Crown, Tonya Harding, David discussed on Radio Atlantic

Radio Atlantic


With awards season upon us, it's hard to shake the feeling that our movies and books and TV shows are trying extra hard to tell us something about our current world, especially when they're based on real events for movies. Like I Tanya, in the post two TV series Like the crown in American crime story. We are awash in VIX no portrayals of what really happened. Truth They say is stranger-than-fiction. But conviction helped get us to the truth. This is Radio at length. Two. Two. I I met Johnson executive, editor of the Atlantic are co-host Jeffrey. Goldberg is out gala minting this week, But we have an Tang out gala thing as always out on the GAL of ants. But you hear the sonorous tones of my esteemed co-host Alex Wagner. Hello Alex? Hello Matt towns than may seemed Cali hello to you as well. And we have a special treats. Atlantic Cool. I I'm just going to spoil the EU's Atlantic staff writer, and also veteran podcast there who you may know how from blank check with Griffin and David, David Drucker. Well. Hi guys is also enhance the New York. How are you, David? I'm I'm very well, I'm glad to gallivant with your real podcasting prowl Hills Avenue. You'll like you like the the the mark Mirren Nova. He is over here. Applied gusts. You're a Paleo caster who your guys met. The equip the American Air & thing. It is a pleasure to have you as today. We discuss fiction the movies, the TV, and what it can tell us about real life. So the other day, the Atlantic published a piece by our staff writer, con of readers store who we will hear from briefly in the second half of today's episode encounter made this argument that in this moment when the truth is, bitterly contested, But fiction presents an opportunity allowing us to step into another person's perspective to imagine someone else's experience. And I don't know whether I'm imagining this, but it seems like we are actually in something of a golden age of fictional story telling whether you're talking about texters cinema or television, that his based on reality. So we got sumptuous prestige series like the crown and American crime story that are based on true events. And I think because television has such links to digest these stories, the movies seemed to be upping their game movies like I Tanya, and the post and the big sick, um, wounds or discussion into parts burst. What lessons are contain the in our recent spate of based on a true story films and novels and television shows and in the second half to go specifically to Congress argument, what possibilities Lyon fiction for exploring difficult subjects such as me to David. David Ho boy, you of watch everything on a screen and basically a very overstating Jeff. You've watch every movie ever Dave every So let's begin there. And yes. Um, I might It might Great voice sense. A recent upping in the game. Mm, of based on a true story stuff. I mean Hollywood's always loved a true story since its golden age where I think there's been an upping of is the kind of material you're talking about with the movie by guy, Tanya, say that, uh, is, is is exploring like the fungible space in between fact and fiction, right? Like rather than the, uh, traditional bio pic your even, like, you know, think back like to Oscar winners prior, like A Beautiful Mind, your inspirational true story Euro, I can't believe it, you know, my left foot, he'd wrote a whole novel with his foot, her It's been awhile since I saw that were, um. That's when from the vault, is these these movies they're like, what is true flick? Can we even a really declare what Tonya Harding did like an hour with that when any kind of shirty like Gore or is it more interesting to wrestle with like how we perceive celebrity or how we perceive heroism in a Hollywood context and also in a real context and what's in between all of that? Right? I get that you may get fat, So that's a really interesting take on what we're doing here, because you seem to think that it's about the sort of floor aid, inner life of of figures, from reality and history, some of that. But I I I guess me because I'm known to be occur much and on the show that's on at all at night. I assume that we are seeing what felt like more fact-based plot lines because Hollywood is just wildly unimaginative. Well, there's there's that's always been true. I guess that that there's that argument for that, that, uh, if they're going to make a non franchise, non superhero movie base it on real events that they're better be some kind of a name like that. You can pin it too. Yeah. Well, and I safer, right? Like, Oh, everybody knows who Tonya Harding is. Therefore people will go see this movie. Whereas if we just made a movie about a crazy figure skater, that would be blacks one. Now, if we just that was about ballerina, It was better out there is a ceiling of black. So uniting Like if if if someone said, I want the inner like the inner assertive, mental, the Mac and nations of of a queen of a queen in the mid nineteen 50s you're seeing you on that fictional was No, I'm just saying If you pitched it as such, like would would someone green lendable? He's a it's a it's about It's about Queen Elizabeth Hang on lower. But let me tell you something else. It's all true. Yeah, exasperated the as yet in part of what I'm wondering about is. Is how TV has changed the game on this type of stories owed the bio pic The knock on the bio-pic Is that to condense Even if you're focusing on a pivotal moment in someone's life. Uh, bio-pics have to take a, a very familiar template Chu a person's life story. Right? And so all the beats tend to be Samy Samy You know that at some point You're going to have the rise training montage moment of adversity. But um, the fight back, um, back to the beacon in know some one to grow on lesson at the odds that at the outcome. Um, we are very used to buy OPEC's but we're not used to things that take the shape of the crown where we are diving into. All of these tiny moments, um, in a manner that allows us the space to really kind of unpack this person's The fictionally imagined real experience. Um, the krona's wild when you think about it from that looked at Queen is still alive. Yeah. And we are the act lands in and of itself. Yet washer been Hong time that the asked that we are digging into her emotional life right now. I mean, obviously also The Crown take stock of Britain's political upheaval in the decline of vampire and all that stuff, But that You'll also have main storylines about the queen's relationship with her husband who she still married to. Yup. And that that Skinner being dramatize for our soapy entertain ends editor popcorn and for her and entertainment presumably I would love to know if any of the newlyweds latches that I went to your point Matt. I wonder if they're space carved out to do a shell like the crowd. I mean, when I watched the crown, my immediate thought was This. TV series would not exist without madmen and they wouldn't have existed without the sopranos that this sort of like high-calibre fiction cereals that were developed almost opened up space to treat nonfiction in a really stylized atmospheric fiction, any kind of way, right? Absolute maybe in the gut a church through shouted down there be too, but also American crime story which is less slow rate three Steve but certainly has that kind of rich is a little bit more Sean Deely and then madmen lay. Matthew Winer But you early and the Act I don't have died with the royal. They actually there's a Romanoff series coming out from Matthew wine are, there we go. He's dipping back into fact, and I'm sure it will be done in a way that's the sumptuous fictional treatment for sure. And again, we'll look at a larger state of upheaval Latino in in Russian society. Unlike the O J's series American crime story, Uh, people verses O J Simpson, that certainly That's a model that the Crown I'm sure is coming onto a little bit because you have all this rich public drama that everyone remembers, you know, in some form or another. And then you have this. Uh, juicy, private drama that no one may be knows about, or that you can flesh out or you can dramatize in these fascinating ways. And that's so much fun to watch in, like, like you're watching an episode of scandal. Yeah. I think what I can I can I propose something now God guide you propose something Alex hour. I'm going to proposed something that is a little that perhaps controversial which is on folk on the Great White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway alternative facts. When we take here to four widely accepted factual events, Tonya Harding, The fact that Nancy Kerrigan's knee caps that Nancy Kerrigan was kneecapped She was And we revisit that story from a distinctly different perspective. We offer alternative facts to the story line that shed main characters in totally different lights. Does it not create? I'm really get into a brown senior thesis here, but it's okay. 'cause I went to run University. Does Just call this heartache does not served to undermine like what we all popularly except as what happened, right. I mean, American crime story in a way. It didn't suggest that OJ wasn't guilty, but it offers different. I mean, it just it never had a scene of him committing. Yeah. I would argue that as at almonds documentary midfield was much more. I mean, actually, that it it it's sort of shed light on what happened. And I think each and we do this kind of perhaps opened the door, And I'm not saying more information is necessarily bad information, but it does a potentially open the door to revisiting sort of set old ideas about what happened. And is that a is that a good? The exorbitant counterargument to it and be is based somewhat on the crown, which is that. What good fiction does is it allows us to sink into someone's experience and to imagine it really richly to really think about. But what in this person's life and context might cause them to take the set of actions. And imagining real individuals as fiction means that you are kind of situated in their world in a way that, uh, that the creeds, a kind of empathy that we can lack one were just viewing characters DSTLD to a can a reality show paradigm honored screen, um, for Queen Elizabeth who It just exists in this world that so far apart from the daily life of any average person. The Crown. I think the the one of the fascinating things about it when it actually the really enjoyable parts of getting to watch the narrative is really imagining what is this life? What we, What would I do if I had the responsibility of this crown? Wait? On my head, It's have heavy is the. Mm-hmm. Heavy is the head Hervey is their head of the It really makes that the and you see the straight the stakes in the trade-offs. David, Do you have a stake in his argument, The of a positions argument? Yeah. I mean, I think I want to draft off this a little bit with. What's interesting You mentioned of the O'Chee documentary is that there are so many of these parallels Parallel series, I guess, you know, with the OJ we hit, we were we were enjoying as Romans documentary, just what a couple months after we were enjoying American crime story. I Tanya is coming just a couple of years after that thirty for thirty about aren't Tonya Harding, that sort of reopen the case in a non-fiction way. And the queen. Her whole existence has always the whole appeal of it, I think were part of the appeal of it has been that it's shrouded away and that no one can understand. And just I just watch Just the other day that interview she did where she was talking about how she felt on the day that she was crowned, like a talking about her emotions in a way that is very unusual for the royal family. And it feels like there's this openness there that is being mirrored in our fiction And and I think what you're saying about that openness, Matt is, is the central core of the appeal of all these things is that peak behind occurred? Yeah, In also having the empathy that's in it. And when a shout out a story written by one of my favorites, She Mandingo ZD she a um, in 2016 during the US presidential in the run-up to the US presidential election is called the arrangements, and it was published in the New York Times. Um, book review. Um, it was a story that was imagining the perspective of Malania Trump during the campaign. And a de She edge room under the Shia brought brought all of her greater league gifts to actually trying to imagine what her life might be. Like what I really liked about that story as she she didn't just treated as an exercise. It's not just an effort to score partisan points. It's really an effort to kind of sink into what in her mind as a characters perspective and to imagine a world, it's probably not even close to the real world of Malania Trump's life, but it gives you a sense of what that life might encompass. I wanna quote, just a passage from that story. Quote Mrs again from Milania his perspective, but written in the third person, quote being in the news brought Donald the closest he could be to contentment. He would never be a truly content person. She knew this because of that primal restlessness that thrombin him The compulsion to prove something to himself that he feared. He never would. It moved her made her feel protective even the way he nursed his grudges almost lovingly unleashing in great deals lights from twenty years ago, made her protective of him. She often felt despite the age gap of more than two decades that she was older than Donald. Yeah, that's a very provocative essay torid Matt, because I think there are some people who had say, every human being at some point there, there are some amount of empathy we can find in any human story, right? Whether it's trauma, visited upon someone in childhood, that lens to terrible decision making and behaviour later, or you know an any number of of things that happened is almost all fiction is looking for Right? Like you. You can find that in some one. And I think there are some folks who would say, I am not necessarily one of them that that's a form of apologised them rate. Here's a way of presenting an otherwise despotic person. And I'm not saying that norm. I saying that Donald Trump is despotic but someone who is highly controversial in a way that a human ISIS him and makes him more palatable. And therefore excuses some of what some people would say are egregious missteps. Another thing for the curse to me. You can see that Or you could also say, but it's sometimes. You'll to simple, it's like, Oh, here I've found the thing. We haven't realised switches blah, Right? Like this, this private thing. And then that helps explain everything and make you feel better about, why does this person behave this way in public Emmy I Tanya is definitely a movie that is trying to do that where it's, you know, here's the real story, And here's the hidden pain. And here's here's some sort of may be too simple to neat explanations for why someone may be was wrapped up Mun something so ARF applied seen the ICCAT say, give America's sweetheart pink. Another thing that fiction, Like I Tanya does end. I would argue that that that Jim on that the DG story did is to reshape And you said this before David, But I want to reinforce it to reshape how we think about someone who about whom the narrative of their life is somewhat settled. Um, Sarah Marshall had written this story for the believer a few years ago about Tonya Harding, Marcia Clark, Anita Hill in. Monica Lewinsky that was about how the news presented made a character out of each of these women in the nineties and how that character was such a reductive presentation of who each of these women really was. And I think I Tanya was very much a reconsideration of that story. These stories now a story like I Tanya at this moment in the news cycle, it kind of it has the same question embedded in it. What I'm is a leading to show coming up right? Because there are some Lewinsky uh, she if hide on further revisitation of the low in ski scandal, although were a unit or the Clinton scandal as as it perhaps it more aptly as called the UNITA Ilster I mean that there is chronic Orlando Thomas Sure. Our colleague Julie back actually mentioned the rush to judgment that attached to some of these figures at the time. I Tanya also made me think about Monica Lewinsky. There. They're scandals are kind of contemporary, You know, like with within a few years of each other, I think. And it just truly was extremely recently, Like how willing we were as absolutely throw these women under the bus and make them the face of a scandal that they were not actually central to like, obviously, the situations are a little bit different By, for example, like now, you know, Bill Clinton was focused on at the time, but now he's like a lovable Grandpa who plays with balloons at the DNC and people are just now starting to question like maybe we treated Monica Lewinsky unfairly at the time. And now you know whether they treated Tonya Harding unfairly at the time because she was really the face of of the incident. I don't know how many people really knew like the name, Jeff Guli, which was her ex-husband, who ordered the hit or the name of the guy who actually did a it was all Tonya Harding, Tonya Harding. And it just makes me think about. How these stories kind of get DSTLD over time and we serve suck all the new law, send the uncertainties and the Unknowns out of them as Julie points out. We have a tendency of really quickly embracing a narrative. And that has often been to the detriment of women. The interesting that you brought up women not because inherent in all of this is the kind of gender critique, which is we often box women end to these archetypes And, uh, we rarely look at their anterior life and, or we do. We see them as multi Vaillant complicated characters. And there seems to be like a dawning awareness that ho maybe win. Women aren't just on, you know, objects of desire and sidekicks best friends and wives, but are sort of lead characters in their own, right? I mean, that's what so interesting about the crown. Joe is a to that point, and I want to shout out Sophie Gilbert's of season to review the crown. So Peter Morgan, who as the show her for the crown. That's right. David, him Yes, it is. And he really is the grandfather, not Gruber. He's done a lot. This is this is the world He lives in because he wrote frost Nixon as well. He writes a lot of these things that dig into the story behind the story, Right? And Sophie to quote Sophie. She's she writes, quote in interviews. He's described his subject that is Queen Elizabeth as a quote, countryside, woman of limited intelligence and quote. But that's Elizabeth Windsor. He seems to be describing Elizabeth Regina as the show a tests has transcended those human origins to become something greater and something, much harder to dismiss. And at the end of Sophie's quote Abbott. But part of the story that SoFi reads into the crown is the way that that Elizabeth despite her, But kind of narrow upbringing, her narrow monarchic upbringing. Is this this incredibly intuitively intelligent character hit in the show. Oh, who has a different sort of book learning than the prime Minister's who come to greet her in Buckingham Palace but can go toe-to-toe with each of them in a very on a very different set of terms that her intelligence might not be one that society has conventionally recognized as intelligence, but it is fierce. Do you think the truth matters and something like the crown? There are moments where they're invented character, assure think a selfie points without Or maybe you do excellently instead of Well, I were IRNA prefer I'll give you credit for his all day in front as a veteran, but hung. The you know there is a scene where Winston Churchill's secretaries killed by shirt, buys that you're drawing, doesn't fog exactly that never actually happened. And I guess as we think about these series has refrained Ming a fact f- factual real life characters. Does it matter if events or aspects of their lives? Never happened? Are are completely fictionalized What he'd as. Thank. No, because this is again something Hollywood storm for 100 years and people don't for longer. Were you know you you? There's nothing unusual about taking a narrative shortcut to get to whatever pointed as you're trying to make great, but it can go too far. You can get in trouble the and with Eitan your we keep them. I keep having a keep bring us back to our Tania where people will be like, Well, hang on a second. You've admitted something. It is. I feel like I guess there's a difference who Sheen omitting something crucial that feels crew flew people and cutting a corner too. You, you know, get get to in the narrative where it needs to be, Um, and I just but like the fact that we're talking about fiction that's about Melania Trump about the queen. I immediately thought of the Kurdish sit in Feld novel American wife, which are your head whenever I read it as well. You know, our Laura Bush to We are fascinated by these, uh, ceremonial like mother hostess figures. You know, who behind the scenes are women behind the scenes that as the especially in the Crummer it's like, Well, these are political actors too, and there is much more Vin Giner perhaps a hundred years. If patriarchal, uh, uh, what's the iconography has suggested to these roles a perhaps more so than having the crown really throws into sharp relief because she is the Regent, as opposed to as difference to All right at over, how many, how many You know there's the king's speech there. We know well, the story of Edwards abdication and Wallis Simpson. And the you know the king's ascension to the throne, but so little about someone who has been on the throne as is she the longest-serving monarch she is, should be in glory longest-serving monarch. And I also think actually one of the things about this moment is that facts are so contested. Facts in truth are incredibly contested. I think part of what things like the crown an eye Tanya derive their power from is that they don't purport to be anything other than fiction that in fact, the crown is both. Is D It it make goes to some lengths to try to establish what is true about the stories that it tells. But it's kind of unapologetically fictional. I've been cuma Mandingo ZD She has story about Melania Trump has the same character. It's like these things are precisely because they claim to be the real thing. They are just asking that gives you a sense of what the real thing might be. We. I think there's some power in then this moment when backs heard. There is a you know wherever you're alternative facts, I think you're right. I think that I mean, 'cause I think any time if someone came to Peter Morgan and said, Well, wait a second That's not have it went down or like, Wait a second. And there is no proof that you know Philip had an affair. Anything he'll be like, Oh no, I know. But you know is has drum I'm creating drama and like, Yeah, I hope in the second half of our conversation, as we turn to the possibilities of fiction for venturing into difficult territory, We talk a little bit about Saturday Night Live. Our soccer battering weaken series of fiction touches life.

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