Rank #1: ‘The Perfect Movie for Our Time’ | Episode 18
Rank #2: We Watch Whiteness
This week we're talking about white culture, and what it is trying to tell us about itself on TV, at the movies and in books. We're noticing that white people are anxious--consciously and unconsciously--about their place in the world, and it's fascinating to unpack. First, we look at the new season of Roseanne, a show that explicitly embraces its whiteness and thumbs its nose at anyone who would challenge that. Then, we talk about the hit horror movie A Quiet Place, which explores dystopia in a way that reveals submerged white fears of a brown invasion (we liked the craft of the movie a lot, but it’s got some problems it’s not aware of). We pose the question: what would a self-aware interrogation of being white look like?
Plus, we celebrate JaVale McGee's incomparable stank face, worry about Kanye's tweets (we recorded this episode before his most recent tweets in support of Trump, which we'll have to address another time), and bring you our very first nominee for Song of the Summer...!
One last thing: we're bringing the show to Australia, and we'll be back with new episodes in a couple weeks. Till then, keep stuntin'! Keep shinin'!
Discussed this week:
JaVale McGee (NBA player, Golden State Warriors)
"The Legacy of Childhood Trauma" (Junot Diaz, The New Yorker)
"I Like It" (Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J. Balvin)
Kanye's recent tweets
A Quiet Place (directed by John Krasinski)
White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (Nancy Isenberg, Penguin Books)
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (JD Vance, HarperCollins)
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Matthew Desmond, Broadway Books)
Green (Sam Graham-Felsen, Random House)
Rank #3: ‘You Can’t Code Your Way Out of Racism’ | Episode 2
Rank #4: We Sink Our Claws Into "Black Panther" with Ta-Nehisi Coates
It's going to be one of the biggest opening weekends in movie history. But "Black Panther" is about so much more than the box office. This week we're putting Ryan Coogler's new film in the full context it deserves and demands, with a little help from our friend Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Rank #5: Liars
The Jussie Smollett investigation has captured America’s attention — and ours. We take a look at the support for as well as the doubts about Smollett’s claims, and try to make sense of the charge that Smollett staged his own attack. In an era in which personal trauma and victimhood are often leveraged for cultural capital, we consider the long-term repercussions of the Smollett case.
Discussed this week:
- “Jussie Smollett Timeline: Mystery Remains as Actor Is Charged With Faking His Assault” (Sopan Deb, The New York Times, Feb. 17, 2019)
- “Lee Daniels Shares Powerful Words for Jussie Smollett After Racist, Homophobic Attack” (Alex Ungerman, ETOnline, Jan. 29, 2019)
- April Ryan asks President Trump what he thinks about the alleged attack on Jussie Smollett (C-Span, Jan. 29, 2019)
- “Jussie Smollett speaks to Robin Roberts in ABC News exclusive interview” (Good Morning America, Feb. 14, 2019)
- “Can the Grammys Please Anyone?” (Ben Sisario, The New York Times, Feb. 7, 2019)
- “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” (Netflix, 2019)
- “Fyre Fraud” (Hulu, 2019)
- “Breaking Bad” (AMC, 2008-13)
- “Where’s All This Energy for the Attacks on Black Transgender Women?” (Raquel Willis, Out, Jan. 31, 2019)
- “At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance — A New History of the Civil Rights Movement From Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power” (Danielle L. McGuire, 2011)
- “Prada, Gucci and now Burberry: Are brands under fire for offensive designs doing it on purpose?” (Rachel Leah, Salon, Feb 20. 2019)
- “Former Goucher Student Faces Four Counts of Hate Crime Charges for Racist Graffiti” (WJZ, Dec. 5, 2018)
- “Revisiting a Rape Scandal That Would Have Been Monstrous if True” (Retro Report, The New York Times, June 3, 2013)
- “Why You Always Lying” (Nicholas Fraser, Sept. 14, 2015)
Rank #6: The Reckoning | Episode 10
Rank #7: We're Going Black(er) AKA Dear Woke People
Rank #8: We Get Biracial
For months, the two of us have been trying to figure out a way to have a conversation about the experience of being biracial. This week we just go for it. First, we talk about the cultural and historical suspicion America still has of black-white interracial romantic relationships. It gives us an excuse to revisit the reason ‘‘Get Out’’ has been one of the year’s major movies: It articulates the previously inarticulable about race. Then we consider the offspring of interracial coupling — whether the possibility of occupying two identities (or more) is a choice, a luxury or a delusion; and what fears, doubts or envy nonbiracial black Americans might feel about biracial black Americans. We drop in on Spike Lee’s ‘‘School Daze’’ and the sitcom ‘‘Black-ish.’’ We consider our feelings about Rashida Jones, Drake and Vin Diesel. We unpack the writings of Zadie Smith and Barack Obama. And we kind of have to ask: Aren’t we all a little bit mixed?
Rank #9: RuPaul: 'Identity Is a Hoax, People!' | Episode 3
Rank #10: We Talk BeyChella
We were so blown away by Beyoncé’s performance at the Coachella music festival that we decided to scrap our previous plans and dedicate this week’s entire episode to it. We think her performance will go down in the annals of American pop music as one of the greatest live shows ever.
We close read some of our favorite moments, including her beautiful rendition of the black national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” and how she turns the swag surf into a dance for royalty. And we talk about the ways Beyoncé continues to shape-shift and grow as an artist, reinterpreting her own musical catalogue and making it richer, more sonorous and more black. We think about the ways black American music has always been misappropriated, and the ingenious way Beyoncé is pushing against that history, making music so skillful it can’t ever be replicated.
Discussed This Week:
“Kendrick Lamar Wins Pulitzer in ‘Big Moment for Hip-Hop’” (Joe Coscarelli, The New York Times)
Rank #11: We Blaxplain Blaxplaining
This week, we trace the evolution of black American cinema from blaxploitation in the 1970s to what we’re calling "blaxplaining" in 2018. While blaxploitation sought to showcase black actors in dramatic, action-packed films, today’s blaxplaining centers on the challenges of being black in America. We examine three films — "The Hate U Give," "Blindspotting" and "Sorry to Bother You" — and ask if they accurately depict aspects of contemporary black life, or instead merely seek to make some black experiences more palatable to white audiences.
Discussed this week:
- "The Hate U Give" (directed by George Tillman Jr., 2018)
- "Blindspotting" (directed by Carlos López Estrada, 2018)
- "Sorry to Bother You" (directed by Boots Riley, 2018)
- "Coffy" (directed by Jack Hill, 1973)
- "Slaves" (directed by Herbert Biberman, 1969)
- "Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song" (directed by Melvin Van Peebles, 1971)
- "The Devil Finds Work" (by James Baldwin, 1976)
- "Lady Sings the Blues" (directed by Sidney J. Furie, 1972)
- "Mandingo" (directed by Richard Fleischer, 1975)
- "Jaws" (directed by Steven Spielberg, 1975)
- "Hammer" (directed by Bruce Clark, 1972)
- "Truck Turner" (directed by Jonathan Kaplan, 1974)
- "Shaft" (directed by Gordon Parks, 1971)
- "Blacula" (directed by William Crain, 1972)
- "Proud Mary" (directed by Babak Najafi, 2018)
- "The Equalizer 2" (directed by Antoine Fuqua, 2018)
- "White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism" (Robin DiAngelo, Beacon Press, 2018)
- "Super Fly" (directed by Gordon Parks Jr., 1972)
- "Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde" (Directed by William Crain, 1976)
- "Cotton Comes to Harlem" (Directed by Ossie Davis, 1970)
- "Mahogany" (Directed by Berry Gordy, 1975)
- "Dancing in the Moonlight" (Still Processing, 2016)
Rank #12: We Go To S-Town
Rank #13: Season Finale with Jordan Peele | Episode 26
Rank #14: We Get Bodied Talking Jay-Z and Beyoncé
“4:44” is Jay-Z’s first album since Beyoncé turned their marital trouble into a masterpiece called "Lemonade." On “4:44,” Jay-Z expresses regret for his infidelity and ruminates on the socioeconomic state of black America. The album is knotty and contradictory, especially when compared with the psychological clarity of "Lemonade." We spend the episode unpacking “4:44” as a work unto itself, and also in the context of “Lemonade.” We also discuss why the survival and performance of Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s marriage means so much to the culture and to us.
Rank #15: Fantasies
With the Academy Awards right around the corner, we take a look back at some previous Best Picture winners. When these winning films were about race, they often highlighted a feel-good racial reconciliation fantasy. But about 30 years ago, there was one movie that was snubbed at the Oscars — “Do the Right Thing” — that is anything but a feel-good racial reconciliation fantasy. We revisit how “Do the Right Thing” showcased realities about race in America in ways that none of the current Oscar nominees — including Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” — do, and why it matters.
Discussed this week:
- “Green Book” (directed by Peter Farrelly, 2018)
- “Forrest Gump” (directed by Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
- “Crash” (directed by Paul Haggis, 2004)
- “Driving Miss Daisy” (directed by Bruce Beresford, 1989)
- “BlacKkKlansman” (directed by Spike Lee, 2018)
- Kim Basinger going off-script at the 1990 Academy Awards
- “Do the Right Thing” (directed by Spike Lee, 1989)
Rank #16: Becoming
"Becoming," the best-selling memoir by the former first lady, Michelle Obama, is a study in what happens when the ways we see ourselves don't always line up with the ways that society sees us. In reading about her journey from high-achieving, self-possessed child in Chicago to the fraught glamour of her life in the White House, we marvel at the ways she balanced herself and her image in service of the country. And we discuss how Michelle Obama's memoir fits into a powerful lineage of black women navigating entirely new circumstances with curiosity, strength and grace.
Discussed this week:
- “Becoming” (Michelle Obama, 2019)
- Beyoncé singing “At Last” at Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration
- “Lean In” (Sheryl Sandberg, 2013)
- “Complete Writings: Phillis Wheatley” (Phillis Wheatley, 2001)
- “Thick: And Other Essays” (Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, 2019)
- “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower” (Dr. Brittney Cooper, 2018)
- “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds” (adrienne maree brown, 2017)
Rank #17: We Are Tired of Sexual Harassment (and Sequels) | Season Finale
It’s our season finale! We’ve spent our second season keeping a critical eye on the unreality of America and dissecting the systems of power that uphold the status quo. Last week, a series of news articles reported that Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful movie producers in Hollywood, has been accused of sexually harrassing women for decades. Twitter is ablaze with other women and men sharing their own stories of sexual misconduct at the hands of the powerful, spawning conversations about power and fame, privilege and punishment. The aftermath has raised questions about the commonality of harassment — and has forced us to confront our own complacency. We were compelled to talk about the cultural petri dish that allows assault and abuse to perpetuate and about what might be changing, socially and technologically, that is encouraging survivors to come forward. We also discuss the recently released “Blade Runner 2049” which somehow felt lacking, as if science fiction can’t keep up with the reality of the moment we’re living through. And before we sign off for a few months, we relive some of our favorite moments from this season. Thank you for listening, and we’ll talk to you soon!
Rank #18: We Discuss: Who Owns Stories About Blackness?
It’s been a summer of outrage over the question of who can tell stories about black history and black pain. We reckon with this question by examining Kathryn Bigelow’s film "Detroit," Dana Schutz's painting “Open Casket” and the recently announced new project from the "Game of Thrones" showrunners, an HBO drama called "Confederate." Without promising any answers, we also ask: Do stories about the American black experience belong to all Americans? Are there any criteria by which white creators can successfully make work about blackness?
Rank #19: Asian-Americans Talk About Racism, and We Listen - Part 1
This week and next, we’re doing something different. After witnessing an awful instance of anti-Asian racism at a movie theater, we couldn’t stop thinking about how this type of racism is rampant in American culture, both on the screen and off. At first, we wanted to talk about it. But then, we realized that we needed to listen.
For the next two episodes, we hand the microphones over to our Asian-American colleagues, friends and listeners to hear about their experiences with racism. From Pablo Torre (of ESPN) to Emily Yoshida (of Vulture) to Parul Sehgal (of The Times) and more, we hear about childhood traumas, politicization, pop culture and hierarchies of oppression as they relate to Asian-American identity. The ideas are varied and complicated, conflicting and nuanced — which makes sense for a hugely diverse community that makes up almost 6 percent of the American population. We’ll bring you the second part of this two-part series next week.
Rank #20: We Have a Right To Be Mad
This week, we examine the outrage that is expressing itself in all corners of the culture. In the process, we found unexpected connections between events and ideas that might seem unrelated: Ed Sheeran being left out of all the major Grammy categories as a (possible) way to avoid controversy, the heated debate over an account of a bad date with Aziz Ansari, the testimony at the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar from hundreds of gymnasts who had been sexually abused, and year two of the women's march. We're thinking about why women's anger is feared, and what it means to dole out punishment against men. Whose anger counts, what kind of anger is healthy, and is there solidarity to be found in anger? Our conversation took us to places we didn't know we'd go--including becoming enraged ourselves.
Discussed This Week:
“Dolores O’Riordan, Lead Singer of the Cranberries, Dies at 46” (Christine Hauser, The New York Times)
“2018 Oscar Nominations” (Brooks Barnes, The New York Times)
“2018 Grammy Nominations” (The New York Times)
“Electric Dreams” (Amazon)
“How Ed Sheeran Made ‘Shape of You’ The Years Biggest Track” (John Pereles, The New York Times)
“The Grammy Awards Voting Process” (Recording Academy)
“Modern Romance” (Aziz Ansari, 2015)
“I Used to Insist I Didn’t Get Angry. Not Anymore.” (Leslie Jamison, The New York Times Magazine)
“One After Another, Athletes Face Larry Nassar and Recount Sexual Abuse” (Scott Cacciola and Christine Hauser, The New York Times)