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Bret Easton Ellis' podcast with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein ends in terse tug of war

The pair were a brick wall at every turn

Christopher Hooton
Wednesday 02 April 2014 21:06 BST
Author Bret Easton Ellis, and comedians Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen
Author Bret Easton Ellis, and comedians Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen (Getty/IFC)

One particular theme has been rumbling in the belly of Bret Easton Ellis' unmissable podcast since its inception, a weariness with the dogged positivity and unwavering optimism that the current young generation has adopted as a response to the uncertainty, hyper-connectivity and disorientatingly rapid change of the era it finds itself in.

His guests (Kanye West, Judd Apatow, Ezra Koenig and more) have all at least to some extent been in agreement with Ellis' condemnation of the new mindset thus far, sharing a sympathy with his Generation X misgivings about what he has dubbed “Generation Wuss”.

This latest conversation with Portlandia creators Armisen and Brownstein was surprisingly oppositional however, with the pair refusing to really engage with any of his assertions and proving themselves to be proponents of the sanguine approach to cultural debate he was clearly secretly hoping they too would be troubled by.

There were brick walls at every turn. Ellis knowingly asked for a reaction to their being described as “twee”, but after very briefly taking issue with it the pair quickly saw the sunny side, declaring that if it's a compliment, they'll take it. He posited that while laudible, director Wes Anderson has a style that, also considered in the 'twee' bracket, comes with a sense of hollowness, but declaring themselves fans, this thread of discussion was soon shut down too.

The jarring discussion continued.

Hurt Locker is a flawed movie? No, it's brilliant. The generally accepted idea that TV has supplanted film is a slightly depressing one? Not so. Mainstream discourse surrounding the Oscars has become side-tracked by gender? Let's not engage with that notion and just focus on what we believe.

There wasn't a chink to be found anywhere in the pair's armour of positivity, with even Ellis' assertion that their parodies must at some point, occasionally, come from their annoyance with the person they're sending up only being met with denial and glowing praise for their spoofees.

The podcast, usually characterised by long, willfully meandering conversations, had reached an impass, with Ellis even feeling the need to apologise for seeing any TV shows or films as anything less than good-job-all-round-well-done-everybody, putting it down to his own "misanthropy".

Admittedly, it's not easy as a guest to open up on some of these topics when blindsided with them, it's not easy to be truthful about your opinion of television when you're pursuing a career in it, and Ellis got off on the wrong foot over an introductory monologue about gender with Brownstein and Armistein, who are undoubtedly talented and thoughtful people.

But while less enlightening than previous episodes, it was fascinating seeing the healthy, if at times scathing, cynicism of a passing era clash with the refreshingly upbeat but achingly disingenuous optimism of the one we're entering.

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