Is Whit Stillman’s Amazon Pilot Charming or Infuriating?

Slate's weekly roundtable.
Sept. 3 2014 11:35 AM

The Culture Gabfest “Vancouver, France” Edition

Slate’s Culture Gabfest on Whit Stillman’s The Cosmopolitans,, and “Against [X]” essays.


Illustration by Robert Neubecker.

Listen to Culture Gabfest No. 311 with Stephen Metcalf, Julia Turner, David Haglund, and Seth Stevenson with the audio player below.

And join the lively conversation on the Culturefest Facebook page here:


Buy tickets to the Culture Gabfest live show in Los Angeles on Oct. 8, featuring screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin of Scriptnotes, among others. Slate Plus members get 30 percent off the ticket price.

And this week Slate Plus listeners hear homecoming critic Stephen Metcalf talk about his recent sojourn to Paris. Go to to learn more about Slate Plus and join today.

Don’t forget you can find Culture Gabfest T-shirts for sale in the Slate store.

On this week’s episode, Steve, Julia, and Slate senior editor David Haglund talk about the new Whit Stillman pilot The Cosmopolitans, part of the current raft of Amazon pilots. Is this a return to form, or just more of Stillman’s characteristic bourgeoisie-skewering? Next up, Seth Stevenson joins the gabbers to talk Amazon has just bought the online platform for watching other people play video games. Are video games the new spectator sport and, if so, how should critics of more, er, classic media feel about it? Finally, Ivan Kreilkamp's screed contra screeds in the New Yorker takes on the genre of [X]-bashing, citing Cicero, Sontag, and Slate's Ruth Graham in the process. But what's a critic to do, if she may not critique? The gabbers weigh in on Kreilkamp’s aggressive argument.

Links to some of the things we discussed this week follow:

This year’s call-in show is coming up! Don’t forget to call in with your questions for the gabbers while they’re on retreat: 725-222-FEST (725-222-3378).


David: the late singer Phyllis Dillon, particularly her version of “Perfidia

Julia: Women in Clothes, by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton

Steve: A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (1958) by Eric Newby

Outro: Phyllis Dillon, “Perfidia

You can email us at

This podcast was produced by Ann Heppermann. Our intern is Josephine Livingstone.

Follow us on Twitter. And please Like the Culture Gabfest on Facebook.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.

Stephen Metcalf is Slate's critic at large. He is working on a book about the 1980s.

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.



Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B


Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.