NBC cancels Megyn Kelly’s show after blackface controversy
By LYNN ELBER and MARK KENNEDY
AP Entertainment Writers
Sunday, October 28
NEW YORK (AP) — Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News Channel personality who made a rocky transition to softer news at NBC, was fired from her morning show Friday after triggering a furor by suggesting it was OK for white people to wear blackface at Halloween.
“‘Megyn Kelly Today’ is not returning,” NBC News said in a statement. The show occupied the fourth hour of NBC’s “Today” program, a time slot that will be hosted by other co-anchors next week, the network said.
NBC didn’t address Kelly’s future at the network. But negotiations over her exit from NBC are underway, according to a person familiar with the talks who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Bryan Freedman, an attorney for Kelly, said in a statement that she “remains an employee of NBC News and discussions about next steps are continuing.” He did not elaborate.
Kelly is in the second year of a three-year contract that reportedly pays her more than $20 million a year.
The show’s cancellation came four days after she provoked a firestorm for her on-air comments about blackface as a costume.
“But what is racist?” Kelly said Tuesday. “Truly, you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface at Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
Critics accused her of ignoring the ugly history of minstrel shows and movies in which whites applied blackface to mock blacks as lazy, ignorant or cowardly.
Kelly apologized to fellow NBC staffers later in the day and made a tearful apology on her show Wednesday. She did not host new episodes of “Megyn Kelly Today” as scheduled on Thursday and Friday.
Kelly, 47, made her debut as a NBC morning host in September 2017, taking over the 9 a.m. slot at “Today” and saying she wanted viewers “to have a laugh with us, a smile, sometimes a tear and maybe a little hope to start your day.” She did cooking demonstrations and explored emotional topics.
She largely floundered with that soft-news focus, and a pair of awkward and hostile interviews with Hollywood figures Jane Fonda and Debra Messing backfired. Kelly briefly found more of a purpose with the eruption of the #MeToo movement.
She made news when interviewing women who accused President Donald Trump of inappropriate behavior and spoke with accusers of Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roy Moore and others, as well as women who say they were harassed on Capitol Hill.
Time magazine, which honored “The Silence Breakers” as its Person of the Year, cited Kelly as the group’s leader in the entertainment field. The episode with Trump accusers had more than 2.9 million viewers, one of her biggest audiences.
But strains continued behind the scenes. Kelly last month publicly called for NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack to appoint outside investigators to look into why the network didn’t air Ronan Farrow’s stories about Weinstein and allowed Farrow to take the material to The New Yorker.
And her ratings have been consistently down from what “Today” garnered in the 9 a.m. hour before Kelly came on board. In its first year, Kelly’s show averaged 2.4 million viewers a day, a drop of 400,000 from the year before.
The latest controversy may have tipped the balance. Both NBC’s “Nightly News” and “Today” did stories on her blackface comment, and weatherman Al Roker said Kelly “owes a big apology to people of color across the country.”
A former corporate defense attorney, Kelly made her name at Fox News discussing politics in prime time. During the first GOP debate in 2015, she asked Trump about calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” Trump later complained about her questions, saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”
Although Kelly may have attempted a fresh start at NBC, she couldn’t always escape her baggage.
Many of her former Fox News Channel viewers were upset by her perceived disloyalty in leaving and her clashes with Trump during the campaign. At the same time, her former association with Fox caused some NBC colleagues and viewers to regard her with suspicion.
While at Fox, Kelly cultivated a reputation for toughness and a willingness to challenge conservative orthodoxy. Her private testimony about former Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes’ unwanted sexual advances a decade ago helped lead to Ailes’ firing.
She also created controversy with her stance on race. In 2013, while an anchor at Fox, Kelly addressed the ethnicity of Santa Claus by saying: “For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.”
Elber reported from Los Angeles.
Awards buzz is icing for John Krasinski and ‘A Quiet Place’
By LINDSEY BAHR
AP Film Writer
Monday, October 29
LOS ANGELES (AP) — John Krasinski is still pinching himself over the critical and financial success of his experimental thriller “A Quiet Place,” but the Cinderella year is not over yet. With awards season heating up, “A Quiet Place,” has found its own spot in the conversation. Krasinski who co-wrote, directed and starred in the film opposite his wife, Emily Blunt, is only humbled.
“It’s nothing short of overwhelming,” Krasinski said by phone recently. “Emily and I really are still digesting the fact that we made this small little special movie that some people really connected to. This was literally a meditation on parenting!”
“A Quiet Place” is a mostly silent horror film about a family (Krasinski, Blunt, Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds) trying to live among creatures that attack and kill at the smallest sound. It became a surprise box-office phenomenon when it was released in April, grossing $338.6 million in worldwide ticket sales off a production budget of only $17 million. It is now available on home video and streaming, and a sequel is already in the works.
Critics loved its high concept thrills, too, and while many have offered their praise, a certain phone call stands out for Krasinski — the one he got from his favorite director, and friend, Paul Thomas Anderson.
“It was probably 30 minutes long about how much he loved the movie and how much it meant to him and how much he wished movies like this happened every Friday. I genuinely blacked out on that phone call,” Krasinski said. “He said, ‘I’ll tell you the best compliment I can give you: As I was walking back to my car I thought, OK, I need to get back to work.’”
Anderson actually provided some inspiration for “A Quiet Place.” Krasinski said he studied the opening of “There Will Be Blood” and other modern films that employ silence to figure out how he would approach it in his film. He also looked at “Jaws,” ”Rosemary’s Baby” the films of Alfred Hitchcock for ideas in tension-building.
“Jaws” was one of Krasinski’s biggest touchstones, and, oddly enough, the first movie he and Blunt watched together when they had just started dating.
“It’s a perfect film,” he said. “It’s not about a shark, it’s about these characters trying to overcome fears that they’re running away from and at some point those fears are going to manifest themselves in the most bizarre ways.”
In that same way, “A Quiet Place,” to him, is about parenting. He had been sent a script to look at and had an idea to re-write and refocus around those anxieties.
“I was actually holding my three-week-old daughter. We had just had our second daughter,” he said. “Reading a story about parents doing whatever it took to protect their kids was exactly what I was living through.”
Krasinski wasn’t even supposed to direct the film at the outset. The actor and writer, probably best known as Jim on the American version of “The Office,” had previously directed two films — a David Foster Wallace adaptation (“Brief Interviews with Hideous Men”) and an indie family drama (“The Hollars”). Not exactly the kind of calling cards that would prove he could handle a VFX-heavy, big studio genre film. It was Blunt who encouraged him to put his name in for it.
“She said, ‘I’ve never seen you so lit up like this, I’ve never seen you so passionate about something,’” Krasinski recalled. “And it’s true, she knew that it was a very personal story. I was basically writing a love letter to my kids.”
And to his shock, executives at Paramount and Platinum Dunes were behind him.
Blunt also was the driving force behind her own involvement. Krasinski was too scared to even let her read the script while he was working on it, let alone ask her to be in it. She went so far as to suggest a friend for the role of Evelyn. But then on one cross country flight, she finally read it, and decided to speak up.
“She legitimately looked sick at the end of it. I thought she was plane sick, so I reached for a barf bag at the same time she said, ‘You can’t let anyone do this movie.’ And I said, ‘What?’ And it was like a romantic comedy where she was proposing to me,” Krasinski recalled. “She said, ‘You have to let me do this part, you HAVE to let me do it.’ I think I screamed ‘YES’ on a flight from New York to LA.”
The film has been in the Oscar conversation since it came out and has continued to pop up on prognosticator lists in Hollywood trades like Variety and awards columns in Vulture and Gold Derby, with special mentions of Blunt’s performance, the effects and the screenplay.
Krasinski is currently writing the sequel, which he teased only with his wife’s response to his pitch.
“She said, ‘Oh that’s really cool, but it’s not a sequel, it’s like another book in the same world, it feels like another part in the same story,’” he said.
As for whether Krasinski is ready for the marathon that is awards season?
“Everything is better when Emily is there and the fact that she’s in the conversation for this and for ‘Mary Poppins Returns’? There’s no better person to have by my side for this,” he said. “I’ll be just fine.”
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr
At least 10 dead as violent storms buffet Italy
Tuesday, October 30
MILAN (AP) — Heavy rains and high winds buffeting much of Italy have killed 10 people over two days, officials said Tuesday.
Many of the deaths were due to falling trees crashing down on cars or passers-by, but they also included a woman who was buried by mud when a landslide invaded her home near Trento in northern Italy and a man who was slammed against rocks while windsurfing in Emilia-Romagna. The other fatalities occurred in Naples, Liguria and Lazio.
High winds created an exceptional tide in Venice on Monday, covering three-quarters of the city for the first time in a decade. Water levels were forecast Tuesday at 105 centimeters (41.3 inches), flooding 8 percent of the famed lagoon city.
“It was the perfect storm during which adverse meteorological conditions contributed to the situation in the sea and winds,” civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said.
The news agency ANSA reported damage to the mosaic floors inside Venice’s famed St. Mark’s Basilica, where waters reached 90 centimeters (35 inches). The bronze metal doors and columns also sustained damage.
Rains flooded highways and caused a landslide that forced the temporary closure of the Brenner highway connecting Italy with Austria, while the Adige River running through Verona rose by 2 meters (6 feet) but did not overflow. In the capital, Rome, more than 100 trees were felled by high winds, and ports reported damage from the storm, including to moored boats.
Nearly 6,000 firefighters were dispatched to remove debris from roadways across the country. One firefighter was killed by a tree near Bolzano, in Alto-Adige. Schools were closed in large areas of the country for two days as a precaution.
Evolutionary psychology explains why haunted houses creep us out
October 29, 2015
Frank T. McAndrew
Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology, Knox College
Frank T. McAndrew does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
The Haunted House is a time-honored horror setting. All of us have shivered our way through spooky flicks such as The Haunting, The Amityville Horror, The Sentinel and Poltergeist.
It’s not only at the movies that we pay good money to frighten ourselves to death: commercial haunted houses are an integral part of 21st-century Halloween theater, with an estimated 5,000 such attractions operating in the United States each year.
The portrayal of cinematic haunted houses has remained remarkably consistent across time, and the architects of our annual macabre Halloween rituals incorporate all of the same bells and whistles (okay – creaks and groans) that we’ve come to expect.
From a psychological point of view, the standard features of haunted houses trigger feelings of dread because they push buttons in our brains that evolved long before houses even existed. These alarm buttons warn us of potential danger and motivate us to proceed with caution.
Haunted houses give us the creeps not because they pose a clear threat to us, but rather because it is unclear whether or not they represent a threat.
This ambivalence leaves you frozen in place, wallowing in unease.
For example, it would be considered bizarre and embarrassing to run screaming out of a house that makes you feel uneasy if there is actually nothing to fear. On the other hand, it could be perilous to ignore your intuition and remain in a place that is dangerous.
These are the psychological mechanisms behind feeling “creeped out.” They may be useful if they help you maintain vigilance when threat is uncertain. They also help you manage the balance between self-preservation and self-presentation (ie, presenting yourself in a socially desirable way).
While human psychology can explain what makes a haunted house so scary, it also provides the perfect guide to making one ourselves.
Things that trigger our ‘agent detection’ mechanisms
Evolutionary psychologists have proposed the existence of agent detection mechanisms – or processes that have evolved to protect us from harm at the hands of predators and enemies.
If you’re walking through the woods alone at night and hear the sound of something rustling in the bushes, you’ll respond with a heightened level of arousal and attention. You’ll behave as if there is a willful “agent” present who is about to do you harm.
If it turns out to be a gust of wind or a stray cat, you lose little by overreacting. But if you fail to activate the alarm response and a true threat is present – well, the cost of your miscalculation could be high.
Thus, we evolved to err on the side of detecting threats in ambiguous situations. Things that activate hypervigilance for malevolent supernatural (or natural) agents abound in large, drafty old houses: rattling or creaking sounds in upstairs rooms; the sighing and moaning of wind passing through cracks; ragged curtains fluttering in the breeze; echoes; and cold spots.
Research has consistently shown that we need more personal space while seated than while standing, more space when we are in the corner of a room rather than in the center of it and more space in rooms with low ceilings.
We feel uncomfortable when our personal space is violated anywhere, but especially so in situations where we feel as if escape will become difficult.
Such feelings of discomfort are symptomatic of the fact that we are constantly – even if unconsciously – scanning our surroundings and assessing our ability to flee if it should become necessary.
Consequently, a haunted house is our worst nightmare.
The prototypical haunted house is in a remote, isolated location, far removed from the rest of society (think of the off-season resort hotel in The Shining, for example). If bad things do happen, help would be a long time coming, even if communication with the outside world were possible. (Conveniently, in old horror movies the telephones always stop working.)
Also, the darkness and confusing layout of the house may cause us to get lost; at the very least, it would slow us down. Escape could further be impeded by hedges, iron fences or crumbling stairways, all of which are featured prominently in Hollywood haunted houses.
A womb with a view
British geographer Jay Appleton was the first to describe two crucial features that determine whether a place is attractive or frightening to humans: the more “prospect” and “refuge” a place offers us, the more attractive it is.
Refuge means having a secure, protected place to hide where one can be sheltered from danger, while prospect refers to one’s clear, unobstructed view of the landscape. Attractive places offer us a lot of prospect and a lot of refuge, or what landscape architect Randolph Hester refers to as a “Womb with a View.”
In the words of Appleton, these are, evolutionarily speaking, places where “you can see without being seen, and eat without being eaten.”
Unfortunately, most haunted houses make for a bad combination of very low prospect for us, and very high refuge for the creepy-crawly things that are lying in wait to get us. Research has confirmed that people experience such environments as unsafe and dangerous.
Such places also lack what environmental psychologists refer to as legibility. Legibility reflects the ease with which a place can be recognized, organized into a pattern and recalled – in other words, a place that we can wander around in without getting lost.
Thus, the typical haunted house is large, dark, surrounded by overgrown vegetation, and full of surprising architectural features such as secret rooms and closets under staircases. Attics and basements are also must-have items, and, of course, spider webs, bats, rats and insects make nice accessories.
The older the better
Most haunted houses have some sort of “legend” associated with them. It usually involves a story about a grisly death or accident. There may even be a history of suicide and murder.
The older a place is, the more likely we are to perceive it as haunted because there’s been much more time for tragic things to have taken place.
Stimuli such as moldy odors, antiquated Victorian or Gothic architecture, wood interiors and old portraits on the wall reinforce an ambiance of great age. Assuming that the house is no longer occupied, signs of life suddenly interrupted and frozen in time only amplify the fear factor.
For example, remnants of a half-eaten meal on a kitchen table or clothing laid out on a bed waiting for a homeowner who has apparently vanished without warning create a frightening ambiguity about what may have taken place in the house. (There are bonus points awarded if the house is conveniently located next to or on top of an old cemetery or burial ground!)
Ultimately, whether or not a house is perceived as haunted obviously depends upon something other than the physical features of the house. Just as important are the inherent beliefs of the person exploring the house.
Individuals who believe in paranormal phenomena and have expectations that creepy things might actually be present in such a place are more likely to engage in the sort of top-down, cognitive processing that induces fear.
For these people, otherwise innocuous but uncertain surroundings can become a chilling experience.
How to get the most candy on Halloween (without resorting to extortion)
October 28, 2016
Jay L. Zagorsky
Adjunct associate professor, Boston University
Jay L. Zagorsky does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Boston University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Halloween is here, the night every year when children dress up in costumes and go “trick or treating.”
On the surface, that activity appears to be a relatively benign one. What could be more innocent than cute youngsters collecting sweets?
Halloween, however, is actually one of our only holidays based on extortion. When children scream “trick or treat,” they are essentially demanding candy in exchange for not doing a prank or something else that is nasty.
Some children on Halloween are learning how to ask strangers for candy. Learning to interact politely with strangers is a valuable lesson. Other costumed kids, however, are figuring out how to shake down people for sweets and that threats of mischief are sometimes effective ways to get what you want.
Is there a better way than extorting people with tricks to get more treats?
A number of years ago when my children were young, I ran a simple, economic experiment to find out. We wanted to discover a way to maximize the amount of candy they could collect without threatening adults.
The experiment was important to my children because I tried to never buy them candy. Thus their primary source of candy was this one holiday. If they got a large enough haul at Halloween, they would have enough candy to last till the following one.
We lived in a small Ohio town that was perfect for experimenting. The town was divided into three neighborhoods separated by large and busy main roads. The north neighborhood had mansions and millionaires. The central neighborhood was middle-class. The south neighborhood, where we lived, was the poorer part of town.
What made the town great for experimenting was that it was possible to walk to all the different sections in a single night if you were interested in answering the question, “Where do you go to get the most candy?” By visiting all the neighborhoods in one evening, variables like weather, economic conditions and the particular day of the week were all taken into account.
One year, I was able to convince my children to test all three neighborhoods. At first I tried to persuade them that finding out the answer was important for understanding where in future years they could collect the maximum amount of candy. Even as children of an economist, they were unimpressed by this argument. I ended up promising to buy them enough candy to make up any shortfall if they went along with dad’s wild idea.
The results of the experiment were pretty clear.
The rich homes offered the largest and nicest pieces of candy. However, there were two problems with ringing doorbells in the wealthy part of town. Relatively few people were home, which meant few places to ask for treats. Additionally, the distance between houses giving out candy was quite large. This meant it took a long time to collect any meaningful amount of candy. Since the rich part of town was clearly a bust, we all agreed to try a different neighborhood.
The poorer part of town was also not great for collecting candy. My kids recognized some of their friends, but they felt the candies being given out were not the kind they really liked or wanted to eat for the rest of the year.
This is not surprising since Halloween candy is expensive. Americans are expected to spend US$2.7 billion on Halloween candy this year, according to the National Confectioners Association. This means the average U.S. household will be spending $22 on just candy alone. This is about twice as much as the typical poor family spends on food per day. Buying that much candy could cost a low-income household two days of meals!
The children loved the middle-class neighborhood. The distance between houses was not that large and many of the houses were giving out all of my children’s favorite candies. The haul was so much they had enough candy to easily last an entire year.
Is there a better way?
So, what lessons did I learn from our little economic experiment?
First, extortion isn’t necessary. Instead of letting kids shout “Trick or treat,” encourage children to say “Happy Halloween.” Removing the threat of a trick will likely make no difference to the amount of candy collected since it is an idle threat anyway for (most) children.
Then take the kids to the neighborhoods with the highest ratio of candy to steps between homes and have a great time. I just ask one small favor. If you or your children get a bellyache or toothache from eating too much candy, don’t blame me.