Barbershop: The Unofficial Start To Summer Entertainment

May 27, 2017
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now it's time for the Barbershop. That's where we get together with a group of interesting people to talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Joining us for a shape-up this week is Luvvie Ajayi. She's the writer behind the Awesomely Luvvie blog and the author of The New York Times' best-seller "I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual." She's with us from Chicago.

Welcome back, Luvvie. Hi. I think she's there from Chicago. Well, let's hope she'll join us. Kara Brown is a writer for the online magazine Jezebel. She's with us from NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Kara, good to have you.

KARA BROWN: Happy to be here.

MARTIN: And last but not least from St. Petersburg, Fla., NPR's very own TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, thank you so much for joining us once again.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Yeah. Happy to join this cross-country experiment.

MARTIN: (Laughter). Yeah. I know, right? Exactly. Always exciting. So you might be wondering why we brought you all together and with all the news about politics and national security, we know that it's been nonstop. But, you know, we were thinking this weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. So why not try to take a few minutes to think about the entertainment offerings that are coming up this summer, you know, music, movies, television? And we know that politics is never far away, but we're going to try it.

I do want to mention we are going to take a few minutes to remember Gregg Allman, the rocker, one of the founders of the Allman Brothers Band who died today at 69. We're going to have that coming up a little later in the program. And I also want to note that I know there is a shadow over the beginning of summer festivities after the suicide bomb attack last week in Manchester, England, at an Ariana Grande a concert that killed 22 people and injured many dozen more. A number of you - I know, Eric, you certainly do, I know, Luvvie, you do - a lot of public events, readings and festivals and I - you know, I find myself asking if this makes you hesitate.

Luvvie, are you back with us? Are you with us? Can you hear us? No? All right. No Luvvie. Sorry, Luvvie. We'll miss you. Next time. Eric, what about you? I mean, I know you do a lot of readings. You're an author. Does it make you hesitate a little bit?

DEGGANS: No, it doesn't. We've had a great story on NPR with folks saying that they can't let themselves - in Manchester saying that they can't let themselves - they can't let their lives be changed by this terrorism and that they have to live life the way they want, the way they need to, the way they want to. And, of course, you want to take all precautions that makes sense.

But in the end, the goal of terrorism is to get you to check yourself, to get you to live in fear. And so the way you overcome that is to refuse to do that. And so as long as I'm at places that have adequate security - and I've always had that - I'm going to live my life the way I need to live it and try not to let this limit me.

MARTIN: All right. Well, then taking that advice, let's jump into one of the first big summer movies we've been hearing about, "Wonder Woman." It opens around the country this Thursday. It stars Israeli actress Gal Gadot in the title role. It's being celebrated as an overdue counterpoint to the male-dominated superhero genre. Kara, you know I want to start with you on this because Jezebel's been writing a lot about it.

BROWN: Yeah.

MARTIN: Tell us what you think about it.

BROWN: I'm excited. Although, I do want everyone to remember that Halle Berry did star in a "Catwoman" movie.

DEGGANS: That's right.

BROWN: So we have had a female superhero movie before. You know, I'm cautiously optimistic. I honestly haven't been really into the genre in a while, largely I think because it's only been white men starring in all of the films, so I'm willing to give it a shot.

And I'm definitely one of those people where I - I'll buy the ticket if nothing else, if I'm trying - if it's someone I want to support. And this is definitely something I want to support because money talks.

MARTIN: Well, you know, Jezebel's been writing a lot about this whole question of whether the girl power aspect of it is something that even - you know, the artists involved in it want to embrace, you know, noting that there's a Texas theater that is having an all-women screening. And there was this backlash against it.

I mean, first of all, the screening apparently sold out in, you know, minutes. And so people are clamoring for another one. On the other hand, they're getting a lot of negative pushback saying that that's, you know - it's not fair and all (unintelligible). You know, I don't know. Eric, do you feel - can I ask you this - do you feel alienated by the all-women screening?

(CROSSTALK)

DEGGANS: If I could go to a "Wonder Woman" screening with all women and me, I would totally do that. I don't want to be around noisy, smelly guys. No, I can - seriously though, I can totally understand the idea of creating a women-only space so that women can experience this movie and talk about it without having guys there with our testosterone getting in the way.

And I think that's great. I mean, there's going to be so many venues and places where you'll be able to see this movie. Why not let women have a space where they can see it without the - sort of the patriarchy intruding?

MARTIN: OK.

DEGGANS: I'm really excited for this movie. This is going to be the first tent-pole superhero movie directed by a woman. It's going to be the first one that is going to be considered to be of any quality (laughter) - sorry - starring a woman. And when I look at the Marvel series that were on Netflix, for example, I've always felt the best one was "Jessica Jones" because it was about so much more than her activities as a superhero, if you will.

And so I'm hoping that that's what we'll get with "Wonder Woman." And the bar is so low for these DC movies. I mean, "Man Of Steel" and "Batman Versus Superman" were, you know, roundly criticized very rightly. So this movie doesn't have to be great to be the best DC superhero movie that we have in recent years, and I'm betting it will be.

MARTIN: Yeah. Kara, what do you think? Final thought on that - what do you think about it? I mean, do you feel that - it's always interesting to sort of see this dance about the people connected to the movie or what whether they say, yes, it is a girl-power opportunity or, no, it's not. It's for everybody. Well, I mean, of course, everybody wants everybody to go see it, but what are you - what do you think about that?

BROWN: You know, I think that the star of the film - she was asked recently if she is a feminist or if the film is feminist. And she actually gave like a better response than you usually hear entertainers give to that question. I feel like, of course, that was going to get tacked onto this film. And, you know, a woman saving the world or whatever, saving whoever she is in the film, like, I guess it's very easy to spin that as a feminist thing or a girl-power thing.

But I just hope that, like, more women get to go in or girls who haven't watched a lot of superheroes or don't really, you know, read a lot of comics because there aren't very many women in them. Like, it's nice to just see a woman doing cool things because we don't get to see that that often.

MARTIN: All right. So let's switch over to a late night...

DEGGANS: (Unintelligible).

MARTIN: We got to switch over to a late night, Eric, because we've got a bunch of stuff we want to talk about. It's been getting so much attention for being more political than many can remember. You know, Jimmy Fallon - well, what was so fascinating is that, you know, Jimmy Fallon has been criticized actually for being too soft. You know, after being sort of riding on the top of the ratings for, you know, for so long, for just kind of playing games with people.

And now all of a sudden, people are saying that's not what we're looking for. I mean, Stephen Colbert has doubled down on his political humor, and that seems to have propelled his show to a surge in the ratings, even closing this longtime gap with "The Tonight Show" and - all right, so and then, you know - and, you know, Jimmy Kimmel causing a stir talking about health care, you know, of all things.

So since, Eric, this is your wheel house, is this a big change? Is there something important going on here in television that we should talk about in this area that traditionally has not really been very political?

DEGGANS: Yeah. This is kind of a big change because "The Tonight Show" has generally been the ratings leader in late night. We had a little bit of a hiccup in 2010 when Conan O'Brien was installed and Jay Leno was forced out, and that didn't last long. And Leno came back. But for the most part, "The Tonight Show" has been the most watched late night show since the mid-'90s. And that has changed in the last few months because Stephen Colbert has found his voice, and he's articulating something that viewers are flocking to. I don't think it's just that he's criticizing Trump. I think it's that he is talking about politics consistently in a funny way.

He's deconstructing it, and he's also letting people laugh at it a little bit, even though they may be horrified about it. And I've always said these late night hosts excel when they really channel the feelings of their audience. And Fallon's problem isn't that he's not tough on Trump. It's that he is not connected to his audience. He's not channeling what they want to talk about or what they're feeling about this particular moment in history.

And so people are flocking to Colbert. And and unless Fallon figures out a way to reconnect - because people don't want - they don't want to while away the hours, you know, watching people play games. They're really concerned about what's happening in government, and Colbert is talking about it.

MARTIN: Luvvie - we are - I'm told we have you finally with us. Do you want to weigh in on this? Is TV...

LUVVIE AJAYI: Yeah. I was actually...

MARTIN: ...Getting it's stride or is it too strident? What do you think?

AJAYI: I was actually talking to you guys, and you couldn't hear me. But I'm glad to be here.

MARTIN: OK.

AJAYI: I think it's really important for late night to go with what is important to everybody else because you can't ignore politics right now if you are on television, even if you're not, like, I can't get political. You don't have a choice because everybody's getting political.

So I think it's really important for late night to step it up and give people what they want in terms of a place for them to decompress and be the watercooler to talk about the shenanigans of the day that happened in politics.

MARTIN: Is there anybody else, Luvvie, since we didn't get a chance to really visit with you (unintelligible). Is anybody else on television right now kind of hitting that sweet spot for you?

AJAYI: For me right now besides "The Daily Show" and Trevor Noah is the only one. But I think television is missing a very strong black female voice. But in terms of voices, they're doing great things, though. Samantha Bee is doing really well for me.

MARTIN: OK. Kara, what about you?

BROWN: Yeah. I'm a big Samantha Bee fan. And it's funny. I had this conversation with my dad recently because he was comparing what we're seeing in late night, and he felt like it was really similar to when Bill Clinton was being impeached. And it sort of seems like when is the last time we've had this much political chaos? Like, this feels like the world is on fire every single day, at least to me.

And he's like, you know, I remember there were, you know - Jay Leno and all the people they were talking about this all the time. So it sort of seems like we haven't had quite as much going on maybe since then. And that's what we're seeing now.

MARTIN: OK. Before we let each of you go - and sorry for all the technical difficulties here - there's so much to see this summer. Everybody just give me one must-see, one thing you're really looking forward to. Luvvie, what about you?

AJAYI: I've already seen it, but I was looking for the "Guardians Of The Galaxy 2." So good.

MARTIN: OK. Kara, what about you?

BROWN: I'm about to buckle in and stay committed to the "Bachelorette" for the summer, now that we have the first black bachelorette, and I'm going to try to last until August.

MARTIN: OK. Eric, what about you.

DEGGANS: There's a true crime series called "The Keepers" on Netflix about this nun that disappeared and was later found murdered in 1969, and it leads to uncovering this incredible ring of sexual assault of kids at a high school in the '60s that is now being uncovered in present day. It's their modern "Making A Murderer." It's really interesting.

MARTIN: All right. That's TV critic Eric Deggans joining us from St. Petersburg, Fla., Kara Brown, writer for Jezebel with us from NPR West in Culver City and Luvvie Ajayi, blogger, a New York Times' best-seller joining us from Chicago. Thank you all so much.

AJAYI: Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.