Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 21 2017 10:55 AM

Activists Dressed as Characters From The Handmaid’s Tale to Protest Texas’ Anti-Abortion Measures

Another day in Trump’s America, another inch toward dystopian fiction. On Monday, a group of Texas women pointedly dressed as characters from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, donning red robes and white bonnet hats, in protest of various anti-abortion measures being considered by the state Senate. Atwood’s seminal 1985 novel explored the subjugation of women in a near-future ruled by a totalitarian theocracy, which instituted an outright ban on abortion. Sales of the book have skyrocketed since Donald Trump’s election as president.

The women sat patiently in the Senate chambers and held opposition signs in the halls of the Texas State Capitol. The specific measures that sparked the protest included SB 415, which would effectively ban any safe and common operations for abortions in the second trimester, and SB 25, which would allow doctors to lie to pregnant women considering an abortion if they detect any anomalies.

It’s just the latest instance of high-profile organization among women rejecting Republican policies, following the massive, global Women’s March and the demonstration of white resistance at President Trump’s joint address to Congress. And it’s well-timed free publicity for Hulu as well: The streaming service has a high-profile adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale slated to debut on April 26—and by the day, it’s looking more relevant than anybody could’ve reasonably feared.

March 21 2017 10:42 AM

Stephen Colbert’s Conservative Doppelganger Wants a “Werd” About Trump’s Budget Proposal

In spite of the revelations from Monday's hearing with FBI Director James Comey, Trump’s budget proposal from last week remains a topic of late-night fascination, with Stephen Colbert addressing the proposed cuts to various agencies on Monday night. That includes eliminating federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, among other entities, entirely, but that should hardly surprise us, the comedian noted. “Trump’s a real estate developer,” said Colbert. “It was only a matter of time before he put up condos on Sesame Street.”

But while Late Show host Stephen Colbert might be morally opposed to cutting Meals on Wheels, his conservative alter ego, “Stephen Colbert,” is not. The other Colbert crashed The Late Show yet again for a segment of “The Werd” to defend Mick Mulvaney’s bizarre explanation that eliminating funding for a service that provides basic nutrition to the elderly is “compassionate.” “You can’t just focus on helping the needy and forget the people whose taxes pay for it,” insisted Colbert. “That’s like praying for the accident victim who needed a transfusion and forgetting about the guy who’s walking around a pint light now.”

But it’s unfair to suggest Mulvaney is being cruel to old people, says Colbert. Because he’s also being cruel to young people, with a budget proposal that threatens lunch programs for poor children, again with the well-being of taxpayers in mind. Mulvaney doesn’t actually get to decide the budget, though, and so Colbert worries that Americans might persuade Congress to protect children and the elderly, perhaps by visiting house.gov and contacting their representative.

And that could upset poor, old, lonely Donald Trump. “Upset him so much that he just becomes a shut-in who stays in the White House, doesn’t even eat,” frets Colbert. “And someone has to bring him a meal.”

March 21 2017 10:20 AM

RuPaul Is Teaming With J.J. Abrams for a Series Based on His Rise to Fame

RuPaul’s life story is getting a series treatment. The beloved reality-show host and queer icon has teamed with prolific producer J.J. Abrams for a “half-hour dramedy” that fictionalizes his coming of age from club kid to global star. The project is being written by Gary Lennon, whose TV credits include Orange Is the New Black and Power, and will be shopped out to premium networks shortly.

The ’80s–set series will take place in New York City, as RuPaul relocates from Atlanta to study performing arts and immerses himself into the nightclub scene. It will be closely based on the arc of his own career, chronicled against the backdrop of Reagan-era politics and burgeoning queer visibility. He’ll reportedly be heavily involved behind the scenes, serving as executive producer alongside his World of Wonder colleagues Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, and Tom Campbell.

The upcoming ninth season of his acclaimed reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race premieres Friday on VH1. Last year, he earned his first Emmy Award, winning for Outstanding Reality Show Host.

March 21 2017 8:33 AM

This Genius Pasta Recipe Pretty Much Makes Its Own Sauce

This post originally appeared in Genius Recipes on Food52.

This might be the most luxurious-feeling dinner you can conjure from near-thin air. It takes something like 15 minutes and three ingredients (no, not counting salt and pepper—you have those), and it sparkles in just about any situation you can hurl its way. It’s good for a dinner party, good for making the masses at the table happy, good for when you’re feeling off-kilter and need righting. It’s just good.

March 21 2017 7:33 AM

One Chuck Berry Invented Rock ’n’ Roll. The Other Chuck Berry Lived a Life in His Shadow.

The death of Chuck Berry, one of rock ’n’ roll’s founding fathers, has brought a flood of well-deserved tributes and eulogies for the man who helped change the course of Western culture. But Charles Edward Anderson Berry wasn’t the only Chuck Berry trying to make his mark in show business in the 1950s. There was another Chuck Berry on the back roads of America in those days, dreaming the same crazy dream of delighting the world with his guitar licks and singing voice. But this Chuck Berry also wanted to delight the world with his unicycle. And his juggling. And his clarinet. And his roller skates. In retrospect, it’s probably best for all of us that only one Chuck Berry succeeded.

The Chuck Berry who failed, Charles Clifford Shepard Berry, was born in 1935 in Lawrence, Kansas. He was eight years younger than the legend who shared his name, but in a sense, he may as well have been born a century earlier, because he was one of the last people in the country who grew up in a vaudeville family. Like Buster Keaton, he started young, performing from the age of 4 as a member of “The Flying Berrys,” a roller skating act featuring Charles, his little sister Marion, and his parents, Charles Sr. and Elizabeth. During World War II, they toured all over the country with an act in which Charles, “the youngest pivot skater in the world,” performed high-speed tricks with his sister; when his youngest brother Ronnie was old enough, he was added to the act. The Berrys grew up on the road, an experience that made Charles a “perpetual wanderer,” as he told an interviewer in the 1970s. “I get a place two–three months, and I get buggy as hell. It doesn’t make any difference where it is, I just want to go.”

March 21 2017 2:23 AM

Tim and Eric Are Going on Awesome Tour Great Job!

Great news for fans of anti-comedy, anti-fans of comedy, and possibly anti-fans of anti-comedy: Tim and Eric are going on tour! It’s been 10 years since Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim brought Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! to Adult Swim. To celebrate, although they recognize that it’s an arbitrary milestone to mark, they’re bringing Tim & Eric direct to your town on the “Tim & Eric 10 Year Anniversary Awesome Tour.” Or, as Tim calls it in the trailer, “Our Summer Ten Year Anniversary Tim & Eric Awesome Tour Ten Year Anniversary of Tim & Eric Awesome Tour United States Tour.”

Will the live show they’ve cooked up be as aggressively weird, lo-fi, and hilarious as everything they’ve ever collaborated on? It certainly looks that way from the announcement trailer, which has a lot more yelling at the camera than you typically see in advertising. And the eyelids! Oh man, the eyelids. Dates, tickets, and a horrifying animated-GIF background can be found on the duo’s website. And now, here’s “Celery Man.”

March 21 2017 12:24 AM

Goat Simulator: Waste of Space Brings Interstellar Flair to Goat Simulation

Goat Simulator, the video game that asked the question “Goats have a pretty good deal, what with the running around being an asshole all day, thing, huh?” was a joke that turned into a viral video that somehow became an actual game you could buy. And when there’s an actual game, downloadable content will not be far behind. But when the entire concept of a game is a Desert Bus–style troll—despite promising “next-gen goat simulation,” the developers left horrible graphical glitches in because they’re hilarious looking—it’s gotta be hard to know how to add new content while staying true to the “deliberately crappy execution of a deliberately terrible idea” aesthetic that made Goat Simulator funny to begin with.

The trailer for the Goat Simulator: Waste of Space DLC, coming to PlayStation 4 tomorrow, starts promisingly: adding the worst Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation anyone has ever heard, and staying true to the heart of the series: a silly looking goat being a destructive jerk. Then, there’s a shot of a character with a six-bladed rainbow lightsaber, and the bottom drops out. You don’t need Star Wars jokes in your asshole-goat-in-outer-space game, or Star Trek jokes either. You definitely don’t need Trump jokes. Goat Simulator games are really only good at telling one joke: Here is a game that should never have existed, and yet … The good news is, that’s a great joke. The bad news is, anything you add to it will be, at best, gilding the lily. Video game sci-fi parodies have been a dime a dozen since Space Quest (and this one doesn’t look very funny), but only one game has ever tried to make our dreams of being a real prize jerk of a goat come to life. That should be an ambitious enough goal, no matter what galaxy Goat Simulator simulates next.

March 20 2017 6:59 PM

How Bob Silvers and the New York Review of Books Transformed the Literary World

Complaining that book reviewing—as practice and profession—has gone downhill is a time-honored custom in literary circles, but never has that chronic griping led to a more glorious response than the New York Review of Books. Founded during a newspaper strike in 1963, the Review was intended not just to fill a gap in publicity opportunities: It was directly inspired by a 1959 essay, “The Decline of Book Reviewing,” by the formidable critic Elizabeth Hardwick. Hardwick wrote that essay, which decried the current state of popular literary criticism as limp and brainless, for Robert B. Silvers, who was then an editor at Harpers. It was Silvers, along with his longtime co-editor Barbara Epstein and with assistance from Hardwick, who made good on his writer’s call to arms by founding the Review. He went on to edit it for five decades, right up until his death on Monday, at the age of 87.

Silvers was the last of the founding generation of Review editors. (Epstein died in 2006.) Like many great editors, he was largely invisible to the readers who loved the work he helped to bring into the world. It was Silvers, for example, who sent Mary McCarthy to report on the Vietnam War and persuaded Joan Didion to write about America’s political conventions; without him, Didion’s celebrated 1988 essay “Insider Baseball,” would never have been written. “I needed him so much,” Didion explained in The 50-Year Argument, Martin Scorsese’s 2013 documentary about the Review, “not so much to walk me through it as to give me the confidence I could walk myself through it. … Bob involved me in writing about stuff I had no interest in.” The film is a rare tribute to the behind-the-scenes nudging and cajoling (and sometimes berating) by which talented editors cause great writing to happen.

March 20 2017 4:43 PM

In a Revealing Interview, Dave Chappelle Described His Complex Relationship to Fame and Comedy

Dave Chappelle doesn’t do interviews very often—a fact noted right off the bat by Gayle King, the CBS This Morning co-anchor who snagged an exclusive with the beloved stand-up comic on Monday, ahead of the premiere of his excellent new Netflix special.

March 20 2017 1:53 PM

Meet the New Cast of Fargo—Including Ewan McGregor, Twice—in This Season 3 Trailer

FX’s Fargo teases for Season 3 have been predictably light on information so far, providing a preview of Ewan McGregor’s physical transformation and a sight of The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon in uniform (invoking Frances McDormand’s iconic Marge Gunderson) but not much else. At this point, we know that McGregor is playing siblings—one a clean-cut real estate mogul and family man, the other a balding and pot-bellied parole officer—and that this year’s events will be tangentially related to last season’s. Otherwise, FX is keeping us in the dark as we inch closer to the season premiere.

The network has now provided one more reason to get excited, at least, for the newest installment of its acclaimed anthology: the cast. Having already elicited breakout performances from the likes of Allison Tolman, Bokeem Woodbine, and Kirsten Dunst, creator Noah Hawley just might be at it again with his new set of actors. Along with the aforementioned Coon and McGregor—who both look excellent in the lead roles—the season’s new teaser features juicy snippets of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, David Thewlis, and Michael Stuhlbarg, the latter of whom appears to be sporting a particularly excellent Fargo accent. In case there were any doubts, the cast appears to be shaping up nicely once again—and we still haven’t had a good look at promising recurring players like Jim Gaffigan, Scoot McNairy, and Fred Melamed. That, along with the fact that we’re still missing key plot details, means FX surely has plenty left to tease before the season’s April 19 premiere.

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