1/11/17

You Must Remember This: On Karina Longworth and Why We Have To Start Loving Stuff Again

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You know what's good? Nay, GREAT? Karina Longworth's podcast You Must Remember This.

Someone sent me a link after I published this blog about "Hail, Caesar!" last year. (I'm considering doing one about "La La Land" too.)

Since then, I've listened to every episode and I'm anxiously awaiting new episodes at the end of this month. If you like history or film, if you enjoy human beings with pleasant voices, if you're desperate for a swig of water in this, our sometimes arid era of reality tv and pundits gone wild, you must listen to You Must Remember This.

I am hooked. I mean, well and truly addicted. If you grew up watching classic movies, this podcast will contextualize them in ways both entertaining and unpleasant. (And I would argue further, always important and never boring.)

I love it so much, it inspired the compulsion to write a blog about it here. A site I haven't touched since 2013. There's a contagious nostalgia going around for 2007-2008ish right now. I went down the rabbit hole of the wayback machine the other day visiting long-deleted Myspace pages and the early days of this blog. Back then, I was full of optimism and love. I noticed a funny thing while I was looking backwards to try to see forward, I wasn't the only one. But we'll get to that later...

What's It About?

The entertainment industry, and movies in particular, are worshipped in America. That's no judgement. The silver screen has a siren song I've never escaped. (Nor do I want to.) Karina's nonfiction podcast offers unapologetic love for "the movies" while focusing on the history of how and why they were made with a long lens and an unflinching eye.

There's always a touch of radio film noir to Karina's subject matter, copy and vocal delivery. Which I really enjoy. Longworth somehow leaves a very specific point hanging in the air without having to say what it is. You know how to piece the puzzle together using the facts she handed you, by the light of the present moment. Which inevitably offers meaningful juxtaposition.

If there's anything we need our entertainment to be right now, it's translational. That's another thing You Must Remember This does so well. It's like a Rosetta Stone of media literacy. We don't need to start from square one trying to dissect what's real and what's fake. (Well...I mean, we do. Desperately. Truth doesn't seem to be as valuable or even available a commodity as it once was, thanks in part to the rise of niche news over the last few decades and...oh, nevermind.) We need to learn from the stories of how it's all been faked before. And where better to start than with the history of our beloved national obsession, film?

Again, I'm over-reading. Sorry. Weird day. You know what else this podcast has? Fun movie facts! Great re-enactments, celebrity guests and behind-the-scenes secrets! You LOVE that stuff, right? I guess the question I'm really asking here, well...the question Karina is asking, is how well do you know what you love? Well enough to know where it comes from and why?

History Repeating Itself

On that note, some cliches become so for a reason. Those who don't learn their history are doomed to repeat it. As pop culture audiences go, we've been doing just that for decades. From the more direct examples of remakes and reboots, to the subtle cycle of different genres going in and out of fashion all the way to our constant hunger for celebrity "news". In doing so, maybe we've been dooming others?

1941
When I listen, there's almost a feeling of culpability. When you hear the tragedies that befell so many people we assumed lived glamorous lives...then again, maybe I'm still over-reading. For every real life tragic tale (Marilyn Monroe) there was a happy ending (Gene Kelly). Some would argue with my choice of examples there, but you get the idea.

The show often reminds me of a speech delivered near the beginning of Ziegfeld Girl, a film about the price of fame. It's equal parts cautionary tale, drama and romantic comedy, following the lives of characters played by Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr and Judy Garland.

After the new starlets are discovered and before their first show, a dressing room speech is given,"You're Ziegfeld Girls. Some of you will end up with your name in lights. Some of you will end up with a husband and kids. And some of you are going to end up...well...not so good. But don't blame it on the Follies!" 

Aiming The Foggy Lens of Nostalgia at the Internet

Several of my old friends from those aforementioned Myspace days and blogger communities (before Blogger was purchased by Google) are also becoming active again. Long dormant sites are whirring to life. The foggy lens of nostalgia paired with the omniscience we can have over past events speaks to both our love of classic film and our desire to return to early life on the internet. We know everything is going to be okay because it was before, the last time we were afraid of x, y or z.

Film, the internet...they both give us a voice. When we pair that voice with the still, small one, it's easier to know how to proceed in times of uncertainty. Both of those are telling me to stay focused on love. I started this blog with so much love in my heart. I had the overwhelming conviction that my geekdom was more than anger, arguments compulsions and stereotypes. I believed it was rooted in inspiration and joy. In no formal way whatsoever, that's what I choose to return to now. Inspiration and joy. Shared culture and the belief that curating the good will form some kind of a map for us all to follow.

Suffice to say, I highly recommend You Must Remember This. And Ziegfeld Girl. And classic film. And truth. And context. And language. And loving stuff again. 

Where will you begin?

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