Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Jan. 20 2017 4:54 PM

Al Gore Prepares to Fight Climate Change Under President Trump With An Inconvenient Sequel

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is finally hitting theaters after years of speculation. The follow-up to the landmark documentary focuses on Gore’s continued efforts to combat climate change with “human ingenuity and passion,” vying to help influence global environmental policy and helping to educate potential leaders of the movement. It appears to have been made very much in the spirit of the original, which is credited as a major catalyst for the environmental movement’s revitalization and won two Academy Awards, including Best Documentary.

Whether Truth to Power can capture the country—and the world—as An Inconvenient Truth did, however, remains to be seen. At the very least, Gore striking a combined note of paranoia and optimism should resonate strongly for those concerned about climate change and environmental protection under a President Trump. (It’s worth noting that Gore unveiled “Flooded,” the first footage of Truth to Power released so far, on the day of Trump’s inauguration.) The movie was reportedly met with a “rapturous response” at its Sundance Film Festival opening night premiere, with a post-screening Q&A quickly delving into our turbulent political climate. “We will win,” Gore told the Sundance crowd. “No one person can stop this movement. We want this movie to recruit others.”


An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power hits U.S. theaters on July 28.

Jan. 20 2017 3:25 PM

CNN’s Inauguration Coverage Was One Long Existential Crisis About How Not to Normalize Trump and Still Be CNN

One question hanging over the cable news networks as they covered President Trump’s inauguration was whether they were going to “normalize” it by covering it as though it were any other inauguration. This question hung so heavy over CNN, in particular, that the network raised it during the endless hours before the inauguration began. Anderson Cooper mentioned to the CNN panel that there were concerns about “not wanting to normalize this day,” concerns that David Axelrod, for one, said he found “bewildering.”

But CNN’s inauguration coverage was intimately concerned with normalizing, or rather with not being seen to be either normalize or, for lack of a better word, abnormalize. In an incredibly polarized political and media environment—CNN was called “fake news” by Donald Trump just last week—CNN covered the inauguration like someone trying to thread a needle with trembling hands. Pretending everything was normal was not a viable option. But, for a nonpartisan news network, neither was constantly beating the drum about how abnormal everything was.

Jan. 20 2017 12:32 PM

Donald Trump’s First Twitter Background as President Was a Photo From the Inauguration of Barack Obama

President Donald Trump officially took over the @POTUS Twitter account on Friday:

The new Twitter background made me wonder: Whose inauguration is this from? The answer:

Yeah, it’s from President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Yeah, it’s from President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

carterdayne/Getty Images


Maybe the background was Melania’s idea?

Update, 1:20 p.m.: The team at Full Frontal With Samantha Bee has provided Trump a more accurate background:

Update, 1:55 p.m.: For the record, the background wasn’t a vestige of Obama’s account—here is a screengrab of how Obama’s @POTUS Twitter page looked just Thursday evening:

Obama’s Twitter background yesterday.
Obama’s Twitter background yesterday. (The photo, his longtime background, showed the 50th anniversary march in Selma.)

Screengrab by Slate’s Sam Adams

Regardless, someone on Trump’s social media team must have seen that they’d been caught, because they’ve changed the background for the second time today.

Trump’s new Twitter background, hastily added this afternoon.

Screengrab by Forrest Wickman

At least they seem to have chosen the right flag?

Update, 2:50 p.m.: @POTUS has changed Twitter backgrounds for the third time today, this time to a photo that is clearly a little too grainy to make an ideal header. Maybe someone can tweet him a higher-resolution image?

Screengrab by the author

Screengrab by the author

The smooth transition continues!

Jan. 20 2017 11:57 AM

There’s No Such Thing as “Indie TV,” but Sundance Wants to Help Change That

Some people come to Sundance for the movies, some to take meetings, and others just for the chance to spot a celebrity making his or her way over a Park City, Utah, snowdrift. But in the last several years, a new possibility has emerged: going to Sundance to watch TV. Although it wasn’t the first time the festival had shown TV, the 2013 screening of Jane Campion’s six-part miniseries Top of the Lake seemed to break the dam for good. Every year since, there’s been a steady increase in the amount of episodic work screened during the course of the country’s most prestigious film festival, further blurring the line where television stops and movies begin. (Film and TV critics spent the end of 2016 fighting over who would get to put O.J.: Made in America on their top 10 lists.) This year, there are over a half-dozen events organized around advance screenings of shows like Amazon’s I Love Dick, ABC’s Downward Dog, and Fox’s Shots Fired, as well as the CNN miniseries The History of Comedy and Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design.

In past years, Sundance’s TV programming has largely amounted to a carefully curated sneak peek at already-completed shows, but this year, for the first time, the festival opened up its submissions process to episodic work and virtual reality, getting some 500 entries in all. The result was three separate showcases, one dedicated to independent pilots and two to short-form episodic series, with subjects ranging from “the elitist parenting culture of Silicon Beach” to a teenager who discovers she is pregnant with an alien baby. This will also be the fourth year the Sundance Institute has convened an Episodic Story Lab, which admits writers who have never previously sold a pilot to an intensive 10-day program followed with a year of support from Sundance’s staff and the lab’s experienced advisers.

“This is totally a fascination and an interest of ours, and we feel like this is just the beginning,” says Sundance programmer Charlie Reff. “We’re totally in experimentation mode for now, just seeing what it’s capable of.”

TV used to be where independent directors went to pick up a paycheck in between films; scroll through the credits on a season of Six Feet Under, and it’s like a Sundance family reunion. But increasingly, it’s become the place for at least some of those directors to spread their wings, following an audience for idiosyncratic work that is steadily migrating from the big screen to the not-so-small. Brett Morgen is a Sundance veteran who’s been bringing movies to the festival since 1999, but his latest project is When the Street Lights Go On, the pilot for an as-yet-unproduced series about murders in a small suburban town.

Street Lights began life as a feature film script hot off the 2012 Black List, which Morgen, known for documentaries like On the Ropes and Cobain: Montage of Heck, planned to be his fiction debut. “I’d been doing commercials for 17 years,” Morgen says. “I couldn’t think of anything better to do with my own money than to buy a property I really wanted to develop.” But even with a modest projected budget of $7 million and an actress whom Morgen calls “without question the biggest star of her generation” attached as a lead, the movie was dead in the water. “I figured we’d hit the end of the road,” Morgen says. “But then I got a phone call: ‘What do you think about adapting it as a TV show?’ ” And with that, he says, “I’ve basically just walked you through the last seven years of independent cinema.”

Jan. 20 2017 11:56 AM

CNN Creates Excruciating Split Screen of Trump and Hillary

In case the country was not feeling emotional enough this inauguration morning, CNN goosed its pre-inauguration coverage with a brutal split screen of President-elect Trump and Hillary Clinton that emphasized just how very much one will be president and the other will not. You know, in case you forgot!

As President Obama and Trump left the White House and made their way to the limousine taking them to the Capitol, CNN decided it would be a good time to cue up a feed of Hillary and Bill Clinton making their way through Capitol Hill. The cameras followed the limo on one side of the screen and the stoic Clintons on the other for a few silent minutes, stoking the drama, until Wolf Blitzer broke in to solemnly congratulate the CNN production team for creating such a brazenly manipulative juxtaposition. “What a remarkable split screen moment we just saw,” Blitzer remarked, as if split screens are as random and inevitable as weather. Andrea Mitchell chimed in, “That moment, it gave me the chills, not for any reason other than as just a reminder, nobody ever knows what their fate is going to be. To literally see Donald Trump walk out the door … to go to his inauguration … and to see Hillary Clinton walking with her husband who was president, knowing she will never be, at the very same time, wow.” John King chirped up, “The two men who denied her the presidency in one car.”

Jan. 20 2017 11:50 AM

The Best Protest Signs From the Inauguration of Donald Trump

Donald Trump is entering the office of the presidency of the United States with record-low approval ratings. It’s no surprise, then, that his inauguration was met with a bumper crop of great protest signs. Below, some of the best.

Jan. 20 2017 10:53 AM

Trevor Noah on Trump’s Inauguration: “We Are So Fooked”

“America, you have to get used to the fact that you’ve elected a reality star president,” Trevor Noah said Thursday night in response to the photo President-elect Donald Trump tweeted of himself “writing” his inaugural address. “And you should know a publicity opportunity when you see one. Donald Trump was just promoting tomorrow’s premiere of the 45th season of the TV show President.” (He later added, “It’s also the final season, by the way, but that’s a different subject.”)

Noah used his platform on inauguration eve to speak frankly, rather than optimistically, about the political era we’re on the verge of entering. And for the Daily Show host, that one, ridiculously staged photo said it all. “How is that a president?” he asked, seemingly in disbelief. “Oh, guys, we are so fooked.”

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!”