Still Processing Podcast

Still Processing

A Society, Culture and News podcast featuring Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham
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“4:44” is Jay-Z’s first album since Beyoncé turned their marital trouble into a masterpiece called "Lemonade." On “4:44,” Jay-Z expresses regret for his infidelity and ruminates on the socioeconomic state of black America. The album is knotty and contradictory, especially when compared with the psychological clarity of "Lemonade." We spend the episode unpacking “4:44” as a work unto itself, and also in the context of “Lemonade.” We also discuss why the survival and performance of Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s marriage means so much to the culture and to us.
New year, new season.Kevin Hart. Ellen. Brett Kavanaugh. We live in an age of #SorryNotSorry, prevalent in our pop culture and woven into the fabric of our nation’s founding. But how can we grow into the people we want to become when we can’t acknowledge our mistakes and the effect that they've had on others? We invite you to start off 2019 with an apology.Discussed this week:Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony at the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing (2018)“I Won’t Back Down” (Tom Petty, 1989)“Ms. Jackson” (OutKast, 2000)“All Apologies” (Nirvana, 1993)“Sorry” (Beyoncé, 2016)“Poltergeist” (directed by Tobe Hooper, 1982)“The Best Man” (directed by Malcom D. Lee, 1999)Dan Harmon’s apology on the Harmontown podcast (Jan. 10, 2018)Kevin Hart’s non-apology on Instagram (Dec. 6, 2018)Kevin Hart’s appearance on Ellen (Jan. 4, 2019)“The Apology of Socrates” (Plato, translated by Benjamin Jowett)“I’m Sorry” (Brenda Lee, 1960)
Comedy is changing. Dave Chappelle’s latest Netflix comedy special, "Sticks & Stones," makes us wonder if he can keep up.Discussed this week:"Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones" (Netflix, 2019)"Aziz Ansari: Right Now" (Netflix 2019)"A Black Lady Sketch Show" (HBO, 2019)"My Favorite Shapes" (HBO, 2019)"Ramy Youssef: Feelings" (HBO, 2019)
It’s been a summer of outrage over the question of who can tell stories about black history and black pain. We reckon with this question by examining Kathryn Bigelow’s film "Detroit," Dana Schutz's painting “Open Casket” and the recently announced new project from the "Game of Thrones" showrunners, an HBO drama called "Confederate." Without promising any answers, we also ask: Do stories about the American black experience belong to all Americans? Are there any criteria by which white creators can successfully make work about blackness?  
2017 feels sort of like the End Times, and we’re leaning into science fiction TV shows and movies to imagine the outcome of our current political and geological climate. If science fiction functions as a cautionary tale, offering lessons in morality and asking us to consider our relationship with technology, what should our country’s leaders be watching? We discuss “War for the Planet of the Apes,” in which highly intelligent apes and plague-riddled humans battle for control of the Earth. Then, we serve up a list of sci-fi homework for ourselves and our elected officials.
What responsibility does a movie have to the details of history? In Sofia Coppola’s new film, “The Beguiled,” a remake of Don Siegel’s 1971 psychological thriller set in the American South during the Civil War, she omits a key character from the original film: a slave woman named Hallie. Is Coppola’s omission a correction of history or an act of artistic cowardice? Speaking of history and responsibility: We take a look at “All Eyez on Me,” which tells the story of the brief but remarkable life of Tupac Shakur. At a time when the safety of black men’s lives seems dubious, is there significance in people’s refusing to accept that Tupac is truly dead?
Jenna's back in New York after spending last week at the Tin House Summer Workshop in Portland, Oregon. An explosive moment at the workshop prompted us to consider what it means for an institution — from a writing workshop to a TV network to a social media platform — to really commit itself to inclusion, and whether inclusion is even enough.Discussed this week:Tin House Summer Workshop"The Danger of a Single Story" (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TED, 2009)"Oscars 2016: Here's why the nominees are so white — again" (Rebecca Keegan and Steven Zeitchik, The Los Angeles Times, 2016)"Hannah Gadsby: Nanette" (Netflix, 2018)"A Canadian Museum Promotes Indigenous Art. But Don’t Call It ‘Indian.’" (Ted Loos, The New York Times Magazine, 2018)Correction: In this episode, the story read by Wells Tower that was the subject of controversy at the Tin House Summer Workshop was misidentified as having appeared in "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned," a collection of short stories. The piece in question was a nonfiction article, "Own Goal," published in Harper's Magazine in 2010.
Jenna is off road-tripping across Southern Africa, so this week Wesley reunites with Alex Pappademas, his old co-host on Grantland’s podcast “Do You Like Prince Movies?” Wesley explains why he found President Obama’s final Medal of Freedom Ceremony to be the most emotional cultural moment of the year, then he and Alex imagine the people who will be honored by President Trump. One artist they hope won't be on the list: the Weeknd, who after some debate Wesley and Alex decide is a phony.
To combat the stresses of an election we want to end and the onset of winter, we’re offering a whole episode dedicated to things that make us feel good. We talk to the Times film critic A.O. Scott about “Moonlight,” a movie everyone agrees is perfect. We celebrate “A Seat at the Table,” Solange’s lusciously spare new album, in which she comes into her own as an artist. And we end with a few tips from Jenna on how to survive not only the next week but maybe the rest of your life.
Through tears, and with the help of our oracle Margo Jefferson, we begin to process the election of Donald J. Trump.
This week, we take the Oscar-nominated film "Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri" as a starting point for a discussion about a new sense of placelessness in film and TV. Over the last year, we've been seeing stories set in ambiguous spaces--the limbo between heaven and hell, distorted models of our world, towns that look like no place we recognize as American. We talk about "The Good Place," "Westworld," "Downsizing," and the Sunken Place from "Get Out" to try and figure out how we lost a sense of where we are. Then we look to shows like "Atlanta" and "The Chi" to think about how we might find our way back.Discussed This Week:“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)“Grownish” (Freeform)“Riverdale” (The CW)Hot Topic "Riverdale" Merchandise“Dennis Edwards, Former Temptations Lead Singer, Dies at 74” (Daniel E. Slotnik, The New York Times)"Don’t Look Any Further" (Dennis Edwards)"'Three Billboards’ Production Designer Inbal Weinberg on Martin McDonagh’s Unique Approach To Screen Language" (Matt Grobar, Deadline)“The Good Place” (NBC)“Stranger Things” (Netflix)“Coco” (Pixar)“Black Mirror” (Netflix)“Get Out” (Universal Pictures)“Dunkirk” (Warner Bros.)“Downsizing” (Paramount Pictures)“Westworld” (HBO)"Instravel - A Photogenic Mass Tourism Experience" (Oliver KMIA, Vimeo)“Singin’ in the Rain” (MGM)“Queen Sugar” (OWN)“Atlanta” (FX Networks)“Insecure” (HBO)“Black-ish” (ABC)“The Chi” (Showtime)“Moonlight” (A24)“Black Panther” (Marvel Studios)"Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience" (Yi-Fu Tuan, 1977)"Place and Placelessness" (Edward Relph, 1976)Super Bowl LII Commercials“Ram Trucks Commercial with Martin Luther King Jr. Sermon is Criticized” (Sapna Maheshwari, The New York Times)2018 Kia Stinger - Steven Tyler Big Game Ad - Feel Something AgainBlacture Super Bowl AdAmazon Alexa Loses Her Voice - Super Bowl LII Commercial
This week, in light of Justin Timberlake’s upcoming Super Bowl performance, we revisit his infamous 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” halftime show with Janet Jackson. We dissect the public reaction to “nipplegate,” why Janet (and not Justin) took the fall, and how the controversy changed the course of both artists’ careers. We consider Justin’s new musical direction in the context his history of appropriating other cultures. And we offer Janet the forgiveness she deserves, realizing that her sexual experimentation led to some of our favorite moments in music history.Discussed This Week:“Is ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ the Most Radical Show on TV?” (Jenna Wortham, The New York Times)Evidentiary Bodies (Barbara Hammer at the Leslie-Lohman Museum)“The Lunar Eclipse and Super Blue Moon Are Here. Watch it Before Work.” (Nicholas St. Fleur, The New York Times)“The Color of Kink” (Ariane Cruz, 2016)“How Jesse Williams Stole BET Awards with Speech on Racism” (Katie Rogers, The New York Times)Man of the Woods (Justin Timberlake)History of Rap (Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”)Janet Jackson (in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married”)
We take a deep breath after President Obama’s farewell speech and talk about his future as the ultimate black dad. Next we call up our friend and New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg to help us make sense of the latest on Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia, “fake news” and the media’s role in reporting it all. To top it off, we revisit highlights from the Golden Globes, share our thoughts on “Hidden Figures” — not “Hidden Fences” — and consider the lasting impact of Meryl Streep’s speech.
"Becoming," the best-selling memoir by the former first lady, Michelle Obama, is a study in what happens when the ways we see ourselves don't always line up with the ways that society sees us. In reading about her journey from high-achieving, self-possessed child in Chicago to the fraught glamour of her life in the White House, we marvel at the ways she balanced herself and her image in service of the country. And we discuss how Michelle Obama's memoir fits into a powerful lineage of black women navigating entirely new circumstances with curiosity, strength and grace.Discussed this week:“Becoming” (Michelle Obama, 2019)Beyoncé singing “At Last” at Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration“Lean In” (Sheryl Sandberg, 2013)“Complete Writings: Phillis Wheatley” (Phillis Wheatley, 2001)“Thick: And Other Essays” (Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, 2019)“Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower” (Dr. Brittney Cooper, 2018)“Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds” (adrienne maree brown, 2017)
With the Academy Awards right around the corner, we take a look back at some previous Best Picture winners. When these winning films were about race, they often highlighted a feel-good racial reconciliation fantasy. But about 30 years ago, there was one movie that was snubbed at the Oscars — “Do the Right Thing” — that is anything but a feel-good racial reconciliation fantasy. We revisit how “Do the Right Thing” showcased realities about race in America in ways that none of the current Oscar nominees — including Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” — do, and why it matters.Discussed this week:“Green Book” (directed by Peter Farrelly, 2018)“Forrest Gump” (directed by Robert Zemeckis, 1994)“Crash” (directed by Paul Haggis, 2004)“Driving Miss Daisy” (directed by Bruce Beresford, 1989)“BlacKkKlansman” (directed by Spike Lee, 2018)Kim Basinger going off-script at the 1990 Academy Awards“Do the Right Thing” (directed by Spike Lee, 1989)
This week, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. While MLK’s birthday is celebrated on a national level, we spend time processing why his death holds a significant importance as well. We examine the months leading up to MLK Jr.’s death, including his iconic speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” and discuss the ways in which his ideals shifted after his “I Had A Dream” speech.  MLK day is a celebration of King’s birthday, and we suggest that maybe what we should really be marking is the day of his assassination.Discussed This Week:“My Life with Martin Luther King Jr.” (Coretta Scott King, Henry Holt & Co.)“They Push. They Protest. And Many Activists, Privately, Suffer As A Result” (John Eligon, The New York Times)“Linda Brown, Symbol of Landmark Desegregation Case, Dies at 75” (Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times)A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. (Martin Luther King Jr., HarperCollins Publishers)
As a break from the onslaught of traumatic news, this week we're talking about what makes us feel good about ourselves. Really good. We start by exploring what has been lost with the recent closure of Craiglist's personal ads section: a unique place, so distinct from Tinder or Grindr or Bumble, where you could search honestly for your own sexiness. Then we share some our personal tips for maintaining and nurturing that feeling once you find it. Finally we jam out to some of our all-time favorite songs of seduction, from k.d. lang to Beyoncé to Cardi B, and explain why exactly they make us feel the way they do. And finally, here’s a link to all of our favorite jams to turn it up by yourself: Still Processing Presents: The Autoerotica Mix (Spotify).Discussed This Week:The Magicians (SyFy)“We need to talk about how Grindr is affecting gay men’s health” (Jack Turban, Vox)“‘I Am Super Straight and I Prefer You be Too’: Constructions of Heterosexual Masculinity in Online Personal Ads for “Straight” Men Seeking Sex With Men” (Chelsea Reynolds, Sage Journals)“Missed Connections: Craigslist Drops Personal Ads Because of Sex Trafficking Bill” (Niraj Chokshi, The New York Times)“A Field Guide to Getting Lost” (Rebecca Solnit, Penguin Books)“Sexiness: Rituals, Revisions and Reconstructions” (Tamara Santibanez, Discipline Press)Still Processing Presents: The Autoerotica Mix (Spotify)
With Rita Ora, Janelle Monáe, Kehlani – and even fictional characters like Lando Calrissian – embracing bisexuality, pansexuality, queerness, and more, we wonder: what does it mean to publicly declare your sexual identity as something outside the gay/straight binary in 2018? And what did these declarations look like in the 80s and 90s, when we were growing up? We compare the sincere loneliness of R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion" to the frustrating inauthenticity of Rita Ora's "Girls," and celebrate the thoughtful portrayal of the queer relationship featured in the new film, Disobedience. Plus, we break down what's wrong with sex scenes between women – with the hope that directors and cinematographers take note – because depictions of non-binary sexualities should reflect the humanity of the people who occupy them.Discussed this week:"The Hand That Robs the Cradle" (Ellen; Season 1, Episode 6; 1994) "Girls" (Rita Ora feat. Cardi B, Bebe Rexha, and Charlie XCX, 2018)"PYNK" (Janelle Monáe, 2018)"Curious" (Hayley Kiyoko, 2018)Kehlani's Tweets about her sexuality (2018)Kristen Stewart's SNL monologue (NBC, 2017)Disobedience (dir: Sebastián Lelio, Braven Films, 2017)"Losing My Religion" (R.E.M., 1991)Cruel Intentions (dir: Roger Kumble, Columbia Pictures, 1999)Blue is the Warmest Color (dir: Abdellatif Kechiche, Quat'sous Films, 2013)
This week we pay our respects to the late, great Aretha Franklin. A legendary singer, writer, arranger, pianist, performer and more, Ms. Franklin channeled both the difficult and beautiful aspects of American culture to make the songs that have scored our lives. From her breakout hit “Respect,” to her performance of “Dr. Feelgood” at Fillmore West in San Francisco, to her rendition of “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” at former President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, she left a legacy of virtuosity and swagger that will live on — both online and off.We’ll be taking some time off, but you can expect us back in your headphones sometime in the fall."Respect" (Aretha Franklin, 1967)"Respect" (Otis Redding, 1964)"I Never Loved a Man [the Way I Love You]" (Aretha Franklin, 1967)"Dr. Feelgood" - Live at Fillmore West (Aretha Franklin, 1971)"Think" (Aretha Franklin, 1967)"Think" - The Blues Brothers version (Aretha Franklin, 1980)"Rocksteady" (Aretha Franklin, 1972)Aretha Franklin performing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" at former president Barack Obama's first inauguration (January 20, 2009)Aretha Franklin performing "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors"A Different World" theme song (1988)
It’s our season finale! We’ve spent our second season keeping a critical eye on the unreality of America and dissecting the systems of power that uphold the status quo. Last week, a series of news articles reported that Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful movie producers in Hollywood, has been accused of sexually harrassing women for decades. Twitter is ablaze with other women and men sharing their own stories of sexual misconduct at the hands of the powerful, spawning conversations about power and fame, privilege and punishment. The aftermath has raised questions about the commonality of harassment — and has forced us to confront our own complacency. We were compelled to talk about the cultural petri dish that allows assault and abuse to perpetuate and about what might be changing, socially and technologically, that is encouraging survivors to come forward. We also discuss the recently released “Blade Runner 2049” which somehow felt lacking, as if science fiction can’t keep up with the reality of the moment we’re living through. And before we sign off for a few months, we relive some of our favorite moments from this season. Thank you for listening, and we’ll talk to you soon!
The wait is (almost) over: Jenna and Wesley will be back with a new season of "Still Processing" starting Thursday, Jan. 18th. It’s O.K. to cry, even if you’re wearing glitter.
This week and next, we’re doing something different. After witnessing an awful instance of anti-Asian racism at a movie theater, we couldn’t stop thinking about how this type of racism is rampant in American culture, both on the screen and off. At first, we wanted to talk about it. But then, we realized that we needed to listen.For the next two episodes, we hand the microphones over to our Asian-American colleagues, friends and listeners to hear about their experiences with racism. From Pablo Torre (of ESPN) to Emily Yoshida (of Vulture) to Parul Sehgal (of The Times) and more, we hear about childhood traumas, politicization, pop culture and hierarchies of oppression as they relate to Asian-American identity. The ideas are varied and complicated, conflicting and nuanced — which makes sense for a hugely diverse community that makes up almost 6 percent of the American population. We’ll bring you the second part of this two-part series next week.
After watching the blockbuster hit "Ocean’s 8" and BBC America’s cat-and-mouse drama "Killing Eve," we noticed some similarities in these leading women - they’re all “bad.” They’re indulgent and driven. They care about their work more than your feelings. They perform for each other more than they do for men (do they even perform for men?). They’re complicated and that’s why we like them. So we wonder: is our current cultural climate — specifically around this #MeToo moment — making space for more dynamic women characters?Discussed this week:Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins uses signs to advocate for criminal justice reformActor Ari'el Stachel delivers moving speech at the 72nd annual Tony Awards"The Man Behind the Music of 'Broad City'" (Stacey Anderson, The New York Times, March 22, 2016)"This is America” (Childish Gambino, 2018)"All Mine" (Kanye West, 2018)"Why 'You are loved' & 'please reach out' are crappy things to post after someone has died by suicide" (Deanna Zandt, Medium, June 8, 2018)The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 800-273-8255"Dykes to Watch Out For" (Alison Bechdel, 1983-2008)"Ocean's 8" (dir: Gary Ross, Warner Bros., 2018)"Killing Eve" (Sid Gentle Films, 2018)
This week our entire episode comes to you from inside the Smithsonian’s brand-new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. We talked to children. We talked to curators. We sat together in the Oprah Winfrey Theater and it felt like church, and together we tried to understand the first museum that has tried to understand us.
This week, we trace the evolution of black American cinema from blaxploitation in the 1970s to what we’re calling "blaxplaining" in 2018. While blaxploitation sought to showcase black actors in dramatic, action-packed films, today’s blaxplaining centers on the challenges of being black in America. We examine three films — "The Hate U Give," "Blindspotting" and "Sorry to Bother You" — and ask if they accurately depict aspects of contemporary black life, or instead merely seek to make some black experiences more palatable to white audiences.Discussed this week:"The Hate U Give" (directed by George Tillman Jr., 2018)"Blindspotting" (directed by Carlos López Estrada, 2018) "Sorry to Bother You" (directed by Boots Riley, 2018)"Coffy" (directed by Jack Hill, 1973)"Slaves" (directed by Herbert Biberman, 1969)"Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song" (directed by Melvin Van Peebles, 1971)"The Devil Finds Work" (by James Baldwin, 1976)"Lady Sings the Blues" (directed by Sidney J. Furie, 1972)"Mandingo" (directed by Richard Fleischer, 1975)"Jaws" (directed by Steven Spielberg, 1975)"Hammer" (directed by Bruce Clark, 1972)"Truck Turner" (directed by Jonathan Kaplan, 1974)"Shaft" (directed by Gordon Parks, 1971)"Blacula" (directed by William Crain, 1972)"Proud Mary" (directed by Babak Najafi, 2018)"The Equalizer 2" (directed by Antoine Fuqua, 2018)"White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism" (Robin DiAngelo, Beacon Press, 2018)"Super Fly" (directed by Gordon Parks Jr., 1972)"Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde" (Directed by William Crain, 1976)"Cotton Comes to Harlem" (Directed by Ossie Davis, 1970)"Mahogany" (Directed by Berry Gordy, 1975)"Dancing in the Moonlight" (Still Processing, 2016)
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Podcast Details
Sep 6th, 2016
Latest Episode
Nov 7th, 2019
Release Period
No. of Episodes
Avg. Episode Length
42 minutes

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