Phone-a-friend: Doreen St. Felix

Published September 23, 2016.

Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.

Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.

Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.

Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman.

Gina: And this is producer Gina Delvac. On this week's agenda, a special phone-a-friend episode between Amina and Doreen St Felix. Doreen is a simply incredible writer. Check out her work. She's at MTV. She has written for Lenny Letter, The New Yorker, Pitchfork, many others, and featured by Vice, and they talk about black female criticism, the beautiful new movie that's coming out soon called Moonlight, a bunch of other TV that Amina and Doreen are watching including The Night Of, Real Husbands of Hollywood, SVU, Jane the Virgin, why white people are so sensitive when talking about race, why we seem to be obsessed with making our celebrities and athletes spokespeople on major issues of the day, and Doreen's podcast Speed Dial.

[Theme Song]

Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend, Doreen.

Doreen: Hey! Thanks for having me.

Aminatou: I am so pumped that you're here.

Doreen: We might be here for three hours.

Aminatou: You are somebody that I have been reading for a long time.

Doreen: Really?

Aminatou: Before our friendship was even a twinkle in the eye of the goddess.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: So this is really special to me.

Doreen: Oh my goodness. I mean I'm secretly very young. I don't like to let people know this. [Laughs]


Aminatou: You're very beautiful and you're very young. It's true.

Doreen: And because of that I've always felt I want to have relationships with women who are like the age that I feel inside, you know what I mean?

Aminatou: What's the age you feel inside? For me it's 63 always.

Doreen: Well, inside I'm actually 55.

Aminatou: Oh, that's perfect.

Doreen: And so I feel like when we started hanging out it was kind of like the Golden Girls but the black Golden Girls, you know what I mean?

Aminatou: Yes.

Doreen: We are a true age together.

Aminatou: It doesn't register to me that you're young, which LOL, it's like I'm young.

Doreen: I know.

Aminatou: But we're all . . . we're all . . .

Doreen: We're all babies. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Yeah, we're all babies. Why are people letting us be in charge of things?

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: But I don't know. I feel like you have been writing really important things for a long time.

Doreen: Thank you. I started writing when I was in college. I was writing for the newspaper because I was a fucking nerd. [Laughs]

Aminatou: That's right. High achiever. High achiever.

Doreen: But honestly to be real I wasn't that great at the writing program in school because it wasn't made for somebody like me.

Aminatou: Yeah.

Doreen: And then I started tweeting a lot. And so through Twitter obviously I met people like you, I met people like our mutual friends, and I realized oh, you can do criticism in the black female way. Like that's totally legit.

Aminatou: Oh my god, shocking. [Laughs]

Doreen: I'd never known it before because all the feedback I'd gotten was "Actually that's illegitimate. That's a bad way of . . ."

Aminatou: Right. It's like people are always trying to get you to adopt a different kind of voice, and I think that for me and for people who enjoy reading you your criticism is so trenchant, it's so precise, but it's also so rooted in being an amazing black woman, you know?

Doreen: Aww. Thank you!

Aminatou: You know? You're just like . . . you know, I don't know. You're not even just writing about just black things, right? When you're writing I'm like yes, constant vigilance.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: Somebody is looking out for all of these ways that . . . you know how white critics do. They can write about you without even talking about you.

Doreen: It's unbelievable.

Aminatou: Which is happening with so many movies right now. I know that you went to see Moonlight today.


Doreen: I am reeling. Literally I was in the theater an hour ago. This is fresh. You're getting fresh Doreen right now. No filter, no censor.

Aminatou: Tell me your impressions of Moonlight.

Doreen: My heart was about to pop out of my chest during the entire film. It is a beautiful film. That's the first thing that people will say about it. But there's also a lot of suspense about it. There always feels like there's violence that's imminent around these characters who you grow to love so much. You grow to love Little -- like he's your own brother, like he's your own son. And for me it was just like . . . it was overwhelming how much I felt I could identify with this movie. I could identify with the way it was shot, you know what I mean? So many black films that critics might see as hood films, you know, coming-of-age stories that are "in the hood" as opposed to . . .

Aminatou: In the world.

Doreen: Exactly. They aren't given an aesthetic. They aren't given concept. And there's such intense concept behind this film. When you look at it, the cinematography, you can just tell there's so much labor put behind when are blues going to come up? When are pinks going to come up?

Aminatou: Yeah.

Doreen: When are shadows going to be seen? When are they going to be hidden? And moonlight feels like a movie that I have to see ten times, and every time I watch it I have to focus on a different thing. Like I can't even talk about the story yet because I'm so obsessed with the way it looks.

Aminatou: No, it was really beautiful. I think too that I was so struck by in the cinematography, the portraits of black men.

Doreen: Oh my goodness.

Aminatou: And I was like oh my god, I don't remember the last time I saw a movie starring a black man and I'm like you are lit appropriately. [Laughs]

Doreen: I can actually see you. [Laughs]

Aminatou: I can see you. The camera is following. This is my biggest problem with the HBO show Night Of. You know . . .

Doreen: I ain't watched that. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Yeah, you should. The biggest shame of Night Of is -- who's the name of the actor who plays Omar in The Liar? You know, he's . . .

Doreen: Oh, his name is Omar now. It's fine.


Aminatou: Yeah, Omar. So Michael? Michael something? Hollywood has not figured out what to do with lighting him.

Doreen: All you see are his eyes. That's all you see.

Aminatou: So imagine in Night Of it's like they're inside of a jail and literally you cannot see him.

Doreen: Oh my god.

Aminatou: So when I was watching Moonlight I was just like oh, look at what happens when the full possibility of cinema is afforded to black people.

Doreen: It's just . . .

Aminatou: It's everything from the way that it sounds to the way that it looks, it's so beautiful.

Doreen: It's probably one of the most strictly black, black films I've seen in years. There are no white people in this movie.

Aminatou: Right. It's like the director is named Barry Jenkins.

Doreen: And he said . . . from the minute Barry Jenkins was born he was not going to be fucking with . . . [Laughs]

Aminatou: Barry Jenkins is like the blackest name. If we had black name Olympics they would send everybody home. Like, you know . . .

Doreen: It is a gold medal black name.

Aminatou: I love that, and I love listening to all his interviews on the interview circuit. Everybody's like "Where did this guy come from?"

Doreen: Yeah.

Aminatou: That's always a thing, basically white people going "I've never heard of you. How did you make this movie?" And it's him telling his story. And it's like "No, my man's been working hard for years. [Laughs]"

Doreen: Been around.

Aminatou: He's been around, has like great tastes. I don't know. It just makes me really happy to see success come to people who are highly competent and have just been waiting for their turn, you know?

Doreen: Absolutely. It almost feels like, I don't know, something's bubbling under the water. I've just been having this sense that there's a communion of black artists in every way you define that, you know? You're a black artist. I'm a black artist. We're just kind of gaining a power.

Aminatou: We found ourselves. We found each other.

Doreen: Yeah, that I don't know that we ever had.

Aminatou: Also I think maybe 2016 is the blackest year on record. It's just, I'm just like . . .


Doreen: What are the big black things that happened in 2016?

Aminatou: Yo, we had a black girl win a medal for swimming. That's black. That's like . . .

Doreen: And her edges were intact.

Aminatou: She's like "I have great hair and I swim." That was crazy. I feel like Barack Obama has done some pretty black things. I don't know, it's like this year has just felt extra African. [Laughs]

Doreen: I mean that's funny that you say that because I was thinking . . . you know Reggie Ugwu at BuzzFeed?

Aminatou: You know I went to college with Reggie but we didn't know each other in college.

Doreen: Oh really?

Aminatou: Mm-hmm.

Doreen: Reggie wrote this piece about how Afrobeat was taking over music.

Aminatou: Yes, I know, I just read it the other day. That's great.

Doreen: That's another hugely black thing that happened this year.

Aminatou: No totally, like yes, Skepta's mom dancing after he won the Mercury Prize on BBC.

Doreen: It's like tattoo that moment on my heart please.

Aminatou: I know. It's something really too about the power of the Internet to just show you all of these moments, because it's not like this stuff hasn't been happening. I just think that we've reached critical mass of you just know. It's like the other day I was just watching TV and then it's like we're swearing in another new Librarian . . .

Doreen: Of Congress, yeah!

Aminatou: A black lady. [Laughs]

Doreen: And it gets you hyped for things that you would never be hyped for.

Aminatou: Shit I don't care about. Library of Congress.

Doreen: Hell yeah!

Aminatou: I'm like we run that now.

Doreen: NASA mathematicians, we did that.

Aminatou: Yeah, I'm like we run that now. [Laughs] Just keep all of the . . .

Doreen: Oh my god!

Aminatou: That's the one thing I have in common with all the white supremacists, I'm like I'm also counting.

Doreen: Oh my goodness.

Aminatou: This belongs to us now.

Doreen: I always say when we are all really in the money we're going to build an ice rink in every hood.

Aminatou: [Laughs]


Doreen: And hockey, it's over. Ice skating, done.

Aminatou: Oh my god, I was talking to friend-of-the-podcast Shawnee Hilton about the Olympics.

Doreen: Hey Shawnee!

Aminatou: Because we thoroughly dominated the Summer Olympics. And I was like "Yeah, what's going to happen with the Winter Olympics?" And then she started naming all these black people in the Winter Olympics.

Doreen: Well, that's this speed skater.

Aminatou: Yeah, whose name is Shawnee also.

Doreen: Oh my god, yeah!

Aminatou: I know. And she was like "Don't worry."

Doreen: "We've got it."

Aminatou: She's like "We've got this. Like we're here." [Laughs] And so I just . . . it made me really happy. There's something childish -- I don't know. It just makes me so excited.

Doreen: But it is that feeling . . . it's comparable to when you're a child and you watch a TV show that really gets you, or your parents get you a toy that you're like oh, this is made for me. It just feels individualistic and us being used to never having that experience, I think it does make you a kid again.

Aminatou: I know! You know, and there's a part of it, like sometimes when I think about it, that depresses me a little where I'm like wow, man, 2016 and we're still just experiencing firsts like every time.

Doreen: Oh my god, yeah.

Aminatou: First this, first that, first. That depresses me a little bit.

Doreen: It's pathetic in a way.

Aminatou: You know, it is. It's super pathetic. But at the same time it's like nobody will gas you up like black people. [Laughs]

Doreen: You could do the littlest thing, the littlest dance. We will scream, run around the gymnasium.

Aminatou: We're there. It's like now I care about that light-skinned football player because it's like . . .

Doreen: [Laughs] Okay, all of y'all are fake for that. I am maintaining that I never cared about Colin and he's not cute.

Aminatou: No, first of all, he is not cute. This is not what we're debating. What we're debating is the fact that he's made me hyped about football. Every day now I tune in because I'm like what new hairstyle does he have? And he's insolent in the best kind of way. You know, he just doesn't give a shit. He's like "Here's my afro. I am not standing for the anthem." And then he brought cornrows back which that is a hard style to carry. And I'm like you know what? Do it.


Doreen: Listen, I'm not not going to say that he didn't look like Shemar Moore.

Aminatou: My favorite Criminal Minds actor. [Laughs] No, I hear you but at the same time . . .

Doreen: No, I'm different though.

Aminatou: I'm like his name is Colin. Look how black he is. This is amazing.

Doreen: I love his white family too. So Colin was adopted. His birth mother is trash, but his adoptive mother who is his real mother is awesome and she told this story about how when Colin was young he asked her about his brown skin. And she was like "Your brown skin is beautiful. Look at me, like I'm pale and ugly." And I was just like yes, white mom. That's how you do it.

Aminatou: Wow. Just really affirm him. I live in San Francisco but I pay only attention to basketball, but it's like even the 49ers, they're like "Yeah, we support this kind of thing."

Doreen: Yeah.

Aminatou: It's like millions of dollars for organizations that care about black lives. It's such a moment for me that in every sphere of society, even the football meatheads, they're confronted with race every day.

Doreen: They have to grapple with it. Yeah.

Aminatou: There's something about it that makes me feel like things could change. You know, it's like black people, we talk about race all day, every day. We love it. [Laughs] And then you realize that other people are made uncomfortable by it. It is time for you people to start talking about it because all we do is talk about race.

Doreen: It's absurd for me to . . . you know, sometimes I want to understand, you know, the white moderate who doesn't want to talk about race. Or to describe it differently thinks that they're not talking about race, right?

Aminatou: Right. They're always talking about race.

Doreen: They're always talking about it. They're just talking about it without naming it. And I want to be empathetic with these white people. I want to understand their tribe, like why are they so sensitive? You have everything. You won the race game.

Aminatou: Well yeah, you invented it and then you won it.

Doreen: You won it. [Laughs] I don't know. My people also didn't enslave a whole race of people so maybe that's why I don't feel that sensitive.

Aminatou: [Laughs] Maybe that's why I don't feel sensitive. Well, you know, I think that that's part of it. But I also think that there is just something about not being confronted with your truth every day that just gives you a very thin skin, you know? And I don't know that -- like for black people that we want to be talking about race every day. But when people racialize us all day . . .


Doreen: Like what else are we supposed to do? I never want to feel like, especially as a writer, I only have to talk about race because that's my burden, because I'm a black person and I'm a representative. But I am interested in talking about blackness which is different from race. I'm interested in the aesthetic of it, the kinds of stories we tell, the kinds of stories we don't tell, our hypocrisy, all those things. I want to get inside the real of being black, you know?

Aminatou: I love that. What are things that do that well, do you think?

Doreen: Like just different kinds of media? Or . . .

Aminatou: Yeah, different kinds of media that talk about blackness or even different kinds of artists.

Doreen: Just thinking about books. I've been reading a lot of books. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Thank god for the books. [Laughs]

Doreen: I'm literary. I am not done with Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing.

Aminatou: Oh my god, a book that we have talked about on this podcast before.

Doreen: Oh goodness. I mean it permeates the year.

Aminatou: That was a heavy read for me. It was good.

Doreen: It's extremely heavy, and I think that . . . ooh, I know how to describe this: black cultural products that don't moralize. It's not about teaching a lesson necessarily; it's just about giving this picture.

Aminatou: So not Tyler Perry. [Laughs] That's the entire body of work.

Doreen: Not Tyler Perry. But also like . . .

Aminatou: You know how Tyler Perry is. You wink at a boy and then you have HIV. Like that's how Tyler Perry movies . . .

Doreen: [Laughs] Poor Janet.

Aminatou: That's always how it happens. You're just like oh, we said hello, and he's like you are punished.

Doreen: And then he goes back into his lair. I think another book that I read -- this actually came out last year -- Margo Jefferson's Negroland. You know, that's such an example of a memoir that wasn't trying to make big pronouncements about the state of black America. It was just Margo talking about her childhood and how that affected the way that she became a woman. And I love that she kept this story immediate. I love that she kept it small. I think it's so tempting when you're black to be like . . . it's almost a very, very low-grade level of shucking and driving. It's your story but then you explode it to make it everybody's.


Aminatou: You have to like interweave all these . . .

Doreen: Yeah. And it's like you ain't got to do all of that. You don't know black people on the other side of the country.

Aminatou: I know, but you know . . .

Doreen: You don't know them even a mile away from you. So just write about your immediate space or make art about it or paint about it. Anything.

Aminatou: It's true.

Doreen: Jokes.

Aminatou: I love this. Man, I love black people so much.

Doreen: I know. We're just like the shit.

Aminatou: We really are. It's like things suck.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: This is the thing that I realize more and more every day. I like being black. It is fun. It is not fun every day but it is hilarious a lot of times. [Laughs]

Doreen: Oh my god, it is always funny. You know what I've been watching lately?

Aminatou: Tell me.

Doreen: Real Husbands of Hollywood.

Aminatou: Oh, I love Real Husbands of Hollywood.

Doreen: I've never watched it.

Aminatou: Are you watching just season one?

Doreen: Yeah, I'm in the middle of season one at this point.

Aminatou: Okay, so I mean I love how they used Robin Thicke.

Doreen: Oh my . . .

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: I thought he was just going to be a guest but he kept recurring.

Aminatou: No, but I love that. I absolutely love that. Have you gotten to the part yet where he hulks out?

Doreen: Yeah, and he slaps or punches Kevin?

Aminatou: Yeah, and when he Hulks out he turns into Terry Crews.

Doreen: Wait, no I haven't seen . . .

Aminatou: No, spoilers! Sorry, sorry! I take it back. I take it back. It's okay. There's a lot of things to love about that show.

Doreen: Well, in an earlier episode . . . yeah.

Aminatou: That and the fact that you only see the back of Mariah Carey's hair.

Doreen: Oh my goodness.


Aminatou: Like let me tell you, it only gets better. It's like . . .

Doreen: How did this not become a phenomenon? Or did I miss it?

Aminatou: It's probably because you just don't follow Kevin Hart Instagram.

Doreen: I don't follow him.

Aminatou: It's definitely a thing. You know, and the thing that's funny is most of my friends that watch that show are white guys.

Doreen: What?

Aminatou: And it cracks me up every time.

Doreen: They find BET?

Aminatou: Yeah, most of my girlfriends don't even watch that show and then I'm just like what's going on, Ryan? [Laughs]

Doreen: Oh my god, are we going to go through our fake white boy names?

Aminatou: [Laughs] Travis.

Doreen: Ryan . . .

Aminatou: Travis. You have never met a Travis that's not white.

Doreen: What about Travie from [0:18:29]?

Aminatou: God damn it. God damn it. That is Travie. It's not Travis.

Doreen: True. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Travis is like from Texas or Oklahoma. Those are the two possibilities.

Doreen: And his parents are definitely racist and whatever.

Aminatou: Yeah, but his mom has a book club.

Doreen: Oh, that's chill. She's going to read Homegoing in like three years.

Aminatou: I know. [Laughs] That's how it is. Yeah, no, Real Husbands of Hollywood is like . . . god damn that Kevin Hart. It is pretty fucking . . .

Doreen: Undersung, probably because he is so short.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: But I mean he really is the comedic actor of this generation.

Aminatou: He's like the hardest-working black man in Hollywood. Every minute you turn around . . .

Doreen: Every movie.

Aminatou: He has like a new thing in production.

Doreen: I love that he kind of took advantage of the fact that he wasn't the best comic.

Aminatou: Yeah.

Doreen: He certainly isn't the best black comic. He's not cerebral. He knows that, but he's like okay, I'm going to channel this and I'm going to become a commercial comic. He has a really funny joke about it on an episode that I recently watched. Somebody's like -- you know, they're always yelling at him because they hate him. And they're like . . . [Laughs] if Dave Chappelle was still here you'd still be on Comic View. And I was like oh my god. That's kind of true but real.


Aminatou: But you know the thing that I appreciate about him? All of his work is not for me. I'll say that. He had a bigger vision than just being the comic, right? The thing about Kevin Hart that is fascinating is he runs his own production company now.

Doreen: I didn't even know that.

Aminatou: Oh yeah, all of the comedy specials that he puts out, Harpy Productions, yo.

Doreen: Wow.

Aminatou: He owns all of it. That's why he's a gazillionaire. And I love that when there was that Sony email leak last year, a couple emails surrounded him were fascinating. One was they were definitely like "We should give Obama some Kevin Hart movies because they're both black and they'll understand each other."

Doreen: Oh my god.

Aminatou: But the other one was this really fascinating email about negotiating with Sony because he has a production deal there. He charged them I think it was something like one or two million dollars to promote the movies that he was in. He was like "Hi, you guys have me in this thing because I'm good at social media. I bring an audience. But that's separate from my acting so you have to pay me." You know, they were forwarding the email around and they made him seem like some greedy little N word, like he was a bad person.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: But I remember just reading that and being like Kevin Hart, he has a vision and he's right.

Doreen: He absolutely is.

Aminatou: He is right. Like all of that stuff that he does, all of this Instagramming and tweeting and whatever, like that is work.

Doreen: And those people would not see that movie readily if it wasn't for him giving the okay.

Aminatou: Totally. Totally. But part of his politics are super fucked up in the way he's like "I'm not a black actor. I'm an actor." Or the way that he expresses that. But at the same time I'm like here is a black man who sells out comedy shows in Sweden.

Doreen: [Laughs] It's something.

Aminatou: It's like I don't agree with you on everything, but you know, I think that the fact that he's carved out that lane for himself, that shit's pretty inspirational.

Doreen: I'm going to say something that's maybe a bit controversial.

Aminatou: Say it.

Doreen: So Kevin Hart, he's one of those black people who tries to rhetorically distance himself from being called a black whatever.

Aminatou: 100%.

Doreen: And there are a lot of people like that, a lot of black men in particular. It's bullshit but I understand it. I understand coming from a certain background, you know, and being sick of always being pigeonholed. Like I understand why somebody who's been in Hollywood for decades and has only just really gained monetary and production control of their work would feel you're not going to ghettoize me. And so sometimes I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, and it's like it's not that they're saying they're not black. Obviously that's not the thing. Kevin Hart only makes shit for black people.


Aminatou: I know, and it just so happens that white people love to laugh with him.

Doreen: Exactly. They're not at the forefront of his vision at all. But in some ways it might even be a gesture of protection. I'm not going to let you guys not give me what I deserve because you think I'm on a lower tier.

Aminatou: Oh, I agree with all of that. I think for me the place that I chafe at all of this is -- and I know that it's not fair because it's like asking our athletes and our celebrities to talk smarter.

Doreen: Be spokespeople. Yeah.

Aminatou: You know, I'm just like ugh, I might agree with what you're saying but if you say it in a dumb way it makes me really upset. But at the same time, like you know what? If I get annoyed that people are asking, I don't know, Emma Watson if she's a feminist, or that one from Fern Gully High as Ira referred to her.

Doreen: Oh, Shailene?

Aminatou: Yeah, I'm like that girl doesn't even have a GED. Stop asking her questions.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: But I do think that like that -- you know, that's a thing where I have to check myself a lot, where I expect black celebrities when they are talking about their blackness to talk about it in a way that is smart and elevates the dialogue. And that's not always true. You know, any time anybody says "I don't see race. We're all humans. We're all brothers." I'm just like ugh, I'm getting so angry. But I think that has more to do with me than it actually does with what it is that they're saying.


Doreen: I think it's a really smart way of looking at it. Also because so many times they're ensnared into that answer. Listen, the whole Cam Newton thing, obviously . . .

Aminatou: Oh, Cam.

Doreen: He's a pretty boy, okay? I never thought that he was going to be an eloquent spokesperson for . . .

Aminatou: I know, but he's like actually dumb during . . .

Doreen: But he's always been dumb. [Laughs]

Aminatou: That's fair. That's fair. And it's like now we're asking him to . . .

Doreen: I know. It's like what do you want from him? His job isn't to be that. It sucks that white interviewers come up in his grill and ask him these questions.

Aminatou: No, you're right. You're right.

Doreen: And then he has to continue, right? Like you can't just backpedal. Like you're just always in this spiral.

Aminatou: Sorry, this is outside of your . . .

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: The only football player that I really love and respect is Marshawn because . . .

Doreen: He doesn't even play football anymore.

Aminatou: I know, but I love him. He's like, you know -- that guy was like "I'm just here so I don't get fined." Like he just knew what he had to do.

Doreen: That was the mantra. That was my astrological sign that year. I wasn't an Ares. I was a . . .

Aminatou: That was a very black moment also, like very black cultural moment.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: It's like I'm just here so I don't get fined.

Doreen: Put it next to MLK.

Aminatou: It's crazy, but yeah, you know, I don't . . . man, that's like a reminder for myself. It's like check your own expectations.

Doreen: I have to remind myself too a lot.

Aminatou: About black people publicly, because I take it so personally, you know?

Doreen: I know.

Aminatou: And I cringe and I do all the things you're not supposed to do. And at the end of the day I'm like you know what? It is not fair that you have to show up and do your job and be a spokesperson and be a commentator and . . .

Doreen: I know.

Aminatou: And it's like you have all of these hyphens. I don't know, Reese Witherspoon, she goes to her job, all she has to do is do her job. Nobody is asking her . . .

Doreen: Why? Why Reese Witherspoon though?

Aminatou: I had to delete her on Snapchat today. I was like I can't be implicated in this lifestyle anymore.

Doreen: What does Reese do?

Aminatou: Reese is doing a lot but her daughter is like her twin so I think . . . it's creepy.

Doreen: I don't think Ryan Phillippe was involved in the making of that baby.

Aminatou: No, it's like literally they just split a chromosome and they were like "Here you go."

Doreen: It's like an SVU episode, like they wouldn't be able to tell who killed who.


Aminatou: Oh my god, so you watch a lot of SVU like me.

Doreen: Yes I do. SVU hive!

Aminatou: And you watch -- but like me you watch it on the weekly schedule. We're not like these people who are like "I was watching SVU from four years ago." I'm like no, no, I know what's happening with Liv today.

Doreen: So embarrassing, and I know we were both watching the finale.

Aminatou: Oh, I cried during the finale.

Doreen: I was so ugly crying.

Aminatou: Can I tell you how much I hated this season? How many times did Liv get kidnapped this season? In like one season.

Doreen: I'm just over -- you're not going to kill Liv so stop making us go through all this emotional abuse is the word I'm going to use.

Aminatou: I know, it really is.

Doreen: Yeah.

Aminatou: Did you think -- here's the other thing that I did not enjoy. I did not enjoy the fake out of is she going to date Barba? Because you know they did that for a minute. They were just like these two are maybe in cahoots and then there were two episodes and it was like "Is Barba gay?"

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: SVU ain't shit. It's like SVU writers ain't shit. And then out of nowhere they're like "Hey, remember that really tough cop . . ."

Doreen: Who hated Elliott.

Aminatou: Yeah, it's just -- and then they brought him back. "What's up, Tucker?" And then do it. But it's just like this season is too much emotions. I'm like you literally cannot kidnap the main character twice. Like you can't make us go through that.

Doreen: Yeah, I think it's really cheap which sucks because all in all SVU's writing -- I'm going to say it, if you have a problem with me, at me . . .

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: Got better. The writing got better when Elliott left.

Aminatou: I think that's true. I think the character development got better when Elliott left because Elliott just sucked up a lot of energy in the room.

Doreen: Yeah, and I like Amar as an Elliott lite, you know?

Aminatou: Yeah, but Amar had to leave also. I couldn't handle it. What's the other one?

Doreen: Carisi.

Aminatou: Yeah, Carisi. I can't handle him. He's going to be a stay-at-home dad for the other lady cop.


Doreen: Are they officially together do you think?

Aminatou: I mean he's always holding her baby and taking photos.

Doreen: I know.

Aminatou: Remember when she dated Amar for two minutes though? It's like one day she's sitting on her couch . . .

Doreen: Oh yeah, he stands up and it's just abs. [Laughs]

Aminatou: And he shows up in the towel. I love how SVU just does no character development.

Doreen: At all.

Aminatou: They don't care. They're just like murder, rape, two minutes of Finn and his son, and then you don't find out . . .

Doreen: "Ken, I love you, especially because you're gay." [Laughs]

Aminatou: Oh my god.

Doreen: It's so forced and amazing. I love it.

Aminatou: SVU's one of those things that there's days where I'm like, you know, I should stop watching this because . . .

Doreen: It's problematic?

Aminatou: It's made by conservative people who are garbage. You know what I mean?

Doreen: True.

Aminatou: It's literally like what's his name, Dick Wolf?

Doreen: Yes.

Aminatou: Can't trust that guy.

Doreen: He's making that show with Zane, or Zane's producing or coproducing.

Aminatou: Zane. You cannot see the air quotes right now, okay? Zane.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: But at the same time I'm like I watch everything Dick Wolf makes. And I hate myself for it.

Doreen: He makes fantastic black television. SVU's a black TV show as far as I'm concerned.

Aminatou: SVU is a black TV show, especially those super early seasons.

Doreen: Oh yeah, oh my god. Remember Viola when she was in ADA?

Aminatou: Oh my god, for like two minutes.

Doreen: I loved it.

Aminatou: And then she was like "I've got to go to Boston to be in this movie where I'm going to be nominated for an Oscar. I don't have time for this." [Laughs]

Doreen: In it for like four minutes.

Aminatou: She was great, but yeah.

Doreen: She killed it.

Aminatou: Yeah, man, I don't know where SVU goes but I'm frustrated. Also I'm frustrated with myself that I secretly love to watch and cringe at the fact that there is danger everywhere.

Doreen: I know.

Aminatou: Which is just not true. It's factually not true.

Doreen: Especially also the way that it uses New York, it's just such a farce. New York is not at all the way it appears on SVU.

Aminatou: Oh yeah, I know. When I moved to New York I was like if you have a fire escape you're going to be attacked.

Doreen: You've got to run down it and then jump over the dumpster. [Laughs]

Aminatou: That is just like a statement of fact.

Doreen: And then Christopher Maloney will come and trample you.

Aminatou: Christopher Maloney, ugh, way to ruin that show.

Doreen: I don't -- I suddenly can't read. I don't know what you're talking about.

Aminatou: [Laughs] Oh my god, your Christopher Maloney stand . . .

Doreen: Have you seen his ass? What kind of question is that?

Aminatou: Yes, I have. Ugh . . .

Doreen: We should talk about what he said though.

Aminatou: Which time?

Doreen: There's multiple times?


Aminatou: He says like awful things.

Doreen: Oh no! I just saw what he said about Colin.

Aminatou: Wait, what did he say about Colin?

Doreen: Or maybe it was 9/11 actually. [Laughs]

Aminatou: [Laughs] I love how we're not high but this is getting into high territory.

Doreen: Just a Friday.

Aminatou: We're like what did Elliott Stabler say about . . . like what's his stance?

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Aminatou: The other show that we both enjoy watching or like franchise should I say is the Love and Hip-Hop franchise.

Doreen: Listen, it is exhausting me right now.

Aminatou: Who is your favorite character and who do you think is the most trash right now?

Doreen: Okay, my favorite character is Nikki Baby.

Aminatou: Nikki Baby for life.

Doreen: She is a boss bitch.

Aminatou: Self-actualized. Self-actualized.

Doreen: Her lingerie line is amazing.

Aminatou: She made me change my whole stance on plastic surgery.

Doreen: Listen, she wanted to look this way and somehow it is gravitationally possible and I'm happy for her. I also love that she's like, you know, finding her sexuality this season. I'm here for her.

Aminatou: I know.

Doreen: And she's such a good friend! She's an amazing friend.

Aminatou: She is a really good friend. Don't you remember last season when she went with Brandy to go find out if her husband was cheating?

Doreen: She's wearing that flannel shirt. [Laughs]

Aminatou: She's like spies wear flannel. [Laughs]

Doreen: Carmen San Diego.

Aminatou: I know. Listen, if you called me and you were like "Amina, I think my husband is cheating on me. We've got to go to the studio," I would legit hang up on you and say I don't want to be implicated in any of this.

Doreen: Are you kidding me? If it was me I would put on a mask.

Aminatou: I know. Nikki was like here is my arsenal. Here's what I think. She even had a lie ready to get in the studio. She's a good friend.

Doreen: Listen, you need that one friend. Not too many of those friends because then it can get out of hand. But she's the best character. Worst? Who is the . . . oh god, they're all so bad. Safaree.

Aminatou: I know, which is why it bothers me that Nikki and Safaree, they're setting them up for a storyline.

Doreen: I know, but they're doing it on purpose.

Aminatou: Obviously.


Doreen: Mona's like I'm playing with your heart right now.

Aminatou: I want somebody to write an updated profile of Mona Scott-Young because . . .

Doreen: Oh my god.

Aminatou: I want it to be . . . I want the article to just center around her and Ray J and how they, between the two of them, are at the center of every black reality TV show.

Doreen: And they are about to be at the center of every reality TV show.

Aminatou: I mean, yeah, Ray J is Typhoid Mary of every reality TV show. He is. It's like name every reality TV show, there is like three degrees to Ray J.

Doreen: And he's got a lot of money for it.

Aminatou: Yeah, Ray J also -- you know, piece of shit, but he owns the production company that does all of the reality TV shows on . . .

Doreen: VH1, yeah.

Aminatou: On VH1, so he knows what he's doing. He knows what he's doing.

Doreen: I mean they're in cahoots in the best way, you know? It's coonery. I'm not going to say that it isn't. [Laughs]

Aminatou: It really is.

Doreen: But at least they're the ones doing it, you know? It's better than like Morey. I would rather it come from Mona.

Aminatou: Okay, that's so depressing but that's fair. Okay, here's the next thing I want to talk about: you do this incredible podcast.

Doreen: Oh, yes I do!

Aminatou: Speed Dial on the MTV Network.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: With Ira.

Doreen: Aww.

Aminatou: I love listening to Speed Dial so much.

Doreen: Amina.

Aminatou: Will you tell us how Speed Dial came together and what it's about and where it's going?

Doreen: Just first of all, when I found out -- we were already friends, but when I found out you were listening to Speed Dial I was verklempt.

Aminatou: Are you serious? If you make something I will consume it.

Doreen: I know, but it was like you listen to it and you love it and you are my podcasting angel.

Aminatou: Ah.

Doreen: So for me it's like, oh, you just feel like you're joining a family of women-centered, black-centered podcasts and I was just really happy.

Aminatou: It's so good.


Doreen: Basically Ira and I -- when I told him that I was going to take this job at MTV he was like "All right, we need to fuck shit up. We're going to black it up."

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: And it was like at your service. And so we told them we're going to have a podcast. We're not asking; we are going to have one. And the only logistical snag is that Ira is on the west coast and I am on the east coast. And so we decided to use that to our benefit and build this whole concept around it.

Aminatou: Oh, the long-distance relationship. [Laughs]

Doreen: Exactly. That's why it's called Speed Dial because we are literally on the phone with each other when we record it. It's a pop culture rundown, heavy on the criticism.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: More for Ira than for me, but basically it's just like we're writing up all week. We're not really talking to people about anything because we're so busy.

Aminatou: Yeah.

Doreen: And Speed Dial gives us an opportunity to expand on something that we may have written. We can also interview people on it. We had this amazing writer, her name is Natasha Nyanin, and she's just like a fashion oracle.

Aminatou: Ira tweeted about Natasha Nyanin. I was just like oh, glamourous black woman.

Doreen: Glamour with a U. Like she's just the cooking, the fashion, the traveling.

Aminatou: Just everything. Just everything.

Doreen: It's -- at this point we've been doing it for five months which happened really quickly.

Aminatou: Yeah, it feels like forever. It's only been five months?

Doreen: It's only been five months. It's funny, it feels like the voice that I have on Speed Dial is totally different than the voice that I have as a writer and so I feel kind of like Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sometimes.

Aminatou: When you write I feel like you're just like suiting up and you're like . . .

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: Jiu-Jitsu. I'm going to make like a really serious point here. But at the same time, you know, it's like I follow you on Twitter and I think that voice is very close to the voice that you are on Speed Dial and to who you are. But even when you're writing your very serious criticism on MTV . . .

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: I still hear it. It's still the like don't fuck with me. Underneath all of it, it's like "I went to a good college and I know good words."

Doreen: "I have a degree."


Aminatou: "I have a degree. I know how to talk like y'all."

Doreen: Oh my god, what you just said is I think kind of what we all do, like all of our friends. It's all we know how to talk like you and we can actually speak better than you.

Aminatou: Right.

Doreen: And we can use it to get what we want.

Aminatou: And we know how to do the two things. You know what I mean?

Doreen: Sometimes at once.

Aminatou: We can turn . . . there's a part of me sometimes that I feel that it's a little manipulative. We know how to get . . .

Doreen: We didn't enslave people so it's fine. [Laughs]

Aminatou: It's true. I don't feel guilty about it. But, you know, it's just this idea of I'm just like yeah, I know how to get what I want in this situation that I want because I can speak in ten different registers.

Doreen: Mm-hmm. Besides all the languages that you speak. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Exactly. You know, like in English. But that's its own form of intelligence honestly. It's something really funny too. I think that the reason we tweet the way that we tweet, where sometimes we sound extra black or whatever, it's its own dog whistle. Like you're talking to your people.

Doreen: Oh my god, yeah.

Aminatou: You know what I mean? Like I'm not trying to talk to just everybody but I'm just like the person who understands this construction or . . .

Doreen: Or this reference.

Aminatou: Exactly, or gets where I'm coming from or they get this meme. I'm just like you are my person. I see you across the digital waves. We're going to be okay.

Doreen: It feels like a cloak of protection, you know? Being public in real life and also online, it's a lot. It's really taxing. But being able to have code basically? It's like sending secret messages. I look forward to adding time. I see something that you've tweeted or something that -- who does this a lot? I feel like Hannah does this a lot, Hannah Georgas. She's always like . . .

Aminatou: She's great.

Doreen: She's always just totally code searching. I'm like oh, god, this is just for us and not anybody else.

Aminatou: I know. It's like when you shed the LinkedIn voice . . . [Laughs] I'm talking to my people now.

Doreen: [Laughs] It's like when you take off your wig at the end of the day.

Aminatou: At the end of the day. I'm just like here's like Viola does. Get away with murder. It's like takes off her wig.

Doreen: And I love that Viola came up with that.


Aminatou: Oh, I mean of course Viola came up with that. You know what I mean?

Doreen: What an . . .

Aminatou: Yeah, she's like "I'm an actor but if I had to produce and direct this whole thing I could."

Doreen: [Laughs] Exactly.

Aminatou: You know? It's just about having the vision. Ugh, love Viola. Can't wait to see what she's up to later this year.

Doreen: Oh god, and also that show. We have so much TV we have to start watching again.

Aminatou: We have -- listen, September really stresses me out.

Doreen: Jane the Virgin, How to Get Away With . . . what?

Aminatou: So here's my problem with Jane, why I left Jane.

Doreen: Michael having no lips?

Aminatou: You know how that's a problem for me.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: But here's the thing. So this is very controversial.

Doreen: I love controversy.

Aminatou: I'm Team Michael over Team Rafael, but I haven't watched this season so I'll give you some shit. But here's the problem, Rafael's just like the kind of guy that you build passion on. Michael's the kind of guy that you marry.

Doreen: [Sighs]

Aminatou: And I'm not saying that anybody should get married. If Jane was smart she would just choose herself and her baby and we wouldn't be doing these things.

Doreen: I can agree with that.

Aminatou: You know what I'm saying? But I'm just like if you want a reliable bro who will speak Spanish to your grandma and help her when she's going to get deported and also he'll be here and he's not going to holler at other girls, Michael's your guy, even though he's done some shady shit. I think Jane should choose herself.

Doreen: Okay, I would agree that in a perfect world Jane would choose herself.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: But this is a soap opera so she's not going to do that and if she's going to choose somebody it's going to be Rafael.

Aminatou: You think it's Rafael?

Doreen: He's so hot!

Aminatou: Are you listening to yourself? That's exactly the problem.

Doreen: No! He's hot and rich, okay? Maybe he can't necessarily provide what Michael can "provide," air quotes.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: But he has the money so Jane can get it her damn self.


Aminatou: I know, but Jane doesn't need a lot, and also Rafael's such a dweeb.

Doreen: He's not a dweeb.

Aminatou: He totally is a dweeb. But you know I remember the first episode when they kissed, that show was on my DVR and I had to rewind. I was like this is some good soap opera shit.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: Just like goosebumps everywhere. And honestly that's kind of why I had to stop watching. I was like I don't like it when I get too into a TV show. I don't like too much exuberance. And I was like okay, I'm going to take a break and then I'm going to binge the whole thing.

Doreen: Okay.

Aminatou: But I couldn't just be like every week "Oh my god, Team Raf, Team Michael." It's like I hate my own self for doing that.

Doreen: It is very consuming.

Aminatou: And it was just becoming too much. Every week was a lesson on immigration, a lesson on . . . I was just like I can't.

Doreen: Oh my god, I love it. I absolutely love it.

Aminatou: I can't do this. But like Gina Rodriguez, the actress, is so great. She's so great.

Doreen: She's fantastic.

Aminatou: I don't know why she's not doing movies. She's amazing. So yeah, we've got to watch that. What else are we watching?

Doreen: We are watching . . . SVU. [Laughs]

Aminatou: Oh, of course.

Doreen: Empire? Are we going to do it? Are we going to watch it?

Aminatou: So Timbaland has left.

Doreen: I noticed. It was announced this week.

Aminatou: Which means that Mrs. Timbaland has left.

Doreen: [Laughs]

Aminatou: You know all of the costumes are inspired by her real closet, right?

Doreen: Really?

Aminatou: Like when the show started and nobody would lend them clothes because they were like "Who is Taraji?" it was like Mrs. Timbaland was the closet. I think I'm going to pump the brakes on Empire.

Doreen: I wish I could but I think in my capacity as a cultural critic I can't. [Laughs]

Aminatou: You just have to. Can I talk to you about The Get Down for two seconds?

Doreen: What? There's only two seconds of shit worth to say about it.

Aminatou: So I'm sick this week and I decided to invest in some Netflix watching. How are we watching The Get Down at all?


Doreen: My ass isn't. I tweeted that. I tweeted "Truly how is anyone getting through The Get Down?" The Get Down official account tweeted at me. [Laughs]

Aminatou: What did they say?

Doreen: They said something to the effect of "Oh, is it going too fast for you?" and then they put a GIF in it.

Aminatou: No!

Doreen: It's like it's literally going too slow. [Laughs]

Aminatou: The only part of The Get Down I enjoy is that Jaden's not acting. He's just like . . .

Doreen: Himself.

Aminatou: They were like "Hey, ad lib your lines." And he's just like . . .

Doreen: He's like "Okay."

Aminatou: And I definitely have a crush on whoever the actor is that plays Grand Master Flash because that guy looks African. He's African. I've decided he's African.

Doreen: Okay, I'll give you both these things.

Aminatou: I'm going to Google him after that. But honestly it's like I was watching it and I was like is this the Nyquil or is it me? Because it's like -- it's like Baz Lurhmann, what are you doing?

Doreen: It's all Baz. Oh wait, that's what I responded to them. I was like "Go asleep, Baz."

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: Because I thought that it was probably him tweeting from the official account. It's just the pilot is terrible and that's the only episode that he actually directed. I get that hip-hop needs its myth, right?

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: It needs its campy story. It needs its Les Mis or its West Side Story.

Aminatou: Does it really?

Doreen: I think . . . I mean that's what Empire is trying to do, right? It's trying to be a myth. Yeah.

Aminatou: Yeah, I mean I guess I thought we had that. I was like it's called Empire.

Doreen: Yeah, I think we had it. It's just to me all of those actors are really talented and I would love to see them go on to do other projects but it's unwatchable.

Aminatou: Ugh. Okay, thank you for . . . I was just like I can't. You know, sometimes you're like I can't tell if this is good or bad.

Doreen: I know!

Aminatou: On a level that's not . . . and not that if something is bad it's going to make me stop watching it. Are you kidding? I'm like a 19 season watcher of SVU.

Doreen: [Laughs] Just be bad in a good way.

Aminatou: Yeah, it's like sometimes I'm just like who's going to check me? What's going . . .

Doreen: Who's going to check me, boo?

Aminatou: Who's going to check me, boo? I'm really upset that Atlanta Housewives is coming back without Nene.

Doreen: Wait, what?

Aminatou: Yeah, it's like Nene is not coming back and Kim is coming back.


Doreen: Zolciak?

Aminatou: Yeah. Okay, don't hate on Kim Zolciak. Her reality TV show is amazing.

Doreen: I've never watched Don't Be Tardy to the Party.

Aminatou: Don't Be Tardy . . . okay, you have to watch Don't Be Tardy. It's hilarious. You know honestly I'm like it's a show about whiteness that I can get down with. I'm just like this is how you people live and I don't understand it and this is anthropological for me. There's a lot of TV to watch, but it's stressful. There's not enough time in the day.

Doreen: I need it to get colder. I'm nervous because it's still summer.

Aminatou: Don't worry, when winter hits winter will hit.

Doreen: Oh, I'm going to be laid up in my caftan watching all this crap.

Aminatou: [Laughs] Watching like Forensic Files. That's me. That's me. I'm like I've never watched a TV show that was not worth watching. Ugh, Doreen, I could talk to you forever and ever and ever and ever.

Doreen: I mean we should just . . . I feel like we should have a nightly call or something.

Aminatou: I mean I think that's what's going to happen.

Doreen: Right before we both take our Nyquil.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: Drugs are great.

Aminatou: Yes, Nyquil and marijuana, get on top of this. Where can people find your work?

Doreen: Oh, well, you can follow me on Twitter. Actually my handle for Twitter and Instagram are the same because that's called brand consistency.

Aminatou: [Laughs]

Doreen: It is @dstfelix. And yeah if you want to read stuff that I write I am a writer for MTV News so you can go to the MTV News website. I also have freelance in the past so you can just Google me bitch.

Aminatou: Ugh, Doreen, I hope you have the best weekend.

Doreen: I think I will.

Aminatou: I hope the universe treats you so well because you do so much for the culture. You do so much for the kids. And I'm just like I hope you know that.

Doreen: I love you. That was so sweet.

Aminatou: I love you so much. Let's get married. [Laughs]

Doreen: And also before we get married let me know if I can bring you super tea because I know you're sick.

Aminatou: Oh, already married. Sold. [Laughs] Thanks Doreen.

Doreen: Bye.


Gina: You can find us so many places on the Internet, on our website You can download this podcast anywhere you listen to your favorite shows or on iTunes where please, always, leave us a review if you love us. You can tweet at us at @callyrgf or email us at Same handle for Facebook and Instagram. We're @callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. And this podcast is produced by me, Gina Delvac.