Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Nov. 17 2017 11:42 AM

See How Alabamans are Reacting to the Roy Moore Allegations on The Daily Show

How do the good people of Alabama feel about the allegations against their Republican senate candidate Roy Moore, who is now accused of sexual harassment, assault, mall-lurking, and inappropriate relationships with at least nine teenage girls? You probably don’t want to know.

Daily Show correspondent Michael Kosta went down to Alabama to talk to voters about the allegations and to make viewers lose all faith in humanity, as successful Daily Show field segments are wont to do.


Many Alabamans feel bad for Roy Moore, and that he is the real victim in all this. They are convinced they can see the allgeations for what they really are: “political bull” and “fake news.”

It’s one thing watching Roy Moore’s allies (and Breitbart) deflect and distract and victim-blame and cast doubt upon everyone from the accusers to the “Bezos Amazon Washington Post,” knowing they probably realize the truth but are protecting their candidate for political expediency. It’s quite another to watch the people who have been sucked in by this baloney and honestly don’t seem to realize it.

Some of the interviewees believe it’s likely the accusers were paid to make their claims, one theorizing it may be as much as $50,000—a figure he admits he made up himeself. Others believe this is all a set-up, not ruling out the idea that this could be a “40-year conspiracy by the Democrats.”

Others think it’s a case of he said/she said, although as Kosta points out, “It’s more like he said/she said/she said/she said/she said.”

Kosta even came across an ordained minister, suggesting he might say a prayer for Roy Moore’ alleged victims, to which he happy obliged:

“Heavenly Father, pray for Roy Moore as he goes through these difficult times.”

Difficult times indeed.

Nov. 17 2017 10:27 AM

Does Anyone Say “Booyah” Anymore? And Other Mysteries of Justice League.

On the Spoiler Special podcast, Slate critics discuss movies, the occasional TV show, and, once in a blue moon, another podcast, in full, spoiler-filled detail. In this week’s episode, Slate’s movie critic, Dana Stevens, and Slate senior editor Jonathan Fischer spoil the latest installment in the DC universe, Justice League. Should it take more than half the movie to gather the team? Is it safe to reanimate Superman? What is a mother box? And who even says “booyah” anymore?

Listen to them discuss these and other questions below. You can also check out past Spoiler Specials, and you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts. Note: As the title indicates, each installment contains spoilers galore.


Podcast production by Daniel Schroeder.

Nov. 17 2017 8:33 AM

American Horror Story: Cult Was a Missed Opportunity

American Horror Story: Cult started as a dark, satirical, horror-infused vision of American politics and society, and ended as an elaborate female revenge fantasy in which a woman finally gets to win a big election. Like many rounds of the FX anthology series, it was shocking, ludicrous, and undeniably compelling at first, then started to lose a ton of its threads before it was even halfway finished sewing its narrative. A season of television designed to comment on the election of Donald Trump ultimately unfolded like one of Trump’s own sentences: It started off with a point, then went in a bunch of different directions, before it ended, leaving those still paying attention to wonder, “What the hell was that supposed to mean?”

Okay, so it isn’t that challenging to figure out what Cult means in light of its finale, cheekily titled “Great Again.” Tuesday night’s episode confirms that Ally was the mole informing the FBI about Kai’s violent plans, resulting in his arrest. Ally becomes an even more revered national figure than Kai did after being shot, leading her to run for Senate and prompting Kai and his cronies to break out of prison. A climactic showdown between Kai and Ally in the middle of a key debate between her and Herbert Jackson, the man who could have been Kai’s Senate opponent, reveals another twist: Ally had another mole—a seemingly easily manipulated prison guard—keeping tabs on Kai and lured him to the debate just in time for Adina Porter’s Beverly Hope (the audacity of Hope!) to shoot him.

Nov. 17 2017 8:33 AM

The Other Victims of the Sexual Harassment Fallout

The consequences of what we at Slate have dubbed the “Weinstein Fallout“ extend far beyond the alleged harassers and their many victims. The projects of the accused have been tarnished along with their names: movies pulled, TV shows canceled, magazines shut down. These cancellations don’t just punish the perpetrators who caused them: They affect everyone involved.

Countless innocent people—actors, crew members, writers, editors, publicists, designers—have lost time and effort on projects that will never see the light of day, all because of the actions of the men they were unfortunate enough to work with. Production companies find themselves in a difficult situation: to proceed or not to proceed? Even prior to Kevin Spacey’s replacement by Christopher Plummer, TriStar was quick to confirm that Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World would go ahead, saying “A film is not the work of one person. There are over 800 other actors, writers, artists, craftspeople and crew who worked tirelessly and ethically on this film … It would be a gross injustice to punish all of them for the wrongdoings of one supporting actor in the film.”


Others have lost valuable opportunities, professional breakthroughs, or meaningful roles they will no longer get to play. Trans actress Jen Richards revealed on Twitter last week that she had been set to voice a trans character in Louis C.K.’s now-canceled animated series The Cops. Richards said she was celebrating the “sea change” in gendered power dynamics and benefits it would bring, but was nevertheless mourning (understandably) the momentous role she would no longer get to play.

While the impact on these people is nowhere near as grave as that faced by the victims of harassment, it’s nonetheless sad that so many lives and careers have been swept up in the storm.

So how does it feel to lose out because of the downfall of a powerful man, even while believing that downfall was totally warranted? We spoke to four people who have been hit by the ripples.

Billy K. Peterson

Actor cast as the logo of Louis C.K.’s production company, Circus King Films.

The only thing that I will say about the things that Louis C.K. has done is: to the women he did this to, I am sorry that he did it. The women did not ask for it and it never should have happened in the first place. I applaud them for coming forward and telling their story.

As for how this story has impacted me personally and professionally, I am very disappointed. I only got into this industry as an actor in March of this year and I Love You, Daddy was my first time working in a movie. I was set to be the Circus King logo for Louis C.K.’s company, Circus King Films. As it was explained to me, I would be similar to the MGM Lion but for Louis C.K. movies. As you can see in the trailer, the logo pops up for just a few seconds. So it would have been used in I Love You, Daddy and other films in the future. Rather exciting for someone who has only done background and a couple speaking roles on smaller productions up until then. I was only on set for one day to film the logo so I did not know much about the movie plot itself other than seeing some of the script. I knew it would be a bit controversial from that and having been told “it’s a crazy movie” by the director.

As for what the project meant to me, as I stated above, I was only on set for one day of filming so I was not involved as much as the other actors but personally it felt like my break into films. So to have it pulled from being released was tough to find out but at the same time, I feel that it was the right decision to do so. I was actually on the set of Gotham filming a scene when my phone started exploding with text messages and Facebook notifications from friends telling me about the accusations (before he admitted it) so I was distracted and did not think much of it. Once I started reading the story, I knew the movie would be pulled. I actually thought it would be pulled earlier due to the Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey stories. Between them and the subject matter of I Love You, Daddy, I thought that, at the very least, it needed to be pushed back.

I guess to sum it up, I am frustrated and disappointed. I work hard as an actor for each role I get, whether it is a background role or a principal role. The actions of one man years ago can affect many people. Let’s all hope that this stuff stops, not only in Hollywood but all around the globe. People rely on Hollywood to help them escape their everyday lives. However right now, some folks in Hollywood have turned that upside down.

Doris McCarthy

Actress who played “Upscale Gala Guest” in Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy.

I was a featured background actor in the film. With this kind of work I never know the story until I see the film, and in fact this set was ultra secretive. This happens—I don’t blame them. He is totally concentrated on a set. I’m always watching. His work is impressing and it was a pleasure to be on his set. He has the top people on his crew.

The odd thing is that Screen Actors Guild has already sent out screeners of the film to its Nominating committee for consideration for the SAG Awards. Just the morning the news broke a pal called me to say that she had 20 screeners waiting [for her when] she returned from vacation. She read all the titles to me and I gave her a quick review if I knew the pic. I told her that I was in I Love You, Daddy and that it was scheduled to open. After I heard the sad news I texted her to say save that DVD and don’t show it to your granddaughter! I also heard a synopsis of the film with the news of the cancelation of its release. Yikes!

I can tell you this: I’ve worked for Louis C.K. before and I know about his on-set behavior. I have never worked on a project where the director [and] lead actor is also sitting on the camera when he isn’t performing in front of it! This takes a great deal of concentration. I have admired him and his work and only wished I could have worked on his series set in the bar—exceptional work.

As for me, I miss the opportunity to see myself at my best, and to have people in the industry see my performance—part of the fun of doing the work. That’s the only personal downside. And who knows? I could have been cut out, this also happens, although it was a pivotal shot with Louis C.K. on the camera.

This is a very sad situation and I’m happy that he owned up to it immediately. The repercussions will be far greater for him that me.

As for me, no one will know the difference. For him, it will cause a drastic change to his life.

Here’s an idea for you : Have someone look at his horoscope. See what it has to say because this is a major life altering event.

A very sad story. Truth is always better than fiction.

It has always been exciting and a privilege to work for Louis C.K. I wish him the best.

Jenny Davidson

Writer and academic assigned a piece in Leon Wieseltier’s previously forthcoming magazine, Idea: A Journal of Politics and Culture.

I am a writer and professor, have published eight books and do occasional reviewing, but it is a very rare thing for me to get offered a substantial sum of money to write a short nonfiction piece. I was therefore absolutely delighted when Adam Kirsch contacted me to ask if I would be interested in writing a 4000-word piece on reading Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the time of Trump (I’d posted a short piece about this on Medium over the summer, and had been posting snippets of Gibbon all year on Facebook), for what seemed to me a significant sum of money—over a dollar per word, anyway.

When I saw the Times piece about Wieseltier, my heart sank—I knew it would be just a matter of time before I got my assignment canceled. And indeed my editor emailed a couple days later to apologize and retract the offer.

Fortunately for me, I really hadn’t done any work on it, I wasn’t counting on it for freelance income as I am fortunate to get a regular paycheck from my academic employer, and I have emergency familial responsibilities right now that mean (the piece was due Thanksgiving week) that it is actually much better for me not to be writing a piece in a slightly unfamiliar mode just now. But I can easily imagine it would have been devastating for someone who was depending heavily on the income and the byline and who wasn’t currently quite as overloaded as I seem to be with other commitments.

John Buffalo Mailer

Actor in The Private Life of a Modern Woman, a new drama written and directed by James Toback, around which the future is unclear.

I can’t pretend that I have been affected professionally for the one day of acting I did on Toback’s last film. It was incredible to get to work with the extraordinary Sienna Miller, for which I am extremely grateful, but I can’t say that I was looking at playing this part as my breakout opportunity, and so would be lying if I said that Toback’s predatory actions coming to light have affected me professionally. On a personal level, I am thrilled to be living through the ground shift we are experiencing in terms of women in the entertainment industry (and all industries for that matter) finally feeling empowered to speak out against the misogynistic culture that until now has been considered part of the deal if one wants to become an actor. It is long overdue.

I would imagine that most of the people who worked on the movie feel like Toback’s actions took something away from the experience. While I was only on for one day, it was a fun shoot, and I am proud of the work. However, given the number of people who have been personally impacted by Toback’s predatory behavior, if it never saw the light of day, I can’t say that would upset me terribly. I don’t know how one can watch the movie objectively and forget about the actions of the man who wrote and directed it, not for some time at least. Don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of censoring art, and if people are curious about the movie, I think it should find a home (mostly because of Sienna’s magnificent performance in it), but the level of anger and course correction we are living through at the moment is strong to the point where if I were a distributor, I would not see easy answers as to whether or not putting the movie out now is the right or wrong thing to do.

At this point, after being a professional actor/writer for twenty years, I like to joke that I write for a living and act when the powers that be let me. So, this was a fun opportunity to get to act with one of the most interesting leading ladies of our day, and I leapt at the chance to do so. I certainly do not regret doing the movie, but the fate of one movie is far outweighed by the number of people who have been effected by Toback’s actions, so while I am one who does his best to try and separate artist’s personal lives from their art, if what he did means that all the work that an army put into making that movie happen is for not, that is a price Toback will have to shoulder and take responsibility for. I can’t imagine that it is the foremost price he has on his shoulders that is keeping him up at night at the moment.

The fate of the movie will be what it is. For the sake of all my friends who worked so hard to make it happen, I hope that if and when the time is right, it sees the light of day. But if it does not, then it will be yet another example that actions have consequences, and it is not okay for anybody in a power position to use that power to make people who are beholden to them do things they do not want to do. Power must always be held accountable and kept in check.

These responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Nov. 17 2017 7:33 AM

Why Does Aquaman’s Trident Have Five Prongs in Justice League?

Since the very first image of Jason Momoa in Justice League was released, there has been one question on everyone’s lips: What’s going on with Aquaman’s trident?

The word trident, of course, comes from the Latin words "three" (tri) and "teeth" (dentes), but Momoa’s weapon in the movie has five prongs. It’s such a point of contention that Momoa has fielded questions about it, as he did during an interview with WSVN-TV in Miami after being asked about trident grammar police.

Momoa: I didn’t call it a trident.
Chris Van Vliet: What do you call it?
Momoa: It’s a quindent, but we don’t call it that in the movie, and when you watch Aquaman you’re going to see him go for the trident, so everyone’s just got to stay tuned for a hot minute.
Van Vliet: Oh, so you’re saying there’s a different one.
Momoa: Well, yeah, he’s not the king yet. He looks to Mera and he goes “I need to borrow something. I need you to do me a favor,” so that’s when she gives him the equipment.

In that snippet, Momoa seems to explain away the five-pronged spear in Justice League by pointing out that while it is a weapon, it’s not the weapon, meaning it’s not the famous trident that Aquaman wields in the comics. Momoa is right, in a way. The Aquaman in Justice League is not yet fully equipped; in fact, when we first meet the man known as Arthur Curry in the film, he’s way more into chunky knitwear than weaponry. But when an alien attack jeopardizes the entire planet, Aquaman returns to Atlantis, where Mera has been holding down the fort in his absence. He’s too late to help out under the sea, but before he returns to the surface, he tells her, “I’m gonna need something from you.”

The next time we see Aquaman, he’s carrying a massive, silver trident borrowed from Mera that looks about seven feet tall and has five long prongs. He totes it around with him and uses it to spear alien-bugs, to hold back a wall of water, and, at one point, to try to break the skin of a being with unbreakable skin. (It doesn’t work.)

Aquaman Vol. 7 No. 1.

D.C. Comics via D.C. Database

It’s definitely not the trident that Aquaman wields in the comics, but Momoa’s explanation, that the trident has five prongs because it’s not the real trident, simply does not hold water. It’s true that Aquaman’s trident in the most recent incarnation of the comics looks very different from the one in the movie—it’s gold and has more intricate metalwork around the root—and that it has a different origin story. But that trident also has five prongs. So what gives?

True to his seafaring roots, Aquaman has wielded various tridents throughout his long history, from the classic Trident of Neptune, which was forged by the Cyclops out of adamantine and Neptune’s own essence, to the Trident of Poseidon, “a talisman of the sea god’s favor,” according to the DC Comics Encyclopedia. Both tridents come with their own powers, including control over the weather and, of course, the sea. They’ve also been known to also give him the ability to materialize items and project force fields. Different artists have put their own stamp on the tridents, but the Trident of Poseidon in particular has been depicted with the traditional three prongs, with three large prongs flanked by two smaller, winged prongs, and with the full five prongs used today.

Aquaman Vol. 5 No. 46

D.C. Comics via D.C. Database

To determine when Aquaman started using the trident we associate with him today, I called on the wisdom of the D.C. Comics archivist, who explained that Aquaman probably first acquired it in 1998, in Aquaman #46. But the trident only really became Aquaman’s standard weapon in 2011, when D.C. Comics revamped their monthly line of comic books; in that version, the trident is one of the seven powerful Atlantean relics forged by Atlantis’ first king. That’s the same golden, five-pronged trident I’d expect to see in the standalone Aquaman movie—unless Momoa’s point about a “quindent” being different from a trident was a clue that the D.C. cinematic universe will go with an old-school, three-pronged trident.

Either way, we should probably get the language figured out first. If you want to use the Latin prefix quin- and call the five-pronged weapon a quindent, like Momoa, that’s cool. As an alternative, you might want to honor Poseidon by considering the Greek prefix penta-, giving us a pentadent. Or, in the spirit of the weapon’s history, you can continue to call it a trident and simply risk the wrath of pedants.

Or, you can borrow this line from Justice League, which Batman says to Aquaman while the two are trading barbs: “I’m not the one who brought a pitchfork.”

Nov. 16 2017 7:47 PM

Comedians Know to Play to the Room. Al Franken Should’ve Known Better.

For a few brief and shining months, I thought there was a decent chance America might soon elect a comedian—an intentional one, that is—to the highest office in the land. What possessed me?

Al Franken’s Giant of the Senate, that’s what.* In that memoir, published earlier this year, Franken recapped a political career he’d already imagined as a satirical fantasia in 1999’s Why Not Me? The big joke behind the earlier, fake memoir was the idea that a former Saturday Night Live writer and performer could ever be taken seriously enough to be elected to anything. In Giant of the Senate, his real political memoir, Franken’s quest to be seen as sincere, informed, and competent, rather than just a funny guy, seemed to have been achieved. Now, accused by radio personality Leeann Tweeden of forcing an open-mouthed kiss on her during a rehearsal for a USO performance and presented with a photo in which Franken posed with his hands over Tweeden’s breasts while she slept, the senator from Minnesota has had to insist that on this particular occasion, which occurred in 2006, he was only kidding.


It doesn’t matter—as Franken, to his credit, now seems to realize—whether the photo portrays an actual grope or a near-grope. The joke was at Tweeden’s expense, a tedious unfunny entry in the long, long catalog of humor based on the idea that sex in any form is an advantage men seize over women, at women’s expense. That seems to have been a theme of Franken’s USO appearances with Tweeden, as well: him leering at her in order to win laughs from servicemen. It looks like the servicemen found this antique, Bob Hope-style shtick funny, but humor is notoriously dependent on context. That’s the problem with humor, as Franken found out during his campaign.

As he recounts in Giant of the Senate, Franken’s 2008 political opponent tried to discredit him in the eyes of Minnesota voters by dredging up an old New York magazine piece on Saturday Night Live. The piece featured a description of a late-night brainstorming session in the writers’ room in which Franken, among others, suggested increasingly outlandish and extreme ways to wind up a sketch parodying 60 Minutes. One of Franken’s scenarios featured Lesley Stahl being drugged, dragged into a closet, and raped by Andy Rooney. “Understand,” Franken writes, “that I was not intending for this extremely dark joke to be aired on American television. It was a joke ‘for the room’ suggesting a direction for the turn.” It was an uphill struggle persuading his constituents that the joke was part of “the culture of a comedy rewrite table at two in the morning,” and not a reflection of Franken’s attitudes toward women.

However, the final version of the sketch involved Rooney sedating Mike Wallace and photographing him nude, a form of humiliation unsettlingly close to what Franken did to Tweeden. In another clip that’s surfaced, apparently from a 2000 roast of Rob Reiner, Franken jokingly recounts Reiner being sexually molested (as well as beaten) by his father, Carl. While it’s absurd to interpret this riff as condoning such crimes, the concept of sex as a form of dominance, exploitation, and humiliation wasn’t exactly rare in Franken’s work; it was (and in some quarters still is) part of being an edgy comedian. It’s a way of winning the laughing appreciation of a predominantly male audience who shares that view of sex, just as Franken’s cheesy ogling of Tweeden pandered to the troops watching the USO show. Every joke is meant for one room or another, some group of people with a particular set of values whose approval the joker hopes to gain. But once that joke gets out of the room, all bets are off. The problem with rooms, after all, is all the people they exclude.

There has always been a mean streak in Franken’s humor, and while in the Senate he became a stout champion of the people of Minnesota, surely it cannot be entirely scrubbed out of his personality. I loved his 2003 appearance at a book convention with Bill O’Reilly, in which he humiliated O’Reilly and took great pleasure in doing so. Not all humor comes at other people’s expense, but a lot of it does. Almost all humor is transgressive to some extent, and all of Franken’s entertainment career was spent catering to the kind of audience who gets an extra thrill out of the idea that someone else (so often a woman!) would be outraged by whatever the comic has just said or done. What the photo Franken took with the sleeping Tweeden depicts is a man desperate for the laughter and camaraderie of such an audience, and that desperation is one of the ugliest things about it. Just because you find yourself in a room doesn’t mean you need to go for the laugh.

*Correction, Nov. 16, 2017: This article originally misidentified Al Franken’s 2017 autobiography as Master of the Senate. Franken’s book is titled Giant of the Senate. Master of the Senate is a biography of Lyndon B. Johnson by Robert A. Caro.

Nov. 16 2017 6:20 PM

London’s Old Vic Theater Says It’s Received 20 Additional Complaints of Inappropriate Behavior by Kevin Spacey

Twenty more complaints of inappropriate behavior by Kevin Spacey have been disclosed by the Old Vic, the famed London theater where the actor served as artistic director, according to a report released on Thursday. These allegations join a growing list of accounts, including actor Anthony Rapp’s initial allegation to Buzzfeed that Spacey made a sexual advance on him when Rapp was only 14, House of Cards employees’ descriptions of a “toxic” work environment, and previous allegations of sexual misconduct at the Old Vic. (Spacey apologized for “inappropriate drunken behavior” and came out as gay in a problematic statement following Rapp’s allegations, but has not made public comment since Nov. 2, when his publicist announced he was seeking treatment.)

Nov. 16 2017 2:47 PM

The Rundown With Robin Thede Is Black Twitter in Late Night Form

Black Twitter, as the social media realm for black commentary, debate, and clapbacks is affectionately known, is a fascinating space. It’s a world where the conversation can be pointedly serious or shamelessly silly—and often both at once—but no matter what, it’s always black: Black GIFs, black song lyrics, black affirmation, black resistance.

A good percentage of Black Twitter’s effectiveness is derived from the format itself—the swiftness with which a quip or article or sound bite can turn into a long-running joke as others pile on to the fray with their thoughts—and the rest is derived from the people themselves who are driving these discussions from behind their computers or phones. And so while it doesn’t benefit from being live or particularly timely by the standards of our instant hot-takes era, it seems appropriate to consider Robin Thede’s new-ish BET series The Rundown, which airs on Thursday nights, as Black Twitter personified within the late-night mold.

Thede, the comedian and former head writer for Comedy Central’s sadly short-lived The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, takes from that familiar, white male–dominated genre and serves it up through a biting, unmistakably black lens. In last month’s premiere episode, for instance, she remarked upon a local news item with a joke that managed to reference Beyoncé’s “Love on Top” while simultaneously trashing Alicia Keys’ vocal chops. Michelle Obama’s delightful shade towards the current presidential administration was celebrated with a trap music montage of black people dancing exuberantly: on Soul Train, at the Super Bowl, on roller skates. A sketch parodying Handmaid’s Tale was littered with barbs about the care of black women’s hair. (“Blessed be the baby hair”; “We are all Carol’s daughter.”)


Nov. 16 2017 12:51 PM

Justice League’s Rotten Tomatoes Score Has Been Unveiled at Last


Rotten Tomatoes is famous for pretty much one thing: aggregating a whole bunch of movie reviews from critics across the Internet and turning them into a convenient, single score for a given movie using a “Tomatometer.” The site offers a quick way for users to figure out what the critical consensus is about a given film, aided with a helpful visual of a juicy red tomato or a rotten green splat. It’s what they do! But Rotten Tomatoes delayed the reveal of the score for Justice League, which opens in limited engagement on Thursday, by almost 24 hours, and used it as an opportunity to build hype for their new Facebook show See It/Skip It.


Drama, as it so often does, ensued.

Nov. 16 2017 9:37 AM

Emo Rapper Lil Peep, Who Was Hailed as the Future of the Genre, Is Dead at 21

Lil Peep, who earlier this year was dubbed the “future of emo rap” by Pitchfork, died on Wednesday at the age of 21. Through his woozy, melancholic songs like “White Wine,” “Girls,” and “Drugz,” he drew from ´00s influences like Limp Bizkit and Panic! At the Disco as well as rapper Gucci Mane while garnering millions of fans on social media and Soundcloud. A 2017 New York Times profile of Peep and several other young rappers considered to be at the forefront of the genre compared him to Kurt Cobain, and the rapper talked openly about his struggles with drugs and mental illness. “I suffer from depression and some days I wake up and I’m like, Fuck, I wish I didn’t wake up,” he revealed in an interview. “… Some days I’ll be very down and out, but you won’t be able to tell, really, because I don’t express that side of myself on social media. That’s the side of myself that I express through music.”