Triangulating #MeToo: Morality, Ideology, and Desire

Oct 1, 2018

TAA 0039 – C. Travis Webb, Seph Rodney, and Steven Fullwood discuss the #MeToo movement and the way in which mainstream American culture over-simplifies sexual desire. Woody Allen, The Son’s of Anarchy, and Brett Kavanaugh are dissected and analyzed.

C.T. WEBB 00:19  [music] Good afternoon, good morning, and good evening, and welcome to the American Age Podcast. My name is C. Travis Webb. I have a PhD in Comparative Literature from Claremont Graduate University, and I enjoy speaking to Seph Rodney and Steven Fullwood on this weekly podcast. Gentlemen, how’re you guys doing? 
S. RODNEY 00:34  We’re all pretty good. Pretty good. 
S. FULLWOOD 00:34  Pretty good. Pretty good. 
S. RODNEY 00:35  Go ahead, Steven. 
S. FULLWOOD 00:36  Sure. My name is Steven G. Fullwood, and I am the co-founder of the Nomadic Archivists Project which is a consulting company that works with individuals and organizations to find a home for their archives, process their archives, or just realize that they have archives in their home [laughter]. 
C.T. WEBB 00:55  I like that. 
S. RODNEY 00:56  My name is Seph Rodney. I am an editor at Hyperallergic. An online magazine that primarily deals with visual art. So that we do cover quite a bit of performance and staged events and we talk about art issues. And that’s actually what I really like to do. So I’m glad to be here. 
C.T. WEBB 01:19  One of the premiere art magazines in the world, Seph should have said actually– 
S. RODNEY 01:22  Well, yeah [crosstalk]. 
C.T. WEBB 01:22  –but it’s [laughter]. So anyway. So today– 
S. FULLWOOD 01:26  He forgot that part. 
C.T. WEBB 01:29  –we’re continuing our conversation’s part two of kind of the #MeToo movement which was inspired by Dr. Ford’s objections to, or reporting of sexual assault by current Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. And that opened, Steven had suggested that kind of, we use that as a springboard for talking of a variety of #MeToo issues, carefully, right, because there were three dudes, and so you just sort of have to be cautious about some of the things that we presume. Last week, I think, to dovetail it, I mean, it’s hard for me not to immediately want to talk about Dr. Ford’s testimony. But I’d like to try and stick with what we had said last week, and maybe we can kind of turn back into that a little bit later on, which was Soon-Yi Previn’s article in which she sort of discussed her point of view on the Woody Allen affair, and Mia Farrow, and the allegations against Woody Allen. So Steven or Seph, do you guys want to take us in? 
S. FULLWOOD 02:38  Sure. Do you mind, Seph? I just don’t want to– 
S. RODNEY 02:41  No, please do. 
S. FULLWOOD 02:42  So the reason why I suggested this particular article was because I thought it was a very interesting article. It was the first time that Soon-Yi Previn spoke at length about the allegations against her husband, Woody Allen, and Mia Farrow, for the first time. And so seeing her embodied and thinking about what this actually means, to go on record as the wife of someone who’s been accused by his daughter of sexually molesting her, I thought was very interesting to bring up in light of the #MeToo movement because it sort of predates the #MeToo movement, and now it’s firmly within it. So now it’s kind of like, “Okay. So we’ll take this on directly.” There’s no real reason other than she just simply wanted to go on record about who she was, but also a little bit about who she is, and how she feels about these allegations. And so in light of Dr. Ford’s Testimony that’s going on right now, I thought I wanted to talk about it last week, we didn’t get a chance to. But so I wanted to know, both Travis and Seph, did you guys read the article, what did you think about it? And I have some other questions for you as well. 
C.T. WEBB 03:51  Seph, do you want to go? 
S. RODNEY 03:53  To be honest with you, I read part of the article only. I neglected to read the entire thing because I’m a bit of a bonehead sometimes [laughter]. 
C.T. WEBB 04:03  There’s other stuff to read as well. There’s a long list. 
S. RODNEY 04:05  Well, yeah. There was. What I did find really intriguing was that I have known this story from years back, mostly via mainstream press that covered it as if Woody Allen was a kind of sick, predatory individual. And I hadn’t really thought much about it. To be honest, what had happened was, reading those accounts, I had kind of frozen Soon-Yi Previn in my mind as this child. So what I’ve read of her own account, I realized that she’s a grown ass woman. She’s 47 years old and she’s very clear on how the– what began as an affair with Woody Allen made her feel and very clear on how that was actually quite a separate set of circumstances for her from her family life. And her relationship with her own mother, Mia Farrow, Woody Allen’s ex-wife. So what I got was a sense of Soon-Yi Previn is her own person. And if I am to give her any credit as I do other adult human beings, I have to say to myself that you’re experienced. You did not have a good relationship with your mother. You fell in love with this man named Woody Allen, who other people might see as a predator, but you certainly do not. And I have to value your own experience, given how you articulated it as a person who has full knowledge of yourself and agency. 
C.T. WEBB 06:05  I feel like this, I think the Soon-Yi Previn, the article I did read, and am fairly familiar, I think I mentioned this last week. I’m fairly familiar with the Allen accusations and kind of some of the details around it. As familiar as I can be just reading news accounts. I think ideology makes us heavy-footed. And I think it means we can hit really hard, and we can club with very powerful tools, but it takes away our agility. And I think, for example, it is not as if every younger woman in relation to every older man, that the older man has the power. 
S. FULLWOOD 06:49  Precisely. 
C.T. WEBB 06:49  What I got from reading that article is that she was kind of fucking around, and that she was getting back at a stepmother she did not like. At the beginning of the article, she says to him, “Well, that took you a long time,” or some kind offhand remark that she made to him. And that she knew the relationship she was getting into. 
S. FULLWOOD 07:14  No, she did. 
C.T. WEBB 07:15  Allen, to me, in that telling, in sort of a reading between the lines kind of way you might do in a sort of literary analysis. But Allen to me in that exchange comes off as kind of the sort of awkward, slightly [crosstalk] fist– 
S. RODNEY 07:29  Schmuck [laughter]. 
C.T. WEBB 07:30  Yeah. And I understand that that can be read as a kind of cover, and that gives him an ability to sort– 
S. RODNEY 07:37  Or a complexity. 
C.T. WEBB 07:38  Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. But I think, sometimes, even though men appear to have social power, sometimes even though women appear to have social power, in intimate relationships, you may be a total schlub. You may a complete and utter submissive. But when we use an ideological frame to interpret every human action, it makes us idiots. You cannot accurately read the world through a rigid ideological– that’s a mixed metaphor, but through a rigid ideological frame. Right? You end up distorting the world into that frame. And so reading Previn’s article was not at all surprising to me. To me, it seems patently obvious that, though Allen probably has some odd emotional relationships, I mean, I think that comes through clearly in his films, the fact that he was a predator given the timeline, we talked about this a little bit after the show, August 1st, Mia Farrow says that something must be done to stop the devil that is Woody Allen, and August 4th, she’s making very calm and collected accusations that he has molested her daughter. I don’t buy it. It’s just not credible to me. 
S. RODNEY 09:07  Yeah, but Travis, you also said something when we were off the air last time, that I thought was really crucial to that part of the story. Which is that there was an investigation and someone spent a week with Woody Allen talking to him. 
C.T. WEBB 09:24  So there was an extensive criminal investigation. Criminal investigation. I don’t want to speak for Steven, but Steven, I know you were– so Steven wondered if Allen’s celebrity might have benefited him. And of course you have to concede that that might be true, but it might also be true that his celebrity hurt him. Right? There are just as many– maybe not just as many, there are a fair share of people that want to pull celebrities down as want to build celebrities up, so. But I don’t want to speak for Steven, but. 
S. FULLWOOD 09:54  Okay. So I’m just going to circle back to something that Seph said. So they were never married, they we only partnered, from 1980 to 1992. I also want to say something that Travis has mentioned. I Agree with you that I think that Soon-Yi is a much more complex person than we give her credit for, I was about to say character. I think, when I read the piece, the thing that stuck in my craw was the photographs that Woody had taken of Soon-Yi, and that Mia found them. And I believe that Soon-Yi was sort of like, “Well.” Kind of [laughter] like, “Right.” 
C.T. WEBB 10:33  I wish you guys could see Steven’s miming just then, but. 
S. FULLWOOD 10:38  So it’s an interesting way to kind of– well, I think that what I got from the article was that there’s so much more to this story. I agree with you that it’s hard– reading things through an ideological lens can distort it. Right? Absolutely, but I’m beginning to wonder whether or not, is that even possible outside of a classroom. 
S. RODNEY 11:00  Oh, interesting. 
C.T. WEBB 11:02  I mean, I know lots of people that would push back very forcefully against this, and thinkers I respect. But I think, absolutely. I think that it just requires constant calibration. Right? So any instrument that you use to measure the world requires calibration because it begins to get influenced by its inputs. So its calibrations begin– because say like in a seismograph, there might be a random set of activity that starts to knock the calibration of the instrument off because the information that is receiving is skewed on one side. Right? So because of its narrow bandwidth on time. So you have to re-calibrate the instrument. Human ideologies, I would say, are roughly analogous to that. You have to constantly– so basically, my ideology tells me that the United States, as an ideological apparatus could not have been invented without slavery. Right? So you absolutely require– it required black bodies to invent itself. And so I bring that to everything that I sort of judge in contemporary politics and culture. But I do think that has to be constantly re-calibrated by basic human decency, human curiosity, human avarice. And so I think it is possible, Steven, for narrow moments in time, that you have to go back, and you have to struggle again, over, and over, and over again. So yeah, that’s my– 
S. RODNEY 12:43  Well, I would tend to agree with that generally. I wonder how that looks in practice. I think one of the places where that that sort of ideological testing is possible is the classroom as Steven suggested. Is that what happens in the classroom is we have a civil meeting place for a difference of opinion. So I think the opinions being different, getting to rub up against each other, getting to generate friction is what makes that kind of re-calibration possible. I think that’s how it happens. So I wonder though, to talk about my own ideological position, vis-a-vis women, the #MeToo movement, I’m reminded of something that I saw, and I don’t know if you guys have seen this. And this is an interesting segue, The Handmaid’s Tale. 
C.T. WEBB 13:43  Sure. 
S. RODNEY 13:44  Okay. Right. So there’s a scene- Steven, you’ve seen this. 
S. FULLWOOD 13:49  No. I have not [laughter]. 
S. RODNEY 13:51  Okay. Well, I’m not going to spoil anything for you [crosstalk]. 
S. FULLWOOD 13:54  Oh, no. You don’t have to. I can think about it myself. 
C.T. WEBB 13:55  I think we have to mark this date on the on the calendar that there is a piece of media that Steven has not consumed, because [laughter]– 
S. FULLWOOD 14:02  Oh, you should get to know me. 
C.T. WEBB 14:02  –every time we bring something up, seems like, “I saw that.” 
S. FULLWOOD 14:06  No, no, no. 
S. RODNEY 14:06  “I saw that back in 1989. Where were you?” 
S. FULLWOOD 14:10  These two guys are giving me way too much credit. There’s so much I refuse to watch until the herd has passed, and then I go, “Okay. Okay. Maybe I can watch it now.” So, no, no, no. Trust me, I’m an old man, 52. 
S. RODNEY 14:23  So watching Handmaid’s Tale was harrowing for me. And I did kind of watch it when most of the herd had passed. So it was only a couple of months ago. And there was a scene where– essentially, there’s been a coup in the United States, and the new administration is plotting how to lay out the social and political foundations for this new society which they call Gilead. And one of the top lieutenants, he ends up being a commander has a girlfriend or wife, I think wife at that point, who is really instrumental in fomenting this revolution and she wants in on the discussions on how this new society is going to be structured. And he says, “Yeah. Well, the men will talk, and then we’ll let you in at some point, and you can say your peace and help.” And one of the top– and he comes back out of the room. She’s in the hallway waiting for him. He comes back out of the room and he says, “I’m sorry, Selina. Not this time. It’s just not the right time. We’re not going to let you speak.” And she’s disappointed, but she being the dutiful, submissive wife, she slinks off. My ideological position is that I couldn’t live in that world because I fundamentally believe that there is no justification for that kind of society. There is no justification for putting women in a position where they essentially are the sort of attaches to men. Right? Where they are relegated, conscripted to roles of domestic– what’s the word? Domestic administration, child rearing, basically, the sort of Judeo Christian bible. 
C.T. WEBB 16:38  Yeah. The belong in the domestic sphere. They don’t belong in the professional sphere. 
S. RODNEY 16:41  Or anywhere besides that. Ideologically, I don’t believe that is even close to being okay. There’s no way, shape or form that I’m okay with that. So when I come to the #MeToo movement, I come with that. How do I test that idea? You know what I’m saying? I watch The Handmaid’s Tale, I don’t find myself trying to re-calibrate, I just think this is horrendous. 
C.T. WEBB 17:12  Steven, do you have– I have a quick response to that to clarify. 
S. FULLWOOD 17:16  Go ahead. 
C.T. WEBB 17:18  So what I mean by testing the fidelity of our instrument, I mean that using that position, which I of course fundamentally agree with in every way, against the information that you’re receiving from the world, whether it be news media, first and secondhand accounts. In that I don’t think it’s productive to immediately interpret or to reflexively interpret each apparent instance of patriarchy or each apparent instance of masculine domination as reconfirming that fundamental ideology. It may be that there are extenuating circumstances– not just extenuating, it may be that the story is far more complicated than that. And I can some ways, I feel like the best parts of kind of, what are sometimes called the reactionary intellectual right. Right? Like Jordan Peterson, and Ben Shapiro and David Reuben, these guys. 
S. FULLWOOD 18:26  And Kevin Williamson. 
C.T. WEBB 18:27  Kevin Williamson, right. The best part, kind of the little filet mignon on the side [laughter] of that cut of steak, I think is trying to say that. Right? What they’re trying to say is that the ideologies that we are bringing to these events and these cultural circumstances, it’s more complicated. The picture is messier than that. Now, there’s a whole bunch of mess associated with it too. There’s a whole bunch of bullshit that I don’t traffic with. I don’t want to give fair airtime to white supremacists, or. No. I don’t think I need to waste any of my very limited life entertaining those ridiculous ideas. But I do feel like there’s a kernel of what they’re chasing that I’m sympathetic to. So that’s sort of my response to that, Seph. 
S. RODNEY 19:20  But that makes– 
C.T. WEBB 19:20  I’m sorry. Go ahead. 
S. RODNEY 19:22  No, I interrupted you. But that makes perfect sense to me because that means that– I can totally see how that ideological position that I just articulated could be used to interpret the whole Woody house and Soon-Yi Previn episode as Hollywood filmmaker takes advantage of young immigrant woman. Right? Which we’ve been saying that’s not it. That is not what has happened. 
S. FULLWOOD 19:51  That’s not what we believe now, has not happened. Yes. 
S. RODNEY 19:57  Right. Okay. Right. Right. Well, our knowledge of the situation has been expanded. Right? It has been inflected by Soon-Yi’s own account. So if we’re going to take that seriously, then yeah, we can’t just look at this story with that lens. 
S. FULLWOOD 20:16  It’s also, so there are two things. One of the reasons why I brought the ideological component up, to riff on what Travis said, was I was at the barber the other day, and I’m sitting, waiting for my barber to finish someone before me, and I had the back to the television that’s on the wall, and I’m hearing, “No, you don’t want this.” And then he’s like, “Yes, you do. Yes, you do.” And then I hear the ripping of the bodice. I’m like, “Bodice [laughter]?” And then I go sit down in the chair, and I look up and I ask my barber. I say, “Is this a soap opera?” Because high definition makes everything look sort of soap oper-y. “No, this is The Son’s of Anarchy.” But the way that it was being played was she didn’t know what she wanted– 
C.T. WEBB 21:02  That’s a soap opera [laughter]. 
S. RODNEY 21:06  That’s funny. 
S. FULLWOOD 21:05  Oh, no. It’s a soap opera. Well, here’s what I thought about it. I said– 
S. RODNEY 21:08  Yeah, it is kind of– 
S. FULLWOOD 21:08  –“Oh, this is a soap opera for men.” I said, “Okay. I get it now. Whatever.” There’s Peggy Bundy, there’s other guy who plays, I forget his name, Hellboy. I can’t think of his name at the moment, but– 
C.T. WEBB 21:20  I know who you’re talking about [crosstalk]. 
S. FULLWOOD 21:20  –I was thinking about those, there were like 2 barbers looking seriously at the– just riveted by this idea, and I was like, “What’s going through their heads? What’s going through their heads during this #MeToo movement? What’s going through their heads during Dr. Ford’s testimony, and now three other women who are now charging Kavanaugh with some kind of sexual abuse? What is in their heads? What’s in these men’s heads because in my head, I’m going, “I don’t know if this is entertainment.” 
C.T. WEBB 21:54  So for me, I would say that the notion of suppressed and then expressed desire is baseline titillating for sophisticated apes like human beings. So I think that, sort of, the idea of letting go, I don’t think that this is purely a heterosexual dynamic. And I think our inability to deal with desire, to articulate desire and discuss it honestly, is one of the reasons you get someone like Brett Kavanaugh. I bet that he believes he didn’t do the things that he’s accused of. I think that that is a plausible story. That he actually– 
S. FULLWOOD 22:44  Oh, I think so. 
C.T. WEBB 22:45  And I don’t believe for a second that it didn’t happen– I mean, I watched her testimony this morning. I would give, in the account of Allen and Soon-Yi Previn, I would give that to Allen. I absolutely give it to Dr. Ford. It seems patent– I mean, not patently obv– I am completely convinced of her position, and I think he did do those things. And I think it is also equally possible that because we are so inept as a culture at dealing with desire, that the way he has learned to process that want, right, this strict Catholic upbringing or at least strict Catholic performance. Right? I don’t know what he actually was like behind closed doors [laughter], is what leads to this kind of non-sense. 
S. FULLWOOD 23:37  They [inaudible] all of this with virginity and all this other stuff which I find very problematic and just– 
C.T. WEBB 23:46  Dumb. Dumb. 
S. FULLWOOD 23:46  –so it feels like– of course it’s dumb, but it plays to the rafters. It plays to the crowd. This guy was a virgin. He’s a Christian. He’s this, whatever. Boys will be boys. There have been think pieces around that kind of culture. I agree with you. I don’t think that Kavanaugh or anyone like him thinks that he did anything wrong. I won’t say completely sure because I don’t, but it smells like and it feels like. And also I’ve been a male all my life, and I understand that culture in a very intimate way. So what I was thinking was it’s like if Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t feel that he’s guilty, there are scores, and scores of men and women who believe him because there is a mechanism in place that I feel is being affirmed by the kind of culture that we take in as entertainment, which is kind of the point I was trying to make earlier. I feel like– 
C.T. WEBB 24:39  I see what you’re saying. I see what you’re saying. 
S. FULLWOOD 24:40  Do you know what I mean? And so I think it’s hard to pull that apart. 
S. RODNEY 24:44  And I think what plays out in that circle of entertainment is precisely the rehearsal of the titillation of suppressing and expressing desire. Right. So that’s kind of a through-line through most of the dramas that we like. I mean, I can think of, off the top of my head, the Wire, Madmen, Battlestar Galactica, Hill Street Blues, CSI. 
S. FULLWOOD 25:26  Any soap opera. I mean, there’s just so much of it. 
S. RODNEY 25:28  Right. Right. And not that those are the only things that are working in those magnificent dramas, but that’s one of the things. It’s the, as Travis eloquently said, suppression of and expression of desire. I think that another part of the #MeToo movement that is really a kind of small corollary, but which I think also runs through Kavanaugh’s testimony, that story of who he is, and that performance of that Catholic upbringing, and all that. And also wends its way into the #MeToo movement. And here I think of like Aziz Ansari’s story, is the effects of alcohol. Think about the ways that we voiced off so much of that repressed desire onto alcohol. We say, “Oh, remember what happened with the kid who digitally raped the woman and then– the swimmer from Stanford who was convicted,” and part of his defense was, “I was drunk. I didn’t know what I was doing.” And remember he went on this– I know his parents are wealthy, but they did something, like the donated something– 
C.T. WEBB 26:38  Was his name Brock? 
S. RODNEY 26:39  Yes, that’s the one. That’s the one. 
C.T. WEBB 26:40  Why do they always have such fucked up rapey names? Brett and Brock [laughter]. Just stop naming your children Brett and Brock, America. 
S. RODNEY 26:53  What came out of that was, the parents funded some effort to teach kids about the evils of alcohol. And I want to say, no. That’s ridiculous. It’s not about alcohol. It’s not about giving yourself the excuse to let go by imbibing this, which is essentially what you’re doing. Right? At this stage in my life, I know how good a good scotch tastes, and I would like that experience, but I don’t drink scotch to get to the point where I’m able to turn to the person next to me and actually say what I feel. 
S. FULLWOOD 27:37  Well, maybe you don’t have any suppressed hidden desires that you need to act out. 
S. RODNEY 27:41  I have suppressed and [laughter] hidden desires. I don’t know if I need to act them out, but more to the point, I know that I can find places to do that which are supportive and a community of like-minded folks. And I’m self-aware enough to know that alcohol isn’t going to be something I can blame bad actions on later and get away with. And plus, let’s just be clear about this too. I am not a white man, with a certain kind of educational pedigree behind me. So there’s shit I will be accountable for that Brett Kavanaugh and his ilk may not. 
S. FULLWOOD 28:28  True. True that. I mean, that’s clear. That’s just a part of the public record. But just thinking about the vector of alcohol and how all of my life, all of my conscious life, I’ve been surrounded by people who talk the way you talk. “Oh, I was drunk. I didn’t know what I was doing.” I mean from being a small child, to high school, to college, and even now, people in their 40s and 50s that I know are still kind of holding onto that line, using it as a vector, and I’m like, no. No. No. 
S. RODNEY 29:04  Right. No. No motherfucker. Be an adult. Shit. 
S. FULLWOOD 29:09  Be an adult. I heard you about to say be a man. 
S. FULLWOOD 29:12  Be an adult [laughter]. 
S. RODNEY 29:13  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Hashtag MeToo. 
S. FULLWOOD 29:19  Man. 
S. RODNEY 29:20  I know. It’s hard. 
S. FULLWOOD 29:22  I want to turn it back to Soon-Yi very, very briefly. I want to get a sense of your– you both kind of talked a little bit about what you read. But also, I was curious about something that Travis said, and I agree with him because that flexibility is something that I– intellectual flexibility, but also just holding the space. I used to call it the god space before I became not religious, but I still hold the space open to try to think about things in a particular way or try, excuse me, to invite other perspectives in. I thought about it from the perspective of Kavanaugh. I thought about it from the perspective of his wife and children. I said, “Okay. Well, there’s this–” I feel very much like Kavanaugh does believe he did not do these things, has no memory of these things, participated in a culture of drinking. Now there are more people coming forth and saying, “No, this guy drank all the time, and he became increasingly aggressive when he was drunk.” I believe he feels like that’s a birthright. That is just what people do. And right now we’re getting to a point where women have been saying this for decades and centuries now, “You don’t have a right to me.” And now we’re really reckoning with it, but not really, at the same time. 
C.T. WEBB 30:37  So I agree with that 100%. The only complication I would add is that I do feel like there are rhetorical lines in the #MeToo movement that interfere with women taking full responsibility for their own sexuality and their own desires. And there’s a way that, to immediately brand a woman in a fraught sexual encounter as a powerless person that needs to be defended from kind of the aggressive affront of male desire is adolescent. Once again, we have another adolescent movement in America that really pretends at thinking without actually doing the hard work involved in [crosstalk]. 
S. FULLWOOD 31:36  Absolutely. That’s part about are we really reckoning with it. 
C.T. WEBB 31:40  Yeah. I agree. I think so. 
S. FULLWOOD 31:40  That’s part of the element. And to brand everyone as a witness who never lied, as a witness who never did anything wrong is ridiculous. 
C.T. WEBB 31:50  Right, right. I never was that drunk. 
S. FULLWOOD 31:52  I never walked down the street [laughter]. The fuck? The complexity that I’m yearning for is the complexity I try to live, but I feel like when we’re talking about the way that the news– the consuming news. News wants to sell you something. So does someone need to be telling the truth if they’ve lied before? And I love it that one of the women says, “I drink. I was drunk.” I was like, “Thank you for the complication.” And we knew people would seize on it as a way to discredit her, but for me it made her even more credible. I was like, “Thank you. I need dimensions.” There are more colors than black and white here. And everybody knows that. I don’t know if we’re really reckoning with these things in any adult manner, but I don’t know if we have a nation of adults. I think we just have a nation of people who want to be rich or want to be popular or want to be the people who hold these other people down so that they can do these things. I don’t know. 
C.T. WEBB 32:52  That’s a great, great point. And actually, that is probably a whole other podcast in itself whether we are really a nation of people who just want to be popular, and rich and want to dominate others, and whether there’s any really rich vein of culture that is produced in America through which we can explore other avenues of being. That, I’d be really interested in talking about. So Seph, I think we’re rubbing up against our time, and I think we were introducing a new aspect to the podcast where we’re going to kind of let you guys know what we’re talking about the next week and we’re going to work through that at the very end. So Seph, you’re taking the seat on that one. 
S. RODNEY 33:32  Great. What I want to talk about, and this is slightly difficult for me to articulate because I’m still working it out in my head, but essentially, I had a conversation at the house of a friend, and artist who I actually just had dinner with last night. And it was a really convivial, friendly dinner. I think there were maybe eight of us in the room, maybe nine. Artist and her boyfriend, and several artist curators, I’m a writer, and editor was in the room, and yeah, that’s pretty much the composition of the room. We were talking about lots of different things. At one point we ended up on the subject of expensive sneakers. And I live in a neighborhood in the South Bronx where lots and lots of people around me wear very expensive sneakers. And I know because I see them advertised in various places, and I walk by, there’s a big, popular shoe store I walk by on my way to the subway every day. And I said to one woman, I think she’s a curator, I said it bothers me when I see that because a lot of times I get the sense that these people are sort of on the edge economically, that they don’t really have enough to set aside money for if they happen to lose their jobs or– not to even mention things like sending their own children to college, whatever. And I realize that I am making, in some cases, unfair assumptions but not unwarranted ones, but anyway, I said, “I don’t like this expensive sneaker thing. These Jordan’s and these things that cost in excess of $200, and it especially bothers me when I see them on the feet of children. Like five year old and six year old children wearing these ridiculously expensive sneakers.” Again, I don’t know how much the parent pays for them. I don’t know where they get them, but whatever. Then the woman said to me, “Well, you know where that comes from, right? It’s from our sense of pageantry. That’s what we’re doing. We’re celebrating who we are as a community.” 
S. RODNEY 35:46  And I want to talk about this because I find that argument completely ridiculous. I do not get it [laughter]. I don’t give it any credit at all. I feel like there’s a kind of– what they’re demonstrating is, I think, a kind of fiscal irresponsibility that is rooted in the notion that your social status is commensurate, not with what you earn, but with what you buy. Your [laughter] social status is indicated by what you spend money on. That’s a problem. So a lot of people I think would argue me into the ground and say, “No, no, no. That’s unfair. How are you making these assumptions–? People of color–” I want to talk it out. 
S. FULLWOOD 36:33  Oh, cool. 
C.T. WEBB 36:33  All right. All right. I’m down with that. The modern potlatch is what we will talk about next week [laughter]. 
S. RODNEY 36:42  So what do we come up with as a tagline, Travis? 
C.T. WEBB 36:46  Yeah. So we were told, Seph went to a meeting of some professional producers and people involved in radio, and they said we needed a tagline for the podcast. So one of the leading contenders is some version of practicing intellectual intimacy. So I think we’re going to work through that in the next week or two, and we will continue to improve on our ability to practice intellectual intimacy with one another and hopefully with the listeners. 
S. RODNEY 37:13  Amen. 
S. FULLWOOD 37:14  Sounds good. 
C.T. WEBB 37:14  So once again, this is C. Travis Webb– 
S. RODNEY 37:18  And Seph Rodney– 
S. FULLWOOD 37:20  And Steven G. Fullwood. Thank you very much for tuning in today. We’ll see you next week. 
C.T. WEBB 37:24  Yeah. 
S. RODNEY 37:24  Take care 
C.T. WEBB 37:25  Take care. Bye-bye. 
S. FULLWOOD 37:26  Bye. [music] 

 

References

First referenced at 12:43

The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale starring Elisabeth Moss and based on Margaret Atwood’s classic novel about life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly part of the United States.

First referenced at 20:16

Sons of Anarchy

In the first season of FX’s original series, Jax’s journey begins with two discoveries; his son’s harrowing premature birth by Wendy Case, his crank-addicted ex-wife, and the discovery of a life-altering document written by his father who died fourteen years earlier.

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