Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Feb. 6 2016 6:43 PM

Beyoncé’s Surprise New Single Is Both a #BlackLivesMatter–Inspired Protest Anthem and an Absolute Jam

A stunning music video for a new Beyoncé song called “Formation” was uploaded to YouTube Saturday. Arriving on the eve of Beyoncé's performance at the Super Bowl half-time show, the new song was reportedly produced by Mike Will Made-It and co-written by Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd. It feels instantly like an anthem, with shout-along lines like “I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making” and “Earned all this money but they’ll never take the country out me” and a back half built around the phrase “I slay.”

The video, which looks like it was filmed at least in part in New Orleans, is full of imagery linked to Hurricane Katrina and Black Lives Matter: a cop car drowning in standing water, a child dancing in a hoodie in front of a line of police officers in riot gear. The video also features a shot of Beyoncé with two middle fingers up, singing the line “When he fuck me good I’ll take his ass to Red Lobster,” which seems to be the early favorite on Twitter


Beyoncé is expected to play “Formation” Sunday at the Super Bowl, which means that a year and a half after framing herself in front of the word “feminist” at the VMAs, she just set herself up for what could be an even more powerful moment on an even bigger stage.

Watch the video below, or stream it on Tidal.  

Feb. 6 2016 12:33 PM

Another Super Bowl, Another Round of Bad NFL Lip Reading

The absurdist curators of Bad Lip Reading have released their annual NFL collection, featuring players and coaches with yet more surreal declarations and koans to ponder ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.  

This year’s edition features epicurean pronouncements, some some solid body modification advice, and Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell’s reluctance to sing Drake atop furniture. 

Feb. 6 2016 11:52 AM

Before Bernie Sanders’ SNL Debut Tonight, Behold His Early Roles in Vintage Rom-Coms

Bernie Sanders is set to appear on Saturday Night Live tonight, alongside host Larry David, the man born to play him. For his part, Sanders established his acting bona fides in the ’80s and ’90s, when he began his late-blooming film career in two romantic comedies. In 1999’s My X-Girlfriend’s Wedding Reception, the then–member of the U.S. House of Representatives went method as the ranting Rabbi Manny Shevitz, who uses the titular wedding reception as a platform to condemn the 1957 transfer of the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles—which was in real life a traumatic and politically formative event for the politician.

While the role of Shevitz was clearly a deeply personal one for Sanders, he was glaringly underused in 1988’s Sweet Hearts Dance, featuring Don Johnson, Susan Sarandon, and Jeff Daniels. Still, Sanders’ scene can barely conceal its radical socialist agenda, with Sanders appearing as a man engaged in a plot of distributing wealth to the needy in the form of candy to trick-or-treaters.

Feb. 5 2016 4:32 PM

The Week in Culture, “Worse Things I Could Do” Edition

Remember the O.J. Simpson case? Of course you do, it was the trial of the century. As Ryan Murphy’s miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story kicks off this week, Slate’s Willa Paskin points out in her review that it’s the trial of our current century, too: “the first of its kind of sordid spectacle, but in its reach ... also the last.” Paskin praises the show’s watchability, and elsewhere in Slate, Leon Neyfakh runs down what was fact and what was fiction in the first episode while Sheila Weller details the long, complicated history of the Simpson-Kardashian relationship.

Also on TV, Vanessa Hudgens proved her mettle as Rizzo in the actually-pretty-good Grease Live, Louis C.K. dropped a surprise new show (now just three bucks to watch!), Outsiders squanders its prestige-drama potential, the X-Files reboot continues—but not without controversy—and, as always, there’s lots of new stuff to stream this month.


A new month also means a piping-hot new batch of books pieces. Reviewing A.O. Scott’s Better Living Through Criticism, Slate’s Laura Miller, also a critic, is perfectly poised to discuss the finer points of the job. Meanwhile, Isaac Chotiner disarmed Scott in a lively interview. Katy Waldman asks why book trailers are so self-loathing—and joins Emma Watson’s feminist book club. The Belle Époque–set The Queen of the Night seems like a world away from Alexander Chee’s first novel, but Spencer Lenfield draws parallels. (Chee spent 15 years on the book, he reveals in an interview.) And there’s much more in the Slate Book Review!

Even more happenings from the week in culture:

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Feb. 5 2016 3:32 PM

Halsey Covered “Love Yourself,” Swapped “Love” for the Word Bieber Actually Meant

Don't be deceived by the seemingly sweet and affirming title of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”: the "love" has a very clear, not-so-sweet double entendre. Now Halsey, the artist who lent her vocal talents on another Purpose track, “The Feeling,” has covered the song, with a few virtuosic flourishes. Most notably, her chorus is a little more direct: She went with “Fuck yourself.”

The cover has a gentle, smoky timbre, which makes the lyric change stand out even more. Halsey's lyrics generally tend to be graphic and direct. (Sample: Her song “Strange Love” begins with a very blunt reference to sex on the bathroom sink.) And for those of us who have always thought “love yourself” sounds like a lame radio edit of what Bieber probably meant to say, this amendment was long overdue.

Feb. 5 2016 1:03 PM

In Netflix-iest Move Possible, Netflix Renews Orange Is the New Black for a Whopping Three More Seasons

Aside from Nate Parker’s enthusiastically received Nat Turner biopic The Birth of a Nation, the narrative dominating last month’s Sundance Film Festival was that of theoverzealous buying sprees of Netflix and Amazon. Each of them acquired six films—the most out of any other studio—further emphasizing their disruption of the old way of doing things in Hollywood. Just as Netflix pioneered the era of the “full-season dump,” so have Netflix and Amazon called into question the film industry’s business model for theatrical releases with recent films like Beasts of No Nation and Chi-Raq.

So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Netflix has done something practically unheard of: It’s renewed Orange Is the New Black for three more seasons, bringing the hit show’s current tally up to seven seasons. It’s very rare for a scripted show to receive such a long-term commitment in one fell swoop; Variety has deemed it “the longest commitment for any TV series in recent memory.”

For OITNB fans, the renewal probably feels at once exhilarating and daunting—plenty of room to explore some new creative directions, but also plenty of time to go off the rails with such a large episode order. For her part, at least, creator Jenji Kohan, is ready to accept the challenge, per the press release.

Feb. 5 2016 11:58 AM

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Is Actually a Great Jane Austen Adaptation—Except for One Crazy Twist

This post contains spoilers for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the new film directed by Burr Steers, is adapted from the 2009 novelty novel in which author Seth Grahame-Smith injected scenes of battle with the undead into passages lifted wholesale from Jane Austen’s novel. Such a fantastical take on the literary classic is as outrageous as it sounds: It’s a film that reimagines the Bennet sisters as accomplished zombie-fighting warriors and invents a geopolitical backstory about how the plague of zombie-ism came to afflict Regency-era England. Yet like Grahame-Smith’s clever revamping, the movie is remarkably faithful to Austen’s text. With the obvious exception of the scenes where Elizabeth (Lily James), Jane (Bella Heathcote), and Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) are beheading undead bodies—of which there are plenty—Steers mostly hews closely to the 1813 novel of manners.

Steers, who also wrote the screenplay, takes many lines directly from Austen. Bingley and Darcy’s first exchange—in which Darcy dismisses Elizabeth as “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me”—comes almost verbatim from the book, as do many other pivotal scenes, including Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr. Collins (the crowd-pleasing Matt Smith) and Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth (which involves some hand-to-hand combat in the film). Although Steers omits many minor characters and combines secondary scenes to make time for zombie fights, he takes great pains to paint the major characters accurately in the limited time he has: Elizabeth is recognizably headstrong, Darcy standoffish, Jane trusting, Bingley suggestible, Collins oblivious, Charlotte pragmatic, and Mrs. Bennet frivolous.

And most of the instances in which the script does alter Austen’s text are smart, subtle, and faithful to the spirit of the novel. 

Feb. 5 2016 11:25 AM

The Return of the Repressed: We Discuss the Latest Episodes of Serial

This week, Gabe and Katy are once again joined by Afghanistan veteran Adrian Bonenberger to discuss counterinsurgency, the realities of military life, and what we learned in Episode 6, “5 O’Clock Shadow,” about Bowe Bergdahl’s experiences in Paktika Province. Plus: the surprising return of Adnan Syed and Asia McClain, in the first of a series of mini-episodes updating us on Syed’s hearing in Baltimore this week.

Adrian Bonenberger is the author of Afghan Post. You can find more of his work at Wrath-Bearing Tree.


As always with Slate’s Spoiler Specials, this is meant to be heard after you’ve caught up with the work under discussion. We’ll be discussing new episodes of Serial each week, and we hope you’ll join us. After you’ve listened, let us know what you think about this season of Serial by emailing

You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and find previous episodes in our archive. You’ll also find them—along with additional writing and commentary about the show—at

Feb. 5 2016 11:10 AM

Samantha Bee and Colbert Brainstormed Some Very Creative Euphemisms for Female Anatomy

Samantha Bee appeared on Colbert's Late Show Thursday to promote her upcoming late-night show Full Frontal, which, as Colbert noted, will make her the only woman hosting a late-night show. On the subject of how male and female late-night hosts differ, Bee offered an observation about The Late Show: “You do reference your own man parts with pretty astonishing frequency.”

Obviously, there’s nothing stopping Bee from doing the same on her own show, but Colbert pointed out that she, like him, will need to brainstorm some euphemisms to avoid censorship. From there they launched into a list that attempts to pinpoint the perfect female equivalent to “huevos rancheros.” “Department of the Interior” and “The Chamber of Secrets” seem like the front-runners so far.

Feb. 5 2016 8:33 AM

The Story Behind Larry David Playing Bernie Sanders on Saturday Night Live

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

As Bernie Sanders’s profile grew over the past couple years, so, too, did the number of people saying he reminded them of Larry David. It makes sense, considering the hair, the glasses, the volume, and the, well, Jewishness. That’s why, when David first appeared as Sanders onSaturday Night Liveduring the Tracy Morgan–hosted October 17 episode, the response was rapturous. Everyone agreed David was perfect, if not pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Last week, after talking about the recent “Screen Guild Awards” sketchSNL co–head writer Rob Klein answered a few questions about how Larry as Bernie came to be, and what it was like in the room where it happened.

Larry David playing Bernie Sanders seems so obvious that it almost feels destined. How did it actually come together?
We knew Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider were going to write the debate sketch. They write the Hillary pieces, which they do so well, and while we were watching the real debate, Sarah said, “Larry David should really play Bernie Sanders.”

At the same time, Lorne was at dinner with Tracy [Morgan], who was hosting that week. While the debate was happening, someone at dinner said to Lorne, “Hey, you should really get Larry David to play Bernie Sanders. It’s like the same guy.” 

Then Lorne came back from dinner and got a phone call from Larry’s agent saying that Larry David wanted to play Bernie Sanders.

It was a case of massive parallel thinking, including the thinking of Larry David himself. 

That’s crazy.
I was really surprised. It was awesome. We were all there in a late-night meeting, and within, like, ten minutes, it went from “Oh, that would be so funny if it were Larry David” to “Larry David is on the phone with Lorne making a hotel reservation.” It was pretty great.