Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Jan. 20 2017 10:04 AM

Why You Should Watch Donald Trump’s Inauguration

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

There are lots of reasons to not watch the inauguration of Donald Trump. Some of them are fair and come from a healthy sense of self-knowledge. If you know that watching Donald Trump be officially sworn in as our 45th president of the United States is going to crater your productivity, your ability to function, or your healthy emotional coping skills for an excessive period of time, and potentially create a spiral that will be hard to recover from, don’t watch. Of the many inauguration events, the biggest ceremony happens around noon on Friday, so there will be many people who simply can’t watch from work. There are people who will be traveling, people who are ill, people who have other significant life-related conflicts that prevent them from sitting in front of a TV at lunchtime on a weekday.

But if none of the above applies to you, you should watch the presidential inauguration.

Jan. 20 2017 10:03 AM

Premiere of A Dog’s Purpose Canceled Amid Concerns About Animal Abuse

The Saturday premiere of A Dog’s Purpose has been shut down, Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment announced in a statement. The film—directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat)—has been the subject of intense scrutiny over the past few days, ever since a disturbing video of a German Shepherd being dragged into choppy waters on set before being submerged underneath leaked online via TMZ and went viral. On Twitter, Hallström, who also directed the movies Hachi: A Dog‘s Tale and My Life as a Dog, wrote that he was “very disturbed” by the video and was not present when it was shot; Josh Gad, who recorded the dog’s voice but was never on set, said he was “shaken and sad,” and both said they had reached out to the film’s studio for an explanation. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called for a boycott, and the film’s scheduled press junket has been canceled as well.

“Because Amblin’s review into the edited video released yesterday is still ongoing, distributor Universal Pictures has decided it is in the best interest of A Dog’s Purpose to cancel this weekend’s premiere and press junket,” the joint statement read. “Amblin and Universal do not want anything to overshadow this film that celebrates the relationship between animals and humans.”

Based on W. Bruce Cameron’s novel of the same name, A Dog’s Purpose focuses on the life of a dog (voiced by Josh Gad) from birth and until death and through the various reincarnated lives he leads through different breeds. The film’s marketing thus far has verged on sappy in its appeal to dog lovers—the very market that’s most unlikely to forgive the kind of recklessness and abuse revealed in the leaked video. A Dog’s Purpose is still scheduled for a Jan. 27 theatrical release, but the outrage directed at the film doesn’t appear to be dying down anytime soon.

Update, 5:30pm: W. Bruce Cameron, author of the book on which the film is based, put out a statement in response to the controversy, per the Hollywood Reporter:

First I want to thank everyone—and there have been literally thousands of you—who have written to express support. Your words and thoughts mean the world to us.
I found the video we’ve all seen to be shocking because when I was on set, the ethic of everyone was the safety and comfort of the dogs.
If the people who shot and edited the video thought something was wrong, why did they wait fifteen months to do anything about it, instead of immediately going to the authorities?
I have since viewed footage taken of the day in question, when I wasn’t there, and it paints an entirely different picture.
The written commentary accompanying the edited video mischaracterizes what happened. The dog was not terrified and not thrown in the water—I’ve seen footage of Hercules earlier that day joyfully jumping in the pool. When he was asked to perform the stunt from the other side of the pool, which was not how he had been doing it all day, he balked. The mistake was trying to dip the dog in the water to show him it was okay—the water wasn’t his issue, it was the location that was the issue, and the dog happily did the stunt when he was allowed to return to his original spot.
I also didn’t like it when Hercules’s head briefly went under water, but there was a scuba diver and a trainer in the pool to protect him. He loves the water, wasn’t in danger, and wasn’t upset.
On a movie where the mantra was the safety and comfort of the dogs, mistakes were made, and everything needs to be done to make sure those errors are not repeated. But the reason American Humane certifies that no animals were harmed during the making of the film is that no animals were harmed during the making of the film.
I celebrate animal rescue and am proud of the values that show up in A Dog’s Purpose

Jan. 20 2017 9:48 AM

Stephen Colbert Revives His Conservative Alter Ego “Stephen Colbert” to Bid Obama a Very Truthy Farewell

For most of the Obama presidency, Stephen Colbert played a fictional version of himself dedicated to bashing the commander in chief nightly on The Colbert Report. With Obama leaving office, it was time for the real Colbert, who hosts The Late Show, to give him a proper goodbye, and that meant calling in reinforcements.

For legal reasons, Colbert has had to retire his Colbert Report character, an egotistical conservative blowhard named Stephen Colbert. Instead, he called in his “identical twin cousin,” an egotistical conservative blowhard, also named Stephen Colbert. Despite the similiarities, Colbert was careful to emphasize that these are two different characters. “How many times do I have to scream that at the lawyers?”

The new Stephen Colbert revived a segment that definitely isn’t The Colbert Report's “The Word” (it’s “The Werd”) to recap the past eight years of Obama’s presidency. But after some jabs at the “hopey-changey apologist in chief,” this alter ego, a stand-in for the conservative movement as a whole, is also having something of an identity crisis surrounding Obama’s departure. Because when your entire ideology has been little more than opposing whatever the other guy says, simply because he said it—what do you do when he’s gone?

“I mean, we had six years to come up with something to replace Obamacare, and the best we've got right now is Paul Ryan going door to door with a tub of Flintstones vitamins,” moaned Colbert. “See, I know Obama wanted to be a transformative president, and he was. He transformed me. And now I have no idea who that is!”

Jan. 19 2017 4:19 PM

Amazon Is Giving Us a Good Omens Miniseries in 2018, if the World Hasn’t Ended by Then

The apocalypse is nigh, and fortunately, it promises to be very, very funny. Amazon announced on Thursday that it has greenlighted a limited series based on Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the 1990 fantasy-comedy co-written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Amazon will partner with BBC Studios for the six-episode series, with Gaiman writing, co-producing, and serving as showrunner.

Good Omens follows the exploits of Aziraphale, an angel, and Crowley, a demon, who are enjoying their time on Earth too much to let something as silly as the end of days disrupt their way of life. To preserve the status quo, they’ll have to prevent Armageddon—but that will require them to locate the Antichrist, who happens to be an 11-year-old boy. Amazon’s production will set the story in 2018, which is also when the series will premiere.

Good Omens combines the best qualities of its two authors, making use of both Gaiman’s magical realism and Pratchett’s absurd humor, which makes it a smart choice for a TV adaptation. Filmmaker Terry Gilliam spent years trying to bring a version of Good Omens to the big screen, with Robin Williams and Johnny Depp as the leads, but to no avail. The novel has previously been adapted for radio, but the Amazon–BBC Studios co-production will be the first television production of the story. Gaiman first announced his intent to bring Good Omens to TV after receiving a posthumous letter from Pratchett, who died in 2015, urging him to write the adaptation by himself.

Gaiman’s had some good luck lately when it comes to adaptations of his work, with American Gods headed to Starz later this year. As for Good Omens, the series will debut sometime in 2018 on Amazon, followed by a broadcast on the BBC in the U.K.

Jan. 19 2017 2:43 PM

Why It Matters That Donald Trump Has No Inaugural Poet

After considerable effort, President-Elect Donald Trump managed to find a musician to serenade him at his upcoming inauguration. Elton John, Céline Dion, and even Trump’s old pal Paul Anka may have turned him down, but who needs them when the likes of Jackie Evancho, “America’s Got Talent” runner-up of 2010, are available for the job?

But had Trump shown interest in another lyric tradition from inaugurations past, he might have had even more trouble finding an artist to fulfill it. Unlike Barack Obama, Trump will not, as far as we know, consecrate his entrance to the nation’s highest office with the help of an inaugural poem.

If the absence of a poet at this week’s ceremony symbolizes a literary gulf between Trump and Obama—who quoted June Jordan on the campaign trail and Harper Lee in his farewell address—it’s also not an unusual omission.

Jan. 19 2017 2:01 PM

Trump’s First Presidential Dance Will Be to “My Way,” a Song Even Frank Sinatra Considered Self-Indulgent

It’s dizzying trying to keep track of all the musicians who have refused to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration. But there is at least one song we can count on: Donald Trump’s first dance as president of the United States will be to “My Way,” reports the Washington Examiner. According to an unnamed source, three Tennessee-based artists will perform Frank Sinatra’s 1969 classic as Trump and wife Melania take to the floor at the first scheduled inaugural ball.

“My Way” writer Paul Anka was originally planning to perform the song himself but backed out to spend time with his son, he told TMZ. Anka said that while he doesn’t share Trump’s political views, he has been friends with the president-elect for 50 years, and his participation would have been out of respect for the office. He also identified “My Way” as Trump’s favorite. Sinatra himself reportedly loathed the song, with his daughter Tina telling the BBC in 2000, “He always thought that song was self-serving and self-indulgent.”

Jan. 19 2017 12:27 PM

John Lewis’ March Puts Obama’s Legacy in Heartbreaking Perspective

It’s particularly poignant that civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis kicked off his war of words with our soon-to-be tweeter in chief by announcing that he would skip Donald Trump’s inauguration. As Lewis’ recently completed trilogy of comic book memoirs, March, makes clear, inaugurations hold a special place in his heart. The books, now collected in a boxed set by Top Shelf publications, interweave Lewis’s childhood and tenure in the civil rights movement with his experience watching Barack Obama be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.

March, co-written with Lewis’ longtime aids Andrew Aydin and magnificently drawn by Nate Powell, elegantly evokes the feeling of Jan. 20, 2009, the sense that, by winning the highest office in the land, black Americans had reached the mountaintop; Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was finally coming true. Book Two opens with the image of a black hand shaking a white hand as Rep. Maurice Hinchey greets Lewis at the House of Representatives, an image that will repeat at the end of Book Three as Lyndon B. Johnson shakes King’s hand.

A few panels later, Rep. Nita Lowey urges Lewis to hurry: “You should be near the front.” “There’s no need to hurry,” Lewis replies, as we transition to a panel that zooms far out to show the exterior of the Capital and the grounds gathered outside. “I’ll end up where I need to be.”

I remember being suffused with this same feeling as I walked to the inauguration, seeing vendors with bootleg posters featuring King and Obama’s faces connected by a sunrise and the words I HAVE A DREAM in 60-point font. Obama then seemed more symbol than man, and that’s also how he inhabits March; despite his importance to the book’s overall structure, he makes only a few cameo appearances and barely speaks. Instead, he inscribes a postcard to Lewis that reads, “Because of you, John,” and the two men embrace and cry.

As powerful as this moment is, it felt almost bafflingly out of step with the times when March’s first book was released in 2013. It was five years after the creation of the Tea Party and three years after the midterm shellacking that ground the government to a halt and revealed the limitations of Obama’s belief in compromise for its own sake. By the time the final volume came out in August of 2016, we were so deep into a racist backlash against Obama that one party nominated a man whose major qualification was being America’s birther in chief.

Jan. 19 2017 10:05 AM

Samantha Bee Says Kellyanne Conway Would Make a Better President Than Donald Trump

Just days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States, Samantha Bee has finally turned her attention to the woman who made it all happen: Trump’s “omnipresent spokes-cobra” and master deflector, Kellyanne Conway. The Full Frontal host, while no fan of Conway’s, did have to congratulate her for doing the seemingly impossible—namely, turning Trump’s “upended port-o-potty of a campaign” around.

But Conway doesn’t seem to be getting the credit that conservatives want her to, noted Bee, playing clips of Fox News hosts celebrating her as the first woman to run a successful presidential campaign. “A woman pulls off the feat of electing a sexual predator who thinks women should be punished for having abortions, and feminists don’t celebrate her with a Vogue cover,” mocked Bee. “Although she did get the cover of Pussy-Grabber Enabler Monthly, so I guess that’s something.”

Bee’s main question was why Conway was even running Trump’s campaign at all when it’s so obvious that she’s the more competent of the two. “Kellyanne is the soulless, Machiavellian despot America deserves,” she said. “Not this undisciplined, Hobbit-handed omni-shambles.” But as of Friday, Trump will be president, so Conway will just have to settle for the next best thing. No, not acting as his counselor—being inducted into Bee’s Great Feminists in Feminism Herstory Hall of Lady Fame.

Jan. 19 2017 8:32 AM

Why the New Schneider on One Day at a Time Is So Much Better Than the Old One

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Ask any child of the ‘70s or ‘80s what they remember about the original One Day at a Time, and they will most likely mention the following: its catchy theme song, the crush they had on co-star Valerie Bertinelli, and Schneider.

The new One Day at a Time—which was released on Netflix last Friday, coincidentally on the first anniversary of the death of Pat Harrington Jr., the actor who played Schneider—has very wisely kept some of the core things that defined the first version. It’s still about a woman post-marital split, trying to raise two kids on her own and often confronting social issues in the process. There’s no Bertinelli, but there are two new teens (Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz) who are just as charming, as well as an appearance by the other Romano daughter, Mackenzie Phillips. The theme song still opens every episode, but since the new iteration focuses on a Cuban-American family, it’s been given a jolt of syncopated energy courtesy of Gloria Estefan. And, yes, there is still a Schneider. But as crafted by showrunners Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon Kellett as well as actor Todd Grinnell (Desperate Housewives, Grace and Frankie), he’s been turned into an entirely different character. And thank God for that, because Schneider No. 1 would not have worked in 2017.

Jan. 19 2017 8:03 AM

A Series of Unfortunate Events Should Be the Model for Future Netflix Shows

Binge-watching is Netflix’s brand, but its original series have often suffered from too much binge and not enough watching: 13-part seasons that would have played better as 10, sprawling plotlines that slopped from one episode to the next without hitting any satisfying marks in between. The eight-episode seasons of Stranger Things and The OA brought welcome conciseness to the Netflix universe, but the unrelenting push toward serialization at the expense of stand-alone episodes meant that the former, at least, played more like one long run-on sentence than a succession of finely tuned paragraphs.

A Series of Unfortunate Events has been heralded as a second chance, both for Daniel Handler’s novels, the first three of which were adapted into an ill-fated movie in 2004, and for that adaptation’s original director, Barry Sonnenfield, who was removed before production began. But it also makes important adjustments to the Netflix formula that future series would be wise to heed.