Hey everyone. Farewell, sweet iPod — namesake of the podcast, progenitor of the iPhone. See you in the great obsolescence in the sky. This week, we have the usual picks, but we’re also trying something new. As always, tell me what you’re listening to. Please. My earballs are hungry, they’re just young children, they need to grow strong. You can reach me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter.
Reality, or something like it.
There’s a lot packed into each episode of Being Trans, a new spin on an old idea that’s admirable for what it’s trying to do. As it says on the tin, the show is an effort to capture and present the day-to-day experiences of trans individuals as they go about their lives, and the debut season focuses on four such individuals who reside in Los Angeles: Sy-Clarke Chan, a nonbinary legal assistant; Chloe Corcoran, a university administrator who’s a trans woman; Jeffrey Jay, a standup comedian and a trans man; and Mariana Marroquin, a trans woman originally from Guatemala.
Produced by Lemonada Media (Add to Cart, Believe Her) via its new sub-brand Being Studios, the show is being promoted as innovation in form — “reality television” meets podcasting, a framing that was central to a recent New York Times write-up about the production. I’ve seen this concept pop up more lately. There are at least two other podcasts coming out this summer that attempt to position itself as an audio-first take on reality television, and meaningful efforts around the idea can already be found in podcast directories everywhere, especially in the relationships space. This is Dating comes to mind, along with its genre brethren LoveSick, from House of Pod, and Blind Dating, from Parcast. (Relatedly, of all the podcast studios, Parcast is probably the best candidate to go full hog with the “reality television, but podcasting” framework, given its basic cable style and furious pace of production.)
The reality television framing simultaneously oversells and undersells Being Trans, mostly because the popular conception “reality television” these days is ultimately quite far from what the podcast actually delivers. One could argue that it harkens back to the earlier forms of the genre, a la 1971’s An American Family or the initial seasons of MTV’s Real World, or perhaps is more contiguous with the chiller Asian varieties, like Terrace House, but the fact of the matter is that the pitch feels imprecise within the contemporary Western context. At heart, Being Trans feels like a more specific evolution of the Radio Diaries concept: blown-up audio diaries that provide vivid windows into the ordinariness of extraordinary lives. Perhaps that’s not a sticky enough pitch for advertisers.
But I shouldn’t be a stickler for categories. However Lemonada chooses to position Being Trans, the underlying reality is that it’s a great listen. You’ll hear Sy, the nonbinary legal assistant, be made to process the fact that their partner, Robert, who Sy had been with since prior to transition, continues to identify as a straight man, kicking up a storm of challenging feelings. You’ll hear Chloe, the university administrator, attempt to figure out dating as a new transplant in Los Angeles. It’s surprising, engaging, and, in this political climate especially, an artifact of defiance.
Being Trans is available on all platforms. Executive producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Kasey Barrett, with Sele Leota. Other producers include Myrriah Gossett and Greta Stromquist.
Get up, get going.
If you’re looking for something light, fun, and fizzy (not to mention somewhat in conversation with the whole “reality TV meets podcasts” thing), Snooze is a breeze of a show that’ll serve you well.
Hosted and created by Megan Tan, who deep indie podcast-heads might recall for her autobiographical show Millennial, this new LAist Studios release is part self-help, part-Queer Eye, part-Personal Best, and shot through with a colorful sensibility that’s devoted to keeping things upbeat and optimistic. This production describes itself as a “show about things people put off, how they conquer them, but most importantly, how they conquer themselves.” Each episode sees Tan, along with her team of producers (dubbed the Snooze Squad), working with a different guests to come up with a plan to help them with a specific thing they’ve been procrastinating — and in doing so, they also deal with whatever larger thing is causing them to procrastinate in the first place. To give you a sense of the scale we’re talking about here, in the first episode, the team helps a thirty-something get a drivers license for the first time, and it starts digging deeper from there.
Erick Galindo is Snooze’s showrunner and editor; Tan had worked on Galindo’s podcast series from last year, WILD, on which she served as senior producer and occasional secondary host. This is a creative pairing with legs, I suspect.
Snooze is available on all platforms. Producers include Marina Peña, Kyle Chang, and Emma Alabaster. The executive producer is Antonia Cereijido.
Talking to a Cool Girl About ‘Cool Girl Podcasts’
Stick with me here. I suspect we’re on the verge of a fledgling trend — or, alternately, we’re in the midst of a trend that I’ve been oblivious to up until right now, which is a thing that happens all the time. Let’s call it the “Cool Girl Pod,” the main inspirations of which, for me, are Molly Lambert’s HeidiWorld, still on-going, and Lili Anolik’s Once Upon a Time at … Bennington College, from last year. I can’t quite put my finger on what links these two shows other than, oh you know, a ~vibe~, and I’ve been trying, with considerable difficulty, to articulate its shape in my head over the past few weeks.
So I reached out to Vulture’s Resident Cool Girl Morgan Baila (who’s also our senior news editor) for some help.
1.5x Speed: Okay, first of all, is this a trend, or am I just seeing things?
Morgan Baila: Yes, I think the Cool Girl Podcast is absolutely a trend. It’s a niche, but it’s definitely a budding genre.
What defines the Cool Girl Podcast?
Baila: So, the podcast world has traditionally been a very male-dominated industry, right? And a lot of the podcasts hosted by women tend to fall in a self-help or true crime genre. Oftentimes, there isn’t anything fun about them. But a Cool Girl podcast? It’s all about fun. And it’s going to grow as more women mic up and go deep on a random topic they’re passionate about.
How do you spot a Cool Girl Podcast? What are some good examples?
Baila: I define it as a culture trend piece brought to life. It’s purely for entertainment and it is rooted in someone being obsessed with a topic — Heidiworld and Molly Lambert’s obsession with LA culture and the origins of modern sex work is what brings this podcast, at times a little messy (but it fits the topic) to life. Same with Karina Longworth and You Must Remember This or Love is a Crime, with her conversational knowledge around Old Hollywood and film. Vanessa Grigoriadis’s podcasts: Chameleon, Fallen Angel. Kelsey McKinney and Normal Gossip. None of these podcasts feel mansplainey, and when I’m done with an episode I feel smarter, which makes me feel cooler, and like I need to be at a party to tell everyone all about my new area of expertise. It’s not just people shooting the shit.
My solid litmus test for a Cool Girl Pod is the amount of excitement and interest from my most interesting group chat. There are only a few podcasts that I’ve ever actively shared with people, and it’s never one from a celebrity, a wanna-be investigative journalist, or a self-help guru. They’re almost always a woman explaining something that I can best classify as “really solid gossip.”
It’s also key that they aren’t meant to be funny! Who? Weekly is fun, but not Cool Girl. It’s too funny.
If you were to make a Cool Girl pod, what would it be about?
Baila: A Cool Girl Podcast has to be hyper-specific — the less general interest, the more generally interesting it is to me. It also needs to reconsider something, but only slightly. Mine would be someone very New York. A “poor little rich girl” from NYC’s true socialite era. There’s so many to choose from.
➽ As David Weinberg’s excellent The Superhero Complex wraps up its run, Novel has started rolling out its next release: Deliver Us From Ervil, an audio doc on a 1940s Mormon utopian project gone wrong. I imagine this may pair well with the Hulu adaptation of Under the Banner of Heaven, which I’m really enjoying. (Wyatt Russell: The guy has it down.)
➽ A milestone to highlight this week: Las Culturistas hit three hundred episodes earlier this month. Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang are celebrating the occasion with a multi-part “300 songs of the Great Global Songbook” special. (Also, both Rogers and Yang are going to be in Fire Island, an upcoming film written by and starring Joel Kim Booster, that’s coming out next month.)
➽ I’m keeping an eye on Cool Zone Media, a relatively new rough-and-tumble, punk-flavored progressive podcast network created by journalist Robert Evans and producer Sophie Rae Licherman through iHeartMedia. In addition to producing and distributing the new Jamie Loftus project, the network is responsible for Behind the Bastards, It Could Happen Here, and Worst Year Ever. Their latest release is the straightforwardly-titled Cool People Who Did Cool Stuff, by Margaret Killjoy.
And that’s a wrap for 1.5x Speed! Hope you enjoyed it. We’re back next week, but in the meantime: Send podcast recommendations, feedback, or just say hello at [email protected].
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