Events

2018 Vulture Festival Los Angeles: Sunday

For pop culture junkies, it’s easy to go way too hard at the Vulture Festival knowing that you could be getting the inside scoop on Syfy’s Deadly Class one moment and touring Grand Central Market with Phil Rosenthal and Nancy Silverton the next. We learned our lesson from last year and paced ourselves accordingly on Sunday, focusing on a handful of the festival’s returning “signature” events. Read on for some of our favorite moments from Day Two.

Amber Tamblyn and Roxane Gay Host Feminist AF

There’s nothing like a good walkout jam, and co-hosts Amber Tamblyn and Roxane Gay nailed it with a throwback to M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” as they took the stage alongside guests America Ferrera, Ada Limón and Carmen Maria Machado for their Feminist AF reading series. Gay began by reminding the audience that just last week, 110 women were elected to the United States Congress. This transitioned nicely into a reading of “Be a Good Boy,” from the collection Forty-Four Stories about Our Forty-Four Presidents; the flash fiction piece centers around an intimate moment between John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie in their White House bedroom as John considers how the building does not feel like home.

Poet Ada Limón captivated the audience with “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” a visceral evocation of female strength through the image of an “8-pound female horse heart.” Though the poem was written several decades ago, it was recently published in her collection Bright Dead Things and won a 2015 Pushcart Prize. Carmen Maria Machado followed with her self-described “hit single,” “The Husband Stitch,” from Her Body and Other Parties. The story—whose title refers to an extra stitch given during the repair process after a vaginal birth, supposedly to tighten the vagina for increased pleasure of a male sexual partner—plays on the schoolyard tale of the girl who wears a mysterious green ribbon around her neck.

Pants-sharing BFFs America Ferrera and Amber Tamblyn closed out the reading series, each sharing intimate, emotional essays. Ferrera read an excerpt from her personal contribution to an anthology she recently edited, called American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures; the essay discusses a trip to Honduras when Ferrera encountered her estranged father’s grave by happenstance. Tamblyn followed by taking us back to Election Night 2016—a night she spent at the Javits Center in Manhattan amongst fellow Hillary Clinton supporters, watching “Katy Perry anxiously chew[ing] on a celery stick.” Tamblyn’s essay, from her upcoming collection Era of Ignition, follows her journey through carrying a pregnancy to term post-election and her worry about keeping her daughter safe in this world. She ended her reading by playing a recording of her daughter’s heartbeat, eliciting heavy sighs and a smattering of sniffles from the audience.

Off Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast Live!

At this point, our Vulture Festival experience wouldn’t be complete without an absurd musical number from Rachel Bloom. Thanks to Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino of Off Book—an improvised musical podcast, just like the tagline says—a lucky handful of folks got to experience just that, in an oddly fitting velveted lounge in the basement of The Hollywood Roosevelt.

McKenna and Reino are forces of improv nature, spinning a hilarious melodic tale about Disneyland’s Tower of Terror ride right before our very ears. There was fantasy! There was drama! There was a song about STDs! At one point, they even sang a number about being forces of literal nature with McKenna’s “Lightning” and Reino’s “Thunder” shepherding special guest Bloom along in her role as “Hurricane.” I can definitively say that I’ve never seen or heard anything like it. And, as McKenna and Reino told the audience, it’s impossible to experience that exact musical ever again.

Standard
Events

2018 Vulture Festival Los Angeles: Saturday

Deftly avoiding a sophomore slump, the Vulture Festival was back in Los Angeles for the second year in a row, and this year’s lineup was just as jam-packed as the inaugural iteration. Not only did the festival host conversations with cultural icons such as Cynthia Nixon and Busy Philipps, but it also had panels with new fan faves such as Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians) and Lana Condor (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Syfy’s Deadly Class), as well as a handful of pretty nutty feature events—improvised musical podcast taping with special guest Rachel Bloom, anyone? Read on for some of Dinner Party’s favorites from Day One.

Scrubs Reunion

In this age of reboots and remakes, you can’t help but wonder—even worry—any time the word “reunion” is used that a “major announcement” will shortly follow. Seriously though, can’t we all just reminisce about how great a show was without fearing that it will spark a subpar reboot from a network?! Well thankfully, this weekend’s Scrubs Reunion was just that. In what the panel (featuring stars Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke, John C. McGinley, Ken Jenkins, Judy Reyes, Neil Flynn, Christa Miller, and creator Bill Lawrence) described as the “first one of these things we’ve all agreed to”—namely because of the free booze—the vibe at the Scrubs Reunion was truly just that of friends reflecting on fond memories.

Whether it was laughing about Sarah Chalke’s inability to finish a scene without breaking or trying to understand all of the multiple layers of The Janitor, there were plenty of laughs and “remember whens” at this reunion. Most importantly there was even a surprise appearance from The Todd—notably not invited to speak on the panel, but he made up for it but showing up in his full costume, banana hammock and everything. The panel even had to stop at one point because they had fallen down a deep hole of their own inside jokes before remembering the audience wasn’t in on all of the jokes.

Creator Bill Lawrence did reference and express gratitude for the intense dedication and love from the fans of Scrubs as one of the main reasons the show was able to be as bold as it was. Yes, Scrubs was a hilarious comedy with wacky fantasy bits and slapstick delivery, but it also dared to be real by dealing with solemn topics such as life and death. In the fourth episode, the viewer and doctors in training are all told that on average 1 in 3 patients admitted will die; however, the surprise—SPOILER ALERT—comes when all 3 of the patients-of-the-week die, and the characters are left to deal with the finality of death. Lawrence acknowledges that taking a major turn like that so early in a show’s course could have been the kiss of death for Scrubs, and the studio even advised against it. Thankfully, Lawrence took the risk and the fans loved it; Scrubs set itself apart from other network comedies of the early ’00s because of its ability to balance comedy and drama, all in 22 minutes.

So why no reboot? According to Lawrence, it is both because reboots feel like a cash grab, and all of the actors seem to be doing fine. Lawrence jokingly promised that if any of the actors on the panel were in a crisis, he would help them out—but only with a “small movie” and only in the form of a “where are they now.” Thankfully the cast of Scrubs is, in fact, doing well, so there is no need for the stress and worry of a “will they or won’t they ruin my favorite TV show.” Instead, we can all just gather seventeen years after the premiere and laugh about what it means to know that you’re no superman.

Constance Wu: In Conversation

Constance Wu has lived one hell of a 2018.  Not only has she been able to trade in her ‘06 Prius and swap out her apartment for her very own house, but she’s also enjoyed the fifth season of ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat and starred in the major romantic comedy hit of the year, Crazy Rich AsiansThis has been an amazing year for Wu, but she mentioned that it has not always been easy, particularly because she felt a lot of anxiety surrounding Crazy Rich Asians—and not about whether it would be a box office hit or slump. Rather, she was worried about what it meant for such an underserved audience. A reflection is the best way to sum up Saturday’s conversation; yes, there were questions about both her TV and film projects, but mainly, the conversation focused around her Asian American identity and what it means to be a woman in Hollywood during the era of #MeToo.  

Wu mentioned that she, like most Asian American actors, struggled at first with how her identity would play out in her characters. At first, she said she wanted to play parts that didn’t take race into account at all, but as time has passed, she realized that doing this was robbing her characters of a fully formed identity and experience. A character’s race (or gender, sexual orientation, and so on) should not be the only thing defining a character, but it is a large part of how the character sees themselves and how they fit into their worlds. Wu said that to ignore her race in the efforts of “color blind” casting was to erase her lived experiences and oversimplify these characters. By taking on roles such as Jessica Huang in Fresh Off the Boat and Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians, Wu has been able to utilize her lived experiences and elevate characters that are not just complex and fully formed, but most importantly, real.

A theme that lasted throughout the conversation was challenging the notion that anyone should have to soften their experiences for someone else’s comfort. This came up frequently while talking about her experience as an Asian American, and specifically an Asian American actress, but it was also discussed when speaking about what it means to be a woman during a pivotal time in Hollywood history.

Wu’s struggles—and honestly, one I very much related to—was best summed up in her recent panic over whether to use an exclamation point or a period in an email. Her point was that women used exclamation points to soften the blow of their sentences; she argued that by ending “can’t wait to discuss this further with you” with an exclamation point, she intentionally created a more easygoing and cheerful sentiment in comparison to the same sentence with a period, which would have been more forceful and direct. With this example, Wu addressed the idea that as a woman, she is expected to put other people’s comfort over her own truth and experiences. In the end, she said that she—with the help of her therapist—decided that it’s still ok to use exclamation points, but not to fall back on them when you mean the sentiments of a period.

Ever the entertainer, Wu kept the conversation from lingering too long in the shadows of these complex topics by peppering the conversation with fun facts. My personal favorite was Wu’s obsession with Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next.” For the record, Wu loves the song because she believes it is using both an exclamation point and a period—which is where she seems to want the future to be.    

Standard
Think Piece Roundup

Think Piece Roundup: Crazy Rich Asians

image

For the record: I loved the film adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel. I’m a self-professed romantic comedy junkie who frequently gets suckered into watching any movie even remotely resembling the genre. On top of that, I’m an Asian American constantly tip-toeing the line between being “too Asian” in some contexts and “not Asian enough” in others. I am this movie’s target demographic.

That said, I also grew up in the Philippines during the era of Flor Contemplacion. For those unfamiliar, Contemplacion was a Filipino domestic worker who was charged with murder and executed by the Singaporean government. Her death caused a political firestorm, souring relations between the Philippines and Singapore for years after, as well as sparking a renewed interest in the treatment of OFWs and the intersection of class, ethnicity, and power in the geopolitical sphere. Needless to say, I’m always curious to see how—but more often than not, if—filmic portrayals address this tangled web of issues.

And so, although I cherish the opportunity to watch a glitzy Hollywood rom-com starring a bunch of people who look a lot like me—I think it’s worth spending the time to take stock of the discussions surrounding Crazy Rich Asians, both good and bad. Because even if it didn’t rake in over $160 million at the box office, the film still has all the trappings of a movie that launches a thousand think pieces—and thankfully not the kind that has to explain “Whitewashing 101.” Read on for a small, curated slice of these conversations, from articles criticizing the film’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Singapore to writers celebrating the fact that this movie has moved us along just enough that we’re now able to discuss the delicate nuances of Asian identity in a global context.

Singaporean activist and writer Sangeetha Thanapal maintains that Crazy Rich Asians furthers the “ongoing systematic erasure and oppression of Singapore minorities on a global screen” in an article for Wear Your Voice, an intersectional feminist website.

Likewise, Singaporean poet Pooja Nansi calls out the movie’s troubling portrayal of her country’s ethnic minorities in positions of servitude.

Kirsten Han echoes these sentiments, arguing that the movie doesn’t avoid caricature or stereotype but merely offers another version of the “exotic” East. The Vox piece also touches upon the “divergence between the needs and priorities of Asian Americans and Asians in Asia” and points out that while the film’s all-Asian cast is touted as a win for representation in America, the focus on East Asian faces merely reinforces Chinese dominance in Singaporean culture.

Over at the Los Angeles Times, Frank Shyong suggests an alternative viewpoint, noting the film’s “fractal resonance or truth that holds up from many angles,” which he observes in the film’s popularity within the Cambodian American community in Long Beach, California.

Similarly, Jiayang Fan tempers these criticisms by urging viewers to watch Crazy Rich Asians “like an Asian American” in a piece for The New Yorker.

Shannon Liao has a slightly different take on the Asian American vs. Asians in Asia divide. She points out that director Jon M. Chu, screenwriters Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim, as well as actress Michelle Yeoh, have mentioned in past interviews that female agency and power dynamics were integral in shaping the characters and plot of the film adaptation; these concerns, Liao argues, subvert expectations of the traditional Asian rom-com and allow the film to become “not only…an opportunity for Asian-Americans to see themselves represented on-screen as positively and vividly as they are in Asian media, but also for Asian characters to be reflected in a more feminist and appreciative light.”

Journalist Audrey Cleo Yap admits that the film “doesn’t even come close” to representing the full spectrum of Asian and Asian-American experiences—and why that’s okay with her.

Oddly enough, the movie may never be released in China according to Amy Qin at the The New York Times. And even if it were, many doubt just how popular such a film—with its thematic undercurrents of diaspora culture—could ever be amongst mainland Chinese.

Jeva Lange of The Week questions if the film truly offers anything beyond “wealth porn,” writing that Crazy Rich Asians “fetishizes extreme wealth while failing to acknowledge or grapple with the nuances of a system of gross inequality.”

On MUBI’s The Notebook, Kelley Dong takes this argument a step further by connecting wealth with cultural identity—and why, against a backdrop of “sizzling street food and skyscrapers,” the movie’s failure to address these issues is problematic.

Finally, Allyson Chiu at The Washington Post notes that “since stories about nonwhite characters are so rare to begin with, movies that break the mold are put under a stronger microscope,” a sentiment shared by Crazy Rich Asians actor Nico Santos in an interview with CNN. The solution, according to both, is to support the movie for the opportunities it could create. After all, as Santos says, “We should be allowed to fail…How many chances do white people get? How many [crappy] movies do they get to make over and over again?…This is our first chance, so let us throw the dart. If it doesn’t stick, then ok. Give us another dart.”

Standard
The One-Oh

The One-Oh: The Pride Edit

image

The One-Oh: 01. Zanele Muholi Somnyama Ngonyama 02. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer 03. Fluide Beauty Blue Duo Set 04. Sophia Wallace Storm Pin 05. NOTO Botanics Agender Oil 06. Personals Instagram + App 07. Hearts Beat Loud 08. Hayley Kiyoko Girls Like Girls Lapel Pin 09. Queer Appalachia Electric Dirt Zine 10. Chani Nicholas Horoscopes

After geeking out over text message about the Hearts Beat Loud trailer with Dinner Party contributor and self-described “Boston-based queer witchy woman” Lacey Oliver, we decided to bring back DP’s One-Oh column in honor of Pride Month by highlighting our favorite LGBTQ artists, musicians, business owners, and other badass folks working on a variety of innovative and inspiring projects. And yes, before you say anything, we know that Pride Month is *technically* over. But when you find yourself that excited about so many queer-led enterprises, it sometimes takes an entire month—including dozens of texts, a few hours on FaceTime, and an in-person meeting in New York City—to sift through all of your ideas. Needless to say, it was tough whittling this list down to ten, but here are our picks to help you celebrate Pride Month all year long.

It’s easy to hate on Instagram marketing, but when it brings you true gems like the trailer for Hearts Beat Loud, a movie Autostraddle describes as the “quirky, queer rom-com we all deserve,” you can’t help but thank the algorithm gods for their generous and all-too-appropriate gifts. Lacey points out, “Why are lesbian movies always a goddamn tragedy? I just want a happy ending.” Bless this movie for finally giving us just that: two queer young women of color (played by two queer young women of color!!) in a heartwarming, tender coming-of-age story. You can also largely thank Instagram for giving us Personals, a revolutionary queer dating platform—soon to be an app—that combines the creativity of old-school personal ads with social media’s accessibility and wide reach, as well aFluide Beauty and NOTO Botanics, two cosmetic brands that cater to all gender expressions and explicitly seek to support the LGBTQ community, both with their publicity and financially through a portion of their profits.

In terms of visual artists, Zanele Muholi and Sophia Wallace have been around for some time now, but these two keep pushing boundaries and kicking ass in the art world. Like Lacey and I, you may be familiar with Muholi through Isibonelo/Evidence, her solo show at the Brooklyn Museum in 2015 that aimed to create visibility for black lesbian and transgender communities in her native South Africa. Muholi’s most recent project, Somnyama Ngonyama (Hail the Dark Lioness), seeks to investigate “what it means to be black, 365 days a year,” a subject that undoubtedly challenges the rest of the white dudes who unfortunately still dominate the field. Similarly, Wallace’s Cliteracy project, a deeply polarizing mixed media work which began back in 2012, has continued to push back against the patriarchy in the most explicit manner possible—by celebrating “the overdue, under-told story of the clitoris.”

On the musical front, we admit that you’ve likely already heard of multi-hyphenates Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe. After all, the latter has been all over the news lately, and Lacey jokes of the former, “I’m worried the queers will come for me if I don’t include Hayley on this list.” But we really can’t help gushing over these two ladies and their new albums (and the accompanying visuals), which are both equal parts subversive, hella sexy, and just plain queer as fuck.

Chani Nicholas’s horoscopes and Queer Appalachia’s Electric Dirt zine are two fascinating projects that take intersectionality to the next level. Lacey describes Nicholas’s work as “astrology with a social justice lens,” and Nicholas herself says: “I aim to make astrology practical, approachable, and useful. Otherwise it’s all just cosmic hot air and planets far from reach.” Likewise, Electric Dirt “seeks to celebrate queer voices from Appalachia and the South,” and their collective is comprised of folks from an incredibly diverse network, such as those identifying at the intersections of femme, dyke, nonbinary, faerie, Latinx, fag hillbilly, farm femme, and dirt witch. Lacey and I met as students on a college campus on the Cumberland Plateau, and we both know on a deeply personal level the difficulties, stereotypes, and contradictions that surround discussions about the region, particularly in light of the 2016 presidential election. Projects like the Electric Dirt zine give us both a glimmer of hope that the resistance is everywhere, even hidden deep within the forested mountains of the Appalachians.

And finally, an honorable mention goes to Ocean’s 8. Because in case you hadn’t heard, it’s pretty gay.

Standard
Events

2017 Vulture Festival Los Angeles: Sunday

image

Am I completely and totally exhausted from all of the excitement of the Vulture Festival this weekend? Yes. Is my head still spinning from all the dazzling insight I’ve learned about my favorite pop culture obsessions? Yes. Would I do it all again next year? Absolutely. Read on for some of the highlights from Day Two.

image

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: 100th Song Celebration Sing-A-Long

If you haven’t already watched the comedic genius that is The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, do yourself a favor this Thanksgiving holiday and watch an episode or two (or ten!) of the critically acclaimed cult favorite. The Vulture Festival event was a little less like sitting through your typical panel and a little more like finding yourself in the middle of a musical theater rehearsal—albeit one that features folks from network TV alongside 400 super-eager extras.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend co-creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, along with cast members Vincent Rodriguez III, Scott Michael Foster, Donna Lynne Champlin, Pete Gardner, Vella Lovell, Gabrielle Ruiz and David Hull treated a packed audience to some tasty trivia about the cast, a peek behind-the-scenes of some of the show’s most memorable musical numbers, and, of course, those promised sing-a-longs.

A few fun facts: Rodriguez, who plays Josh, auditioned for his role by accompanying himself on the guitar while singing and rapping “Thugz Mansion” by Tupac Shakur. Why such a bold move? For one, he had the song ready from his audition for the Broadway musical Holler If Ya Hear Me. Bloom added that the audition instructions asked for them to “showcase musical ability such as singing, playing guitar, or rapping” and mused that Rodriguez had understood it to mean he had to do all three, all at once.

On the other hand, Hull, who plays White Josh, auditioned for the role of Greg but didn’t even get a callback. However, the casting director noted that he “kind of looks like a white Josh” and decided to create that role if the show ended up going to series. However, Hull wasn’t notified that a part was being written for him, and it wasn’t until much, much later that Hull received a call about White Josh.

As for the sing-a-long, I hate to say that you had to be there, but well, you really had to be there to experience the magic that comes from belting out “Let’s Generalize About Men,” “Getting Bi,” and “West Covina” with the cast. But, a small consolation for those who couldn’t attend—Paula’s new song, “Very First Penis I Saw,” debuted at the festival, and it, my friends, is an absolute delight that is coming to your TV very soon.

image

American Vandal

The ever-lingering question of “Who drew the dicks?” was asked once again during the American Vandal panel, featuring stars Jimmy Tatro and Tyler Alvarez, co-creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda, and showrunner Dan Lagana. Although many—including friends of Tatro and Alvarez—are still confused as to who was actually guilty of the crime after the show’s premiere on Netflix, the creators felt pretty certain they had answered it in the season finale.

“We feel like we told you exactly who did it,” Lagana argued. “[We] just had Peter (Alvarez) have a moral compass at the end, saying, ‘If I didn’t have hard evidence, me definitively saying who did it on camera in my doc would make me no better than the school system…but I have my theory!’ It’s like, that’s his theory! That’s who did it!”

However, the answer to the bigger of question of what’s in-store for Season 2 of American Vandal remains more elusive. All Perrault and Yacenda would share is that it will take place at a brand new, preppy high school, with Peter and Sam (Griffin Gluck) investigating yet another hilariously absurd crime.

image

Lena Waithe and Common Unveil The Chi

The festival concluded with an advance screening of the upcoming Showtime drama series The Chi, followed by a discussion with creator and producer Lena Waithe and executive producer Common. Officially premiering on January 7th, The Chi follows the lives of folks living in the South Side of Chicago. The show deals with a number of difficult, yet extremely important social justice matters, and with the pilot episode, Waithe puts one of these issues at the forefront of the conversation: Why do black bodies have to die before their lives start to matter?

Before you think that this is just another one of those way too serious, didactic TV dramas, think again. At its core, The Chi has a joyful heart—not to mention a sense of humor snappier than a Chrissy Teigen clapback—though this doesn’t quite come through in the show’s premise, nor its heavy-handed teaser trailer. Both Waithe and Common grew up in Chicago, which undoubtedly allowed for them to create an authentic portrayal of, for better or worse, one of the country’s most notorious locales. This reputation is not entirely unwarranted—and the show doesn’t shy away from that fact—but The Chi also depicts the South Side as a complex, nuanced place with a robust cast of characters and stories that you can really sink your teeth into.

Standard
Events

2017 Vulture Festival Los Angeles: Saturday

image

Imagine being airdropped down into the dead center of your favorite pop culture obsession—be it TV, film, or podcast. That’s probably the easiest way to describe the whirlwind that was this weekend’s Vulture Festival at The Hollywood Roosevelt. Read on for some of the highlights from Day One.

image

Stranger Things: Inside the Upside Down

There seemed to be people crammed into every last nook and cranny of the sold-out Stranger Things panel on Saturday afternoon to hear about the latest season—and beyond!—from creators Matt and Ross Duffer, producer Shawn Levy, and actors Finn Wolfhard, Paul Reiser, and Linnea Berthelsen. The cast and crew seemed eager to please their fans, sharing story after story about the making of the second season, the introduction of new characters, and how the Duffer Brothers seemed to get some “glee out of trashing Joyce Byers’ house.”

Turns out, this season’s favorite bromance between Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) And Steve (Joe Keery) and wasn’t originally in the script. The shifting dynamics in the younger kids’ friend group left Dustin out of the inner circle, and the Duffer Brothers didn’t want to leave Steve “in his room crying about Nancy” after the couple’s breakup. The solution to this sticky plot dilemma? Creating a “meet-cute” for the two characters at the Wheeler residence, which then paved the way for some of the season’s funniest and most delightful onscreen moments.

Another surprising tidbit? Newcomer Berthelsen’s character Kali was supposed to be Eleven’s 30-year-old brother. What’s more, the Duffer Brothers had first intended for the season’s opening scene to be completely different. Said Matt Duffer, “We just wanted to do a car chase, it’s really childish. But it builds from there. I wanted people to think ‘Did I click on the wrong show?’”

The new plot line allowed them to experiment with that episode, and, for better or worse depending on your opinions about “The Lost Sister,” we may not be done with Kali and her crew just yet. Hinting at the future of Stranger Things, Ross Duffer mused that they were in the “very early days of season three.” But after realizing what he may have unleashed, he quickly corrected himself by declaring, “That’s not official, that wasn’t an official announcement. We’re just working on it, just for our own amusement—for fun!”

image

Search Party Scavenger Hunt

First, there was a scavenger hunt across Hollywood (that may or may not have involved riding a mechanical bull). Then, there was a party, during which learned that Phoebe Tyers is a twin and that Alia Shawkat smells really good. But that’s neither here nor there—just watch the new season, why don’t you?

image

Jill Soloway and Lena Waithe

Due to a last-minute event change, Jill Soloway, Emmy-award winning director and creator of Transparent, sat down with Emmy-winning writer and actor Lena Waithe (Master of None, The Chi) for a conversation about ways to “topple the patriarchy”—especially in the entertainment industry. However, Soloway declined to address the allegations surrounding Jeffrey Tambor, stating, “Because there is an investigation that we are amidst, I am not able to say anything at all about it. I’m trying to just protect the process and make sure that we have a process with the most integrity to make sure… that it turns out fair.”

Instead, Soloway spoke largely about the 50/50 by 2020 initiative, where companies and organizations are challenged to place women in 50% of all higher-level positions across the workforce. Waithe added, “I wish there was a mandate that no show could be funded without making sure that the [writers’] rooms are a reflection of society.”

Waithe and Soloway expressed their support for better and fairer writing opportunities for women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities. As for creating safer working environments, Soloway shared only a few thoughts on the matter: “What if we don’t have sex with people at work? We don’t talk about sex at work, and we don’t touch people at work. Just to try it.”

Standard
TV

Search Party: The Best TV Show I Never Knew I Needed

There’s a scene in the very first episode of the TBS show Search Party where protagonist Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat), looking straight out of Beacon’s Closet, enters an NYC rooftop party through an open window, joining other thriftshop-clad millennials who are trying to impress each other IRL with padded resume credentials and Instagram-ready “candid” poses. The party paints an ugly caricature of today’s city-dwelling, college-educated twentysomethings—and yet there’s something endearing, if painful, about the scene, particularly if you are a city-dwelling, college-educated twentysomething.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of binge-watching. Something about sitting in one place for an extended amount of time and doing the same thing over and over (flop on couch, pick up TV remote, press play, adjust throw pillow, repeat) doesn’t fit well with my restless, ever-multitasking personality. But, as I was prepping to cover the Vulture Festival this weekend, I found myself glued to the couch cushions for almost an entire season’s worth of Search Party episodes. And before you say anything, yes I know I’m about a year late to this party—but better late than never, right?

Generally speaking, the plot of Search Party revolves around a group of post-grads who find themselves immersed in a search for a missing college acquaintance, Chantal Witherbottom (Clare McNulty). But the premise of a mystery only scratches the surface of the show. Dory, an aimless and initially quite boring young lady, drags her friends along to try and find a girl whom they barely remember, largely because she doesn’t have much else going on in her life. You don’t really feel any sympathy for her plight—particularly after seeing her carefully curated Brooklyn apartment—and the show doesn’t try to ask it of you either.

The same could be said of Dory’s inner circle. Elliott (John Early), a narcissistic multi-hyphenate wannabe, mostly shrugs off Chantal’s disappearance, but then turns around and posts about his “shock” on Twitter: “Sad news about a sweet girl. Keep an eye out, people.” Portia (Meredith Hagner), an Upper West Side white girl who plays a Latina cop on network TV, accepts a sympathetic hug during the rooftop party even after previously admitting that she didn’t much care for Chantal, who was supposedly “jealous” of her in college. Drew (John Reynolds), Dory’s live-in boyfriend, waffles between bumbling nice guy and oblivious-to-the-point-of-inconsiderate man-child. And Julian (Brandon Micheal Hall), Dory’s offensively blunt ex, isn’t that much better, even if he is the only character that seems to have any sense of purpose.

It’s a little like watching a car crash in slow motion, each character hurtling towards a demise of their own creation. But still, you can’t help but like them, root for them, identify with them—even when they do reach peak trash person status. Dory and company are like those friends whose texts you always read with an exasperated sigh, followed by a major eye roll, but you still read them anyway and always, always answer. These characters embody that gross, selfish part of you that you like to pretend doesn’t exist but tends to come out in moments of crisis, or drunkenness, or both. And arguably, though Dory and her friends aren’t entirely unlike the egocentric characters on HBO’s Girls, they do seem to have somewhat of a greater capacity for self-awareness and empathy—even if their self-indulgent tendencies sometimes derail their best intentions.

Search Party co-creators Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers are masters of millennial-skewering satire, having first flexed their chops to a wider audience in the 2014 feature film Fort Tilden. Add comedic expertise from veteran funnyman Michael Showalter, some film noir sensibilities, a pinch of mumblecore, a dash of jump-scare thriller, and just a touch of some very dark absurdist satire, and you’ve got a genre-bending show of epic proportions, wrapped up neatly in subtle episodic morsels of razor-sharp commentary on the show’s targets. Which are, let’s be real, often city-dwelling, college-educated twentysomethings. But we probably deserve it anyway.

Search Party returns for a second season on Sunday, November 19th. If, like me, you need to play catch up, the entire first season is available on TBS.com until the season premiere.

Standard