Backtalk: Meh of Thrones

This week, Dahlia and Amy get into their disappointment over the last and final season of Game of Thrones. The epic series has given audiences a big cultural moment in the world of dragons, the fight for power, and a slew of women characters to love and hate—but is it doing justice to the story? In Amy vs. Dahlia, we want to know who could have been the best leader of the Seven Kingdoms, dead or alive. Text “thrones” to 503-855-6485 to let us know what you think!

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[FULL TRANSCRIPT]
 

DAHLIA: Have you had unprotected intercourse and are seeking emergency contraception? OHSU Women’s Health Research Unit has a new study looking at emergency contraception dosing in women weighing more than 176 pounds. If you weigh more than 176 pounds, are between 18 and 40 years old, and have had unprotected intercourse in the last 72 hours, you may be eligible to participate and receive emergency contraception. You could receive up to $200 in compensation for your participation. For more information, please text or call the OHSU Women’s Health Research Unit at 971-373-1828.

[theme music]

Welcome to Backtalk, the feminist response to pop culture podcast. I’m Dahlia Balcazar.

AMY: And I’m Amy Lam.

DAHLIA: And we start every episode by talking about a pop culture moment that we had in real life. Amy, what is yours this week?

AMY: My pop culture moment is the Portland Trail Blazers making it past the second round in the Western Conference to play the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors. This is like a really exciting thing. I know that we don’t have a ton of fans that are like NBA fans, but for many, many years now, watching the NBA has been a balm for me. I just really love watching the sport and watching these athletes be so incredible. And the Portland Trail Blazers have always been sort of this underdog team. And right before the end of the regular season, one of their star players, Nurkic, hurt his leg really badly, so it didn’t bode well for the team. And actually last year during the playoffs, they got swept in the first round by the Pelicans, and everybody was like, will they ever do any better than that? And then this season, they’ve had two amazing playoff series against OKC and against Denver Nuggets.

And it’s just been the most exciting thing ever. And as somebody who has lived on and off in Portland for like 13 years now, this is so exciting. And I just can’t wait to see what will happen in the series. I am not holding my breath because the Golden State Warriors are formidable. They are the defending champs, so we’ll see what happens. But just one of those things where it’s just like just getting this far is enough or means so much. You know, just being nominated is a prize. [Laughs.]

DAHLIA: You know, any other time I would have no response to that. And there are so many levels of irony which is that Amy, who has just finished her MFA, is coming back to Portland just as I am moving to Boston. And any other time, I would have no feedback about the Portland Trail Blazers. But I have been watching a shit ton of Portland. I mean I’ve been watching all of this stuff because the TV is always on at my house right now because it’s packing time. That was a whole bunch of explanation.

Also, I was recently on vacation in France. And I woke up one morning, and my boyfriend was like, “Dahlia, the Portland Trail Blazers are in overtime from a game that started last night before we went to bed.”

AMY: Ha!

DAHLIA: And that’s true, right? There was a game that went into like quadruple overtime.

AMY: Yes.

DAHLIA: And I watched this last game, and I feel sad now. I’m moving away from Portland now that I’ve finally started slightly paying attention to the Portland Trail Blazers.

AMY: Well, you have the Boston Celtics who are…okay.

BOTH: [Laugh.]

AMY: So, you can have this underdog narrative to live through as well.

DAHLIA: Well so, my pop culture moment actually slightly ties into. So, I was on vacation in France, [chuckles] and I went to visit Versailles, which is so beautiful and incredible and very weird. But my pop culture moment is that if you’ve seen the Marie Antoinette, the Sofia Coppola biopic about Marie Antoinette, it was filmed actually at Versailles. And at the time, it was like a big deal. It was like oh, this is the only time we’ve ever filmed at Versailles. Now I heard that there’s like an Amazon Prime show that films at Versailles, so I think it’s like slightly less of a big deal for things to film there.

But in that movie there’s a part where they show Marie Antoinette, you know, the grounds of Versailles are huge. It’s like acres and acres of beautiful gardens, and there’s a scene where Marie Antoinette orders a…like it’s called a hamlet. The signs say it’s a hamlet when you visit. It’s like a fake town that she had built on the grounds of Versailles where she could go and like cosplay being a poor person.

AMY: Wow!

DAHLIA: There’s like a fake dairy, and there’s a fake moat. Honestly, what’s so funny about it is that it you feel like you’re kind of like in a Disneyland version of a castle because that’s kind of what Marie Antoinette was building. Even when she had it built, it wasn’t period accurate. So, it’s like this medieval-looking little town where it’s like you imagine she was walking through. And I keep thinking of that song from Beauty and the Beast where she’s singing about her provincial life. That’s what I think Marie Antoinette was doing, like cosplaying in this tiny little hamlet.

[cutesy bells ring]

AMY: And we wanna take this time again to thank folks who took their time to rate and reviews on iTunes. I love it! I cannot say enough how much I love it when I open the app and go check out the reviews like a nerd. Like oh my god! Who’s left kind words for us this time?

DAHLIA: [Chuckles.]

AMY: I wanted to read one from somebody. Their user username is BCatAllStar, and they say, “All of my best reads, best TV shows, and other best podcasts, best arguments come from Amy and Dahlia.”

DAHLIA: Aw!

AMY: I know! “I learn so much, and they are very, very funny. #facts.” [Laughs.] And it says, “I love hearing smart women cackle. It soothes my soul!” [Laughs.] Oh! I think that actually hearing other women cackle at appropriate times also soothes my soul, so I totally feel that.

DAHLIA: [Laughs.]

AMY: [Laughs.] So just thank you so much for taking your time out to give us a good review on iTunes. It really helps boost our visibility when people are searching for podcasts. And so, if you have a moment, and you’re using iTunes, please rate and review us. Thanks!

[cutesy bells ring]

DAHLIA: In our last Amy vs. Dahlia we argued about what blast from the past TV show needed to make a reboot. Amy argued that it was the show Small Wonder, about a girl who is a robot. And I argued that it was The Wonder Years, which is about a family coming of age in the ’60s and ’70s. And I knew it at the time. Even as I was making the argument I was like, I am going to lose this so bad. And in fact yes, I did. Amy, you are victorious this round.

AMY: [Laughs.] Yay! VICI thanks you.

BOTH: [Laugh.]

AMY: Oh! That just came out! [Laughs.]

And thank you guys so much for also suggesting other shows that you thought would be great ideas for reboots. A couple of my faves were The Facts of Life—such a good idea. I would love to see a 2019 version of it. And also Out of This World. Somebody had said that they just love the show so much and that being able to freeze time was one of their biggest fantasies as a kid. And I so remember that show where Evie, the main character, I guess she had like an alien dad that she would talk to inside some kind of weird cube sculpture.

DAHLIA: [Chuckles.]

AMY: And she was able to freeze time by touching both of her pointer fingers [laughing] together.

DAHLIA: Ah!

AMY: That would’ve been a fun show especially now. Imagine if you had the power to freeze time to get Trump out of office or to unfuck voting rights violations, [laughing] you know, things like that.

DAHLIA: Yes.

AMY: So those were some great suggestions.

DAHLIA: And this week actually in our main segment we’re gonna talk more about Game of Thrones, since it’s nearing its end. But we wanted to have a fun Game of Thrones argument, which is, at first we were thinking we would argue about who we think is going to ultimately win the throne games, who was gonna be the winner. But then we thought that that’s not fun enough. And so, we thought just like of any character on Game of Thrones, who should actually be the winner, whether that’s realistic or not? And I’ve learned that I have more time to think about my argument if I make Amy go first.

AMY: [Laughs.]

DAHLIA: So Amy, please begin.

AMY: Okay. So, here’s the thing. In us arguing about who should be the real ruler of Westeros is that there will be tons of spoilers. And this entire episode will be full of Game of Thrones spoilers, so if you’re not caught up and you don’t wanna be spoiled, maybe this is the time to skip ahead to our last segments where we give you our recommendations. [chuckling] because this whole episode is full of spoilers. And also, in picking our person, they could be dead or alive. So, you could pick somebody who had already died.

So, the person that I picked has already passed. Rest in power. And she is Olenna Tyrrell, who is most famously known for murdering Cersei’s son, King Joffrey, before being served poisoned tea by Jamie. And then she is the one that told Jamie to, “Tell Cersei I want her to know it was me.” [Laughs.] She was the grandmother of Margaery Tyrell and Margaery’s brother Loras Tyrell. She’s from High Garden, and her sigil is a Golden Rose. So, it looks like a very serene place to rule from—

DAHLIA: [Laughs.]

AMY: —if she didn’t feel like staying at the King’s Landing. So, the reason why Olenna would be an amazing ruler for the seven kingdoms is because she’s loyal, she would do anything to protect her family/her people, she’s so witty and so wise. So, you know she would destroy at a debate. [Laughs.] I don’t actually, monarchies don’t have debates, but if there was a debate, she would destroy at it.

DAHLIA: That’s true. She would be good.

AMY: Yeah, she’s hella smart. She literally knows how to play the game of thrones, like with moving pieces and people to protect, the people to get rid of, and she just would go out of her way to make sure that her people are protected. And you know what? Even when she did die, she faced death with so much courage. And she wore a really neat headdress that I admire.

BOTH: [Laugh.]

AMY: She’s super chic. So, I think that Olenna Tyrrell is the one who should be ruling the seven kingdoms.

DAHLIA: [Chuckles.] Okay. My choice is Lady Lyanna Mormont. She doesn’t feature prominently-prominently in the series. I would say her character is like maybe 12 years old. She is a little girl leader of, you know, she’s a lady of her area of— [chuckles] See how little I know of Game of Thrones?

AMY: [Laughs.]

DAHLIA: I’m like she’s the leader of her area. She’s a lady. But I’m gonna throw a curve ball. Here’s the reason why, unfortunately, she also is deceased. She died recently. Although she died in a highly heroic way.

AMY: True, true.

DAHLIA: And illuminated the pathway via which the righteous would conquer the Army of the Dead. [Giggles.] Listen to these silly sentences we have to say when we’re talking about Game of Thrones.

AMY: [Laughs.]

DAHLIA: Okay! But here I have this really funny, really strange anecdote, which is why I think that Lady Mormont would be unconquerable. And you’re gonna think this has nothing to do with it, but really, it does. One time I had to fly—I don’t know—I think I was flying like Portland to New York, some unbearably far flight, and I got seated next two little boy unaccompanied minors. And they were like 5 and 7. And no one would pay attention to them, so they were bothering me for the entire flight because they thought I seemed like a nice young lady or whatever. And so, the little boys were like, “I’m hungry! I have to go to the bathroom!” And one of them was like, “Let me look at your phone,” and I couldn’t stop him from taking my phone. And he started flipping through photos. It was like, good thing I don’t have anything inappropriate on my phone. And he got to a photo that I had of Lady Mormont because I love her. And he was like, “Who is this?” And I was like, “It’s just a little girl from a TV show.” And he’s, like “I don’t like her. I wanna delete this photo.”

AMY: [Gasps.]

DAHLIA: And I was like, “No.” I was like, “Young man, this is not your phone.” And the degree to which this little boy was unsettled by this little girl in her riding outfit on a strong horse, he was so unsettled! I had to take my phone away from him so he wouldn’t delete it. And this anecdote proves that Lady Mormont, the 12-year-old little lady should be the true ruler. She strikes fear into the hearts of little boys everywhere. I rest my case.

AMY: Okay, Dahlia, I really respect your argument, but—

BOTH: [Laugh.]

AMY: But I must say that your weird flight interaction doesn’t mean she’s the one true ruler. But okay. [Laughs.]

DAHLIA: I know I made a ridiculous argument, but I really wanna see if that’s what it takes for me to win these Amy vs. Dahlias. I’m so curious. Please vote. Did I win? If you text the word “thrones” to 503-855-6485, “thrones” to 503-855-6485. I can’t wait to see what happens in our next episode.

[cutesy bells ring]

AMY: So, today we’re going to be talk about the cultural phenomenon of [epic voice] kings, queens, dragons, zombies, and more!!! [Laughs.]

[Game of Thrones theme song playing]

And then it’s the last season of Game of Thrones, which is shown on HBO. So, this is the eighth and final season. It’s been on air for about nine years. And like we have said before about the show, that I have said before, is that not only do I enjoy watching it to see how the story unfolds, but I also really like being a participant around the cultural conversations about it. So, there’ve been talks about how the show, even though it’s like a fantasy medieval world full of dragons and ice zombies, how it didn’t have the imaginary reach to also include people of color in leading roles and how the earlier treatment of women characters in terms of sexual violence was exceedingly gratuitous, and how the show chose to adapt the novels by George R.R. Martin. And it feels like the show did course correct in a way by giving characters like Grey Worm and Missandei more screen time but not necessarily much more depth. It pulled back on having big, fucked up depictions of sexual violence but still used sexual violence as a plot point, like when Sansa was brutalized by Ramsay. And instead of focusing on her pain, we actually saw how Theon Greyjoy reacted to it, how it motivated him.

And there’s also conversations around how the show portrays women, but the caveat is white women, their rise to power through the seasons. But as we see in this season, the there’s just been like very sloppy writing, and it’s doing these women characters very little justice in wrapping up their ascension and descension to and from power. And the final episode of the series is going to air this weekend. And so, we wanted to dig in to talk more about what the show means to us in our current cultural climate.

DAHLIA: I’m really struck by how these last few episodes of Game of Thrones feel really squished. And I think maybe that’s inevitable because the book series hasn’t actually concluded. And now sort of the TV series and the book series have diverged, and they’re sort of different versions of the same story now. But I feel like it feels really obvious that the show is in a rush to get to the end, so much so that I hate to say that I feel like a lot of the women’s character development feels pretty lazy to me. In the last episode, we had just about like an hour of a dragon setting fire to an entire town and everyone in town dying. And we’re meant to think that all of this fury and destruction is because of the deep love that Dany Mother of Dragons has for her best friend and right hand man Missandei. But I don’t feel like that is really obvious onscreen, and I think it’s really cheating us the audience out of— I mean I guess how much can we argue about whether a character has earned a particular turn or not? But I really feel in this really big turn of one of the most powerful characters, of one of the main women on the show, her turn into “madness” felt unearned and lazy and quick to me.

AMY: I mean I really cannot overstate enough how D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, the show creators and show writers, who did a great job in the first seasons adapting George R.R. Martin’s books— And full disclosure: I have not read the books, but I think that the storytelling was so much better and much more compelling in those first seasons because it was based off of the books. But I cannot overstate enough how much D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are not good writers.

DAHLIA: [Laughs.]

AMY: Or the fact that their writing has really failed: the characters, the stories, the plot in this season. I cannot say enough how the writing is horrible. It’s so bad. It’s so bad that, to the point that you’re talking about with Danny going mad, that they were trying to forecast. I mean there have been instances where she has killed people kind of without, you know, she wasn’t showing as much mercy as she could have. So, it’s not that she has not had a history of doing this, but I think that in this season, I think in a way as viewers, as we do need to be reminded of this and also to be reminded of how she could’ve devolved into this, what they call it Targaryen madness. You know, maybe her DNA has just like finally come full bloom, and she’s become the Mad Queen like her father was once the Mad King. But I mean if you really think about this most recent episode, the penultimate episode, and they did the previously on segment before the actual episode aired.

DAHLIA: Ah, I was gonna mention that too.

AMY: Yes! They literally did character development during the previously on segment.

DAHLIA: Yep.

AMY: And I don’t know if you watch that episode, it’s towards the end of it. And it shows Daenerys making that face like she smelled the worst fart ever after seriously orders Missandei’s head to be chopped off. You know, she turns around. She’s so fucking angry. Her face just becomes like super scrunched up. And while that scene plays, the show creators decided to do an entire monologue of things that have gone wrong in her life. You can hear her thoughts swirling, okay? And that didn’t happen in the last episode. That’s something they superimposed in the previously on to remind us as viewers that she’s got a lot of emotions going on! Like this Missandei death has really triggered her madness. But what the fuck? How can you do serious character development during the previously on and not actually in an episode?

And I think the other reason why we might feel like her “madness” is “unearned” is because even though, in a way, we understand that Missandei was a good friend to her, we never really saw that many interactions with her.

DAHLIA: Right.

AMY: And I think that’s another way that they failed the Missandei character, right? Like we see her and Grey Worm have interaction in the first episodes of the season when they’re like, “Oh my god. Can’t wait to get out of Winterfell. All these fucking whiteys are looking at me funny. Let’s go somewhere tropical and lay on the beach.” But her desires are really flattened. And you kind of know her desires of being like, I just want to be with Grey Worm, but also more so even, I’m trying to protect Cersei and her honor. ‘Cause there’s that part when they were in the crypt, and there’s an interaction between Sansa and Tyrion about like, oh, we got sent down here or whatever. And they’re kind of questioning Dany’s leadership. And Missandei immediately defends Dany without question. So, we don’t really know about her own agency to the point where yeah, I was very sad that they killed her off. But there’s also the part of me that wasn’t like too torn up about it because this is what the show does. This is what the lazy writing does.

And I think that it’s not just the lazy writing but the fact that they decided to compress all of this storytelling into six short episodes. And it really goes to show how the writers are just kind of done with the show, and they just wanna tie up all these loose ends. But they feel so unsatisfactory to us as viewers, and I think especially because also as woman viewers, even though I’m not like a white woman, I kind of like watching the show where they’re like reframing this type of storytelling about people fighting and big dragons and explosions and shit like that. But with instead of men vying for shit, it’s women vying for shit. But now all of these, like the end of these story arcs are falling so flat.

DAHLIA: I think you’re making such a good point, Amy, because I think it’s so obvious that after all of this criticism happened—and the thing is Game of Thrones has been on for eight years. It’s had a long time to course correct—after all of this criticism, I think it seemed superficially as if they were, all of this criticism about their people of color characters and how there weren’t any, I think it seemed superficially like they were addressing that. Like you said, by having Grey Worm and Missandei become bigger characters. But it seems so obvious now that what Game of Thrones just did was made them more important within the world of the show but not more important to the viewers necessarily, not with that much more backstory. Not with that much more scenes or even speaking lines. Like I can hardly think of scenes of the two of them or scenes of them and anyone else.

And you know, part of me, I was like thinking about what you were saying about the previously one. I was thinking about that last night, and I was like, should I bring that up? That seems so petty. And then I’m so glad you brought it up though because it’s like it feels like cheating in such a blatant way to just be doing like, oh remember? There was this scene that happened approximately 300 hours of this show ago? You might not remember we said this, but we said it. And here we’re inserting this at the beginning so you remember actually, we predicted all of this was going to happen. It just felt like, I mean yeah, partially, I need my memory jogged, but also I think it was kind of duplicitous the way they framed some of that arc-creating.

And I think another thing that really sucks is yes, this is a show about mostly white people, and all of the cool women characters are white women, but some of the characters are very cool. I legit like Lady Mormont on her little riding outfit and her leading her people. And I really like Arya. And I think that something that also sucks is that as the season is closing, I think kind of no matter what, I think this show is gonna be very well received just regardless of how it ends. And I feel like that’s kind of sad that so many of these women characters were written by… you know, maybe didn’t get the fair treatment or were written not to their full extent. And I think that’s because so many of the Game of Thrones writers are men.

AMY: Yeah, you’re right. There are so many incredible women characters. Like I really love the story, even though I was very confused by, the story about the sand snakes who lived in Dorne. That mother who had the daughters who were all amazing fighters, I think that they did these things where they kind of like threw crumbs for us to be like, check it out! Women can be fighters! And they’re awesome, and they can be vicious and they can be killers, and like that was so much fun to watch. And that’s a reason why we love shows like Killing Eve, you know what I mean. But I think that it’s such a disservice to give us these types of characters and then have them do incredible stuff through the series, but then wrap it up in such a rushed and horrible way.

And I think that it isn’t just the limits of TV storytelling, like they only had these many episodes to write it. And in fact, I think that’s a self-imposed limitation that D.B. Weiss and David Benioff wanted because they wanted to finish the show ASAP, so they imposed that limitation on themselves. But it’s also, I think, because they didn’t have enough women behind the camera and in the writers room. So, recently this writer for The Hollywood Reporter, her name is Mo Ryan, she tweeted out these stats for the show that by the time the show ends—because they already gave out the credit information, so even though there’s one episode left, this is accounting for all the episodes that will have aired—is that in the 73 episodes of Game of Thrones only 2.7 percent of the episodes was directed by women. And it’s actually just one woman, and she directed four episodes.

DAHLIA: Whoa.

AMY: Yeah, it’s terrible. And then only two women writers ever had writing credits for the show.

DAHLIA: Ooh!

AMY: And the last time a woman was credited as a writer on Game of Thrones was in 2013. I say all this also with the caveat that I don’t think that being of a particular identity makes you a better writer for something. I think that that’s a kind of a myopic way of thinking about it. But! [Laughs.] This is atrocious, and I think this really speaks to how they did fucking weird portrayals of sexual violence and how they consistently use sexual violence as they go a plot point. You know, even in this season, there’s a scene between Sansa and the Hound where the Hound was like, oh, you’ve been through a lot of shit, you know. And, god, I’m trying to remember what the phrase that he used to talk about how much sexual violence she had to endure. But it was such a weird, fucked up way to frame her trauma. And then the writers literally had Sansa say, I mean that not verbatim, but she essentially said like, you know what? I’m stronger. I’m stronger now because I went through that trauma.

DAHLIA: Oof.

AMY: And I think actually, having Sansa say that is like a thesis statement for the writers to talk about this is why we use sexual violence in the show.

DAHLIA: Totally.

AMY: Because it makes the women stronger! And I think that that is a situation where I think if you had more women writers in the writers room, if you had women behind the camera directing the show, they would be like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s pump the brakes here.” We don’t necessarily need to traumatize women in order to make them stronger. There can be women who were not traumatized in this specific way in order to be strong.

And you know, I’ve heard people say that D.B. Weiss and David Benioff aren’t just kind of ignorant about stuff, they just are unable to see how they’re doing this. But I refuse to believe that they’re unaware that they’re doing things like this. And if they are aware of it, why don’t they just hire. More. Women? [Laughs.] Like the more women you can get in the room to help you flag things, the better! You know, you’re not creating this sort of like kind of harmful messaging and the harmful texts for us to refer to. Show is gonna wrap up, and we’ll forever remember Sansa being like, I am actually really smart and strategic because I was brutalized. Yeah, it’s wild.

DAHLIA: Amy, it’s so wild. And you know, now that you’ve said that, it’s so obvious to me how much the show, especially in this last season, is exactly saying like A + B = strong woman. And you can see that in the costuming for Sansa, like look how strong she looks! Now she wears all-leather outfits, you know. And it’s the same for every woman character. They go through some horrible trauma, and then they start styling their hair differently and they’re wearing tough outfits. And like A + sexual trauma = strong woman. And ugh…that’s ugh.

AMY: That’s such a flat, two-dimensional way to write women. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I was sort of like, I was also seduced by this. Not the fact that they had to go through trauma to become powerful, but just that they are powerful women. I think that actually, as me as a viewer, I didn’t think A + B = C. I thought like she was that powerful, and it just took her time to get there.

DAHLIA: Right.

AMY: And yeah, she had to endure these traumas, but I did not think she was powerful because of the trauma. But I think that Weiss and Benioff do think that the women are powerful because of the trauma.

DAHLIA: Yeah.

AMY: Which is like a difference in reading.

DAHLIA: It’s kind of like you know, like you and I gave the show or the narrative arc the benefit of the doubt and be like, yeah! Aria is awesome. Sansa is awesome. They have it in them to be strong leaders. But I think now that we’re at the end of that arc, we’re like oh, and the character development that occurred was a trauma. [Chuckles.]

AMY: And it’s just, I mean we only are talking about the show for a very short period of time. There have been many narrative issues [laughs] in this last season that just don’t make any sense. And I think it’s just so disappointing to see how it’s unfolded. I mean for instance—we did talk about this a little bit before we got on air—about Cersei’s death or Cersei’s, to me, supposed to death. ‘Cause I don’t think she’s died until we see her corpse.

DAHLIA: [Laughs.] The last shot will be her hand shooting up from the rubble.

BOTH: [Laugh.]

AMY: That’s what our producer, Cher, mentioned, which is, I don’t know. I mean this is not a show that’s shy about zombies or the undead.

DAHLIA: [Laughs.] That’s true.

AMY: But to give the Hound and the Mountain—these two brothers who I completely forgot had like a feud. Honestly, I don’t care that much about them—to give them this amazing fighting scene. You know, it was so incredible and so gruesome and just so epic looking, to give them that and then to have a shower of stones go over Cersei. You know, I’m not a big Cersei fan, but I think she still deserves something. And I think actually another character deserves to stick a knife in her. And I don’t know if she’s completely died or what, but I’m just hoping to dear god that the show fucking turns around in the finale and that we don’t have to be like…. It’s just left a very bad taste in my mouth so far, and I’m just so disappointed in what these two men have done.

DAHLIA: [Laughs.]

AMY: [Laughs.] You know? I was telling my partner about how I’m doing this episode on the Game of Thrones, my partner and my friend, Joanie, who’s in town, who actually gave her this total briefer on. I was actually at surprised how much I remember about the show ‘cause I don’t know the names of half the characters. But I was telling them about how we’re doing the segment, and I was like, I think my main thesis is that Weiss and Benioff are bad writers. [Laughs.] And I really just cannot overstate it, and I just really hope that they can wrap the show up in a way that honors our eight-nine-year long journey with these characters. [Laughs.]

[cutesy bells ring]

DAHLIA: At the end of every episode we share something we’re reading, watching, and listening to. I have the read and watch pick. I just finished this novel. It’s called Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, and I really need someone I know to read it so we can talk about it. It’s like I don’t wanna spoil too much of it.

AMY: Okay, I’ve heard amazing things about it.

DAHLIA: [Dramatic gasp.]

AMY: So, I wanna read it too, yes. I haven’t read it.

DAHLIA: I don’t wanna spoil too much of it, but I’ll say it’s in three sections. The first section is about students at a performing arts high school in the ’80s and sort of about the relationships between some of the students and then also some relationships between the students and the teachers. And then the part that I need to talk about is that the next two sections sort of trouble the veracity of the one before it. And so, the next two are from different points of view. And I’ve read a few interviews with Susan Choi where she’s talking about how this book, you know, she was wanting to explore sort of #MeToo narratives and sort of like different perspectives and conversations about #MeToo.

And this book is so good! And the shifts that I wish I could tell you about are so interesting. And I really, really— I mean one, I didn’t go to a performing arts high school, but if you hung out with theater kids at all, this book will really make you have flashbacks to your high school days. I liked it so much. And the things I can’t tell you about, the spoilers, are super fascinating. Amy, you need to read it, and we can talk about it.

AMY: Okay.

DAHLIA: [Laughs.] Okay. And my watch recommendation is the show Chambers on Netflix. It is a little Twin Peaks-y, but the lead actress is indigenous. Her name is Sivan Alya Rose. And the show is about one young high school student, her name is Sasha, who has a heart attack and a mysterious heart attack and gets a heart transplant and then starts sort of being haunted by her transplant heart. And I know that that sounds cheesy, but it feels like Twin Peaks. It feels kind of like it’s about cults a little bit. Uma Thurman is in it, who I love so much. And just as the show is starting to lose me a little bit toward the end of the first season, it really took a really exciting, satanic, feminist twist that I was very happy about. So, I really, really like Chambers. It’s not that scary, but it is a little startling. I really liked it though.

AMY: I really love both of your recs, and I can’t wait to read that book ‘cause I also heard about the twist. The twist got a little spoiled for me, like the premise of the twist, but I don’t know the content of the twist.

DAHLIA: Yeah.

AMY: Yeah. But I’m super excited. I may have to borrow your copy. Also that show sounds so good!

DAHLIA: It was really good.

AMY: Yeah, it’s on my to watch list. So, I have the list pick, and my listen pick is an MC. Her name is Mona Haydar. She is a Syrian American Muslim woman MC. I really love her music videos because of the visuals and the representation and seeing Muslim women in hijabs and super bright vibrant outfits singing about empowerment. So, the track I wanted to share with you all is called “Lifted” by Mona Haydar.

 [“Lifted” plays]

♪ “If you let me, if you let me….” ♪

AMY: Thanks for listening.

DAHLIA: Thanks for listening.

♪ “Everybody so confused/
Tryna numb it all/
Gettin high/
Poppin pilli’s or the alcohol/
On the verge of crisis/
Battling internal isis/
Tryna stay above the water/
But we out here drowning/

Beautiful buried deep/
Gotta hold our breath/
Die before our death/
Dive deep drown keep/
Breathing keep being/
Keep clearing keep seeing keep breathing/
Is trying to stay above the water/
But we are here drowning beautiful/
very deep gotta hold our breath….” ♪

DAHLIA: Thanks for listening to Backtalk. This show is produced by Cher Vincent. Bitch media is a reader- and listener-supported feminist nonprofit. If you wanna support the show and our work, please head over to bitchmedia.org and donate.

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by Amy Lam
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Amy Lam is Bitch Media’s contributing editor. Find her at @amyadoyzie.

by Dahlia Balcazar
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Dahlia Balcazar is a contributing editor at Bitch Media. She’s passionate about horror films, ’90s music, girl gangs, and Shirley Jackson. She is the artist formerly known as Dahlia Grossman-Heinze. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.