Culture Gabfest “Maid in Arrakis” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. I’m Stephen Metcalf and this is the lake culture Gabfest made in Arrakis edition. It’s Wednesday, October 27th, 2021. On today’s show, Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, it has been notoriously hard to drag at 700 or so pages onto the big screen. All that metaphysics, all that sand. We discuss the director, Denis Villeneuve’s take on the sci fi classic. It stars Timothy Shalimar and Oscar Isaac, among many, many others. We’ll be joined for that segment by Dune head Benjamin Frisch and very close friend of this program. And then made is a TV show on Netflix. It’s also an adaptation of the bestselling memoir by Stefanie Land. It’s about fleeing an abusive relationship and trying to make ends meet, i.e., it’s about the serial humiliations of being poor in America. It stars Margaret Qualley and Andie MacDowell, a real life daughter, mother pair. And finally, we were already going to talk about the IATSE who strike the Hollywood union strike when the story broke that the cinematographer for a low budget movie, had been shot and killed in an on set accident involving, I think, as everyone now knows, the actor Alec Baldwin. This is a heartbreaking story, and it only makes more urgent any discussion of the conditions of ordinary workers in a town awash in money and liberal piety. Joining me today is Slate’s senior editor, Allegra Frank Allegra. Welcome back to the show.

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S2: Hey Steve, it’s been a minute.

S1: I was going to say forever. It’s been too long. Is this going to be fun?

S2: You tell me I’m only here for this if you

S1: raise the bar. I love that your initials are MF.

S2: I know.

S1: Are you Allegra Frank af?

S2: I think so. And then whenever anyone is like, Oh no, like, you’re cool f. And then I’m like, Thanks them. And then they’re like, Oh, you’re right, you’re in love. And that’s one of my favorite jokes. So I’m a fan

S1: of my initials. And of course, Slate’s film critic is Dana Stevens Dana.

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S3: Hey, my initials don’t stand for any nice internet abbreviations, Ari. We’ll make one up.

S1: All right. Well, a reluctant chosen one. An ecological parable about the corrupting influence of oil pages upon pages of metaphysical ruminations, deep mythologies, cross bloodlines and sand all that sand. How on earth do you ever transfer the novel dune to the screen? It’s bedeviled people for 50 years, really. Infamously, no one has done it right, including David Lynch, according to most dune heads I know. Now comes the sprawling, visually sumptuous, expensively cast version from director. Is it Dana? Would you say Dennis or Denny?

S3: I mean, if you want to be fancy, yeah, didn’t have you this.

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S1: All right. So Denis Villeneuve, OK? The story centers. The story centers on two rival families who are fighting for control of the planet Arrakis and its precious substance space, which is the equivalent in this universe of our oil. The fuel on which everything more or less runs at the heart of the movie is Timothee Chalamet as Paul, a trade he deeply loves and respects both his mother and his father, but they want very different things for him. His father is the Duke, and so to him, Paul is a political heir. So you have one succession story. But his mother is a kind of sorceress and is hinted to her son that he may or may not be the Space-Time Messiah. And that’s a different story that’s like really the chosen one and what I kind of love I knew nothing about, and I loved that these two stories are fighting their way out behind the beautiful face of Timothy Shalini anyway. What follows is a wild mélange of action sequences, deep, ponderous silences, dialogue pregnant with meanings that were, to me, quite obscure and of course, those gigantic worms breaching the sand at stars. In addition to Timothy Sholom and Oscar Isaac. Rebecca Ferguson as his mother, the Duke’s Concubine. It also stars Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin and Zendaya. Let’s listen to a clip. I think we have a little bit of the trailer

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S2: there, so we have had a silent awakening in my mind. I can’t control it. What did you see? Oh yeah. There’s a crusade coming.

S4: Do you often dream things that happen just as you dream them? Yes. The test is simple remove your hand from the box and you die Books’ in the box pain.

S1: OK, well, we’re absolutely delighted to be joined by Benjamin Frisch, senior producer of Decoder Ring, but of course, very, very precious friend of this podcast. Ben, it’s just great to talk to you. It’s great to be back, Steve, but I want you to know I didn’t come here for the spice or for the well. I came here for podcast power. OK, well, we have none, but let’s see what we could do. All right. This is I just want to say we are. You’re here for a bunch of reasons. We love you. We miss you. But also you’re a fan of the novel. This is how dune ignorant I am. I was sitting there thinking, Why are they fighting over a cumann or paprika? But anyway, my friend

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S3: worked for the rest of Western civilization Stephen.

S1: It’s exactly anyway. My friends among the dune heads out there tell me this is the most faithful adaptation yet, and mood and tone of Frank Herbert’s notoriously intractable novel in terms of screen adaptation. Then you must be a big fan of the novel. Talk about the novel, what it meant to you, and how well it’s made its translation to the screen here. Yeah, I think I read Dune. I don’t know. I came to it later than a lot of people, maybe six or seven years ago. But to me, the most fascinating thing about Dune, even outside of the fact that it’s just this great story is the Dune is published in 1965 as a book. It had been serialized earlier than that. But in 1965, Dune comes out, which is only a single decade after Return of the King, the last Lord of the Rings book. And to me, when you read Lord of the Rings, you’ve read Return of the King. To me, that feels like ancient, but it does not feel modern in any sentence. And you read Dune and Dune feels like Game of Thrones feels like they’re no the three body problem. It, just like everything in modern fantasy and science fiction, seems so much more tied up in Dune than it does in Lord of the Rings to me. And that, to me, the influence of this book is maybe the most interesting part of it, even outside of its story and mythos.

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S3: Yeah, Ben, among other things, there’s it’s really clear that there is some sort of genealogy between this and Star Wars, right? And I mean, when you’re watching it, you sort of feel like, wait a minute, I’ve seen a young callow boy on a desert planet called to save the universe once before. But obviously, if anything, Star Wars would have been a rip off of Dune and not vice versa. I think rip off, of course, is the wrong way to frame it. I mean, in fact, as you’re saying, this is just simply a new template that was laid down for, you know, world building in the mid 60s that naturally was going to flow into whatever happened 10 years later.

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S1: Well, and also Herbert Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, he had written stories in pulp sci fi magazines, which is sort of famously the thing that Star Wars is pulling from. But yeah, I mean, there’s also another way to look at I mean, like, you know, these sort of hero hero’s journey narratives are much older than the 60s. They, you know, they’re ancient, primal even. And both Star Wars and Dune sort of fall into that, I think as well.

S2: My question is knowing that, like for most audiences, I would say those of us who grew up watching Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, like, how do you think this will or does or should land with us? Because, as you know, Dana said, like, there is that familiarity there of, Hey, I’ve seen this before. And for me, I’m a huge Star Wars fan and I hated this movie because I am like, though, this is Star Wars, and I understand Dune is like the blueprint for that. But at the same time, does it? Does it benefit from being the blueprint or does that ultimately hurt it in the year 2021? I mean, I

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S1: think that there is certainly an amount of appreciation you get for every Dune adaptation from having read the source material. Most famously, I think the David Lynch movie, which I think most people agree is a disaster, although has, I think, some redeeming qualities like having read Dune and then watched the David Lynch movie. Like, it’s not nearly as bad if you kind of know what’s going on. And here too, like, there’s all of this stuff that it’s hard to get across just the density of the law in the universe of dune buggy, for example, things they don’t ever get into about. Like, there are no computers in the world of Dune, which is a big part of the whole world where there’s some conflict in the deep past in which eyes were basically outlawed through religion. And all of this other stuff, which is extremely convenient from a storytelling perspective because it allows her to kind of explore philosophical environmental questions instead of dealing with technology. But it’s basically impossible for me to imagine what it is like to see this movie not having read the book, although I did, having not read it in several years. It did feel very cozy and well explained, and for, I mean, especially compared to the David Lynch movie. Did you find it confusing? Allegra I’m curious why you didn’t like it, I. If that’s not obvious,

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S2: this is I would hope you did. Yes, I found it, I found it confusing, but more than confusing. I found it boring, I think. I mean, we could get into this issue, but I think part of it is it is part one. It is very knowingly part one, like, there’s no hiding that. But it did feel mostly like slow burning setup for me. Like, I fell asleep for 10 minutes and I woke up and it was still like there was an hour 45 left and I was like, Oh, this does not portend good things, but it’s just don’t you want to just bathe in like the the giant?

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S1: I don’t know. Like all of the sets, the production design, to me, that was really what sustained me.

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S2: Yeah, but I’ve seen beautiful movies. You know, I’ve seen beautiful movies that didn’t put me to sleep. I will say, yes, the costume design was amazing. The cinematography was beautiful on my 4K 55 inch TV. But yeah, no, I’m like, I’ve seen beautiful movies. I’ve also seen beautiful movies that did not put me to sleep like less than I

S1: do wonder if I saw it in a theater, which I think made a big difference to me. I wonder if you if you had had a different experience.

S2: I feel like I I don’t know. Like, I feel like there’s a fallacy there. Like the ultimate thing I didn’t like about it was not the visuals, right? It was the story. It was the pace. And I feel like that wouldn’t have changed if I had been in a theater. I feel like I would have been more mad because I paid money to see it and had to trek 40 minutes to go see it. Like when I saw Blade Runner 2049, I also fell asleep and that was the first night I was so excited and I was like, Oh, it looks beautiful. God, this movie is so boring and I felt Alec Dana.

S1: You’re the film critic Dana. You’re the film critic and not a dune head. I’d love to hear just what you thought of it, simply as a movie.

S3: I mean, I can kind of split the difference between what Ben and Allegra were just talking about. I did see it on IMAX. Sam Adams actually wrote something for Slate specifically about how to see Dune and talking about the different modalities that’s available in, and which essentially comes down at the end of being a polemic in favor of seeing it in the theater. And I think I’d have to agree with Sam there because I think it is only the sensory experience of having been completely swept up by it. That made me enjoy it at all, I think. And this is what I say in my review of it on slate that it is both beautiful and boring. That storytelling is obviously not the point because much of the time the dialogue is drowned out by that. Hans Zimmer score that’s just huge and omnipresent. And you know, I’ve scoffed at Hans Zimmer in the past, especially when he collaborates with Christopher Nolan and is just so noisy in the mix that you can’t hear a damn thing. But it somehow works with this movie’s principal goal, which seems to be to inspire all in the viewer. So I felt it once and boredom, if that’s possible. And I think if I had been at home, it would have been weighed more heavily in the in the boredom direction than the direction. But I think there’s something we haven’t mentioned yet that I think is kind of key to this discussion, too, which is that this movie has been a huge hit. It’s broken a bunch of records, especially sort of post-pandemic records. You know, did way better, I think then, than it was probably counted on to do. It was one of those day and date releases where you can watch it at once at HBO Max or on the big screen in IMAX or on a regular sized screen. And people really went to the theater to do that and also streamed it at home and have been responding to this movie like crazy. Even though I agree, you agree it’s extremely long. It’s very hard to follow the story. I had to go home and research dune massively before I could even make a basic plot summary for a review. It’s sort of aggressive toward the watcher, and yet people are loving it. You know, people want to have that feeling of being swept up and swept away right now.

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S1: OK, so here’s the funny thing I’ve never read Dune. I didn’t know anything about it when I went in and more so the genre, right, which often rests on visual splendor, you know, extensive world building and deep lore and mythology and kind of metaphysical like kind of chintzy philosophic. Pseudo philosophical ruminations to me is like staring at a brick wall because those things are all substitutes for the things. The two things that I care about, the only two things I care about in movies, which is story and plot. And for a little while, I was like, I this is very disengaging. To me, I know exactly what experience I’m going to have, but I was brought into it, funnily enough, simply because it actually over time begins to reveal this. Conflict of the chosen one conflict, it seemed to me, was was was something new and fresh, even though of course, dune proceeds so many of its later and more famous in some ways iterations mean, notably Star Wars and the way it was playing out in Timothy Shalom is performance. I actually felt that he was a reluctant chosen one. I actually thought what he wanted was to be a sort of simple. He wanted to be Luke Skywalker and the hoodoo in the movie, you know, the metaphysics of the movie. We’re going to prevent him because he’s an even bigger chosen one, and he doesn’t want that. You know, there’s some deep bloodline of careful breeding in order to produce someone who can transcend space and time is basically some kind of a wizard. And you see Chris Todderick? Yeah, well, there you go. But I mean, it’s funny. You see how one strand is Luke Skywalker and the other strand is Harry Potter. And you see how Herbert got there first doing both in the same character. And at that moment, I wouldn’t say engaging is exactly the right word, but I was I ended up being kind of ravished by the movie and in a way that I totally did not expect. And, you know, I’m kind of I’m rooting for it to make a pile of money and motivate them to make a sequel. I would go back in. I was I was shocked. I also, I think the performances are by and large are wonderful. I mean, I quite liked them.

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S2: But oh my god, really? You did? Oh, really? I feel like I’m a hater here. Honestly, like, I didn’t feel like I hated it when I watched it, but I would say hearing you guys talk about it makes me hate it. I I’m a I’m a Timothy Chalmette girl. I mean, I love Timmy. I will follow him to the ends of the Earth. I thought he was awful. I thought that Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin and Oscar Isaac were all great. Or at least they were entertaining. Timothy Shell may exuded the opposite of charisma. Whatever he wanted to find that as I thought he was meandering. I thought he was very good at staring blankly. I thought he was good at yelling angrily at his mom and then looking down upset. Like, I thought, if this character’s supposed to be a cipher and we’re supposed to in print and project upon him, the idea and the trope of the white savior was chosen one hero. Sure, he’s great, but I was like part of my disappointment was that I’m going in and I know at least Timothy Chappelle me. I am here for him. And I was like, Maybe he’s not a good actor. Like, I literally came out of it and I was like, Maybe he’s not a good actor.

S3: I feel you Allegra. But I also might attribute that more to the script and the sheer scale and possibly a miscasting problem than to his sort of innate acting ability or charisma. I mean, as I say in my review, there’s something sort of comical about him in that figure, right? I mean, this very slight guy who doesn’t look like an action hero who in fact in the movie is inflected as someone who is not classically masculine in the way that his dad, Oscar Isaac. You know, this military kind of troop leader is and who is studying this, this psychic art? What is it? Am I going to say it right, Ben? Is it the Bene Gesserit,

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S1: the Ben Adjustor,

S3: Ben Jessamine, which

S1: is a short order

S3: sort of, like you might say, the force of this movie, but it’s it’s an entirely matriarchal.

S1: They’re like, they’re more like the Jedi, I guess, if you want to use

S3: them, right? But they’re an entirely female group, right? Who who is sort of training him in their ways, which is difficult for him to learn because he’s he’s a boy, right? So there’s this sort of gender swapping and a little bit of a sense. I think that, as Steve said, that mantle doesn’t quite fit on his shoulders. So maybe the miscasting in a strange way makes sense. But I would say that it’s true that he is dwarfed by the scale of the movie, but so is everyone. You know, I love Oscar Isaac. Rebecca Ferguson is great in her role, but what are they really doing? To me, they were a little bit chess pawns on a board and that there wasn’t any character or any relationship, except perhaps the relationship between Timothée Shelby and Jason Momoa that had any warmth or humor or a real sense of history to it. Yes.

S1: Yeah. I want to. I want to defend the ponderous ness of this movie, and this is total projection on my part. Earlier this year, I had COVID. It was fine, but I spent the most the time, just like lying on my bed, and I watched through all of the Marvel movies because I had nothing else to do and was basically brain dead and watching do now. It’s sort of hard for me not to watch this movie in as being sort of in opposition. I’m sure unintentionally to the Marvel movies, to the superhero movies which are which have this like, very fast paced, this kind of extremely, you know, ironic, quippy pacing, which I find kind of unbearable. And I don’t know and maybe a different universe. I would have also found this really boring, but to me, there was actually something really fresh about how slow and kind of dour and strangely, how humorless this movie is. This movie has almost no jokes, and yet I still had like a pretty good time watching it. Then I’m going to chime in here with you and say, I agree, I like this in a way as an anti Marvel movie, I thought there’s an unearned, ponderous A. I mean, the Marvel movies, you know to me have two modes sort of shit eating quick penis or totally unearned, ponderous A.. You know, and they tapped to their temp to give you this sort of sense of metaphysical grandeur or something. I always felt that this came out of a smart, thoughtful, interesting person’s deep consideration, applied to world building in a kind of serious way. I bought that about this movie, and so it’s it’s ponderous, and this to me, felt felt somehow earned. But listen, we’ve run out of time to quickly is always a pleasure to talk to you. You are one of a handful of people who really shaped this show, and so please come back soon. Anytime, Steve, thanks a lot. Yeah, thank you. Before we go any further, this is where we typically talk business Dana. What do we have?

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S3: Stephen business this week is just to let Slate Plus listeners know that we are going to be talking about Halloween in Slate Plus this weekend. The specific angle of is it embarrassing for Grown-Ups to dress up for Halloween and post pictures of themselves in their costumes? This topic was proposed by me after reading a tweet from Jody Rosen, longtime friend of the show, about how he was dearly hoping that nobody would post their costumes or their children’s costumes this year. And when I saw that I just had this, this feeling of sadness like I would, I would hate not to be able to see the best costumes on Halloween. And one of my favorite things is actually watching those photos circulate, and I was curious about how my co-hosts feel about this holiday as adults. So that will be our Slate Plus segment this week. As always, if you are not yet a Slate Plus member and you want to hear this bonus segment or the bonus segments on other slate podcasts and of course, get all the great writing on Slate Pay Wall Free, you can sign up for that program at Slate.com. Slash culture plus it’s only a dollar for your first month, and for that dollar you get all sorts of benefits, which you can investigate on that page once again at Slate.com. Slash Culture Plus. OK, Steve, back to the show.

S1: All right. Well, the Netflix streamer made is adapted from Stephanie Land’s bestselling memoir of the same name. It stars Margaret Qualley as Alex, a young woman who flees her volatile and abusive boyfriend with their three year old daughter in her tow with a bank balance of next to nothing and absolutely nowhere to stay. She’s forced to suddenly make ends meet on the fly. She’s treated as a no by social services, as a pest, by a house cleaning service and a non-person by her first house cleaning client. The show is about how expensive it is to be poor in America and how hard it is to nickel and dime your way out of that. How one catch 22 after another prevents you from changing your life for the better. I hurry to add it is also extremely funny and it’s way warm, thanks in no small part to quality for whom this is a star making performance. The show comes courtesy of Molli Smith Metzler and the director, John Wells of Shameless. Before we hear the clip, though, Dana, why don’t you set it up for us?

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S3: Yes, this is a clip from the first episode, and what you’re going to hear here is Margaret Qualley character Alex talking to a woman at a cleaning service. She’s looking for a job, and you’re going to hear these dinking sounds throughout the scene. That’s an effect that is that structures the show where you see her bank account diminishing. It’s flashing up on the screen. As you know, each new expense is toted up. So jump rope,

S5: no priors, no Lauren going to check. You got a problem. Background check No, we pay that. No exceptions bump your 50 cents. What’s the background check clears and you go full time. Full time, great. Yes, but full time in a 40 hour week company policy is you can’t work more than six hours a day breaks my heart. It really does, but I can’t be paying benefits, so it’s capped six hours a day, max. OK. And tourist season is over, so I really only have one shift open. It’s a weekly three hour clean over a Fisher Island lunch. OK, so uniforms. Twenty five Books’ comes out of your first check.

S1: All right, Dana, I’ll bump it to you, would you would you make a made?

S3: OK, so I’m just about halfway through this 10 episode series. I think it’s full of wonderful things and that Margaret Wiley’s performance alone makes this worth watching. I do think, and I wonder if you will both agree with me that it’s a little spun out for the story. I’m not sure that there’s going to be 10 hours worth of material in in this story. It feels a little bit already. Would the word be padded? Sort of episode by episode, but that mother daughter dynamics Dave that you mentioned between her character Margaret Qualys and Andy McDowell’s character is is a really great relationship in the show, and I will keep watching just to see what happens with with the two of them. It’s actually somewhat rare that an acting pair that is very close in real life, whether it’s, you know, husband and wife, parent and child, et cetera, have those kind of sparks onscreen. And it seemed like a parent and child. But I think that the two of them really, really do in their very different personality types as well. So that to me, this is the place where the heart of the series resides.

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S1: Oh nice, Tillegra, what about you? Yeah, I

S2: mean, I definitely think the mother daughter relationship is almost intentionally supposed to be the buzziest and most appealing, partially because like they have, you know, Margaret and her, her mom, Andy, acting together and the show’s very much about being a mother and the cycles of domestic abuse or just parenting follies, if that’s the right word that can continue through generations. And so necessarily, I think the relationship between Alex and her mother, Paula, is is a heartwarming one or at least one at the heart of the show. But I’m finding myself as I watch through the show. I’m more than halfway through actually, I. I find it interesting that Dana you think it’s sort of spun out and doesn’t have enough to fill said ten hours. And although I’m only on episode six, I actually feel like the show is kind of turning itself into more interesting ways. I was going in thinking, Oh, this is just a story about a smart white girl discovering that being poor stinks, and all of the other white girls she knows are also poor. And somehow all of the people of color she knows are employing her, which is not really how it works in this world of quote unquote being a maid. Which also that is a term I feel really strangely applied here, but I’m finding like we learn more about her ability to be independent. Her confronting her own demons in quieter ways. So I’m liking the scenes where they are less about like the relationships and more about a young woman kind of grappling with her own traumas in like whenever we see Alex and she’s sort of thinking about, Oh, this reminds me of when I was a kid. I think I was locked in a cupboard wants to or even this the clip we just listened to where she’s hearing the dings of her money going away like those are the scenes I find very effective and evocative, whereas the things about her family relationships feel a little more packed to me. As much as I enjoy watching her with

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S1: her really interesting Allegra, I definitely want to pick up on something you pointed to about it’s racial and class politics. But first, I want to say I do love the show. I’m completely taken with it and I’m going to write it to the end with with pretty much unreserved enthusiasm. Callie’s performance being at the center of that, she’s she’s luminous. She’s smart. Her for just intelligence as a performer pervades the material, which I also find intelligent, very shrewd, very tightly drawn portraits of certain kinds of personality types. I think it’s I really do think it’s a terrific show, very unique to it as its combination of whimsy in style and a lot of the writing. I mean, there’s this funny exchange. I believe in episode two, where she is dragged summarily into some kind of a family court hearing about custody of her kid. She has no lawyer. Her boyfriend already has has a slick lawyer who’s just going to, you know, is going to run roughshod over her. And instead of having the lawyer and the she’s not a judge, she’s some kind of an administrative pseudo judge. Instead of having them talk legal issues to one another, the writing is just they just start saying literally legal, legal, legal, legal and judge legal, legal, legal. And then the judge says, legally legal, legal counsel, legal, legal, legal. And it’s just it’s like the whole Charlie Brown joke of when adults speak, it’s like memoir and it’s, you know, she’s getting she’s getting steamrolled. That’s a that’s a terrific and very strong creative choice. There’s a lot of that in this show. It’s totally smart about what it is like to have to parent your own parent, even as you’re struggling to parent your own kid. So the horrible vice to be caught in, especially is your bank account drained. And then I thought it was very shrewd about something else as the as the sad boy’s sensitive. Boy, on this panel, I will speak to how like a butterfly having his wings pinned it feels to watch that the portrait of the boyfriend who starts out as this kind of lovable, demure guy who quote unquote gets her and soon enough is punching holes in the wall and putting shards of glass into his three year old daughter’s hair. You know, I mean, it’s it’s it’s very smart about how the world is designed to defend the ego of such a person and therefore nurture him further and further into being a monster. That’s just one example of the ways in which I find this show smart, so I’m all in.

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S3: I just need to say about Allegra observation about the world this takes place in. You mentioned Allegra that there’s just there’s something about the social world that takes place in that doesn’t quite make sense, which in part has to do with race. And and the fact that, as you say, the very rich woman who employs that beautiful young white girl, Margaret Qualley to clean her house, you know, is a black woman and everyone who helps her, for example, at the domestic violence shelter where she stays for a while or the woman we heard in the clip who gives her the job cleaning are all people of color. So that’s a strange note, a discordant note that never really investigated. But I think even beyond that, there’s there’s something of a class question in just the sort of self-presentation of Margaret Qualley who clearly by the sheer quality of her teeth and luminous ness, as you say, Stephen, her skin is not a poor person did not grow up in a poor household. I mean, we may find out something later in the show about how, you know, she came from this middle-class educated background. And then, you know, they somehow slid into this poverty where they’re all living in trailers. But, you know, I think that that’s a classic TV problem, right? That people are too clean and beautiful and have too nice of teeth and hair for their supposed socioeconomic class. But even the way she styled and presented, you know, like she always has this beautiful, perfect French braid like French braids take time. You know, if you are on the run with your kid, you would do a ponytail. There’s moments where, in spite of the quality of Margaret Qualley performance, there’s there’s something about the casting that is just a little bit off. I tried to just make that allowance for that, that you have to do, you know, in entertainment where people are always more beautiful than they would be. And I was thinking, among other things of the Dardenne brothers movies, the two Belgian brothers who make movies about class a lot of the time in movies about people sort of, you know, struggling to get out of some severe economic crisis or other. And, you know, they always have gorgeous French women as their protagonists. So I was trying to make the Dardenne allowance in my mind, but it was something that that haunted me the whole time.

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S2: I was thinking about that, too, because I also love to pay attention to that sort of verisimilitude. And at first, I kind of was like, OK, she her hair’s a little messy, like a little frizzy. I can see her not redoing the French braid every day, you know, like when you sleep in your braid. And then she also always wore the same pair of jeans, and she had some like old ugly running sneakers as her main shoes. I was like, Oh, a cute girl like this would never. She would have some Nike’s at least, but she had some leg but ugly leg A6 or something. But then, midway through, she has this beautiful, large like anorak, and she has some duck boots. And I’m like, I know you’re from the Pacific Northwest. Maybe everyone I stuck with by ain’t seen anyone else wear duck boots. Duck boots are expensive, so I am. I definitely am. Team like, dress her down. But to your point of maybe she had a middle class upbringing. There are some interesting complications that do come later on in the show in relation to her parents and her own childhood that are in itself a little. I think they’re presented interestingly, although, like, maybe they complicate this in ways you would not appreciate.

S3: Oh, that makes me want to keep watching for sure, which I think I will. Anyway, I had another thing I wanted to throw out to both of you, and this will not spoil anything, but it will hint at something you know, that would be a spoiler if I said all of it. But there’s something that she does. There’s a parenting choice that she makes in an early episode. I think it’s the second episode. Maybe that was so questionable that it was hard for me to get on board with the show’s structure and conceit that she’s this great mom who will do anything for her kid. And you know that she’s struggling against the system and against her abusive ex to be this great mother to her kid in many, many scenes. That is true. And the little girl who plays her daughter, who’s just a toddler, a tiny kid, must be very comfortable with Margaret Qualley because they actually seem to be having fun together. But do you know the choice that I’m talking about?

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S1: Dana Does it involve a doll? It does. Yes. OK, so bear in mind, if I recall correctly at that point, Alex, the mother, Margaret Qualley character, is severely under slept and undernourished. I think I think she’s already kind of on the lam and just has no money and has been, you know, she’s she’s very strung out and has a screaming kid and makes an indefensible choice in retrospect. But at the time, I kind of understood it. But I would. I’d love to. Just before we go, I think there’s a question we need to return to. The one off note to me, it began with that first client, an African-American, a black woman who hires her, who’s very wealthy, clearly by the looks of the house, that she’s having her clean and she’s very perilously drawn. And I was trying to puzzle it out how on the one hand, maybe this is a sign of progress. You know that in a TV show, a black person can be drawn as as a class villain. Really, that’s what it is. This woman possesses unmistakable class villainy, and the writing does not let her off the hook at all. She never really shows a human side, but then a flip side to me was like, I’m not made entirely comfortable by this, and it does seem to be a pattern in the show. And the only thing I can think of is an extremely didactic way of saying that social clout, I mean, it’s almost verging on saying that social class trumps race in America, which we forget about social class too easily in this country. But but still, I was left somewhere a little stranded,

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S2: something I’ve been thinking about a lot while I’m watching the show as I continue to watch. This show is like even just the sheer naming of it, which I was alluding to before of like being called a maid. And I understand it’s partially because she’s like part of a maid service. But at someone, I’ll say, as someone who grew up like with a certain level of privilege, my family was able to hire people who would clean the house. They were house cleaners, you know, we paid them in cash like these were people who were immigrants in this country did not have Social Security. That is generally the landscape of this particular job. And like cute, skinny white girls are not maids, they are nannies. You know, like someone like Margaret Qualley would so easily in the real world get a job as like a nanny to Regina, the rich black woman. The idea that all of these maids are like down and out white women, I think, is maybe protected by the fact that they are in this historically very white area. And then with the interest of adding diversity in the interest of adding diversity to the show, they then subvert it by putting all of the people in color in authoritative positions, except for her friend in the beginning, who is also a domestic violence victim who then gets out and has a rich husband, etc. So that is the issue. Like even more so than her having duck boots and a very expensive coat that I am just like this strikes me as very frustrating. Like I went into the show knowing I would be annoyed by this, knowing that it’s called maid, which means something different than what it is in the show. And being just isn’t just as annoyed as I expected to be, if not more so in that it is not reckoned with. The fact that the average maid does not look anything like this girl does not work. Anything like this girl does not come comes from an even different socioeconomic class than this girl like she has. She lives in a fairly nice, you know, homeless homeless shelter. She has family to support her. That’s not something that is accessible to many of the people who have this role. And I find that I find that if not a complete turn off because I am enjoying the show, it is something that completely like continues to stick me as a pain as was.

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S3: Yeah, I would say that when it tries to show, you know, systemic problems or anything broader than the individual narrow life of this character, the show takes place in a reality that none of us quite really live in. But what? It is intimate and up close and personal personal. With this character’s experience of being a mother, being a daughter, you know, working for this maid service, it has the specificity that makes it makes it feel real. And that’s a tension in the show, right? It would be great if it did both things well, but I think that the things that it does well, it does really well, and that’s why I think I will stick with this one.

S1: Mm hmm. All right. It’s made, it’s on Netflix, and we basically dig it, check it out and let us know what you think. All right. Moving on. OK, well, I see the international alliance of theatrical stage employees, moving picture technicians, artists and allied crafts is effectively an entertainment industry labor union. It represents 150000 of the people the workers, the technicians, artisans, craft people who make the entertainment industry flow. They threatened to strike. It appears to have been very recently averted with a tentative agreement. What they wanted was what everyone wants, right? They wanted a living wage. They wanted improved working conditions and better hours and just sort of all the stuff, right? And then in the midst of this story, which intrigued us because we talk about, I mean, endlessly every episode we talk about Hollywood product, we talk about TV and film and the content side of it, and we never really get into the working conditions of the people who make the content possible. And then Halyna Hutchins, a Ukrainian cinematographer, was shot and killed in an apparent accident on a low budget movie set and as Dana as, of course, we’ve all discovered since it was Alec Baldwin rehearsing a scene with a gun that led to the accident. This is a horrific story and just a grotesque loss, but it points out something we were eager to talk about, you know already. Why don’t you take it away?

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S3: Yeah, I mean, there could hardly have been a tragedy that would have been more horrifically yet perfectly timed to illustrate the need for that strike, the Yazzie strike that was threatened and then averted. Then this because the more that you read about it, it seems like this was a true systemic failure. Right? I mean, when this news first broke, it seemed so unbelievable. What how could there possibly be a live gun sitting on set as a prop gun? It’s still not completely understood how this happened, but there are so many multiple causalities. This is like the most overdetermined accidental shooting you could possibly imagine. And every time I open up a browser and read about it, some new unbelievable twist to the story has developed. So over the weekend, there was the revelation that the camera crew that was working at the moment this shooting happened was basically scabs, right? It was non-union people that were brought in because of a labor walkout from part of the camera crew earlier that same day. So the people in charge of the moment this accident happened, first of all, are, you know, brought in new to the set non-union, therefore maybe two to assume less experience. That’s that’s already pretty bad. But in addition to that, and I hope I can get all these details right because they really do keep unfolding very rapidly. But there had been a message specifically written to the unit production manager, the person in charge of keeping the unit safe, that there was a specific problem with gun safety on the set. The assistant director for this movie had been fired from a previous movie in 2019 because of gun safety problems on the set and in a truly unbelievable twist that I just read about yesterday for the first time. Earlier that same day of the day the shooting happened, some crew members were off pursuing this apparently common on set hobby when there’s downtime on a set called plinking, which is basically taking the prop guns, which are not apparently props and using them to, you know, shoot beer cans on a wall or something like that. So the level of sloppiness all around with which the set was being run and there are more stories I could cite if I could bring them to mind right now was just simply shocking. I mean, for four, yes, it’s a low-budget movie, but you know, for a movie, it’s got a movie star like Alec Baldwin in it, and there’s just such a level of lack of security on the set. It really made you wonder what the hell is going on in the sets of other movies and why these kinds of things aren’t even more common. I mean, the safety issues that Yasi was bringing up in their threat to strike had more to do with unsafe working conditions for the crew, with people being worked days that were so long and given drives that were so long that you know they might get in a car crash on their way home from work that they didn’t have time to eat before their next shift or time to sleep. And those are all huge safety concerns. But to have it be crystallized in something as nightmarish as you know, a prop gun turning out to be a real gun and someone being shot to death behind the camera is just it’s truly incredible and it’s made me rethink. You know how we talk, as you say, Steve, about all this entertainment content that we’re constantly critiquing. I really felt like over the weekend reading about this man, maybe I should just quit my job and stop enabling this industry by not asking these questions about this product that I’m supposedly, you know, helping people to go out and consume more of.

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S2: I do feel like a lot of people are smarter about this. Like I’m thinking about practical effects versus CGI, which I don’t. I, you know, as people who are consumers of art, we often prefer the practical. But this is definitely an instance where I’m like and which does not eliminate the issue of crew and working hours, but the specific issue of being irresponsible with prop guns, I’m like, we can create anything. We create entire worlds. There is no reason to be using prop weapons anymore that fire actual blanks. And so in that respect, I do appreciate those creators who like with. Ever do such a thing, although I do, I don’t necessarily know that they’re foregoing prop guns because of their interest in people’s health and well-being, but at the same time, there are certainly a ton of directors who are less careless, like reading everything about this crew and the director here and the assistant director who let this all happen. Like these, I hope our anomalous. But at the same time, yes, I thought did threaten to strike for a reason. So I do feel like it is a little more complex and complicated. In Dana, we would all mourn you leaving this industry, but I do. I want to be optimistic that this is certainly an outlier to some extent.

S3: Well, I mean, certainly this is rare, right? You have to go back to Brandon Lee and to that that TV actor who, you know, shot himself playing Russian roulette with a prop gun. I mean, there, you know, you can point to an individual error that was made here. It seems like this series of multiple errors that no one was controlling for sure. It’s rare that this actual thing happened because it’s freakishly awful. I mean, it’s, you know, an episode of some murder mystery that such a thing could should happen. And in fact, there were all these sort of terrible conspiracy theories circulating at first that somehow someone wanted this woman dead, which would be an extremely bizarre way to commit a murder. But in fact, it seems like it’s just a fear that goes all the way up and down every hierarchical level of this crew.

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S1: Mm-Hmm. Yeah. This, to me, points up once again how two of the hardest things in life are introspection and watching your own arcs get gored, right? Because here you have an industry that’s brilliant and has been brilliant for probably close to 100 years at making socially relevant pictures about corrupt American industries, tobacco industry, the oil industry. You know, this is kind of now, I mean, I think, legitimate real life, but also stock villains in the history of Hollywood screenwriting. And here, you know, it’s exactly right. And we never consider the fact that maybe, you know, it just seems like the content industry is not beset with horrible negative externalities like lung cancer or, you know, dying planet. And yet and yet it’s it’s it has some serious unaddressed issues. But the thing almost that surprised me most was apparently there are two. Very powerful countervailing forces at work on in Hollywood and on any individual movie set, the one is the extraordinary degree to which it is a unionized and remains an anomalously unionized industry. So, you know, if you’re the latter guy, you’re not touching a paintbrush. I mean, I know people in the movie business, this is no joke. You will be screwed as a producer on a film. If you ask a person from one union to do a job from another person’s union and I like labor unions, this has always struck me as a virtue in Hollywood. The other gigantic countervailing force is the tremendous self-importance and artistic ego of the people trying to get the shot right, get the shot and to the director and the various people servicing the genius of the director. This is got a kind of moral urgency to it that I understand why it seems in the moment like it deserves it. But people have died on movie sets. I mean, obviously there’s the famous analogy from here to the Crowe, right, as you pointed to Dana. But there’s also, you know, the Twilight Zone one, the horrific Twilight Zone helicopter accident. There are various others, and we can assume that this is a tip of an iceberg that doesn’t result so dramatically in death, or we’d be reading about it all the time. But there are a million daily, I’m sure, cut corners and resulting in, you know, worker humiliations, genuine loss that falls short of loss of life, but nonetheless ought to be addressed by a self-respecting labor union. And let’s just like stick in the knife here and a community that’s oh so high horses its way around issues of, you know, political issues and political orientation. I mean, it’s just the whole thing is is just terribly dismaying, if you ask me.

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S3: Well, said Stephen. I just really hope that this horrible, horrible, tragic shooting puts the spotlight on below the line problems, labor problems more largely in Hollywood. I mean, we get so many politically aware speeches now from actors standing up for various communities. I hope that somebody the next awards ceremony stands there in their gown and stands up for the people that are making the movies possible below the line.

S2: Yeah, I was watching SNL like the week or so before they were going to possibly go on strike in every one or a multitude of people on stage were wearing IOC like Pro Ozzy shirts, and even that was, I think, a pretty meaningful, meaningful sentiment. And yeah, I agree. I hope that it becomes a larger industry issue that people rally around.

S1: Mm hmm. All right. Well, our heart obviously goes out to the loved ones of this poor young woman, Halyna Hutchins, and we can only hope that conditions like this really never prevail again. All right. Let’s let’s move on. All right, well, now is the moment in our podcast when we endorse Dana, I feel like I haven’t said your name in a funny way. Well, maybe ever, really. But in a long time I’ve tried to brew one up on the spot. Now I’ve put too much pressure.

S3: Dana OK, I have a bit of a spree disk Alec the wit of the staircase as my endorsement this week because I missed out on a conversation last week, I would have loved to be part of. I just didn’t have time to prep as many segments as you guys did last week because of other work pressures in my life. And so I didn’t get to talk about Dave Chappelle and his Netflix special and the wave of protests from trans groups about it, et cetera. That story continues to develop and become more and more. I mean, a little bit like the story that we just talked about with the shooting on the Alec Baldwin set. It’s about a lot more than just this particular show on this particular network. And I just wanted to point up a really great piece that I read about a specific angle of this Dave Chappelle story from Lauren Michele Jackson, who’s been a guest on our show before. She’s a writer for The New Yorker. She wrote specifically on social media, corporate social media and the way the Netflix, Twitter feed and Netflix social media teams have been handling this Dave Chappelle story. It’s a really fascinating way to to frame the story and brought something new to it, and it’s something that was published since you guys talked so you couldn’t folded into your conversation. So I just wanted to send people there if they are still interested in thinking about, you know, this unfolding story of Chappelle and his relationship to the network. Her piece is called Dave Chappelle, Netflix and The Illusions of Corporate Identity Politics. It’s again by Lauren Michele Jackson, and it’s on the New Yorker website

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S1: of Fabulous Allegra. What do you

S2: have? OK, mine is an endorsement to our listeners. I do not expect you guys to follow through on this, but one day I will get you both to play a video game as much as I do. Lately, I’ve been playing the game Super Smash Brothers Ultimate on Nintendo Switch. It came out 2018. I think 2017 came out a couple of years ago. I’m a huge Super Smash Brothers fan. The series has been going on for more than 20 years of this point, and this is the Nintendo Switch iteration probably my favorite in the series, which is a fighting game crossover where it has a bunch of Nintendo characters and then also beloved other video game characters. So the game has sort of been an evolving development over the years, and in that they will add new characters that you can download to add to your game. And they announced that they were going to add just one more character this month, and then they would be done. And a lot of people feel very strongly about the series and the characters they want, added, because it is supposed to sort of be representative of the best of video games. And there’s one character from the series, Kingdom Hearts, which is a role playing series that is in itself a crossover with Disney. I could do a whole podcast just on that series because it’s weird, but the main character from that series is named Sora, and people really wanted him in the game. Nintendo announced he would be the final character. They are adding to this game. I cried. Other people cried. We were so stoked that this was finally happening. So now he’s in the game and he is very fun to play as I have been playing this game a lot lately. Before I found out that Sora was coming and now I’m playing it even more. I’ve put like over 90 hours into this game over the years, but 10 of those come from the last three weeks or something. Just like playing around with this character, he’s so fun to play as he has, like cool moves. It’s very faithful to the original series. It’s fun to see him in a different location, a different setting, and I feel like Super Smash Brothers is, if you’re a gamer, one of the series that is enduring. But if, for whatever reason you have fallen off, or if you’re interested in just a really fun series where you can watch Mario beat up Pikachu, it’s great. It’s definitely one of my favorite games of all time. So, so here

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S1: Allegra is what Dana and I hear when you make that endorsement, we hear. Video game, video game, video game, video game, video game, video game, video gaming video game

S2: just like them legally isn’t

S1: illegal. Legally, this

S2: Sia’s all we’re going to do, Steve. You’re going to have Dana and I up to your house, and I’m going to bring my switch and we’re going to play this game and then you’re going to be like, Oh, that girl was right all along, and then you will understand my language.

S1: I’ve enjoyed video games in my time. I’m just I’m old MF right? And I don’t mean Allegra Frank. I mean, I’m just I’m just old. Like, I don’t do it anymore. I loved Super Mario. Back in the day, I was a MACT pain guy. For a little while. I played all the maddens. I’ve been there, I’ve been there. I just like, I don’t know, fair enough. But I love the idea of you and Dana up at my house and playing video games and eating snacks will do it OK. But in the meantime, I was going to have only one endorsement. But but I have a ritual. I return my daughter to school on Sunday evenings and I love she’s. Young woman of sensibility, she’s like she wants to go back at a very specific time because of the light. She likes the play of the light at a certain PM and so we drive back and she typically deejays or she says duties. But this time I did. I wanted to play her song. I played her precious memories by sister Rosetta Tharpe, a blues singer from I. I’m going to say, probably was doing it in the twenties, maybe recorded in the thirties. I think that’s the rough timeline. Maybe Forties. Anyway, please listen to it. I mean, this is a bang. The table my daughter was just pinned to her seat like wrapped, totally transfixed. It’s one of those performances so highly recommended. But my original endorsement was the British political scientist David Runciman on the LRB, the London Review of Books podcast. He was being interviewed about a review essay he had written for a book. That’s a biography of Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley investor, and it is among the most comically murmuring in British and slightly plummy, I guess sort of modern day, plummy things I’ve heard in a long time. But Runciman is peerless. Lee brilliant. I mean, peerless, Lee brilliant. He is. He is both an extraordinarily gifted general interest writer and a precise and deep thinker about political philosophy as it applies to the way we actually govern ourselves and the way we actually live. And his take on Peter Thiel is so precise and so smart, and I will give you a little preview, but I hope you will listen to it. It’s effectively the most gifted people at what’s called state capture, basically winning in an unearned way. Huge contracts from the government are libertarians and Peter. Thiel is the worst offender, making him perhaps among the world’s biggest non-evangelical hypocrites. And it’s remarkable. It’s just such a careful anonymization. It’s very fun to listen to for me, and I think people should really check it out. I was I was blown away when. His father, Allegra, it is fun to have you on the show, I hope it happens again soon.

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S2: Me too. Thank you for having me.

S1: You’re so welcome. Dana a delight, as always. As ever, you will find links as ever to the things we talked about at our show page that Slate.com slash Culturefest and you can email us at Culturefest at Slate.com. Our show’s theme music is written by the glorious Nick Patel. Our producer is Jessamine Molli. Our production assistant is Nadira Goff for Allegra Frank and Dana Stevens. I’m Stephen Metcalf. Thank you so much for joining us. We will see you soon. Oh. Up here.

S3: Hello and welcome to the salad plus segment of the Slate Culture Gabfest bonus segment for those of you who are kind enough to be members of Slate Plus. This week we’re going to talk about Halloween. It’s the last show that will record before Halloween comes next weekend. And this was inspired by a tweet that I saw by friend of the program, Jody Rosen, who’s been on our show many, many times to have different kinds of arguments. He’s one of our favorite people to argue with, especially when he and Steve get on their high horses about Taylor Swift and start jousting. And Jodi took, I believe it’s called, a shot across the bow. I hope I got that expression right when he posted something about Halloween, saying, What was it? I mean, to paraphrase, it was essentially, I beg of you this year, people do not post pictures of yourself or your children in their Halloween costumes. And I didn’t follow the responses to this thread, nor did I have time at that moment to get into some sort of, you know, picayune argument with Jodi about Halloween. But I just had a moment of thinking, Wow, I generally agree with a lot of Jodi’s points of view, but I strongly disagree with him here. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and in particular, I have liked it as an adult. Like, I think I enjoy Halloween more now than I did when I was a kid, and going out trick or treating was just a thing you did. Of course, I have some fond memories of doing that as a kid, but I was trying to think about this afterwards, like, why is Halloween one of my favorite holidays and why is one of my favorite things to do on Halloween to admire other people’s costumes, whether it’s, you know, in person in the pre-pandemic days, just like strolling down the street, watching the trick or treaters, or going to a Halloween parade just to observe the, you know, the cleverest and sort of highest effort costumes, the ones that people have clearly been engineering all year, right? I love that, and I love that moment on social media the next day where you see, you know, crazy costume ideas, beautifully executed or silly last minute costume ideas. And I think on on reflection that the reason I like it maybe more as an adult or it means more to me as an adult, is that when you’re a kid, you do that kind of thing all the time, right, getting dressed up and, you know, playing and pretending and becoming someone else. Not to mention going in search of candy. That’s all part of being a kid. Whereas in our adult lives, we have so little chance for that kind of fantasy and play. And unless you’re somebody who you know wears drag or has another kind of opportunity to sort of transform your, your look and your style radically in everyday life, that’s kind of it. You know, Halloween is the purge for playfulness for adults, and that’s why I continue to love it. And even in the pandemic have dressed up every year, even if it’s just, you know, to take pictures with my kid and then eat dinner in costume and then take it off and go to bed. I’ve had plenty of Halloween like that, both before and after becoming a parent, but I would never think of not doing something kind of playful for Halloween, and I’m just wondering how the two of you feel about it. Is it a kid thing? What about seeing people’s pictures of it on social media, or are you just sort of not attached to that holiday at all?

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S1: Well, Dana, I mean, listening to you, it occurs to me that I have had sort of a love hate love sandwich for Halloween. I started out loving it as a kid. I mean, I guess as most kids do, not just for the candy, but, you know, building really devious haunted houses with friends and watching the, you know, appropriately creepy movies. And just all of it, I thought, was just great. I mean, really had no complicated feelings about Halloween whatsoever. And then, you know, in that period between being a kid and having my own kids just mean nothing was to me a drag. It’s like, like grown ups up. I hate going to costume parties. I hate having to think of a costume. I never dressed up. I mean, I was just kind of, you know, angry irony about it and just not not into it at all. And then, of course, inevitably you go all in when you have kids. I mean, you couldn’t conceivably withhold in any way not only Halloween, but your sort of vicarious joy that your kids experience you experiencing when you feel it for what they’re doing. And I happened for most of their childhood to live. In fact, all of their childhood have lived in magical neighborhoods for triggered. It’s almost like I chose where I lived based on the trick or treating, you know, a block in Kabul Hill, Brooklyn, and then, you know, very near both Great Barrington, near where my kids went to school, which is kind of legend, just got to be one of the better. Trick or treat towns in America or Kinderhook, New York, also a magical small town to trick or treat in Chatham. I mean, I’m right in between these three towns, like all of them, magical trick or treat towns. So it was joyous. But my kids are now too old for Halloween, and it’s turning out to be maybe like a double decker sandwich. Now we’re going to get in a layer of hate, and maybe one day we’ll get the bread, you know, of love to close it off our grandkids. I guess that would be what that that is, but I don’t know. I just the grownups and nurses, you know, costumes or I don’t know or like the pressure to be clever or it just makes me feel like I want to come up with the zinger tweet and I just come out with, you know, clunker dies on the way out of my mouth. Allegra, what are you? What do you think?

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S2: I feel like I’m being the hater of this episode. I’m so sorry. One, but I was never a Halloween person, ever. I don’t really like, well, first of all, I don’t really like candy. I like chocolate. But like growing up, my dad would be like, It’s Halloween, baby. I love candy. Let’s go. And I’d be like, I don’t really want to do this. I have a lot of anxiety. I don’t want to talk to strangers and get candy. But my dad would be like, This is going to be great. And then he’d be like, All right, let’s see what you guys got. And he’s like, Oh, you probably shouldn’t eat that. That’s bad for your teeth. Oh, I like those. I like those. I like those. And I was like, Fine, I only like Eminem. So, you know that part of it was never really enticing to me. But also, this one is a little more sad. But as a person of color, I always found it, especially as a kid, hard to find people to dress up as this is my issue with cause play to. I have a lot of friends into cosplay and you know, I’d see all the white kids dressing up as Harry Potter characters in her Miami and they’d be like, Wow, you look so much like her and I’d be like, I could never. I could never do that. You would just ask who I am, or I would have to be some generic Harry Potter character or whatever, you know, or even like the trendy, funny ones. I was like, I don’t look like any of these characters, so I would have to be just like I would either dress up as a Pokémon, like with a giant Pokémon suit, and it was just like my head coming out. Or I would have to be something generic and fake. And that always depressed me. It was just like, Oh, well, everyone understands my friends costumes, but no one really knows what I’m trying to be because I don’t really look like any of those characters. But I definitely like as I’m older, I find it a little more fun because Halloween is less about talking to strangers and getting candy. I don’t one and like the accuracy of your costume and more about the parties. Like, I like going out and I wear like my all black or my shirt with a skull on it or whatever. And I also feel like we have changed the tide of OK, the way you have to look exactly like the character you’re dressing up as. So, you know, I dressed up as Lord one time because my hair was really big and curly, and I was like, I’ll just be Lord. And it was like, whatever, we don’t really care at this point. I was Detective Pikachu one year, which again is a Pokémon, and therefore it doesn’t really matter. But that was really fun. And yeah, so I just kind of enjoy like the seasonal feeling of Halloween and going to the parties, and no one really is judging the outfits and people are, you know, less strict about, Oh, you look exactly like that character. And also, you know, I have friends that aren’t just white rich kids these days because I no longer live in the suburbs. I’m not like someone eagerly awaiting Halloween. It’s never been a real favorite for me. But I like I like October, so I I can appreciate it more.

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S3: Now I’m I’m now. I feel like a silly little cheerleader that I’m the only one of us who still wants to dress up. I feel like I want somebody else on the show. Bring in their producer, somebody who loves Halloween. I think the reason that I wanted to talk about this in a way had less to do with Do you yourself like dressing up? Then, you know, do you appreciate the the aesthetics and the and the general mood of the holiday? And it sounds like Allegra to some degree. You do write that you like pumpkin season. You like the idea that there’s this sort of time of year that’s about scariness, right? And some people actually will spend all of October watching horror movies or something like that. But I guess to me, the part of me that just admires that, that DIY spirit of Halloween, that’s the part of me that likes to go to, you know, for example, the Halloween parade in my neighborhood back when they were holding it live and and just watch the imaginations of what people come up with as they parade by because you can appreciate both ends. It’s sort of the most, you know, DIY. I thought of this at four p.m. on Halloween Day and made it work with things in my closet, right? That’s a whole particular way of styling yourself on Halloween. And then there’s these unbelievably elaborate costumes that, you know, some of them still stick in my mind years after just how brilliantly conceived there they are. And I just want to close on the image of one. And this is just the kind of thing you know that comes rolling in on social media that night. And the day after that, we saw one at a Halloween parade in Brooklyn that was a father with an infant. You know, little baby, probably under a year old. And the dad was the Empire State Building, a very homemade kind of costume, but really, really well made in this kind of like big, you know, structured gray rectangle with the peak on top, et cetera. He was unmistakably the silhouette of that building. And then his kid was in a gorilla suit, so he was King Kong climbing the building. Is just so well done. So anything that sort of engineers and adult and kid together in that way, it just seemed so much fun to create and such a fun memory for your kid as well. So that’s what I’m in it for. You know, just being able to see things like that walk by.

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S2: I love that. I will say I have a Halloween costume planned this year that I am

S3: excited to see. I’m going to decide on four p.m. on Halloween Day. What are you going to be?

S2: Mine is really specific and I feel like maybe that’s why I’m having fun with it, because I’m the only one who finds it funny. But there is this photo of Spike Lee and David. Earn outside of the theater where they’re showing American utopia. It’s like a press photo and they have their arms around each other, and for some reason, my partner and I got obsessed with this photo and we think it is the funniest thing ever. It’s just David Byrne wearing some Dickies overalls and Spike Lee in the most Spike Lee outfit ever, like a neon green parks department fleece and bright orange glasses, and an American utopia beanie that’s like haphazardly on his head. And we were like, This is so funny, so we’re going to recreate that photo. We found all of the exact items of clothing they were wearing, and so I just bought myself some Dickies overalls and we’re going to go stand outside of the American Utopia Theater and ask people to take photos of us, which like is only we’re just using Halloween as an excuse to do this very specific, silly thing. But it’s making me see

S3: like, are you just belied everything you just said and embodied the exact spirit of Halloween that I’m talking about? That’s so brilliant and the idea that you’re going to go on site and recreate the photo. I mean, we should do that on more days than Halloween. Like this should just be something that adults do as a form of play. Let’s dress up and go take pictures as this photo. It’s a

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S1: good intervention. That’s true. Every day should be Halloween Dana.

S3: I mean, just believe me in my household, living with a 15 year old who is into acting and has been into acting for years. And now where is basically my size of clothing? I mean, there are so many costume elements to choose from. You know, there are like five individual characters that I could easily put together in a 15 minute period from her closet. And that’s what I’ll probably be doing as the sun sets on Halloween Day. But meanwhile, the Sun must set on the segment because we’ve been talking for too long. Stephen The Halloween Grinch Allegra pretends that she is, but then goes and dresses up like Spike Lee to stand around photo ops. Thank you to all of you for being Slate Plus members. We really appreciate your support and we’ll talk to you again next week.