We were all kids once, and time forces all of us to grow up sooner or later, but not all coming-of-age stories are the same. In this episode of Art for the End Times, Lyta sits down with superstar writer Bertrand Cooper to discuss coming-of-age films, class, the politics of pop culture representation, and whose stories get told—and who gets to tell them—on the silver screen.

Bertrand Cooper is a writer whose work focuses on the intersection of poverty, Black America, education, and popular culture. Read Bertrand’s seminal essay, published in 2021 in Current Affairs, “Who Actually Gets to Create Black Pop Culture?

Pre-Production/Studio/Post Production: Dwayne Gladden


Transcript

Lyta Gold:           Hello and welcome to Art for the End Times. As always, I’m your host Lyta Gold and I am joined today by… I always say it’s a special guest, so that it’s going to sound kind of bullshit when I say this is a special guest. But this is a super special guest because this is somebody who I have been in contact with, I have been friendly with for, I think six months, more than that, nine months at this point. And –

Bertrand Cooper:      Six months.

Lyta Gold:                 Yet we have never… Something like that, right?

Bertrand Cooper:       Yeah.

Lyta Gold:             We’ve never actually met face-to-face or spoken, not over some kind of other communication, so this is really exciting. Guys, I have today with me Bertrand Cooper.

Bertrand Cooper:      Hey. Yeah, this is momentous for me. I’m trying to remember because at first I was thinking, okay, when we were really in the weeds after I turned in my first draft, but in fact the pitch had gotten accepted prior to that. So it could be that I’ve been speaking with you online in Google Docs and on Twitter for nine months, but this is the first time that I’ve gotten to see you.

Lyta Gold:               I know, it’s so exciting actually to see your face. You’ve got really cool hair, and nobody who’s listening can see this, but it’s extremely cool.

Bertrand Cooper:      Thank you. In case anyone wants to mimic it and see what it looks like in real life, I think the bottle says peacock green, just to let you know how understated I am.

Lyta Gold:                So if you’re not familiar with Bertrand Cooper, he wrote a piece for Current Affairs. This was a big blockbuster article, and I was really excited about it. The title is, “Who Actually Gets to Create Black Pop Culture?” And the reason I know about it is because I edited it and I had a lot of fun because Bertrand is the coolest person.

Bertrand Cooper:      Kind, yeah.

Lyta Gold:              Yeah. So again, if you’re not familiar with the article again, it went pretty viral. I knew it would. I knew we had a star on our hands.

Bertrand Cooper:      Well, I’m glad somebody did. I spent quite a lot of time pitching those ideas. I don’t know if anyone else thought they had a star on their hand.

Lyta Gold:            So that’s actually, if you’re willing to talk about it, it’s a fascinating journey that you had to get this published. You want to go into a little bit of detail about that?

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah. And I’ll try to do this from… Just because some people may have heard me before, so I try to hit things from different angles. It was at the very end of 2016 that a string of articles were coming out that I just found upsetting. They were really speaking to this Black experience and the Black poor experience and for anyone who doesn’t know, I grew up… I’m biracial. I grew up Black, in poverty, particularly from my teenage years on. And what really did it for me, because I had no intention of writing non-fiction essays, that really wasn’t what I was going to school for. But in 2017, right at the start of it, Ta-Nehisi Coates gets to do this exit interview with Barack Obama and in it we’ve reached this point where now everybody’s listing the different things that they felt made Obama unique.

You could now talk about how his mom had a PhD. You could now talk about how, even though his mom was separated from his biological father, she was basically married to somebody his entire life. And you could talk about his time being educated in Hawaii, being in a really upper middle class home, all of these things. But as Coates is going through them, at one point he just says that this basically makes Barack Obama, this singularly unique individual, that he’s a Black biracial man from an upper middle class background who got to go to Ivy League schools and become a Harvard professor. I had been studying education and education theory and policy for the past several years, not to mention this tied to my own experience. Just at his alma mater one of the professors there, what’s it? Skip Gates has gone on record saying that he’s pretty sure something around 60% of all the Black students at Harvard are first or second generation immigrant children of parents of African descent and the others are mixed.

Most of them are upper middle class Black students. Barack Obama, he was dead center par for the course for the entire crop of everyone who became a thought leader for all of Black America because this is… Skip Gates was talking about Harvard, but this was true at all the Ivy League schools. And even now when we say jump to the present and we look at Kamala Harris, she shares Barack Obama’s biography pretty closely.

And everyone went along with the Coates article, no one pushed back. Nobody mentioned any of these education statistics. So I thought this would be really simple, that I would just sit down and I would… If people remember this, I came into political reading at a point when… I criticized Coates a bit, but I really did like him. And he was turning out these 14,000 to 16,000 word long-form essays with good reporting that I really, really enjoyed. So I figured I’d write something just to explain to people, because they didn’t seem to be connecting the dots which were very simple. Obama’s White House administration was letting everyone know that only one out of every 10 low income high school students was graduating with a four year degree.

And at the same time it’s obvious to me that folks at Netflix, that folks at The New York Times, that folks in all of these major pop culture institutions are college educated. Well, if only one out of every 10 low income students is getting a bachelor’s degree, they can’t be working in any of these places. And I thought that it would be simple for me to lay out the statistics and to do that quickly. I was completely wrong. It took me two years to finish researching and writing because as I was trying to do it I realized that it was very hard to make the ordinary strange.

I had to keep digging and figuring out why people just assumed that Coates was from poverty. He’s given so many talks where he openly states that he was middle class and that both of his parents were college educated. In fact, his dad was a research librarian at Howard University. All of Coates’s siblings went to college. But to this day, unless somebody has finally heard me say this and they’ve decided to correct it, the Wikipedia article for Between the World and Me still says it’s a book about Coates growing up in poverty. So even when the most famous Black journalist and probably thought leader prior to even Max Kennedy of the last 10 years looks at white audience in the face and says, I’m not from poverty.

The myth around it was that he was from poverty. And you jump forward and you see why this whole year was big on this. There’s been a real celebration this year of all the increase in Black representation in popular culture whether that’s the Hulu watch lists of Black TV, Black shows, all these things that have proliferated in response each time that the murder of somebody like George Floyd or Brianna Taylor becomes sensationalized and we can watch this pattern going back to say Michael Brown or Eric Garner.

There’s been a celebration of all that this year, but no one has really pieced together that all of those folks are still college educated and that most of them don’t come from poverty. And yet like Coates, people just assume that they do and they assume that pieces of art like Atlanta are the production of somebody who grew up in that world and now is sharing that with an American audience. And unlike Coates, most other Black creators do not spend, I don’t know, he’s probably gone on the record six or seven times to make it very clear that he did not grow up in poverty. It just doesn’t take because Black skin is just so conflated with poverty.

And then you have so many people who don’t self-disclose the way Coates does and then you also have something that I talked about a lot in the Current Affairs piece, which is that most of these middle- and upper-class Black folks who do get positions in popular culture, they still use this first person pronoun language that hearkens back to really the civil rights era where instead of acknowledging class you say, we Black people have suffered this rate of incarceration. We’re suffering over policing.

They never admit the distance between them and the lower classes of Black people. And I’ve received a lot of pushback on this because people tell me things like, well most Black people at least have a cousin or a relative who’s still living in rural poverty or in the hood or something like that. But I got to say that that excuse works for literally no other marginalized group. If I’m a straight person making solely shows about LGBT experiences I can’t say, well, my cousin is gay. That’s not an explanation as to why my cousin doesn’t get to write the story. It implies that I may have some greater insights into my cousin’s experience, but no one would accept that. Similarly, I’m pretty sure every male has women in his family. That’s not license for him to be the sole teller of women’s stories. It only works when you’re talking about Black poor folks and whether or not they should be the ones telling their stories or if they should at least be consulted.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah. That tends to be when an excuse is needed for why somebody did something a certain way or they’re apologizing a male writer will be like, well, I have a sister, I have daughters, et cetera, et cetera. And it’s only evoked in those cases which is very telling, I think.

Bertrand Cooper:    Yeah. And I think at this point, most often that person now receives the appropriate response from the public, which is, that is nonsense. And I was like, if I can at some point, to generate the same response, when you just see Black folks doing the same thing – And I should add, there’s lots of things that Donald Glover does that are great. Many of these creators produce really, really great art. My issue is that they… From my perspective, it becomes an issue when they get The New York Times interview or the Vogue interview or the Vanity Fair interview, and they could say that this is their subjective experience or they’re making art for art’s sake. Not in a demeaning way, but they could just label themselves as artists first. But they normally decide to take that extra social prestige that comes with saying that your art portrays something that is politically important for people to know right now.

And that’s why I flag it. It’s because they take on that obligation openly in these interviews, they tell people that their art should be consumed for the purpose of being enlightened about really some of the most oppressive conditions that exist in this country. And they’re not obligated to disclose their class background. They’re not obligated to consult with anyone from that background. And to me, this all feels like it’s so well policed in other territories. This feels to me as egregious as somebody doing a show about Indigenous folks and they have no consultants who have even been to a reservation. They just don’t have to do that.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah. So your piece really, again, one of the reasons I kind of knew it was going to be a blockbuster is because it’s extremely good and extremely well written. But because it’s this thing that you pointed out something that’s really clear once people look at it, as you said, it deigns to find the obvious, but people were not really willing to look at it. And one thing I was very worried, and I know I fussed about this a little bit too much, is I was really worried people were going to be mean to you on the internet.

Bertrand Cooper:      I don’t think you fussed about that too much there and you were not the only person to warn me of that. Not to cut you off.

Lyta Gold:               No, no. Go ahead.

Bertrand Cooper:      I was going to say that people have not been mean to me on the internet. Not yet. I would say they’ve been overwhelmingly kind, which I know at least enough about Twitter to realize that I’m having a rare experience because I even had other writers who have just read my piece and reached out to me just to say that, hey just so you know, once I started getting noticed Twitter ended up being a pretty toxic place for me where I received a lot of hate and a lot of pushback. And right now just if I can lay it out for some folks, I was expecting that, I especially trusted what Lyta was saying to me. But as of right now, I have people who retweet that piece who are leading local Republican conservatives in California with followings between 7,000, 9,000, which for a local representative that’s pretty good on Twitter. And at the same time I’ll have people who are just deep in left circles who are also doing it. So nobody hates me yet.

Lyta Gold:           At this point, six months out, I actually think you’re pretty safe.

Bertrand Cooper:     Interesting. There’s a time horizon on this.

Lyta Gold:             Yeah. Usually people are going to get mad at something you wrote. I mean again, usually. The Internet has a short memory.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah.

Lyta Gold:              Again, even if the piece is still circulating. So yeah, I think you’ve probably escaped. But I think part of the reason that you’re not getting this pushback that I was worried about in a very silly way. I think it’s so true, what you’re saying is so unimpeachably correct that it’s hard for people to get mad. And again, it’s not that people don’t get mad at silly things, but once you pointed out it’s very clear and because there has been this push to have authenticity in creators and what they talk about and the subject matter that people discuss and making sure that there’s not appropriation of culture and that women aren’t represented by men in misogynist ways and all of that. And then there’s this very obvious, very stark class blindness that everybody has just been fine with. And once you point it out it’s hard not to see it.

Bertrand Cooper:    Yeah. It was strange to me. It really was, especially because I love pop culture. I’m very American in that way. I’ve heard people joke about how one of the things you can tell about Americans is that they know the name of every person in the movies they’ve seen. They know all the actors’ names, they haven’t seen a movie, but they have this catalog and so that’s really true for me and many of the people I hang out with. For some reason people don’t look up authors or journalists very often even though that information is printed on the inside flap of every book. And so it would be strange for me when people would hear my background and hear my interests in poverty and whatnot and they would just recommend whatever the most recent popular thought-provoking Black writer was.

And it’s not that that person’s work wasn’t great. But they were coming out of Columbia, they were coming out of the Iowa writers’ workshop. They were coming out of all these really elite MFA programs. And I was just thinking, do you really think class just flips on its head as soon as you change someone’s race that suddenly… On the one hand, especially because I was in liberal and left circles, on the one hand, you fully accept that Black life, particularly the life of the Black poor, is this oppressive and this dark and this full of obstacles, but then you forget all that and you just assume they’re making it out en masse to go to Columbia to then write books for you that… Making them the best sellers, it was I…

That’s what was hard about it because to me it was so obvious that I felt like when I was working with you that I should have just been able to write three sentences but it was also clear to me that it was as if I didn’t even have a language for describing to people how just completely impossible these things they were holding in their head were.

Lyta Gold:           I think people in… and this is true across racial lines. I think people are not clear on the class barriers to the arts right now. Because you always hear some story and then people love to tell stories of the one person who did make it.

Bertrand Cooper:       Yeah. So I became probably addicted in some ways, to the degree that you can, to looking up everybody. That if I could give one actual thing to people it’s not that you should only enjoy the art of people from lower classes or financial struggle or anything like that. It’s that if that’s the specific reason that you are choosing to participate in a genre of art, then you should look up the person because in our society it’s very easy to not mention your class. And I remember finding actors, millennial actors were really fascinating on this point for me because most of the millennial actors who were getting anywhere were all child actors.

Lyta Gold:               Yeah.

Bertrand Cooper:      Many of them picked out by Disney. And that story of the waitress who just makes it really wasn’t much of a thing anymore. And it would be rare to read a story… I want to say, she’s not fully the story of the waitress who just comes out of nowhere, but Aya Cash from You’re the Worst, I think was one of the most recent stories I had seen where her family was at least regular, if that makes any sense to folks, and she worked as a waitress and whatnot. But most other people whether you’re talking about like Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Stone, Saoirse Ronan, so many of these people, their start is you got to get into that at age 12 which normally means you need at least one parent who can cart you out to L.A. and another parent who can support while you’re just going to auditions all day. And yeah, that completely changes the dynamic of success for acting.

And then I still laugh sometimes thinking about your comments in the Google Doc when I was just going over how many people who were, if you go through the national book awards, it’s always they’re billing these folks as, oh, a new writer, new to the entire world. But then you look at their history and it’s like, well, they went to Brown and then they went to Columbia and got their MFA and then they’ve been writing short stories or critical analysis in a few boutique journals that relate to English or creative writing for the last four or five years. So everybody in publishing and everybody in that role has known about them for five years. This is just the first time the rest of us are hearing about them.

Lyta Gold:                 So the other day I tried to sign up for one of these freelance editing sites because it’s a good way to be listed. And I found out I wasn’t eligible to sign up for it even though I was a managing editor of a magazine for over three years. I wasn’t eligible to sign up because to sign up for this particular site you had to have at least, I think at least three years with one of the big five publishers and –

Bertrand Cooper:     Really?

Lyta Gold:           To get it. Yeah. So you have to have been in it and left it, I guess. But the thing is to get into the big five publishers – I think this is still true, it was definitely true when I was graduating college – You have to take an unpaid internship in New York. There’s no other way to do it. It might be paid now, it’s probably a shitty little stipend if it is. But so basically you have to be rich or you have to have some connection, some place where you can house sit and some way to pay your bills. And so even to get on this dinky little freelance editing site I needed a credential that I could not afford to have gotten.

Bertrand Cooper:    Yeah. I have no idea how I would’ve done any of this without having found a day job that was also remote several years ago. And by complete accident, this was not part of a master plan to one day get to be in writing. It just worked out beautifully because I’ve been lucky enough to meet people like you and a few other folks. And now over in journalism, some people have been in it for a decade or more who will just tell me flat out, yeah, most of the people who can say for The Times or these other magazines, they’re either supported by family or they’re supported by a partner like a spouse of some kind. And that’s the only reason that they can do this all the time while still being basically required to live in one of the most expensive cities. Oh, if you’re not in New York City, then you got to be in Chicago or you got to be in Washington or you got to be in L.A. And yeah, I don’t know how anyone would afford to do that.

Lyta Gold:               I think a lot about the George Carlin quote, where it’s a big club and you’re not in it.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah. Pretty much. Yeah.

Lyta Gold:                Yeah. So we… One of the reasons I wanted to bring you in here today was not just to talk about how amazing you are and how amazing the article is, though all those things are true. So my realization that… Because I don’t think I was really raised with the understanding that class barriers were a thing. And my realization only came when I graduated college because it was always like, yes, there’s class, but if you work hard, that won’t matter. But it was really when I came of age, so to speak, graduated college, that it was like, oh, I cannot, I’m not part of this club. There is this big fucking club. I am not in it. I was not born into it and I’m not going to be able to get into it. Not without a lot of luck.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah.

Lyta Gold:             Yeah. And so to that end, I wanted to bring you in to discuss something that you love, which is coming of age movies. Because I think this is… You brought this up too as a place where a lot of class issues get buried. And it’s a place where you watch a coming of age movie to learn about what are the typical and different kinds of typical childhoods. But what does the transition from childhood to adulthood look like? And one of the things that is remarkable about these transitions is that they often allay class or they talk about class but they’re really dishonest about it in ways that are really upsetting.

And so I think what happens to a lot of people is because they have these pop cultural scripts that they grow up with. They then graduate or they leave, they graduate high school or graduate college or whatever, or they don’t graduate. And regardless, they end up in a world that completely makes no sense because it is completely different than the scripts that they were raised with. And the scripts that say that you can rise and that these things will work out or scripts that ignore class altogether and treat it like it’s no big deal. So yeah, I was curious, so you like coming of age movies though in general, it’s a thing for you.

Bertrand Cooper:       So it’s interesting. I like… So when you try to look up… This started with me looking, you and I looking for an interesting thing to talk about. I mentioned how very often movies about teenagers frustrate me. And at the same time, I have liked many coming of age movies. Some of which we’ll get to talk about. But there’s something, there’s this specific… Well, for one, coming of age seems to have such… It covers so much. Sometimes the protagonists are 10, 11, 12. Sometimes they’re 14, 15. And sometimes they’re in their senior year of high school. And so it can be at any point, but there’s always this idea of coming into adulthood or starting to see what life will really be like. But there’s a genre within there where you know it’s specifically meant for teenagers, it’s meant for teenage consumption.

And there’s a very specific way that those movies are done. I want to say some that you’ve named that… Everyone will think about it as something like 10 Things I Hate About You. And these were always frustrating for me because, I don’t know, it’s almost like you’re in the 1920s and sure, everybody wants to remember the Great Gatsby and the gilded age, half the country’s still rural and you’re living on a farm, nowhere near a city.

I’m watching all these teenagers where all of the dilemmas, all the obstacles, everything in their life is really… It only exists in a social sphere and mostly in high school, it just exists between them and teenagers, and most of the external world just leaves them alone. They’re not facing… They’re bubble wrapped in these ways that I just couldn’t relate to, which we’ll probably dive in. So I love movies, so I watched all these, but I would always just see… Well, they seem to, for the most part, all be from the same class and these big, I think something you mentioned like big California houses.

They go to these massive high schools that must have two or 3000 students. And all of the drama in their life, especially because so many of these seem to be written around a female protagonist, it’s just relationships. Either their friendships or their romantic relationships. That’s where all the struggle comes from. Which, as people have heard me talk, I’m sure some of your listeners have a very different experience. That’s hard, it’s hard to relate to that. If your school is a terrible place in real life and as soon as you go home you can’t just think about whether or not the boy or girl you like likes you back because you’re also hungry or you’re taking care of an elderly parent or a younger sibling.

It’s just there are all these ranges of being a teenager that just don’t get covered in those films. And then also for me it gets at this, I think one of the movies you mentioned was Stand By Me. And when I watch –

Lyta Gold:            Yes.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah. When I watch films like that I relate to that childhood, the childhood of folks in the ’70s where there’s not a lot of supervision and there’s a lot of just danger and being able. Despite there being danger outside in the world, you’re just given advice like, yeah, just come back before the lights go on. I relate to that much, much more than many of the coming of age teenage stories that I see now.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah. It’s the ’90s and early 2000s. I mean there were a slew of movies like 10 Things I Hate About You, which incidentally, it’s a movie I’ve seen about a hundred times. I do love it.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah.

Lyta Gold:            But in these movies, I tend to get lost in these big California houses because they’re almost distracting because they’re characters in themselves, which is the cultural expectation that people are raised with. None of the kids are ever worried if they’re going to go to college or not. They almost never have jobs. If one of them has to have a job it’s a big like, ooh, that’s the poor kid.

Bertrand Cooper:       For sure.

Lyta Gold:              Type of thing. Yeah. And often the poor kid is the best friend of the main kid, sympathetic, et cetera. But there’s such a strange world of expectations. And it’s interesting you bring with Stand By Me the way that kids live outside and unsupervised and how that was the ’70s thing. It really is a remarkable change in the way that middle class kids are raised, where it used to be a thing where kids could run around and now middle class kids, they are inside those California houses. They are internalized. Even before quarantine, it was such a thing.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah. Time is structured.

Lyta Gold:               Yeah. Time is very structured because it’s all this very, obviously you’re getting into a college and you need to get into the best college. And there’s tons of pressure and there’s tons of fear of the outside and fear of unsupervised experiences. Because what if they go outside and see a dead body like they did on Stand By Me?

Bertrand Cooper:     And in terms of the cultural script you’re talking about, and I also used to substitute teach and I think it’s a benefit to get to do that to get to be around high school kids. And I’d like to do it again soon just to see because I didn’t get to catch much of Gen Z. But the sorts of dream jobs that they give to these teenagers which you and I have just gone over now are the ones that are part of the big club that are the hardest to get into where people want to be journalists or they want to be the head of some nonprofit organization or a corporate lawyer. Or I feel like this one comes up, some other folks have made this joke, but we saw it in Booksmart.

The youngest judge ever nominated to the Supreme Court. And this is something that I got to see in real life where you did get to see people getting information from films. Where lots of teenagers that I spoke to, I was subbing in 2014, 2015, I still had high school kids who were saying they wanted to be a journalist or they wanted to be… And now they wanted to be these different things or maybe some of the more techy ones wanted to start an entire company.

But I had friends now who had majored in journalism because they didn’t know how the bottom was going to fall out six years prior. And there were still people where, as far as movies are concerned, you’re going to be a journalist, you’re going to be an investigative reporter. They’re giving people this script where it’s like to have a passion and to have a job worth centering your life around you got to pick one of those careers that almost no one gets to do.

Lyta Gold:             And you maybe we should start with Gilmore Girls because I think that’s such an encapsulation of it. Because you have Rory Gilmore who has this interesting class background because her grandparents are extremely wealthy but then her mom had a baby when she was very young. And so then grew up poor very first and then middle class because her mom’s business et cetera.

Anyway, Rory’s going to Yale. She wants to be a journalist. And the main show ends with her going to go work for the Obama campaign. And it’s this very sunny, excited ending. And I guess it was ’07, ’08 it must have come out.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah.

Lyta Gold:             And then the new show came out. They did a 10 years later show which most people hated but I absolutely fucking loved because Rory is a washed up mess who cannot get a job, cannot get a journalism job. This is funny. She has an interview at Condé Nast at the whole company, I guess? The whole building? They’re really not clear about that.

And yeah, no, it didn’t work. It didn’t work out for her because it often doesn’t. Even with her grandparents connections and even with their name and all that it didn’t work. And she ends up having sex with Chewbacca, a guy dressed like Chewbacca, and she gets pregnant and that’s how the newest show ends and it’s brilliant and people hated it.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. So like I told you, I saw the regular seasons many times, especially having so many female cousins, but I didn’t catch the newer stuff, but I did get those broad strokes that you mentioned and that people hated it. But I guess part of why they hate it is that it’s supposed to be that if you do all the steps like Rory did and you have everything in your corner with the big family name, it’s all supposed to work out. But yeah, I mean, if you or I were to look up how many people Columbia, say, graduates every year for journalism, it’s quite a lot of people when you consider how few jobs there are to be an elite level or a journalist employed at an elite institution. It’s like, yeah, Columbia’s probably graduating hundreds of journalism majors who are not going to their dream job. They’ll get some other job, I’m sure they’ll be very well taken care of because of those credentials. But in terms of achieving the actual dream, probably going to be a lot messier than that. I don’t know if it always ends with meeting Chewbacca.

Lyta Gold:            Listen, whomst amongst us. Yeah. So it’s funny because on the one hand you can’t cry too hard for people who went through higher education and were disappointed. I mean, I went to Oberlin, I’m hardly suffering here. But at the same time you end up with lots of people who are extremely talented who don’t get to do the thing that they wanted to. Not just the thing that they wanted to do, but the thing they would’ve been really good at doing.

Bertrand Cooper:     And that is very disappointing to me, especially because, I don’t know, I keep thinking of now because they’re all in my brain. It’s tie-ins into the movies that we had watched, but the people who do get and they end up basically choosing their replicants. Because I’m thinking of, say, when you watch a lot of these films, like you watch a Lady Bird, theater. And theater kids come up in films like these so often. And I think about when I was reading through the National Book Award winners back in 2019, the book that won was Trust Exercise and it was written by a woman who, I think she teaches at Yale now and she had a similar, I want to say double Ivy education, but she had gone to a performance arts high school.

And so you have this situation where many people are writing the same stuff because the pool that there’s… Not necessarily writing the exact same stuff, but the life experiences, everything they’re pulling from is the same. And I would say that even within all the students graduating from Columbia there’s probably more diversity than what we’re seeing, but they pick the same. They just pick people who have such similar backgrounds. And I got to touch on this in the piece a little bit, but for me I think about how friendship normally works and how professional relationships really work. You tend to want to work with people that you have stuff in common with. And so if you can both say like, oh, I too went to a performance arts high school. Well then you might end up with a lot of novels and shows about theater kids.

Lyta Gold:              Susan Choi, the one novel of hers that she wrote, Trust Exercise, the one novel I’ve read of hers was My Education. Is that what it’s called? Yeah. My Education. And I liked it, but it’s a college novel. And so how many college novels can one person read? How much life experience gets covered? And then when people do write about other things and maybe they’re writing about things that are outside their sphere of expertise, which again, theoretically is totally fine. People don’t only have to write about things that happen to them. But then do they completely steal and completely appropriate things that stories have belonged to other people, people who would not be able to participate in the telling of these stories?

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. I mean, do you already know how I feel? I think they certainly do. Particularly, it’s like you can tell when some… I mean, if you belong to the group that’s being appropriated from and then you read that book or you see that – You can always tell this person is internalizing these events and describing them, the narrator is describing them in a way that I would never describe them to myself that way. I wouldn’t interpret things this way and this is a bit abstract, I guess, but you see a lot of films about poor people, but you can see them internalizing in a way that feels like did this poor person also go to an art theory class in graduate school? They’re responding to their environment when they’re given the opportunity to talk about how they’re processing things, it’s all using language and ways of thinking that I know are familiar to my highly educated friends but it’s not the way I would’ve heard people living through poverty describe it. So it’s just noticeable to me.

Lyta Gold:             Yeah. So it has that inauthentic feeling to it.

Bertrand Cooper:       Yeah.

Lyta Gold:               So when it comes to something like Lady Bird, and Lady Bird is interesting because it actually does consider class very carefully. And Lady Bird herself is from a downwardly mobile family. Does that ring true to you? I mean, again, I don’t know actually about the authentic experience of the people who made it, but does it feel more true would you say?

Bertrand Cooper:     So I really like Lady Bird and I find the way it does class very interesting. And getting to rewatch it I enjoyed it even more because it’s like… So for me, one of the things I get out of Lady Bird is that Lady Bird is a great visual example for me to point to other people and say, this is very often what you think the word poor means. Very often people think poor means lower. Her mom has what might be called a pink collar job. She’s a psychiatric nurse. And the dad, if the dad was also working, they could be more in that solidly middle-class range. But if you were to look up what a psych nurse makes in 2002 you’d end up with a number that’s two or three times what somebody living in poverty earns.

And so it’s interesting to me in that regard that it’s like, okay, here’s what many people think poverty looks like. And it’s also why they think, oh, you just got to make smart choices, knuckle down and hold out and you’ll get that job. They’re imagining someone who can just apply a bunch like the dad. Poverty is something much, much more deprived than that. At the same time, they live in a terrible limbo where they have just enough opportunity to see the things that would get their daughter, or that Lady Bird sees for herself, would get her to really everything that full degree of self actualization, but there’s no chance of her affording that. It’s just not going to happen. And so I don’t know, she’s stuck in a way that still feels really, really depressing to me. Got just enough abundance to have a house, to go to a pretty good school.

But I don’t know if George Carlin’s going to keep coming up now, but that big club, she doesn’t have the credentials for that. She basically has just enough momentum behind her to maybe keep up the exact life that her parents have had, which is the life in which you’ll probably always have access to basic necessities but you’re probably going to land a job that’s never going to give you enough time to self actualize. You’re not going to be able to write that novel on the weekends. And that’s really shitty for a person with as many artistic inclinations as Lady Bird. I get that. I think poverty’s really one of the worst conditions around, but would I be that excited about a life where I can just never express any of my artistic impulses being who I am? No, that also sounds like its own hellscape.

Lyta Gold:          Yeah. I loved that movie. One of the things I really loved about the ending of it is that she does end up getting into a school in New York but it is never at any point clear that that will help her get out of the situation. Because it might, given the background that she comes from. It very well might not. It very well might not be the answer. She could slip into real poverty.

Bertrand Cooper:      For sure.

Lyta Gold:              There are lots of things that are possible for her.

Bertrand Cooper:      Oh, I was going to say they did such a good job at depicting her trying to be more authentic, but that it’s not one choice, she’d have to try to be authentic all the time. So when she meets that guy at that first college party she’s able to hold the line and say her real name. She’s Christine.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah.

Bertrand Cooper:     And then she tries another one, she says she’s from Sacramento. But when he doesn’t hear her the first time, she just can’t say it again. So she says San Francisco and watching her struggle with that, just in the span of two sentences, that looks like identity formation to me. That just looked really good.

Lyta Gold:             So, but that’s something you said that you wouldn’t see and something that was less authentic and something that was imitating.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah. I mean, I have been surprised sometimes by people’s ability to imagine experiences other than the one they had, I really have. Some people have blown me away. Sean Baker who did Florida Project, that movie leveled me and that is not his background. So it does happen, but there are so many nuances in Lady Bird that if I have to make a wager, this person must really know what it’s like to be downwardly mobile, or at least are really stuck in the bottom middle class where it’s like you’re not without shelter, you’re not without food or clothing, whatever, but you don’t have enough to have the sort of life that’s worth living, if that makes sense.

And like you said, we really don’t know what’s going to happen to her at college. She’s still figuring it out, she has alcohol poisoning pretty early on. Yeah. And you wonder if she had to tell that guy that she was from San Francisco, which is a version of her lying about the house she lives in. Is she ever going to be able to tell the people coming from those wealthier backgrounds her real back story? Is she always going to have to curate a better image?

Lyta Gold:          Yeah. And because if you want to get into this club and you get into this in your article a bit where, as you were saying earlier too, you relate to people by their experiences, to get into the club you have to drop these references.

Bertrand Cooper:      Right.

Lyta Gold:              Yeah.

Bertrand Cooper:        Yeah. That one’s really interesting. I also enjoyed… I’m sure lots of people do this, but coming up with the backstory that isn’t presented in too much detail. When I watch something like that, it’s almost I really, in many ways the mom, Lady Bird’s mom, I resonate with her a lot. And I almost wonder, if I had a kid, would that be the way that I see them? Because I felt like the mom almost sees this teenage life the way I see so many of these teenage movies where at one point, Lady Bird’s just like, didn’t you ever not put all of your clothes away perfectly and didn’t you hope your mom wouldn’t get angry at you for it? That recognition and all her mom can do is look at her for a second.

And the nicest, most understanding thing her mom can muster that moment is like, my mom was an abusive alcoholic. And then she leaves and I was like, that’s probably really very much what it’s like for people to see their kids grow up at least a class above them, or possibly just grow up with a better household than them. Because there are many people in all classes who have an alcoholic or abusive parent. But yeah, I related to that. I was just wondering, my kid would probably be solidly middle class when I hear them talk about their lives. And I’m like this just sounds like 10 Things I Hate About You to me. I don’t relate to these problems.

Lyta Gold:             Yeah. Yeah. And throughout the movie the mom seems very… It takes you a while to get her. But ultimately, she really doesn’t want her daughter to suffer the way that she suffered.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah.

Lyta Gold:             And she really does want her daughter to make it. And so anytime her daughter’s not putting her clothes away or not working hard in school or something, or acting out in some way, it drives her completely crazy because her daughter does not understand that she’s about to go out into a world that is completely, that has no tolerance or patience and is more than willing to let her slip through the cracks.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. Yeah. Very much so. In a way it’s like watching someone who has bought the cultural script in a lot of these teen movies in the form of Lady Bird who thinks like, no, she needs to have the life that she’s supposed to have where it’s like teenagers go out, they have fun. And then one day they get to go to a Northeastern school that has culture and do really, really profound art. And her mom probably just mostly wants her to not have a bunch of debt to be able to make money that she actually gets to keep.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah. Her mom doesn’t want her to go to Columbia. Her mom wants her to go to the local college and just get a useful degree.

Bertrand Cooper:       Yeah.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah. And it makes sense, of course she would want those things because she wants stability, not reaching for dreams.

Bertrand Cooper:        Yeah. I also love what a scumbag Timothée Chalamet is in that movie.

Lyta Gold:                He is. You know what? I have a love-hate relationship with him because he’s such a little weasel.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah.

Lyta Gold:           And he often plays little weasels, but he’s a very good actor. You really want to beat the shit out of him. I’ve known that specific guy that he plays. He’s like this snotty little pseudo intellectual little bitch. You just want to punch him. But I’ve completely known that guy. I dated that guy. I’m not proud of things.

Bertrand Cooper:    Okay. So that makes Lady Bird a fun watch for you. Yeah. Rewatching it now with much more experience… Because I grew up in a very apolitical setting and obviously the last few years attempting to write this or attempting to write the Current Affairs piece or do the research for it that led up to it was really my introduction to the world of other thinking people who read nonfiction books for fun. So this was my time where I got to meet people like his character because I really didn’t know them growing up. And it was interesting to me to watch him as this… I don’t know that anyone’s doing this consciously, but he’s able to use his knowledge of pain happening globally.

He’s so concerned with pain happening out there, but he’s never going to be in a position to have to do anything about that pain. He’s not going to have to go to Africa or to the Middle East or do anything. He’s just allowed to keep it around as it makes him feel as if he’s out there caring more than other people and it just obscures his self absorption and what a terrible person he is. Because he’s able to say, well yeah, this person doesn’t even care about what’s going on over here. And it’s like but you’re never going to be asked to do anything about that concern you have, you just get to wear it as a shield when somebody might call you on your bullshit.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah. The movie is set in 2002, 2003, something around there and so it’s very concerned with the Iraq War and it’s being shown on television and all that. And Chalamet, whenever he’s challenged on anything in their relationship, he’s always like, well, you know the war. He always brings up the war and that’s how that exists for him.

Bertrand Cooper:       Yeah.

Lyta Gold:          Yeah. As a place to feel superior to others rather than anything useful.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. He’s feeling pain about real things that matter. And if anyone brings up to him how he’s a dick on a day-to-day basis, well, their complaints are small compared to how many civilians were injured in the Iraq War at that day. It’s very interesting to watch.

Lyta Gold:            If you’re curious what going to Oberlin was like that’s what going to Oberlin was like.

Bertrand Cooper:      Everybody is sitting around reading like Howard Zinn and smoking cigarettes.

Lyta Gold:               Yes, yes. And feeling superior because they know about the suffering in other places. Yeah.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. That’s funny. I also wonder how many of those people like, are you just basing yourself off of Will Hunting? Is that what you’re going for here? Because he was already smoking cigarettes and reading Howard Zinn years before.

Lyta Gold:             Yeah. That’s a point. It’s a model for that. And then Good Will Hunting is an interesting, not a coming of age story, but the guy who slips though the cracks but he really is brilliant and he does get acknowledged, and that’s the fantasy of it.

Bertrand Cooper:     You have to be tricky when you talk about things or careful, or at least I want to be careful when I talk about things like aptitude, intelligence, or any of that stuff. So I’ll just phrase it this way: I was somebody who was lucky enough to be naturally very talented at the exact things that schools and our current knowledge economy selects for. And it doesn’t matter that much because most of the time you’re not going to bump into Robin Williams. So you just get to be the cleverest person at the dive bar and that’s all it really gets you. There aren’t a bunch of systems built to make sure we save all the Will Huntings. Some people do and most of the folks who… It’s like anything else. It’s like if you were to treat that aptitude the same way we treat athletic talents that have a market.

It’s like, there are many people who, because they’re outrageously gifted athletically, if they can survive on a long enough timeline, they will be plucked out of, say, poverty or a really bad situation, but many of them won’t. And we have so many good sports documentaries showing that. I’m trying to remember the one that was Last Chance U, not Last Chance U, there’s another one. Undefeated, where a one kid who makes it, one of his coaches has to basically lend out his room, his living room, to that kid to be tutored there, pays for the tutor, does all the forms and everything for him.

And this kid has the talent to play college football. I’ll leave out whether or not football should be at college. But has all that ability. None of it would matter if you didn’t meet this assistant coach who puts forward this herculean effort. So yeah, that’s the thing about Good Will Hunting, your raw talents. Or the Finding Forrester movies, any of those movies where they imagine just raw talent, you just have that and then you’ll bump into a person who wants to help you make it. That regularly does not happen.

Lyta Gold:           So it’s funny that you bring up the filling of the forms because so much of it… This actually comes up in the Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which is another great coming of age movie, that it made the strange woodsman, how society is… They make you fill out forms and that’s how they get you.

Bertrand Cooper:       Yeah. And if you ever want to stop filling out forms, well, you got to fill out at least five forms for that.

Lyta Gold:         I fucking love… I mean, I love everything Taika Waititi does.

Bertrand Cooper:       Yeah.

Lyta Gold:              But I absolutely love Hunt for the Wilderpeople. It’s a great movie if people haven’t seen it.

Bertrand Cooper:      I love that movie. And I think that movie brings up well, you know what? I do want to be able to frame some of these things so I want to run through the ones that you… So you watched Booksmart a second time. They didn’t love it. And I also, for the first time, have now watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Lyta Gold:             Ah.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah.

Lyta Gold:              Yeah. Actually, let’s finish up with the girl movies before we move to the boy movies, because they’re actually very different in kind.

Bertrand Cooper:        Yeah.

Lyta Gold:            And yeah, that’s an important difference. Yeah. So I watched Booksmart the first time and I liked it because I thought it was very funny and well acted and well directed, put together. I watched it the second time and I viscerally hated it.

Bertrand Cooper:       How far apart were the watchings, can I ask?

Lyta Gold:            A while, a good year and a half or two years.

Bertrand Cooper:      Okay. Yeah.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah. So, but it’s an interesting example when we get back to the baked-in class expectations of these movies and of the typical teen movie. So the premise of Booksmart is that there’s these two girls were friends and they are really, really hard working and they’re going to go to good… Well, one of them is going to go to a good school, one of them is going to eventually go to a good school but she’s going to do work in Africa first. It’s a little weird. And they think they’re so much smarter and better than other kids in their school. And then they find out the other kids in their school, actually they’re all going to good schools too, because turns out they’re all actually smart and nice. And so on the surface, it’s like a story – What the movie wants to be is a movie about how you shouldn’t judge people and sometimes people are actually much cooler than you think they are. What the movie is actually about is how rich people get to go to nice schools without actually working very hard.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah. So I watched that movie for the first time. There were a lot of things I liked about it. It almost felt like there were parts that should be a part of a better movie. And then there were these, this was rare for me, but the second half of that movie I enjoyed more than the first half. With the exception of this Gigi character who was supposed to be this weird, quirky, muse, agent of chaos, wise person moving the story along in different ways, but was just so completely unbelievable that it distracts from the parts of the movie, for me, that are supposed to be more realistic. She was just… You needed to convey this wisdom through someone else.

Yeah. But there were parts that were good and then other parts were strained. So what you said, that all these people are very nice and they’re all getting into good… That was the part that was a little bit difficult for me. It started off okay, because in the movie she has a bad interaction in the bathroom, she hears other people talking badly about her and then finds out that they’re all going to good schools. Because she thought her slam dunk was going to be like, I’m going to Yale and you losers are still going to be losers. But then the one who’s like, the one girl who is consistently shamed for promiscuity, it turns out she got a 1560 on her SAT. So she’s going to Yale too. The A –

Lyta Gold:            That’s how it works by the way. That’s the, that’s how… You just get a good score and send you to the good school. That’s completely how it works.

Bertrand Cooper:     The other kid is getting a soccer scholarship to Stanford. And then the third one, he’s not going. But he did get a job at like, I can’t remember if it, I think it’s Apple. It’s not Google, but he did get offered because I guess he’s already programming, whatever. Now these were difficult to believe but these are at least stories that I heard. But then she’s walking through the hallway and somebody’s just dropping lines like, don’t judge me. It was my fifth choice, Harvard. And it’s like, okay –

Lyta Gold:             Come on.

Bertrand Cooper:      I have seen so many essays written by… I think one of the best speeches I ever saw about Stanford’s acceptance is that Stanford at this point is turning away people who do deserve to go there. There just aren’t spots for them. And then the premise of this just, this was their way of getting into… It’s their inciting problem. And I understand that they had to figure out a reason to get these kids to a party, but they chose to make up something that just doesn’t happen.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah. That was my feeling about the movie this time through. The first time I thought it was just funny. The second time I was like, this is a lie. And I know I’m watching a fictional movie about people who aren’t real, but this is not this earth, it does not take place on this earth with these problems. And there’s the two rich kids. So there’s Gigi and then there’s this other guy. And the one moment of class consciousness is when they roll up and the others, and the kids are like, oh, that’s the 1%. And another completely unrealistic thing is they’re extremely unpopular and nobody likes them. Which is like, no, people would be trying extremely hard to be friends with these people. No matter how annoying and strange they were, these kids would suck. The point is that they’re all nice. At least some of these kids would be monsters. Everything, they’d be little Brett Kavanaughs, at least one of them.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah. I do think there was attempts to get this story… Like it’s a movie, suspension of disbelief. I totally get that, but it’s like, okay, not all these kids are going to be that nice. Harvard is not your fifth choice. I don’t even know what choices one through four could be. That’s insane. There are sycophants everywhere. I remember as a kid at eight years old you’re already making calculations like, yeah, I’ll go and hang out that kid because they have a newer console than me. So these kids are freakishly rich throwing yacht parties and everyone’s like, yeah, but their personality isn’t that enjoyable. What?

Lyta Gold:             Yeah, everybody’s on the yacht and so probably somebody will die, and then will be covered up. That’s what happens at yacht parties. As far as I know, never been invited to one.

Bertrand Cooper:      Maybe for the best. If your odds are that you might end up in the river you won’t wanna go to a yacht party. And I’d love to hear your take on this. It was, I felt… What was her name? Not… It’s hard because she was in both movies. Jonah’s sister [crosstalk].

Lyta Gold:             She is in both movies.

Bertrand Cooper:      Well, her character in Booksmart. The character was strange to me. That she was both supposed to be just boss, girlpower. She’s got all these pictures of Ruth Bader Ginsburg up. She’s listening to motivational tapes about what you’re really working for is to crow over your enemies and just absolutely destroy people. But then they also had these little, what I felt were every-nerd-moments where it’s like, but she also knows exactly what Harry Potter, how she’s a part of it and these other… It was like she was supposed to fill these different niche character traits. I don’t know. Maybe there are a bunch of people like that. But the intensity that she was bringing to things, I don’t know that she’s also like fangirling over Harry Potter and all these other things. It felt like they were cramming a lot into her.

Lyta Gold:          I couldn’t tell if they were, at first I thought they were satirizing the girlboss thing because it was so over the top and then there are these shots of her room with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and all that. I don’t even know if they’re really satirizing. It’s a very loving mockery of the girlboss type.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. I can –

Lyta Gold:          She’s still going to go to Yale and try very hard to be the youngest Supreme Court justice ever.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. I don’t know. It’s fun in ways but there were so many ridiculous things crammed into that movie. And then that class has been part of the theme, but yeah, bringing up the 1%. I think you’ve seen me tweet about this. I think you also know my feelings on it. I really, I get the value of that slogan but the idea that there’s just one, the 1% and then everyone else is destitute, drives me insane.

Lyta Gold:             So what was the one thing I liked about that moment in the movie is it reminds me of the times I hung out with people who are from wealthier backgrounds than me. Because one thing I’ve noticed, and I even notice this too about myself being from a middle class background, everybody’s always very aware of the tiers above them. So I have a friend, I went to stay with her parents in their house on Cape Cod. And then when we had to go visit friends of theirs who were very rich and had a really nice house in Cape Cod.

And then my first like, wow, these people are really rich, and I’m like, you guys have a second vacation home on Cape Cod. Like you’re all extreme. So one, but that’s something that again, it’s almost like the wealthier people are, the more conscious they are of these gradations above them. And so those kids being like, oh, that’s the 1%. It’s like, you’re all fucking rich as shit. You’re all like, you’re all… Or wealthy enough. Whether you’re not, you’re technically upper middle class or even upper, whatever. We need more words for the things that we are.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah. It reminded me very much of somebody who was lampooned a lot in Current Affairs, particularly during your time there, which was Ben Shapiro. And I remember him once saying, watching a video of him saying, it’s a common misconception that everybody likes to imagine that millionaires just inherit their money. Most millionaires grew up in families that were only at a hundred thousand dollars or along those lines. And it’s like, nobody’s accusing the millionaires of all being born rich. They’re accusing them of being born with… A hundred thousand dollars is plenty. That household will…

Lyta Gold:          The friend I was talking about with the house in Cape Cod, she went to the same school as the Zuckerbergs. Whose parents… I think I remember right, are orthodontists or something like that, something it’s like, maybe they only had 400,000 a year. But they have like, they grew up in a very nice house and went to a fancy private school and then onto fancy schools. And like the leg up you get. And then each successive tier is a leg up. I mean, again, I went to freaking Oberlin, with scholarships and work-study and all that. But I did go. And these leg ups that you get and that are not addressed in… We don’t talk about, we don’t have social scripts for the extreme differences and the fact that there are, unless you’re in these upper tiers and there’s multiple upper tiers, not just the 1%, you really do not have guarantees. But you still have far more guarantees than you do for people who are in the lower tiers.

Bertrand Cooper:        Yeah. There’s a lot of… There are a lot of jobs in our economy that will pay you enough income to be able to, say, afford food, clothing, shelter, all that stuff. But they certainly won’t provide you with an enjoyable life or a good work-life balance, or allow you to fulfill – And if you are the type of person who’s hoping for one of these dream careers there’s a lot of jobs that our economy offers that are not dream careers, that no one’s dreaming of doing. And you are right. If you’re not a part of a certain tier you’re just not guaranteed access to a lot of these things that the teenagers in these films are dreaming of doing in their adult lives.

Lyta Gold:               Yeah. Yeah. And there’s, again, with the exception of Lady Bird, in most of these movies you don’t see any… Or even sense or or even an ambivalent sense of like this other reality where it does not work out.

Bertrand Cooper:      Which is strange in Booksmart because the one friend is supposed to be the crunchy friend who’s going to Botswana to… They said it first and I thought it was a joke, but then they say it another time in a way where the sarcasm isn’t quite there. So suspecting that she may really be going to Botswana to help manufacture tampons. You would think that she would call out. That person in real life if she hears somebody just saying, oh, there goes the 1%, would be conscious of American compared to global poverty. I don’t think that person would necessarily just let that slide as like, oh yeah, they’re the rich people. Not us, not us.

Lyta Gold:           Or something in the movie should have indicated, just like it should have with the Botswana joke, it’s like, is this a joke? It was so… That’s one of the very strange things about it. When like, is it satirizing girlbossery? Or is it lovingly, tongue-in-cheek addressing it? Very difficult to tell.

Bertrand Cooper:      And one of the other things that I think is a positive about Lady Bird is that it didn’t have the – And correct me if I’m wrong – It didn’t have the insane house party scene. She didn’t get to a house party that’s basically like the Playboy mansion, grotto style, which is –

Lyta Gold:              Oh my God.

Bertrand Cooper:      Such a feature of these other films.

Lyta Gold:            It’s a required staple of these movies. And I used to think when I was a teenager that I was going to like really lame parties because none of my friends threw parties like this and it took me a while to realize that just nobody lived in houses that were gigantic with no adults around.

Bertrand Cooper:        Yeah. It’s in, well… Oh wait, wait, no. They go to one that’s not quite insane. They go to the rich girl’s house, the one who’s played by Odeya. And she, I want to say she has a line where she says her parents are upstairs but they don’t care if she drinks in the house. But it still looks far more low key than what’s happening in, say, Booksmart or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah. Yeah. So To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is interesting. It’s interesting because it’s like a prototypical one of these movies, right? It’s just like, I mean, I like it but it is a perfect example of what these movies are about where it’s our protagonist is a girl, and it’s about sex and relationships and awkwardness and being a teen and then these big old house parties. And there’s actually, as far as I remember, pretty much no mention of class anything. It’s just fine. It’s just not in her. It’s not even on her radar. It’s not even an issue. Money is not a concern.

Bertrand Cooper:     You could almost say that some of the lines really drive that home. For example, in another movie that had a class consciousness, the person wearing vintage combat boots might have said that they were thrifted or had some class consciousness about it. But instead she’s just like, they’re vintage. These were her fashion-forward boots like cheese. Yeah. Everyone in this movie has the income to basically craft their own aesthetic, buy their nice clothes. The one chaotic friend who’s always wearing that wide brimmed hat. I don’t know what those hats are called.

She’s like the closest to a person who , I don’t know, maybe has… She’s the spirit of being against the system, which is often the role that a poor kid is given in these movies. So it’s the closest that you get. There really isn’t any class mentioned. And it’s also, I think it’s, for me, the one that feels the most… Because of the money that these different parents have, these kids’ lives are just about being a kid and being a teenager. And I almost wish I could put that in quotes because the idea of what responsibilities go with being a teenager are very, very, very class based.

Lyta Gold:          Yeah. It’s do your homework and go to school and get into college and all that. And yeah. And fuss about your relationships, worry about your relationships, the coming-of-age for a girl in so many of these movies is first boyfriend or loss of virginity or intense friendship with another girl, something like that. But those are the concerns. And there is not taking care of a sick parent or working a shitty retail job to get enough money for your family, that thing. It’s completely absent.

Bertrand Cooper:       One thing I did like about it, I thought it was okay. I mean, maybe my divorce softened me because I remember disliking these films more in the past. Not the specific ones we’re talking about but the genre of rom-com for teens. But one of the things I did like about Sara Jean is because when I was watching these other… Like Lady Bird, she is an extreme character. And the girls in Booksmart are extreme characters. Sara Jean was closer to where she could just have a pleasant life. This whole thing really kicks off only because her little sister does something insane, otherwise she’s… No, she is quite shy but she still has a best friend. And when I’m looking at the other movies it’s always like it’s the most extreme person at the center.

It almost, again, it made me wonder like, do only people who go to performance arts high schools get to write these movies? And then you see Sara Jean and it’s like, okay, so there’s no class consciousness here, but I can understand why this movie was so popular because at least this is a person who doesn’t have an extreme… I’m extremely eccentric. All the power to all the eccentric people. But I assume it’s got to be interesting to see, if you are a teenager who normally watches these movies, to see a character, who’s just… [crosstalk]

Lyta Gold:             Just a normal girl. She’s a normal girl, a normal girl doing normal girl things.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. She’s not hopping out of the car, gets in a fight with her mom and just dives out of the car and lets her arm fracture.

Lyta Gold:                  Oh man. That opening scene of Lady Bird, they really, it’s such a gorgeously made movie too. The way things are cut together and the way that is such an unexpected moment.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. And she really does that character well. Even just like meeting Luke Hodges in the grocery store and saying like, do you come here often? Her efforts at that sophistication and tongue-in-cheek and irony that she imagines the Columbia student should have, just does it so well.

Lyta Gold:                 And so that’s part of what is fun and tricky about these movies. Because To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, also very well acted and a charming movie and funny in spots. I mean it seems hard to dislike. And it’s like, Lady Bird is really exceptional, really gorgeously put together and covers a lot of bases. But Booksmart is funny and it’s well made and Beanie Feldstein, that’s her name, Jonah Hill’s little sister. But yeah, that’s part of Hollywood. Like it’s there, now it’s an acting family. I don’t think their parents were actors, but they got in. These movies are hard to dislike, but what they leave out is so interesting. What isn’t there is really fascinating.

Bertrand Cooper:        Something for me, maybe this would be like a good place to bring that, is… So I mentioned this earlier, but something about these movies that’s really interesting to me across class lines is just the idea that pushing boundaries, pushing societal boundaries is supposed to be a normal, acceptable, healthy, even desirable part of being an American teenager. And if you come from a situation where, for whatever reason, you just have no money or no support system, that’s insane. Because if you push against the boundaries the repercussions are so incredibly severe. And I want to say even little things, the fact that she can dive out of the car and she just has medical insurance or some, I assume through her mom. I know lots of people where it’s like, you break your arm, you better hope it just heals right. I know that sounds weird, but it’s like, or you hope the emergency room sets it good enough. I know a lot of people with lumpy bones in their forearm or clavicles because things were set well enough.

And at least for me, I’m watching this and it’s interesting for me on the one hand because it’s like, if people like these movies I assume they’re liking them because some of the values or some of the ideas about being a teenager resonate with people or at least seem true. There’s a lot of people in this audience who do think this is a time to push boundaries, that those boundaries are healthy and okay and it’s normal. And to hop from Lady Bird over to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, the dad is happy that she’s going out and that she’s dating, that she looks lit up even though, even at the same time that he just had given her a talk about safe sex and whatnot. He’s happy that she’s at least out there in the world. And what’s interesting for me is like, I know that that’s something about how, or at least I think I know, that that’s something about how Americans perceive being a teenager, and I’ll speak to my own class now.

Poor kids watch a lot of these same movies and I know that they have similar expectations but the difference is that they’re wrong. And a lot of times when they just go about pushing boundaries – And I got to see this with my friends – They really had it in their heads that it was almost like it was just having fun. And I think this is maybe, both to bring this up and then maybe also a segue into when these movies are about boys, but I think the representation of police and jails in these coming of age films really hits this for me. Where in Booksmart a night in the county and, basically in a lot of these movies the only function of police is to break up high school parties. That’s the only interaction, that’s the only existence that police have. And if you go to county or to the drunk tank, that’s often just used as character development or the transition into the third act. The parent, the friend comes to pick you up and it’s no big deal. It’s just an afterthought.

You could jump over to Superbad. And the cops are, they’re the least believable part about that movie, but they’re also one of the funnest parts of that movie where they’re just a couple of guys who became police officers, but they still want the kids to think they’re cool and they’re a really fun time in this movie. But then you get to The Wilderpeople. And police, authority, child welfare system, they’re the enemy. You have a kid who’s been through the system, you find out that uncle is an ex-con for manslaughter and they, I never say his name correctly. Is it Taika Waititi?

Lyta Gold:            I think that’s right.

Bertrand Cooper:       Okay. So he… So excellent that Kiwi brand of humor where he can make things really lighthearted and funny and then do very dark stuff at the same time. Where Ricky Baker just recounts that he had a friend where he had to process things for a long time because his friend, Amber, just, somewhere in the system she just died and nobody told him what happened to her. But it’s why he was scared of juvie. And I won’t ramble much longer, but I want to say that for me, it’s wildly accurate.

I was born in New Jersey, but I was in Florida for a year and a half. At one point, my grandmother, my dad’s mom, who hadn’t been that involved in my life, she alerted the state to the fact that my mom and her boyfriend were, they were just getting heavy into substance abuse. My mom was spiraling through the use of crack and so was her boyfriend. She alerts the state to that. And then the state places me with my grandmother. But my grandmother has a terrible history. She’s thrown out several of her own children. So she puts up with me for a little while.

And then one day she’s flying back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving. And she tells me to go stay with my mom. I’ve already been assigned a state guide school psychologist at this point that I have to give updates to about my daily life. And I mentioned how I’m going to stay with my mom. And she’s like, you can’t do that anymore. You’re not allowed to go back there. I’m like, oh, well, I don’t know where I’m going to go. And she’s like, do you have any friends? And I was like, yeah, I do. I’d actually just been going… I met this one friend. His family likes, very like Christian. And so they were doing the whole very welcoming thing, which was a great boon to me. And she’s like, well, go to lunch, go talk with your friend and I’ll call your grandmother while you’re eating.

I come back. And the first thing she says, I remember her name was Mrs. Bella, she’s just like, Bert, I am so sorry. Your grandmother lost… She was very angry on the phone. She said that you were doing all this to ruin her trip, that you were eating too much of her food and that you couldn’t stay there any longer. So I go back to my mom’s house for the night. Within 24 hours the locks are changed on me. My grandmother threw all my stuff in a big, black garbage bag and dumped it on my mom’s lawn and then said over the phone that she rescinded me. First time I ever heard that word. And I was going to be put in the next step, which is just this in-between house for boys. I had friends who said that was the basically like prison, who had been stabbed there, accosted there, and sexually molested in those places.

I wasn’t going to do that. So before social work came for me I contacted one of my uncles back in New Jersey. I got a plane ticket. People pulled some money together. I left the state of Florida legally, mind you while I was already in the system. And the state of Florida never called a single relative about my disappearance. And when I went to the next high school I just forged a letter from my mom with the help of my aunt saying like, oh, it’s okay for Bertrand to stay with his aunt and uncle right now. And the next high school just accepted it, again calling no one. So this really whimsical movie is incredibly accurate in ways that people maybe are not appreciating it for.

Lyta Gold:          It was a form. That letter, that forged letter was another form. You filled out the forms and that’s how they get you.

Bertrand Cooper:     That’s how they get you. Yeah.

Lyta Gold:           So yeah. For people who haven’t seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople, there’s a plot around, there’s a kid named Ricky Baker who’s in the foster care system, he’s sent to live with a woman named, actually, Bella, who’s very nice. Ironically. Bella’s actually very cool. She’s married to this weird woodsman guy played by Sam Neill, Hector. And then it seems to be working out, but then Bella suddenly dies. And then Hector, he’s a strange guy, doesn’t really want to take care of Baker. And then, yeah. And then Ricky goes off into the bush on his own and he ends up meeting up with Heck who’s also in the bush on his own. And they end up having adventures together. And this whole time they’re being stalked by child protective services or whatever they call it, child welfare. And again, it’s played for laughs. Taika’s a very funny director.

Bertrand Cooper:     Oh yeah.

Lyta Gold:          I just love him. But –

Bertrand Cooper:    Oh, yeah.

Lyta Gold:           I just love him. Again, it’s so… And as you bring up, it’s very real, and it’s interesting that it’s very real even though it’s a different country and a slightly different set of rules, but it doesn’t really matter.

Bertrand Cooper:     So I don’t know enough about storytelling to get all this right. But I always liked fairy tales and folk tales and mythology when I was growing up. I could go to the public library and I would just get those big encyclopedias of this stuff with all the pictures. I loved things like zoo books and stuff like that. I was obsessed with them. And I remember that a lot of those stories have this thing where it’s the point of the coming of age story. Or I think sometimes this is called buildings Roman. I’m probably getting the name wrong. It’s, there’s adults, they’re there, they’re protective. There’s good things about them. Then they’re removed and the young person has to struggle to quickly get up to speed on how to deal with how harsh real life is.

And I see that a lot in Hunt For The Wilderpeople where Ricky Baker has all these fun ideas in his head about being a gangster and being cool. And saying basically the New Zealand equivalent of, he didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose him. He’s 13. And once they’re out in the woods, for the people who haven’t seen this, Sam Neill was trying to bring him back. They get in an argument where Sam Neill tries to rush over to him, ends up twisting or possibly fracturing his leg a little bit. And child services just assumes that Sam Neill must have done something with this kid. And that in a way is maybe the right assumption because they probably lose kids that way all the time.

And there’s a moment where Sam Neill is trying to explain to him that this is not going to go well. And they won’t be able to explain to the authorities what happened and that Sam Neill’s also an ex-con. And so none of these systems are going to believe what he has to say. Ricky’s basically saying, I’ll tell them the truth. You weren’t kidnapping me. He’s like, they’re just not going to believe you.

Lyta Gold:            Yeah. The difference here between a boy’s narrative and a girl narrative I think is really interesting. Most of these coming of age movies are about girls or female protagonists at least. And they’re about relationships and they’re about growing up within society and the boundaries of society are pushed. And as you said, they are often pushed in this really fake way where there aren’t any real consequences for pushing it. They’re not supposed to, obviously like the girl in Booksmart who gets arrested at the end and it’s treated as a joke, but obviously one is not supposed to get arrested but there’s no consequences. Her parents didn’t even show up to bail her out which I thought was super wild.

Bertrand Cooper:      How did the friend do it?

Lyta Gold:               It doesn’t make any sense. It wasn’t living in a realistic world. But then the boy narrative tends to be a story of adventure and a story of living outside society. These are not universal truths, these are the tendencies that we see in these.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. It was really interesting when I had seen you bring that up in your notes because as I was watching this and in prep I had looked through lists of coming of age stories and I saw such a surplus of films that were called coming of age that were really targeted to what I assume is a female audience or at least a female-friendly audience. And by that, I mean it’s a date movie. It’s tolerable for – In theory – Tolerable for the guy or maybe a girl who doesn’t really like this stuff, but you could bring a date to this. But the need for coming of age instruction is probably still there for me. So I was wondering, what do they watch? That was one question I had. Are they getting this instruction elsewhere?

Or are they secretly watching these movies and just not telling anyone. The adventure part, we brought up Stand By Me. A lot of times it seems to be just a more junior version of the stripped down hero’s journey, where you’ve got to go out in the world and there’s mortal danger of some kind. It’s almost like social relationships and things like that, those are not where a boy’s challenges come from. I think you also noted this a little bit, they very rarely deal with crushes. The boys are very often before sexual urge begins or if it does, in the case of Ricky Baker, it’s very, what’s the word, chaste? It’s very chaste. It’s so light and it doesn’t consume him. It’s just a nice part that he got to be saved by this girl that he also develops a quick crush on and then they move on.

As compared to it’s the driving thing in Booksmart. It’s one of the drivers, but not the soul one, in Lady Bird. And obviously it is the plot of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. And you’re right about just having to be on this adventure where it’s social stuff, that won’t be your problem, your problem is whether or not you can stop systems from killing or exploiting you or whether you can survive in the bush. Or in Stand By Me, whether you and your friends can make it…

Lyta Gold:           Have a confrontation with death and avoid being beaten up by the bullies.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. Confrontation with… For all the positives that Hunt For The Wilderpeople has, I could see some people wondering if… Is that Ricky Baker comes into his own by doing a bunch of… Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but a bunch of really classically male things. He learns how to hunt, survive in the woods, he becomes hard. He stops complaining and needing so many comforts. I think Taika does it in a really good way because Ricky’s clearly… He never loses his love of reading. He clearly sees value in the different positive psychology tools that have been given to him in these different homes. He’s still doing haikus. Has a lot of tender moments so that it’s not just a become a real man and you’ll stop feeling sad. But it’s interesting that it’s still done with, he’s got to learn how to hunt, survive on his own. And his only friend is this cantankerous old guy and a dog.

Lyta Gold:            And it’s charming. And there is a relationship at the core of it in many ways because it’s his relationship with Sam Neill and then Stand By Me is arguably in many ways a story about friendship too. But it’s how people are defined and how they learn to define themselves is not necessarily through relationships. And the Hunt for the Wilderpeople has this really interesting ending where they end up getting caught and Sam Neill has to go to jail for a little bit and then the halfway house for a little bit. And they just hang out again together and meet up again. And then they go back to the woods. It’s almost without consequence, which is very interesting.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah, which is nice. I was curious if you knew of… Do you know of any movies that, I’ll say live action, because as I said it… I should just say my questions for once, I’m always rambling. Movies that have a female protagonist where adventure and the external world and life and death stakes are her path to development. I can think of… Those were some of the things that I really liked about, say, the animated Moana. I really, really enjoyed that a lot. But in terms of thinking of live action, that feels very classically coming of age.

Lyta Gold:             I can think of novels. So this is something that’s interesting about me in general, which is that I have a tendency to prefer boy stuff to girl stuff. So I’d prefer action, adventure-y kinds of stories. And of all these movies… Lady Bird‘s a wonderful movie, I really loved it, but Hunt for the Wilderpeople is closer to my heart. But the novels that I grew up really loving when I was a teenager were essentially boy stories with girl protagonists. Stories where girls got to have adventures and also had meaningful relationships and things like that. But they were, in many ways, they were formatted more like the classic boy’s story.

Bertrand Cooper:     I see. Yeah.

Lyta Gold:               So Tamora Pierce wrote these novels, pretty well known. The Lioness Quartet. It’s a girl who dresses up as a knight. She dresses up as a boy and has those kinds of adventures. But I tend not to watch as many girl movies and I tend not to look for as many girl movies in part because if it’s a story with realism, that’s about relationships, it’s not that I won’t like it, but it’s because it takes place within the social realm, if there’s any push against it, it’s unrealistic. That just isn’t as fun, isn’t as thrilling as watching adorable Ricky Baker plunge through the wilderness.

Bertrand Cooper:      I get that. Yeah. I was curious about that also, because I tend to like the adventure movies. I tend to like the adventure movies more. I’m not quite sure why that is. Because I know that other people find a movie where all of the tension, all the obstacles exist in the space between people within relationships. But I much prefer it when it’s an external adventure and the threats are these, will you survive in the bush, or people are hunting for you and things like that. I was going to say that I am interested, why there would be this thing where… Why are the boys either before sexual interest or it’s very, very tame?

And for me, I made a note about this, but it’s just something that I’ve noticed for a while, that a lot of times when the classic hero’s journey is in a film that’s really, really targeted for a male audience, which doesn’t mean it won’t have tons of female fans, there’s this tendency to make the romantic lives very simple. And you can use Keanu Reeves for both of these, where the male action hero has either one true love in the case of Trinity or he had one true love but they’re dead now in the case of John Wick. But with the female stories there’s these different relationship paths. There’s multiple partners that might have been possible. I’m not remembering Deadpool too clearly, but –

Lyta Gold:          Oh, she dies. Yeah.

Bertrand Cooper:      Deadpool’s –

Lyta Gold:            Yeah, they make a big thing of it.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. And he’s a character where he really very easily could have been pushed over to these characters, I want to say less common for movies that are solely for when it’s targeted towards men and it’s meant to be action. You tend to see that either you have one true love or your true love died. Deadpool could have been one of the small number that’s in that James Bond category where he couldn’t… You could have seen him being depicted as a womanizer, but they took even the foul mouth insane wall breaking character and still, well he is going to have one true love and then she’ll die.

Lyta Gold:              Yeah.

Bertrand Cooper:      I wonder why –

Lyta Gold:         Bisexual hero, Deadpool also. It’s complicated and it’s a really good question and maybe an episode that we should do in the future. Because my immediate response to why it is this way that it’s… You can represent the male love interest in all kinds of ways. They can be sweet like they are in To All The Boys I Loved Before, they can be Timothée Chalamet, shitty fucking know-it-all kid. Good actor, Timothée Chalamet, got to be real. They can have a complexity that female love interests don’t get. Because you are running into virgin horror complex things with female love interests.

So dead is very convenient because dead can be mourned and dead is perfect and also nonsexual. Because this is actually a problem because if a guy has a girl and he’s having sex with her, that means she’s a sexual object and therefore is tainted. In The Matrix, I always, sorry. I know people are Matrix lovers. I’m a Matrix… eh. And partly because I find that very, you can’t die because I love you. I think that’s really stupid. No offense. They do have sex in later movies in a very silly scene. But it’s hard for a lot of, even female directors and even female writers to imagine that the female love interest in a story like that as being both sexual and a person?

Because if they’re sexual then they’re also a sinner. That gets really… That is convenient. Or it’s unconsummated in some way or impossible in some way. Luke Skywalker’s a good example here of wants to fuck his sister early on but… It’s fine. It’s fine. But it’s also another celibate hero, basically. It is a problem because it… And again, the way that these fall into boy stories and girl stories. They don’t have to, and you don’t have to have class represented in certain ways. You don’t have their gender represented in certain ways.

But we are so accustomed to certain social scripts that we don’t even think,hey, what would happen if you wrote this differently? What would happen if in a story, a typical action story with a heroic guy, they both had sex and she was alive and had a personality. What if? I know, I know it’s not done very much. Or what if you had a coming of age story about a girl who pushes back against social norms in a realistic way and not a fantasy way.

Bertrand Cooper:    Yeah, it’s very interesting. And I’ll say it just because I can’t let that lie. I’m a Matrix one absolute lover.

Lyta Gold:               Most people are. I just… It doesn’t do it for me.

Bertrand Cooper:     And then I go down a rabbit hole that, to quickly relate it to people. When the Midichlorians came out, that’s how I feel about Neo having actual powers. And I lose my mind. But I do remember the part that you’re saying obviously, and I don’t love that explanation. I didn’t love it when Interstellar did it either.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah, eugh, sorry.

Bertrand Cooper:      Not to go into a completely different thing, but when love’s the thing that’s… Yeah. And love is great. Just say that on the record.

Lyta Gold:             We’re pro love on this podcast. Very into it.

Bertrand Cooper:    I was looking at it. So this seems almost like they’re bowing out of it. It’s just easier, in a way, to do. Or maybe they have constraints, they can’t imagine writing this female love interest who also has a personality, that a sex scene happens and it’s still fine. We don’t have to kill her off. I was also just thinking of a lot of times I see these stories and I just think male heroes are supposed to be so singularly focused and the most they can get away with is a true love. Because at least then it’s still a singular guy. He has one mission and he has one love, but it’s still hard… There’s a way in which sex is, I feel is almost too frivolous for a guy with this intense of a mission. If he’s thinking about that then is he really focused on stopping that doomsday device from going off? Is he heroic enough?

Lyta Gold:             I just watched Die Hard over Christmas and classic… I think it was one of the… If it wasn’t the first, it’s the platonic ideal that the guy needs to prove that he is a worthy husband. The ex has to prove that he is a worthy husband and father by doing an extremely ridiculous, heroic thing that is unrelated to… And then he gets the girl back in the end. There’s a whole other episode we should probably do on the lengths that we go through to depict male heroism that’s separate from all other parts of life.

Bertrand Cooper:    Yeah. It’s interesting. I actually I’ve decided that I’m going to go through some more of these because now I have –

Lyta Gold:           Yay.

Bertrand Cooper:      Now I have questions. I’m like, maybe I just haven’t seen the movie that’s capturing the things that we’re discussing. That being said, we both seem to be fans of Lady Bird. It would be interesting to see a Lady Bird that was just slightly more self-aware. I don’t need a movie to be perfect, but just if it was… Well, I guess the mom does. The mom’s perspective is that she is very spoiled. But it’d be interesting to see somebody ever go to a county jail, get taken out and the person being like, you know other people can’t just get out of county, right?

Lyta Gold:          One way to have ended Lady Bird, which could have been interesting – I love the ambiguity of the ending – But it would’ve been interesting if maybe she didn’t get into Columbia and maybe things didn’t work out for her and maybe she just went to jail or something like that. It would’ve been awful and very depressing, but it might have been an interesting move that you don’t see in a coming of age story. Because a coming of age story, by its nature people often follow the hero’s journey and the person starts in a nice place and they go on the journey and they end it back where they came from with the lessons that they’ve learned. That’s the classic building drama and structure. Sometimes people’s lives are not like that at all. And they go from one danger into another danger or they should be on a good path – Good in socially determined ways – But then very bad things happen and they’re fucked.

Bertrand Cooper:     Yeah. The exact situation that Lady Bird’s in I’m sure many women have been in, but the dad’s already struggling with depression. So if that mom gets sick, if she gets cancer, he’s not going to be able to take care of her. And many women have been in Lady Bird’s position where if you go to college, you can’t take care of your parents now. And if you do take care of your parents, that whole thing is now derailed and your life goes in a completely different direction. And that happens to people all the time.

Lyta Gold:           Yeah. And so what does it mean to come of age in a situation that’s totally different from the typical you go to college story?

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah. This is almost a throwaway, but also… It’s not a throwaway. It’s just a thing. I don’t know. I’m going to go with how I just want to say it anyway. Could they do one of these movies about somebody who wants to go vocational school, is that just not possible to write about? I feel anytime someone has the character in one of these movies of just wanting to be alive, their whole goal is just they like human relationships, they like their friendships, they like hanging out with their friends, and the most they want from a job is for it to pay their bills and then get the fuck out of their way while they enjoy the human connection that makes life worth living. Whenever they do that character, there’s always a malaise or ennui about them.

I’m thinking of Garden State and the guy is like, I like being unimpressive. I sleep better. But he’s also living with his mom. That’s a thought a teen could have. A teenager could be thinking, yeah, I want to become an adult, but not an adult like the rest of these. And I’m not depressed, I just don’t want to be a lawyer. And there’s not a lot of movies about coming of age into a person, or from what I can see, who’s not going to have a career as the spear of their life who wants to, I don’t know. I can’t say it in a better way. They just want their job to stay the fuck out of their way while they enjoy their evenings and weekends.

Lyta Gold:          This movie is called Vibe. We will be writing it shortly. The people who just want to vibe. Yeah. It would be nice. I’d love to see some unambitious women.

Bertrand Cooper:     Right.

Lyta Gold:          Yeah. Oh God. Women who do not want to be the youngest Supreme Court justice, who just want to vibe, who just want to have a good time.

Bertrand Cooper:       That would be really… How do I put it? I’ve actually seen that in real life with people that I know who are dating, where this gets into class stuff for me right now, but I have a lot of college educated friends and whatnot. But I always had a lot of female friends, always was extremely close to my female cousins and relatives are basically sisters to me. And I still like having a lot of female friends. But it’s like, I’m friends with a lot of waitresses and a lot of folks who are in service work because surprise, surprise we end up having very similar backgrounds.

And sometimes they’ll get to date someone from a college background or we’ll say date above their station, to use that really derogatory way of phrasing it. And the guy’s just super disappointed that they’re not pressuring him to be ambitious. They’re used to this thing where it’s like I know a lot of men go with this where you’re used to going to high school and most of the people getting really good grades and being meticulous about curating them are women. And you’re used to being in relationships where she’s expecting you to be ambitious because she herself is so ambitious.

And then I see them with somebody who’s just like that’s not really the main thing that gets them up in the morning and they’re just like, what’s going on? Why don’t you have more dreams? And you don’t expect a guy to be the one saying that but I’ve seen it happen because what you said, I can’t think of any depictions of an unambitious teenager where there’s not an explanation for it. I’m not talking apathetic, I’m not talking depressed or not able to function, just fine and also not ambitious.

Lyta Gold:             Yeah, just vibing.

Bertrand Cooper:      Yeah.

Lyta Gold:              I think we have no choice but to create this movie is I think what we’ve decided. I did want to keep this recording to an hour. And of course we had way too much fun as I suspected we would. And we actually met each other face to face.

Bertrand Cooper:       Which is a perk that I’m extremely happy about.

Lyta Gold:             I know. Well, we’ll have to do this again sometime. Let’s talk about gender in action movies and stuff. It’ll be fun.

Bertrand Cooper:    That’d be great. I’d love that. I love that assignment.

Lyta Gold:           Yes. All right. Assignment. We have to watch all the action movies in the world. Are you ready?

Bertrand Cooper:       Yeah. My schedule’s clear for 2022.

Lyta Gold:               Nothing’s happening this year, right? Nothing to be concerned about or stressful, nothing’s…

Bertrand Cooper:     I haven’t heard of anything, have you? There’s nothing.

Lyta Gold:             No, no, no. Smooth sailing is what everybody’s reporting. That’s the…

Bertrand Cooper:      All right. Well, thank you.

Lyta Gold:               Thank you for joining me. This has been such a blast. All right. You’ve been listening to Art For The End Times. As always, subscribe to the Real News Network to hear all of our wonderful shows. There’s a whole bunch of wonderful shows. Mine’s the most fun. Don’t tell everybody else, but it’s mine.

Bertrand Cooper:      It’s a fact.

Lyta Gold:          Facts are facts. Thanks for joining us. Bye-bye.

Lyta Gold

Lyta Gold is a freelance writer and editor. She is also the host of the TRNN podcast Art for the End Times. Follow her at @lyta_gold.