#CriticsSoWhite: NPR’s Code Switch unpacks the enduring lack of diversity in film criticism

Caught screening, TIFF 2018.
Photo: GP Images (Getty Images)
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99% Invisible: Articles Of Interest
Kids’ Clothes

Articles Of Interest, 99% Invisible’s six-part series looking at clothing from now until October 12, takes the best of its parent podcast and applies it to the world of what we wear. Digging deep into design, the first episode dissects the most often over-designed department-store staple: the clothing found in the kids’ section. Full of stripes, sequins, and other loud declarations of personality, this is where most people’s relationship with clothing starts. Enter host Avery Trufelman, who’s curious about how kids’ clothes came to be and expresses the logical idea that we “all start as young blank canvases, dressed in shades of white and gray slowly acquiring more and more colors, more graphics, more signifiers of who we are as we age and solidify into ourselves.” With this theory, she reaches out to numerous experts, from a curator at the Lacis Museum Of Lace And Textiles to a technical designer for a large children’s clothing company. Each offers an opinion as unique as their experience, adding to an overall wealth of information on the fascinating evolution of children’s clothing. [Becca James]

Code Switch

When it comes to creating a more inclusive cinematic landscape, fighting for diverse films and filmmakers is only half the battle. In the latest episode of Code Switch, hosts Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji are joined by NPR culture critic Bilal Qureshi to discuss the current state of film criticism—a field where 80 percent of film critics are male and the vast majority are white. Their conversation specifically centers on the recent Toronto International Film Festival, which is one of the places where early Oscar buzz gets built. In addition to detailing his own experience as one of the few critics of color to attend TIFF over the years, Qureshi also shares audio from his fascinating conversation with TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey, who created an initiative specifically to bring critics from underrepresented backgrounds to this year’s festival. Finally, Qureshi shares some of his top films from this year’s festival (Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma is a big favorite) and touches on the unexpected diversity of Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born. [Caroline Siede]

Part-Time Genius
The Controversial Origins Of Famous Dance Moves

Part-Time Genius continues its effort to push the trivia density of the podcast medium to its physical limits. This week they’re talking dance! Who knew that something so fun could also be so divisive? Turns out there is lots of bad blood on the dance floor. Take perennial party favorite the Electric Slide, brainchild of broadway veteran Ric Silver, which originally consisted of 22 steps. Silver was so incensed that the viral version only has 18 that he sued several YouTube users posting their personal performances before being sued himself. Serena Williams, meanwhile, took some flak for doing the gang-inspired C-Walk at the 2012 Olympics. And Henry Ford’s loathing of Jews and their perceived association with jazz music inspired the well-heeled bigot to fund school lessons in traditional square dancing, which are still widely taught to this day. Also continuing into the present is the debate over whether Madonna appropriated “voguing” or amplified its creators’ visibility. Though choreography is the subject, the hosts don’t really let the rhythm take you over, as the discussion focuses around theory and narrative while dancing around movement descriptions. Some playfully bad singing is included, though. [Zach Brooke]

Podcast: The Ride
The CityWalk Saga

It might be podcasting’s very dumbest use of three talented improvisers’ collective enthusiasm to date, but somehow it works—and anyway, Podcast: The Ride seems ready to prove itself superlative. Freshly teamed up with Forever Dog Productions, the theme-park-dissecting trio (Jason Sheridan, Scott Gairdner, and Mike Carlson) is currently in the midst of undertaking their oft-teased journey through CityWalk, Universal Studios Hollywood’s outdoor mall replete with trendy foodstuffs and fast-fashion outlets. In their 19-part investigation of CityWalk—with hour-long episodes having been released not weekly, but daily throughout the month—they are joined by a shadowy ghost boy known only as the Sector Keeper, who monitors their voyage across the likes of Billabong and Popcornopolis and makes sure they don’t stray too far afield from the topic at hand, lest his ghostly form be condemned to hell. Running beneath the CityWalk Saga’s obsessive attention to detail is an incisive critique of podcasts that are so niche as to self-destruct, all while celebrating the audio format’s ability to draw an audience on the strength of something as genuine and particular as, say, grown men’s attempts to make sense of the spate of mermaid-centric offerings at Francesca’s. [Marnie Shure]

Radiolab Presents: More Perfect
The Most Perfect Album: Episode 2

The third season of this SCOTUS-minded Radiolab spin-off veers from its original concept in surreal, experimental ways. Equal parts The Great Courses, Serial, and Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks, this new batch of episodes mixes constitutional law and contemporary case studies with a playlist created by 35 different musical acts dedicated to the Constitution’s 27 amendments. The sprawling, layered approaches are guided toward a single focus by host Jad Abumrad and a deep-voiced actor reciting the literal text and utility of each amendment. This specific episode focuses on the design of amendments four through eight to protect Americans from a tyrannical legal system, before diving into a story of their failure to prevent an innocent man’s conviction. The whole story structure is reminiscent of the trippiest of Disney movies, particularly when you hear Torres dropping some next-generation Enya music to embellish her hushed vocals inflecting whimsically worded legal concepts such as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” The episode grows ever more poignant when it becomes apparent the songs aren’t really as celebratory as they are personal indictments of America’s failure to realize its ideals. [Zach Brooke]

The Dream
Wanna Swim In Cash?

We’ve all heard the pitch: Work for yourself, get rich quick, and believe in the process. It can come from many different sources, but the pitch is almost always the same. That’s because these three tenets are the basis of multilevel marketing, a.k.a. pyramid schemes, a.k.a. the thing that’s been plaguing American culture for decades. The Dream is a new podcast from Stitcher that’s all about investigating these get-rich-quick schemes and exposing how they manipulate the spirit of the American dream for the benefit of a few greedy individuals. Before looking into incredibly successful and litigious pyramid-based companies like Amway, The Dream rolls back the clock to the 1970s to give listeners a sense of how the most basic Ponzi scheme can work. Around that time, a simplistic, trendy party game known as “the airplane game” began to gain traction with people involved in the Human Potential Movement, even though the “game” sounds pretty stupid and costs $1,500 to play. The fact that these positive-thinking, financially successful individuals were willing to buy into such an obviously fraudulent money grab speaks to the alluring power of multilevel marketing. This racket has persisted for a reason. [Dan Neilan]

View From The Cheap Seats
Matt Besser

In the field of sports commentary, comedians Jason and Randy Sklar have long been reliable sources for insightful analysis and solid jokes, minus the bro-y, “alt-right”-y baggage that litters other outlets in the industry. A lot of their time on the late Sklarbro Country podcast and its current iteration, View From The Cheap Seats, is spent finding common ground with Los Angeles–based comedy friends who often know or care little about professional games (though a consistent, notable exception to this is stand-up comedians from Chicago), so it’s an added delight when improv comedy éminence grise Matt Besser, a fellow viewer who speaks the language, stops by for a wide-ranging chat. Before diving into a breakdown of the bonkers, brilliant, already-NCAA-pooh-poohed fake-out trick punt return against Arkansas by North Texas’ Keegan Brewer, Randy and Jason push back on the criticism of Vontae Davis for his mid-game retirement from the Bills. Besser talks about whether USC and Texas are overrated, Sam Darnold’s impact on the Jets, and his own personal history of athletic fuckups. [Dan Jakes]

Who Cares About The Rock Hall?
Seymour Stein, Andy Paley, And Bob Merlis

The question posed in the title of this new-ish podcast is an apt one. Who indeed actually finds themselves invested in the machinations and roster of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame? As it happens, show host and Los Angeles–based comedian Joe Kwaczala is that very person. [Editor’s Note: He’s also a contributor to our sister site ClickHole.] Kwaczala’s lifelong obsession with the Rock Hall—akin to the way others might feel about their favorite sports team—powers this wonderfully odd music discussion podcast where he and his adamantly indifferent Rock Hall skeptic co-host Kristen Studard chat with fellow entertainers about a favorite band before weighing their chances of ever getting inducted. Studard is a perfect audience surrogate, acting the playfully snarky foil to Kwaczala’s genuine excitement. On this special episode, the pair are joined by a trio of current and former members of the Hall’s nominating committee, and this peek behind the curtain reveals a somewhat arcane yet fascinating process. Among the guests is music industry legend Seymour Stein; listening to him recount amazing experiences from his 60-year career in the business makes the episode worth every second. [Ben Cannon]