Culture Gabfest “Who Butchered the Goat?” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. I’m Stephen Metcalf and this is these culture Gabfest Hulu butchered the DOAT edition, it’s Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021. And today’s show, the movie Kate is number one on Netflix. The John Wick style action flick has been accused of anti-Asian racism. We explore both the movie as the aesthetic object and the attendant controversy. And then Hulu has the prestige drama Nine Perfect Strangers. Right now. It stars Nicole Kidman as a wellness guru entrepreneur whose retreat uses unconventional methods to say the least. It also stars Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, and various others. And finally, the Emmys. They are a wonderful double excuse for us to have Willa Paskin on the show and to do a state of the medium’s segment. We will do both with Willa in our third segment. Joining me today is Karen Han, culture writer extraordinaire. Karen is always really fun to have you on our show. It’s great to have you back.

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S2: It is always really fun to be here. Thank you for having me back.

S1: And of course, Dana Stevens, the film critic for Slate.com. Hey, Dana.

S2: Hello Stephen, are you?

S1: Are you fresh faced and ready?

S2: Welch ready to jabber? My Zoom camera is off, so the freshness of my face under discussion vocally and mentally, I’m all yours.

S1: OK, well, the movie Kate, which I’m predisposed to like having named one of my two daughters, Kate. But anyway, it’s now right. It’s now streaming on Netflix. It carries a familiar. Some might say, overfamiliar premise with it. There’s a beautiful assassin raised from childhood to be a killing machine. Her Svengali in homicide for hire is the only family she’s ever known. There’s an unwanted sidekick curse and Mr. Mafiosi, a twist you saw coming almost from the womb. I mean, this is not an unfamiliar movie if you’re being even unkind or this picture manages to be unoriginal twice over. It’s a John Wick knockoff crossed with the premise from the old movie D.O.A., in which the hero is poisoned and has 24 hours to solve and avenge their own murder. And yet, for as much as it borrows and hey, speed was die hard on a bus, it’s, I think, a superbly well cast and in some ways execute a genre picture. It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the sexy killing machine. Woody Harrelson as her father figure mentor Bob Ross its plot tightly paced. It’s smart, it’s tart. And yet we have another. And yet the movie takes place in Japan, and much of it is in Japanese and subtitled. And so the mayhem that is unleashed by its white protagonists falls inordinately upon Asian bodies. The movie has been repeatedly called out as racist and yet and yet our third. And yet here it’s been number one on Netflix, so we have a lot to unpack here. It’s directed by a French director, Cedric Nicola Toyama. It’s written by Maralyn. All right, we’re going to hear a clip of before you do Dana. Do you want to set it up for us?

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S2: Sure. The clip we’re going to hear comes from early in the movie, and this is a moment when you’re going to hear Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate and Woody Harrelson as her. I guess you’d call him her handler. He’s sort of the guy who trained her in these extreme, violent martial arts and other arts that she knows they’re talking about a hit she just did on a member of the Yakuza in the presence of that person’s child. This goes against her ethical boundaries as a hit woman, and she’s discussing that with her handler.

S3: I mean, this ain’t your first rodeo. You know, there’s collateral damage. You know that I can’t shake it. Trust me, I’ve tried almost to the head of the snake. Look, I promised I’d finish the job and I will, and then I’m out. I want a life, OK? You know, I never had one a real regular life. What does that mean? I mean, what family kids? Picket fence dogs, suburbs? Something like that. Two trips to Wal-Mart, you’ll be back.

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S1: All right. Well, you know, as I say in my intro, there’s a lot of controversy around this movie. It’s also very popular, apparently, according to the metrics. I’m curious what you thought of it, just as it was a film, it’s a genre template got laid out and filled in here. What do you make of this particular iteration?

S2: I mean, oh, Karen has written wonderfully about this movie, and I really want to get to her particular perspective on it. But just as a general reaction to this movie, this is one of the worst things I’ve watched for this show years. This movie is so bad. I mean, aside from all the issues that we’re going to talk about that make it offensive, it is just a terrible, terrible movie. The characterization is awful. That particular thing we just played a clip from which comes pretty early on was to me a big, big red flag. Like that dialogue, the suburbs, a white picket fence. I mean, it was just so cookie cutter. The whole thing feels like a really bad sort of music video. The director, whose name is Cedric Nicholas Troyan, is making his second feature film, I Believe, and before that worked in special effects. There’s nothing wrong with working in special effects, perfectly respectable field, but that is all this movie is about, it looks like. I mean, I don’t do video games here, and so maybe you can speak to this more, but it sort of looks like you’re inside of a game or like you’re in some sort of. I mean, there’s just there’s lots of neon, there’s lots of crashing cars. There’s a vision of Japan, which we will talk about with Karen, which is basically that everyone there is constantly running through pachinko parlors wearing full geisha costume. I mean, there’s just there’s absolutely no sense of a real place. And honestly, in spite of the fact that it’s incredibly violent and cacophonous loud, I kept falling asleep and having to rewind so that I could wake up again because there’s something almost lulling about the non-stop fight scenes, which I guess have good fight choreography. But the whole thing was just such an unpleasant spectacle. I felt really bad for everyone who was in it. Steve, from your intro, I felt like you liked this more. Is that a correct or incorrect reading?

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S1: So I actually really like the movie. I have to say I thought, I

S2: I love it. We disagree. Last week, we agreed on everything. Know, no.

S1: I want to begin by saying it is obviously very problematic, and I do not want to minimize that in any way, shape or form. So just if it’s at all possible to just table it for a second and pretend this movie takes place in Finland or in Russia, and I understand that it doesn’t. But you know, I thought it was taught atmospheric, very controlled, very clever. I love the stars. I thought, Michael Martin is like a Natalie Portman in the making. I think she’s terrific in this movie. I thought it was so by the numbers. When I started watching it, I thought, Oh, here we go. I’m going to waste two hours of my life. I just thought it was. I thought in its bizarre way, it was like completely conformist to the genre in the way that a sonnet is. So all of the beats and obligations in the turn happening and you saw it coming a mile away. I just thought it was. Cold and dark and kind of blue lipped and on the verge of death, like the heroin, I really like the performances. I thought the fight choreography was the best I’ve ever seen. This person knows. I mean, it’s very video gaming and I, you know, funnily enough,

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S2: I think that you both are saying that it’s video game me because I didn’t think that at all. Someone who plays video games,

S1: well, it’s video games circa 1993 when I used to play them. But you know, and the funny thing is that when we were discussing whether to do this movie, I already had a kind of, you know, speechifying polemic prepared for it before I’d ever seen it, which is that, you know, I grew up in the 1970s, the great heyday of redemptive violence, supposedly redemptive violent movies starring Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson and various others. And you know, they burrow into the consciousness of an insecure, pubescent boy they certainly did into mine. And then you spend like half a lifetime just trying to trying to separate redemption and violence from one another as hard as possible and then come away the first wave of movies that feature women action stars. And there’s, to my mind, at least some confusion about whether this is a feminist breakthrough or something horribly regressive, because all it does is revive this genre, which associate butchering people with, you know, personal exaltation. So, but funnily enough, this movie somehow worked by my defenses. However, I now drop the whole farrago in your lap to make sense of it.

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S2: I mean, I think part of my problem with this movie, like sort of, as Dana mentioned, was like, it is so by the numbers and the idea of like an assassin like slowly dying, but having to cut through all these people while they do it is something that’s been already been done in a way more interesting way in like the Crank movies, for instance, where it’s like he has to do anything to keep his heart pumping. And he literally does. Those movies are wild, and I recommend them if you want to go on a filmic joyride. But this, I mean, even the visuals they all seem, they all feel like they’re copped from like Blade Runner or other typical kind of cyberpunk movies or TV shows that kind of all draw on this very western view of Japanese iconography, which is one of the big problems of of the visuals here where it’s like, Ooh, if it’s going to be mysterious, we’ll put like anime on the buildings and then we’ll have what, like a kabuki performance to make it seem like even more Japanese. And oh, it was horrible. I could not believe the number of Japanese stereotypes flying around an old Japanese stereotype. Right? I mean, it’s like the vision of Japan that we had. I don’t know, thirty years ago in this country or something just horrible. Anyway, sorry, go ahead. You know, you’re totally right. And it’s also like even apart from the fact that Kate as a character to me, at least didn’t come across at all where I was like, I don’t really know anything about her. I don’t feel for her particularly strongly. It also feels like such a waste to have actors like Todd and Obasanjo and Jenny Moura and even me in this movie and basically do nothing with them except have them around to conveniently serve plot points like this would be true, even if it was kind of asked who was saying, like set in Finland or Russia and these were white actors like these are parts that really have no use other than to tell Kate story. And the problem is that Kate’s story is also not, in this case, particularly interesting. And as a result, I think the main thrust of the movie comes down to is the action good? Because if you don’t have a story and you don’t really have compelling characters, then at least, like one thing, has to be good, which in this case has to be the action. And I think the fights are pretty good. But any glow that they have to them is really kind of undercut by the fact that, well, first of all this, the trailer for this movie kind of came out at the worst possible moment. I think for it, because it came out literally right after there were those shootings and there is like a really sharp rise in anti-Asian violence in America. And then seeing this trailer where a white woman just kills Yakuza after Yakuza and just an endless stream of Asian people who don’t have any who are mostly nameless, who don’t really have any characters, it really kind of puts a damper on the whole thing.

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S1: Yeah, I mean, no doubt one thing I would point out, though, is that we know Dana. We don’t know anything about Ripley in the Alien movies. It’s something about Sigourney Weaver put in that situation. And being an utter fucking badass that makes those movies riveting. And the one thing I would the only thing really I would argue for hard here is that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is is, is a is a ripley in the making as a Sigourney Weaver in the making machine. She has it to be an action star. There’s like I felt like the underplaying and relative sort of reticence of the of the backstory and her character worked. I mean, I just thought the performance carried it carried it beautifully. But otherwise, that’s the only hill I’m going to die on with this movie.

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S2: I mean, I also think she’s great, but I also feel like the a lot of the projects that she’s taken have not served her particularly well. Like, I think the last thing that I really like that she was in was probably 21 Cloverfield Lane. 10:21 Is it? I don’t remember the exact title, but Cloverfield Lane. She was amazing in that, and she’s obviously a great action actress and particularly she’s really good at all these stunts. But yeah, I don’t know. I didn’t. I think I felt the opposite way about the underplaying Kate. It was like, I don’t think we need to know her whole backstory and able to in order to feel sympathetic to her. It’s just that these lines are so trite that even she kind of can’t really save them, in my opinion, anyway. Yeah, I was going to say one big difference with with Ripley in Alien is that Sigourney Weaver is speaking good dialogue written by the screenwriter, which goes a long way in making your character believable. I mean, it is to Mary Elizabeth Winstead credit that I continue to enjoy watching her even after. I mean, I would have turned off this movie if we weren’t discussing it on the show. I would’ve turned it off after 20 minutes. This is just it’s not my kind of thing. And Steve, I’m sort of surprised when I think about us talking about the the Bob Odenkirk action movie nobody and how you know how much you hated that this is even more I mean, violent is not the word, it’s it ghoulishly takes pleasure in seeing horrible kills, you know, knives drawn through, you know, through people’s eyeballs or whatever at the end of every fight. It values human life, Asian human life and. At zero, except for Mary Elizabeth Winstead to human life, right? I mean, we’re supposed to be rooting for this heroine who has this poison in her bloodstream, by the way that that goes back to a 1950 movie called DOA. That is how old the group is. Yes, and oh, at all costs, she must not die of this poison. It’s in her bloodstream yet. I mean, the body count. Are you kidding me? I mean, I lost count at 30 or something like that. But you know, every single scene she dispatches, she dispatches people just to kind of make a point to another person like, Oh, I’ve got to get information from this guy is to show him, I’m serious. No way the three guys that he’s having dinner with. Yeah. I mean, human life means nothing in this movie. So why should I care if she lives?

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S1: Word for word, I agree with what Dana said. But the standard seems shifting here. I mean, there’s some of these movies we sort of deem kind of kitschy enough to get away with it, like the Wick movies. You know, it’s hard to pin down what our standard should be when we witness wholesale butchery on a on a screen.

S2: I mean, I think the difference between this and the John Wick movies is that the John Wick movies at least are kind of so clearly conducted in a fantasy realm like the whole like. I don’t remember the organization, the name of the organization that he belongs to, like the hotel, the fact that there are millions of these, the fact that all the like kind of elders have these cool names to distinguish them. It’s like, I don’t think anyone’s going to think this is real. And to a certain extent, I think that also applies to Kate, but definitely not to the same degree. Like this is still trying to be like, cool about it, I guess in a way that I don’t know. I don’t think. I don’t think it excuses anything that the movie does like, it could so easily not have been set in Japan to the point where it’s like, why did you choose to do this? Well, because it looks cool. I mean, that’s the that’s the degree of this movie’s kind of analysis of the culture clash between its killers and the people they’re killing. Is that, like Japan, is a cool looking backdrop, right? I mean, there’s constantly, as you said, anime being projected on buildings in like neon pink cars, you know, driving through Shibuya or whatever. I mean, just there’s this image of of Japan. Is this kind of neat looking place that you know, you can do tough things and it’s very it’s very ultimately sort of derived from from Blade Runner. Although I don’t think Blade Runner has as many problems with depicting that culture, and it is also a much, much older movie from a very different era. But that’s that part of this movie bugged me because it’s not original for one thing, right? It’s just it’s a very boring way of framing that part of the world. But yeah, also, especially in this moment where we’re experiencing these spikes of Asian-American violence like it’s it’s really xenophobic. And the fact that this movie is done so well on Netflix, I think, is one of the the saddest and scariest things about it, scarier than any of the fights that happen on screen. You know, the fact that there’s a huge audience for for this kind of representation?

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S1: Yeah, Dana. I mean, both of you’ve convinced me, I mean, you know, just this movie can’t be recommended in good conscience. And I think maybe that should be the last word. Well, really, the last last word to be tear in your piece was great. Cate was accused of anti-Asian violence is the headline. Now it’s Netflix’s number one movie. Pretty dismaying. All right, moving on. All right, before we go any further, this is typically where we talk business Dana. What do we have?

S2: Stephen LA business this week comes from a listener question, a really great listener question about works of art, cultural experiences that we love so much that we want to preserve them and only experience them at rare intervals. This is something I think that has come up in the context of discussing other things in the past on the show, but we haven’t, I don’t think, ever broken down and made an actual personal list of what are the things that occupy that place in our pantheon. And I think it will be a particularly interesting discussion because Karen, our co-host, this week doesn’t really do that and Stephen I do. So we can talk about what it means when you love something so much that you don’t actually want to listen to and watch it all the time. That segment is, of course, our bonus segment for Slate Plus members who we really appreciate helping support our show. And if you are not a Slate Plus member, you can always become one at Slate.com slash culture. Plus, doing so only costs $1 for your first month, and you get ad free podcasts and bonus content like the segment I just described. Members also, of course, get unlimited access to all the writing on Slate, so you’ll never hit a paywall. So please, if you love our magazine, do us a favor and support our work by signing up at Slate.com slash culture plus. OK, Steve on with the show.

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S1: All right, well, Liane Moriarty, she is the odds, the Australian novelist who brought us Big Little Lies, the smashingly well-received prestige TV show adapted by David E. Kelley. His latest adaptation of her work is now up on Hulu. Nine Perfect Strangers stars Nicole Kidman as Marcia, a vaguely accented wellness guru. She’s cold, insinuating, manipulative and utterly bewitching. She’s oddly otherworldly for a business woman and oddly, this worldly for a guru. Anyway, her thing is that she brings together a group of people who will act as each other as kind of foils for Flintoff, of which they will spark and and mutual exorcists, really. It’s group therapy meets no exit meets white lotus. I guess in this cohort, we have a family who’s lost a son to suicide, a man whose life lost its bearing upon winning the lottery. A writer whose murder was gone are bunch of others. Each is being led into and hopefully out of their own labyrinth of pain in a beautiful five star resort setting like White Lotus. It’s a satire on rich people seeking enlightenment. In addition to Nicole Kidman, it stars Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon, Samara Weaving, and Bobby Cannavale is an all star cast, and I want to point out also, many Assuntos Yao is terrific. OK, in the clip, we’re about to hear it’s Bobby Cannavale plays max football players and pretty much permanent tan needs. He thinks he needs his painkillers, but. She’s not so sure.

S4: You’re a drug addict, Tony. There’s many places you could go to detox or rehab, but you came here maybe to fix what caused you to become a drug.

S3: I know, I know what caused it, OK? Three spinal surgeries, a blown knee.

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S4: That’s just a story, one that’s keeping you numb and checked out of your entire life.

S3: Okay. Yeah, Day one and you know all this, right?

S4: You’re divorced? Yes. Yeah. You have two children. How’s your relationship with them?

S3: Much is it. This is what you do. You get people to talk about their shit and then you use it against them. I hate to plug me into an ATM machine now. Are you happy with your life? Have I happy with my life? Hmm. Who the fuck is happy with their life?

S1: Oh, man, I love the like tapering off. I’m kind of always breathing there. Those very, you know, hat tip to our producer, Karen, who the fuck is happy with their life. There’s a lot of real A-list talent bringing what seems to me to be their A-game to this project. Bobby Cannavale. Nicole Kidman. We’ve talked about them a little bit, would you? What do you make of the show?

S2: I mean, I really like it. I don’t. It’s not. If it were a movie, I wouldn’t be like, This should win an Oscar. But I’ve had so much fun watching it. Like, there’s not a moment where I’m like, I’m bored watching this, which is, I guess, sort of leads into our upcoming Emmys conversation. It’s very soapy, which I understand is the basic kind of gist or vibe of the original novel as well, where it’s like kind of a beach read. And that’s very much the vibe that I get from the show, also where it’s like I’m logging on to my Hulu account to watch this show because I want to see a bunch of actors that I really like just go crazy together.

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S1: Dana. I mean, you know, here, you know, hard on the heels of white lotus, you have a bunch of effectively loathsome, pampered, self-centered and rich people at a trying to get well or enlightened in a five star resort like setting. I guess three’s a trend in think piece journalism, but we’ll go with two. This is just a podcast, so you know there’s something going on here, right? Some some attempt at aching introspection on the part of of Hollywood.

S2: I mean, maybe if I if I hadn’t seen this so hard on the heels of White Lotus, I doubt that I would have thought of it in the category that I think of white lotus at all, which is sort of a social critique, social satire, you know, a show that is about a system as much as is about the individuals trapped within the system. I mean, as you remember from the week that we did it, Steve, I loved white lotus. I liked it a lot more than you. I think it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen this year, and I don’t think the show really. First of all, it’s I don’t think it’s as good, but I don’t think it really belongs in the same genre category. I think, as Karen said, it’s more of a soap. It really is about the people. You know, obviously there’s a certain level of irony toward the fact that they’re all well-heeled enough to come to this resort, and there’s some fun being poked at the wellness trend. But then what it really gets into is just it’s like Fantasy Island, you know, the relationships that develop among all these people who are isolated in this strange, beautiful yet sinister place. And if you watch it as that, I mean, maybe because of Nicole Kidman’s presence, I more thought of it as a big little lies, you know, which is a show that I thought was sort of soapy ridiculous, but sort of watchable once you start watching it. I honestly never finished it, but I enjoyed every hour of it that I would happen to come across, and that’s a little bit the mood of this show to me. It’s also because it is, you know, divided into these different character threads, and we’re following a lot of different people at Trank, William this this wellness resort. It’s the interest level to me flagged and then rose again based on whose story was being told and essentially when Melissa McCarthy, who I love in dramatic roles, absolutely loved her in. Can you ever forgive me? I wish that she would play more straight roles like this. It’s a funny role, too, because as Melissa McCarthy, but you know, she plays this this writer whose book contract and possibly career is falling apart and she’s just so funny and sympathetic and great. I love the scenes with her love following her Bobby Cannavale, who plays her maybe love interest. I’m not sure where that’s going to go because I’m not done yet is also awesome. But there were other things like the family that Michael Shannon heads don’t care about that family to not pay attention out during their scenes. I mean, this is just me. I’m sure different people will will like different stories. But unlike white lotus, it’s like choosing your favorite Beats member. Yeah, right, exactly. You got to put put up their poster and you know where the T-shirt? No, but unlike White Lotus, where even though the stories didn’t overlap that much, it seemed to be telling one cohesive story about something bigger. This really is kind of, you know, a sudsy comedy drama where you follow individual.

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S1: Mm hmm. Let me begin by saying that that I thought Big Little Lies was a trying time, and I thought it brought together peak TV and sudsy, you know, sort of thriller totally successfully. I mean, I thought it was riveting throughout. It told the story. It was a designer piece, but it it just totally delivered on its own premises. And this one? Not at all. I I won’t bother comparing Dwight lives doing like I always thought. I thought, You know, I think this one is, you know, here’s what you shouldn’t do when you’re watching something like this. It should be so good that you don’t care that a man cannot kill a goat with his bare hands. A full grown goat cannot be killed by a man with his bare hands. And the second thing is who butchered the goat? Like, I shouldn’t be sitting there thinking, who butchered that butchering an animal is also really challenging. It takes someone who really knows what they’re doing, like who butchered that fucking good at that moment. You realize the show has basically lost you if. You’re just kind of more lost in the whole plot holes that it’s opened up than in the plot itself. It’s in trouble. I do.

S2: Steve, so many spoilers, all the goats listening have just heard

S1: and you know, God bless Nicole Kidman. Nicole Kidman, to me, is. Deserves the same kinds of accolades that attach more easily for some reason to Meryl Streep that the Streep is sort of understood to. Streep is a is a national global treasure and is understood to be sort of above reproach and beyond judgment and kind of in the containers is arguably as good. You know, certainly deserves to be in the conversation of the greatest screen actors of her generation easily. I mean, when you look over that body of work, I think she’s good here. I mean, in a weird way. So I say this advisedly, but you know, she you know, it’s some combination of the Hollywood patriarchy, no doubt, and what the audience wants for her in terms of lawlessness. She’s got this almost eerie, ageless quality to her. She looks sort of carved out of the bar of ivory soap at this point. There’s there’s a kind of odd, vaguely inhuman quality to her, which because it’s her instrument and she’s a gifted player of the instrument she knows how to use. And she did it in Big Little Lies and she’s doing it here. It’s a sort of mash is the perfect character for her in some sense, you know, this kind of both ethereal but also kind of in her own way, deeply corporeal creature with a with a very complicated backstory. It’s pretty great. The accents a little kitschy, but but you need it’s it’s it’s far flung right there. Sort of too many characters and too many storylines in one. One of the ones that you don’t respond to comes on your attention flags incredibly right? Like almost totally. And so you need her at the center of it, bringing it all together. I kind of think I’m going to stick with it after about four and a half hours of it. I guess I’m going to watch it till the end. But it’s the parts Karen to me. The the the the gestalt has not happened in this show.

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S2: This is definitely a show that is going to be tougher for you, for anyone to dial into if there isn’t a storyline that you’re interested in. And to that end, it sort of reminds me of like very long running anime where it’s like there’s a lot of different characters. Sometimes some episodes will only focus on one, and if you don’t care about that character, it’s like, Why? What? I personally watch it. So I’m gathering that Dana’s favorite character is probably Melissa McCarthy, which I think probably the same for me, too. I think her storyline with Bobby Cannavale is wonderful, and I also, I really do think that they, as performers, are so great together.

S3: They’re a good person, Frances. I know I keep saying that, but it’s never said that, really. I keep saying that

S2: repeatedly hoping it’ll catch

S3: on. I knew I heard it somewhere.

S2: Hmm. So this is paying off nicely for me. I will say I love Michael Shannon, and anything that he does is something I’ll automatically watch, and I think he’s charming in this. But I understand why you would not be interested. It’s not him. Michael Shannon is sensational. I just think that’s one of the weaker storylines as written. And really, the characters that I care about are, as you say, the Bob Melissa storyline. I also stand them as a couple. Yeah, and I know and everything to do. Yes. And Bobby’s looking good in a beard. I have. Yeah, we were talking about that off, Mike, about how good Bobby kind of looks on the show. I mean, the man just gets hotter and hotter. It’s just a strange phenomenon. But but as for Marcia, the Nicole Kidman character who runs the wellness retreat, I think the most interesting thing going on there is also in the writing, which is simply that she is not as she’s first presented. I mean, when we first hear her there, there are actual ominous chords playing in the background as she looms in the doorway of Melissa McCarthy hotel room. And you know, we just we just think this woman is running some kind of call.

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S3: You’re her. Why are you crying, Francis?

S2: I mean, everything is being set up for us to think that and without giving away a pretty early in the series twist that opens that up a little bit, we just learn something about Marcia. So she isn’t just a villain who’s manipulating everyone’s lives, and that makes her a more interesting character. I think if you’re not asking for, you know, peak TV, incredible nurse, but you just want to watch a nice, interesting show with some unexpected twists and some some good actors, this could. This could really be your jam. I totally agree. Like again, it’s a beach read TV show. It’s it’s just for fun. It’s not really weighty in any real way

S1: that it is not OK. Nine Perfect Strangers on Hulu Check it out. All right, let’s move on. OK, so as I said, up top, it’s the truth, the Emmys in and of themselves, maybe we’re not so super interested in them, but they’re an excuse, an excuse to have the wonderful Willa Paskin back on the podcast. Hey Willa, hi. And it’s it’s also an occasion to kind of pick your brain about the state of the media. But let’s let’s start where you started in your piece for Slate. You say it’s a cliche at this point to observe that there is more TV than ever. It’s also kind of a paradox. You go on to say, therefore, the harder it is for any one show to get attention, the more awards tend to cluster around a few familiar faces. That’s certainly the way it played out this year on the Emmys. Explain.

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S2: Basically, this year at the Emmys, it seemed for a while like only three shows. We’re going to win any Emmys that The Crown, Ted Lasso and Mare of Easttown, we’re going to completely sweep. And that didn’t end up being the case, but it did sort of hover over the night and coming on the heels of last year’s Emmys, in which Schitt’s Creek swept its categories. It’s like a little too soon to say this is the new normal, but there does seem to be sort of a trend in this direction, which I think you can kind of extrapolate out into reflecting sort of where we are with television, which is basically, as everyone said, for a very long time, there’s a huge amount of TV, but we’re still, you know, even you just as like a individual viewer, probably understand, you know, like you want to be directed towards things that are interesting. And it’s getting harder and harder to do that sort of to, you know, people rely on either the streaming platforms like Netflix to direct their attention or their friends. I mean, we all have various metrics. How do we know we all various methods for how we find something? But these shows that do I sort of sometimes call it escape velocity, but sort of do like achieve this momentum? Or suddenly it does feel like everybody, whoever everybody is, are on social media is talking about a show. You know, that’s rare. And actually, in a way, it may even be rarer than when we had a lot less TV. And there’s just, you know, sort of the gatekeeper them that’s just being done by like the existence of the networks or something. So when you have these shows that are getting extra special attention, those are the shows that everyone’s watching. And so you could sort of imagine a scenario in which, like awards and kudos is just sort of, you know, that it’s like a snowball effect and they just attach to a certain number of those shows and those are the only shows that anyone’s telling you to watch. And those are the only shows you could talk about with anyone. And it sort of becomes self-fulfilling. I mean, you know, it’s not quite as simple as that sort of like a show like WandaVision, for example, which I think did achieve escape velocity this year. Like it didn’t win any Emmys. Even that was nominated for quite a bit of things. So it’s not like, you know, you have to have a little others in Issaquah, which we can talk about, you know, whatever it is that makes people think that you’re worthy of awards. But yeah, I think I think basically it’s it’s sort of like, you know, the monoculture is dead long live the monoculture, like, we’re just keep finding ways to talk about the same stuff.

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S1: Yeah. Beautifully put. I mean, in a weird way, it’s so ironic, right? I mean, nobody has the power monolithically anymore to create hits or, as you said, just aggregate eyeballs because they own the platform. And so the conversation being wonderfully and democratically word of mouth takes over. But ironically, we also want to participate in a common culture. And to do that, one or two juggernauts have to emerge. So talk about who won what you thought they deserved it. And let’s please please, as I’m sure we were going to, no matter what, let’s talk about, I may destroy you again.

S2: Oh, sure. So the shows that won essentially were the crown. The Crown swept the drama category. The Crown is Netflix’s very expensive looking show about the British royal family that did have sort of its best season because it had finally introduced Diana. So, you know, there’s this problem with The Crown, which is it’s about the Queen who is fundamentally a vacuum of desire and personal wants. And so they finally introduce some people who could want things, and it was better made for a more interesting season. I mean, and I think I think I said this also in my piece, you know, at one point dramas were sort of the most prestigious category of television, but basically because of the same sort of attention economy questions, we pay a lot more attention not to limited series because they’re able to sort of like get a lot of marketing push and a lot of like their flashy and new and they get a lot of attention. People want to watch new things. And so you’re getting a lot of like the energy that used to be around dramas is around limited series or things that purport to be limited series like Big Little Lies, you know, which then becomes not a limited series after it is won a bunch of Emmys as as such. And so in a way, the Crown was up against Handmaid’s Tale, which has also in its time run a bunch of Emmys. But like now, you know, unless you’re like, it doesn’t. It’s not, it’s not really in the conversation, whatever that means. So it swept and then Ted Lasso, which I think is sort of. Like, you know, designed in a lab to win Emmys, in fact, did win Emmys and. And I mean, that’s sort of interesting just because it’s still sort of surprising to me, I guess how many people have Apple, even though Apple Plus, even though I guess they just gave it away with Apple products, but it’s just like, I mean, as my editor Sam pointed out, Sam Adams pointed out, like, I think people just started paying for Apple literally like this month because they get a year for free. So we’ll actually see how many people really have it. But but it did seem to, you know, it’s it did seem to. It’s not surprising to me that it won Emmys. It sort of had had been earmarked for that. And it also had like this, you know, a nice crust of buzz for season two, even though people feel more conflicted about it. And then and then the thing that like basically was surprising was that had this great HBO show that stars Jean Smart or I think it’s great. I really liked it sort of about this. Joan Rivers ish stand up comic ended up keeping Ted Lasso from sleeping, which probably was good for Ted Lasso, too. And that was like one of the only signs that, you know, people are like watching things that are not just things that everybody is talking about. Not that the hacks didn’t get a lot of attention and good reviews. It did. It just didn’t quite have that. Like, it’s everywhere feeling. I have a question, though, about like what we think of as these juggernaut shows where I feel like the discourse, so to speak, on the shows that swept last night or not last night. But at the Emmys this year, the consensus has been like it’s not necessarily that they are the best shows out there, but just the shows that the most people watch or that got the most buzz. Like, if that is the case for awards shows now, like what? What are we really? What do we think that we’re really awarding? Like, is it the fact that all these voters think these are the best shows? Or was it just, oh, I had the most fun watching this or just most people watch this? Does that make sense? Yeah, totally. I mean, I think the problem there is that award shows have never awarded the best shows. I mean, that’s just not what award shows are for. And in fact, I think the Emmys have become like a pretty long way. I mean, one of the things that’s happening is sort of like in the last ten years or seven years or so, there was like this this couple year moment where there were sort of actually nominating a wide variety of things. And it started to seem like, oh, like maybe Emmy voters, just like watch TV, like people with decent taste. You know, I wrote a bunch of pieces about that, like, Oh, these awards, like the nominees are not like the nominations are pretty good. Like, these are. It’s not all. Just like terrible network sitcoms and you know, you act like the wire is not on television. So you know, it’s what’s interesting about awards shows. It’s never that the best thing. The thing that actually good wins. It’s more like, what is the concatenation of, you know, things swirling around this award shows like What do people think? What is buzzy? What do people think is supposed to be good? What what sort of dislike passes as good? What’s not, you know, super challenging. I mean, that’s the other thing is like, you know, Barry Jenkins adaptation of Underground Railroad, which had been on Amazon, was nominated for a lot of awards. And like that was not seen by very many people. It was sort of not discussed very much because it’s about slavery and it’s very, extremely well done and it can be sort of harrowing to watch and like, there’s a category for that in the Oscars, right? Like, we have a mode for thinking about that, about awarding things that might be that are very good and challenging, but might be difficult to watch that we sort of don’t quite have yet for TV. So it’s like. But it was nominated, right? Like, I think that is like a little bit like a it’s just an honor to be nominated situation because it’s never going to win an Emmy because that’s not how people relate to television. But, but, you know, it doesn’t bother me that the Emmys, like, don’t acknowledge what’s actually good, because that’s not what awards are kind of. To that end, though, I’m curious, like you said, like the Oscars have a way of dealing with like more difficult art. Like in part, I this is just my personal opinion. It did feel like one of the reasons that the Underground Railroad kind of got shut out of the awards season is partially because, like, the rollout was bad, but also because I don’t know this unwillingness to kind of to acknowledge a different mode of telling black stories where like, if it’s not a feel good drama about some white person helping a slave, then it’s not going to get recognized. And I mean, that was kind of one of the big things about the Emmys this year, where again again, we recognize that it’s not the fact that these things are good. That’s that’s why they’re getting awarded, but rather just general popularity. But the fact that so many artists of color were shut out basically like I think there was an attempt at starting a hashtag Emmys so white to kind of follow in the footsteps of the OscarsSoWhite hashtag that started a few years ago. This is like part of the bigger question about the monoculture. So it’s like if we’re trying to make all these steps and and these award shows are actually trying to make all these steps towards diversity, what do you keep running into? What quote everybody wants to watch? Right. So it’s like, what if, if everybody turns out they want to watch the crown and they want to watch Ted Lasso and. They want to watch Mare of Easttown, and they want to watch WandaVision, like what? What if everybody is still watching a lot of really white television and then that like, so you start to have this sort of self-fulfilling situation where you’re nominating a great, like a huge amount of diversity. But this larger systemic problem where, like the shows that break out tend to be white, which really wouldn’t be that surprising what it like given everything get get rewarded, but it’s like, I don’t. You can continue to change the voting body. You can continue to, like, make a lot of diverse TV, but it’s sort of, you know, it’s a it’s a really big problem. It’s not, to me, is quite as straightforward as the OscarsSoWhite problem, even though it’s it’s it’s similar and complicated. But I had a sort of a meta question about award shows with which maybe relates to something that we we almost talked about this week and are not now going to talk about the Met Gala, which is, what do you think the place of the red carpet speeches? I mean, the whole part of awards shows that has to do with glamour and gawking at celebrities. And this would go for the Oscars as well and the Golden Globes in any of these big awards shows. I mean, what is the fate of those things in our era of, you know, growing inequality? Everybody’s locked inside. I mean, I just feel like there’s so much resentment now, including in my own inner soul towards, you know, the the people who occupy some rung of society where they’re getting these awards and getting on planes and walking on white carpets. And it almost feels like any awards show is automatically a hate watch now. Do you know what I mean? Yeah, actually, I I do know what you mean, but I almost think like when I see awards shows, I feel like something different is happening. I think I just remember, like, I feel like we’re in a moment. We know we’re in such an we’ve been sort of in this earnest moment, this sort of like nicer moment about how we behave toward like how we think about celebrities and sort of a fan culture moment versus like when we sort of the paparazzi moment, we were sort of vicious to everybody. And I actually think that that has sort of made award shows like, to me, unbearably smarmy, but like existing in this weird like just having to take them seriously, having to think about like them as arbiters of what is actually good, like just not being like, I just feel like there was this moment where like, you know, snobby people were reflexively skeptical and like, dismissive of award shows and for various reasons, some of them good. Some of them do with diversity, a lot of them having do, probably with web traffic like we were a lot and I would do with fan culture. We’re sort of on the other end of that pendulum. And I think like some of it’s starting to swing back, but we’re uncomfortable with it. Like, I just think that there’s a way that award shows are supposed to be like this pageant that sometimes you just make fun of people about. Like that was what, you know, like the fashion police, you know, like the sort of when the red carpet stuff started, it was like Joan Rivers just being horrible to people on the red carpet and it was like, so mean. And then at some point we’re like, This is to me, and we have to stop. But I am not sure that that’s not like I’m sort of more balanced location in which, right, we’re all Joan Rivers now. We are all, in fact, like maybe getting mad about celebrities is like incredible social function of celebrities, you know, like it’s like the way that like it’s like that’s part of their utility to us is that, you know, they can let out some of our resentment and rage in a safe way by just as insulting what they wear.

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S1: And so, you know, Willa sort of taking your piece somewhat holistically, it just feels like we’re now we’re beyond peak TV. We’re into the, you know, it’s like what they said, you know, instead of being a good parent or striving to be an unrealistically good parent, be happy with being a good enough parent. It’s like we’re kind of in good enough TV land here. But you do at one point use the M-word, and I really want to call back to it. You completely, justly, you call, I may destroy you, a masterpiece that to me, that was the last show that was the total peak TV costar where, you know, the star wrote, I believe also directed the show. It was driven by one person’s unique sensibility and experiences. She revealed herself as a powerful, onscreen charismatic. It was deeply thought out and deeply felt and topical. You know, Mikaela Cole winning four for four, writing, I just thought, you know, award shows are meaningless until they’re not if this gets anybody to watch or rewatch. I may destroy you. I, you know, I really want to pound the table once on that before we let you go here here. Willa Paskin. Thanks so much. Yeah. Host of Decoder Ring, I should say the wonderful podcast and frequent guest on our show and TV critic. Thanks. Thanks for coming on. This was great. Thank you. All right, now is the moment in our podcast when we endorse Dana, what do you have Stephen?

S2: I have an endorsement that is the one good thing that came out of me. Having to watch Kate for this week’s show is a movie that I absolutely despised, but it is on Netflix. And as you know, Netflix loves to shove things in your face, other things that you should be watching when you’re watching, whatever you’re watching, and it shows something in my face that was really interesting and surprising. So I know we’ve talked before on the show about my love for Bob Ross, the painting teacher who I painted on on television for so many decades. He is actually someone I discovered as an adult. I know lots of people grew up, including my life partner who grew up watching Bob Ross and in part got interested in painting and art because of him. I never knew him as a kid. He wasn’t on in Texas where I grew up, at least that I knew about. So I was probably in my mid-thirties or something when I first started witnessing the incredible, you know, peace peaceful phenomenon that is watching Bob Ross do a painting. And we’ve talked about that on this show before. I think I’ve even endorsed something Bob Ross related. But there’s a new documentary about him that is completely shocking is actually controversial that his family may sue the filmmakers about. And that’s remotely related to another topic we talked about this week because it was produced by Melissa McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone. Oh, you know what? I’m talking about Karen. I know the documentary talking about. I didn’t know that it was produced by them. Yes, they were behind the production and and when they set out to make this movie, I mean, I think they were thinking, we’re going to make a feel-good movie about this beloved character, the TV painter Bob Ross. But as it turns out, and I won’t give away with these twists are, you know, Bob Ross legacy and his family are this huge tangle of sort of, you know, it’s a big legal mess, basically. There are a lot of people who wouldn’t come on camera to talk about him. You know, there is an affair that no one wants to talk about, and I won’t give away what all of these things are. And it is not a hit piece in the least, a Bob Ross. It’s a complicated portrait of him. You don’t come out of it feeling that, you know, he’s this horrible person behind the scenes. But you know, certainly as any documentary will do it or good documentary, it exposes some of what’s going on that we don’t see on the screen. And then there’s now there’s a sort of post-release story of this, this documentary, which I don’t know all the details of, but you know that essentially the company that represents Bob Ross and his family is now upset about the documentary. Oh, that’s wild. I mean, I know it’s crazy stuff, so I really recommend people watch it. I actually wouldn’t mind doing it on this show swiftly.

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S1: Dana, you’ve made the case totally successfully. Like, who cares about timeliness or topicality or the slave culture? Gabfest you determine what’s timely and topical. Let’s play it, please. I think we should. I would love to talk about that documentary.

S2: Well, OK, well, it’s on Netflix. If people want to watch it, possibly in preparation for our talk, and it’s called Bob Ross. Happy accidents, Betrayal, and Greed Welch tastic.

S1: Karen, what do you have?

S2: Well, I also have a not timely recommendation. I just rewatched the first season of the Righteous Gemstones. I really love everything that Danny McBride, Jody Hill and David Gordon Green have done, and the show is no exception. I really do feel like the three of them have a really unique and almost like prescient grasp on the general climate of America. Like, I like Vice Principals and Eastbound and Down, but all of these shows kind of centered around these very kind of impotent, frustrated white men. And the point isn’t that they are right to feel that way, but kind of examining the systems that have made them feel that way and make them feel entitled to more than they have worked for or more than they are worth, really?

S1: Oh man. Yeah, I just can’t tell you how much I can relate to what you just said. And so I mean, it’s so true, right?

S2: Right. Have you seen any of shows?

S1: No, I’m going to do it, though. You’ve talked me into it.

S2: Highly recommend. Yeah.

S1: Good. All right. So I’ve got a happy and a sad one. I’ll start with the seven, the sad one. Yeah. So the sad one is is I mean, it’s a brilliant piece of journalism, I think, and it’s been crying out to be written and someone did it and did it. Just as I knew people who knew Tucker Carlson back in the day because Tucker Carlson was a completely acceptable like, he was a stink free conservative, relatively OK. I’m speaking now, relatively to the point that he wrote for the New Republic for a while, he wrote for George magazine when George was massively over funded project of John John Kennedy. He was, you know, he was sort of trending David Brooks more than, you know, Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity at the time. And that lasted a surprisingly long time. And so, you know, friends of mine who knew him when they worked at the New Republic are like, you know, Tucker is a really smart guy. And at the time, I, you know, he’s problematic, but not a monster. What happened to him is the story they wanted to hear and felt someone should write, and it’s happened. So the New Republic now has an article about how Tucker Carlson lost it. It’s a long it’s a deep dive by Alex Shephard. It’s very well executed, and I just want to set up like, what’s necessary about a piece like this? I mean, in addition to the fact we all. Get her get ready to the idea of President Tucker, OK? I mean, you know, and we ought to know what we’re dealing with and see it coming. OK, so this is in 2009. It’s the opening vignette from the piece. Tucker Carlson is giving a talk at a at the C-PAC of the famously demented conservative conference. And he gets up there. There’s 20, 11, 12 years. They’ve got something he says. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but I lived here in the 1990s and I saw conservatives create many of their own media organizations, and I saw many of those organ organizations prosper. And I saw some of them fail. And here’s the difference the ones that failed refused to put accuracy first. This is the hard truth the Conservatives need to deal with. I’m as conservative as any person in this room. I’m in the process of stockpiling weapons and food and moving to Idaho. I’m not in any way going to take a second seat to anyone in the room ideologically. If you create a news organization whose primary objective is not to deliver at news, you will fail. The New York Times is a liberal paper, but it’s also a paper that cares about whether they spell people’s names, right? It’s a is a paper that cares about accuracy. Conservatives need to build institutions that mirror those institutions, and the audience booed and heckled him, and he was in the wilderness as a writer and as a television presence. He was going absolutely nowhere, and he smelled the fucking bacon and he changed who it was. And this this tells the story of that conversion. And it’s a highly recommended piece of journalism. Now here’s the happy one. The happy one is if it’s time, you know, President Tucker, it’s also time to fall in love again with Gillian Welch. Can I get a witness?

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S2: Hell yeah.

S1: I mean, yeah, I mean, she’s just so good. How does she fall out of my life for even a minute?

S2: And my dad is thinking about Karen and I salivating over Bobby Cannavale? This is Steve’s time now.

S1: No, but I mean, I didn’t. I can’t even I can’t even conjure a mental picture of her physically. I mean, this is nothing to do with her.

S2: She just. But she is. She is, though, just such an unbelievable hottie, right? I mean. And also someone like Bobby who’s really aging into her beauty in a great way. All right,

S1: I’ll take your word for it. But I mean, I Dana I actually like her music. But anyway, you know, my kids play her songs and, you know, rightfully, they adore her. I mean, she’s in there with Courtney Barnett and Phoebe Bridgers and just in inner pantheon. But I don’t know. I just discovered I discovered there a couple of songs, a verse that I was not familiar with or familiar with at all. But I just like to say, listen to Picasso is such a great song wayside back in time. Such a great song, and then we’ll link to him. But just Gillian Welch. You should just always be listening to Gillian Welch never not be listening to Gillian Welch. She’s amazing. Yes, she’s one of the greats. Karen, you’re amazing and it’s great to have you on our show, will you please come back soon, please?

S2: Please. I would love to. Any, any, any any time you need me. It’s a pleasure to be on.

S1: Yeah, superb. This is a great show. Dana thank you so much. As always, it’s just always great talking to you, but we’ll see you next week, presumably.

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S2: Yes, indeed. Can’t wait.

S1: Yeah, it’ll be fun. All right. You’ll find links to some of the things we talked about today at our show page at Slate.com. Slashed Culturefest, and you can email us at Culturefest at Slate.com. I only say it because I mean, it loves getting the mail, so it’s very supportive. We love it. Our intro music is from the wonderful Nick Britell, our production assistant, and if you’re a golf, our producer is Cameron Drews, the Preparing Hunt and Dana Stevens and Stephen Metcalf. Thank you so much for joining us. See you soon! All right, well, welcome to slap, please, so I’m going to host today. This is the bonus segment for our listeners. And we just want to thank the blue subscriber slate plus subscribers. In all seriousness, what you do every month and forking over some extra bucks for some extra audio really helps keep us afloat. So heartfelt. Thanks. So talk to me a little bit about the segment. The reason I’m hosting is there’s this thing I say over and over again, and I mean, it really sincerely is that there are certain items of culture, typically music, but also some movies that I just refuse to watch any more frequently than at most every few years, even if that. So, for example, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, the great Bill Evans jazz pianist record like it’s so achingly beautiful like you can almost feel a grand piano floating up off of the stage. It’s the plays with such touch and delicacy, and you just don’t want it to become overfamiliar. And of course, we know it over familiarity. Does the works of art the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa with Hey Jude, we can’t see or hear them, or the original Star Wars to some degree, like we can’t see or hear them anymore. They are covered in a pet pretentious phrase of mine. They’re covered in the grime of familiarity. You’re never going to wipe it off, and there’s something a little tragic about that. So I’ve gone in the opposite direction. Dana. I just want to start with a very, very quick vignette here, which also inspires the segment, which is when Ivan Karp, who is Leo Castelli, his right hand man, the great pop art gallery the Castelli Castelli had went to go visit Andy Warhol’s Home, actually to see his paintings for the very first time. So this was the moment that Andy Warhol might have gone from being commercial to a fine artist. In one of the reasons it didn’t happen is that Warhol was just so incredibly weird, and one of the ways that he was so weird that day when Karp went to go visit him is he had a rock song on playing over and over and over again, and it was playing at a very high volume and he just repeated it endlessly. This little three minute throwaway rock and roll song. And Karp was like, Excuse me, but can I just ask why you’re doing this? And Warhol said, I just don’t know until I’ve heard it hundreds and hundreds of times until effectively the newness of it, the unfamiliarity of it and the thrill. Therefore, the thrill of it completely wore off. Warhol didn’t understand it, and to me, that is so Warhol, right? Like, you have to kind of kill it and then you can understand it. And then and then it’s sort of then it’s then it’s meaningful in a way. And I guess I’m just the anti Warhol. I just find that whole sensibility revolting to zombified things around you in order to in order to understand them. So is this, you know, my delicate sensibility notwithstanding, is this something you do with anything?

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S2: No, that is such a strange, I mean, like like almost everything you hear about Andy Warhol in her life that is just very incomprehensible and a very strange way to relate to art, but actually goes in a way, if you think about it with his kind of deadened, it deliberately did. And, you know, sensibility as an artist. Yeah, I mean, I can’t think of a less relatable anecdote because like you, Steve, if I if I love something in a certain way, if I have, it’s not just a degree of love because there are things that I have a very high degree of love for that I can experience countless times. But but a certain kind, it has to be preserved. You know, it has to be experienced, for one thing, just completely right. I mean, our attention is so fragmented and it’s with music, especially because you can do other things while music is on. It’s really rare that you put an album on and just listen to it beginning to end and kind of think about it the whole time. And there’s an album I’ve mentioned before on the show. I mean, I could come up with a few, but the first one I thought of when we decided to do this topic is the Chet Baker album Let’s Get Lost, which is the soundtrack to that movie. You know, the documentary Let’s Get Lost that came out in the very last. It may not have been the last year of his life, but it was the very, very end of his life. It was in the early 90s. I believe the soundtrack to that movie is incredible. Even if you love Chet Baker and you think you know Chet Baker, I mean, go to the next level and listen to this album because his singing when his, you know, voice is just completely ruined by age and cigarettes. And, you know, all the heroin he did over the years and all the ways that he wrecked his body. His face is also this kind of carved monument, you know, of an old weathered man’s face. But the arrangements on that album, the choices of songs, some of them are very familiar songs that you’ve heard Chet do standards. But he also sings Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue incredibly gives this unbelievable interpretation of it. And the whole album is sort of a piece. It really feels like his goodbye to the world. This is also, of course, having to do with the music’s association in my own life in the moment that that album was important to me. And, you know, it brings up a certain feeling of kind of beautiful heartbreak. So when I listen to that album, it’s probably only a couple of times a year, and there are certain circumstances that have to apply. It has to be cool outside, preferably raining. I have to have nothing else to do so that I can listen to it beginning to end. And then I’ll just like wallow in the beauty of it. You know, I will literally just sip a bourbon and listen to that. That entire album, and it’s such a wonderful experience, but if I have it too often or if God forbid, it comes up on shuffle or is somehow in the background of a situation that I just I need to flee because it’s not, it’s not the right way to hear that record.

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S1: I’m totally with you. I mean, Karen, it seems to me from what Dana said, it brought home something I never realized about this, which is that it’s not just the delicacy of our sensibilities, it’s it’s the delicacy of the work itself when I look over my list, which will get to in a while. But it’s that’s the common thing is that they have a kind of ethereal quality to them and not quite of this world. They’re made by people, many of whom were kind of not quite made for this world or of this world, like they’re here on loan on a very tenuous loan, you know, and and and if you reach out and grab at them too hard, you will destroy them. But again, this is like, you know, the preposterous, self-regarding fragility of my taste. But anyway, what’s your equivalent?

S2: I mean, I don’t I think I have maybe a slightly different relationship to it. Like, I don’t go full Warhol and just put one thing on incessantly. But I also feel like I don’t. It’s not necessarily about like saving it or making sure that I like dole it out in the in the right moments. I think kind of more what Dana was saying about that. When you listen to the album where it’s like, I have to be in the right mood for something like there are movies that I consider like to be my favorites or the most like, emotionally impactful on me. And it’s like if I am going to watch one of those, I want to know that I have the time and like, be able to focus on it, I guess. And it’s less about like, Oh, I can’t watch this right now. But being like, I want to want to watch this right now, like because I know that it has is significant. I mean, it has this effect on me and I feel that way sort of about music as well. Like I do have a bad habit of listening to a lot of the same thing kind of at once. Again, I don’t think to a Warhol level, hopefully not. But it is about like, but it doesn’t kind of it doesn’t lessen it for me, where it’s like every time I listen to a song that I really love, there’s something new there and the same goes for like movies and TV. Like, there’s always something else that I find to appreciate about it. So I don’t know. Maybe I’m my philosophy here is a little more liberal, I guess.

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S1: Mhm. I mean, I, you know, I’m the original originator of this ridiculous idea, right? That you can destroy something by consuming it, by actually experiencing it. But you know, nonetheless, there’s there’s a list of things that you know, I kind of avoid them for for nearly decade, that decade at a time, like, you know, early movies of Truffaut, right? I just think Truffaut was trying so hard to get a new kind of thing up on the screen. I mean, inspired by a movie Dana that I would watch only every 10 years rules of the game, right? The great Renoir movie. But, you know, 400 Blows is a movie. The last time I saw it was only it was only about five years ago. Just it once again, because you’ve forgotten. That’s the other thing is, it’s quite simply, you’ve forgotten it. You’ve forgotten its plot points, you’ve forgotten its performances, the hype, you know, the highly detailed specifics of his performances you’ve forgotten. You know, there is some freshness to it, and it just riveted me in my seat. Right? A Bonnie and Clyde. I hadn’t seen Bonnie and Clyde for 20 years or more, maybe, and was so forgotten other than obviously its largest gestures or biggest moments or whatever. Just to know, I mean, really confident. We know it’s a great movie that you’re not responding to. It’s kind of familiarity in any way whatsoever. I mean, the movie local hero, which I talk about to death. But then, you know, all these albums are sort of made Dana by people who, you know, who exist on a on, you know, an ethereal plane. But, you know, Sunday at the Village Vanguard, you know, Little Girl Blue by Nina Simone. You know, oddly enough, there’s this this the New York version of Blood on the Tracks. All these alternate takes that Dylan recorded in in New York had this quality, which is funny. So like most scabrous fuck you song in the entire Dylan canon is idiot, wind resistant, violently angry and blunt, you know, accrued in many ways. Crude Song. It’s done in this delicate style with the remarkable turns it into a completely different song. Pink Moon Anything by Nick Drake. I mean, Nick Drake, clearly not native human stuff, you know?

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S2: Just, Oh, Nick Drake is a perfect example of this phenomenon. It’s a lot like the Chet Baker, the way I feel about that stuff. For one thing, I don’t need to listen to Nick Drake because he’s already all in there. You know what I mean? Like, I’ve listened so many times, but it’s very mood specific and that the phenomenon I was talking about, about it coming on when you don’t expect it happens a lot with Nick Drake. Not nearly so much with Chet Baker, right? Where you’re sitting in a coffee shop and suddenly you’re hearing some Nick Drake song that you really, really need to be like staring at a river while you’re listening to?

S1: Yeah. I mean, Karen, this raises an interesting related phenomenon. I just wonder if you’ve ever loved something. That wasn’t especially popular or well-known, and it therefore felt like yours in some way, your own personal possessions, and then got taken up by the culture and you can resented it. You’re like late comers, you late adopters and something something about your relationship to it felt at least a little compromised, if not lost.

S2: I don’t know that I’ve ever felt. Usually what happens is I get really, really into something and nobody else ever picks it up because it’s too weird in some way, which I think most of the people that know me, like from Twitter or my film criticism have like that is the overall impression of me, I think. But I don’t know that anything has kind of gone the other way on the spectrum where it’s like suddenly become popular. And I’ve resented it. And I do think to a certain extent that is possibly is a slightly mean reaction to it. Or it’s like you should be happy that this thing you like has gotten some more recognition that you think it deserves. I guess, fair enough. I don’t like the phenomenon and this is this kind of goes back to, you know what Steve was saying before. Like, I hope this isn’t just me being old, but it always it always irritates me when there’s a rediscovery of some movie like guys, can you believe this movie that was so disrespected at the time is actually good? And now I look back at my review from 12 years ago, and I love that movie. There’s always a part of me that wants to raise my fist like I got in on the ground floor.

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S1: All right. Well, this is one of those that definitely has to get thrown out of the the plus audience. You must have a little mini cannons. These weird, quirky and semi-private mini cannons of stuff that you find kind of causally otherworldly, Willa, wispy. You don’t want to reach out and destroy it. I don’t know. Maybe this is just some silly thing Dana and I do, but would write us, and I’d really love to hear about it. And I should say this This terrific Typekit suggestion comes to us from Stephen Mac, a listener who included in his email, and he had noted how much Dana and I love piano trios. And he has a Spotify playlist filled with his favorite piano trio, music that he included the link to in his email. I just want to say thank you so much to Stephen for making that, and I’ve been listening to it and enjoying it, and I think we’ll shout it out on the main program Dana, you know?

S2: Yes, I haven’t. I haven’t listened yet, but again, it’s because I want to be sipping bourbon and loving it. But that is so thoughtful and thank you so much. Stephen the listener and Stephen the host.

S1: And once again, just thank you for subscribing to the extra portion of the show. It really, it really does keep the lights on and the conversation flowing. We do appreciate it. Karen, thank you so much for talking on the Blues.

S2: So thank you.

S1: Dana always total pleasure.

S2: It was a joy.