show him what a vagina look like. Could he have looked it up online? Probably. This obviously unhinged anecdote made its way across the Internet and at the same time, the reviews for another Broadway thing. And it’s shocking that Madison is not here for this episode, but the reviews for the Broadway revival of Funny Girl starring Beanie Feldstein just dropped. And they are. Oh, man, I hope she’s not reading the reviews because they’re savage. But we are. Michelle’s name popped up because ever since, I literally think since her days as baby cassette in my move, it was clear she wanted to play the starring role and Funny Girl.

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S2: Yeah, it’s like, if there’s one thing to know about Lea michele, it’s that she wishes she were Barbra Streisand and absolutely is not. So she definitely would enjoy seeing Beanie torn apart for her dream role, that Leia’s dream role. Except Rachel, she can’t read those reviews because she doesn’t know how to read. Allegedly.

S3: Yeah. I think one of the only things I know about Lea Michele because I am spoiler alert, not a huge glee person is that a lot of people think that she is illiterate. And I have questions primarily why and what.

S2: We’re going to dive into, why people continue to allege that Leah, Michele cannot read and all the other gossip around Leah Michele after this short break.

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S3: And we’re back. And we are debuting a new segment that we are tentatively calling Social Media Profiles of the Rich and Famous, which sounds like exactly what you think it is. It’s a deep dive into a specific celebrity’s online history, their various trials and tribulations and misdeeds.

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S2: I was going to say it sounds like a good Charlotte song, but.

S3: Listen, you know, I’m an IMO kid. You know, I love a long title. But we will say that we are actually looking for suggestions for a title for this segment. So if y’all have any ideas, please send to us. We are. I see. Why am I at Slate.com? Or you can bring them to us at. I see why I might underscore pod on Twitter, but the inaugural figure in the social media lives of the rich and famous is one Lea Michele And L.A. is going to mostly do this herself because I don’t know shit about that.

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S2: And then after this, Rachel, you’re going to know too much about her. So Lea Michele first started off on Broadway as a kid and then Nineties, which is pretty impressive. She was in LA, is playing young Cosette. She was also in Ragtime. But we don’t care. There’s no Tumblr fandom for ragtime. She did that for a little bit, and then she moved on to her really big breakout role in Spring Awakening, which is the musical that now there’s a documentary in honor of its 15th anniversary out on HBO. Max this week.

S1: Number. Who gave me. No way to handle things. Who made me suicide?

S2: The whole thing is about, like, teens who are coming into their sexuality and they’re very horny and the music is so good. And she has sex and Jonathan Groff is in it and she has sex with him. And that’s where they met and they’re besties. If you’re into that kind of thing, you’re she became like a household name for you, like very well-known.

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S3: I was going to say she is not a household name for me in my.

S2: Household, you know. And then, you know what? That’s the thing. She was riding that high and she ended up expanding into normal people’s households. Thanks to not just us freaks like Spring Awakening. She landed a starring role on TV in Glee, which is, you know, the iconic musical comedy dramedy Nonsense Parade on Fox that ran for six seasons. Ryan Murphy created it. This was back before he went really off the rails and everything was terrible that he did. There still some promise. And she starred as Rachel Barry, this very obnoxious, precocious theater kid, very self-confident. She’s really annoying.

S1: Nowadays. Being anonymous is worse than being poor. Fame is the most important thing in our culture now. And if there’s one thing I learned, it’s that no one’s just going to hand it to you.

S2: So Lea Michele perfectly embodied that child. And it really turns out that not only was she just perfectly embodying that child, but she was basically playing herself and she brought this incredibly desperate energy to Glee. That was why it was so watchable.

S3: You made a kind of passing mention to the fact that the character that Lea is playing on Glee is in fact very similar to Lee. And I’ve heard this before. I’ve seen this before. This just felt like common law in the Glee fandom, which was impossible to escape on Tumblr. But is she actually a nightmare, or are people just completing her personality with her character?

S2: So while the show was on, there were definitely a ton of real life rumors about her behavior on Glee. Like, for instance, Kate Hudson guest starred on Glee for a six episode arc in 2012. So when Kate Hudson was on, there were some rumors that came out that she couldn’t stand Lea as diva behavior and that she had said Leah was a nightmare. Leah snapped her fingers at crew, saying, okay, you know, hurry up, I have things to do. So Kate’s was just very put off. So that was one rumor that started percolating. And in 2014, there was an amazing moment, infamous moment. I love it. Leah was on the red carpet for the premiere of American Horror Story Freak Show, which, you know, Ryan Murphy. He does all sister.

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S3: Yeah, Ryan Murphy. He does Ryan Murphy’s cinematic extended universe.

S2: Right. So that’s a core part of it. And Jessica Lange obviously is a major player in that part of the universe. So she was walking on the red carpet as she walked by. Leah. Jessica Lange walked by Leah and Leah said, Oh, hi, Jessica. And Jessica walked right on by. She did not turn she did not say a word. She was like, I am not even going to look at this girl.

S3: Oh, Lea Michele is if there’s anything I know about her is that she’s, like, wild. They’re energy. So to be snubbed by such an icon.

S2: Yeah, would destroy me. But the thing is, like, it didn’t stop from there, you know, like there was an interview that Leah did with David Letterman.

S4: One of the stories about there is some sort of a fistfight on the set that you knocked somebody.

S1: You really cold. Is that what they’re saying?

S4: That’s what I’ve heard.

S1: It’s really unbelievable the amount of things that can just be completely made up and it’s really fast.

S4: So, you know what I’m talking about there that I guess because I just made it up. I did. You lie.

S3: So what you’re telling me is that the rumors of her being like a kind of difficult person were so commonplace at this point that David Letterman was like, I’m going to trick you.

S2: Even David Letterman. That is why.

S3: Oh, okay. I will say that a lot of this feels like conjecture at this point. Is there any is there any other kind of damning evidence?

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S2: I would say what we really get that is irrefutable is that Naya Rivera, rest in peace. She played Santana on Glee, one of the other main characters. So she worked very closely with Lea michele for years. She published a memoir in 2016, and it was just a treasure trove of glee gossip. So she said straight up that Leah was Rachel Berry. Leah was her character on Glee, and by which she meant Leah was competitive, she was defensive. She was overconfidence. And here’s a quote. She said that she, as an Leah, had a hard time separating work from her, our outside friendship, as in Naya and Leah’s friendship, whereas it was a lot easier for me to do that. Leah was a lot more sensitive, and sometimes it seemed like she blamed me for anything and everything that went wrong.

S3: So I got to say, from a non insider perspective, none of this really feels that damning to me. It really just seems like she’s kind of a desperate overachiever who is kind of a bitch to work with.

S2: You know, the fact is, like, at this point in this timeline, there wasn’t that much known or confirmed publicly, but she wasn’t getting much work anymore. Like her career had basically dried up. And there must have been some reason behind it. And even if we didn’t quite yet know what this real story was, there was definitely something going on behind the scenes.

S3: Yeah, it seems kind of like an open secret, though. I mean, that any other Glee stars really get that much work. So, like, what’s Chris Colfer up to these days?

S2: He’s a bestselling author of children’s books, I think, or something. So how dare you?

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S3: That’s not that’s not the answer I was expecting. But okay. Well, you know, Lea Michele is not writing children’s books.

S2: And neither is she allegedly reading them. Right.

S3: Okay. Here we go. Here’s what I’ve been waiting for.

S2: Right. So in 2018, there was a Facebook Live video that is now utterly iconic in which I know. Right. That Pharrell just Pharrell landscape. There are two podcasters, Jay Hunt and Robert Akerman, and they did a video in which they talk through a detailed PowerPoint that they had come up with entitled Liam. Michelle is illiterate and it’s a 40 minute video. And they provided evidence that they believe points to the fact that Leah has never learned to read.

S1: This is the cast of Glee on The Ellen Show. They’re actually both the cast of Glee on The Ellen Show. Surprisingly, as we mentioned before, Ellen DeGeneres, enemy of the podcast, is evil and wants her guests to suffer. So this is two examples of her trying to make Leah read and write and Leah not knowing what to do.

S2: So what you’re going to see in this is Ellen discovers the game cards against humanity and decides to play it with.

S3: Okay, so I had heard of this video before we taped this episode. I had never taken it upon myself to watch an extremely detailed but hilarious 40 minute video. And honestly, I got to say, at the end of it, I was like, this is kind of a compelling case being built.

S2: It really is. Like, I mean, got to hand it to them. They did an excellent job. You know, they other than pulling from her childhood career of having kind of minimal lines, they found photos of her assistants using her phone for her. They cast suspicions on her Instagram captions because she usually just signs them off with emoji. They argue that she can’t even sign her own name based on this one photo where she is like looking like she’s supposed to sign her name, but she’s not putting her pen on the paper. Lots of interesting evidence that they found. So, you know, honestly, at this point, being called illiterate, which I cannot confirm nor deny, this is an allegation. It’s probably the best reputation that she could hope for. It’s a lot less mean than calling her a diva. And frankly, it could make her a little sympathetic.

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S3: The funny thing is I, a known non Glee person, knew that this theory was a thing and I had chosen not to watch a video until recently when it popped up on my TikTok page in the year of our Lord and Savior. 2022. Tick tock by the handle of Kelsey likes things basically resurfaces video in the beginning of March in a video that condenses this 40 minute timeline into 3 minutes and that video currently has 10.6 million views. So there’s a whole new generation of people learning or relearning that Lea Michele can’t read or allegedly cannot read. Please do not do this, Lea Michele.

S2: Please, Leah. But, you know, even as a whole new generation is learning that Leah can’t read. They also probably aren’t forgetting that the last chapter in the Leah Internet saga in 2020 was a lot less funny and way, way darker. Oh, because she went and she tweeted, Rachel, guess what this white girl tweeted about in 2020? That went.

S3: Bad. Oh, well, yeah. You said the year I’m going to I’m going to take a wild guess and say some combination of Black Lives Matter and or George Floyd.

S2: You got it. You got it. Both.

S3: Wow. She proved that she can read at the wrong time. More on that after the break. You know. I know this is your first time tuning into. I say, why am I? We are so glad to have you here. In case you missed it. Yes, that joke is made every single week. We come out twice the week we come out on Wednesdays and Saturdays. You’re listening to Saturdays episode. And Wednesday’s episode was all about Whitey Nation, which is not what you think it is. No one is not a white supremacist cult. It is instead a group of Gen-X women who really, really love this tik tok star. We talked to Jessica Lucas, an Internet journalist who covered Whitey Nation and all the ways it’s gone off the deep end. You don’t want to miss it. All right. We are back in 2020 and continuing the Lea Michele timeline. And we have made a pit stop in the summer of 2020, which if you forgot what was happening, then, that’s not my fault. We’re not explaining.

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S2: That. So on May 29th, 2020, Lea Michele tweeted, George Floyd did not deserve this. This was not an isolated incident and it must end. Hashtag Black Lives Matter.

S3: And the things that we heard people say in 2020 does not feel that bad.

S2: This is not that bad. Here’s the thing. A fellow Glee classmate who I got to be honest with you, Glee became a totally different show halfway through. So I don’t remember who this girl was, but I trust that she was on Glee. I fully believe it. Her name is Samantha marie Ware, and she quoted Leia’s tweet and she said, Alamo, remember when you made my first television gig? A living hell? Because I’ll never forget. I believe you told everyone that if you had the opportunity, you would quote shit in my wig. Ooh. Amongst other traumatic microaggressions that made me question a career in Hollywood.

S3: I just like, oh, that’s.

S2: Oh, so a lot of people seized on this, and they’re like, Oh, shoot. People are piling on. Leah And so she issued an apology a few days later, on June 3rd, and she was like, you know, I basically I’m not racist. I’m so sorry that, you know, I was image. Sure. I was being difficult. You know, it’s basically like, I’m sorry you feel that way.

S3: Okay. So she this cast member calls her out rightfully. Lea michele issues an apology. Is that it? I mean, I’m not not to diminish this shitting in the way that’s fucked up but I just there has that can’t be the is not the only thing.

S2: Oh no. If this became chaotic, a lot of other people from Glee and elsewhere started talking about their horrible experiences with her. Heather Morris, who was Britney on Glee, she talked about how Leah was super unpleasant to work with and that she deserved to be called out. One Glee guest star tweeted that Leah wouldn’t let him sit at the same table with the other cast members. Like she literally said, You don’t belong there, which is so high school. And yeah, the show is like set in a high school, but that’s wild. There was a drag queen who guest starred on Glee and they said that Leah treated them as subhuman. Oh, my God. But the one that I feel like you’ll appreciate the most.

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S3: I was going to ask my girl, you’re Amber Riley. Where is she in this?

S2: Well, one she tweeted in response to Samantha, an amazing gif of herself.

S3: What was the react like? Give me. I’m sorry you have to describe this over air, but what was the reaction?

S2: It was like her character, Mercedes going like. Yes, like, you know, like yes girl. And she went on an Instagram live show and she talked about this and she said, I’m not going to say that Lea michele is racist. Oh, but.

S3: Okay.

S2: Glee was not the most comfortable environment.

S3: Okay. So was it just Glee that had an issue with her?

S2: No. So it extended beyond just the show. We had people from like Spring Awakening. There was an understudy who said that Leah was nothing but a nightmare to him. Oh, and fellow understudies. And she made them feel like they didn’t belong there. And I on Ragtime, one of the understudies there tweeted that she was Leah was absolutely awful to her in the ensemble. She demeaned the crew. She threatened that people fired. And Rachel, the best part is that Leah was 12 years old. Oh, yeah. Like, that’s how bad it was. We’d be here all day if we went through all these. There’s that many. We love to hate her. That’s why we loved her on Glee. Because we love to hate her.

S3: And this makes a lot of sense with the most recent reason that she’s been trending on Twitter, which is just tweets saying things like Lea michele, desk lamp, Jonathan Groff. And I was like, what.

S2: Is.

S3: Going on here? Why is she trending? I want to find out during their work on Spring Awakening as children. Leah. Michelle says, at one point I literally showed him him being Jonathan Groff my whole vagina. He was like, I’ve never seen a woman’s vagina before. Would you show me? And I was like, Sure. And I took a desk lamp and showed him. And I have a lot of questions. The first one is what? The second one is. Why was there a desk lamp involved? And then the last question I had wasn’t really a question. It was more just a deep sigh because it literally just sounds about right for theatre kids. I respect theatre kids, but I’m also terrified of them deeply. And you would think that would be enough really to be trending right now. But it’s not. It’s not. There’s always multiple things happening. Another reason that Miss Girl is trending is because of a Broadway revival of Funny Girl, which is I when I tell you, I don’t understand how all these disparate things keep being brought up.

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S2: On the.

S3: Show. There’s so much going on here and all that has to do with Broadway. And I really am like, Madison, where are.

S2: I know. Yeah. So as we talked about before, Lea Michele just desperately wants to be Barbra Streisand. So Barbra Streisand is very famous for having starred in Funny Girl, but Broadway. When they were reviving Funny Girl, the producers went with Beanie Feldstein. You know who Beanie Feldstein is, right?

S3: Yeah, she’s in Booksmart, right? And she’s Jonah Hill. Sister. It seems like a good role for her.

S2: She was not good for this. It was actually terrible. So here’s some some sample review headlines. Beanie Feldstein struggles in a Broadway revival. Beanie Feldstein can’t fill Barbra Streisand’s shoes. And then, of course, there was Beanie Feldstein Funny Girl Reviews spawned wave of Lea michele memes.

S3: This is all connecting.

S2: It was so easy to be like, ha ha. Lea Michele is seen as laughing up a storm. She is having a blast. Except for the fact, you know, she actually wasn’t laughing because she can’t read the reviews.

S3: Allegedly. But all right. That is a show. We’ll be back in your feed on Wednesday. So definitely subscribe. It is still the best way to never miss an episode. Please leave a five star rating and review an Apple Spotify and tell your friends about us. Also importantly, help us name this news segment if you think you can do better than the social media lives of the rich and famous. Put your money where your mouth is. Send us an email. I see. Why am I at slate.com or offensive? DM and I see. Why am I on the score pod? And you know, you might end up naming the segment. We will definitely give you credit if you do so.

S2: I see why my is produced by Daniel Schrader, Rachel Hampton and Mason Malone Kircher were edited by me, L.A. Frank and Alicia montgomery is executive producer of Slate Podcasts.

S3: See Online or on Broadway.

S2: So I’ve actually never seen my Ms.. And I’m so sorry to my friends. Give me the American version. Tired of the French? I have no patience for the American.

S3: Version of the French Revolution.

S2: Freedom fries forever raged.

S3: Just. Hamilton.

S2: I love Hamilton.