The latest season of Karina Longworth’s Hollywood-history podcast, You Must Remember This, finished at a moment when 2022 seemed to open onto a wormhole. It was the end of June, and Roe v. Wade had just been overturned. Suddenly, Spotify feeds swelled with special episodes: what does this mean; how did we get here; we’re going back in time.
Amid this playlist of reactive distress, Longworth’s voice stood out. It always has. Over nearly 10 years and hundreds of episodes, her storytelling style—cool, erudite, cinematic in every sense—has attracted a cult following. A former LA Weekly film reviewer, Longworth started You Must Remember This in 2014, citing a desire to delve into the past (specifically, Hollywood’s first century) rather than critique the present. Prior seasons have ranged from definitive examinations of household names (a highlight: Charles Manson) to excavations of forgotten figures, like gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons.
This year, the show turned to more recent history with Erotic 80s, 12 binge-worthy episodes on the sex-charged thrillers and comedies of that decade. (A second batch, Erotic 90s, will follow in early 2023.) The series, like the ’80s, begins in the heyday of “porno chic” and proceeds into deepening conservatism and paranoia about sex, as straight male culture reacts to the feminist and LGBT rights movements and begins to reckon with AIDS.
This push and pull, Longworth shows, can be seen in how critics and audiences viewed female stars—as objects, avatars, and symbols but rarely as human beings. There’s Bo Derek of 10, whose rise to fame, and fall from it, were linked to her Pygmalionesque marriage to an older man. There’s Jennifer Beals of Flashdance, whose mixed-race character broke ground despite regressive media treatment. There’s Jagged Edge’s Glenn Close, who plays a career-oriented character that would have been written as a man a few years before yet who came away frustrated with the misogyny that lingered in the script.
Despite the discomforts—or perhaps because of them—these films retain an allure. They represent genuine attempts to deal openly with adult sexuality, which makes them daring in a way that mainstream features no longer are. “Why has sex of any kind all but disappeared as a subject of Hollywood movies,” Longworth asks in the season’s opening episode, “during a period when the wider culture’s response to human sexuality has only become more varied, and by turns, more inclusive, more volatile, and more complicated?”
There are many possible answers, from the success of sexless Marvel superheroes to the cooling effect of #MeToo. Longworth nods to these present-day forces but prefers to let listeners draw their own conclusions. You Must Remember This treats history not just as a mirror to today but also as a tantalizing escape hatch. Following the show through the ’80s is like parachuting into a hinge moment when the sexual revolution could have turned out differently, where the past is present and the future does not yet exist. “Join us, won’t you?” Longworth beckons at the beginning of each episode. It’s hard to say no.
One More Thing: Debunking diet culture
Remember Olestra? The master cleanse? SnackWell’s? The Biggest Loser? Michael Hobbes (of You’re Wrong About fame) and Aubrey Gordon (author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Fat) sure do. The two cohost Maintenance Phase, a podcast that takes a progressive, inclusive look at recent history’s questionable diet trends—and the ones we still buy into. Hobbes and Gordon’s genuine rapport features witty one-liners like “I am livid that I had to learn what an antioxidant is.” What’s most impressive is that a podcast with such a bleak thesis—why the ideals of American wellness are false and inequitable—can regularly elicit laughs and raise the spirits. The BMI is trash, y’all.•