This week, Dahlia and Amy give an update on the latest horrifying policies the Trump administration are hoping to force into law. Beyond the midterm elections, the monsters in the White House are working overtime to push through harmful legislation, including limiting gender to being recognized to what one is assigned at birth, an end to birthright citizen, and more terribleness. In this week’s Amy vs. Dahlia, we’re debating the worse fake politician: Veep’s Selina Meyers or Idiocracy’s President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho! Text “Politician” to 503-855-6485 to let us know what you think!
Sandi Tan’s documentary, Shirkers, is a multi-layered look at youthful creativity and passion, the consequences of male ego, and mourning the loss of one’s art.
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is a superb collection of short stories with ties to Black Horror, showing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations that reveal the violence in our everyday lives.
“Thank U, Next” has been playing at Bitch HQ all week long.
Photo credit: U.S. Army photo
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DAHLIA: Uncomfortable Revolution is the space to have the awkward conversations about health we tend to avoid, like how to tell your Tinder date that you have bipolar disorder or how women tend to be gaslighted by their doctors. Got a quirky illness or disability story you wanna share? Join us. This revolution will be blogged about. YouRevolution.com.
Welcome to Backtalk. This is the feminist response to pop culture podcast. I’m Dahlia Balcazar, Senior Editor at Bitch Media.
AMY: And I’m Amy Lam, Contributing Editor at Bitch Media.
DAHLIA: We start every episode of Backtalk by sharing our pop culture moment of the week. Amy, what is yours?
AMY: Mine is Jim Carey’s Twitter account.
AMY: I’m like incredulous that I only recently saw this, but number one, he fucking despises the Trump administration—let’s just start the show off with that—and all of their amoral Republicans. And the kicker is that he doesn’t just tweet his disgust about them, but he’s actually an artist now, like an illustrator. He paints and draws, so his tweets are always accompanied with a drawing by him! And they’re actually not bad at all. So, for example, on Sunday night last week, he made a tweet about how Texans should vote for Beto O’Rourke.
AMY: And it also said, “Let’s make Tuesday like the end of every great vampire movie. Pull back the curtains and let the sunshine turn all those blood suckers to dust.” And then there’s this drawing that went with the tweet, and it’s of Beto literally pulling back some drapes and flinging it onto a Ted Cruz who’s disintegrating into flames and vapor. [laughs] But I was just like, oh my god! This is incredible!
AMY: But I mean, my only issue about Jim’s tweet is that it’s disparaging to vampires.
AMY: But other than that, as the kids say, it is A+ content from The Mask himself.
AMY: So, I really fuck with Jim Carey’s Twitter account. If you haven’t seen it, yet, if you haven’t seen it, check it out. I think he just, he goes in! And like the drawings are so good, but I can’t believe I just found this the other night.
DAHLIA: That’s amazing. Well, my pop culture moment is a follow up from my movie recommendation of our previous episode. I was really, really excited to see the movie Suspiria because the original 70s film is one of my favorite horror films ever. And I was a little worried because you know, when are remakes good? And let me present to you my review of Suspiria in two headlines from other reviews. Background information you need to know is that Thom Yorke of Radiohead scored Suspiria, which I did not even know until I got there. Two headlines that summarize my feelings about the film: One from The New Yorker: “Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is the cinematic equivalent of a designer Che T-shirt.” Here is a headline from The Stranger: “Feel free to bail when Suspiria turns into a satanic Thom Yorke music video.”
AMY: What?! [laughs]
DAHLIA: So, [laughs] I was disappointed by the very bloated two and a half hour-long Suspiria that I went to see on Halloween night. I think you know, by designer Che t-shirt, I think it’s like it was a movie in the shape of a horror movie with like very scary imagery, scary scenes, like brutal death scenes. But I don’t think that there was any there there, you know? And there was this moment where I was watching this movie—and I’ll admit that I was not fully sober ‘cause you know, it’s Halloween—and I was watching. I was like, maybe men shouldn’t be allowed to make horror movies, I thought in like my deepest thought.
DAHLIA: ‘Cause I was like you know, this director who is a man is using all of this horror imagery of witchcraft and the female body and bondage and just like all of this really interesting sort of feminist-adjacent imagery, except he’s using it in a designer Che t-shirt way. Which is like, I’ve just pulled together a Radiohead satanic witch music video. Ta da! Feminist horror. That’s how I felt about Suspiria. [chuckles]
[cutesy bells ring]
Amy and I are experts at arguing, and in our last episode of Backtalk we argued about the Netflix horror series The Haunting of Hill House. And we are loving all of your responses to our silly arguments. We got so many responses. We were just overjoyed. The argument was in The Haunting of Hill House, the Netflix series, does the house represent the repression of childhood trauma, or does the house represent white supremacy? And the votes are in. And the Backtalk audience has voted for childhood trauma. But! I wanna say that the people who wrote in about why they feel how they feel, all of your responses are incredible, and Amy and I loved all of them.
AMY: Yes, I mean I’m always heartened when people— Well, the best thing is that even though when they voted for your suggestion that it’s really it’s a childhood trauma, they were also very, sometimes they were also very respectful and like,” But I hear what Amy is saying.” And I was like, thank you!
DAHLIA: [chuckles] Your fans love you.
AMY: But I really, I really love responses. The ones that I love the most are like people’s pointing out specific things. Like somebody commented the red room equals gatekeeping or white supremacy and how white supremacy can benefit people in different ways. One of my favorites is somebody who was a film professor (!!!), and said that they get both reads, but the role of the bent neck lady plays better in the white supremacy metaphor. So, thank you, film professor for chiming in. So, I just really love the way that you guys were able to rally behind and understand our arguments. And the best part is not only for you guys to vote but for you guys to tell us why you voted the way you did.
DAHLIA: And I feel like I’m looking through these responses, and I’m learning things too. Like here’s one of the responses: “White supremacy is all up in those old houses. It’s literally how they were built.” OK!
AMY: [laughs then shrieks with delight]
DAHLIA: But the whole show is about rehabbing the house, right?
DAHLIA: It’s about tearing it down and putting it back up, right?
DAHLIA: We’re learning. Texts are multivalent.
DAHLIA: So, we have a new argument this week in honor of— We’re recording this actually on midterm Tuesday, but we know this will go up afterwards. So, we have an argument in honor of midterms, and that is who is the worst fictional politician that we could possibly vote for? Amy, please begin with your argument.
AMY: My argument is indisputably [laughs] one Selina Catherine Meyers—
AMY: —from HBO’s The Veep played by the incomparable Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Selina Meyers is the most incompetent, bumbling politician and who is surrounded by evenly more incompetent, bumbling staff. She’s also problematic. She has zero scruples. And it’s like I never describe anybody by their scruples, but when I think of Selina Meyers, I just think of a person who has none of them!
DAHLIA: That’s true.
AMY: Yeah. And I think that the reason why I really fuck with that portrayal and why it’s the fucking worst is because I think literal, actual politicians in literal, actual Washington, District of Columbia are like her. So, therefore I think that Selina Meyers is like the worst fictional politician because she actually mirrors actual real politicians.
DAHLIA: In 2005, Mike Judge had a film called Idiocracy. And the plot of Idiocracy, I think it’s set in like 2450 or something like 500 years in the future, and everyone’s IQ is in the toilet. And there are no crops, and everybody only eats like Doritos and Mountain Dew. And that’s the terrible future in Idiocracy.
DAHLIA: But! We have a brave leader in 2450—President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho who is brilliantly portrayed by Terry Crews in the film—is basically like— It hurts my heart, and I know it hurts Mike Judge’s heart to say this because he tweeted about how it’s a little bit scary how accurately Idiocracy could’ve predicted, has predicted the shift in politics. But President Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho is literally a wrestler who becomes the president, and in this horrible future, we speak in brand taglines and product placements. And I think Idiocracy might be worth another viewing in this moment. But Donald Trump is president” Mountain Dew Camacho except like in a suit. At least President Camacho is wearing a wrestling outfit. I really recommend that movie if you haven’t seen it, but imagine how could we have a worse world than if a president named Mountain Dew Camacho ruled the United States?
DAHLIA: We’re recording this episode on a Tuesday, midterm Tuesday, so of course, we’re super excited to see the midterm results. And we are excited to hear who you think would be the worst politician ever. So, if you have us in your phone, our phone number is 503-855-6485. And if you just text us the word politician at 503-855-6485, you will be prompted to vote. And we can’t wait to hear what you think, and we can’t wait to hear what happens this midterm Tuesday.
[cutesy bells ring]
AMY: Hi! It’s Amy from Backtalk!
SOLEIL: And Soleil from Popaganda.
AMY: Our shows are produced by non-profit, independent Bitch Media.
SOLEIL: Our feminist response to pop culture is entirely funded by our community.
AMY: Love our work and want to pitch in?
SOLEIL: Become a member!
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DAHLIA: And you know we love reviews. I wanted to read one of our iTunes reviews by Emmy-Lou banks. Emmy-Lou writes, “Backtalk is one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to. I discovered it a few months ago and binge listened to the old episodes. And now the time in between new episodes feels so long. I appreciate the critical analysis Amy and Dahlia provide regarding current events and pop culture and their commitment to intersectional feminism. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about what’s happening in the world but sometimes struggle to express that in words. But often when I’m listening to Backtalk, I think yes, that! That’s exactly what I’m thinking and feeling.” Oh my god! The nicest review! That’s so nice.
AMY: That’s so sweet!
You know that’s what we are striving to do. You know, we too sometimes are like, “I don’t know how we’re gonna, I’m gonna say this out loud.” And you know, what you hear on Backtalk is an edited together version of all of us being like, “Uh, I phrased that in a terrible way. That was not funny. That didn’t make sense.”
DAHLIA: And so, it really warms our hearts to know that people are in that process with us and that maybe we can be helpful to people trying to figure out this sick, sad world.
[cutesy bells ring]
AMY: So, like Dahlia said earlier, we’re recording this episode on Tuesday before all of the midterm results will be known. So, we wanted to talk about the latest fuckery in the Trump administration, and it’s really, it’s very real effects. It’s important for us to keep these news items on our radar even though they are just exceedingly painful to bear. And on the show itself, we know that we haven’t been talking about it that much for those reasons. But these situations won’t go away if we don’t talk about them, and we wanna talk about specific things that Trump and his band of white supremacist grim reapers are working towards leading us down like this road of serious white nationalism. And I can’t even believe I’m saying those actual words when I’m describing what we’re gonna talk about. Like how Trump wants to issue an executive order to bring an end to birthright citizenship, which is when a person automatically is given citizenship based on the country in which they’re born. And there’s also news that the Trump White House wants to propose through the Department of Health and Human Services a very strict classification of gender, essentially saying that the U.S. government will only recognize that gender you’re assigned at birth. Which is so fucking horrifying for trans folks. And I think these are just a couple of the things that they’re doing in the his administration.
And they’re also often, I mean for me that one of the real distressing things about his presidency is that how he continues to hold rallies, and in these rallies, it’s just a place for him to drum up more hate and fear based on white national rhetoric. And these are just a couple of the things that just happened in the past few weeks. And we just wanna talk more about you know, what he’s trying to push through in his administration and the real harm that it could cause.
DAHLIA: Well, in many ways you know, the things that Trump is spouting right now, his rally tour, I mean it’s building up to today or I guess two days in the past: midterm Tuesday. You know, Trump’s favorite thing to do is to go out and rally because he’s in front of his base. He’s in front of his crowd and his people. And I think we, hopefully, we learned a terrifying lesson I guess about the way that Trump campaigns. He makes really big promises that I think in 2016, a lot of progressive people were kind of shocked and flummoxed by and sort of didn’t know how to deal with it concretely because it seemed like this abstract idea. And I guess I feel like that’s what he’s doing again. He’s sort of proposing these abstract, horrifying ideas, but I think we now have seen that if he sees that his base is into it, he’s gonna to just act.
For example, I’m thinking about this caravan of refugees that is according, to Trump, seconds away from infiltrating at the border. And Trump has sent thousands of active duty troops to the border. He has actually done that. What are they doing there? We don’t know! It’s an unbelievable waste of resources and time and lest we even consider the fact that while Trump is out here sending troops to the border, spending all of his time campaigning and on planes and at rallies, is anyone governing? What is happening? And I guess the answer is I know who’s governing: Steven Miller and his fucked up white nationalist friends are the ones floating these bigoted ideas to Trump and saying, like, “Oh, don’t worry. The crowd’s gonna love it.” And then the crowd does love it because he’s in front of his main fans.
AMY: Because in the end, he is just a fucking textbook narcissist, and his lizard brain grows with every little ounce of support that he gets. And the support that he gets are from real deal white supremacists, and he’s not above that. I think that in his heart of hearts, his ideology is based on white nationalism and white supremacy. And he will continue to play those fucked up cards as long as he has a base that will support him. And he’s just completely amoral, doesn’t give a fuck. And to think that like we’re sending military force, sending troops to the border to protect our borders is so wild. From refugees no less!
And I just keep reflecting about how like we haven’t been talking that much about Trump on our podcast because it’s really just like so fucking depressing. But the things that we’re talking about right now literally just happened in the past month, you know. We don’t even have the energy to really get into like how there’s always a new news item about how disturbing his his “leadership” has been for this country and how his administration refuses, obviously, purposefully refuses to see the very real effects of not just what they’re doing policy-wise but like that it’s forcing—not forcing but like—it’s this sort of passive approval that they give to white terrorists in this country. Like the two recent white male shooters. Like the one who killed people at the synagogue and the other person who killed people at the supermarket, they were both known Trump supporters. And they were both targeting specific communities based on their very right wing beliefs. And like in the case of the person who shot up the synagogue, people associated with the White House was saying that it wasn’t an anti-Semitic act, but it was a antireligion act.
DAHLIA: Oh my god.
AMY: You know, completely ignoring the fact that it was very anti-Semitic, and he purposefully targeted a synagogue for that reason! And then the man who killed two Black folks at the supermarket, he had attempted to enter a Black church before that and kill Black folks there. But in that instance, Trump’s administration did nothing to rebuke his act as a white nationalist act. And to not even recognize both of these acts of terror as acts of terror based on white supremacy. I think that obviously they’re being purposefully obtuse, and this is their way of winking to their white supremacist supporters that like, you can kind of continue to act this way, and we won’t call it what it is. Because we sort of tacitly support it without having to say so.
DAHLIA: I think maybe in every episode since Trump started office, we’ve said something either about Trump or how hard it is to cover Trump and talk about Trump. In addition to hosting Backtalk, I’ve been hosting a weekly Facebook Live show with my cat called Feminist Snack Break where we mostly talk about politics. And you know, it is really hard, and obviously it’s really, really important.
I was reading this New York Magazine article where 12 young people were interviewed about why they didn’t vote or why they weren’t gonna vote. And they were just saying things that were like, “I don’t understand how voting works! I don’t understand the issues. I don’t care about the issues.” And so, obviously there is still a need for people to— I mean because it is really fucking complicated and because people who don’t want you to vote make it really fucking complicated. That’s intentional. Voting could be really easy, and it’s not really easy because some people don’t want you to vote. And so, it is so important to make sure that we’re talking about what is actually on the ballot, what actually could happen in the future.
So, Feminist Snack Break came back yesterday. If you wanna hear a little bit more about what actually happened during Tuesday, during the midterms and on Wednesday afterwards, you can check that out on our Facebook page. And Feminist Snack Break will be every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. Pacific/1:00p.m. Eastern from now on.
But Amy, to go back to what you were saying about this shooting in Pittsburgh, not that I think that Donald Trump has an ounce of compassion or kindness or anything like that inside of him. But you know, traditionally, it’s the president’s role to visit sites of violence in the United States and to help and facilitate and to play a leadership role in healing and uniting the country. Trump did go to Pittsburgh, and let me read you what he tweeted. He wrote: “Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh. The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad and solemn day. We were treated so warmly. Small protest was not seen by us. Staged far away. The fake news stories were just the opposite. Disgraceful!”
This motherfucker went to the site of the largest anti-Semitic terrorist attack in this country’s history, and he tweeted, everyone is saying that they hate me, but actually they love me. Those are all lies.
AMY: I’m just, I’m so flabbergasted that— I mean I’m unsurprised but also still very just stunned you know, at a response like that. But I’m so glad Feminist Snack Break is coming back. I didn’t want to say that, and I’m glad that you will be helping to parse out things that happen after the midterms. And I think that as much as there’s a part of me, like real fucking talk, that I don’t wanna think about this shit. Like I just don’t often, but I still do ‘cause that’s part of our jobs. And we have to read up on all the fucked up shit that’s happening in the world. But I mean knowing something like that, knowing that Trump would tweet something so insensitive and so false, it’s like like we need to be armed with this type of information.
Because I’m seeing some really great friends of mine who are posting about how they’re knocking on doors and doing phone bank calls for all of the campaigns for the midterms, and I’m just like, thank you for doing that. Thank you for putting that work in to reach out to voters so that they can, to inform them about what they’re doing. But then I’m also hearing things about how one of the ways in which we can slowly turn the tide and get people to be more involved or want to be more involved about what’s happening even if they’re not being directly affected by Trump’s policies is to just talk about this shit more. ‘Cause I think that it’s easy to overlook all the fuckery that’s happening if you don’t think that it’s directly affecting you at this moment in time. But if we keep talking about it and we talk about how it is affecting real people all the time even if it’s not us directly, I think that’s a way to show that this administration is truly fucking horrifying. And we need to do everything we can to stop this administration and the people who are associated with this administration.
And it’s a disservice—as much as I want to live in a bubble where I don’t have to think about this shit—it’s a great disservice to be purposefully uninformed. And so, I think that as hard as it is to keep up with the news, I think that it serves its purpose, and that you could also help to sort of spread it within your own circle of friends and family to keep them abreast. ‘Cause maybe they’re also exhausted by the news. But I think that it’s kind of we have to take on this very small responsibility to keep each other informed so that we know what we’re up against. Because what we’re up against is so truly fucking horrifying that we need to literally arm ourselves with information.
DAHLIA: And I think there’s something valuable in arming ourselves together. Like I’ve only ever voted in Oregon where voting is very easy and by mail. And when you vote by mail, you have something like two or three weeks to return your ballot, and so you have time to be with your ballot, commune with your ballot, but also research, look at the propositions, look at the people on the ballot. And there are people in Oregon who have voting parties where they get together and they talk about how they feel about particular issues, or they all do it together. And then they all put their ballots in the mail, and then they go out and have pizza afterwards. And I feel like there is so much conversation about, “You have to vote! You have to vote!” But I’m thinking about that kid in this article who’s like—I mean it’s so simplistic—but he’s like, “But actually what do you do when you vote,” you know?
And I think that the more that people talk about how they voted, what issues they voted for how, they got to the polls, if they went with other people, where they dropped off their ballot, I think that the more that people are in the dark about how voting works, what the issues are, what it matters—I mean this is so simplistic to say—but talk about it with your friends. If you don’t know how to vote on a particular issue, just be like, “Yo, I don’t know about Prop 105. What do you think about it?” I think that there’s just tremendous power in people talking amongst the people that they care about, about how these issues, how these politicians are going to affect them. Because sometimes you feel like, “Oh, you know, I’ve been that way. I’ve been apathetic,” even though it’s so easy to vote in Oregon. I’ve been like, “Oh. Well, who cares? It’s just the midterms. What does it matter?” But if you just take the time to talk to people in your life, even these small propositions, even city council members, all of this shit matters.
And I think that we’ve maybe been sort of like socialized to be like, what happens in the ballot booth stays in the ballot booth. But it’s clear that a lot of people don’t know what to do when they get to the ballot booth. And so, I think we should one, keep talking about what voting looks like and how it’s fucked up in lots and lots of places and how there are politicians who want to make it harder for people to vote or impossible to for people to vote.
You know, when Amy and I were talking about what to talk about in this episode because it was related to the midterms, we were like, well, we should talk about, “You voted, but what next?” And I feel like that’s kind of what we talk about in every episode is like, “Great. You voted. What next?” And I mean I think what next? I know it sounds simple, but I think you gotta keep talking about it. Talk about how you voted and how issues turned out. Hopefully, just keep that conversation going because we need it two years from now for sure.
[cutesy bells ring]
In every episode of Backtalk we share something we’re reading, watching, and listening to. I have the read pick. I’m reading Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. It ties in so well to the last episode of Backtalk where we were talking about sort of the history of trauma and violence against Black people in the United States. Not to be so simplistic, but this is like if Get Out was a short story collection. It’s really fascinatingly and really darkly places ordinary characters—I guess this is what horror does best, right—places ordinary characters in extraordinary situations in a way that reveals sort of like the truth about our society or interpersonal relationships. And hopefully, in a creepy scary way since it’s a collection of scary short fiction. But I really highly recommend this short story collection. It’s so good. It’s called Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.
AMY: So, I’ve got the watch pick, and I’m going to try my best to talk about it without overselling it. Because I loved it! This documentary on Netflix called Shirkers. This documentary is by Sandi Tan, and on its surface it’s about when she was 19 years old growing up in Singapore and how her and her two BFFs Jasmine Ng and Sofie Siddique over a summer in Singapore when they all came back from studying abroad made an independent film. And the documentary is just like this beautiful piece of messy storytelling that I’m completely heartbroken about. But then it talks about how this really amazing film that they made when they were 19 years old never sees the light of day. Because they made the film with this older American man who was at the helm directing it. And then when they all go back to school after that summer, he was supposed to develop the film and send it to Jasmine to edit. But after months and months and then years later, they can’t find him. And he’s disappeared with Sandi’s film.
AMY: I was just like so fucking moved by this documentary because I thought about what their film would’ve meant to me if I had seen it when I was a teenager. And I’m tearing up thinking about it. I don’t know why it touched me so much. But the loss is just so immense. But now seeing this documentary about the film, which is named the same thing—the film was also called Shirkers—it’s like this joy of knowing that it exists now in this form. Anyway, please watch it. I implore you. This documentary is just about so many things. The trailer doesn’t do it justice. Even me describing it here isn’t doing it justice very much. It’s just so layered, and I think it’s just a story that you need to hear. It is called Shirkers. It is on Netflix, and it is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a while.
DAHLIA: We have been arguing—by we [laughing] I mean me, Amy, and our producer Ashley—about the complex meaning in this song. It’s kind of a message from us to the Republican Party after hopefully their huge crush during the midterms, except it would be a much ruder version of the song. But I’m so happy this song exists in the world. It’s levels, to me, of pettiness are just I love it. My fav Ariana Grande dropped this song about all of her ex boyfriends 30 minutes before her ex-fiancé Pete Davidson had to appear on national television. Ha ha! I love this song so much. It’s thank u, next by Ariana Grande. Happy midterms.
AMY: Thanks for listening!
DAHLIA: Thank you, next!
[thank u, next by Ariana Grande plays]
♪ Thought I’d end up with Sean
But he wasn’t a match
Wrote some songs about Ricky
Now I listen and laugh
Even almost got married
And for Pete, I’m so thankful
Wish I could say, “Thank you” to Malcolm
‘Cause he was an angel
One taught me love
One taught me patience
And one taught me pain
Now, I’m so amazing
I’ve loved and I’ve lost
But that’s not what I see
So, look what I got
Look what you taught me
And for that, I say
Thank you, next (Next)
Thank you, next (Next)
Thank you, next
I’m so fuckin’ grateful for my ex
Thank you, next (Next)
Thank you, next (Next)
Thank you, next (Next)
I’m so fuckin’—
Spend more time with my friends
I ain’t worried ‘bout nothin’
Plus, I met someone else ♪
DAHLIA: Thanks for listening to Backtalk. This show is produced by Ashley Duchemin. 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.
♪ We havin’ better discussions
I know they say I move on too fast
But this one gon’ last
‘Cause her name is Ari
And I’m so good with that (So good with that)
She taught me love (Love)
She taught me patience (Patience)
How she handles pain (Pain)
That shit’s amazing (Yeah, she’s amazing)
I’ve loved and I’ve lost (Yeah, yeah)
But that’s not what I see (Yeah, yeah)…. ♪