Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Feb. 26 2015 6:22 PM

No, Madonna’s Fall Did Not Make Her Seem More “Human”

Falling down is funny. According to the “benign violation theory” of humor, watching someone fall down makes us laugh because it violates the normal order of things and doesn’t really hurt anyone. (Usually.) The “violation” part of the benign violation theory is especially shocking when the person falling down is someone who is normally very poised, dignified, or controlled—someone, for instance, like a runway model, a head of state, a professional athlete, or an Oscar winner.

Or Madonna. The pop legend fell down a short staircase during her performance at the Brit Awards this week, and GIFs and guffaws quickly spread across the Internet. More often than not, the jokes were tinged with Schadenfreude, or satisfaction that a consummate professional had shown her weakness. “Ambulance for Granny, please,” tweeted foot-in-mouth-prone television personality Piers Morgan, who gleefully reposted the Vine of Madonna’s fall three times in two hours. “The Queen of Pop is human after all—if you prick her does she not bleed?” teased Monica Tan of the Guardian. Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams diagnosed the widespread joking as a symptom of ageism and sexism but concluded that she liked “seeing this larger than life creature become, for a few seconds, vulnerable.”

Video Advertisement

Feb. 26 2015 5:59 PM

Modern Family’s iPhone Episode Was a Feat of Storytelling

By the time you reach your sixth year of anything, you’ve got to find new ways to keep it interesting. Last night’s Modern Family tried something new: The entire episode, running more than 21 minutes, was filmed on iPhones and other Apple devices, and it’s presented on the familiar stage of a computer desktop. Seen from Claire’s perspective, the episode follows all the main characters as they interact online.

Since “Connection Lost” aired, much has been made of how the episode focuses on Apple products, or how the cast and crew pulled off filming it, or how it speaks to themes of communication within a family. Across the board, the attention is on the technology itself. But this episode felt uniquely modern for another reason: it made multitasking into a storytelling tactic.

Feb. 26 2015 2:38 PM

Chickpea Waffles Sound Weird. They Taste Amazing.

This post originally appeared on Food52.

I know: Waffles for dinner again.

But look: If you finish your waffle, you can have dessert.

Shortly after reading the inimitable Will It Waffle?—the answer is yes, dear reader—we happened to be making socca. We were in that stage of high waffle iron usage when all foods look pre-waffled, and Anya, the other grown-up in the house, looked up from the batter and said, “Waffled socca?”

Socca is a chickpea pancake from the south of France (or across the border in Liguria, where it goes by the name of farinata). It’s baked in hot oven, usually. But it was meant to be made in a waffle iron. And because of the tragic shortage of waffle irons in its native region, it is only now fulfilling its culinary destiny. 

It’s never too late to live your dreams, socca.

Feb. 26 2015 10:42 AM

Matthew Rhys, Star of The Americans, Talks KGB Sex Training and the Perfect Creepy Wig

Each week on Slate’s TV Club Insider podcast, the creators, cast, and crew of The Americans reveal behind-the-scenes details about the making of the FX drama’s third season. 

In this installment about the fifth episode, “Salang Pass,” Matthew Rhys, who stars as Russian spy Philip Jennings, joins script coordinator Molly Nussbaum and executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg to discuss KGB sex training, selecting the perfect wig, and the craziness of playing five characters in a single episode.

Feb. 26 2015 8:43 AM

Karl Ove Knausgaard Is the World’s Worst Travel Writer

The latest issue of the relaunched New York Times Magazine has, as its centerpiece, a looong essay by Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose six-volume My Struggle has sparked widespread reflection onautobiographical fictionconsciousness, and time. The Norwegian writer’s mission, per Times decree: “travel to Newfoundland and visit the place where the Vikings had settled, then rent a car and drive south, into the U.S. and westward to Minnesota, where a large majority of Norwegian-American immigrants had settled, and then write about it,” as a kind of “tongue-in-cheek Tocqueville.”

This is a fascinating assignment, and I found myself moving through the piece in my usual Knausgaard trance, lulled by the accretion of detail and propelled by little more than the Newtonian logic that objects in motion tend to remain in motion. Knausgaard—provocatively low-affect, as if he’d wrought his prose from some insight-resistant material—is a master at arranging banal facts in a row and letting you wonder: Is this boredom I feel? Or drafts from the invisible wings of genius? Does it matter? One thing’s for sure, though: Karl Ove Knausgaard may be an intriguing novelist, but he’s the last person on earth you want as your travel writer.  

Feb. 26 2015 8:02 AM

The Art of Saving Face in Fresh Off the Boat



It’s been a full two decades since prime-time television has seen an Asian American family sitcom. But ABC’s new show Fresh Off the Boat, loosely based on celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s memoir, is changing that. Though the very first Asian American family sitcom, Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl, was canceled due to poor ratings and lack of interest back in 1995, Fresh Off the Boat has already stirred up considerable buzz. It’s also a significant moment for many Asian Americans, who have largely been excluded or misrepresented when it comes to the mainstream.

But testing the waters won’t be easy for Fresh Off the Boat. Will the show resonate with a non-Asian audience? Will it manage to undermine stereotypes or end up reinforcing them? Will its jokes be lame?

So we wanted to discuss the series from an Asian American point of view. This week, Slate’s Jennifer Lai will be joined by Phil Yu, creator of the blog Angry Asian Man, along with Philip Wang, one of the creators of Wong Fu Productions.

Feb. 25 2015 9:24 PM

The Mirrors of Ingmar Bergman

One of the many joys of Ingmar Bergman’s films is the intimate, inward experience of watching them: the audience is lulled, like so many of the director’s characters, into a permanent state of reflection. It’s fitting, then, that one of Bergman’s main motifs is the mirror. The above video essay, done by Kogonada for the Criterion Collection, stitches together some of the best examples.

Feb. 25 2015 6:27 PM

Why Do We Keep Comparing Empire’s Female Characters to Real Housewives?

Since its premiere, Empire has drawn many comparisons to female-centric, deliberately trashy reality soaps in the vein of the Real Housewives franchise. Some critics have deemed this a good thing, as when Dave Schilling, in Grantland, wrote about Cookie’s inspirational debt to reality TV: “Bravo reality shows offer a view of femininity (especially black femininity) that was rarely expressed in the popular culture.” Others have dismissed Cookie as little more than a “nicely wrapped up” stereotype of the loud, abrasive black woman.

Feb. 25 2015 6:20 PM

Watch Kanye West Debut New Song “All Day” With a Mob and a Flamethrower

Tonight’s BRIT Awards in London featured performances by the likes of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, and Pharrell, but in the end they were all upstaged by the mayhem Kanye West caused when he took the stage with (no joke) a humongous, Mad Max-esque flamethrower.

Needless to say, while West’s other recent singles and performances (“Only,” “FourFiveSeconds,” and his debut performance of “Wolves” on Saturday Night Live) have shown off a more easygoing Yeezy, his debut of the long-anticipated single “All Day” was a more raucous affair. Abandoning the auto-tuned croons for the brash raps that made the man famous, West came complete with (in addition to the pyrotechnics) a mob dressed in all black. (While the new songs have mostly avoided any extended poltical messages, all the hoods and all-black outfits have shades of the Black Lives Matter movement and the “hoodie protests” over the death of Trayvon Martin.) So much for the idea of a new, “humble” Kanye, which is something I’ve never seen any need for anyway.

Feb. 25 2015 5:16 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Yaka Meat Stew

On his Fuse reality show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, Freedia strives to share the unique and vibrant culture of New Orleans with the world. This usually involves raucous performances of “bounce” music and dance, the spicy riff on hip-hop that features high-energy hooks and twerking galore, whether on television or at a club venue near you. But Freedia also likes to eat and cook, and when Slate asked him to share a favorite local recipe, he immediately suggested yaka meat stew.

A creation unique to New Orleans, yaka meat stew—also called yakamein or similar variations—is an unlikely and yet satisfying mix of Chinese and Creole influences, and it’s treasured by the locals as a comfort food and a kind of cure-all. Freedia explained the importance of the dish in an email: