Slate's Culture Blog

Aug. 22 2014 5:32 PM

Maria Bamford Talks Comedy and Mental Health on Modern Comedian

Comedian Maria Bamford has been talking about mental health and mental illness both on stage and in interviews for years. She always has insightful things to say, and her candor is refreshing. On the latest installment of Modern Comedian, the Web series created by Scott Moran, she discusses being hospitalized, adjusting to medication, and why she loves the website

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Aug. 22 2014 5:10 PM

A Beginner’s Guide to Doctor Who

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

You don’t know why you haven’t watched it. Your nerdier friends have loved it since it was on PBS back in the day, and you knew a girl in high school who knit her own giant scarf during homeroom because that actor who looked kind of like Harpo Marx wore one when he played “the Doctor.” Maybe you’re like me, and when Doctor Who fandom started pushing Star Wars and Star Trek out of your local comic convention, your adolescent heart turned cold and rejected the low-budget British sci-fi series out of hand.

But now you feel out of step. It’s one of those zeitgeist-y Game of Thrones “Winter Is Coming” moments, and you’re on the outside, looking in. You’ve heard that the new (well, newish, the reboot was almost 10 years ago) Who is more popular in the U.S. than it’s ever been and that the new (um… Peter Capaldi is a spry 56) actor playing the Doctor looks pretty cool. And wasn’t he in World War Z—yep, and his role was “W.H.O. Doctor,” oddly enough—and The Thick of It, and, well… it doesn’t matter. You don’t want to pay for Cinemax just to watch The Knick, and your other shows don’t come back until October. The newest Doctor makes his debut on BBC America on Saturday, August 23, and you’d like to give it a shot, but you need a way into a complicated, 50-year-long mythology?

Aug. 22 2014 2:08 PM

Don’t Believe the Anti-Government Tale Spun by This New Dinosaur Documentary

A small-town South Dakotan paleontologist, persecuted by a ham-handed government, is stripped of his greatest discovery: the best Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. That’s the compelling storyline of the new documentary Dinosaur 13.

Unfortunately, it’s bullshit.

Aug. 22 2014 12:42 PM

When Movies Get Hot. Really Hot.


“It’s a scorcher out there…”


The list of enjoyable movies set during blazing heatwaves is surprisingly long. From A Streetcar Named Desire to Do the Right Thing, films set on the hottest day of the year sometimes have an edge that balmier cinema lacks. Here we celebrate some of our favorite moments of the blistering heat on film with a supercut to a scorching track by garage-rock luminaries Thee Oh Sees.

Aug. 22 2014 12:25 PM

The Teaser for Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight Has Leaked

Last week /Film reported that, in an effort to drive fans to Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, the first teaser trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight would only appear in theaters. That’s no longer the case. An apparently bootlegged version (though The Wire suggests the “bootlegged” part might have been faked by the studio itself) has leaked online, and it’s available to watch on YouTube.

Aug. 22 2014 9:02 AM

The One Video Music Award Worth Caring About

It’s probably safe to say that no one cares about the awards that are actually handed out at the VMAs as much as Kanye West does—and certainly few of us outside the pop music industry care at all. Like the BET Awards, the VMAs are an excuse to corral the biggest pop stars of the moment inside one room and watch them provide career-defining performances and crazy, unexpected moments. The awards themselves are an after-thought. Do you remember who won the purported biggest award of the night, Video of the Year, 20 years ago? Do you care? (Aerosmith, for “Cryin’,” if you’re curious.)

But on Sunday, Beyoncé will join an exclusive club that includes David Byrne, Madonna, and Guns N’ Roses when she’s awarded the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award—the one VMA worth caring about.

Aug. 21 2014 10:43 PM

Welcome to Sweden vs. Real-Life Sweden: Amy Poehler and Aubrey Plaza Edition

Welcome to Sweden is NBC’s summer sitcom starring Greg Poehler (Amy’s brother) as a Midwestern accountant named Bruce who moves to Sweden to be with his girlfriend Emma (Josephine Bornebusch). My wife, who was born and raised in Sweden, and I thought it would be fun to watch the show and see how well it matched our own cultural experiences.

Thursday’s first episode starred Patrick Duffy as Bruce’s conservative father and Illeana Douglas as Duffy’s taken-for-granted wife. “Did you see who it was, Jer? Bobby. Bobby from Dallas,” Kristine noted when he came on screen. “He doesn’t look much older than in Step by Step.” Kristine then started singing the theme song from Duffy’s ’90s sitcom. “Step by step, day by day— remember, there was a roller coaster at end?” Apparently they had TGIF sitcoms in Sweden.


The premise of this episode is that Duffy is an uncouth American who can’t stop saying obnoxious things about Europeans. But the show missed an opportunity when Bruce and his parents walked past a famous Stockholm photography museum: It would have given Duffy a ton of fodder to criticize had they gone in. When Kristine and I visited with my brother-in-law and our then 2-year-old niece, they were hosting a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit. I had never seen so many mothers and small toddlers in a room full of phallocentric photographs in my life. Patrick Duffy would not have approved. 

Duffy makes a sexist comment about his wife, and Kristine does not take kindly to it. Then he jokes that Swedish women are “easy.” “Oh my God I’m gonna murder Bobby Ewing,” Kristine says. “Do you know how we’ve suffered from that reputation. Try to live in France with that reputation. Try to vacation in Spain with that reputation.” Soon after that, Duffy shushes Illeana Douglas and his fate is sealed.

Later, Emma’s father explains to Duffy the Swedish concept of “allemansrätten.” It’s basically a Swedish property law that gives people the right to roam in nature even when trespassing. “I don’t think people can come walking into your garden, but basically that’s the idea,” Kristine tells me. Duffy jokes about shooting trespassers, which Kristine considers another heavy-handed stereotype about Americans.

At the dinner table, he becomes even more of a cliché, trashing cohabitation as a sin against God. The Swedish family tries to explain that the practice—they even have a special word for it, “sambo”—is perfectly normal. Kristine and I are married, but she defends sambo. If you have a wedding, she notes, “You have to pay for an expensive venue, invite all your friends and have your family fight over where to have it,” she says. Sambo apparently is the way to go.

The episode’s final gag involves Bobby Ewing thinking that all the Swedish men are gay because they’re stylish. Bruce and Bobby Ewing walk into a gay bar, because they can’t tell it from a regular European bar. The punchline: Duffy loves the place. It’s a cheap gag, but it reminds me of the first time Kristine was in Washington, D.C., and she said that everybody walking around in Dupont Circle, historically D.C.’s gay neighborhood, looked European. That stereotype will become a running gag in the show and I’m still not sure if it’s homophobic, accurate, or both. (We should probably “Ask a Homo.”)

Thursday’s second episode guest-stars Greg Poehler’s real-life sister Amy as a version of herself who is an abusive jerk that needs Bruce to get her out of a jam with the IRS. “Celebrities love to play themselves as evil,” Kristine points out.

The episode opens with Bruce eating a disgusting looking breakfast of blood pudding and tube caviar on a Swedish cracker. Kristine asks, “Is he putting caviar on his knäckebröd? Also, is he putting the blood pudding and caviar together?” I can’t tell the difference between the disgusting things you’re supposed to eat and the disgusting things you’re not supposed to eat, but in the show Emma asks the exact same question. “That’s frozen pig blood. No wonder he’s miserable,” Kristine says. “I wouldn’t even eat that. It’s literally the most disgusting thing ever.”

Kristine didn’t used to feel this way about refried pig blood. When she was a kid, she loved it, until her brother told her what it was. “When you don’t know what it is and you eat it fried with Lingonberry jam it’s not that bad,” she says. “You can eat it cold, too. It comes wrapped in plastic. Just heat it up, eat it. Nom.” Kristine is now a vegetarian.

Emma mistakes Bruce’s attempts to immerse himself in Swedish culture—by say, eating a disgusting breakfast sandwich—as a sign that he’s depressed. (Kristine also thinks he’s starting to dress like a Swede, but I can’t really tell.) So Emma’s mother tries to psychoanalyze him. “I bet my parents are watching and they’re trying to find similarities with you,” Kristine says.

Aubrey Plaza also guest-stars on this episode as Bruce’s ex-girlfriend, and she plays an even bigger jerk than Amy Poehler. She stalks Bruce, makes fun of all the Stockholm activities he takes her to, and litters, which is the thing that stands out to Kristine. “She’s throwing trash into nature?” Kristine says. “That’s just rude.” Kristine thinks it’s a Swedish cliché about American disdain for the environment, and at this point she takes offense on behalf of her adopted country. “Just because Bush refused to sign the Kyoto protocol? That’s offensive.”

Aug. 21 2014 8:39 PM

The Only Restaurant Commercial That Can Accurately Be Described as Epic

“Do you ever wonder what your ancestors during the early ages or medieval era ate for lunch?” If the answer to that question is yes, you will want to watch this commercial for newly opened Staten Island restaurant Troy, flagged by Eater. Director Edward Izro did not shy away from bold cinematic gestures for the ad, in which a heavily accented man in a white suit takes viewers through all of human culinary history in just 69 seconds.

It’s difficult to choose the best part of the commercial: The baroque harpsichord soundtrack? The anthropomorphic bowl of raw meat? The random eruption of flames that bursts into his face? If any of these features pique your interest in this dining location, rest assured that Troy Restaurant is a real place. In an interview with Gawker, the owner explained, “It’s European style, what can I tell you.”Gawker also asked the director, Eduard Izro, if the humor in the ad was intentional. He told them:

Aug. 21 2014 6:05 PM

10 Tips for Enjoying the 552-Episode Simpsons Marathon

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Starting today at 10 a.m. ET, FXX is going to play every single Simpsons episode back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. It's an impressive undertaking on the network's part that is also utterly overwhelming for any viewer. We're talking over 550 episodes and a movie. It lasts 12 days! There's no way to watch everything, and you shouldn’t try, but that doesn’t mean you can't enjoy it. Here are 10 very helpful tips that will allow you to make the most out of the marathon. (Note: Every time we instruct you to “watch” a particular episode, feel free to replace “watch” with “DVR.” We know you have jobs and/or children and/or responsibilities.) Happy watching!

Aug. 21 2014 3:14 PM

Run the Jewels Return With Even More Intensity in New Song

When hip-hop heavyweights El-P and Killer Mike joined forces last year as rap duo Run the Jewels, they not only birthed one of the best pairings in hip-hop, but put out what we named one of the top 10 albums of 2013. So far this year, the two have been busy touring and tweeting (they’re both worth a follow), and, most recently, Killer Mike has been in the news for his thoughts on Ferguson. They’re also set to bless 2014 with another free album, Run the Jewels 2, on Oct. 28, and its first single, released today, turns up the heat.