Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

May 19 2015 9:31 PM

Sorority Sisters Confront a Masked Murderer in Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens

At long last we have the trailer for Ryan Murphy’s new series, Scream Queens. The plot: 20 years after an unsolved house murder, Wallace University’s Kappa Kappa Tau is forced by a campus dean (Jamie Lee Curtis) to accept all prospective pledges. Sorority president Chanel (Emma Roberts)—whose underlings include Abigail Breslin, Lea Michele, and Nasim Pedrad—isn’t too pleased with the mandate, but her problems get a tad more pressing when a masked devil starts slashing sisters one by one. 

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May 19 2015 5:05 PM

Amy Schumer Spoofs Honey Boo Boo and Toddlers & Tiaras With Babies & Bustiers

If you like child pageant shows and enjoyed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, steel yourself, because this clip from Inside Amy Schumer combines both. “I was put on this green earth to win pageants and spread the word of the Almighty,” says Amy Schumer, in character as Amy Merryweather Sherman, a 6-year-old child pageant star bravely battling “Fetal Red Bull Syndrome,” which makes her look much older than she is. Schumer, with her round cheeks and wide blue eyes, is a dead ringer for Honey Boo Boo. And while Jennifer Coolidge, who plays Amy’s mother, Cleopatricia, doesn’t really resemble Mama June, they seem to have a lot in common. “If God didn’t want this for my daughter, then why the Hell did he make her so friggin’ attractive?” Coolidge asks. True to form, Schumer’s parody starts out innocently enough, but ends on a raunchy note.

May 19 2015 4:03 PM

Letterman Was Great, Even on Late Night’s Bizarre First Episode

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

If something as groundbreaking and culturally influential as Late Night With David Letterman were to premiere today, would we recognize it right away? My initial hunch was no—I mean, who among us hasn’t been guilty of a laughably grievous and humiliating misjudgment based solely on a show’s premiere episode?—until I actually went back and watched the very first episode of Late Night and was reminded just how weird and wonderful and obviously groundbreaking it was. If, as has been argued persuasively elsewhere, you can find the seeds of a show’s ending by returning to its beginning, this seems an opportune time to revisit Letterman’s late-night debut, which aired way back on February 1, 1982. And, reader, I’m here to report that it’s not only the most refreshing thing you’d be likely to find on TV 33 years ago, but the most refreshing thing you’d find on TV if they aired it again tonight.

Let me say here that I’m no blind Letterman acolyte; I was slightly too young and too living-in-Canada to be entranced by him in his '80s heyday. I’ve always appreciated his astounding influence on the world of television comedy much more than I’ve appreciated his actual televised comedy. (Though I did once laugh so hard while reading a collection of “Top Ten Lists” in a bookstore that I basically started hyperventilating and had to leave the store. This list was the coup de grace.) But right from the very first seconds of that very first episode, we’re reminded just how different and daring Late Night was. The episode opens with Calvert DeForest as Larry “Bud” Melman, intoning like Alfred Hitchcock and paraphrasing from Frankenstein: “We are about to unfold a show featuring David Letterman, a man of science who sought to create a show after his own image, without reckoning upon God. It’s one of the strangest tales ever told.” I’ll venture that Late Night is the first talk show ever to include the words “without reckoning upon God” in its premiere. I’ll also venture that no one, even Letterman, imagined that his strangest tale would unfold for another 33 years.

May 19 2015 3:41 PM

Critics of Sansa’s Rape Scene on Game of Thrones Are Missing the Point    

This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones.

At the end of Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, Ramsay Bolton rapes Sansa Stark on their wedding night, and forces Theon Greyjoy (Reek) to watch. It’s a scene that, to say the least, has proven divisive. On Twitter, Sen. Claire McCaskill called it “disgusting and unacceptable” and declared that she was “done” with the show. To its credit, the show didn’t depict the act itself, instead cutting to Theon’s face as he is forced to watch. Game of Thrones may have a history of mishandling rape, but this particular scene was necessary. And, unlike some of the others, it was treated with appropriate gravity: as an act of war.

As a character, Sansa has—until very recently—been widely underappreciated by viewers. We all remember the old Sansa, who simpered about wanting Joffrey’s babies. We may have cursed at her along with Arya: “Seven hells.” Yes, Sansa started out naive, and a bit whiny. But as others have pointed out, Sansa’s primary offense wasn’t rooted in any specific trait, but instead in being precisely what she was raised to be: a lady in an unrelentingly patriarchal society.

Now, Sansa is fully aware of what her world does to its women. In going forward with the plan to marry Ramsay, she is both scared and resolute—but she has a plan, and like her mentor in deception, Littlefinger, she’s learned to keep her cards close. She knows she has allies: “The North remembers.” And she knew what will happen on her wedding night—she’s far too smart to assume that Ramsay would respect her the way Tyrion did. Rape is rape, and this one was particularly hard to stomach as a viewer. But it’s also important to remember all of these factors, and to know that Sansa must have weighed them all.

May 19 2015 2:28 PM

Watch Stephen Colbert’s Surprisingly Earnest Wake Forest Commencement Speech    

Wake Forest University’s Class of 2015 got some sage, hilarious advice from recent Colbert Report grad Stephen Colbert on Monday. After a few minutes of topical banter and some light mockery of Wake Forest traditions (all of which you can watch in the video of the speech above), the comedian, who will soon take over The Late Show for David Letterman, pointed out that he’s at a similar crossroads to the graduates:

It’s time to say goodbye to the person we’ve become, who we’ve worked so hard to perfect, and to make some crucial decisions in becoming who we’re going to be. For me, I’ll have to figure out how to do an hour-long show every night. And you at some point will have to sleep. I am told the Adderall wears off eventually.

May 19 2015 12:07 PM

The Trailer for The Magicians Looks Like Harry Potter if Harry Went to Grad School

“Magic is real,” according to the first trailer for SyFy’s The Magicians, a TV series adaptation of Lev Grossman’s popular Magicians novels. As in that trilogy, we follow Quentin Coldwater, an aspiring magician, as he discovers a school in upstate New York called Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. There, a bunch of grad students are learning some pretty cool-looking magic, including sexy levitation, some very advanced card tricks, and … actual mid-air sex? “I can’t just go to Yale if I know this place exists,” says one aspiring magician, reminding us all about that letter from Hogwarts that never came. The special effects are impressive and the music is edgy, but the best part of the trailer is obviously the guy yelling, “DO SOME GODDAMN MAGIC!”

May 19 2015 10:16 AM

How Do You Make Don Draper Cry? An Interview With the Actor Who Played Leonard.

When we weren’t debating who created that famous Coke ad, or whether or not the stories of Peggy, Pete, Richard, Joan, et. al wrapped up too sweetly or bitterly, many of us were wondering: What’s up with Leonard? Leonard, Mad Men’s “last great rando,” as Slate’s Julia Turner has dubbed him—the character whose raw, emotional confession in a group therapy session led to the breakdown of the hardened, complex Don Draper.

I spoke with Evan Arnold, the actor behind Leonard, about how he got the role, what it was like being such a significant part of the ending of one of the most beloved (and analyzed) TV shows in history, and his thoughts on hugging Jon Hamm.


May 19 2015 8:02 AM

This Is What It’s Like to See Pitch Perfect 2 With an Entire College A Capella Group

Seven of them are milling on the steps of the Georgetown movie theater when I arrive. There’s Daniel, a wiry baritone, whose favorite Pitch Perfect character is Cynthia. (“Ester Dean’s so talented. She wrote that song ‘Price Tag’ for Jessie J.”) Lindsay, an alto in a flowy dress, likes Fat Amy. (“That’s a cop-out,” objects Ben, bass-voiced. “Amy’s the crowd favorite.”) Andrew and Max, both tenors, prefer Anna Kendrick’s acerbic, punk-rock Beca. Ben confesses to “pure total adoration” for the whole cast. Evelyn, who graduated last year and sang alto, also likes Fat Amy, played by Rebel Wilson, though she asks, “Can we just call her Amy?”

“No!” everyone shouts in chorus.

May 18 2015 9:31 PM

Maya Rudolph Imitates Beyoncé, Butchers the National Anthem at Tulane’s Graduation

Celebrity commencement speech season is well underway, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see a lecture more entertaining than Maya Rudolph’s. On Saturday, the comic treated Tulane graduates to a few wise words, then bust out her famous Beyoncé impression while performing a raucous, over-the-top rendition of the national anthem.

May 18 2015 8:01 PM

Watch Don Draper’s Kodak Carousel Project Mad Men’s Silliest Moments

Last week, we updated Don Draper’s famous Kodak Carousel pitch so that Don projected some of the show’s most poignant moments. But those moments don’t capture the full gamut of Mad Men’s pleasures: Though a drama, it was fond of quick detours into the surreal or comic, with Matthew Weiner and his writing staff always willing to sneak in a good gag or an impromptu tap-dancing performance.

With that in mind, we’ve modified Don’s pitch again. This time around, he projects the show’s silliest, craziest, and most embarrassing scenes—lending new meaning to Harry Crane’s speedy post-pitch exit. Enjoy.