Both podcasts dip into new territory this week, as “Overdue” covers the rare self-help book and “The Bechdel Cast” discusses a film that, also in rare fashion, is actually pretty sufficient in its representation of women.
With a book that’s titled “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Andrew and Craig were bound to have an array of jokes ready. Right away, Craig quips, “Andrew, I assume you already know how to win friends and influence people because I’m here doing this podcast with you … so you just let me know if I have learned the right lessons from this book.”
This week, Craig read this self-help book, written by Dale Carnegie and published in 1936, which Time magazine still considers one of the most influential nonfiction books ever written. The book is based on a 14-week-long course Carnegie would teach on the subject, mostly focusing on business applications but also covering a broader range of social skills.
Citing his contextual research, Andrew notes that while Carnegie did not invent the self-help book, he did set a precedent for what we now consider its modern incarnation — one that contains not only anecdotes and advice but also places responsibility on the reader to take action to complete the improvements.
This leads to a discussion about the contradiction at the core of many self-help books. Andrew says, “If there were steps that any person could follow to improve their lives and become successful and rich, you’d have that one book, and that would be it.”
The hosts agree that while reading a self-help book may feel like taking a step toward improving one’s life, it is really just taking time away from taking any concrete action toward self-improvement.
On this note, Craig goes into what’s different about “How to Win Friends,” comparing it to contemporary self-help books. Namely, Carnegie’s book is novel in that it attempts to “give insight into human nature,” which Craig thinks it does quite successfully. He notes, however, that it is necessary to think about this book as focusing primarily on business relations.
Later on, when Andrew and Craig discuss the section of the book about “winning people’s minds,” Craig says a highlight is the concept of conversational arguments being unwinnable. Just to argue with Craig about the subject of arguing, Andrew quickly responds that he thinks that’s incorrect. Craig explains that the idea of not being able to win arguments is more about correcting someone — Carnegie believed that never benefited anyone involved in that kind of situation, which Andrew disagrees with again. The pair discusses this idea, landing on the conclusion that Carnegie’s ideas are so strongly tied to business engagements that their personal social standards don’t necessarily match up.
Overall, despite discussing somewhat of a dull book — at least in comparison to the sort of action-filled novels the hosts normally cover — Andrew and Craig provide a conversation as interesting as always, likely leaving listeners wanting to be their friends.
“The Bechdel Cast”
This week, “The Bechdel Cast” covers a film that one of the guest hosts, Leigh Holmes Foster, calls “terrible and amazing at the same time.” Caitlin and Jamie are joined by Ellie Brigida and Leigh, the hosts of the “Lez Hang Out” podcast, which covers topics of lesbian representation and experiences. Together, they discuss “D.E.B.S.,” the 2004 action-comedy film written and directed by Angela Robinson.
“D.E.B.S.” centers on a school that trains girls to become members of a national defense group called D.E.B.S., which stands for Discipline, Energy, Beauty, and Strength. The academy’s graduating class includes Max, Janet, Dominique and Amy, the latter of whom falls in love with villain Lucy.
The hosts and their guests discuss the film’s very campy feel, largely a result of its low budget — Jamie jokes that it looks like “it took $7 to make.” Regardless, she and Caitlin, who both watched “D.E.B.S.” for the first time in preparation for the episode, really enjoyed it. Leigh and Ellie have both loved the film since its release, citing it as one of the few fun lesbian movies.
Caitlin and Jamie turn to Leigh and Ellie to weigh in on the queer representation in the film. The pair goes into the many lesbian stereotypes the film embodies. Leigh and Ellie find some of these funny, claiming that there are accuracies behind the generalizations. They insist, for instance, that the notion of “U-Hauling lesbians” — the joke that lesbians move in together very quickly — is quite true. “D.E.B.S.,” however, also utilizes the “predatory lesbian” trope — in which an out lesbian pursues a closeted lesbian in a relentless, problematic way — with which Leigh and Ellie take issue.
This leads to a broader discussion of core couple Amy and Lucy; all four hosts agree that the two are very cute together and have palpable chemistry. Yet the course of the courtship includes situations that approach stalking and other unacceptable behavior; such normalization, they note, is not uncommon in the overall romantic comedy genre.
Despite really delving into these problems, it is clear that the hosts and their guests are only able to get into such details because the general representation of women in “D.E.B.S.” is better than in many of the films the show has covered in the past. “D.E.B.S.” passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, allowing Caitlin, Jamie, Ellie and Leigh to zoom into the details of these female characters.
As Ellie notes, “There’s so little movie without the women in it,” and, in spite of all of their critiques, what a breath of fresh air this episode is — hearing a group of women discuss a film that is dependent on its women.