Act Four Live: Pop culture with Alyssa Rosenberg (April 23)

Apr 23, 2018

When the credits come up at the movies, the pages in a book run out, or the last commercial rolls over the end of a television episode, the story might be over. But the discussion is just getting started. Here at Act Four, we’ll get together every week to talk about the best (and worst) in pop culture. We’ll also try to sort out why the stories we love mean so much to us, and what they mean for the rest of the world.

Hi everyone! I apologize for the late start; let's dive right in.

I lived in Sweden and it's kind of an open secret that Sweden's Prince Carl Philip would be a better monarch in whatever it is one wants of out of a modern-day monarch than his big sister the Crown Princess. Actually when he was born in 1979 he was the immediate heir of his father the King and then when he was a toddler the Swedish government, against the wishes of the Royal Family, changed the succession laws so that birth-order alone was what matter regardless of gender. The Brits and the Commonwealth nations did the sae thing a few years back, but going forward and the previous line of succession (i.e. Queen Elizabeth II's daughter Anne is still behind her two little brothers) and did this before Prince William starting having children of his own. "Mad" King George III had an older sister. Maybe, for better of worst, she could have kept the American colonies under British rule, but her pompous and sadly insane brother got the crown.

Well, this is the thing about hereditary monarchy, isn't it? It's not actually a meritocracy, and changing the rules of succession to ensure gender equity doesn't do a darn thing to change that. If anything, there's part of me that puckishly delights in the idea that such changes could actually serve as a reminder that while equality means that women can do anything as well as men, it also means that we can do just as poorly.

Last night's episode was a bit too heavy on the table-setting for me to really get into it, but I still thought it was a very promising start to the new season for similar reasons to what you talked about in your recap. What interests me about how they seem to be interrogating the hosts' violence-as-liberation/retribution mindset is how it doubles as a dissection of the Western's mythologizing of Manifest Destiny, which ties opportunity/freedom into conquest and domination. Dolores's brutal dispatching of the Native American host in particular felt like much more intentional critique than anything from season one. I'm excited to see the show continue exploring these themes, and I also just wanted to say I really appreciate that your reviews grapple with the show's ideas instead of fixating on the "mysteries."

Well, I appreciate that. If I'm being super-honest, I am almost always driven more by theme than by plot when I'm judging a work of pop culture. That's not to say that I don't appreciate a well-constructed plot, but for me part of what makes a plot well-constructed is how it interacts with the show's themes. Take "Game of Thrones": the details of Jon Snow's parentage have not exactly been terribly hard to suss out, and once they were confirmed last season, what was powerful about the facts was less the reveal itself, and more the way it interacts with the other characters' expectations, the narratives they've lived their lives by, etc.

I think the same is true with "Westworld," even though it's more aggressively constructed as a puzzle box than "Game of Thrones" is. I don't know for sure that the Man in Black's obsession with the park's secrets is a rebuke to the efforts to "solve" the show, but the series does seem interested in the conceits of prestige entertainment and the many ways we engage with them. That's basically the reason I feel so engaged by it and continue to watch it, not because I have a wall in my office with a lot of string and tacked-up pictures that I'm going to use to CRACK THE WHOLE THING WIDE OPEN.

Some council from opinion journalist Hanna Rosen always stuck with me about when you're naming a newborn. I'm paraphrasing, but it was how everything is cute at that stage, but you don't think about later on. Like you don't imagine that this hours-old infant will have to use that same name when filling out the form to apply for their old-age pension. Maybe I'm remembering it wrong.

There is an excellent scene in the most recent season of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" to this effect, in which an emotional new dad initially decides to name his daughter an awful portmanteau of the names of his egg donor and the surrogate who carried the baby, then reminds a visitor that he has 24 hours to change his mind. My husband and I settled on our baby's name a couple of months ago, and the only people who know it are us and a Florentine bookbinder who embossed it onto an album for us. We definitely kept this sort of thing in mind when making our final decision.

So is "Westworld" about the creation of the Cylons in NuBSG?

The only greater curse than treating all pop culture as a puzzle to be solved is treating all pop culture as if it must exist in a single continuous universe. Which is a long way of saying I truly don't think so.

Did his Mission: Impossible sequel get released yet? Haven't seen "Justice League" yet, but I'm mildly curious how absolutely important his moustache was his character and the plot of the latest Mission: Impossible sequel that it made more sense to digitally remove the moustache than just shave it off for the other movie.

Nope! "Mission: Impossible -- Fallout" (and yes, that is actually the name of the movie, with that punctuation) will come out on July 27. And I am also mildly curious about this question.

Also, for the dudes in the audience: how long does it take to properly grow a mustache back in after shaving it off? Could this all have been accomplished with practical effects, rather than special effects?

Did he "Hosts" seemed a bit dumber? I'm thinking of the scene with the stable hand that the board members beat up. I mean there is murder and chaos all around and he is just too sweet and kind and unaware that he didn't seem human so kind of don't care of him. Also it's very well-established that "death" for the hosts isn't a nice thing, but it's hardly the end since they get cleaned up and put back out there.

I think it's probably worth remembering that not all of the hosts have had their code tinkered with the way Dolores and Maeve have. So we shouldn't necessarily expect them all to respond to things in similar ways. I also think it's worth noting that even though the hosts can be resurrected, if you suddenly remembered that you'd been murdered repeatedly in a variety of semi-horrible ways, you might end up feeling a *lot* of trauma about it. 

I'll be "that person," but nearly every kid in my daughter's kindergarten class, between the avant-garde first name and the hyphenated last name, sounds like a law firm rather than a 5-year-old missing his two front-teeth and picking his noise.

Yeah, you sound a bit like "that person." Hyphenation can be clunky, but I think naming your kid, especially if neither spouse has changed their name, can be a really fraught balance between honoring different families, and people do the best they can! 

Wow, birth story of "Mad" King George III's older sister Augusta is pretty crazy. You thought your family had problems. This is 1737 as well.

I don't think my family has problems! And I can't actually find good details on Princess Augusta's birth, so please do enlighten us!

Depends on the dude, and on the mustache. I seem to remember reading that Nick Offerman would go from Ron Swanson to full Grizzly Adams in a week. My best friend used to shave twice a day, if he had a date that night. I am a slow grower. If Cavill is like me, special effects would be the only way to go.

Mmmm, good point! And it seems extremely fitting that Nick Offerman would be excellent at growing facial hair.

Okay, this is super embarrassing, but for THE longest time, I thought Leighton Meester was a D.C. law firm.

Hah, it really does kind of sound like it, doesn't it?

A couple of years ago during this chant you mentioned that you would be interested in looking back on this time period in which we live and assessing why superheroes were the dominant force in entertainment. I was wondering if you have any thoughts on why that you could share before Infinity War and your maternity leave?

I'm working on something to this effect for later in the week! :)

I feel like everyone is a little sleepy today, which is okay! Or outside, which would be even better! (I took my post-lunch walk outside today, and it was GLORIOUS.) I'll keep the chat open for another ten minutes, but if, in fact, we're all just sun-drunk, that's fine, and we'll resume here same time next week to talk "Avengers: Infinity War."

Princess Augusta's father, Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales, loathed his parents King George II and Queen Caroline and his parents loathed him right back. At age 29, he wed a 16-year-old minor German princess. She totally takes his side in the conflict. His mother Queen Caroline feels pity for her new daughter-in-law and wrote, "Poor creature, were she to spit in my face, I should only pity her for being under such a fools direction, and wipe it off." Queen Caroline wish to present for the birth of her first grandchild. Also pretty standard for royal births to have witness. Prince Frederick Lewis so hated his parents, that he didn't want them present. His wife goes into labor, he forces in the middle of the night to take a long carriage ride from Hampton Court Palace where they were with the King and Queen to St. James' Palace where nobody was expecting them. The Princess of Wales gives birth right there just off the front entrance and nobody could find sheets so they used a tablecloth. The next day the King, Queen and royal court have no clue where the Princess of Wales even is let alone she has given birth to Princess Augusta, later to be the mother of King George IV's detested wife Caroline of Brunswick.

This sounds extremely stressful. 

Why yes, indeed I am. And I amazed myself this past weekend by not turning on the TV until the Nats game came on and WOW did I get a lot of stuff done around the house! I'll still keep up with all of my shows on my DVR or Netflix but my winter of mindless channel-surfing is o-v-e-r. Spring cleaning or just reading with the windows open is vastly superior.

Watching stuff you actually affirmatively want to watch is much more fun than just getting into a stupor!

My understanding was that all parties understood that it was easier and cheaper to use makeup for the Mission Impossible movie than to do the CGI smooth face for Superman. As I understand it, when these issues pop up one studio will pay the other to cover their costs in altering the appearance (one studio will have the rights for ultimate say-so but usually goes along because they have to work with each other down the road on other projects). The MI had the ultimate rights here, but the Superman studio was apparently kind of jerky in their request to have him shave for the extensive re-shoots, so the MI studio dug in their heels about it and wouldn't let him shave.

This sounds like precisely the sort of absurd thing that would happen in the entertainment industry, which is a hive of extreme silliness.

I think I will never go to a Waffle House again. A shooting and cops wrestling a customer

So, these two incidents seem rather different to me, though they are obviously both quite upsetting. The fact that a shooting took place at a Waffle House does not indicate that Waffle Houses are in some ways more dangerous or more likely to be the sites of future incidents of violence than other restaurant chains. Reading this second story, it's also somewhat unclear to me what happened: obviously, what happened is terrible, but the piece just doesn't tell us who called the police or what they said was happening. I say this not to defend Waffle House, but simply to make clear that I don't quite understand the chain of events, or what conclusions to draw from them yet.

Sorry if I've missed anything, but wondering what your thoughts are on it. It is so wonderful and I'm not sure if I love it so much because of the two leads are female and that is so rare. I find the performances are wonderful, the writing top notch and doesn't look like the cut corners on the location shooting.

You haven't missed anything! I haven't been able to watch it yet, and at this point, I suspect it's unlikely that I will before I go on leave. I know my friend Emily Nussbaum is very into it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what, if anything, she writes on the subject.

Is going on tour - YAY! But if tickets don't go on sale until May 2nd, are all the tickets on stubhub now from a pre-sale?

I suppose it's possible they were from a pre-sale, but I think it might be wise to call the venue in question and ask if there *was* a pre-sale before snapping up tickets that are listed on StubHub just to make sure they're genuine.

I was of the first kids in my junior high that had to start shaving regularly. It sucks. I know... cry me a river, but never thought growing facial hair a skill. I'm not the manly man, but always had hair. My first-year at collage during exams I stopped shaving and grew in pretty quick and my friends were a bit jealous because no patches or spots that don't grow, but I never cared for it. Plus other rando genes made it start to have red hairs in it which was odd since I, my siblings, my parents, their siblings, my grandparents, their siblings, etc... aren't redheads.

Everyone's experience with these sorts of things is different! And anything that makes you feel out of step, age-wise, with your peers, is always going to be difficult. I hope you feel more accustomed to it now and it causes you less tsuris. And as random as those red hairs can be, that sounds kind of cool!

Okay, folks, it seems to me like we're sort of out of steam for the day. See you back here next week (as long as this baby doesn't make an appearance before then). And take care until then.

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Alyssa Rosenberg
Alyssa Rosenberg blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post's Opinions section.
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