Tragically Ludicrous and Ludicrously Tragic (Ep. 91 - Reality Shows)

This Week's Guest: Ross Semple

How do you think you'd come across if someone made your life into a reality show? My guest this week is Ross Semple, who grew up in a sort of fishbowl where the presence of family was constant and privacy didn't exist. And so naturally the round-the-clock surveillance of reality shows resonated with him, particularly as the medium evolved and the term "reality" became euphemistic.

But as young as the genre may seem, Ross eventually discovered that hysterics, outlandish costumes, and the ludicrously tragic have a long and noble history in queer entertainment.

This Week's Recommendation: All About Eve

I hope that you'll respond to my recommendation this week by saying, oh, I've already seen it. Because everyone should have seen All About Eve already. In case you haven't, I suppose we can still be friends but here's what you need to know:

It came out in 1950 and stars everyone you hope it stars: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe in a brief appearance -- the kind of actors who make you think "now THIS is a black and white film."

The story is a delicious melodrama: aging actress takes in a young ingenue and soon everyone's scheming and fighting and sobbing and blackmailing. This is the movie that invented countless catty catchphrases, but also perfected a certain way of being, a way of carrying oneself with a ferociousness that is at once dignified and absurd.

The film is wall-to-wall with tough dames making sweeping pronouncements, dueling sarcastic asides, and even occasionally an insultingly weak slap to the face. It is a crowning achievement of camp, in part because it was never intended to be. It was, after all, a more innocent time -- Susan Sontag was just 17 when it came out -- and by the time we got to the slapping fights on Dynasty, the gossip of Desperate Housewives, and NBC's Hairspray Live, the entertainment industry had developed a sort of assembly language for mass-market camp, distilling it down to just its tastiest ingredients. 

But All About Eve boasts a more complex bouquet. Its not have confessionals, drinks thrown in faces, or even a single high school musical number. But I wouldn't say it suffers for their absence.

Clips of Stuff We Talked About



Parisian Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0