Chloe Bailey on Working Solo; and the Lost New Jersey Photos of Cartier-Bresson
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?
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A Gay Russian, Exiled in Ireland
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18:47Evgeny Shtorn and Alexander Kondakov were living together in St. Petersburg when Vladimir Putin began his crackdown on the L.G.B.T.Q. movement in Russia, passing laws that prevented gay “propaganda.” Kondakov is a scholar of the movement, and Shtorn has studied the sociology of hate crimes against gay men. The couple also worked for an N.G.O. that received foreign funding, which made them appear particularly suspicious to Russian authorities. After Shtorn’s citizenship was rescinded, he became vulnerable to pressure from the F.S.B., the Russian security agency, which tried to make him an informant. Finally Shtorn decided to flee, seeking refuge as a stateless person in Ireland, where Masha Gessen spoke with him. Gessen says that Putin’s recent targeting of L.G.B.T. people is perfectly in line with his methods. “[We] make the perfect scapegoat, because we stand in for everything,” she says. “We stand in for the West. We stand in all the things that have changed in the last quarter century that make you uncomfortable. And, of course, no Russian thinks they’ve ever met a gay person in person—so that makes it really easy to create that image of ‘the villainous queer people.’ ” This segment originally aired June 10, 2019. Since that time, Shtorn received refugee status, and was reunited with Kondakov in Ireland. They married in 2023.
Should We, and Can We, Put the Brakes on Artificial Intelligence?
32:39Sam 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.”
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The Director Rob Marshall on Halle Bailey as “The Little Mermaid”
16:10The 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.”
E. Jean Carroll and Roberta Kaplan on Defamatory Trump, and Dexter Filkins on Ron DeSantis
33:55Earlier 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.’ ”
Jill Lepore on the Joy of Gardening
10:33It’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.
Behind the Scenes with Tom Hanks
37:48Tom 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.
How Climate Change Is Impacting Our Mental Health
16:58In 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.
Michael Schulman on the Writers’ Strike, and Samantha Irby with Doreen St. Félix
33:50The 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.
Germany’s Traumatized Kriegskinder Speak Out
20:21A 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.
Have State Legislatures Gone Rogue? And Joshua Yaffa on Evan Gershkovich
31:09Just 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.