All Monsters Are People (Ep. 187 - Attack of the Killer Tomatoes)

This Week's Guest: Michael Varrati


What would it look like if you celebrated Halloween and Christmas at the same time? My guest this week is Michael Varrati, host of the podcast Dead for Filth, and screenwriter of such films as Grindsploitation 4, From Hell She Rises, and Seven Dorms of Death. But he's also the writer of the Hallmark film Broadcasting Christmas, starring Melissa Joan Hart, as well as A Christmas Reunion and A Christmas in Vermont. Michael's genre-hopping might seem a little weird, but he's not alone in straddling horror and rom-com. The two have more in common than you might expect.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. 

BTW, I hope you'll join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat. It's on Saturday August 25th at 2pm pacific. You can find a link at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed -- that's @sewersofparis. And head over to SewersOfParis.com to see clips of the stuff we talk about on each episode.

Also! If you're looking for more queer podcasts, check out the show I host with some fantastically funny drag queens called Queens of Adventure. We play an ongoing and very queer game of Dungeons & Dragons and we just announced some more live shows. Subscribe, sign up for the mailing list, and get tickets at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week's Recommendation: Gremlins

Thanks again to Michael for joining me. Since we recorded our chat a few days ago, I've been thinking a lot about the overlap of horror and Christmas -- how they're both such foundational genres, going back over 120 years. The first horror film was probably Le Manoir du Diable, made in 1896; that was followed two years later by the first Christmas movie, entitled simply Santa Claus.

And so the seeds were planted for the film that is my recommendation for this week: 1984's Gremlins. Not only is it a difficult cultural artifact to describe, it's sometimes difficult to convince people that it actually exists because it sounds like a parody -- which, in fact, it is.

A mysterious adorable creature is accidentally unleashed in a small suburb right before Christmas. At first everyone is enchanted by the cute furry monster, but then things get out of control as it multiples, and its various duplicates become increasingly wicked in response to the wickedness of the human around them. 

It is really hard to classify this movie, so let's not even try. It's a completely deadpan delivery of both horror and holiday tropes -- it's not unheard of for naughty characters to get coal in their stocking, but in Gremlins they're launched to their death on sabotaged stairmasters. 

I can't think of a better blend of the two genres, and I wonder if it's in part down to camp. Both scary movies and Christmas films thrive in trope and excess. It's only natural that they'd get along as well as they do.

Stuff We Talked About

Bonus Episode! Gay by May or Your Money Back (Ep. 186 - Gaby Dunn)

This Week's Guest: Bad With Money's Gaby Dunn

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What happens when you allow yourself to become a character in the stories that you tell about the world around you? My guest on this episode is the fantastic Gaby Dunn -- actress, journalist, writer, comedian, activist, blogger. Her podcast and forthcoming book are both entitled Bad with Money, and chronicle Gaby's attempts to help others manage their finances as she learns to manage her own. Gaby's background is in journalism, where the first rule is to remain neutral and never inject yourself into the story. But she felt drained by the pressure to hide behind her reporting, and discovered that getting personal and revealing was a gateway to more fulfilling work, and a more fulfilling life.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes bonus episodes like these possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. 

BTW, I hope you'll join us for the next Sewers of Paris live chat. It's on Saturday August 25th at 2pm pacific. You can find a link at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed -- that's @sewersofparis. And head over to SewersOfParis.com to see clips of the stuff we talk about on each episode.

Also! If you're looking for more queer podcasts, check out the show I host with some fantastically funny drag queens called Queens of Adventure. We play an ongoing and very queer game of Dungeons & Dragons and we just announced some more live shows. Subscribe, sign up for the mailing list, and get tickets at QueensOfAdventure.com.

This Week's Recommendation: His Girl Friday

For my recommendation this week, take a look at the movie His Girl Friday, staring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russel. It's one of my very favorite films, following a will-they-won't-they pair of reporters who struggle with their feelings for each other and their dedication to covering the news. His Girl Friday comes from the era of fast-talking black and white screwball comedies, and it veers from farce to romance to an indictment of mass media that's still relevant -- in fact, perhaps even more relevant -- to this day.

We talked a lot on this episode of the podcast about journalism, and the long-standing rule that reporters must keep their writing as impersonal as possible. And at first, that might seem like a good rule of thumb, since you'd think that the whole point of news is to receive an objective reporting of the facts. But there's a problem with that: first, as we discussed, that exacts a pretty heavy toll of journalists. And second, it's impossible for news to ever be truly objective

Although his Girl Friday is definitely a Hollywood depiction of journalism, it has a brilliant appreciation for the fact that there are actual human beings behind the words you read, whether they're printed on a page or today glowing on a screen. It shows how newsworthy events intersect with the personal lives of those covering them, and how impossible it can be to maintain a firewall of objectivity -- since the very act of relaying information is always going to include a point of view. 

Stuff we Talked About

Demons Were Always At Hand (Ep. 185 - Beetlejuice)

This Week's Guest: Anthony Hudson

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Is it possible to be a responsible adult without giving up the imaginary worlds you enjoyed as a child? My guest this week is Anthony Hudson, also known as Portland's premier drag clown Carla Rossi. Growing up, he'd slip into fantasy worlds to escape the reality of the dreary little town where he lived. But his reliance on escapes as a kid meant that he was unprepared for life as a grown up -- until he figured out how to invite real life into his fantasies.

Huge thanks to everyone who makes The Sewers of Paris possible with a pledge of a dollar or more a month on Patreon. There's rewards for folks who back the show -- just click "Support the Show on Patreon." Or you can support The Sewers of Paris for free by leaving a review on your podcast platform of choice -- that really helps people find the show. Thanks to Trey Johnso8 who writes, "Relatable ... Listening helps me remember how much I love the topics discussed and sometimes gives me ideas for new things to try."

BTW, I hope you'll join us for the next Sewers of Paris livestream. It's this Saturday, August 11th, at 2pm pacific, with special guest Isabella Price -- an expert in horror films. We'll be talking about our favorite queer monsters, gay vampires, and everything spooky. There's a link to the livestream at the top of the Sewers of Paris twitter feed.

And we've just announced two more Queens of Adventure live shows, featuring drag queens playing a fantastically funny Dungeons & Dragons adventure for a live audience. The first is on August 30th at Kremwerk in Seattle, where we'll be part of a double-feature alongside the podcast d20 Dames. The second show is on September 1st at PAX West, also in Seattle. Tickets and details are now available at QueensOfAdventure.com -- where you can also subscribe to the Queens of Adventure podcast, join the discord, and follow the show on Twitter.

This Week's Recommendation: Interview with the Vampire

Thanks again to Anthony for joining me. Ever since I started this podcast, I've noted that queer people have a particular fondness for monsters. Maybe we identify with their feelings of frustration at the world, maybe it's their strength we admire, maybe it's their defiance -- whatever the case, scary creatures seem to hold a special place in many of our hearts.

So for my recommendation this week, take a look at one of my favorite horrifying films about a gay couple just trying to make it in the world: Interview with the Vampire. It's a movie that ages surprisingly well -- unlike the unfortunate followup, Queen of the Damned, about which the less said, the better. 

Tom Cruise doesn't so much play Lestat as inhabit him, evoking a pained cynical effortlessness that simultaneously acknowledges his beauty and also his misery at the price that beauty exacts -- a look that will be familiar to anyone who's caught a glimpse of an Instagay in the wild.

Brad Pitt is the despondent human he seduces and persuades to join him, isolating him from the world except to eat it. When the relationship starts to sour, Lestat does what so many desperate spouses before him have: he obtains a child, played by Kirsten Dunst with so much sinister maturity you forget she was only 11 when the film was made.

Vampire films are among the oldest film genre -- we're nearing the 100 year anniversary of the making of Nosferatu -- and at this point it's nearly impossible to tell a vampire story that hasn't been told before. But Interview is stunningly inventive in multiple ways, my favorite of which is the barely-veiled lust between the male leads.

Whether the characters are staring at each other with passion or contempt, it's always with rolling boil of baroque desire. Overwrought, campy, and ridiculous, every moment they're on screen looks like the cover of a romance novel. And thanks to the unreasonably lavish production, it works. You buy them as a couple. A terrible murderous self-destructive tragic couple, sure -- but then again, they don't call them monsters for nothing.

Stuff We Talked About