Our podcasts this week cover media that span time and space between them. “Overdue” explores the origin of the time travel plot, while “The Bechdel Cast” covers a famous romantic comedy with Seattle misleadingly in its name.
Taking a huge step away from last week’s vampire romance coverage, Craig and Andrew are discussing H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” for this week’s episode. The 1895 science fiction novella follows the adventures of the protagonist, known simply as the “Time Traveller,” who uses a vehicle that allows him to selectively travel through time.
Craig and Andrew, who covered Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” in a very early episode (their 11th ever), spend a significant amount of time discussing Wells’ context in the broader literary canon. Namely, Wells coined the term “time machine” with this novella, which is now essentially a universal term. The book also cemented Wells’ reputation as the father of science fiction, as he is often referred to.
With that information laid out, the pair then dive into the book, which Andrew read this week. They discuss what they see as one of the major themes of the book — humanity’s smallness in comparison to the greater world and universe. Andrew brings up Wells’ description of the act of time traveling, a central theme in the novella. In one scene, the protagonist witnesses a Morlock (an ape-like being) decaying through the passage of time, thus witnessing firsthand what time does to another creature not completely dissimilar to humans.
Andrew points out that the novella does not tackle the idea of the butterfly effect (the idea that one small local change will make a big impact in the the world at large), which almost all time travel stories have done since “The Time Machine.” Craig notes that Wells chooses to focus on the protagonist seeing a time that is not his — whether it be the past that he is fully detached from or a future that he may someday be a part of but isn’t yet. The Time Traveler also never regrets inventing the time machine. It doesn’t lead to his undoing, and he isn’t destroyed by his adventures.
The episode stands out especially in contrast to the duo’s very enthusiastic commentary on “The Twilight Saga” last week; in this episode, Craig and Andrew’s discussion does not push any of the boundaries they usually do. They shy away from the deep analysis or speculation that makes their conversation worth listening to; instead, they stay inside the lines of casual commentary and summarizing. Maybe, they needed a break after a bombastic week of vampires but will hopefully be back to their usual smart banter next week.
“The Bechdel Cast”
“This movie is barely about Seattle,” Jamie remarks at the beginning of this week’s episode, which features guest host comedian Andy Iwancio. This film is Nora Ephron’s “Sleepless in Seattle,” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It follows Sam Baldwin (Hanks), a recently widowed man whose son calls into a radio station in search of a new wife for his father. Annie Reed (Ryan) hears the call and becomes infatuated with Sam, despite never having met this man and being engaged to someone else.
Right off the bat, Jamie addresses her personal conflict — which many others may have as well — of admiring Ephron and the progress she made for women filmmakers but taking issue with many details of this film.
Jamie explains that she came to admire Ephron through reading about her before watching her films. This led to a big letdown upon seeing “Sleepless in Seattle.” She says, “It was falling in love with an artist, just to say, ‘What have you done to me?’ ”
They begin the in-depth discussion by addressing some romantic comedy tropes that are subverted in this film but remain problematic. While, in most romantic comedies, it is the woman who is seen as being incomplete without a man in her life, in “Sleepless in Seattle,” it is Sam who needs a wife in order to have a fulfilling life. The hosts agree that while it is somewhat of a relief to not see the woman being treated in this regard, it does not make it any better that a male character is treated as unwhole without a partner.
Moreover, instead of the man showing stalking behavior toward the woman he is pursuing, it is Annie who engages in this kind of behavior. Again, the hosts can’t help but find it somewhat refreshing to find the roles reversed but still don’t find it acceptable. Further, many of the other characters — namely Becky (Rosie O’Donnell) — exist solely to justify unacceptable behavior. In one scene, Annie asks Becky’s opinion on whether or not she is acting irrational, and Becky responds that she “somehow” is not — despite the opposite clearly being true and the film providing no basis of justification for Annie’s actions. Further, this means that the supporting characters, many of whom are female, have no purpose outside of their relation to the two romantic leads.
Beyond the film’s problematic foundations, there are many smaller details that Caitlin, Jamie and Andy point out and take issue with. For one, every single female character seems to be attached to classic romance film “An Affair to Remember,” including Sam’s sister, Suzy (Rita Wilson), who cries at one point summarizing the plot of the film to Sam. The hosts discuss how this perpetuates the stereotype of women being overly emotional and only caring about romance.
Jamie’s ending note on the film sums up the basis of the hosts’ feelings on “Sleepless in Seattle”: “This film blows — don’t watch it.”
Nikki Munoz covers podcasts. Contact her at [email protected].