David Remnick is joined by The New Yorker’s award-winning writers, editors and artists to present a weekly mix of profiles, storytelling, and insightful conversations about the issues that matter — plus an occasional blast of comic genius from the magazine’s legendary Shouts and Murmurs page. The Ne…
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Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, which created ChatGPT, says that AI is a powerful tool that will streamline human work and quicken the pace of scientific advancement But ChatGPT has both enthralled and terrified us, and even some of AI's pioneers are freaked out by it – by how quickly the technology has advanced. David Remnick talks with Altman, and with computer scientist Yoshua Bengio, who won the prestigious Turing Award for his work in 2018, but recently signed an open letter calling for a moratorium on some AI research until regulation can be implemented. The stakes, Bengio says, are high. “I believe there is a non-negligible risk that this kind of technology, in the short term, could disrupt democracies.”
The live-action remake of Disney's classic “The Little Mermaid” is out this weekend. The performance of Halle Bailey as Princess Ariel has been widely praised, but some on the right lambasted the casting of a Black actress in the role as an example of—of course—wokeness on the part of Disney. The film's director, Rob Marshall, dismisses the notion as quickly as he can. “It was never: ‘Let's do a woke version of ‘Little Mermaid,' ” he tells Naomi Fry. “It was: ‘Let's just do the best version.' ” Marshall took an unusual path toward directing: he began his career as a dancer on Broadway, moving to film only after becoming injured while performing in “Cats.” Since then, he has directed “Chicago,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and “Mary Poppins Returns.” For “The Little Mermaid,” he drew inspiration from the original Hans Christian Andersen text, which he says is a coming-of-age story about a young girl who breaks down barriers to understand herself and the world around her. “I just felt, wow, isn't that the world we live in?,” he says. “I mean for me, the whole time I was doing this movie, it felt really like an antidote to the times we're living in, the divisive world we live in.”
Earlier this month, E Jean Carroll won an unprecedented legal victory: in a civil suit, Donald Trump was found liable for sexual abuse against her in the mid-nineteen-nineties, and for defamation in later accusing her of a hoax. But no sooner was that decision announced than Trump reiterated his defamatory insults against her in a controversial CNN interview. Carroll has now filed an amended complaint, in a separate suit, based on Trump's continued barrage. But can anything make him stop? “The one thing he understands is money,” Carroll's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, tells David Remnick. “At some point he'll understand that every time he does it, it's going to cost him a few million dollars. And that may make a difference.” Carroll acknowledges that Trump will keep attacking her to get a laugh—“a lot of people don't like women,” she says simply—but she is undaunted, telling Remnick, “I hate to be all positive about this, but I think we've made a difference, I really do.” Plus, the staff writer Dexter Filkins on Ron DeSantis, who finally announced his Presidential candidacy this week. In 2022, Filkins profiled the Florida governor as his national ambitions were becoming clear. “He's very good at staking out a position and pounding the table,” Filkins notes, “saying, ‘I'm not giving in to the liberals in the Northeast.' ”
It's the time of year when many people feel an overpowering urge to dig—to plant their back yard or vegetable garden, or even the flowerpots on the fire escape. “I just love the whole process. I love the muck of it,” Jill Lepore tells David Remnick. “You're kind of entrapped in a completely different rhythm, and it's all so entirely out of your control. … It's a never-ending process of education.” Lepore, a professor of history as well as a staff writer, wrote recently on her passion for seed catalogues, and shares a couple of things she's excited about growing this year.
Tom Hanks has been a constant presence on the American movie screen for forty years. He has played a mermaid's boyfriend, an astronaut, a soldier on D Day, an F.B.I. agent, an AIDS patient, a castaway, and a strange, innocent character running across America—among dozens of other roles. Hanks won the Academy Award for Best Actor two years in a row. Now in his sixties, Hanks has added another line to his résumé: novelist. “The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece”—an overstuffed, often funny, work of fiction—captures what he's learned from forty years in the business. Hanks describes the process of moviemaking as equal parts chaos and monotony. “If anybody who we call a noncombatant, or a civilian, wants to visit the making of a motion picture, they will be bored out of their skull,” he tells David Remnick, insisting that it's impossible to know on set whether a production will be a masterpiece or a flop. “You do not know if it is going to work out. You can only have faith.” Hanks spoke with Remnick onstage at Symphony Space as part of The New Yorker Live to kick off his book tour.
In June, a first-of-its-kind lawsuit will go to trial in Montana. The case, Held v. Montana, centers on the climate crisis. Sixteen young plaintiffs allege their state government has failed in its obligation, spelled out in the state constitution, to provide residents with a healthful environment. The psychiatrist Dr. Lise Van Susteren is serving as an expert witness and intends to detail the emotional distress that can result from watching the environmental destruction unfolding year after year. “Kids are talking about their anger. They're talking about their fear. They're talking about their despair. They're talking about feelings of abandonment,” she tells David Remnick. “And they don't understand why the adults in the room are not taking more action.” Dr. Van Susteren is a co-founder of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance, a network of mental-health providers concerned with educating colleagues and the public about the climate crisis.
The last time the Writers Guild of America hit the picket line was fifteen years ago, with a strike that lasted a hundred days and cost the city of Los Angeles hundreds of millions of dollars. This year's strike has the potential to drag on even longer. At the core of the dispute is the question of who deserves to profit from the revenue generated by streaming services. “[Studios] tell us that they can't afford the cost of us,” Laura Jacqmin, a veteran TV writer and a W.G.A. strike captain tells the staff writer Michael Schulman. “And simultaneously they're on their public earnings calls, trumpeting bright financial futures to their shareholders.” Plus, the comedian and essayist Samantha Irby talks with the staff writer and critic Doreen St. Félix. Irby is beloved by fans for her particularly unvarnished truth-telling. She recently started writing for television on shows like Hulu‘s “Shrill” and HBO's “And Just Like That . . .,” the “Sex and the City” reboot, which returns for a second season in June. But she has also maintained her memoir-writing practice, and is out with a new essay collection, “Quietly Hostile,” in May.
A troubling question looms over the Kriegskinder, Germans who were children during the Second World War: Was my father a mass murderer? These innocent Germans carried the guilt of their nation while their families often remained silent. The New Yorker's Burkhard Bilger, whose grandfather was a Nazi, speaks with Sabine Bode, a journalist who encourages the now-elderly Kriegskinder to speak about their unacknowledged trauma. Bilger's new book, “Fatherland: A Memoir of War, Conscience, and Family Secrets,” chronicles his years-long quest to understand the truth behind his family history. This segment originally aired October 14, 2016.
Just a month ago, the story of two lawmakers expelled from the Tennessee legislature captured headlines across the country. Their offense wasn't corruption or criminal activity— instead, they had joined a protest at the statehouse in favor of gun control, shortly after the Nashville shooting at a Christian school. Earlier this week, Representative Zooey Zephyr, of Montana, was barred from the House chamber after making a speech against a trans health-care ban. In the past few years, in Arizona, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, legislatures have worked to strip powers from state officials who happen to be Democrats in order to put those powers in Republican hands. Jacob Grumbach, a political-science professor and the author of “Laboratories Against Democracy,” talks about how state politics has become nationalized. “If you're a politician, and you're trying to rise in the ranks from the local or state level in your party,” he notes, “your best bet is to join the national culture wars”—even at the expense of constituents' real concerns. Plus, the contributing writer Joshua Yaffa talks with David Remnick about Evan Gershkovich, the first American reporter imprisoned in Russia on charges of espionage since the nineteen-eighties. “Evan was not sanguine or Pollyannaish or naïve about the context in which he was working,” Yaffa notes, but he returned to Russia again and again to tell the story of that country's descent into autocracy.
On May 6th, King Charles will become the oldest person to ascend the throne of the United Kingdom. He is a bit of an odd duck to be the king, Rebecca Mead thinks. Charles has “long made clear that he considers his birthright a burden,” she writes. In fact, many things are a burden: during the ceremonies following the death of Queen Elizabeth, the new king “got into not one but two altercations with malfunctioning pens. . . . As his biographer Catherine Mayer puts it, ‘The world is against him—even inanimate objects are against him. That is absolutely central to his personality.' ” Mead—a subject of the king, as well as a staff writer—talks with David Remnick about Charles III's coronation, the problem of Harry and Meghan, and the future of the British monarchy itself.
We take it for granted that entertainers can—and probably should—advocate for the causes they believe in, political and otherwise. That wasn't always the case: at one time, entertainers were supposed to entertain, and little else. Harry Belafonte, who died on April 25th at the age of ninety-six, pioneered the artist-activist approach. One of the most celebrated singers of his era, he had a string of huge hits—“The Banana Boat Song,” “Mama Look a Boo Boo,” “Jamaica Farewell”—while appearing as the rare Black leading man in the movies. At the same time, Belafonte used his platform to influence public opinion. He was a key figure in the civil-rights movement, a confidant of Martin Luther King's; a generation later, he worked with Nelson Mandela to help bring down apartheid in South Africa. Belafonte joined The New Yorker Radio Hour in 2016, when the staff writer Jelani Cobb visited him at his office in Manhattan. This segment originally aired September 30, 2016.
Once a Beltway neoconservative, Tucker Carlson came to embody the angry, forgotten white man—railing at “the élites” and propagating racist conspiracy theories and the lie of the stolen election. “Unlike a lot of his colleagues at Fox News, he made news, he set the agenda,” Kelefa Sanneh, who wrote about Carlson in 2017, says. “People were wondering, What is Tucker going to be saying tonight?” Sanneh joins Andrew Marantz and David Remnick to discuss Carlson's demise, and what comes next. And Clare Malone reports on Candace Owens, the powerful right-wing influencer and provocateur who's set her sights on the future of right-wing media—and on a younger and more female audience than that of Fox News.
Just three days after 9/11, Congress authorized a major expansion of executive power: the President could now wage war against terrorism without prior approval. The resolution was called the Authorization for Use of Military Force, and it passed almost unanimously. Its reauthorization, in 2002, brought our country to war with Iraq, and has been used to deploy American forces all over the world. More than twenty years later, the mood in the country has changed dramatically, and lawmakers in both parties are pushing to roll back the President's discretion to use force. A bill to revoke the A.U.M.F. passed the Senate 66–30 a few weeks ago, and it is expected to pass the House as well. David Remnick talks with the senators who led that effort—Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, and Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana—and with Representative Barbara Lee of California, who, in 2001, cast the sole dissenting vote in all of Congress. Plus, David Remnick remembers the beloved cartoonist Ed Koren, a fixture of the magazine for more than half a century.
The cascade of revelations published by ProPublica concerning Justice Clarence Thomas—the island-hopping yachting adventures underwritten by a right-wing billionaire patron, the undisclosed real estate transactions—raises questions about his proximity to power and money. “I think it stretches common sense,” Jane Mayer tells David Remnick, “to think that a judge could be independent when he takes that much money from one person.” Mayer notes that other Justices, including the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, have accepted large gifts from politically connected donors. A deepening public distrust in the integrity of the Supreme Court, Mayer thinks, is dangerous for democracy. “The glue that holds us together is the rule of law in this country,” she says. “People have to believe when they go in front of a court, and in particular the Supreme Court, . . . that it's justice that's going to prevail.”
“The Thanksgiving Play” is a play about the making of a play. Four performers struggle to devise a Thanksgiving performance that's respectful of Native peoples, historically accurate (while not too grim for white audiences), and also inclusive to the actors themselves. A train wreck ensues. “First it's fun. . . . You get to have a good time in the theatre. I would say that's the sugar, and then there's the medicine,” the playwright Larissa FastHorse tells the staff writer Vinson Cunningham. “The satire is the medicine, and you have to keep taking it.” FastHorse was born into the Sicangu Lakota Nation, and was adopted as a child into a white family. She is the first Native American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. “When I was younger, it was very painful to be separated from a lot of things that I felt like I couldn't partake in because I wasn't raised on the reservation or had been away from my Lakota family so long,” she says. “But now I really recognize it as my superpower that I can take Lakota culture . . . and contemporary Indigenous experiences and translate them for white audiences, which unfortunately are still the majority of audiences in American theatre.”
A ban of the Chinese social-media app TikTok, first floated by the Trump Administration, is now gaining real traction in Washington. Lawmakers of both parties fear the app could be manipulated by Chinese authorities to gain insight into American users and become an effective tool for propaganda against the United States. “Tiktok arrived in Americans' lives in about 2018 . . . and in some ways it coincided with the same period of collapse in the U.S.-China relationship,” the staff writer Evan Osnos tells David Remnick. “If you're a member of Congress, you look at TikTok and you say, ‘This is the clearest emblem of my concern about China, and this is something I can talk about and touch.' ” Remnick also talks with the journalist Chris Stokel-Walker—who has written extensively about TikTok and argued against a ban—regarding the global political backlash against the app. “I think we should be suspicious of all social media, but I don't think that TikTok is the attack vector that we think it is,” he says. “This is exactly the same as any other platform.”
Margo Price moved to Nashville from rural Illinois at the age of nineteen. After struggling for years to break through in the country-music scene, she found success with her 2016 release “Midwest Farmer's Daughter,” widely considered one of the best albums of the year. Since then, she's established herself as one of music's new stars, an artist in the outlaw-country lineage—and a free spirit not afraid to speak frankly. Price talks with the staff writer Emily Nussbaum, who is well known as a television critic and is also a fan of country music, about her fourth studio album, “Strays.” It was released earlier this year, around the same time as her memoir, “Maybe We'll Make It,” which discusses her years of struggle before establishing herself as an artist. They also discussed Price's drug use—she speaks proudly of using psilocybin and her stance in favor of gun control in the wake of a school shooting in Nashville.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed law changing the judiciary is described as a reform. To opponents, it's a move to gut the independence of the Supreme Court as a check on executive power—and a move from the playbook of autocrats like Hungary's Viktor Orbán. The protests that followed are the largest in the country's history, and are now stretching into their third month. Ruth Margalit, who is based in Tel Aviv, covered the protests for The New Yorker, and she tells David Remnick that the strength and success of the protests so far has brought a sense of hope for many who were losing faith in the country's political future. “I think there is a sign of optimism. There is this potential for a kind of political realignment,” she says. “I do have some friends who were thinking of leaving and suddenly are saying, ‘Well, let's just see how this plays out.' And they suddenly feel that they have a role.” Remnick also speaks with Margalit's father, the political philosopher Avishai Margalit, about demographic and cultural factors driving Israeli politics. The nation has been moving to the right probably since the failure of the Oslo peace accords in the nineteen-nineties, but “the new element,” Avishai thinks, “is the strong fusion of religion and nationalism,” elements that were once kept separate in Israel. “The current government is utterly dependent on the votes of the religious and the ultra-religious,” he says. The big unknown, Ruth says, is whether the popular uprising will expand beyond the judicial reforms. “Let's say the fight over democracy is won—what happens then?” she says. “Can we branch out this fight over democracy? Can it include the West Bank and bring an end to the occupation?”
In the late nineteen-seventies and into the eighties, Brooke Shields was one of the most famous and most controversial people in America. At age eleven, she appeared in the film “Pretty Baby,” playing a child prostitute; by fifteen she was in the heavy-breathing desert-island love story “Blue Lagoon.” She was the face of a series of ads for Calvin Klein jeans featuring notoriously smutty innuendo. Yet Shields herself—rather than the filmmakers and ad men who developed her roles—became the object of fascination and public reproach, as the new documentary “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields,” premièring on Hulu, demonstrates in detail. Yet, if she was exploited by adults around her when she was young, Shields denies any sense of being a victim. In a conversation with Michael Schulman, she calls hypocrisy on models who criticize their industry. “You're making money, and you're selling something, and, in most cases, sex sells,” she says. “ ‘Oh, I'm being objectified.' You're a model! That's the point!”
In 2018, at the midpoint of the Trump Presidency, the journalist and historian Jon Meacham wrote a book called “The Soul of America,” warning of the gravity of Trump's threat to democracy. This was hardly a unique point of view, but Meacham's particular way of putting things, steeped in a critical reverence for American history, hit home with one reader in particular: Joe Biden. In the years since, Meacham became an informal adviser to Biden, helping him recently with the State of the Union address. Meacham, who has written biographies of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, George H. W. Bush, John Lewis, and, now, Abraham Lincoln, reflects on the vulnerability of American democracy in the current moment, with an overt autocrat as the leading Republican contender for the next Presidential election. “Having a dictatorial figure is not new either in human experience or American history. What is new is that so many people are willing to suspend their better judgment to support him,” he says. “I am flummoxed to some extent at the durability of partisan feeling.” Plus, the music critic Kelefa Sanneh on a fleet of artists bringing fresh sounds to what has become the least cool genre: mainstream rock. He shares tracks by HARDY, Giovannie & the Hired Guns, AVOID, and Jelly Roll.
H. G. Carrillo was a writer's writer—not a household name, but esteemed in literary circles. He began writing later in life, and was in his mid-forties when his first novel, “Loosing My Espanish,” was published. The book, which describes a Cuban-immigrant experience, was hailed as a triumph of Latino fiction; Junot Díaz praised the author's “formidable” talent, calling his “lyricism pitch-perfect and his compassion limitless.” Carrillo went on to literary positions in and outside of the academy. He was an early casualty of the COVID pandemic, dying in the spring of 2020 at the age of fifty-nine. But his obituary—instead of tying a bow on the historical record—unspooled in quite a different direction, revealing secrets that Carrillo had worked for decades to conceal. For two years, the staff writer D. T. Max has been trying to trace what happened, and why.
The prescription drug Ozempic was designed to help people with Type 2 diabetes manage their disease, and, under the name Wegovy, to treat obesity. But it has been embraced recently as a tool for weight loss, and many celebrities are rumored to use it in order to shed pounds. Known generically as semaglutide, the drug gives users the feeling of satiation—even to the point of uncomfortable fullness. “One doctor I spoke to compared it to a turkey dinner in a pen,” the staff writer Jia Tolentino tells David Remnick. Tolentino recently reported on the use and misuse of the drug, and what its prominence among celebrities says about our relationship to thinness today. After some years in which body culture seemed to become more accepting, Tolentino fears the drug will wind the clock back to the brutal insistence on thinness of decades past. “Like any technology, it's very complicated,” she says. “For some people, this drug might save their lives. For others, it does not make sense to be used in any casual way.”
The pontificate of Pope Francis, which just reached its tenth year, has brought a greater willingness to engage with modern issues. Francis has addressed Catholics on the climate emergency, arguing a religious position against consumerism and irresponsible development. Without changing the Church's doctrines, he struck a very different tone than his predecessors Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI on the inclusion of gay people and the involvement of women in Church leadership. The traditionalist reaction against Francis has also been unprecedented, with prominent figures in the Church openly seeking to discredit him. The New Yorker contributor Paul Elie, who recently wrote about this decade of Francis's leadership, explores how tensions in the Church were overtaken by an American-style culture war. Elie speaks with Bishop Frank Caggiano, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and M. Cathleen Kaveny, a prominent law professor and theologian at Boston College. “For John Paul,” Kaveny says, “the main challenge that the faith faced was moral relativism. The conservatives . . . are worried that [moral relativism] is not appreciated by Pope Francis.”
In Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, the Supreme Court's conservative majority appears likely to strike down affirmative action, in a decision expected by this summer. The practice of considering race as a tool to counteract discrimination has been in place at many colleges and universities, and in some workplaces, since the civil-rights era. But a long-running legal campaign has threatened the practice for decades. David Remnick talks with two academics who have had a front-row seat in this fight. Ruth Simmons tells him, “For me, it's quite simply the question of what will become of us as a nation if we go into our separate enclaves without the opportunity to interact and to learn from each other.” Simmons was the Ivy League's first Black president, and more recently led Prairie View A. & M., in Texas. Lee Bollinger, while leading the University of Michigan, was the defendant in Grutter v. Bollinger, a landmark case twenty years ago in which the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action. The Court's current conservative majority is likely to overturn that precedent. Remnick also speaks with Femi Ogundele, the dean of undergraduate admissions at the University of California,Berkeley. Consideration of race in admissions at California state schools has been banned for nearly thirty years. “A lot of us are being kind of tapped on the shoulder and asked, ‘How are you doing what you're doing in this new reality?' ” he says. “I want to be very clear: I do not think there is any race-neutral alternative to creating diversity on a college campus,” Ogundele tells Remnick. “However, I do think we can do better than what we've done.”
Janet Mock first heard the word “māhū,” a Native Hawaiian word for people who exist outside the male-female binary, when she was twelve. She had just moved back to Oahu, where she was born, from Texas, and, by that point, Mock knew that the gender she presented as didn't feel right. “I don't like to say the word ‘trapped,' ” Mock tells The New Yorker's Hilton Als. “But I was feeling very, very tightly contained in my body.” Eventually, Mock left Hawaii for New York, where she worked as an editor for People magazine. “[Everyone was] bigger and louder and smarter and bolder than me,” she tells Als. “So, in that sense, I could kind of blend in.” After working at People for five years, she came out publicly as trans; since then, she has emerged as a leading voice on trans issues. She's written two books, produced a documentary, and signed a deal with Netflix. In 2018, she became the first trans woman of color to be hired as a writer on a TV series—Ryan Murphy's FX series “Pose,” which just concluded its final season. This story originally aired January 4, 2019
Many culture-war politicians are attacking the rights of trans people, and making a regressive view of gender as biology the key to their platforms. In this episode, David Remnick talks to two people who've found themselves at the center of the battle over transgender rights. In Nebraska, a state senator has committed to filibustering every piece of legislation to ward off a vote on a Republican-sponsored bill that would ban gender-affirming care for trans people under age nineteen. Then Masha Gessen—who fled Russia years ago as an L.G.B.T. person targeted by government repression—explains why anti-trans messaging has been effective for the right, and why discussions of trans issues can be fraught even for those who support them.
“In The Dark,” the acclaimed investigative podcast from American Public Media, is joining The New Yorker and Condé Nast Entertainment. In its first two seasons, “In The Dark,” hosted by the reporter Madeleine Baran, has taken a close look at the criminal-justice system in America. The first season examined the abduction and murder, in 1989, of eleven-year-old Jacob Wetterling, and exposed devastating failures on the part of law enforcement. The second season focussed on Curtis Flowers, a Black man from Winona, Mississippi, who was tried six times for the same crime. When the show's reporters began looking into the case, Flowers was on death row. After their reporting, the Supreme Court reversed Flowers's conviction. Today, he is a free man. A third season of “In The Dark,” which will be the show's most ambitious one yet, is on its way. David Remnick recently sat down with Baran and the show's managing producer, Samara Freemark, to talk about the remarkable first two seasons of the show, and what to expect in the future. To listen to the entirety of the “In The Dark” catalogue, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
When they were just thirteen and eleven years old, sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey started posting videos of themselves singing on YouTube and quickly built a following. Their covers often went viral—their version of Beyoncé's “Pretty Hurts” even caught the attention of Beyoncé, who brought them on tour as her opening act. Now, with two albums and five Grammy nominations behind them, the sisters are for the first time working on separate projects: Halle is starring as Ariel in an upcoming remake of “The Little Mermaid,” and Chloe is releasing a solo album, “In Pieces,” later this month. Chloe Bailey spoke with the contributing writer Lauren Michele Jackson at the New Yorker Festival in October about the mixed blessing of social-media stardom. “When we program our minds to think about being No. 1 … it really suffocates you and it stifles the process,” she says. “Right now, I'm just creating to be creating, and I have never felt more free.” Plus, the lost New Jersey photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 1975, the French master photographer spent a month documenting New Jersey, which he called a “shortcut to America.” Why did the pictures disappear?
Well before launching the horrifying campaign against Ukraine a year ago, Vladimir Putin had been undermining Russia as well: normalizing corruption on a massive scale, and suppressing dissent and democracy. One of the darkest moments on that trajectory was the poisoning of the opposition leader Alexey Navalny with the nerve agent novichok. Navalny and a team of investigators had illustrated the corruption of Putin and his circle in startling detail, and Navalny began travelling the country to launch a bid for the Presidency. “Every time when I heard Navalny giving an interview, I don't think there was one interview where he wasn't asked, ‘How come you're still alive? How come they still haven't they killed you?,' ” recalls the Russian activist Maria Pevchikh, the head of investigations and media for Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation. “And Navalny is rolling his eyes saying, ‘I don't know, I'm tired of this question, stop asking. I don't know why I'm still alive and why they haven't tried to assassinate me.' ” Pevchikh was travelling with Navalny when he was poisoned, and helped uncover the involvement of the F.S.B. security services. After surviving the assassination and recuperating abroad, Navalny returned to Russia only to be arrested and then detained in a penal colony. “I think Putin wants him to suffer a lot and then die in prison,” Pevchikh tells David Remnick. Still, she maintains hope. “The situation is so chaotic, specifically because of the war,” she says. “Is the likelihood of Navalny being released when the war ends high? I think it is almost certain.” Pevchikh also served as an executive producer of the documentary “Navalny,” which is nominated for an Academy Award.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is in a genre all its own, and is an extremely unlikely favorite for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It's a loopy sci-fi quest that becomes a martial arts revenge battle, superimposed on a sentimental family drama. Stephanie Hsu plays both Joy, a depressed young woman struggling with her immigrant mother (played by Michelle Yeoh), and Jobu Tupaki, an interdimensional supervillain bent on sowing chaos, and possibly the end of the world. “The relationship between Evelyn and Joy in its simplest terms is very fraught,” Hsu tells the staff writer Jia Tolentino. “It's the story of a relationship of a daughter who's a lesbian who is deeply longing for her mother's acceptance . . . but they keep chasing each other around in the universe and they can just never find one another. Until, of course, they launch into the multiverse and become nemeses.” The film is nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress, for Hsu's performance. Plus, in a New Yorker Radio Hour annual tradition, the incorruptible film critic Richard Brody bequeaths the awards that really matter: the Brody Awards, recognizing the finest performances and the best picture of 2022.
As the COVID-19 pandemic approaches its fourth year, we can begin to gain some clarity on which countries, and which U.S. states, had the best outcomes over time. In a conversation with David Remnick, Dhruv Khullar, a contributing writer and a practicing physician in New York, explains some of the key factors. Robust testing was key for public-health authorities to make good decisions, unsurprisingly. What also seems clear from a distance, Khullar says, is that social cohesion was a decisive underlying condition. This helps explain why the United States did poorly in its pandemic response, despite a technologically advanced health-care system. Peer pressure, in other words, trumped mandates. Khullar also speaks to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about how misinformation and political polarization inhibit our country's efforts on public health.
It's been almost three decades since Angela Bassett emerged in Hollywood as a “totem of empowered Black womanhood,” as Michael Schulman puts it—known for groundbreaking roles in films like “What's Love Got to Do with It” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” Now, at sixty-four, Bassett is nominated for an Oscar for her performance in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” As the fierce, grieving Queen Ramonda, she is the first actor nominated for any Marvel movie. Bassett speaks with Schulman about her preparation for the film, and reflects on how a poetry recitation drove her to acting as a young person. “It was the first recognition for me, at fifteen, that drama, that theatre, that words, that passion from one human being could move another,” she says. “And that maybe I had a gift for it.”
In the year since Russia's invasion, Ukrainians have shown incredible fortitude on the battlefield. Yet an end to the conflict seems nowhere in sight. “Putin's strategy could be defined as ‘I can't have it—nobody can have it.' And, sadly, that's where the tragedy is right now,” Stephen Kotkin, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and a scholar of Russian history, tells David Remnick. “Ukraine is winning in the sense that [it] didn't allow Russia to take that whole country. But it's losing in the sense that its country is being destroyed.” Kotkin says that the standards for a victory laid out by President Volodymyr Zelensky set an impossibly high bar, and that Ukraine—however distasteful the prospect—may be forced to cut its losses. He suggests it could accept its loss of control over some of its territory while aiming to secure expedited accession to the European Union, and still consider this a victory. Remnick also speaks with Sevgil Musaieva, the thirty-five-year-old editor-in-chief of Ukrainska Pravda, an online publication based in Kyiv, about the toll that the war is taking on her and her peers. “We have to destroy the Soviet Empire and the ghosts of the Soviet Empire, and this is the goal of our generation,” Musaieva says. “People of my generation, they don't have family. They don't have kids. They just dedicate their lives—the best years of their lives—to country.” Kotkin says that the standards for a victory laid out by President Volodymyr Zelensky set an impossibly high bar, and that Ukraine—however distasteful the prospect—may be forced to cut its losses. He suggests it might need to accept its loss of control over some of its territory while aiming to secure expedited accession to the European Union, and still consider this a victory.
Martin McDonagh burst onto the London theatre scene as a young playwright in the nineteen-nineties. At one point, he had four plays running simultaneously on stages across London. But McDonagh also aspired to work in movies, and he eventually shifted his focus to directing films such as “In Bruges” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” “When you sit down to write something, how do you know if it's a movie or a play?” the staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe asked McDonagh at The New Yorker Festival. “If it has four characters, and it's set indoors, it's a play,” McDonagh replied—“if it doesn't have any donkeys or dogs.” McDonagh's new film, “The Banshees of Inisherin,” starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, is his first feature set in Ireland, and it prominently features a donkey. “Banshees” traces the story of a friendship breaking apart in the beautiful, remote hills of the country's west. “I just wanted this [movie] to be sort of plotless in a way,” McDonagh said. “Just to have the unravelling of this breakup be what the whole story was about.” The film is now nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. This segment originally aired on October 21, 2022.
Forty years ago, Chuck D showed listeners how exciting, radical, and unpredictable hip-hop could be. His song “Fight the Power” became a protest anthem for a generation, and a Greek chorus in Spike Lee's film “Do the Right Thing.” The Public Enemy front man talks with the staff writer Kelefa Sanneh about his life in music. “I wanted to curate, present, navigate, teach, and lead the hip-hop art, making it something that people would revere,” he says. Now, at sixty-two, Chuck D is an elder statesman of his genre, and also a critic of it and some of its more commercial impulses. His latest project is a four-part documentary, “Fight the Power: How Hip-Hop Changed the World,” which is airing now on PBS. “I've been to one hundred sixteen countries over thirty-eight years, so I've seen the changes,” he says. “People have made their way to me to say, ‘Chuck, this is what this art form has meant to me,' in all continents except for Antarctica.” Plus, Alex Barasch, who wrote about “The Last of Us,” joins David Remnick to talk about why adapting video games to film and television has been so challenging: for every “Tomb Raider,” there are dozens of forgotten shows and flops. “The Last of Us” has been years in the making, but it's paid off for HBO, winning both critical and commercial success.
Thirty-four years ago, the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa calling for the assassination of the novelist Salman Rushdie, whose book “The Satanic Verses” Khomeini declared blasphemous. It caused a worldwide uproar. Rushdie lived in hiding in London for a decade before moving to New York, where he began to let his guard down. “I had come to feel that it was a very long time ago and, and that the world moves on,” he tells David Remnick. “That's what I had agreed with myself was the case. And then it wasn't.” In August of last year, a man named Hadi Matar attacked Rushdie onstage before a public event, stabbing him about a dozen times. Rushdie barely survived. Now, in his first interview since the assassination attempt, Rushdie discusses the long shadow of the fatwa; his recovery from extensive injuries; and his writing. It was “just a piece of fortune, given what happened,” that Rushdie had finished work on a new novel, “Victory City,” weeks before the attack. The book is being published this week. “I've always thought that my books are more interesting than my life,” he remarks. “Unfortunately, the world appears to disagree.” David Remnick's Profile of Rushdie appears in the February 13th & 20th issue of The New Yorker.
You couldn't write a history of American music without a solid chapter on Bonnie Raitt. From her roots as a blues guitarist, she's created a gorgeous melange of rock, R. & B., blues, folk, and country—helping to establish a new category now known as Americana. But she's far from resting on her laurels; her latest album, “Just Like That . . . ,” is nominated for four Grammy Awards this year, including Song of the Year—a category in which her competition includes Beyoncé and Adele, stars a generation younger than Raitt. She talks with David Remnick about her early career in the blues clubs of Boston; the relationship between older Black artists and the nineteen-sixties generation of younger white afficionados; and the state of the genre today. “The way that blues and R. & B. and soul music [are] interwoven with so many different styles now . . . the cross pollination of influences that streaming has made possible—it means that blues is always at the root of whatever funky music is out at the time,” she says. Raitt also reflects on how finding sobriety in her forties changed her music. “I think a lot of us are busy putting on a big persona—proving ourselves in the world—for the first two decades of our careers,” she says. “I became more who I really am at forty-one than I was at thirty-one.”
Exceptions in the case of rape used to be considered a necessity in abortion legislation, even within the pro-life movement. But today ten states have no rape exception in their abortion laws, and more will likely consider moving in that direction this year. “I think few people understand how common this scenario actually is,” the contributing writer Eren Orbey, who has reported on the issue, says; according to C.D.C. statistics, nearly three million women have become pregnant as a result of rape. With abortion laws changing, more and more women will be forced to carry these pregnancies to term. In some cases, they'll find themselves tied to their assailants through the family-court system until their children turn eighteen. “Many states . . . require a conviction for first-degree rape—which is really hard to come by even if there's a lot of evidence—in order to terminate parental rights,” Lucy Guarnera, a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia, says. Orbey talks with Guarnera, one of a few researchers who have studied this issue in depth, and with a mother of twins about the challenges of parenthood under these conditions. “The reality is: these exceptions are far less effective than we assume they are,” Orbey says. “They create the false impression that we're taking care of all rape survivors when we're not.”
Many on the right blame “wokeness” for all of America's ills—everything from deadly mass shootings to lower military recruitment. Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, recently signed a so-called Stop WOKE Act into law, and made the issue the center of his midterm victory speech. In Washington, there has been talk in the House of forming an “anti-woke caucus.” “I think ‘woke' is a very interesting term right now, because I think it's an unusable word—although it is used all the time—because it doesn't actually mean anything,” the linguist and lexicographer Tony Thorne, the author of “Dictionary of Contemporary Slang,” tells David Remnick. Plus, the poet Robin Coste Lewis talks with the staff writer Hilton Als about how suffering a traumatic brian injury led her to a career in poetry. Her most recent book, “To the Realization of Perfect Helplessness,” was published last month.
Despite years of controversy, the Academy Awards and the other awards shows remain must-watch television for many Americans. The awards may be “unreliable as a pure measure of cinematic worth,” Schulman tells David Remnick. “But I would argue that the Oscars are sort of a decoder ring for cultural conflict and where the industry is headed,” Schulman says. “They are a way to understand where pop culture is.” With theatre attendance in continuing decline, the Academy is looking for solutions, Schulman believes, and that could result in a higher-grossing outlier winner for the coveted Best Picture award. Plus, a visit with the Broadway composer Charles Strouse, who is ninety-four and compiling his archives to donate to the Library of Congress. He reflects on his work with Jay-Z and his “friendly enemy” relationship with Stephen Sondheim: “He didn't like me much. I didn't like him less.” Still nimble at the piano, Strouse plays a rendition of his classic, “Tomorrow.”
George Santos is hardly the first scammer elected to office—but his lies, David Remnick says, are “extra.” Most Americans learned of Santos's extraordinary fabrications from a New York Times report published after the midterm election, but a local newspaper called the North Shore Leader was sounding the alarm months before. The New Yorker staff writer Clare Malone took a trip to Long Island to speak with the Leader's publisher, Grant Lally, and its managing editor, Maureen Daly, to find out how the story began. “We heard story after story after story about him doing bizarre things,” Lally told her. “He was so well known, at least in the more active political circles, to be a liar, that by early summer he was already being called George Scamtos.” Lally explains how redistricting drama in New York State turned Santos from a “sacrificial” candidate—to whom no one was paying attention—to a front-runner. At the same time, Malone thinks, “the oddly permissive structure that the Republican Party has created for candidates on a gamut of issues” enabled his penchant for fabrication. “[There's] lots of crazy stuff that's popped up in politics over the past few years. I think maybe Santos thought, Eh, who's gonna check?”
Deepti Kapoor describes New Delhi, the setting of her novel “Age of Vice” as “extremely beautiful, but also violent. . . . It's a place where you think you're gonna get cheated and robbed until someone does something incredibly kind and breaks your heart.” The highly anticipated book, published simultaneously in twenty countries this month, is part crime thriller, part family saga centered on a reckless playboy who wants to break away from his mob family; a young man working as a servant to him; and a naïve young journalist. Kapoor, who spent a decade as a journalist herself, tells Parul Sehgal that she wrote the book while living abroad—needing the distance from her country in order to see it more clearly.
It wasn't so long ago that Ronald Reagan was considered over the hill, too old to govern. Now a sitting President has turned eighty in office, and a Presidential contest between Joe Biden and Donald Trump would put two near-eighty-year-olds against each other. (Trump—while denying President Biden's fitness—commented, “Life begins at eighty.”) Yet the question of age has not disappeared; even some of Biden's ardent supporters have expressed concerns about him starting a second term. David Remnick talks with the gerontologist Jack Rowe, a professor at Columbia University who also founded Harvard Medical School's Division on Aging, about how to evaluate a candidate's competency for office; and with Jill Lepore and Jane Mayer, keen observers of the Presidency. Rowe argues that ageism underlies the public discourse; an occasional slip or unsteadiness, he thinks, is not consequential to the job. “If I give you a seventy-eight-year-old man with a history of heart disease, you don't know if he's in a nursing home or on the Supreme Court of the United States,” he tells Remnick. But Lepore and Mayer argue public opinion, and not only medical prognosis, should be considered seriously as we look at aging politicians. If Biden and Trump face off, Lepore says, “Age won't be an issue between them. But age will be an issue for American voters. . . . I think of the young people that I teach everyday. They will be furious.” Mayer sees something anti-democratic in play as well. “Incumbency is such an advantage at this point,” she notes, that “it leads to gerontocracy,” because “it's really hard to unseat someone.”
Forty-six years ago, a young photographer named Marilyn Nance got the opportunity of a lifetime. A student at the Pratt Institute, an art school in Brooklyn, Nance had never left the country. But she became one of the official photographers documenting a festival in Lagos, Nigeria, called FESTAC '77. The monthlong festival featured artists from across Africa and the diaspora, and has been described as the most important Black cultural event of the twentieth century. But, on returning from the festival, Nance didn't find any takers to publish her photos, and fifty years later, few people know it took place. “I thought I would be talking about FESTAC in 1978, not in 2022,” Nance told the staff writer Julian Lucas. “If some tragic thing had happened, everybody would remember. . . . But I guess maybe there was no investment in celebrating Black joy.” A collection of Nance's photographs from the event was published late in 2022, in the book “Last Day in Lagos.”
Bob Woodward is not one to editorialize. But, during his interviews with Donald Trump at the time of the COVID-19 crisis, Woodward found himself shouting at the President—explaining how to make a decision and trying to browbeat him into listening to public-health experts. Woodward has released audio recordings of some of their interviews in a new audiobook called “The Trump Tapes,” which documents details of Trump's state of mind, and also of Woodward's process and craft. “I could call him anytime, [and] he would call me,” Woodward tells David Remnick. His wife, Elsa Walsh, “used to joke [that] there's three of us in the marriage.” And, in the wake of Damar Hamlin's accident, the staff writer Louisa Thomas talks with David Remnick about an uncomfortable truth: football's danger to players is part of its singular popularity.
When the renowned choreographer Akram Khan was commissioned to update the classic “Giselle” for the English National Ballet, he couldn't simply put new steps to a Romantic-era plot. Beautiful as it is, “Giselle” has a view of ideal womanhood that is insupportable in our century—and it didn't reflect the women he knew. In Khan's 2016 “Giselle,” the title character doesn't chastely expire from a broken heart; she is a strong woman victimized by more powerful men. The story still culminates in an act of forgiveness, but in a way that resonates with the era of #MeToo. Vincenzo Lamagna composed the production's new score. The producer Ngofeen Mputubwele describes the production as not simply a great modern ballet but a model for how to reimagine a story that doesn't work anymore.