Who wants to live in the present? It’s such a limiting period, compared to the past.
Were Ebert alive today would he still express himself thusly in a recorded interview? His remarks are specific to his cinematic passion, but still. As a smart Midwesterner, he would have realized that the corn has ears and the potatoes have eyes. Remarks can be taken out of context. (Witness the above.)
Recent history has shown that not everyone is keen to roll back the clock—women, people of color, and gender non-conforming individuals have been reclaiming their narratives in record numbers, airing secrets, exposing injustice, and articulating offenses that can no longer stand.
If powerful, older, white heterosexual men in the entertainment business are exercising verbal caution these days when speaking as a matter of public record, there’s some goodly cause for that.
It also makes the archival celebrity interviews excerpted for Quoted Studios' animated series, Blank on Blank, feel very vibrant and uncensored, though be forewarned that your blood may boil a bit just reviewing the celebrity line up—Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood holding forth on the Pussy Generation 10 years before the Pussyhat Project legitimized common usage of that charged word….
Here’s rapper Tupac Skakur, a year and a half before he was killed in a drive by shooting, casting himself as a tragic Shakespearean hero,
His musings on how differently the public would have viewed him had he been born white seem even more relevant today. Readers who are only passingly acquainted with his artistic output and legend may be surprised to hear him tracing his allegiance to “thug life” to the positive role he saw the Black Panthers playing in his single mother’s life when he was a child.
On the other hand, Shakur’s lavish and freely expressed self pity at the way the press reported on his rape charge (for which he eventually served 9 months) does not sit at all well in 2019, nor did it in 1994.
Like the majority of Blank on Blank entries, the recording was not the interview’s final form, but rather a journalistic reference. Animator Patrick Smith may add a layer of visual editorial, but in terms of narration, every subject is telling their own undiluted truth.
It is interesting to keep in mind that this was one of the first interviews the Blank on Blank team tackled, in 2013.
Six years later, it’s hard to imagine they would risk choosing that portion of the interview to animate. Had Shakur lived, would he be cancelled?
Guess who was the star of the very first Blank on Blank to air on PBS back in 2013?
Broadcaster and television host Larry King. While King has steadfastly rebutted accusations of groping, we suspect that if the Blank on Blank team was just now getting around to this subject, they’d focus on a different part of his 2001 Esquire profile than the part where he regales interviewer Cal Fussman with tales of pre-cellphone “seduction.”
It’s only been six years since the series’ debut, but it’s a different world for sure.
If you’re among the easily triggered, living legend Meryl Streep’s thoughts on beauty, harvested in 2014 from a 2008 conversation with Entertainment Weekly’s Christine Spines, won’t offer total respite, but any indignation you feel will be in support of, not because of this celebrity subject.
It’s actually pretty rousing to hear her merrily exposing Hollywood players’ piggishness, several years before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke.
A lot of women have been saying that the whole field of rock music is nothing more than a big male chauvinist rip off and when I say, “Yeah, what about Janis Joplin? She made it,” they say, “Oh…her.” It seems to bother a lot of women’s lib people that you’re kind of so up front sexually.
Joplin, stung, unleashes a string of invectives against feminists and women, in general. One has to wonder if this reaction was Smith’s goal all along. Or maybe I’m just having flashbacks to middle school, when the popular girls would always send a delegate disguised as a concerned friend to tell you why you were being shunned, preferably in a highly public gladiatorial arena such as the lunchroom.
I presume that sort of stuff occurs primarily over social media these days.
Good on the Blank on Blank staff for picking up on the tenor of this interview and titling it “Janis Joplin on Rejection.”
You can binge watch a playlist of 82 Blank on Blank episodes, featuring many thoughts few express so openly anymore, here or right below.
When you’re done with that, you’ll find even more Blank on Blank entries on the creators’ website.
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Join her in NYC on Monday, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.