What's Making Us Happy: A guide to your weekend viewing, reading and listening

Are we still talking about Barbie? Yes, we are.
Are we still talking about Barbie? Yes, we are.
Warner Bros. Pictures

This week, Mickey Mouse became a murderous freak, and Disney couldn’t do anything about it; someone finally “beat” Tetris; and Katt Williams accused Steve Harvey of plagiarism and referred to him as “Mr. Potato Head” — amidst many, many other bold and brash proclamations.

Here’s what the NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

Fad Camp podcast

Fad Camp
HeadStuff Podcasts

Fad Camp is a podcast hosted by comedians Conor Dowling and Grace Mulvey, both of whom have struggled with body acceptance and diet culture. In each episode, they look at a topic related to fatness or anti-fatness, and they dissect it and laugh at it. They’ve done episodes on “The Biggest Loser,” wedding diets, “Revenge Body with Khloé Kardashian” and, of course, fat camps for children. What I love about Fad Camp is that Conor and Grace are intellectually certain about how anti-fatness is damaging — and yet they’re still vulnerable enough to admit that they sometimes struggle with their own body acceptance. It's information mixed with vulnerability and humor. It always makes me laugh and think. — Kristen Meinzer

“Silver Nitrate” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silver Nitrate
Del Rey

Silver Nitrate” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia came out in July 2023. It’s about two best friends living in Mexico City in the early ‘90s. They work in and around the film and television industry, and they get wrapped up in a spooky mystery involving a Nazi occultist and a secret film that was never released and might contain all sorts of untold dark powers. Because it's the ‘90s, there’s no Internet or smartphones; the two characters have to get to the bottom the mystery by doing research in dusty film archives and looking in the phone book. It has a nostalgic, Nancy Drew quality to it that I loved. If you like The Vampire Diaries TV series this will scratch that itch. — Wailin Wong

The monologue in “Barbie”

This is the much-discussed moment in “Barbie” when America Ferrera’s character, Gloria, holds forth for a couple of minutes about the contradictions of the expectations that are placed on women. Plenty of people I respect have dismissed it as eye-rolling, and cringe, and Feminism 101, and too basic, and a gross oversimplification, and a dumbing down of important issues and ideas.

I spent a couple days over the holiday break with a friend of ours: She’s in her 60s. She would never consider herself a feminist; she calls herself “a tough broad.” The minute she saw me, she asked me about “Barbie,” which was odd because she doesn't watch movies. I have known this person 20 years — we have never talked about pop culture.

She said she rewound and rewatched that speech three times. She quoted it to me at length. She had never heard her life expressed in such a stark, and succinct, and, yes, simplified way. This was a reminder for me that critics can get jaded. For a moment, my friend felt like her experiences weren’t unique to her. And given the success of “Barbie” there must be a lot of people who had an experience like that. And I just think it’s myopic to dismiss it. — Glen Weldon

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Aisha Harris

I care about Travis Kelce as much as I care about football, which is to say: not at all. But this New York Times article gives an interesting peek into the well-oiled machine behind his ascendance into the zeitgeist, and is a necessary reminder that in the entertainment world, some things, like dating the biggest pop star in the world, happen (allegedly) by chance. Others are carefully crafted plans years in the making.

Speaking of carefully crafted plans, multi-level marketing schemes are the worst, right? And yet, many of us can’t get enough stories about them, be they exposés, documentaries or podcasts, myself included. If this sounds like you, definitely check out the latest season of The Dream, hosted by Jane Marie. It’s about the insidiousness of MLMs, but also includes a deep dive into the history of “bootstrap” mentality.

And finally, Dan Levy’s feature directorial debut Good Grief is streaming on Netflix this weekend. It’s a melancholy, wintry rom-com-dramedy that features a standout performance by Ruth Negga as one of his character’s B.F.F.s. Will go down pleasingly enough with a warm blanket and a glass of red or a hot cocoa.

Beth Novey adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment “What’s Making Us Happy” for the Web. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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