Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

June 30 2015 6:57 PM

Academia’s P.C. Brigade Has Started Policing the F-Word. That’s Taking It Too Effing Far.

Summer intercession has traditionally been a time for university professors to sequester themselves and focus on research, with only their highly unrealistic writing goals to keep them company. Not this year! Instead, Summer 2015 has been the Season of the Hand-Wring about the scourge of second-wave political correctness on campus.

It all began with L’affaire Kipnis, whose first shots were fired when Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis published a cri de coeur about her academic freedom to schtupp as many graduate students as she pleased. In the wake of the Kipnis non-scandal, there was a rash of overwrought testimonials, such as “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” and its answer, “I Was A Liberal Adjunct Professor. My Students Didn’t Scare Me At All.” I Was an Education Journalist, and This Subject Made Me Want to Gouge Out My Own Eyes So as to Stop Having to Read About It.

Honestly, I didn’t see what the big deal was. I’ll slap a “trigger warning” on some German poetry if that makes the students happy (TW: Contains sexual violence and dactylic hexameter!). No problem. But then, they came for my swear words, and I could be silent no more.

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June 30 2015 6:22 PM

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner Are Over, and—Refreshingly—It Wasn’t a Surprise

Amid the buzzing rumors of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s possible split, Bennifer (Afflarner?) has finally confirmed that they are in fact getting a divorce.

“After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce,” the couple said in a joint statement to People. “We go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children whose privacy we ask to be respected during this difficult time. This will be our only comment on this private, family matter. Thank you for understanding.”


Reading this, it’s hard not to think of Ben Affleck’s Oscar acceptance speech two years ago, which was perhaps one of the realest public moments in the history of celebrity marriages. Accepting the Academy Award for Best Actor, he said, with distinct uncertainty, of his wife: “I want to thank you for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases,” Affleck said. “It’s good, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with.”

The standard narrative of celebrity marital splits, in the Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin mold, is that the union is beautifully disguised as flawless until the exact moment of the split. But Affleck and Garner have actually been a refreshing divergence from the norm. They’ve both offered moments of pretty blunt honesty about their marriage over the years. Garner characterized their marriage as “mindful” in a 2014 interview with InStyle, noting that the courtship phase was over. If Afflarner had to end, at least it showed its seams along the way instead of feigning perfection.

June 30 2015 4:33 PM

The Great Secret in Their Eyes Is Getting a Remake, and Here’s the Gripping First Trailer

In the first trailer for Billy Ray’s English-language remake of the 2009 Argentinian thriller El secreto de sus ojos, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts star as FBI investigators whose lives are ripped apart by the brutal murder of Jess’ (Roberts) daughter. Thirteen years after the tragedy, Ray (Ejiofor) makes a discovery that could resolve the case—both legally and emotionally. But Jess might have other plans. Like Juan José Campanella’s original, The Secret In Their Eyes will interweave past and present—and hopefully the brief baseball stadium shots in the trailer are a hint that we’ll get an updated take on the original’s legendary continuous soccer stadium shot.

June 30 2015 12:22 PM

Watch Amy Schumer Face the Unforeseen Effects of Time Travel


Moving in with a significant other is a big decision. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could know whether it’s going to work out before you take the plunge? That’s the premise of Amy Schumer’s new sketch, in which Future Amy—actually, a handful of Future Amys—travel back in time to warn Present Amy about the consequences of moving in with her "charmer" of a boyfriend. (“You’re low maintenance, and it just feels ... OK. Plus my roommate is all over me about rent,” Travis explains romantically.)


Of course as any sci-fi fan knows, time travel can have unforeseen consequences. Should Amy give Travis the “celebration beej” he asks for, or should she break up with him? Most importantly, should she get bangs? The fate of the world depends on her choices.

June 30 2015 11:16 AM

Key and Peele’s New Sketch Reveals the World’s Most Reluctant Ambassador for Gay Marriage

In Key & Peele’s newest sketch, a white-haired politician (Keegan-Michael Key) addresses his Michigan constituency to send a simple message: Government should work for everyone, whether they’re young, old, Asian, Hispanic, straight, or gay. As the camera finds an example of each constituent in the crowd, Jordan Peele is surprised to find himself mistakenly pinned as a member of the latter category. Amid an effusive speech about the importance of the gay community, he tries to evade the relentless gaze of the cameraman. Needless to say, he fails.

June 30 2015 8:02 AM

Why Do Kids Stick Out Their Tongues When They’re Concentrating?

This article originally appeared in NY Mag.

When little kids are concentrating hard on some complicated task, you’ve likely noticed that they tend to stick their tongues out. (And some adults do this, too, though it’s markedly less endearing.) But why? A new study published in an August issue of the journal Cognition offers one theory. “This isn't just a cute quirk of childhood, the findings suggest,” writes Christian Jarrett in a recent post for BPS Research Digest, “rather the behaviour fits the theory that spoken language originally evolved from gestures.”


A team of researchers from the U.K. and Sweden observed and videotaped 14 Swedish children, all 4 years old, completing a series of tasks that required concentration: one required fine motor control, such as playing on their own with a lock and key; another required communication, like playing with an experimenter a game they called “knock and tap.” (Basically, when the researcher knocked on a table, the kid was supposed to tap it with an open palm, and vice versa.) A third task tested story comprehension, and the children's ability to recall details from a short tale the experimenter told them.

During each of these tasks, the kids stuck out their tongues now and then during the think-ier parts. This is in line with earlier research, which found that kids tend to do the tongue thing until about age 6. But the children stuck their tongues out most often during the knock-and-tap game. The finding was a surprise to the researchers, who expected the behavior would pop up most often when the kids were doing the fine-motor-control tasks. (Anyone who’s ever seen a little kid work on a puzzle would likely agree.) But, as Jarrett explains, what they actually found “makes sense in terms of the evolutionary history of language,” he writes. “[T]he knock and tap game involves rapid turn-taking, hand gesturing and structure rules—what you could think of as ‘the foundational components of a communication system’ or the rudiments of language.” What an adorable insight into the evolution of spoken communication.

June 29 2015 7:17 PM

Top Gun 2 Is Happening, but Iceman Won’t Be Pleased With His Replacement

The long in-development Top Gun 2 finally has a plot, and in a sad example of art imitating life, the brash volleyball-playing, dogfighting pilots of the original will be replaced by drones in the sequel.  

The script will be penned by Justin Marks, and features Tom Cruise’s iconic hotshot fighter pilot in the starring role, despite previous rumors that he would be taking a backseat to a younger actor. Skydance CEO David Ellison said in an interview with Collider: “There is no Top Gun without Maverick, and it is going to be Maverick playing Maverick.”


As for the replacement of Iceman, Slider, Hollywood, et al. with drones? We're not in 1980s Miramar anymore:

When you look at the world of dogfighting, what’s interesting about it is that it’s not a world that exists to the same degree when the original movie came out. This world has not been explored. It is very much a world we live in today where it’s drone technology and fifth generation fighters are really what the United States Navy is calling the last man-made fighter that we’re actually going to produce so it’s really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today are all fun things that we’re gonna get to dive into in this movie.

So, there you have it. Iceman, do you have anything to say about being replaced?

Our thoughts exactly.

June 29 2015 7:09 PM

Remembering Chris Squire, the Very Loud, Beating Heart of Yes

Chris Squire was a plodder. The bassist and co-founder of Yes, who died this weekend after a battle with leukemia, claimed to have “never seriously learned anything” about his instrument until he was 16. He earned the nickname “Fish” from band mates who grew restless waiting for him to finish long baths. The band’s first drummer, Bill Bruford, recalled that when Yes was recording its most complicated music, he would pass out from exhaustion only to wake at 3 a.m. and see Squire at work behind the mixing board. “He moved slowly,” joked Bruford, “and could thus outlast everyone else in the room.”

Thanks to Squire, Yes outlasted almost every one of its progressive rock contemporaries. Squire co-founded the band in 1968, when he was 20 years old. Last month, when he announced that cancer would keep him offstage, he called it “the first time since the band formed in 1968 that they’ll perform live without me.” That rattled fans. Up to then, to go see Yes—a band that usually contained at least three virtuosos at any given time—meant to go watch Chris Squire plus whoever he played with.

Squire was unpretentious about his discovery of the bass. According to author Chris Welch in his biography Yes: Close to the Edge, Squire got into rock ’n’ roll belatedly, and only picked an instrument after a guitarist friend told him, “You’re tall and you’ve got quite big hands.” (Squire stood 6-foot-4.) Squire played the Rickenbacker bass as a lead instrument, bursting with melodies.

And he was self-taught, crediting much of his technique to an eight-month period spent recovering from a bad acid trip. Squire played with a pick, but judiciously let his fingers hit the strings, too, clipping the notes. He wired the Rickenbacker to run in stereo, through a guitar amplifier and a bass amplifier. “I learned to do a few tricks that other people hadn’t done before,” Squire told Welch. “I developed that trebly bass thing a little further.”

June 29 2015 5:18 PM

How Great Was Amy Poehler in Inside Out?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

There are many things to marvel at in Pixar’s Inside Out—the intricate, novel narrative concept, the sad fate of one Bing Bong, the ruthlessness with which it milks every tear from your body until you’re more lacrimal fluid than human, etc. But among all these elements, one stands out: Amy Poehler’s vocal performance as Joy, the film’s chief protagonist. Terrific voice-acting is nothing new in Disney and/or Pixar movies, of course: Think back to Robin Williams in Aladdin, or Patrick Warburton in The Emperor’s New Groove, or Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo, or Jean Sincere in The Incredibles. But rarely do you find an actor who is asked to do this much in a voice role, and who pulls it off this beautifully. The more I watch Inside Out, the more I realize just how much of the film rests on Poehler’s shoulders. And she’s amazing in it.

Joy isn’t just the chief protagonist of Inside Out. Much as in a teen or high-school movie, she’s also the narrator. In the film’s opening and closing, she explains in voice-over the inner workings of the world we’re watching—this imaginary land inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley. But Joy effectively serves as a kind of narrator throughout the rest of the film as well, speaking expository dialogue, often to herself, that helps us understand what’s going on. That it never really feels like exposition is a testament to both the script and to Poehler’s performance.

The landscape of the mind as portrayed in Inside Out is exceedingly complex—so much so that its complexity becomes one of the film’s running gags—and the characters themselves often discover how things work as they move through this world. So Joy has to possess both the warm certainty of an educational narrator—we have to trust her, after all—with some of the bluster of a know-it-all. She often thinks she knows how something works, only to discover that she doesn’t. (Ironically, the morose Sadness, whom Joy made read a ton of books about the intricacies of the mind as a way to keep her from meddling in Riley’s affairs, has a better working knowledge of things.)

And this relentlessly peppy chatterbox has to do all this without irritating the hell out of us. Joy’s constant optimism could get very, very old, very, very quickly. Thankfully, it manifests itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes, she’s genuinely elated and excited. Sometimes, she’s just showing outside cheer to mask inner uncertainty. Sometimes, her relentless positivity is aggressive, almost scheming—as when she tries to cast Sadness aside to keep her from affecting Riley’s memories. Joy is a great thing, the film is telling us, but sometimes it can keep us from growing up, from moving on, from understanding the world. It’s a fairly simple theme, but it’s expressed quite subtly.

June 29 2015 3:46 PM

Here’s the First Trailer for Netflix’s Intimate Tig Notaro Doc, Tig

A lot has been written about all the calamities that befell stand-up comedian Tig Notaro in 2012—in the space of a few months, she got a life-threatening infection in her intestine, lost her mother in a freak accident, went through a breakup with her longtime girlfriend, and, to top it all off, found out she had cancer throughout her chest—and the extraordinary way she responded to them: In August of that year, she took the stage and turned some brutally honest discussion of her hardships into what Louis C.K. called “one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw.”

But somewhat less has been written about the strange way that instantly legendary standup set changed Notaro’s life for the better. The deeply personal new documentary Tig, which premiered this year at Sundance to a standing ovation, chronicles Notaro’s effort to follow up on that remarkable set, her courtship of her fiancée, and her struggles to have children. While it’s hard to offer a more intimate look at Notaro than she already offers regularly on stage—in November, she even stunned her audience at one stand-up set by performing topless—the charming documentary rewards fans hungry for more of her dry wit and her unusual life as, in her words, “the unluckiest unlucky person.”

You can watch the first trailer for the documentary (which will get a wide release on Netflix on July 17), and highlights from our interview with Notaro from Sundance, below.