David Lynch Posts His Nightmarish Sitcom Rabbits Online–the Show That Psychologists Use to Induce a Sense of Existential Crisis in Research Subjects

If recent world events feel to you like an existential crisis, you may find yourself browsing Youtube for calming viewing material. But there's also something to be said for fighting fire with fire, so why not plunge straight into the dread and panic with David Lynch's sitcom Rabbits? Set "in a nameless city deluged by a continuous rain" where a family of three humanoid rabbits live "with a fearful mystery," the eight-episode web series has, as we've previously mentioned here on Open Culturebeen used by University of British Columbia psychologists to induce a sense of existential crisis in research subjects. Having originally shot it on a set in his backyard in 2002 (and incorporated pieces of it into his 2006 feature Inland Empire), Lynch has just begun making Rabbits available again on Youtube.

The first episode of Rabbits went up yesterday on David Lynch Theater, the official Youtube channel of the man who directed EraserheadBlue VelvetMulholland Drive, and other such pieces of Lynchian cinema. Though he hasn't made a feature film in quite some time, he's kept busy, as his frequent uploads have documented: take his 2015 animated short Fire (Pozar), which we featured last month, or his daily Los Angeles weather reports.




More recently, Lynch has been posting short videos called "What Is David Working on Today?" These offer just what their title promises: a look at such art projects as and craft projects as "a drain spout for the bottom of my wooden sink," the "swing-out urinal" installed, and most recently "the incredible checking stick."

This might at first sound dispiritingly normal — at least until you get to how the checking stick is supposed to work — but those who have long enjoyed Lynch's films know that normality is what gives them power. David Foster Wallace described the "Lynchian" as "a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former's perpetual containment within the latter." There is, of course, nothing macabre (and often nothing mundane) about the wooden objects Lynch builds and repairs in his workshop these days. But Rabbits, too, was also one of his homemade projects, and its "story of modern life," as Lynch called it on Twitter, still makes for a harrowingly mundane viewing experience.

Related Content:

David Lynch Made a Disturbing Web Sitcom Called “Rabbits”: It’s Now Used by Psychologists to Induce a Sense of Existential Crisis in Research Subjects

David Lynch Creates Daily Weather Reports for Los Angeles: How the Filmmaker Passes Time in Quarantine

David Lynch Releases an Animated Film Online: Watch Fire (Pozar)

What Makes a David Lynch Film Lynchian: A Video Essay

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Daniel Radcliffe Writes a Thoughtful Response to J.K. Rowling’s Statements about Trans Women

Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

There are many more important things happening in the world than the tweets of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, but the tweets of J.K. Rowling are nonetheless worthy of attention, for the sake of fans of the series, many of whom are young and do not understand why their parents might suddenly be angry with her, or who are very angry with her themselves. As you have probably heard, Rowling has doubled and tripled down on statements others have repeatedly told her are transphobic, ignorant, and offensive.

Whatever you think of her tweets (and if you agree with her, you're probably only reading this post to disagree with me), they signal a failure of empathy and humility on Rowling’s part. She could just say nothing and try to listen and learn more. Empathy does not require that we wholly understand another’s lived experience. Only that we can imagine feeling the feelings someone has about it—feelings of marginalization, disappointment, fear, desire for recognition and respect, whatever; and that we trust they know more about who they are than we do.




Rowling is neither a trans woman, nor a doctor, nor an expert on gender identity, a fact that Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, points out in his response to her:

Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I. According to The Trevor Project, 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity. It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.

While the author has qualified her dogmatic statements by expressing support for the trans community and saying she has many trans friends, this doesn’t explain why she feels the need to offer uninformed opinions about people who face very real harm from such rhetoric: who are routinely victims of violent hate crimes and are far more likely to live in poverty and face employment discrimination.

Radcliffe’s thoughtful, kind response will get more clicks if it’s sold as “Harry Potter Claps Back at J.K. Rowling” or “Harry Potter DESTROYS J.K. Rowling” or “Harry Potter Bites the Hand that Fed Him” or something, but he wants to make it clear “that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now” and that he wouldn't be where he is without her. He closes with a lovely message to the series’ fans, one that might apply to any of our troubled relationships with an artist and their work:

To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you. If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups; if you believe that a particular character is trans, nonbinary, or gender fluid, or that they are gay or bisexual; if you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred. And in my opinion nobody can touch that. It means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much.

The statement was posted at the Trevor Project, an organization providing “crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.” Learn more about resources for young people who might need mental health support at their site.

Update: You can read Rowling's response, posted today here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

David Lynch Recounts His Surreal Dream of Being a German Solider Dying on D-Day

Some of last week's major headlines:

Police forcibly remove a large number of peaceable protestors from the area in front of a Washington DC church, so a 73-year-old white man can be photographed standing there alone, holding a prop bible.

An unarmed 75-year-old white man approaches a Buffalo police officer at a protest and is shoved so forcefully that he cracks his skull open, lying unconscious and bleeding as members of the force step past him without offering assistance. But first the weather, as perceived by a 74-year-old white man peering out the window of his studio of his Hollywood Hills home (one of three), prior to sharing a dream in which he is a German soldier dying on D-Day….

What makes this newsworthy?




The date and the identity of the self-appointed weatherman, filmmaker David Lynch.

For the record, June 6, 2020 started out cloudy and a bit chilly. The hope just off Mulholland Drive was for increased "golden sunshine" in the afternoon.

(One does wonder how much time this amateur spends outdoors.)

76 years earlier, an absolutely accurate weather forecast was essential for the Allied Invasion of France. Multiple meteorological teams contributed observations and expertise to ensure that conditions would be right, or right enough, for the invasion General Dwight D. Eisenhower envisioned.

As author William Bryant Logan details in Air: The Restless Shaper of the World:

In the end the Allies won the day because in order to predict the weather, they acted like the weather. Competing groups jostled and maneuvered, each trying to pressure the others into accepting their point of view. In just the same way, the high- and low-pressure cells fought and spun into one another over the Atlantic. The forecasters reinforced their own ideas, and none of their ideas was the winner,  just as each gyre and each center of low and high pressure pressed against the others, squeezing out the future among them. The Germans, on the other hand, believing that they could conquer uncertainty by fiat, declared that weather and people would conform to their assumptions. They were proved wrong. The Allies appeared on the beaches of Normandy, just like a surprise storm.

Lynch's D-Day anniversary report for Los Angeles was his 27th, part of a daily project launched without explanation on May 11.

His emotional weather seems to run cool. He relays his historic life or death unconscious encounter (it involves a machine gun) in much the same tone that he uses for reporting on Southern California’s pleasant late spring temperatures. For the record, Lynch was born 593 days after D-Day, and has no plans for a WWII feature—or any other big screen project—in the foreseeable future.

In a visit with The Guardian’s Rory Carroll, he expressed how television has become the medium best suited to the sort of long and twist-y narratives he finds compelling—like art, life, and reincarnation:

Life is a short trip but always continuing. We’ll all meet again. In enlightenment you realize what you truly are and go into immortality. You don’t ever have to die after that.

So maybe he really was a luckless 16-year-old German soldier...

One whose current incarnation’s foundation created a fund to provide no-cost Transcendental Meditation instruction to veterans as a way of coping with Post-Traumatic Stress. Lynch named the fund in honor of Jerry Yellin, a fellow TM practitioner and peace activist who, as an American fighter pilot, flew the final combat mission of World War II on August 14, 1945.

Subscribe to Lynch's YouTube channel to stay abreast of his daily weather reports, like the installment from June 3, below, which finds him voicing his support for Black Lives Matter.

Related Content:

David Lynch Creates Daily Weather Reports for Los Angeles: How the Filmmaker Passes Time in Quarantine

David Lynch Releases an Animated Film Online: Watch Fire (Pozar)

David Lynch Teaches an Online Course on Film & Creativity

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her daily art-in-isolation project is closely tied to the weather in New York City.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Ava DuVernay’s Selma Is Now Free to Stream Online: Watch the Award-Winning Director’s Film About Martin Luther King’s 1965 Voting-Rights March

Ava DuVernay made her award-winning documentary 13th free to stream online. Now comes her film SelmaThe 2014 film chronicles Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s campaign to secure equal voting rights with an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. Ava DuVernay writes on Twitter: "Paramount Pictures is offering SELMA for free rental on all US digital platforms for June, starting today. We’ve gotta understand where we’ve been to strategize where we’re going. History helps us create the blueprint. Onward." You can watch Selma on YouTube/Google Play, Apple, Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms listed here. The trailer appears above.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Related Content:

Watch Ava DuVernay’s 13th Free Online: An Award-Winning Documentary Revealing the Inequalities in the US Criminal Justice System

Watch Free Films by African American Filmmakers in the Criterion Collection … and the New Civil Rights Film, Just Mercy

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

Watch Ava DuVernay’s 13th Free Online: An Award-Winning Documentary Revealing the Inequalities in the US Criminal Justice System

Earlier today, we highlighted some free cinematic offerings online, including the new civil rights film Just Mercy, and a slew of films in the Criterion Collection made by African American directors. Then we stumbled upon this. Above, you can watch Ava DuVernay's Oscar-nominated film 13th. Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, DuVernay's documentary focuses on the U.S. prison system and "how the country's history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America." It won Best Documentary at the Emmys, the BAFTAs and the NAACP Image Awards.

Update: During the month of June, DuVernay's film, Selma, is also streaming free online.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Related Content:

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

Ava DuVernay’s Selma Is Now Free to Stream Online: Watch the Award-Winning Director’s Film About Martin Luther King’s 1965 Voting-Rights March

Watch Free Films by African American Filmmakers in the Criterion Collection … and the New Civil Rights Film, Just Mercy

Watch the First-Ever Kiss on Film Between Two Black Actors, Just Honored by the Library of Congress (1898)

Watch the Pioneering Films of Oscar Micheaux, America’s First Great African-American Filmmaker

The Art of The Black Panthers: A Short Documentary on the Revolutionary Artist Emory Douglas

Documentary Portraits of Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, William Carlos Williams, Anne Sexton & Other American Poets (1965)

The annals of American history offer little in the way of documentarian-poets. But luckily for us today — and especially for those of us who enjoy American poetry of the mid-2oth century — one of the country's few such hyphenates lived an uncommonly productive life. Though known primarily as a poet of the San Francisco Renaissance, Richard O. Moore also had a career in independent and public media, beginning in 1949 with the very first broadcast of Berkeley's KPFA. In the early 1950s he moved to San Francisco's newly founded KQED, one of the country's first public television stations. After a stint at Columbia studying Wittgenstein, Moore returned to KQED in 1961, whereupon he began producing a wide variety of documentaries.

As subject matter, poetry may not naturally lend itself to television. But given Moore's connections to major American poets on both coasts and elsewhere besides, if anyone could make it work, he could. It certainly helped that so many of those poets had compelling personalities, not least Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the stars of one episode of Moore's 1965 documentary series USA: Poetry. "The footage he captured is nothing short of miraculous, a national treasure type time capsule of another, more literary age," says the web side of Santa Cruz's Bad Animal Books, which has gathered a selection of episodes together on one page. "Moore provided a rare glimpse of some of the finest American poets of the twentieth century at the summit of their powers," a lineup also including Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, Anne Sexton, Frank O'Hara, Ed Sanders, Philip Whalen, and Gary Snyder.

Moore's documentary portraits unfailingly include readings of the subjects' work, but they don't stop there. They also offer glimpses into these poets' lives, professional, domestic, and otherwise, showing us the cities, towns, homes, bookstores, and libraries they inhabit. A few of these subjects, like Sanders, Snyder, and the especially venerable Ferlinghetti continue to inhabit them, though most have by now shuffled off this mortal coil. William Carlos Williams had already done so by the time of USA: Poetry's episode about him, and so in addition to footage illustrating the bard of Paterson's verse and letters (sights that may remind modern-day viewers of Paterson, Jim Jarmusch's tribute to the workaday American poet), Moore features Williams' son William E. Williams. Though Williams fils didn't follow Williams père into poetry, he did follow him into medicine, which constituted not just the poet's day job but —as we hear read aloud — "my food and drink, the very thing that made it possible for me to write."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Watch Free Films by African American Filmmakers in the Criterion Collection … and the New Civil Rights Film, Just Mercy

The Michael B. Jordan- and Jaime Foxx-starring Just Mercy had “the misfortune of hitting theaters at the same time as Clemency, a more daring and better film set on a prison’s Death Row,” wrote Odie Henderson in a December 2019 review at RogerEbert.com. Reading the statement now feels like looking through the wrong end of a telescope ("hitting theaters?"). None of the movie's middling reviews could have predicted the kinds of misfortunes that lay just around the corner.

If Just Mercy is your kind of distraction, you can watch it free of charge through June. Henderson's review gives me the impression it may not be equal to the moment.

Since the days of '50s-era message pictures, the majority of films about African-American suffering have always been calibrated the way “Just Mercy” is, with an eye to not offending White viewers with anything remotely resembling Black anger. We can be beaten, raped, enslaved, shot for no reason by police, victimized by a justice system rigged to disfavor us or any other number of real-world things that can befall us, yet God help us if a character is pissed off about this. Instead, we get to be noble, to hold on to His unchanging hand while that tireless Black lady goes “hmmm-HMMMMM!” on the soundtrack to symbolize our suffering. There’s a lot of “hmmm-HMMMMM”-ing in this movie, so much so that I had to resist laughing. 

Only one critic’s opinion, but if such pious, boilerplate films haven't changed anything since the 50s they probably aren't about to now.

The Criterion Collection offers a refreshing alternative for representations of the black experience on film, as envisioned by black filmmakers, writers, actors, producers, etc. “This has been a powerfully emotional time,” the Collection writes, citing a string of high-profile, well-documented racist threats and murders that lead up to the breaking point:

Black Lives Matter. The anguish and fury unleashed all across the country are rooted in centuries of dehumanization and death. This pattern must stop. We support the protesters who have taken to the streets to demand justice, and we share their hopes. We are committed to fighting systemic racism.

The Collection has established an “employee-guided fund with a $25,000 initial contribution and an ongoing $5000 monthly commitment to support organizations fighting racism in America.”

More to the point of their central mission, they’re allowing visitors to the Criterion Channel to stream “works by early pioneers of African American Cinema” as well as those by current filmmakers. These are films that can be difficult to find outside of arthouse cinemas and college screening rooms. “Titles streaming for free,” notes IndieWire, “include Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, Maya Angelou’s Down in the Delta, Shirley Clarke’s Portrait of Jason, Agnès Varda’s Black Panthers, Kathleen Collins’ Losing Ground, and many more.”

Also streaming free on the site is “contemporary work by Khalik Allah and Leilah Weinraub; and documentary portraits of the black experience by white filmmakers Les Blank and Shierley Clarke,” Criterion writes, noting that they’ve “taken down the paywall on as many of these titles as we can.”

This announcement will have little effect on people committed to a particularly vicious way of seeing things, but it offers a rare opportunity to watch a diverse collection of enlightening, often bracing, often deeply moving films, stretching over a century, for free. This body of work offers new perspectives on the past and wider understanding of film history. They may just be what you need to get through June. Check out the Criterion Channel collections here.

Related Content:   

Watch the First-Ever Kiss on Film Between Two Black Actors, Just Honored by the Library of Congress (1898)

Watch the Pioneering Films of Oscar Micheaux, America’s First Great African-American Filmmaker

The Art of The Black Panthers: A Short Documentary on the Revolutionary Artist Emory Douglas

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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