One of my goals with this blog is to share some of my favorite podcasts, movies, comics, books, etc. Thankfully, it took me no time to determine where to start. I’m going to kick things off with my first recommended podcast, You Must Remember This by Karina Longworth.
You Must Remember This is, “a storytelling podcast about the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century.” Karina Longworth, the visionary behind this podcast, reiterates this summary at the top of every episode with an almost ASMR-esque cadence and tone which never fails to both relax and excite me for what’s to come. I rarely find a podcast that I genuinely look forward to each week. I probably should just figure out what day new episodes come out (hint: it’s every Monday) instead of obsessively refreshing my feed for new episodes, but there’s nothing like the rush of seeing a new recording in my feed!
I was first introduced to this podcast through Caitlin Doughty‘s, Ask a Mortician Youtube channel. Caitlin occasionally does a video on her favorite’s of the month or even year which is always chock full of interesting reads, listens, and death related goodness. In her “Macabre Favorites for the New Year” video, she called out one particular season of YMRT which peaked my interest, Charles Manson’s Hollywood.
I’ve always been genuinely intrigued by the Manson family murders, society and culture during the late 60’s, and the interplay between Hollywood and the Manson cult. Plus, who doesn’t love a murder that involves the Beach Boys? Naturally, I immediately subscribed to the podcast.
The first thing you’ll notice about YMRT is Karina’s ability to tell a story, which has been rehashed in more ways than I can count, in an intriguing and accurate way. It’s abundantly clear that Karina’s done her research and has taken her time crafting the perfect narrative. The amount of effort and research which goes into each and every episode is astounding. You can see detailed episode notes and reference material on the YMRT website along with recommended reading and companion viewing of classic movies. But this isn’t a clinical review of a historical timeline of events. Karina has a very distinct voice within the podcast and often inserts poignant observations based on her vast knowledge of classic movies and experience as an editor and film critic.
One of the aspects of this podcast which I appreciate most is Karina’s laser focused critiques of Hollywood’s treatment of women. Throughout all of the podcast’s seasons, the continual thread seems to be her clear dissection misogyny and sexism within Hollywood. You can hear this most clearly during the season entitled, “Dead Blondes”, in which Karina dives into the stories of 11 blonde actresses who died unusually or unexpectedly and whose death overshadowed their own careers. The intro to this season is a perfect example of how carefully and artfully crafted Karina’s observations are.
Throughout the history of visual representation, blonde women have symbolized exceptionalism in a variety of ways. They’ve been coded as hypersexualized, icily frigid, and pre-sexually pure. Their hair itself, whether natural or bleached white, or dyed with saffron (as prostitutes did in ancient Rome), has been compared to everything from gold to straw to clouds, evoking ideas of wealth, rural realness, or the afterlife or eternal life.
Because most natural blondes see their hair darken as they age, there’s a primal association between blondeness and youth; as if to be a blonde is to somehow defy the drag of time and everything else inevitable. And while all of these ideas can exist on their own and in combination with one another to create powerful hybrid associations, in Hollywood, blonde women are also often blank slates on which viewers are invited to project their own desires. All of this combines to make the female blonde a kind of perfect victim whose promise seems to have been all the more promising when it’s cut short.
Damn, girl. Just damn. Every time I hear her unfurl one of these scathing observations I swear I get cold chills!
I’m currently enjoying the latest season which details the somewhat parallel and divergent lives of Jean Seberg and Jane Fonda. Karina seems to have begun to stray from the use of voice actors, which had a strong presence during the Manson season and has been opting for more dramatic re-enactments voiced by herself. While it’s obvious that these impressions are exaggerated a bit for effect, it’s absolutely a welcome change. I would argue that some of the voice acting pieces were weak points in the podcast which caused a few giggles or eye-rolls in the past.
If you love a deep dive into history, culture, entertainment, and feminism I can’t recommend this podcast highly enough. There are multiple jumping off points which I’d direct you to based on interest. If the idea of a salacious and tantalizing summer read is your cup of tea, start with the season, Six Degrees of Joan Crawford. For those who love 60’s counter culture, jump off at Charles Manson’s Hollywood. And if you need an easier entry point, the Marilyn Monroe three part episode during the Dead Blondes season is a winner.
Have you listened to You Must Remember This? What did you think? Any other old Hollywood or entertainment podcasts you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below!