Transcript

751: Audience of One

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Prologue: Prologue

Ira Glass

I know so many people who have films that they have watched over and over, and I have never really gotten that. I always feel like there are so many films that I haven't seen, why would I watch one again? But we get into these conversations. And there always comes a moment where I'm asked, well, what is the film that you've seen the most?

And then I have to admit, it's The Poseidon Adventure, which I know is not a good film. It's this '70s movie about an ocean liner that gets hit by a tsunami, flips upside down, and the passengers try to make their way to safety. It's part of an entire genre of films, disaster films, that have never gotten any respect. Nobody thinks of these films as art. But I loved it at the time when I saw it. It felt big, and it felt important and serious. And I remember it was very emotional.

And the reason that I saw it so many times, that this is the film that I saw more than any other, was not because I loved the film. It's because of where I saw it. I was on vacation. We didn't take many vacations when I was a kid, but on one of them, we stayed at this hotel in Florida where the rooms had this thing where they offered a couple of movies all day long. And this was so long ago in the 1970s. My sisters and I, we had never seen anything like that. Even cable TV was rare back then. The Poseidon Adventure was the film that they offered. And my sister, Karen, and I we ate it up.

Karen

That was the movie we watched over and over again, yeah.

Zach

Oh, so this was a very important movie.

Ira Glass

That's Karen and her son, Zach, my nephew, who we tried to explain this to recently.

Karen

So we ended up watching it on TV at night, if our parents went out to dinner, or if it was a rainy day. Yeah, we loved it.

Ira Glass

The way that I remember it is that the hotel just had this movie on a loop. And it would just, as soon as it would finish, it would start again. And the way I remember it is that every time we would come into the hotel room, you could turn on the TV, and you'd be somewhere in The Poseidon Adventure.

Karen

That sounds vaguely familiar to me. I don't totally remember that, but that might be right, yeah.

Ira Glass

And I remember it having a lot of feeling. Do you remember it having a lot of feeling?

Karen

What does that mean, having a lot of feeling? Like, eliciting--

Ira Glass

I remember feeling a lot of emotions.

Karen

Yeah, well, it's scary. And you're really invested in their journey to escape alive. I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that.

Zach

Sort of are.

Ira Glass

Here at the radio show these last few weeks, we've been talking about the random films that people have strong attachments to, thinking that might be a good episode of the show. And I started to think about The Poseidon Adventure. And I wondered what it would be like to see it again. Would it have any feeling? Would any of it feel the way it did to me as a kid? Would it feel that way to Karen?

So my sister and I, we watched it. And I invited Zach too, since he's the age that we were when we watched it back in the '70s. He's 13. I was 14 at the time. Karen was 11. And I want to say, I did not expect Zach to like it. He does not like a lot of films.

And right away, the very first scene let us know the kind of film we were in for. A little boy visits the bridge of the SS Poseidon, this ocean liner in the middle of a big storm. And the little boy is greeted by the captain, who's played by Leslie Nielsen-- who, at this point, had not made the career transition to parodying characters like this captain.

Captain

Mr. Shelby, you've picked a particularly fascinating moment to accept my invitation. These waves don't bother you, huh?

Shelby

I've surfed up to 18 feet, but these look more like 30.

Captain

35, to be exact.

Shelby

Wow, surf's really up.

Zach

Oh, my.

Ira Glass

What's "oh, my"?

Zach

Those lines. So cheesy.

Ira Glass

I didn't remember how wincey the acting got in some places. When Ernest Borgnine shows up, it's clear that the 1956 Oscar winner for Best Actor is not in one of his best roles.

Ernest Borgnine

Linda, you hear me

Zach

Why is he so angry?

Ira Glass

Borgnine does seem to shout nearly every one of his lines in the film. One thing that kind of stunned me and I did not expect, seeing the film again, was how much of the dialogue I remember from decades ago. And I was also surprised to realize-- and I do not know what this says about me-- the lines that I remember the most are the little comic zingers, like when a crew member is asked if he's married, I know his corny response before he says it.

Man 1

No marriage for me, Mrs. Rosen. I've got a mistress.

Mrs. Rosen

What?

Man 1

The sea.

Man 2

Hey, that's good.

Ira Glass

Something I did remember, and remember liking from the film, was that this was an old-fashioned enough movie that the producers tried to insert some big ideas into the adventure, so it would all mean something. These big ideas are provided by Gene Hackman, who plays a rebellious young priest in a turtleneck, whose big theological idea is a very conveniently helpful one for people who are about to be capsized in the middle of the ocean. God doesn't want you to wait for miracles. You have to take matters into your own hands.

Priest

Don't pray to God to solve your problems.

Ira Glass

This is from a sermon he delivers early in the film.

Priest

Have the guts to fight for yourself. God wants brave souls. He wants winners, not quitters. If you can't win, at least try to win.

Ira Glass

He comes back to this over and over through the film, rallying the passengers to fight on. I loved that as a teenager, that there was this idealistic guy with this principle that he's trying to live by and this idea about God that the film is testing. And I have to say, seeing it today, I still loved it, that they put that in there. Anyway, soon enough, right at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, the tsunami hits, the boat flips, the plot line tips.

[SCREAMING]

In the wreckage of the upside down New Year's party, Gene Hackman convinces only eight passengers that they shouldn't stay and wait for God to send rescuers, but climb with him to safety.

Priest

Now, please, for God's sake, come with me.

Ira Glass

They creep from deck to deck, barely escaping the rising water as they go. The ceilings of the rooms are the floors that they walk on, and the floors are the ceilings. There's a fiery upside-down kitchen. They go up slippery ladders and inverted staircases. And by the time they start dying, one by one, for Karen and me and even Zach, it's no joke. We're in it. We care.

[GROANING]

[SPLASHING]

Zach

Did she just have a heart attack? Wait, did she just have a heart attack?

Karen

Yes.

Zach

Wow. That's a pretty random heart attack.

Karen

Not really. Think about the fact that she just did all that swimming and she's out of shape.

Ira Glass

After Mrs. Rosen, the menschy grandma in the film dies. Her husband discovers her dead body.

Zach

Oh, that guy is going to be so sad.

Ira Glass

I remember this moment so well.

Karen

I remember this too, really well. This was very affecting.

Zach

I've been really invested in this movie. It's sort of good.

Ira Glass

You do feel very invested?

Zach

Yeah, it's like I'm not sure what's going to happen next, unlike most other movies.

Ira Glass

I'd wondered if Zach was going to feel the same big feelings that I felt for the film at his age. And he totally did.

[SCREAMING]

Zach

Wow, she dies?

Man

Linda!

Zach

No. Oh, he dies, too? No.

Man

Linda!

Zach

They were so close.

Man

Linda! Linda!

Zach

No.

Man

Linda!

Ira Glass

By the time we get to Gene Hackman's big climactic speech to God--

Priest

What more do you want of us? We've come all this way, no thanks to you.

Ira Glass

--it was clear The Poseidon Adventure, it does its job. It gets to you. But thinking about the experience that Zach had watching the film and the one that I was having, it's so different, right? For me, it was like walking into a room from my childhood home and finding it intact and exactly how I remembered it. Or we would get to a scene and I would remember things I didn't realize I remembered. Is there even a name for that?

When we watch a movie together, we think we're watching the same thing, but we are not. For me, The Poseidon Adventure is a portal back to that vacation and being in that hotel room with Karen and knowing those movie stars from other things they made and just that whole time in my life. I can't show Zach that movie.

Well, from WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, we're at a point in the pandemic where so many of us are still not going out to movie theaters. And we thought, here at our show, let's do a movie night. Let's do a show about movies. And in particular, we decided to get people who have watched a film over and over, who see something in it that most people do not see, films for which they are an audience of one. These are stories about how we connect to films sometimes very deeply, but sometimes in very strange and random ways. Stay with us.

Act One: Many a Thing She Ought to Understand

Ira Glass

Act One, "Many a Thing She Ought to Understand." One of our producers, Diane Wu, spent most of her life thinking that she did not have a unique and personal take on the film The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music-- after all, everybody loves it. What's there to say? And then she learned, no, her take is very different.

Diane Wu

I watched The Sound of Music all the time as a kid. It was one of maybe six VHS tapes we had at home, along with Bambi and 101 Dalmatians. And a few years ago, I was talking with a friend about how much I loved the movie growing up. And he said, me too, though the Nazis scared me. And I said, what Nazis?

And that's when I learned I'd never seen the second half of the film. It turns out the movie came out in a two VHS box set. And I, for some reason, had only ever seen the first tape. My dad doesn't remember a second tape either. And why would you need one? The first half makes perfect sense on its own.

Here's the plot. It's a movie about a woman named Maria, who is sent to the countryside to babysit a giant family of children with a mean dad, the von Trapps. Maria shows up, bubbly, fun, and teaches them to sing and play and be kids, all against the wishes of their father. But the singing wins him over. They sing together as a family. And finally, at a party, the kids sing a beautiful song for the guests. Farewell. And after that, Maria, having successfully fixed the family, leaves, just like Mary Poppins did when she fixed that family. And that's the end of the movie.

I had very clear fond memories of the goatherd puppet show and the scene in the gazebo where Liesl, the eldest daughter, secretly met with the mailman she was in love with. And they sang and danced, and it was so romantic. I had no further questions about any of the characters. So when I learned that there were 70 more minutes to the film, I didn't bother going to look for them. The Sound of Music was a full complete and wonderful artifact from my childhood. I didn't want to taint it with Nazis.

But when my co-worker, Lina, who's producing this week's show and is a musical theater fan-- which I most definitely am not-- when she found out I still hadn't seen the whole thing, it seemed heretical to her. She couldn't let it stand. So we watched it together over the internet one Sunday afternoon. And I prepared to have a childhood memory either slightly enhanced or completely ruined. Before we started, she had me predict what was going to be in the second half.

Diane Wu

I want, based on-- and this is based on my childhood memory and just what I would like to see, is the second half is just focused on my favorite two characters, Liesl and the hot mailman. I want to see their courtship. And then they get married. And that's the end of the movie.

We hit play and started at the very beginning, started with the part I know. And the first half was more or less the simple, sunny movie I remembered. Seeing the kindly and dour nuns come on screen early on was like recognizing teachers I had in elementary school.

Bernice

Reverend Mother.

Reverend Mother

Sister Bernice.

Bernice

I simply cannot find her.

Reverend Mother

Maria?

Diane Wu

There is that gazebo scene, when the mailman and Liesl sing to each other.

Liesl

(SINGING) I am 16, going on 17. I know that I'm naive.

Diane Wu

Then whirl around the gazebo, dancing.

Diane Wu

Oh, my God. This still looks like so much fun.

Watching now, though, I saw a lot of things that I had completely missed as a kid, because, as a child, I'd apparently ignored anything that adults who are not Maria said to each other. Literally, none of that dialogue registered. It was like the mumbly grown-ups in Charlie Brown. My kid self had edited full characters out of the film. I barely remembered the baroness who wants to marry the dad.

Baroness

This really is exciting for me, Georg, being here with you.

Georg

Oh, trees, lakes, mountains. When you've seen one, you've seen them all!

Baroness

That is not what I mean, and you know it.

Diane Wu

So any of their plot lines that were not resolved in the first half, moot. I also missed, of course, how Maria and the dad supposedly fall in love. The dad, by the way, was even meaner than I remembered, just cruel to Maria.

Georg

Turn around, please.

Maria

What?

Georg

Turn. Hat off. It's the dress. You'll have to put on another one before you meet the children.

Maria

But I don't have another one.

Diane Wu

And because of that, I still had a lot of trouble squaring the idea that anything between the two of them was remotely romantic.

Baroness

He thinks he's in love with you.

Maria

But that's not true.

Diane Wu

Oh, they really spell it out.

Lina

Yeah, buddy. You missed kind of a lot.

Baroness

Surely, you've noticed the way he looks into your eyes. And you blushed in his arms when you were dancing just now.

Diane Wu

The one romance that still sparkled was between Liesl and the mailman. Though, watching again, I have to say the mailman was not as cute as I remembered.

Diane Wu

It's the mailman! Oh, he kind of looks like a Nazi.

Ralph, the mailman, comes back later in the first half to throw rocks on Liesl's window. That moment, I remember. Again, so dreamy. But the one that followed was completely over my head as a kid.

Rolfe

I didn't see. I mean, I didn't know you were-- Heil Hitler!

Diane Wu

Oh. "Heil Hitler"?

Yeah, "Heil Hitler." The hero of my version of The Sound of Music, who I'd hoped the second half would center around, he was the Nazi. Also, not the mailman. Yes, he was wearing a uniform and delivering messages, but he was not employed by the postal service, as my child self had understood. He was some kind of military messenger.

The first half is peppered with a few more hints like this that things are going to take a turn historically in the second half of the movie. Uneasy talk about Austrian flags and something called an Anschluss, but all against the backdrop of a glamorous party. They're kind of easy to miss, if you're seven.

The last thing I missed as a kid? The big title card that says intermission in yellow script that comes on screen after Maria closes the door. Maybe it was on the second VHS. Lina and I fast forward through the music at intermission. And the second half starts.

Diane Wu

Oh, my god, Lina. I can't believe there's more.

Lina

This is like a second movie for you.

Liesl

Two, three--

Lina

Oh, this is really weird. You haven't seen any of this.

Liesl

--fixe, six, seven.

Diane Wu

Except as the second half starts, I suddenly feel like I have seen all of this. Watching the children play ball in their backyard felt strangely familiar.

Liesl

Six! Oh.

Diane Wu

I'd spent so much time already with the von Trapps at their home that this new scene just felt like part of my memories. This confusing deja vu sticks with me, all the way through the scenes of Maria back at the abbey. It's not until the dad goes to meet Maria at the gazebo and declare his love for her that I am certain I have never seen this before.

Georg

Do you know when I first started loving you? That night at the dinner table when you sat on that ridiculous pine cone.

Maria

What? I knew the first time you blew that silly whistle.

Diane Wu

Oh, my god.

Georg

Oh, my love.

Diane Wu

This is so gross.

They basically just stared at each other three times, and now Maria was letting this horrible man marry her? I could not believe it. Just as I'm settling into the newness of the second half, gawking at Maria's wedding dress, everything in the movie shifts. The Nazis roll into town.

It's incredibly abrupt, a cut from literal wedding bells to a bell tolling over a giant swastika flag on the town square. Lines of soldiers march across the plaza ominously. The colors seemed to drain out of the movie. The children show up next in drab brown clothes against a stony backdrop, instead of their perky curtain outfits from the first half. The characters, meanwhile, are dealing with their own whiplash. Rolfe surprises Liesl as she's getting into a car.

Rolfe

Liesl! Liesl!

Liesl

Rolfe!

Diane Wu

I'm basically as excited to see Rolfe as Liesl is right here, because maybe this is when we get to the version of the second half I'd been wanting to see-- Rolfe and Liesl's courtship.

Liesl

Rolfe, I'm so glad to see you. It's been such--

Rolfe

Good afternoon. You will take this, please, and deliver it to your father as soon as he comes home.

Diane Wu

Ouch, Rolfe. He's standing in front of a Nazi flag. Liesl is clearly disoriented, but still hopeful as she holds the telegram and coyly asks--

Liesl

Don't you want to come over tonight and deliver it yourself?

Rolfe

I am now occupied with more important matters. And your father better be, too, if he knows what's good for him.

Liesl

But Rolfe--

Diane Wu

Aw, Liesl, you chose a bad one.

This was the only relationship in the movie that interested me at all as a child. And it's sobering to see the whole realistic arc of it. As for the rest of the second half, it's predictable. You know their first escape isn't going to work out. It's obvious they'll win the singing contest. Great songs from the first half are just recycled in a weird way. The one moment that moves me, though, doesn't have anything to do with the characters I was attached to from the first half. It happens, surprisingly, when the dad starts singing a love song to his country onstage.

Georg

(SINGING) Edelweiss, Edelweiss, every morning you greet me.

Diane Wu

He's doing it as an act of gentle defiance that makes the Nazi official's mustache twitch. And as the crowd joins in with him, I feel my throat catch a little. They remind me of people all around the world this summer in Hong Kong, Beirut, Belarus, here in America, who are longing to hold on to something as their own countries change rapidly, excruciatingly, around them.

Crowd

(SINGING) Edelweiss, Edelweiss, bless my hometown forever.

Diane Wu

The darkest moment of the movie is perhaps at the very end, when the family has almost escaped, but then Rolfe finds them in the abbey. He raises a whistle to turn them in. But the dad stops and reasons with him.

Georg

You don't really belong to them.

Rolfe

Stay where you are.

Georg

Come away with us-- before it's too late.

Diane Wu

Rolfe looks scared and boyish. He relinquishes his gun and leans over, relieved. But then the dad takes it one step too far.

Georg

You'll never be one of them.

Rolfe

Lieutenant! Lieutenant, they're here! They're here, lieutenant!

Diane Wu

Rolfe chooses to betray them. It's such a sinister and dissonant scene, held up against the cotton candy first half. The family still makes it out in time, but in spite of him, not with his help. And that's the actual end of the movie, as far as I know today.

So here's my conclusion, having seen it all. You don't need the second half. It's actually better without it. The second half just takes one of my kid self's favorite characters, Rolfe, and makes him a villain, then takes the worst character, the dad, and makes him a hero. There are barely any new songs. Maria disappears as a person. Liesl just looks uncomfortable the whole time, trying to act like a child for another hour. Everything memorable and iconic about the movie-- "My Favorite Things," the kids singing good night, "Doe, a deer"-- that all happens in the first half.

But then I was at the beach this weekend with a friend, staring at the clouds and the kids throwing sand. And he said a thing that changed my feeling about the second half. He told me that, lately, he can last about three minutes feeling like everything is normal before he remembers it isn't. It made me understand the urge to include the dark end of the story in the movie about the singing family. Because once everything in the world has changed, you can't really will it to stay outside the frame.

Ira Glass

Diane Wu is one of the producers of our show. Coming up, your ex-wife has a few thoughts about your marriage, and she makes a movie about that. That does not sound like that's going to be a good experience for you. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio, when our program continues.

Act Two: Putting the Ease in Disease

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, at this point in the pandemic, where so many of us are still not going out to movie theaters, we thought, here at our program, let's do a movie night, a show about movies, stories about people who see something that most of us do not see in some film. Today's show is a rerun. We've arrived at act two of our program. Act Two, "Putting the Ease in Disease."

So back when the pandemic first took hold, a lot of people were watching or rewatching the movie Contagion, which originally came out in 2011. Maybe you've seen this. It's about a deadly and fast-spreading virus that is spread by respiratory droplets. It goes around the world. Governments fail to contain it. And I think when we watch films like that or read books about the 1918 flu-- because it just, I don't know, scratches this itch, where we want some way to think about what we are going through right now. And it's just nice to see somebody else go through some version of it.

One of our producers, Sean Cole, has never seen Contagion, but he found himself turning to this other movie, a movie about a virus that you've probably never heard of. It is a very different spin on the subject. Here's Sean.

Sean Cole

You won't find this movie on Netflix or YouTube or anywhere like that-- or at least, I couldn't find it that way. I finally had to order a DVD from an online vintage movie store. It's clear my copy was pirated off cable-- skips a lot. And like all of the Contagion geeks, I was floored by some of the parallels to now, especially given that this movie came out in 1968, more than half a century ago. For instance, in this movie, instead of a bat, the vector of the virus is a bird, a toucan, that's stowed away aboard a Greek freighter somewhere near Central America. Then the boat docks in New York Harbor for inspection, and the first mate alerts the military that a lot of the crew is sick.

Man

We'll have to hold the ship in quarantine indefinitely. If it is a virus, my guess, it's a brand new one, some kind of a mutation. No telling how long it'll take to identify it.

Sean Cole

The toucan is still on board, held in a makeshift chicken wire fence. But then it gets loose, flies straight into the city and starts infecting people. Just a few at first. The mayor of New York, an empty suit motivated mostly by money and poll numbers, holds a press conference, speaking into a microphone labeled WNYC, the public radio station in New York where I used to work. It was weird.

Mayor

There's absolutely no cause for alarm. Only 47 cases have been reported so far. However, the commissioner of health recommends that you wear a surgical mask when you are out in public. Now--

Sean Cole

He holds up a mask exactly like the one I wear every day. After the reporters leave, though, there's deep concern and dread. The health commissioner, an older Anthony Fauci type, scolds the mayor for underplaying the threat everyone's facing.

Commissioner

True, we've got a line on the 47 who reported to doctors, but--

Mayor

But when you feel good, you don't go to a doctor.

Commissioner

Lord knows how many more have it.

Mayor

But the virus only has a life of 10 days or so. You said so yourself.

Commissioner

Yes, but somebody who gets it on the 10th day and has it for another 10 days, and a week after he gets it, he gives it to somebody else and so on. Theoretically, it could go on for years.

Sean Cole

Soon, everyone is scurrying around the city in a masked panic. Businesses suffer. A presidential envoy fast tracks the development of a vaccine. If it weren't for the 20-foot long cop cars and A-line mod dresses, it feels like some of these scenes could have been shot in Manhattan last weekend.

Except, there's one major difference between this film and the Steven Soderberghian Contagion-like reality we're all living in. Because in this movie, the virus is not fatal. It doesn't even cause a fever or a cough. Instead, the main and only symptom is absolute euphoria. That's it. Everyone it infects experiences unbridled happiness and elation. Its victims begin acting kindly to one another, deferential. In just a couple of days, the city is transformed from this--

Man 1

Come on, you jerk! The light ain't going to get any greener!

Woman 1

Why, you lazy, no good, rotten, stinking--

Man 2

You're telling me when I came in?

Man 3

You're damn right I am!

Man 4

Who you shoving, mac? You own the sidewalk?

Sean Cole

--to this.

Man 5

Good morning.

Man 6

Nice day, isn't it?

Woman 2

I'm sorry.

Man 7

Pardon me.

Man 8

May I help you?

Sean Cole

The movie is called What's So Bad About Feeling Good? It's a comedy-- a romcom, really. And it is not a good movie, which is why you likely haven't heard of it, even though the lead actors are George Peppard from Breakfast at Tiffany's and The A-Team and Mary Tyler Moore from Mary Tyler Moore.

And they do a good job. Pretty much everyone in the cast is really skilled. But the whole production is outlandishly campy and caricaturistic. There are a few very awkward choices. Cartoon word balloons emerge from the toucan's mouth sometimes when it squawks, so you know what it's thinking. Oh, and there's a schmaltzy AM radio theme song, kind of a knockoff of Burt Bacharach.

Man

(SINGING) What's so wrong with that happy sensation, that sense of utter elation? What's so bad about feeling good?

Sean Cole

That said, it's also a great movie in the way that silly B movies can be so satisfying, especially the arcane ones that make you feel like a kid watching adults mess up for the first time. I have a greatest hits list of them in my head. Wild in the Streets, about ageist hippies waging a coup against the US government. Invasion of the Bee Girls, about a race of murderous women, who are also bees. Both of which you can watch online for free.

But since it's so hard to find a copy of this movie, let me just continue taking you through the plot in a kind of abbreviated, radio-ified Cliff's Notes version for your movie not-going enjoyment. So George Peppard and Mary Tyler Moore are Pete and Liz, two characters who are tailor-made for this particular plot, because they don't contain an ounce of euphoria. They're brooding existentialist archetypes that have dropped out of society, living in the East Village. They'd be boyfriend and girlfriend if they believed in that sort of thing. For no discernible reason, or maybe because the script wasn't working and they had to fix it quickly, there's a lot of voiceover by these two.

Pete

A couple of years ago, I was just like the rest of you conformists. I was in advertising, name on the door, carpet on the floor, an ulcer, headaches, the whole bit. But I wised up to that phony world and came down here. So did Liz. She was on the treadmill, too.

Liz

I sure was. Uptown supper clubs, singing schmaltzy songs to the drunks, fighting to get to the top of the ladder. And then my heart got into the act, and somebody stepped on it. Pills to sleep, pills to stay awake. Finally, I asked myself, for what? This was the answer.

Sean Cole

This being the communal building they live in with a tribe of other unhappy nihilists collecting unemployment. They all look a little like cave people at a gallery opening. One of them spends every hour of every day completely enveloped inside of a sack. They call her the Sack.

The Sack

Since the problems of life are insoluble, one should draw into complete isolation and live a life of total non-involvement with other people.

Pete

The Sack is right.

Sean Cole

Meanwhile, a little ways downtown, the Faucian commissioner of health pretty quickly figures out how the virus works.

Commissioner

And it has to be transmitted by respiration. All that bird has to do is get within breathing distance of somebody, and pop goes the weasel.

Sean Cole

Cue the toucan, who flies into Pete and Liz's window one morning while they're sleeping, loiters for a minute next to Pete's face, and leaves. Pete wakes up early and heads up to the roof. Liz climbs up after him, concerned.

Liz

Pete!

Pete

Come here.

Liz

What happened?

Pete

Come here. Look. In this cruddy pile of junk, a flower.

Liz

Pete, what's wrong? What's the matter with you?

Pete

I don't know. Ever since I got up, I've been feeling strange, kind of-- I don't think I can explain it to you, but everything seems different. Hey, listen.

Liz

To what? The traffic?

Pete

Kids laughing.

Liz

You know why they're laughing? Because they're not old enough to read the newspaper. You take a look at the front page and then try laughing. The world's a stinking, hopeless mess! Oh, Pete, you're sick. You know, sometimes a high fever can make you feel this way.

Pete

I feel great.

Liz

That's what I mean!

Sean Cole

At this point, it's worth noting why someone might want to make a film about the need for euphoria in 1968. The front page Liz is talking about would include headlines like "Martin Luther King is Slain in Memphis," "Robert Kennedy Dead," "Police Battle Demonstrators in the Streets"-- also, "Viet Cong Storm US Embassy." We were a nation at war, both abroad and with itself, with protests and riots in cities across the country, and a presidential candidate running on a platform of law and order, and also courting segregationists.

And given all that, you might ask, what is so bad about feeling good? Which is what the mayor in the movie wanted to know. In one of the first crisis management meetings with his cabinet, they're running down the symptoms for him and tell him the virus stops people from brooding. But it's worse than that.

Man

Mr. Mayor, 82% not only stop brooding, they stop smoking. 93% stop drinking.

Mayor

What's wrong with that?

Man

In terms of dollars and cents, it's disastrous. Our city is facing a drastic loss in income from sales tax.

Mayor

That's ridiculous. 47 people? Drop in a bucket.

Man

But if this goes unchecked for a month, by mathematical progression, half of New York will have the virus. You know what that means. It means a loss in cigarette and liquor taxes, more than $180 million.

Mayor

$180 million? Brady, what are you sitting there for? Get that bird!

Brady

Yes, sir.

Sean Cole

Brady is the chief of police. Capture the bird, they can extract its tissues, come up with a cure, and stave off an economic crisis. Because, of course, what's the most important thing a politician thinks of in a potential pandemic? How to save the economy. Meantime, Pete, much to Liz's horror, has shaved off his beard, cut his hair, and is talking about trying to get his old advertising job back. Which-- quick digression-- interests me because it's the opposite of subversive. Once these nonconformists get infected, instead of dropping out, they drop in.

Pete feels so good, in fact, that once he figures out what's, quote unquote, "wrong with him," he wants to share it with everyone, starting with Liz. In an age when all of us are actively avoiding each other's bodies like the plague, because of the plague, it's wild to watch someone actively trying to spread a virus like this.

Pete

One little kiss, and you'll have it, too.

Liz

I don't want it.

Pete

Just one little kiss. You'll like yourself in the morning.

Liz

I don't want it, Pete.

Pete

We'll get married, a real marriage--

Liz

I don't want it.

Pete

--a church wedding.

Sean Cole

Chasing her around the room.

Pete

We'll get a little place in Jersey. We'll have some kids, and I'll mow the lawn.

Liz

And give up all this?

Sean Cole

Eventually, in a completely unbelievable moment that would never have survived the MeToo movement, Pete disguises himself as a nihilist German philosopher and tries to pressure Liz into bed, finally settling for a kiss. He exposes the rest of the gang, too. They all shave, cut their hair, Queer Eye their apartments. The Sack climbs out of her sack. And the toucan, remarkably, keeps coming back. It becomes their pet. They call him Amigo. At the same time, the mayor is bundled off to an emergency bunker so that he doesn't get sick. A TV reporter buttonholes him on the way in.

Reporter

Tell me, sir, is there any truth to the rumor that there's been a spread in the epidemic?

Mayor

Epidemic? Well, I'd hardly call it an epidemic. After all, we only have 180 million-- 47 cases.

Reporter

Well, why then, sir, are you visiting the fallout shelter?

Mayor

Just a routine inspection, last Friday of every month.

Reporter

But today is Saturday, sir.

Mayor

Well, better late than never.

Sean Cole

It took me watching this scene a few times, trying to figure out why it sounded so familiar. And then I was like, oh, yeah.

Reporter

At the height of the protest outside the White House, President Trump was moved for a time to the bunker, something that hasn't happened since 9/11.

Donald Trump

I was there for a tiny, little short period of time, and it was much more for an inspection. There was no--

Sean Cole

Anyway, there aren't only 47 cases for long. And that is largely due to the efforts of Pete and Liz and their friends. They wage a campaign to spread the virus intentionally, by subterfuge. Liz and the Sack volunteer to hand out masks to their fellow citizens, breathing on them first.

Liz

While the Sack made sure that every mask was specially treated with the virus, I made sure that nobody got away without one.

Pete

I was in charge of transportation, assisted by Conrad. Our specialty was the subway at rush hour. Where the biggest crowds were breathing in, we were there, breathing out.

Sean Cole

They breathe on peanuts and feed them to the pigeons. Liz and another friend get jobs as burlesque dancers. Their shtick is blowing soap bubbles into people's faces. And in just a couple of days, the number of cases explodes to about two million, about a quarter of the city's population. Cabbies stop in the middle of the street to let pedestrians cross in front of them. Marriage license applications flood City Hall, Pete and Liz's among them. Barbershop lines are staggering. People literally dance in the streets with joy. It's a disaster.

Finally, the president's envoy is helicoptered into New York City to save the day and, frankly, to save the movie. It's Dom Deluise from Blazing Saddles, Space Balls, Robin Hood, Men in Tights.

Jay Gardner Monroe

I have a statement from the president.

Sean Cole

Dom Deluise. I love Dom Deluise. He looms so large in my childhood comedy pantheon. He's atomically funny, even in this very not good film. His character, Jay Gardner Monroe, is way more confident and bossy and conceited than he is capable. He snaps his fingers at his aides, uses the word "repeat" before repeating himself, like a military general. Anyway, he heads straight to the bunker and tells the mayor and everyone that if the toucan isn't caught before the tally reaches 3 million cases, he's putting plan CC-27 into effect.

Jay Gardner Monroe

The bridges, tunnels, airports will be closed. Repeat, closed! Not one single person will get in or out of New York.

Man

But Mr. Monroe, do you realize we have 52 conventions coming in next week?

Jay Gardner Monroe

Conventions? Do you realize what would happen if this got to Washington? Republicans agreeing with Democrats and vice versa? This bird could destroy our two-party system, the very foundation of our great democracy.

Sean Cole

The tally board is at 2.2 million cases at this point. And this is really the final and maybe most alarming parallel between our story and real life. As Monroe watches the numbers tick upward, he shakes his head in disgust.

Jay Gardner Monroe

Those commies sure are sneaky. Oh, come on. You don't think for one moment that this thing is just an accident, do you? Do you? When that bird landed on that ship, its position was--

Man

Longitude 82, latitude 24.

Jay Gardner Monroe

24. Not very far from Cuba, eh? Take my word for it. That bird is a hook-nosed missile sent here by You Know Who.

Sean Cole

You Know Who-- Fidel Castro.

Jay Gardner Monroe

Look at the facts. When people get the bug, they suddenly love the world. Now if You Know Who was getting ready to act up again, what would be better than to give Americans a sense of security, a false sense of security and euphoria?

Man

Mr. Monroe, you're not suggesting this virus was artificially produced in a laboratory?

Jay Gardner Monroe

Yes, virus produ-- laboratory, yes.

Man

Medical impossibility. Just couldn't have happened.

Jay Gardner Monroe

That's what they said about the power failure here in New York in '65. And what about the Asian flu? That came straight, believe you me, from red China.

Sean Cole

Of course, it's satire, and in that way, it's cathartic. But when I got to that scene, it suddenly felt like every other part of the movie had been an escape from what's going on. It's funny that one of the most ludicrous pieces of dialogue is also practically a quote we've heard in the news in 2020, and not as a joke.

There's so much more of the story left, but just to abridge, so they finally manage to isolate the virus. Amazingly, because it's a movie, they develop a vaccine, like, that day. But they still have to test it out. So they spray it in Pete and Liz's nuptial bed in the hotel room where they're spending their wedding night and set up a hidden camera behind the air vent. Everybody in the bunker, the mayor, the Fauci character, Jay Gardner Monroe, all of them sit and monitor the couple on a big screen as morning arrives. Liz wakes up to Pete coming back from an errand. He's still wearing his suit, but he's disheveled, messy hair, smoking.

Liz

Good morning, darling. I didn't hear you.

Pete

Couldn't sleep. Went out for coffee and cigarettes.

Liz

Room service is probably up, and I'll order breakfast.

Pete

No, never mind. I don't want any.

Liz

Oh, but Pete, you really should eat something.

Pete

Don't bug me!

Sean Cole

Jay Gardner Monroe, watching on the monitor from the bunker, is psyched.

Jay Gardner Monroe

Well, he's back to normal. It worked, doc.

Commissioner

Not her, she doesn't seem to have changed a bit.

Sean Cole

And I don't know what this says about me, but of all the scenes in the movie, this is the one I remember the most clearly from the first time I saw it. I've actually kind of carried it around all of these years because it's genuinely so sad. Liz looks like her heart is breaking in real time.

Liz

No, don't ask me to go back. Remember what we had. Remember it. Cling to it.

Pete

You're kidding yourself. You talk about goodness and kindness. Read the front page and try and find some.

Liz

Pete, I can't go back. I couldn't live that kind of life ever again.

Sean Cole

Pete shrugs.

Pete

OK. You drink your poison, and I'll drink mine.

Jay Gardner Monroe

There's no doubt about him. That was certainly a positive reaction.

Sean Cole

Positive. There's a happy ending. Liz decides to leave New York and move home, but at the very last minute, she goes to say goodbye to Amigo, the bird, who's in a zoo now. And Pete's there, too.

Pete

Liz? Liz!

Sean Cole

They do that romcom running thing.

Liz

Pete!

Sean Cole

And just like that, they're back together. The city spews the vaccine into the air via factory chimneys and exhaust pipes, and most of New York lives miserably ever after. But some people stay pleasant and uplifted because, major plot twist, 50% of the people who seem to be infected actually never got the virus in the first place. The joy just rubbed off on them. And Liz was one of those people, which is why she didn't get, quote unquote, "better" in the hotel room, which is actually the moral of the movie, that happiness is a choice.

But watching the movie during this pandemic, I drew another darker conclusion. Somehow, that wiggly weird jolt of recognition I got over and over again, what it felt like was, this is how it goes. When faced with a crisis like this, governments will minimize the severity of the danger. They'll value the wrong things. They'll focus on the economy over people's lives and blame foreigners in an ugly, xenophobic way. I'm sure there's a version of America where all that might not happen, but we're not living in that America right now. And Pete and Liz weren't living in it either. If it's possible for human beings to do the wrong thing, we'll figure out a way. We're resourceful like that.

Ira Glass

Sean Cole is one of the producers of our show.

Act Three: Director’s Cut

Ira Glass

Act Three, "Director's Cut." So our show today is about people who have a very particular take on some film. And the person in this next story finds himself in a situation that not many of us are ever going to be in. His ex-wife decided to revisit the part of their lives as their marriage fell apart and make a movie about it, or anyway, about a couple whose life seems very, very parallel to theirs in lots of ways. This fictional couple gets married real young. They're trying to make it in LA. The woman gets a big break. She leaves the husband at that point. This all happened in real life, too. The guy's name is Will Weldon. Elna Baker explains what happened next.

Elna Baker

Will heard about the movie from some friends when his ex-wife started working on it. The very thought of it made him anxious. His ex, Rebecca, eventually brought it up with him. She said the film was only loosely based on their marriage, which definitely did not help. He tried to put it out of his head. A year and a half later, he was scrolling around online.

Will Weldon

And I saw on Facebook people posting the trailer for the movie and being like, hey, go see this movie if it's in a theater near you, because it was made by Rebecca Adelman, and she's great and so funny. And I saw those popping up, and then I just had this moment where I was like, oh, the moment is here. And that was when I was filled with the most dread.

Elna Baker

What were those thoughts?

Will Weldon

For me, the thing I was the most afraid of is that the movie would portray me accurately.

Elna Baker

Will's candid about his flaws. Admits he was kind of a dud as a husband. Will and Rebecca met when she was 23. He was just 19. They were together for eight years, married for almost five. During that time, he was mostly unemployed, though he eventually started doing part-time work, walking dogs and house sitting. He did some stand-up, but not very often. Mostly, he'd spend his time--

Will Weldon

Refreshing Gawker, or I was playing Playstation, or I was literally just sitting there, thinking about how I should be doing something. I had no actual goals, and I wasn't striving for anything. That was, I think, the defining quality that ended our marriage.

Elna Baker

Because she was the ambitious one and disciplined. She wanted to be a TV writer. She'd wake up early to work on scripts. And when he watched the trailer, that was in it.

Will Weldon

And she is the harder worker and actually wants things.

Franny

I got the job.

Dan

What?

Franny

They just hired me as a writer.

Dan

Woo! My wife is the smartest woman in the world! Look how awesome she is! We're going to be rich. Can I get a Nintendo?

Elna Baker

Seeing the trailer made it so much worse. Now he realized the film would probably return him to some very painful times he'd rather not relive, like the way their marriage ended.

Will Weldon

To me at the time, it really felt like it came out of nowhere. She got home from work, and she just had a very strange-- you know the way people will start a-- they'll be like, so. And then she sat me down and she was just telling me about how she was unhappy in the relationship, and she had been for a long time.

And then me being like, gee, I don't know why this hasn't-- why none of this has come up before. I just loved her, and I really felt like we should try and give it another chance. And she was like, mm, I don't know. And at a certain point, we were talking. And I was like, who are we fooling here? It really seems like you're done, and this is done. And she was like, OK.

Elna Baker

Will moved out after just a week, started crashing on friends' couches. He was devastated, didn't understand what went wrong. And there were other scenes from their lives that he'd hate to see in a movie.

Will Weldon

I'm sure there will be conversations with her mom or her sister and her friends. I don't know if they were like, come on, girl. You gotta dump him. Those will probably be the toughest parts, because I imagine those will be things that will be very based in reality.

Elna Baker

The film, which is called Paper Year, came out in early 2018. It's got 71% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics comment on how authentic the couple's love coming undone feels. For a while, Will couldn't bring himself to see it. But a month ago, he suggested we watch it together. And I was into the idea.

I'm going through a divorce right now. It's a very strange time of life. I go on a lot of long walks. I stopped watching television for a year so I wouldn't avoid my feelings. All I read are self-help books. And when I go to parties, I corner divorced people and badger them for details about what this was like for them and how they got through it. Divorce is like my own personal disaster porn. So watching a movie about a divorce with the person who it happened to, it's all I want to do. And Will thought it would make it easier for him to see it for the first time.

Will Weldon

This is a better way, to view it with other people, than just, it's 3:00 in the morning. I'm alone. The lights are off. I've gotten up in secret, and I'm watching it in the middle of the night so I can just deny having ever seen it if I want to.

OK.

[DOG BARKING]

Elna Baker

Hi, puppy.

Will Weldon

Hi. This is Jack.

Elna Baker

I met Will where he was staying. He's dog sitting at a sleek Los Angeles home overlooking a canyon-- furry throw pillows, an open layout, pomegranate and lemon trees framing your view of the valley, all really expensive. Will is on high alert. Any time I move anything, he is careful to put it back exactly where it had been.

Elna Baker

OK, are we ready?

Will Weldon

[NERVOUS LAUGHTER] Sure.

Elna Baker

That was such an ominous laugh.

The movie opens with the couple, Dan and Franny, getting married in a courthouse, which Will and Rebecca also did. Dan lifts Franny and carries her out. The couple starts out really in love, having lots of sex, laughing, kissing in bed.

Franny

Is your rash gone?

Dan

Yeah.

Franny

[LAUGHS] Really?

Dan

Yeah.

Will Weldon

I never had a rash. There's no rash. I don't know what they're talking about.

Elna Baker

The guy's job in the film? Dog sitter.

Dan

He's quite the rascal, aren't you? He's a good boy.

Elna Baker

Wait, can I just point out the dog that you're house sitting in this movie is literally the same breed of dog that is sitting under the table right now.

Will Weldon

Yeah, it's like a Jack Russell Chihuahua mix that he's dog sitting. And I am also dog sitting a Jack Russell Chihuahua mix.

Elna Baker

In fact, the house in the film where Dan and Franny do their dog sitting is a lot like the house Will and I are sitting in at this very moment. Similar layout and decor, same view.

Dan

At least come swimming with me.

Franny

No, I want to finish this.

Elna Baker

In another scene, Franny is sitting at her computer working on a script. Dan is trying to get her attention.

Dan

It's just you writing for your dumb job. Come on, swim. Swim.

Franny

Stop.

Dan

[SIGHS]

Franny

Later.

Elna Baker

The real life version of this would actually play out a little differently-- less fun and more sad. Will says he'd do everything he could to get out of her way when she was working.

Will Weldon

I would just disappear. I'd wheel the TV into the bedroom and watch it in there, just so it wouldn't be distracting.

Elna Baker

The movie-- which, I'll admit, I'm the target audience for-- I liked it. Marriage made Franny unhappy in the same way it made me unhappy, like my life had ended. I spent so much time thinking about whether or not I wanted to be with my husband, but I couldn't tell him that. So we had nothing to talk about, because if he asked me what I was thinking, the real answer would have been, I'm not sure if I love you anymore.

The scene that Will feared of Franny confiding in her mom and friends about all her husband's terrible qualities and everyone saying what they really think of him, that never happens. There's no scene where anyone badmouths him, none at all. No one tells anyone to dump the loser. Instead, what happens is much more interesting. Late in the film, Franny sits down to talk to her mom about her marriage. In the scene, she's trying to convince herself to stay with him.

Franny

I'm fine. I'm fine. Everything's fine.

Elna Baker

Will sits forward in his seat. The day his marriage fell apart, Will came home and Rebecca was on the couch crying. She said she'd been talking to her mom, but he never knew what their conversation was about. He felt like he was getting to see it now. In the scene, Franny, played by Eve Hewson, talks to her mom, played by Andie MacDowell.

Franny

Maybe it's just like the first year of marriage is the hardest, you know, like that old saying? And in a few years, I'll look back on it and laugh.

Joanne

Baby, look at me. That saying is bull-[BLEEP]. The first year should be your best. If it wasn't, none of us would stick around, because it only gets harder, much harder.

Will Weldon

It's-- just, like, seeing how upset she is, that sucks. She felt really bad. This is just a bad feeling for someone to have to go through.

Elna Baker

You're seeing how hard it was for her.

Will Weldon

Well, just-- I don't think I was incorrect to focus on my own struggles during the whole process of splitting up. But it did kind of prevent me from thinking about hers as well. I just didn't have as much of an appreciation for the difficulty of it. The misery that goes into that choice. It-- also is a little bit of a relief that it was hard for her. If it had been very easy for her to end things, I would have felt like such absolute trash. If, just one day, she'd come home and been like, you know what? Not for me. Bye, pal.

Elna Baker

But that's the story you've kind of been telling yourself.

Will Weldon

Yeah. Yeah.

Elna Baker

For years, Will had been telling himself the same version of their breakup, something he'd sandpaper down into this. Rebecca got her big break and then she dumped him out of the blue. He was heartbroken. She was happy and thriving. Moving on was easy for her. But watching this, it came flooding back-- at least a year, maybe more, when Rebecca was sad before their breakup. It was like time traveling through all this pain that he deleted from his memory.

We asked Rebecca to come talk about her movie with Will. She met us at the house where Will was house sitting. It's a little awkward. They talk about the weather and traffic. In the six years since their marriage ended, they've never had a conversation about it. And for her, understandably, this did not seem like the best way to begin one, by talking about her movie.

Rebecca

And I mean this in a certain sense-- it has nothing to do with Will. It's its own movie, and it's not a documentary. So I kind of object to the idea that we're going to read into this movie, and we're going to use it as some kind of secret code to understand this real life relationship that existed.

Elna Baker

But also, I feel like the way you're saying, it's like, I just made a movie. It was just a movie. Why are you reading into this movie? But I feel like there are-- it's more specifically related to an experience that you had.

Rebecca

Sure, but I'm not the first person to do such a thing.

Will Weldon

He had to be a dog walker.

Rebecca

Well, but I--

Will Weldon

I said that's why I knew-- I was like, he's going to dog sit and he's going to have no ambition.

Rebecca

Yeah. I guess I always thought of that character as not someone without ambition, but someone who was afraid. And that's not me looking at you, going like, that's really who you are.

Elna Baker

Will tells Rebecca what he told me, how the most emotional part of the movie was seeing her side of things, how hard it was for her to decide to break up, and then to finally do it.

Will Weldon

It felt bad because it was just her trying to justify not ending it or trying to convince herself it'll get better. And that was a very emotional thing for me, and the most affecting part of the movie-- like, hard to watch.

Rebecca

Is it because it reminded you of that last sort of big conversation we had that was emotional?

Will Weldon

It felt bad because it reminded me of you having to do yourself kind of all of the recognizing of the problems in the relationship. I just hadn't ever considered the journey to coming to that point in that conclusion, and how difficult it is to do that. That's clear, right? That makes sense?

Rebecca

I think so. I mean, is this now the part of the show where we just talk about our breakup that you want me to respond? Yeah, I mean, I don't really want to get into it, but that was a really tough period. And those were really kind of weirdly dark, confusing times. And I think that's why I wrote this. It wasn't like I was trying to write this so you would understand something. I was doing it so that I could understand something.

Elna Baker

I feel like-- so I mean, I obviously relate to this because I'm going through a divorce. I left my husband a year ago. And--

Oh, more personal info-- my marriage seems really similar to theirs. My husband was mostly unemployed. I was the one who was working all the time. Neither of us were happy. And I had to be the one to call it.

Elna Baker

I sort of knew. And I have to say, I wish he would give me credit, you know? It was really awful and hard and heartbreaking, and I was tormented by it. And it was the hardest decision I've ever made. And-- this is my dream realization that my partner could ever have, which is to say, oh, my god, it was hard for you, too. Are you getting that, or am I projecting?

Rebecca

No, I mean-- it's just, we've been broken up for how long now?

Will Weldon

Over six years.

Rebecca

Yeah, I mean, and I haven't been spending much of that time, thinking, oh, I hope Will understands my perspective someday. I think I've just-- I think it's really nice that maybe there is some kind of mutual middle ground that we're seeing it from. But I think that I've just-- it was OK for me to let Will have his own path through it.

Elna Baker

Will had a story of how things ended that was cemented in his mind. And without the film, he would have gone on thinking it, cherry-picking the moments that made him feel the worst. Rebecca says if you want your ex to understand your breakup, the best way probably isn't to make a movie about it. It's way too much work and money. And the most likely outcome is that they'll hate you for it.

Ira Glass

Elna Baker is one of the producers of our show. Since we first aired this story, both Will and Rebecca each have gotten married. Rebecca has a new TV show called Guilty Party on Paramount Plus. And Will has a comedy album out. To find it, look for Will Weldon on Amazon Music.

Act Four: The Kid Namastays in the Picture

Ira Glass

Act Four, "The Kid Namastays in the Picture." So our show today is about people who watch a film and then have their own very particular take on it. And not long ago, I learned about somebody like that. Here she is in Harry Potter glasses and a onesie with a Gryffindor crest on it, giving her version of the first Harry Potter film.

Jaime Amor

We meet Harry, aged 10, living in a house. Coming up to stand, take your feet wide, arms out and above your head, house pose. Harry lives at Number 4 Privet Drive.

Ira Glass

This is Jaime Amor, the host or, I guess, yoga instructor, of a series of videos called Cosmic Kids Yoga. Viewership of these videos skyrocketed during quarantine from about 100,000 viewers a day to about a million. And a lot of her most popular videos for kids are her retelling the stories of children's movies-- Moana or Trolls or Star Wars-- and combining the stories with yoga.

Back when we first aired today's program at the height of the quarantine, I watched a six-year-old regularly and very happily do yoga for a half hour with these YouTube videos before starting his day of remote learning first grade. I would walk by and I would just get totally caught up in these videos.

And I have to say, a lot of my pleasure and complete fascination with them was seeing the ingenuity that Jaime Amor uses to incorporate the poses into the storytelling. Like, for example, warrior pose for Elsa, making snow and ice in Frozen. Forward bends as Alice in Wonderland leans over to take a drink from the bottle that says "drink me" on it. In The Wizard of Oz, when the tornado arrives, Dorothy is on her bed, in bed pose, of course.

Jaime Amor

Look out the window. There's that mean lady from the village. She's riding a bicycle in the sky. Lying on your backs, criss cross your fingers.

Ira Glass

Bicycle pose, of course. Pada Sanchalanasana.

Jaime Amor

Lift up your legs and pedal your legs like you're riding a bicycle. She's cackling like a witch. [CACKLES] But she's not riding a bicycle anymore. She's on a broomstick with a black hat. She really is a witch. Coming into broomstick pose, lying on your tummies, everyone.

Ira Glass

This is locust pose, Salabhasana.

Jaime Amor

Take your arms down by your side, and lift your feet and chest up at the same time, going, whoosh!

Ira Glass

The videos are actually structured like a real yoga class, always starting with a sitting pose and namaste, and always ending with shavasana, resting pose.

Jaime Amor

Lying all the way down.

Ira Glass

And each of the videos plays a little half-hour yoga appreciation of movie, though they're all kid's films, so Jaime Amor's kid-friendly tone matches them perfectly. But putting together today's program, we wondered what it would be like if she took on a film that's made for grownups and beloved by grownups, not by kids. So we reached out to her and her husband, Martin, who makes these videos with her. And they were into it. And we considered a bunch of different films to turn into yoga-- Silence of the Lambs and Pulp Fiction and Parasite, before we settled on this film. Jaime Amor prepared this for us.

Jaime Amor

Thelma and Louise are best friends. Let's do a hug pose, wrapping our arms around our shoulders, like we're hugging our best friend. They set out for a weekend away in the mountains to take a break. On the way, they stop for a cold, refreshing drink at a bar. Thelma dances with a man called Harlan. Coming into our dancer pose, standing on one leg, we catch our foot with our hand behind us, and lift it as we reach forwards with our other arm.

Harlan wants to do more than dancing with Thelma, but she doesn't want to. Louise finds them and is so angry at Harlan that she shoots him in the chest. Coming into our shooter warrior pose, standing one foot forward, one foot back, we bend our front knee and open our arms wide. Pow! Thelma and Louise whiz off in the car. Coming into car pose, sitting with legs out long, arms forward to hold the steering wheel. Oh, dear. What have they done?

On the road, the women meet a handsome, friendly young man called JD. Thelma rather likes JD and invites him for a sleepover. In the morning, JD wakes up. Coming up to stand, reaching our arms up to the sky, we wave and say, hello, sun. And while Thelma and Louise go to breakfast, JD steals all of Louise's money. Oh, dear. Thelma feels really bad. To fix the situation, Thelma decides to become a robber and steal all the money from a nearby market. Naughty Thelma. Now the police are after them.

Thelma and Louise arrive at the Grand Canyon. Coming to stand in our mountain pose, standing with our feet hip distance, arms by our side, we become as still and strong as the mountains. They take a breath together, soaking up the incredible view and the peace of this place. All of a sudden, a helicopter thunders into view. Jumping our feet wide and clapping our hands up over our heads. The dust swirls and the sirens scream. Arms wide, we spin, side to side to side. They're trapped.

Thelma looks at her best friend. Listen, let's not get caught. Let's keep going. Louise checks if Thelma is sure. She nods. Louise cups Thelma's face and kisses her, cupping our faces to feel our cheeks. Louise steps on the gas, stepping one foot forward. As the car screeches forward, Thelma and Louise clasp hands. The car flies off the cliff. Coming into our flying pose, lifting up our back leg, balancing on our standing leg, and taking our arms out wide, we're flying!

After all that action, we're ready to relax now. So we lie down and let our bodies feel heavy. We close our eyes, and take a big deep breath.

[INHALES] [EXHALES]

Ira Glass

Jaime Amor, her yoga videos for kids that mix movies and yoga, but also there are ones which mix video games and yoga and all kinds of other things, are at cosmickids.com. Or find their free YouTube channel, youtube.com/cosmickidsyoga.

[MUSIC - "LET'S GO TO THE MOVIES" BY AILEEN QUINN]

Credits

Ira Glass

Well, our program was produced today by Lina Misitzis and Noor Gill. The people who put together today's show includes Elna Baker, Susan Burton, Ben Calhoun, Dana Chivvis, Sean Cole, Damien Graef, Michelle Harris, Chana Joffe-Walt, Seth Lind, Stowe Nelson, Nadia Reiman, Alyssa Shipp, Christopher Swetala, Matt Tierney, and Diane Wu. Production help on today's rerun came from Chloe Weiner.

Our managing editor is Sarah Abdurrahman. Our executive editor is David Kestenbaum. Special thanks today to Jason Smart, David Selassie, Hong Yan, Xiangqian Wu, Karina Longworth, BA Parker, Adrian Shirk, Paul Scheer, Luke, Sophie, and Olivia, and Cecil Ranieri.

Our website, where you can listen to any of our over 750 shows for absolutely free, thisamericanlife.org. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia. He recently did 23andMe. Torey had never wondered who his father was and then got some surprising news.

Diane Wu

It's the mailman!

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

[MUSIC - "LET'S GO TO THE MOVIES" BY AILEEN QUINN]