‘Charlottesville: Race and Terror’ by Vice News

Incredible reporting by Vice News that captures the intensity and horror of this past weekend’s events.

I think many folks I know were hoping Charlottesville would trigger some kind of turning point in the national psyche — an incident that would finally wake people up to the level of resistance necessary to stand up to the hate.

I don’t know if that’s coming. In fact, I suspect that we haven’t seen the end of these divisive figures, who are now more emboldened than ever. As one of the Neo-Nazi interview subjects in the documentary explains:

We’re starting to unveil a little bit of our power level. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Stephen Colbert interviews Anthony Scaramucci

I don’t know what Anthony Scaramucci was anticipating when he first booked this Late Show interview with Stephen Colbert, but I can’t imagine it was this. For nearly 15 minutes, Colbert relentlessly presses Scaramucci on questions he’s clearly uncomfortable to be answering, such as whether or not Steve Bannon is a white supremacist and what’s it really like working in this “dumpster fire” of an administration.

Colbert provides almost no quarter, even refusing an attempt by Scaramucci to turn Colbert into a “character witness.” It’s a stunning interview that puts to use intimidation tactics the likes of which The Mooch himself would probably have employed in a different situation.

Vulture names “A Cast of Kings” as one of the top 5 Game of Thrones podcasts

I’m honored that Vulture recently chose “A Cast of Kings” as one of the top 5 Game of Thrones podcasts:

Dave Chen is a prolific publisher of podcasts about film and TV going back years, perhaps most prominently as the co-host of the Slashfilmcast. Here, he partners with frequent collaborator Joanna Robinson, with whom he’s also done recap pods for Westworld and Twin Peaks. Chen is an interesting recapper, more technically driven in his approach than others, which pairs nicely with Joanna Robinson, who is one of the more prominent, engaging, and prolific Thrones recappers on the internet.

You can listen to our recaps of this season here.

Radiolab removes its ‘Truth Trolls’ episode from podcast feed

WNYC’s Radiolab is one of my favorite podcasts of all time. For years, the show has informed me, delighted me, and astonished me. I have even gone to see their live show in Seattle twice. But this week, they failed their listeners in a spectacular way.

Over the past few weeks, the show has been doing an extended meditation on truth, starting with a rather frightening episode about that new video technology that lets you make anyone say whatever you want them to. This exploration culminated this week with the release of a now-removed episode called “Truth Trolls.”

“Truth Trolls” documents the trials and tribulations of Shia LaBeouf’s “He Will Not Divide Us” art project. From that project’s official website:

Commencing at 9am on January 20, 2017, the day of the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, the public is invited to deliver the words “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US” into a camera mounted on a wall outside the Museum of the Moving Image, New York, repeating the phrase as many times, and for as long as they wish.

Open to all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the participatory performance will be live-streamed continuously for four years, or the duration of the presidency. In this way, the mantra “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US” acts as a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism, guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community.

Of course, in today’s political environment, no good deed goes unpunished. Through multiple locations and permutations, trolls from online forums were able to locate the art installation and basically lay waste to it. “Truth Trolls” tracks one particularly inventive attempt to do so, in which online commenters used forensic evidence to track down the location of a “He Will Not Divide Us” flag being live-streamed.

On Saturday, Radiolab’s creator/producer Jad Abumrad announced that they would be pulling the episode. Abumrad made a post on Radiolab’s blog explaining the takedown:

Radiolab has decided to take down our episode called “Truth Trolls.” Some listeners called us out saying that in telling the capture the flag story in the way that we did, we essentially condoned some pretty despicable ideology and behavior. To all the listeners who felt that way, and to everyone else, please know that we hear you and that we take these criticisms to heart. I feel awful that the things we said could be interpreted that way. That’s on us. It was certainly not our intention, and we apologize.

I’ve listened to the episode and I agree with Abumrad’s decision. In fact, the episode never should have run in the first place.

“Truth Trolls” was almost a self-parody in how it attempted to apply Radiolab’s form of awestruck investigative journalism to a loaded political situation. The hosts portrayed the online trolls in an almost heroic fashion, and described their pursuit of truth (in this case, the truth of where the flag was located) as “comforting.”

Hearing the show’s hosts chuckle and banter light-heartedly when you’re talking about how sound waves work is one thing — it’s quite another when they’re talking about one of the most toxic forms of politics that’s out there right now.

Obviously, many other folks felt this way:

One of the commenters on Radiolab’s website purports to be Luke Turner, a creator behind the “He will not divide us” project:

This is truly abhorrent and irresponsible reporting from Radiolab, describing white supremacist vandalism and harassment here as “a really encouraging story” and “comforting.”

As the artists behind this project, we have been targeted incessantly, received death threats, been subjected to extreme racist, antisemitic, homophobic and misogynist abuse and harassment from these far-right groups.

Because of a political movement that received great support from the likes of those featured in “Truth Trolls,” lives have been ruined. And we’re at the end of a weekend where people have died trying to stand up against the nationalism and hatred that’s slowly sweeping the country.

I don’t think one bad episode can erase a decade’s worth of goodwill that Radiolab has built up. But it definitely made me question what exactly they were thinking when they ran this episode in a way that evinced almost no understanding of the broader implications of the subject matter.

Why did ‘Pickle Rick’ feature Susan Sarandon playing an Asian character?

I’m a huge fan of Rick and Morty and am watching it weekly as it enters its third season. Last week’s episode, “Pickle Rick,” was a great example of why the show is brilliant, deftly blending some outlandish sci-fi plotting and surprisingly incisive psychological observations. Film Crit Hulk has done a good job of breaking this down over at Birth Movies Death:

I watched “Pickle Rick” and then I had to go sit outside for awhile.

I just had to detach. And I took my time, too. I breathed in the cool night air. I looked at the handful of stars you can actually see through the glow of the Los Angeles sky. When your brain buzzes around a lot, sometimes you have to slow yourself down. And yes, my mind was racing, contemplating the sheer totality of what I had just seen. But more than that, it made me think deeply about my own limitations. For when you work in creative fields, you spend your whole life pursuing the notion of “a great idea.” No, that’s not just coming up with the raw nugget of cool ideas that are original or zeitgeisty, but more following through with developing them. Being sure that they capitalize on the tenets of drama, plotting, characterization, and ultimately tap into deep resonant meaning, all in the pursuit of making something truly great. And upon watching this latest episode of Rick & Morty, I was struck (as I often am with the show) with the pangs of helpless comparison. No, it is not a mere matter of jealousy, for that feeling only tends to come up when you fear that you offer no value and thus regularly exercise schadenfreude (cue the mass of writers who complain about other people’s deals, etc). Instead, the act of watching an episode like “Pickle Rick” is simply humbling.

As amazing as Pickle Rick was, it did leave me with one question: Why did Susan Sarandon play the Asian therapist, Dr. Wong, in the episode?

White actors playing minorities in animated TV shows is nothing new (See: The Simpsons, Bojack Horseman). But this instance stood out for me, both because I find Sarandon’s political viewpoints to be asinine, and because I don’t recall ever seeing an Asian character in Rick and Morty before. Why bother writing Dr. Wong as Asian if you’re just going to have her played by a white person? I was particularly curious about this since the episode is written by Jessica Gao, an Asian woman.

Turns out, there’s a decent explanation. In a YouTube Q&A after the show, Gao explains:

So when I wrote it, I specifically named her Dr. Wong because there haven’t been any Asian characters, and any time I can, I want to give an Asian actor who isn’t Kumail [Nanjiani] a job. So I wrote her as Dr. Wong, she’s drawn as Dr. Wong. We actually started auditioning the gamut of Asian actresses, and in the middle of auditioning these Asian actresses, we get word that Susan Sarandon wants to be on the show. She says she loves the show. The suspicion is, maybe her kid loves the show?

So we’re not going to say no to Susan Sarandon asking to be on the show. This was the very next meaty female role that was going to be on the show. Her voice is great. She’s wonderful, she’s great. But she’s not the Dr. Wong I pictured […] There were so many Asian women that could’ve done it.

All in all, an unfortunate situation. But I’m still glad folks like Gao are still trying to get those numbers up on behalf of all of us.

[Thanks to Twitter user Viereugen for bringing this video to my attention.]

The beauty of adoption

Rene Denfield has written a piece for The New York Times’ Modern Love column that really destroyed me, emotionally:

To be a parent is to step into a great unknown, a magical universe where we choose to love over and over. It is an act of courage no matter what.

“Didn’t you want your own?” people would ask.

“They are my own,” I would say, softly.

By adopting from foster care, I became the mother I had needed and rewrote my own story. I got to have a childhood all over again, the right one, filled with cuddles and perseverance, safety and love. If there is such a thing as a cycle of abuse, I broke it over the wheel of my own desire.

I got sick again

A few weeks ago, I got sick. Updates for the blog stopped, as I tried to balance my other life responsibilities with getting better. I thought I’d kicked it, but this past week it returned with a vengeance. Aches and pains. Chills. Endless, endless coughing that disrupted my sleep every night of the week.

I went to see a doctor (finally) and turns out I likely contracted a sinus infection that simply never went away. I’m on drugs now to help beat this thing but between this ongoing illness and this smoke in Seattle that hasn’t gone away in weeks, it’s been one of my most miserable summers in quite some time.

In any case, I’m hopeful the blog updates shall resume with full force soon.

Ten years later, how well has ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’ aged?

Kyle Turner has written a reflection of the Adam Sandler and Kevin James film, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, assessing how well it has aged 10 years after its initial release:

Yes, it’s a big deal when a piece of culture that’s queer-focused does its job and perhaps—and with Chuck & Larry, that’s a big “perhaps”—makes people less hateful. But this film was released well after the advent of widespread internet access, making it all the more inexcusable. It’s not that Chuck & Larry has aged so poorly because of its crude humor, or because our society is less tolerant of work that’s offensive to marginalized communities, but precisely because the meek efforts Chuck & Larry make in the name of “tolerance” now seem so transparent and one-dimensional. The idea that Adam Sandler even continues to have a career is insulting (and he, in turn, continues to insult). One shudders to think of the world that would have resulted had Sandler’s vision of LGBTQ “progress” come to fruition; one in which queer people are merely tolerated, and one in which our sexuality is sidelined in that way—just as it was by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or years of dehumanizing arguments made against the right of same-sex couples to marry. If anything, this film serves to remind us that it’s been ten long years of gains won and our right to exist in public brutally fought for. No thanks to Chuck, Larry, Sandler, James or the Hollywood industrial complex that continues to prop them up.

So far, there are two works released in 2017 that I think will age particularly poorly: Dave Chappelle’s newest comedy special, which has some transphobic jokes in it, and Split, which furthers negative stigma against Dissociative Identity Disorder. My guess is in a decade, folks will look back on those aspects of those works and wonder how we ever thought that way.

The worst movie I’ve ever seen in a theater

AV Club has a fun feature on the worst movies that people have seen in theaters. Here’s Sam Barsanti’s choice:

I’ve seen all of Michael Bay’s Transformers movies in the theaters, and in college I saw Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull on opening night, but I feel very confident in saying that Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is the worst movie I’ve ever seen in a theater. Even if you ignore stupid stuff like Gotham and Metropolis being practically right next to each other, the hoops the film has to jump through to get Superman and Batman to fight, and the whole “Martha” scene that ends the fighting in a heartbeat, the movie is still garbage for one specific reason: It turns Batman into a killer. I understand that he’s supposed to be a darker and more desperate version of the character, but no matter how you justify it, a Batman that puts machine guns on his jet and blows up criminals with his car isn’t Batman. He’s just the Punisher with better equipment and a different aesthetic.

Since this piece was published, I’ve reflected a bit on what my worst theatrical experience has been. I think I’d have to say it’s Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

I was still living in Boston when this film came out but had the chance to see it on an IMAX screen. I can still remember how excited I was — Bay had proven he could take this toy line and make it into an action-filled, visual effects extravaganza with the first film. Surely with a much bigger budget, a longer runtime, and probably more freedom to do what he wanted, Bay would deliver something that would blow us all away.

What we got instead was an incoherent mess of a plot, and a film loaded with some truly reprehensible material. Racist stereotypes. Robot testicles. Robot heaven. None of it made any sense. The only thing sadder than the hours of my life I wasted watching this film was the fact that Bay would go on to spend the better part of a decade devoted to creating more of these awful movies.

Part of me died that day in the theater: the part that would ever look forward to a Bay film ever again. (Pain and Gain was good though).

Inside SoundCloud’s implosion

Ryan Mac at Buzzfeed has a detailed story on how SoundCloud found itself in its current situation:

Today, SoundCloud appears stuck in no man’s land, according to former executives and employees. Though the company found validation with the major labels and launched a me-too subscription music service, former employees and music industry executives argue it bungled a great opportunity by losing sight of what made it unique: serving as a listening platform for non-label controlled content. Jake Udell, the CEO and founder of TH3RD BRAIN, a management company that represents artists like Gallant and Grace VanderWaal, said that SoundCloud used to be the first place he’d go to post music of his up-and-coming acts.

“Back then I would have to fight the labels to have songs on SoundCloud,” he said. “Now it’s not even part of the conversation.”

My takeaways from this story:

  • If you are a small scrappy startup going up against entrenched players (as SoundCloud was, going up against not only the music labels but also Apple Music and Spotify), your expectations and timeline for success need to be correctly calibrated and your execution needs to be flawless.
  • At a startup as small as SoundCloud, one person in power has the capability to do a tremendous amount of damage to the company and its workforce.
  • An absentee CEO can absolutely destroy morale.

What’s the point of life if the universe will one day end?

In David Lowery’s recent film, A Ghost Story, one of the characters goes on an extended soliloquy about the nature of humanity and how one could easily interpret the whole of human existence as a pointless of exercise. One day, everything as we know it will be gone — even, most likely, the universe. So what’s the point of it all? A24 released a short excerpt of the speech on YouTube above. (You can also watch my Periscope review of the film).

This week, the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt released a new video that tackles this very issue.

From the video:

If the universe ends in heat death, every humiliation you suffer in life will be forgotten. Every mistake will not matter in the end. Every bad thing will be voided. If our life is all we get to experience, then it’s the only thing that matters. If the universe has no principles, the only principles relevant are the ones we decide on. If the universe has no purpose, then we get to dictate what its purpose is.

Humans will most certainly cease to exist at some point. But before we do, we get to explore ourselves and the world around us. We get to experience feelings. We get to experience food, books, sunrises, and being with each other. The fact that we’re able to think about these things is already kind of incredible.

Obviously, there’s no one answer for this eternal question, but I appreciate them taking a shot at it.

In short: in the grand scheme of the universe, our time on earth is but a blink of an eye. We might as well enjoy it and try to help others enjoy it while we can.

For more ruminations on making the most of life, see Wait But Why’s post on Life in Weeks.

Dismantling the social safety net

Chilling piece by Jamelle Bouie for Slate on what’s going on in our government right now:

It would be one thing if voters were clamoring for a return to pre–Great Society, or even pre–New Deal, America. But that’s just not the case. In the abstract, at least, Americans want more assistance—more help from the federal government. Even for lawmakers on the right, that popular desire should influence their approach to public policy, as it suggests ordinary people want government to deliver (or facilitate) improvements to their daily lives.

But it doesn’t. And this disregard for public opinion—along with its corresponding indifference to independent analysis—augurs something ominous for the country. The Republican governing coalition in Washington—elected by a minority of Americans—is showing its willingness to transform American society with little deliberation or consensus. It has become so polarized that it will use whatever power it has to push a maximalist agenda through Congress, its representatives tearing through any norms or procedures that stand in their way to slash public assistance to the bone, and then some. The goal, should they reach it, will be a populace left to fend for itself.

A detailed stunt breakdown of ‘Atomic Blonde’

Wired has a super cool feature with Atomic Blonde stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave, who breaks down one of the film’s fight scenes in extreme detail.

I saw Atomic Blonde last night and was really impressed by the action (here are some brief, Periscoped thoughts). There’s one fight scene in the film that people will be talking about for decades (not the one covered above). Definitely worth the price of admission.

The Verge’s review of the Fuji X-T20

Vlad Savov has written a review of the Fuji X-T20 for The Verge that captures what I love about Fuji’s camera system.

It’s tough for me to decouple the pleasure of shooting with the X-T20 from its eventual results. The process of capturing images with this camera is more satisfying than any other I’ve known (except maybe Fujifilm’s own X-Pro2, which I’ve only flirted with). Smartphones feel impersonal and, if I’m honest, kind of half-assed, like I don’t really care about the photo I’m taking. Full-fat DSLRs, on the other hand, would suggest that I care too much […]

Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras are simply better. Our reviews of these cameras tend to devolve into emotional expositions about passion for the art of photography, but ultimately Fujifilm just wins on all the practical fronts that matter. The X-T20 has the best viewfinder, best ergonomics, and best image quality in its price class. The Fujinon XF lens ecosystem is unrivaled. If there’s any problem for this camera, it’s in convincing people that it’s worth trying — because I’m confident that once they do, they’ll fall in love with it just as I did.

I have been banging the Fuji drum for years now. The Fuji X-T2 (the X-T20’s bigger and older brother) has totally reinvigorated my love of photography. I try to bring it with me almost everywhere.

As for the X-T20, I’m not as big a fan of the smaller form factor cameras (I also own an X-T10 but I need the extra grip in order to enjoy holding it and shooting with it). But the image-quality-to-price ratio cannot be beat on this camera.

Golden Gardens.

A post shared by David Chen (@davechensky) on

Valerian’s financial failure is bad for the film industry

Deadline has a report on the dire outlook for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets:

EuropaCorp’s stock has dipped 9.4% in trading on the Paris stock exchange over the past two days which comes only a month after EuropaCorp took a $136M write-off. Remember: Fundamental — apart from their 28% and roughly $67M equity stake in EuropaCorp — is also on the hook for about $50M in equity in the picture.

Added another executive: “Everyone is going to lose money on this. It’s sad actually. This kind of failure actually hurts the business, not just the companies with a financial stake involved.”

This is a huge bummer. Luc Besson has stated that if Valerian does as well as Lucy’s $460MM international gross, then his investors would be fine, financially. But it now looks like $200MM internationally is a best case scenario. There’s a lot of blame to go around but my guess is one of the biggest miscalculations was pitting this against another event film like Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. Had Valerian opened in August, it might’ve had a little more breathing room to be a sleeper hit.

In our discussion of Valerian on this week’s /Filmcast, we praised its dazzling effects and its dense, bravura visual storytelling, even as we weren’t huge fans of the casting of its leads and the dialogue. Nonetheless, I wish filmmakers like Besson and the Wachowskis (Cloud Atlas) would be richly rewarded whenever they take chances on independently financed, bold sci-fi.

Unfortunately, based on current trajectories, Valerian will be forever destined to be that gem that people find in a VOD catalog one day, wondering what it might’ve looked like in 3D on a big screen.

What’s it like to podcast for a living?

I was honored to be asked by the folks at Bald Move to interview them as part of their Empire Business show. For those who don’t know, Bald Move are a couple of podcasters, A. Ron and Jim, who create some of the most frequently-downloaded TV recap podcasts in the country right now.

Over the course of one hour, we discussed how they got into podcasting, when/how they decided to give it a go full-time, what they gave up while doing so, and what advice they’d have for new podcasters.

It was a fun conversation and I’d recommend you check it out here on Periscope.

How SoundCloud lost its way

Dani Deahl and Casey Newton, writing for The Verge:

SoundCloud experimented with a variety of business models, including content-related ads and charging the creators for premium accounts that host more audio. But much of the audio uploaded to its servers contained derivative copyrighted material: DJ sets, mashups, and unofficial remixes using songs the SoundCloud artists didn’t have rights to. As those tracks racked up millions of views, record labels pressured the company to crack down. While the company worked to develop its paid platform, the service began to fray around the edges. SoundCloud’s increasingly confusing system of paid tiers caused contention for creators and their teams: unwarranted song takedowns ruined PR for new releases, labels pulled music off SoundCloud against artists’ will, and those who had helped make SoundCloud a force from the beginning now found it had simply stopped paying attention to their needs.

What’s happening to SoundCloud is sad. What was once a great platform for discovery and creativity is a confusing mess to use and is in danger of shutting down. For my part, I am freaked and will be attempting to move my SoundCloud podcasts off the platform as soon as possible.

A Conversation with Aditi Natasha Kini about ‘The Big Sick’

The desire to see yourself represented onscreen can be a powerful one. I’ve felt it for most of my life, and I was sympathetic when Aditi Natasha Kini wrote a piece about it for Jezebel, as viewed through the lens of shows like Master of None and films like The Big Sick.

While many people in the comments and around the web supported Kini’s post, it also attracted criticism from liberals, conservatives, and film Twitter (and me, to some extent!). Kini had chosen an autobiographical film that many folks loved and seemed to be criticizing the details of the writer’s (Kumail Nanjiani) own life.

I reached out to Kini to see if she’d be willing to chat with me about the piece. She graciously agreed. What follows below is a transcription of parts of our conversation. It has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation contains some plot details from The Big Sick.

[Also: You can listen to my podcast review of The Big Sick over on the /Filmcast]

David: Before we begin, can you re-iterate again the main thrust of your article?

Aditi: The question that I’m asking is why liberals are lauding TV shows and movies like Master of None and The Big Sick for being a gold standard for progress despite the erasure and invisibility of believable women of color in them.

I think that the gist of my piece is we can still enjoy things and hold them to higher standards. And what the brown guys of Hollywood are doing is they’re othering women of color, especially women in their communities, by making this a platform for them to assimilate in white culture.

What motivated you to write this piece?

It’s been kind of a build-up, a cumulative frustration, but it started with Master of None. I had a lot of discussions with people who thought it was it was an amazing show. It’s a good show but I had some issues with it obviously, and I had to bear the emotional labor of explaining that to non-women of color. And then I saw The Big Sick at a preview screening in New York. I didn’t laugh at some parts that a lot of the audience members laughed at. For instance, in the trailer they show the Pakistani woman who says who makes that X-Files joke. It’s not a joke; she just says The X-Files tagline. But it’s with an accent, and people laugh. I liked the movie but I walked away feeling a little uneasy.

I started writing my thoughts down. It started out as a personal essay. Then I started talking about it in some Asian activist Facebook groups and with friends who are from similar backgrounds. They felt like I did. The impetus to write it became more of giving a voice to people who are being marginalized. After going through approximately 11 drafts, the essay became more grounded in race theory and the history of the US as time went on.

I’ve seen a lot of right wing blogs that have picked this piece up and have claimed that you are anti-interracial relationships. What’s your reaction to that?

It’s very curious that like white supremacists and centrist liberals are united in hatred of the piece. They’ve denounced me as racist. A lot of people took it very personally or took it to mean that I am this new face of the overly politically correct, progressive left, and that like white nationalists, we also don’t want mixing or whatever the phrase is.

There’s a whole vein of critique that is accusing me of being salty and ugly, and that this article just reeks of “intra-sexual competition.” That’s one of the reasons many women of color don’t write about these things or talk about it that much, because they can easily be written off as bitter. I have color and caste privilege in South Asian communities, so I was more empowered to write this essay.

When white women are the main characters, the meatiest roles, in these depictions, and you have women of color as foils—as anti-attractive foils—it simply furthers a deep history of colonization.

This is not a new thing. Media representation includes books that represent white women and POC relations, especially cishet men-of-color relations, through the ages. And theorists have reacted to these representations for decades, centuries because the white woman is still held as the pure ideal in the US.

When we work within the framework of white supremacy by saying, “Why can’t love be love?” and defending it as the artist’s “personal experience,” you have to question why they’re choosing to make fictional shows still working within that framework.

In my opinion, the right seized on your piece as a means of destroying liberals’ moral high ground. And liberals saw you taking a piece of art that was valuable and denigrating it.

I think movies and shows like The Big Sick and Master of None give liberals an opportunity to congratulate themselves on being liberal and progressive. So watching and liking these movies makes them feel like you’re in a world that is progressing and being more open. And if I call it out I sound like I’m being unnecessarily difficult. I have got a lot of hate mail and a lot of it’s coming from people in interracial relationships.

I’ve also gotten a lot of thank you’s. A lot women of color, even in interracial relationships, understand where the piece is coming from, a place of wanting to understand why Kumail Nanjiani and Aziz Ansari are doing the same things to women in their community that were done to them by the white person.

I think there is this idea that I’ve violated a perception of liberals, their perception that the world is improving. I’ve had people reach out asking “Why can’t we just have a good thing for once? Why do you have to make it so unfun?” I hope I haven’t ruined someone’s experience of the movie, because it is a fun movie. It’s possible to like something and still be critical of it.

I think one thing a lot of people have struggled with regarding your piece, and that I struggle with, is what exactly is the counterfactual in this case? Given that the movie was about Kumail Nanjiani’s life, what other movie would you have wanted him to make?

He didn’t have to make all these women of color the butt of every joke like he did. It’s highly unlikely that every scene with brown people was 100% autobiographical.

I don’t actually agree with you that they are all butts of jokes. Yes, there is that one woman who says the X-Files line. Agreed, that’s a bit of a joke. But there are several other women of color who he meets who are not portrayed as the butt of any joke whatsoever. There is one woman who he rejects, but that rejection makes Kumail look like kind of a jerk!

The phrase that I used to describe that specific woman in the film was pitiable spectacle. The woman you are talking about is heartbroken over someone she barely knows because her future happiness depended on him or something. The counter-factual is that this movie could’ve been one that didn’t “other” these woman and instead conceive of women as full-bodied characters in non-sister and non-mother roles.

What you’re describing is a problem that’s widespread in Hollywood films. I think part of the reason people are reacting poorly to your piece is that The Big Sick is a movie that does many progressive things really well, but there are thousands of other movies that have exactly the same problem that you’re describing. So why are you picking on this particular movie?

A lot of people asked, “Why aren’t you talking about The Mindy Project?” I did not watch most of The Mindy Project. I got tired after one episode. The reason that I’m holding The Big Sick and Master of None to these excessively high standards is because I like them and there’s potential in these artists to make a lot more. They’re trying. These are the role models that people are going to grow up watching. Second- and third- generation South Asian and Asian immigrants can aspire to this level of craft because there is quality there.

I see potential in Aziz Ansari who tells minoritized story so well, like the Thanksgiving episode and the New York episode of Master of None. Those are exceptional episodes.

And the same with The Big Sick.. I’m really impressed by how comedic it was. I was enthralled and I walked away feeling uneasy because I liked it, not because I didn’t like it.

Thanks so much for your time today, Aditi.

Absolutely.