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SN2K: ‘The Front Runner’ Traces Lineage of Tabloid Politics

From “The Front Runner” (2018) by Columbia Pictures

Editor's Note:

In this week’s Signature Need-to-Know: Political strife (what else is new?), a podcast born of “Boy Erased,” and tips for finding an agent.

If Monica Lewinsky’s rise as an anti-bullying advocate proves anything, it’s that we still have so much to learn from bygone political eras and the attitudes that produced them. One lesser-explored kernel of recent history is the downfall of ’88 presidential aspirant Gary Hart, whose family-man image was tanked by a scandal involving a cuddly yacht photo-op with a woman who definitely wasn’t his wife. Matt Bai’s book about Hart, entitled All the Truth Is Out, is primed for an election-season film adaptation starring a finely toupee’d Hugh Jackman (we’ll call that a “period piece”) as Hart himself, and Vera Farmiga as his wife Lee Hart. Enjoy the trailer for “The Front Runner” below!

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With twice the dirt and more journalistic cred to back up his findings, Bob Woodward’s new book Fear: Trump in the White House is picking up where Omarosa’s book left off, continuing the barrage of  insider views which continually expose the Trump administration’s efforts to mitigate the constant damage being done to protocols within the government’s Executive branch. One excerpt even has chief economic adviser Gary Cohn admitting to stealing a draft of a trade agreement from the President’s desk so that it wouldn’t be signed – a last-ditch effort to “protect the country” from Trump’s impulsive and haphazard form of leadership. During a recorded phone call between Woodward and Trump, the President claims to have never been notified of attempts to interview him for the book, while also bizarrely acknowledging that he was aware of the request. Fear: Trump in the White House will be released on September 11th.

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Authors, educators, and publicists take note: more book tours should include stops at public schools, in the manner described by Jess deCourcy Hinds’ new article in LitHub which gives examples from a program at Bard High School Early College Queens, where Hinds serves as library director. For the past three years, authors have been invited to sit in round-table discussions with students and discuss issues related to their work, presenting a model that other schools would be wise to follow, especially considering the results she’s seen so far. “By the end of the semester, students seem truly comfortable interacting with authors,” she writes. “I’m proud when I hear a student disagree with an author’s opinion, or recommend a book to them.”

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Most of us know that the “Democrats are the original party of the KKK!” argument doesn’t hold any water, but how do you correct someone on over a century of political history? Back in April, historian and author Kevin M. Kruse took aim at this exact subject in a series of tweets condensing the ideological shifts of the Democratic and Republican parties through the 20th century, including archival newsprint and video clips that help readers track the changes that gave way to the Civil Rights movement, forcing many lawmakers to rethink their allegiances along the way. Funny how the need for this resource seems to remain evergreen, especially as primary elections across the US show the two dominant parties undergoing simultaneous identity crises.

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In 2016, Ken Corbett’s true crime book A Murder Over A Girl examined the case of Larry/Leticia King, who was murdered in full-view of classmates by a boy whose defense rested on the “gay panic defense” – resulting in a hung jury. This case is cited in a new VICE article about the enduring success of gay- or trans-panic as an excuse for murder – a defense which has only been banned in two states, despite the American Bar Association having ruled it “has no medical or psychological basis.” In cases where individuals are actually found guilty, the defense is still successfully used to help reduce their sentence, heaping additional injustice upon those who killed before their time (as well as their surviving families), implicating them in their own death.

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Coinciding with the adaptation of Boy Erased this fall, the filmmakers and author Garrard Conley will be producing a podcast with RadioLab on the subject of anti-gay conversion therapy. The four-part series, entitled “UnErased,” will interview individuals who’ve experienced the treatment that Conley describes in his book – The Advocate cites research claiming that 700,000 LGBTQ Americans have been subjected to this practice, the effectiveness of which has been disavowed by every major health association. Intended to complement each other, the podcast and film will both arrive on the same day: November 2.

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Speaking of “Boy Erased,” the film’s star (in the Conley role) Lucas Hedges is on his own journey, explaining to Vulture how his sexual orientation fits in with the film’s demands as well as audience expectations. “I owe it to this part to speak as honestly as possible,” he says, explaining that since childhood he’s enjoyed both male and female infatuations: “I recognize myself as existing on that spectrum: Not totally straight, but also not gay and not necessarily bisexual.” As such, films like “Boy Erased” and “Lady Bird” have allowed him to explore and express through art what he’s not entirely comfortable expressing in real life.

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Meanwhile, the President’s recent nomination for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, was greeted at the Judiciary Committee hearing room this week by a solemn outfit of Handmaids invoking the reproductive perils of Margaret Atwood’s fictional (for now) Republic of Gilead.  The hearings were awash in protests, with nearly 63 interruptions before lunch, and individuals including actress Piper Perabo being arrested for protesting at the event. It’s widely believed that Kavanaugh’s confirmation could mean death for the reproductive protections guaranteed by the 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade.

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You may know playwright Michaela Coel from the TV adaptation of her stage work, released as “Chewing Gum.” Or you may know her from “Black Mirror,” or even her cameo in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” From this day forward, however, you’ll know her as the most scintillating speaker ever to take the podium at the Edinburgh TV Festival, where she recently gave a 53-minute talk about the challenges imposed on storytellers working within the broadcast media system, and how outsiders find themselves complicit in the scheme once they’ve completed their transformation into “insiders.” Coel’s offbeat humor and disarming sincerity guarantee that this filmed lecture will be revisited for many years to come.

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As much as current events have underscored the need to keep business and pleasure separate, there are lessons we can learn from dating that apply to other areas… such as finding an agent. That’s the thrust of Jennifer Baker’s latest piece for Electric Literature, which offers up some constructive comparisons that may help you feel better about taking your first halting steps into the biz. “It’s intimidating, it may require a lot of false starts, and it’s ultimately about finding not the best person but the best fit,” she writes. “Some of us may find ‘the one’ fairly quickly, for others it may take a lot of patience, and a good amount of reassurance that it’s not necessarily us who is a problem, this is simply not a good pairing or time.” While Baker can relate to the periods where it feels like all is lost, she knows that the chances of a happy and fruitful pairing will ultimately rest on your ability (as well as her own) to “try and try again.”