At the height of her "Murder She Wrote" fame, Angela Lansbury released a home workout video full of synth music, peach jumpsuits and ~sensuality~. This week, we’re exploring the anti-Goop-ness of Angela’s fitness book and video, "Positive Moves."! It gets a little heavy toward the end, but we promise: No one was canceled in the making of this episode.
Michael: Oh, I have to actually talk into the microphone. I was like, "Why is the level so low?" then, I'm not holding the microphone.
Michael: Ah, welcome to Maintenance Phase, the podcast that you can count on not to count calories.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Michael: I was trying to come up with something generic. I'm sorry.
Aubrey: It's fair. I didn't tell you what the topic is today.
Michael: That's the thing. You've given me a difficult brief. [laughs]
Aubrey: Yeah. You got nothing to go on, and it fits. Look at that. It fits.
Michael: I am Michael Hobbes.
Aubrey: I am Aubrey Gordon. If you would like to support the show, you can do that in two ways. One, you can join our Patreon at patreon.com/maintenancephase where we have bonus episodes. Most recently, Mike and I did a lot of talking about fat suits. You can also support us on teepublic.com and today, Mike, we're doing a surprise topic.
Michael: Yeah. Tell me that we were going to do something else. Something involving Downstairs Parts.
Aubrey: We will still do the Downstairs Parts episode.
Michael: Okay, good.
Aubrey: We've been going hard on problematic people. Today, we do have another problematic person that we're going to talk about.
Aubrey: But it's a complicated and not entirely problematic person. It's a person who's trying to do good and succeeding some of the time and failing some of the time.
Michael: Is it Oliver North?
Aubrey: [sound] [laughs]
Michael: Who is it? Which figure in geopolitics will we be discussing?
Aubrey: No. Today, we are doing a diet book deep dive. It is called Positive Moves: My Personal Plan for Fitness and Well-Being.
Aubrey: It is written by one dame, Angela Lansbury.
Michael: Angela Lansbury has a diet book?
Aubrey: [laughs] [claps] I'm so glad we did this on Mike.
Michael: Shouldn't it be called Breakfast She Wrote?
Aubrey: [laughs] It totally should be. Book came out in 1990. Prior to that in 1988, she released a home VHS.
Michael: Of like fitness stuff?
Aubrey: Of her fitness stuff.
Aubrey: We are going to watch clips of Angela Lansbury's home VHS.
Michael: I don't know if I'm ready for Angela Lansbury to be problematic.
Michael: Can't she just live in my head like a sweet old lady. [laughs]
Aubrey: A lot of this is sweet old lady content and in fact my framing for this episode is, and this is a hot take, Angela Lansbury is the anti-Goop.
Michael: [laughs] Okay. So, you can keep your Angela Lansbury.
Aubrey: All I want to do is dive in and show you video clips of the-
Michael: Yeah, please.
Aubrey: -most fucking 80s video you've ever seen in your life, Michael Hobbes.
Michael: Absolutely. If Corey Haim is not in this episode, I'm boycotting it.
Aubrey: Okay, so, Angela Lansbury is a living legend. She turns 96 this month in October.
Michael: Oh, happy birthday.
Aubrey: You know her from like 70 million different things including The Manchurian Candidate. She played Mame on Broadway.
Aubrey: She was in Murder, She Wrote. Of course, she was the voice of Mrs. Potts in Beauty and The Beast.
Michael: Oh, yeah.
Aubrey: So, Angela Lansbury was born in London in 1925. Her mother was an actor from Belfast, Irish actor. Her dad is a real fascinating character that nobody gets into in super depth. His name is Edgar Lansbury. He is a wealthy timber magnate, who was also a politician, and he's a member of the Communist Party.
Michael: So, it's like red Angie?
Aubrey: Very confusing. Wealthy family and then her dad is also in the communist party.
Michael: It's like a huge commie.
Aubrey: Very tragically, her dad passed away when she was nine. He died of stomach cancer and she has spoken in interviews about, that's when I turned to stories and characters for comfort, was that she could step into other stories and not into the story where her dad dies.
Aubrey: Shortly thereafter, within a year, her mother gets engaged and then gets remarried.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Aubrey: This is around the age that Angela says, she discovered her passion for what she calls 'movement and exercise.' I've got a little quote from her, from the Positive Moves book for you.
Michael: Wait, can I look up the cover of this book?
Aubrey: You can also turn on your camera and I'll show you. [laughs]
Michael: Ooh, yeah. Do it, do it, do it.
Aubrey: Okay, here we go.
Michael: Oh, wow. It looks like a romantic-- romance novel. There's a lot of cursive, it has the wedding invite font.
Michael: And then, positive moves, is in like a lawyer font, and then it says my personal plan for fitness and well-being. There's like she has kind of dead eyes in this photograph.
Michael: It's her like staring at the camera. And she looks like she hasn't blinked in years.
Aubrey: It really looks like-- You could swap out this title and I'd be like, "Oh, is this Angela Lansbury does Martha Stewart?"
Michael: Yeah, it seems like the deranged wedding planner who murders everyone. [laughs] Like the day of the event.
Aubrey: Wait, can I show you the back?
Aubrey: Because I feel like the back is where you get the health and fitness part and you get a flavor for what health and fitness means to Angela Lansbury, and it makes me really happy.
Michael: Oh, fuck, yes.
Michael: She's in like sweaters and like jumpsuits the whole time. This is good because she's like gardening and going for a walk.
Michael: Doing some stretches. It's like doable stuff.
Aubrey: There's one part where she's having a cup of tea with her husband.
Michael: I think it was Leslie Nielsen. Okay.
Aubrey: She does write about her initial relationship to "practicing movement and exercise."
Michael: Practicing movement and exercise.
Aubrey: Would you like to read this quote?
Michael: Yes. She says, "The foundation of my attitude toward what is now called fitness was laid many years ago by my mother. When I was a very young child, she took me along with her when she joined a group of women who met once a week in Regent's Park in London to practice movement and exercise. The group was called The League of Health and Beauty. There I was, an enthusiastic six year old, all dressed up in a little Greek tunic. We would practice walking on the grass with velvet donut sorts of things on our heads. My mother would tell me how to lower my shoulders, walk straight, and center myself in order to walk properly and we would do classical Greek dances out in the fresh air."
Michael: This sounds great. She's doing weird pagan satanic rituals walking around in the grass.
Aubrey: [laughs] I really like how quickly you took this too. It's a satanic ritual.
Michael: It's in the text, Aubrey. It's in the text.
Michael: It's midsummer--. This is midsummer.
Aubrey: I feel like a lot of the moon juicy and Goopy stuff we see today, it's just like, "Work harder and be richer."
Aubrey: Do you know what I mean? Just like, "Be wealthy." This is all just like, "Go be in a park and do some dances, wear something comfortable."
Michael: Dude, this is also because this would have been like the 1930s in London, right? So, this is back at a time when medical treatment was like, "Why don't you sit outside in a chair for three days?"
Aubrey: Yeah. Fresh air at the seaside.
Aubrey: I should say, when her mom remarried, she married someone who was in the military. So, then World War II hits, this person gets deployed, and the reason that Angela ends up leaving her fancy pants high school in 1939 is that, in 1940, her family relocates to the United States with a larger group of evacuees at the beginning of the Blitz.
Michael: Oh, wow.
Aubrey: So, she and her family leave London. They settle in New York. She is a person who has a great deal of wealth and privilege, and she's also a person who has what sounds like a legitimately hard childhood.
Aubrey: I can't imagine that wealthy British parents in the 1930s and 1940s are going to be great for processing a young child's grief at the loss of her father.
Michael: She's only met them like three times.
Michael: I know how parenting works in Britain. She files a formal request to have dinner together, twice a year.
Aubrey: This style of parenting kind of shows up again when her mom goes on a tour. She's an actor, so she goes on tour. At the end of her tour, she decides to move to Los Angeles.
Aubrey: She's got British theatre friends who are working in LA and she thinks that they can help her break into film.
Michael: Oh, yeah.
Aubrey: So, in 1942, her mother moves to LA by herself and sends a telegram to a 16-year-old Angela Lansbury, and says "Suggest you put the boys in school closeup apartment and come out to Los Angeles."
Michael: It's like being broken up with by text except the exact opposite.
Aubrey: Yeah, basically like find a school, put your brothers in a boarding school, break our lease and move by yourself out to Los Angeles in 1942. Be a dear, take care of it, see you soon.
Aubrey: So, she moves out to LA, she lives with her mom for a bit, and in 1944, just a couple of years later, her mother is hosting a party in LA, and one of the attendees is a screenwriter. That screenwriter had just finished writing Gaslight, the actual film that gives us the term 'gaslighting.'
Michael: Isn't it like a thing that he keeps turning off all of the gas lights, and she's like, "Why are you doing that?" He's like, "I'm not doing that."
Aubrey: Yeah. He's basically engineering a physical environment to make this woman think that she has lost her mind.
Aubrey: This is where the story starts to seem apocryphal to me. At this party the screenwriter, she says offers her a role-
Aubrey: -in Gaslight and I'm like, "But you're the screenwriter. You don't actually just get to do that." Also, she's 17.
Michael: Yeah. He was absolutely just trying to have sex with her.
Aubrey: Oh, no.
Michael: I've never been to Hollywood and no one's ever tried to have sex with me. So, I'm not speaking from experience, but that's what it's sound like.
Aubrey: [laughs] No one's ever tried to have sex with me.
Aubrey: Regardless, she does get this part, and the movie gets sort of mixed reviews. Her performance is lifted up as one of the brightest spots in this movie.
Michael: Ah, okay.
Aubrey: And she gets roles from there in National Velvet. She goes on to The Picture of Dorian Gray. She gets a seven-year contract with MGM. This is the studio system heroine.
Michael: Oh, yeah.
Aubrey: In fact, her performance in Gaslight gets her an Oscar nomination.
Michael: Wait, really?
Aubrey: Yes. First role on film.
Michael: So, she really hit the ground running? Yeah.
Aubrey: She totally fucking did.
Michael: Can I look up a picture of her at this age?
Michael: I cannot imagine her as like a child, honestly.
Aubrey: She looks so childish as a child but also, she looks like Angela Lansbury. It's confusing.
Michael: Okay, I have a photo.
Aubrey: Tell me what you're seeing.
Michael: She's so interesting looking, because she doesn't have the super skinny look of most Hollywood actresses. Even when she's like a very trim, I guess, 17-, 18-year-old, she has a really round face.
Aubrey: She does have a round face, she has full cheeks. She doesn't look like a fat person at all. She is definitely not fat. She has kind of the same build she has for the rest of her life.
Michael: Is it the case that she was not doing sex party roles? She was always seen as somebody like non-threateningly hot?
Aubrey: She is someone who is consistently kept around. She's described throughout her career as like a towering figure in the world of character actors.
Michael: Ah, okay.
Aubrey: But she's never really all the way a lead, she's never really the romantic interest often. She's always like a really enjoyable B plot, and she talks about this in her book. She's like, "I'm not really a classic beauty. I'm not really a blah, blah, blah, like all of that sort of stuff," which I think out in the world at large, I think if you saw Angela Lansbury at this age out in the world, you'd be like, "Oh, my God, she's lovely."
Michael: Yeah, totally.
Aubrey: And in the world of screen acting, I can see how that would get distorted real quickly. At one point, she dates someone who has just dated Joan Crawford. So, that's the kind of stuff that she's up against, she's like, "Why do I like fucking Joan Crawford?"
Aubrey: She talks about her sort of movement practice as a way that she has learned to embody the elegance of a more glamorous woman.
Michael: That's the League of Health and Beauty that she's in.
Aubrey: That's fucking right. It's the League of Health and Beauty.
Michael: These are such good role models because 99.9% of people are not Hollywood conventionally attractive.
Michael: Like we're all attractive in our own way. We're going to be attractive to some people and not others, and that's the experience of the vast majority of humanity, like people who are universally considered conventionally attractive are such a small slice of people.
Aubrey: Totally. And I think it's also easy to fall into the trap of universal attractiveness. The idea that anyone is categorically the most attractive person, right?
Aubrey: This is also how we get into weird ranking stuff. It's how we get into describing people as like a 7, or a 10, or a 2, or whatever. And it's not actually how human attraction works.
Michael: You should describe people according to they give me a boner.
Michael: That's the way to talk about people.
Michael: So, I respectfully talk about people's appearance.
Aubrey: Okay. So, from there I trust that folks know Angela Lansbury's career a little bit. We're not going to do the full life story of Angela Lansbury. It did feel important to situate this conversation in terms of her upbringing, because I think that comes up a lot. So, shall we dive in to the book in the video?
Michael: The video.
Aubrey: The video. Okay. So, the year is 1988. Angela Lansbury is at the height of her Murder, She Wrote fame for folks who don't know Murder, She Wrote, Angela Lansbury plays a writer named Jessica Fletcher, who lives in a small town and solves murders, and there's a murder every week in this small town.
Aubrey: No joke.
Michael: I forgot about that.
Aubrey: And it was on the air for like seven or eight years. I didn't write down the year. [crosstalk] on the air, but it had a long run. People in this tiny fucking town just kept dropping like flies.
Michael: She's obviously doing it the whole time clearly, I think.
Aubrey: You saw the dead eyes on the cover of her book. Come on.
Aubrey: So, let's dive into positive moves. Here's my case for the anti-Goop, and then we'll go through different aspects of the anti-Goop. Angela Lansbury is a wealthy white woman as is Gwyneth Paltrow. She's an actor as is Gwyneth Paltrow, whose mom is also an actor as is Gwyneth Paltrow's mom. She's talking about health and wellness and somehow, she manages to not be aggressively terrible. This I think is going to be the meat of the episode if you're ready for it.
Michael: The filet of the neighborhood.
Aubrey: Step one for why she is the anti-goop. She doesn't make any big claims about results. She's not telling you that you are going to drop 50 pounds, she's not telling you that you're going to get shredded, and also like why are you going to Angela Lansbury to get shredded?
Michael: Don't go to her for shreds.
Aubrey: She's not telling you that you're going to have the energy of a 20-year-old. She just consistently talks about, "Hey, man. I'm in my 60s and I would like to continue to have energy to do the things that I like to do. Here are the ways that I do that."
Michael: That's not bad.
Aubrey: I should also back up and say, this is also the era of Jane Fonda workouts and buns of steel.
Michael: All right.
Aubrey: This is the beginning of the big wave of home video workouts. The way that it presents to me is as counterprogramming to just be like, "Hey, you don't have to wear French cut shiny leotards. You don't have to again like get shredded. You don't have to be the hottest lady in the string bikini on the beach in 1988. You just got to stretch and play with your grandkids and do some gardening, ma'am. Make some tea, hang out."
Michael: I guess, this also reveals the ways that this is a marketing industry more than a health industry.
Michael: Because under normal circumstances, yeah, there would be lots of advice for people in different places in their lives, and for people with different levels of ability. If we were actually trying to make the population more healthy, we wouldn't actually aim diet and exercise advice at semi-hot like 26 year old, who wanted to lose their last 10 pounds or get their last ab or whatever. It would be like, "Okay, you're someone who's in their 60s and you want to maintain the ability to play with your grandkids. Here's some steps that you could take."
Michael: That would be reasonable health advice. But most of the health advice that we're getting is aimed at health nuts and people who spend money on this stuff.
Aubrey: Yeah, and I think I do want to say like, this is also clearly a marketing opportunity, right?
Michael: Oh, yeah.
Aubrey: This is getting marketed to the audience of Murder, She Wrote. So, Angela Lansbury might not have been an old person at this time, but the audience for Murder, She Wrote was a lot of older people. So, she does have a built-in audience here. There is money to be made. It was kind of a sensation amongst that set at the time, which is really lovely to me. It is marketing, but it's less of the weird, skewed sort of moralizing marketing that we have now and less of as you say like 25 year olds get ripped so you can go on love Island or what the fuck? I don’t even know.
Aubrey: I don't know what the 25-year-olds are doing.
Michael: They are swiping on each other. Aubrey, they're swiping.
Michael: That's what they do.
Aubrey: [laughs] Okay. So, you're ready for a clip.
Michael: Let's do it.
Angela: In a moment, I'm going to show you how I prepare every morning by doing some gentle stretches. You don't need any special equipment or any sort of tricky outfit. Just something comfortable that you can move in. Once I've loosened up, I, then do a longer series of movements that keep me flexible and hopefully graceful, and feeling a sense of freedom within my body. Altogether, the morning stretches and the movement routine take a good 30 minutes to do. If you have the time, you can do them all at once, or you can do parts of the routines at different times of the day.
The movements you will see on this tape are very fluid and easy. So, let's begin. I have a little routine that helps me to swing into action each morning. After I get out of the shower, I give myself a mini-massage with aloe lotion. By doing this massage every day, I am literally staying in touch with my body. I can't help but be aware of whether or not I'm in shape. Once you really examined your body, you have faced the moment of truth. Of course, we're all a product of our genetic heritage and certain things we cannot alter. But I do think that self-acceptance is vital. Give yourself a break for something to like in every body.
Michael: Look at her.
Michael: Angela Lansbury said, fat acceptance now.
Aubrey: So, the reason I picked this clip is that it feels like it is in a nutshell, all of the great stuff and a lot of the hard stuff about this video. I like to do these stretches, I do them in a 30-minute chunk. Look, if you're going to do five minutes here or there that's fine too. The thing is that you do them and you do as much of them as you feel like, and you adjust them until they work for you, and you get in touch with your body and you accept it, but also, you have a moment of truth where you face your body. [laughs]
Aubrey: And again, like this is 1988.
Michael: I know dude.
Aubrey: No one really at this point outside of some radical fat activist is really saying like, "There's something to like in everybody."
Michael: She is also showing a lot of herself in this video.
Aubrey: She is fully wearing a towel.
Michael: This is like a fucking only fan. She's like pulling up the towel, she's rubbing on the lotion.
Michael: This is erotic episode, I thought it would be.
Aubrey: So, part of what I appreciate about this clip is that, she's doing the like, get in touch with your body like there's some mindfulness in there. She's very clear that she's not an expert. That's actually a kind of celebrity health and wellness thing that I can sort of get behind.
Michael: You know what it is? She's like the Bob Ross of fitness and exercise.
Aubrey: Oh, she totally is.
Michael: She's like maybe there's some lotion on this elbow.
Aubrey: Happy Little Clouds.
Michael: Because watching this, just this like feeling of warmth, just [laughs] like cascades over me. I'm just like, "I'm in good hands. This woman wants what's best for me."
Aubrey: Can I tell you within the first five minutes of watching this video? I without even thinking about it, I just got up and started doing neck rolls [crosstalk]
Michael: No way. [laughs]
Aubrey: I was like, "Oh, God." It was just like, "Angela Lansbury wants me to stand up and stand with my feet shoulder width apart. So, I'll do that." So, that's thing one that I would say sort of makes her be anti-Goop is that, she's not making big weird claims. She also does a good job. Another thing that makes her sort of the anti-Goop is that she contextualizes her health and wellness practices, and she does that around class in particular. She's talking about being a working mom and throughout this book, she talks about health and wellness as both like, "What can you physically do and what do you eat, but it's also about having a positive mental attitude." She has this section when she's talking about having a positive mental attitude where she talks about the things that allowed her to have a positive mental attitude. So, I'm going to send you another quote.
Michael: Okay. So, she says, "Of course, I was a working mother. But that label didn't carry with it all the baggage that it does now. Nevertheless, I suppose I felt very much the way young professional women do today. Part of me was dying to stay home with my children and part of me enjoyed my work. There were times when the emotional stamina called for was almost more than I could muster when I had to leave my children for months at a stretch. Although, I hated being away from my children, in those days, women weren't saddled with the mantle of guilt that they are now. For professional women, it was more accepted that they would hire people to help them look after the children. That's what I did. I hired a lovely Scottish woman who took care of what had to be done when I couldn't. She comes twice a week, she cleans the toilets. [crosstalk] the woman.
Aubrey: [sound] Michael, Michael.
Michael: [crosstalk] Harriet Tubman and I'm just like them." Wow, Angela."
Aubrey: I will not participate in the [unintelligible [00:22:55] of Angela Lansbury.
Aubrey: So, talk to me about this quote.
Michael: Well, she's literally talking about exact-- like word for word, the exact scenario that Rachel Hollis was talking about, where her work requires her to be away from her children for a while, and there is the sense of guilt for doing that. That you have this work life balance thing, it's really difficult in a capitalist society. In contrast to Rachel Hollis, she explicitly admits. She's like, "I was able to hire somebody to help me look after my kids. So, that's what I did."
Aubrey: Yeah. As part of a class of professional women, so, she's making some level of class explicit here, she's making some level of access explicit here, she is not making race explicit at all. So, she has this story where she talks about a negotiation with Universal Television about a role and she says, I'm just going to read this quote out to you. "All I wanted was to work no more than 12 hours at a stretch. And if that meant it would take us eight days to complete a show instead of seven, then that's how it had to be." When I pointed out the problem, they realized that they were right in conceding to my demands, and they were very generous and sweet about it. I had to take a stand and say, "if this doesn't work for me, let's find a solution that does." In my definition, being healthy involves taking charge of your life and making sure that you have enough rest, and that your stress isn't too great."
Aubrey: I, genuinely can't read that without thinking about all of the folks of color in my life, and particularly women of color, who have been, "This doesn't work for me. Let's find something that does," and then people are like, "No, get out of here."
Aubrey: There's a lot of this that is like, "Yes, also, you're Angela Lansbury, and she doesn't necessarily make that part explicit here that it's like about being white, it's about being wealthy, and it's about being Angela fucking Lansbury."
Michael: Yeah, if you're the star of a TV show, she could basically just say, "I don't work Wednesdays anymore," and they would probably capitulate to that.
Aubrey: It feels very possible, right?
Aubrey: There are times when she little loses the thread a little bit of the contextualization stuff, but I think, there are lots of times when she doesn't.
Michael: Well, is she turning it into bumper sticker advice stuff?
Aubrey: Not really. She's like, that's the extent what you just read that, "In my definition, being healthy involves taking charge of your life and making sure that you have enough rest, and that your stress isn't too great." That's it. She's just like, "This is my definition for me. The end."
Aubrey: She's not trying to foist it--. It doesn't feel like a foist to me.
Michael: Yeah, because on some level it's fine for people to say like, "Yeah, I used to really struggle with watching my kids, and then I hired someone and that works for me." That just seems like a true story, and she's not implying that, that's everybody.
Aubrey: Yeah, totally. Okay, so thing three, that I think makes Angela Lansbury, the Anti-Goop.
Michael: I like it when episodes have little backbones.
Aubrey: She focuses on accessibility, and she focuses on joyful movements. Throughout this entire video and the book pretty much every stretch includes some suggested adjustments. She's like, "Hey, if you can't bend over this far, try doing it to this level. If you can't bend over at all, then skip this one and do other stretches. If you need a towel to grab your foot in this stretch, use a towel. That's what I do. Here's me doing this stretch with a towel." Not only are the modifications present, she's announcing them in almost every stretch, and then she's often doing the modified version.
Michael: This is where I got tricked into going to hot yoga on a date-
Aubrey: Oh, no, Mike.
Michael: [crosstalk] -without forewarning and the teacher, I introduced myself and was like, "I've never done this before." Then the teacher, the whole class, she's like, "And now, lift your left leg. Mike, do it with the towel."
Michael: [crosstalk] the order. She's like it, "Let's hear Mike," in which case here is the adjustment. Like, you can just say the adjustment.
Aubrey: Yeah, just say the adjustment part. You don't need to fucking call me out. Jesus.
Michael: I just don't know what to do.
Aubrey: Also, what kind of nightmare date takes you to the sweatiest thing on the planet?
Michael: I'm still mad and I never saw him again.
Michael: Not a coincidence. I think it was like a test that I did not pass.
Aubrey: So, she focuses throughout and very emphatically on having a pretty forgiving attitude around food and exercise, and aiming to get it right most of the time, not all of the time.
Aubrey: She has this quote. I'm going to send this one to you, too.
Michael: I like being Angela. I am a little character actor.
Aubrey: I really enjoy it.
Michael: Ah, okay. She says, "More is not necessarily always better. I think 15 to 30 minutes of exercise a day is great. If you do five minutes, if you do two minutes thinking of yourself that in itself is beneficial. In fact, if I don't feel like exercising one day, I don't. The sun is still going to rise and set and I know I'll get back to it another day. Self-reproach is dreadful and I'm against moving if it hurts. If it hurts, stop."
Aubrey: I love this, Michael.
Michael: It's just like, "You know what, forgive yourself. Sometimes, it's a tough day. You don't have to do everything every single time."
Aubrey: Totally and listen, sometimes your days are real busy and maybe you live a really busy life. If you can do five minutes of walking around the block, or joyful movement, or what she calls moving freely, go forth and do it. And like don't do anything that hurts you.
Aubrey: Try doing something instead of nothing.
Aubrey: If you're doing something, try doing a little more. And if you don't do all of that, don't beat yourself up. Get back to when you can.
Michael: And it's also none of this like tough love bullshit.
Michael: "Tomorrow, you have to do it even harder. Get up earlier, meet your goals." It's sort of starting from like, "Eh, here's some tips but also, sometimes, you're not going to want to do these. [laughs] [crosstalk] it's fine,
Aubrey: Totally. Would you like to see some of her moving freely?
Michael: Yeah, thank-- Yes.
Angela: Now, I'd like you to come along with me and enjoy just moving freely.
Michael: Oh, my God. It's like parkour for old people.
Michael: She's just like vibing, [laughs] [sound]now she is like kind of doing the Macarena thing.
Michael: She's like waving her arms around and swaying back and forth.
Angela: When I was a child, I watched Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, Ginger Rogers, all the great movie dancers. The impression they made on me was so indelible that I found my body could literally translate what I remembered about them into movement. You can picture someone graceful in your mind's eye, then feel yourself moving as they do. Try to move easily as I am, and don't worry about getting it just right. There's no wrong way to do these movements. Just feel free and loose and easy, and light, and hopefully, graceful.
Michael: Oh, my God.
Angela: When I first began dancing as a child, the Isadora Duncan School of Greek dancing was all the rage, and we would prance around wearing those funny little tunics. But I appreciate now that gracefulness was the most important element of that dancing and graceful movements have continued interest me. Oh, in the 60s, I rocked with the best of them.
Angela: But as I grew into myself, I went back to the movements that helped me to have good posture and move as if I didn't have a hurting joint in my body, which isn't always true.
Aubrey: Mostly, that when I left so long, because I wanted to include, in the 60s I rocked with the best of them. I was like, "Angela."
Michael: I was dropping acid, I fucked a lot of dudes, like, Oh, Angela. "Slow down." That was honestly, I could have kept watching that for like 10 more minutes. That was so lovely.
Aubrey: So, Mike, oh, God, I have to stop giggling. This is almost the whole video.
Aubrey: We're pulling the clips of it. Oh, Mike, sorry. There are whole sections that are just Angela Lansbury laying on the ground in her living room with her knees bent, doing thrusts.
Aubrey: And leg lifts and whatever. It's just that score, and it's so relaxing, and wholesome, and wonderful.
Michael: It's so great. It's obviously Vangelis.
Aubrey: I love it so much.
Michael: The vibes are good. Also, she's wearing a great outfit. She's wearing a peach full like a jumpsuit, but it's a really flowy loose jumpsuit. I swear to God, I have seen 21-year-olds at music festivals in Denmark wearing this-
Michael: -in like 2011, this could easily be like the coolest people on the planet wearing this.
Michael: It looks so comfortable and great.
Aubrey: It looks fantastic.
Michael: It's like, she's slow dancing with herself.
Aubrey: It really is.
Michael: It's just like so lovely. It's not choreographed, it's clear that the moves that she's doing are like, "I'll do this and then I'll do that" or she's practiced this. It's just like arm up, arm down, other arm up, and yeah, she looks really comfortable and really graceful. Honestly, it would make me so happy to see somebody doing this in a park.
Michael: "Oh, they're just super like doing their thing and they look really blissed out."
Aubrey: While I was watching this for research for this show, I was like, "Maybe, I should start doing this."
Michael: This sounds great. That's what I'm saying, too.
Aubrey: Maybe, I need to just do some fucking free moving. So, the next thing that I would say that I think makes this the anti-Goop is that her view of health is like legitimately pretty holistic. She has little bits and pieces of what I would now characterize as mindfulness. She talks about the importance of accepting yourself and your body. She talks about the importance of a positive mindset, which sometimes gets her into trouble and most of the time she contextualizes pretty well. She talks about the importance of naps.
Michael: Any wellness guru who tells people to do less, I'm just immediately behind.
Aubrey: [laughs] Right. I'm like here for it. She has a whole section at one point where I was like, "You're really revealing the target audience for this video, Angela," where she talks about the importance of puttering for your help.
Michael: Indefensive puttering.
Aubrey: And she's like, "There have been studies that it's important to putter," and I was like, "I could try to fact check this. I don't feel compelled to try in fact check, Angela Lansbury saying, it's good for you to putter around the house."
Michael: We measured puttering versus doddering.
Michael: We decided one was superior.
Aubrey: If you thought that the self-massage with aloe lotion was a little sensual for your taste [crosstalk]-
Michael: Oh, my God.
Aubrey: -get the fuck ready because she also talks about the importance of senior sexual health.
Michael: Hell yeah.
Aubrey: It's fucking fantastic and we're about to watch the video clip of a fucking lifetime, Michael Hobbes. I don't want to oversell this, but I don't think I can.
Michael: Send it to me. Give it to me now.
Aubrey: All right, done.
Michael: This is from Pornhub.
Michael: What have we done?
Aubrey: I'm telling you pull up the clip and then see what it is.
Michael: Oh, Jesus.
Michael: Oh, now, I know.
Angela: I think femininity and sexuality go hand in hand. It used to be thought that women lose interest in sex after menopause. But now we know that just isn't true. Obviously, both you and your partner are different than you were 30 years ago. But if you can accept the inevitable physical and other changes, you can keep romance in your life. I believe, it's important for a woman to try and maintain a certain sense of mystery about herself. I think that can continue to any age. It's so easy to give up or to get lazy. It's worth it to continue to present yourself as a woman of loveliness and dignity. A woman who feels good and knows she's looking her best. She'll continue to attract attention as a feminine sexual person. The right kind of attention doesn't have to stop unless you want it to.
Michael: Hell yeah.
Aubrey: Michael, would you describe to the listeners what you just physically saw?
Michael: It looks like something from fucking Cinemax in 1992.
Michael: It's Angela Lansbury in a bubble bath, and sensuously, rubbing herself and she pulls her leg out, and then she deliciously puts it back into the water. It's hot. I feel like, it's always useful to have a reminder that like people fuck, and there's no particular reason why people who like fucking would stop liking that when they get older.
Aubrey: And like, "Listen, you and your partner are going to be different now than they were 30 years ago," she says at one point. I'm like, "Yeah, actually, that's an adjustment worth talking about." I do think she loses the thread a couple of times where she's like, "The right kind of attention doesn't have to stop if you don't want it to," and I'm like, "Okay, that's not entirely realistic." And also, the right kind of attention feels like an extremely weird phrase to hear in a #MeToo era. But I think overwhelmingly, I'm just like, "Look at fucking Angela Lansbury talking about fucking-
Michael: Yeah, I know.
Aubrey: -being hot. Taking a bubble bath with a bunch of pillar candles around her next to an open window."
Michael: I want her husband's head to come out of the bubbles.
Michael: So bad.
Aubrey: Tell me what he does, Angela.
Aubrey: So, the next thing that makes her the anti-Goop is that her meals are fucking meals.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Aubrey: If you'll recall the last time, we did a diet book, Deep Dive was with Ed McMahon.
Michael: Mr. McMahon.
Aubrey: His daily meal plans were banana pants.
Michael: Literally, banana pants was one of the meals.
Michael: And like a Manhattan.
Aubrey: Here is Angela Lansbury's, this is titled, a typical day's menu. Breakfast, a quarter of a cantaloupe and a banana; 11 AM a big red apple or an orange or a cup of strawberries. Lunch, a chopped vegetable salad with two tablespoons of vinaigrette, a piece of whole wheat toast with one ounce of low-fat cheese like Jarlsberg, or Camembert, or Feta. At 4 o'clock, she has a cup of tea and an oatmeal cookie or a homemade blueberry muffin, and then for dinner, she has five ounces of broiled swordfish, or chicken, or turkey, microwave steamed broccoli and Brussel sprouts, a slice of whole grain bread with strawberry jam for dessert, or a half a cup of tofu ice cream, or a piece of fruit.
Michael: I mean, that honestly seems a little like sparse to me. But also, it has less of a like, "I need energy to grope waitresses all night vibes that [crosstalk]"
Michael: So, pick one or the other.
Aubrey: Yeah, I think there are times when it feels like a little bit sparse, but she's very clear in talking about all of this that she's like, "Hey, so, the quantities of these things don't matter. You should eat until you're full. You should eat foods that you like to eat." She says at one point, she aims to eat like this and stay on track about 80% of the time. She does have one story where she's like, "When I was playing Mame on Broadway, I wanted to take part in cast celebrations, but I didn't want to feel like garbage the next day. So, I would like go to the cast celebrations, I would have one or two drinks, and then I would go to bed early, because I know if I don't get rest, I don't feel good."
Michael: Oh, dude, that's like such a Michael Hobbes move.
Aubrey: It's so good. It's so good, and I'm like, "Yeah, ma'am, she's talking about sleeping as part of your health routine."
Michael: Also leaving parties early. A radical act of self-care.
Aubrey: There is one place where she loses the thread.
Michael: Oh, here comes the problematic stuff. Here comes the cancellation.
Aubrey: This is the problematic part, but it's also a kinder, gentler problematic.
Michael: By the [unintelligible [00:39:28] of this show, Jesus Christ.
Michael: I [crosstalk] not doing like colonial nightmare racism.
Michael: It's probably, okay.
Aubrey: We're going to watch a little bit more. Sorry, I keep sending you like the same link [laughs] at different points.
Michael: Send me the cancelled stuff.
Angela: Uncomfortable at the way that I am now, but I haven't always been. A few years ago after the first season of Murder, She Wrote, I got quite sedentary and overweight or still I kind of sunk into my expanded body, and I said to myself, "Well, this is the way I am." Well, it didn't take me long to decide, no, I didn't want to stay in that state. I want to look good and have a sense of pride in myself. I lost the 15 pounds in about three to four months, and I've kept it off. So, you can tell I'm not on a diet. Most diets simply don't work for me, because I work up such an appetite doing what I do.
Aubrey: Then there's a whole section, this is where she really comes for you, Mike, where she talks about like, how fun it is to ride a bike and everyone should ride bikes because it's really fun to ride bikes.
Michael: Let's not talk about the problematic stuff. She's fine. [crosstalk]
Aubrey: [laughs] So, talk to me about responses to the weight loss portion.
Michael: It's quite bad to be like, "I gained 15 pounds." Even worse, "I felt okay about it."
Aubrey: Yeah, totally. I wanted to get my pride and my sense of self back, and I wanted to look better and feel better about myself. It's this stuff that is like, sort of omnipresent and insidious in that way, right?
Aubrey: The thing that I do appreciate about this is that, she's like, "I lost 15 pounds in four months."
Michael: Yeah, I [crosstalk] that too.
Michael: She didn't really talk about how she was eating after she gained the 15 pounds. But it doesn't sound like she did anything that drastic.
Aubrey: The story is that she gained a bunch of weight when she was playing Mame on Broadway. The way that she tells the story of losing it is that she's like, "I stopped going out to eat so much and I started walking around New York City more."
Michael: That sort of thing seems fine to me.
Aubrey: She was like, "I was out of my routine. My body changed in a way that showed that I was out of my routine. So, I got back in my routine." The stuff that stays with me the most is the ways in which she just very seamlessly is like, "Accepting being fatter means that you don't have a sense of pride in yourself and how you look."
Michael: What's staying with me is mostly the mom genes, honestly.
Aubrey: The mom genes.
Michael: Epic mom genes. She looks great.
Aubrey: She does have these moments throughout the book where she'll be like, "You know, my mother was a lovely lady, but she was awfully pear shaped. She is an actor, and a character actor, and a woman who's been making a career out of being seen for the last however many decades, right?" So, I'm also like, "I get that that wouldn't be totally unpacked for her." It was also like, "This is a book that was written 30 years ago, almost."
Michael: For younger people, I feel like people do not know like how bad this stuff was in the 1980s and the 1990s.
Aubrey: It was horrific.
Michael: The government was telling you to eat zero grams of fat.
Michael: It's a really low bar. Honestly, if she was doing the same thing in 2021, I probably would go harder on her.
Michael: Yes, I agree.
Michael: But in 1988, this counted as the wokest shit imaginable. [laughs] But oh, she only said like one fat phobic thing.
Aubrey: Yeah, totally. And it's like, not like, "Fuck fat people."
Aubrey: It's just like, "Oh, I don't love the way that I look at this size and I wanted to have pride in myself." Again, it's totally insidious, but also definitely not the worst version of that thing. Part of why I thought that was really interesting is that, that is like a line of thinking that is very much still present today, and it is the way that many people will talk about weight loss in fat or body positive spaces.
Michael: Tell me more about that. What do you mean?
Aubrey: I think, mostly, people will do this thing where they are willing to come along with a conversation about the dignity of fat people and treating fat people better, but they are totally unprepared to let go of their own insecurities about their own body. So, what they will do is go, "I'm just not comfortable in my body as it is. You look amazing." Whether or not you feel like that's a lie, it reads as a lot. It reads as "Oh, I just realized you're just here."
So, I think there are these ways in which people like strive to figure out how to talk about their own body image and their own comfort in their own skin and all of that sort of stuff, and think that they can do it in this clinical way that doesn't connect to how they see and treat other fat people, but they also don't ask fat people for feedback on that.
Michael: How have you been dealing with people? I'm sure you have friends that are trying to lose like the COVID-19 or like, "I really want to get back in shape." Now, the pandemic's over, whatever, like, have you been having those conversations and how does it feel?
Aubrey: It feels horrible. It feels horrible. My friends for the most part are not talking to me about it, which I frankly appreciate. Everyone's want to be like, "Get a report back that they talk to another friend of ours about it," and I'm like, "Good job." [laughs] Not me. I'm not the guy. So, that's thing one, and the other stuff is just really hard. I feel like I muddle through. I have an expectation of myself as someone who has written about this stuff, and thought about this stuff, and researched this stuff extensively that I'll have an out to be like, "Here's how to do it."
On some things I do, and on this thing, I really don't. I don't really know how to navigate these conversations. And it just fucking sucks to sit there for like-- It always starts out as a quick conversation, like, I just need to talk about this thing for five minutes, and then it turns into two hours, and it's two hours of hearing somebody talk about like, how many weightwatchers points is in something and how no one will ever love them at this size? That is fucking half my size. You know what I mean? It just feels shitty and I don't want to take away their space to process that, but I also know that they don't go into that conversation wanting to hurt me.
Michael: Tell me if this is like a super offensive metaphor.
Aubrey: Sure. Tell me.
Michael: Would you analogize it to something of like, you're somebody who earns like $500,000 a year, you're like a super high-powered lawyer, and then you're having some money problems, like your new job might only pay you $450,000 a year. The idea is that like maybe your friend who drives a bus is not the person to talk to about that.
Aubrey: Yeah, totally.
Michael: Oh, my God, I might have to sell like one of my Tesla's.
Aubrey: It's the kind of talking that you do when you're not thinking about your audience. I think like a thing that we don't really grapple with in our social interactions is like, you genuinely don't know who you know that has an eating disorder.
Aubrey: You might actually actively be not just making that person feel bad in the moment, but causing their mental and physical health harm. Totally unintentionally. That's why the consent part is so important. I definitely I have people in my life currently who are on Weight Watchers, and I don't interrupt their process. If they ask me what I think about it, which has happened, I will tell them.
Michael: Maybe it's like a subtle pact, that it's like, "You don't tell me about your diet, and I will tell you that your diet fucking sucks," and it's [crosstalk] [laughs]
Aubrey: It is kind of a ceasefire. It's a loaded, challenging thing, and I think it's a thing I don't know, anybody who's like, "My system is this, and it works great, and it retains the strength of our relationship." I don't know anybody who has the perfect silver bullet for all that stuff.
Michael: I think one of the accusations that you hear lobbed against shows like ours and fat activists is like, they don't even let anyone lose weight. You can't even tell them like "I'm trying to lose weight after the holidays or whatever." I don't think that's the thing. I think it's like, "Just don't tell me about it." Maybe don't bring that up with every random work acquaintance.
Aubrey: Mike, I'm going to bring in the zeitgeist in a way that it might make you very unhappy, which is to say, I genuinely think that when it comes to weight loss, our cultural template for talking about weight loss is talk about it all the time to anyone who will listen and they should congratulate you.
Aubrey: If they don't, you have a right to be upset--
Aubrey: --is sort of our default setting. It is in that way. This is where it gets to zeitgeisty. I might ask you to cut this later. We're all the fucking kidney donor lady from [unintelligible [00:47:59].
Michael: [laughs] I thought you were going to go to Adele again.
Aubrey: I zagged on ya.
Aubrey: But do you know what I'm saying? We're all like, "Why don't you congratulate me? I'm writing you a private DM, why don't you congratulate me? I'm doing a good job. Why don't you-- Come on everybody talk about this good thing that I did." I just think, it's this kind of thing where we are all desperate for validation around this thing. And when we don't get the very specific kind of constant uninterrupted validation that we expect, we become fucking dicks about it, and we don't really have a template for still holding a person in high regard, but opting out of that specific exchange, which is what I would like to do.
Michael: I also think, even if like you don't get it, I also think that like your friends, especially close friends are allowed to have weird things. That's a pretty small thing to ask ultimately.
Michael: There are a million places in society where you can talk about the 15 pounds, you really want to lose. There's so many places where it's acceptable to talk about that. The idea of one person being like, "I'm just not somebody that wants to really do this with you." That seems pretty fine.
Aubrey: Yeah, I also think like, oh, my God, I have so many thoughts. One is, I do think that there is a little bit of a magnet effect with fat people. When I know people who pursue weight loss, it really does feel like they are gunning for my approval.
Michael: Oh, interesting.
Aubrey: As a fat person to be like, "You're not like me. You did it. You did the thing I can't do."
Aubrey: It's bananas and it feels horrible.
Michael: That's awful. Yeah.
Aubrey: It's horrible, and they're not consciously--, they're not hatching a plan to do this. They're just like, "Oh, I really want to talk to you about this thing. It seems organic to them. It feels unbiased. It feels natural, and I will say, I really do think I have had disproportionately way more conversations about friends negative body image than my thinner friends have with the same people."
Michael: What do you think that is? What's the mechanism behind that?
Aubrey: I'm sort of whoof. Okay, I'm going to say a thing that's like I'm out on a limb. I think, there are a lot of factors in why that's a phenomenon that I've noticed, and I think probably one of the bigger ones is that, part of losing weight is becoming a formerly fat person and separating yourself from fat people. Being seen as not one of those people, I think, that's the root of a lot of the anti-fatness that we see from people who've lost a lot of weight. I think, it's some of this too which is like, "I need your specific noticing that I'm different from you now, and I'm doing that intentionally," and again, I don't think this is ever anything that they would say to me, but the vibe is definitely like, "I'm better than you now."
Aubrey: Right? And that's the thing that fucking sucks about it is. I'm like, "This is totally earnest. You are really going through a thing, you are genuinely feeling all of your feelings, and part of that is, you haven't really checked in with yourself about like, "wait a minute, why do I want to have this conversation, why do I want to have it with this specific person, what am I getting out of this in particular that I couldn't get out affirming myself?" Or, going to a different person? Why does this need to be a social interaction and why does it particularly need to be a social interaction with someone who is more marginalized than me in this way or on this front?"'
Michael: The fact that it feels that way to you is also like extremely relevant.
Aubrey: Yeah, totally.
Michael: The idea that somebody is having this effect on their fat friends by doing this like people should consider the possibility that like, "Yeah, your fat friend really fucking hates hearing you talk about this."
Aubrey: Yeah, totally. Some fat people don't. Some people are fine with it. A lot of fat people have a real hard time with it.
Aubrey: You know, part of the ways that we think about fat people in particularly fat women is in these roles of servitude, right?
Aubrey: I've this like emotional midwifery that fat people are expected to do, which is like, "We aren't here. We're like NPCs, right?"
Aubrey: We're like, NPCs. We're just hanging out, and we're just here to move the plot along, and you are the plot, and we are a prop to move the plot along, it is I think the ways in which lots of people have been trained to engage with fat people and particularly with their fat friends. They're there to help you pick out an outfit for your big night out, but if they have a problem, they can't come to you. If they have a boundary, they can't come to you. It's a real imbalance, and it's hard to talk about in a way that doesn't either blow up or make everybody feel like shit. But also, the alternative is then just your fat friend feels like shit all the time.
Michael: It's also the normalized-
Michael: -little jokes at the Christmas party of like, "I've got to lose 15 pounds," in a way that like everyone glances at the fat person out of the corner of their eye."
Aubrey: Yes, absolutely. This has happened to me as a person who was less fat than the fattest person in the room. I was talking to someone at a group event about weight loss, and they pointed to a person who was fatter than me and said, "Well, at least we're not that fat."
Michael: Oh, fuck.
Aubrey: Right. That is a person who I believe to their core thinks of themselves as an equitable, thoughtful, kind person, I think in many, many ways they are, that was a brutal thing to do.
Aubrey: I think there are some folks who think, "I just think it in my head and that's not great. But it doesn't show up in my behavior. And like, our brains are not that sophisticated everybody."
Aubrey: It is really difficult to disentangle our motives for weight loss from our attitudes toward fat people, and I think it makes it really hard as a fat person to intervene and be like, "You're talking about me when you're talking about the stuff, right?"
Aubrey: I will say what most fat people that I have talked to about this and myself are looking for is just an opt out option would be great. I don't think that's the end goal, but I think, it would be a really great starting point.
Michael: Yeah. I don't like to give advice on the show, but I'd say next time in the break room or something, if somebody brings this stuff up, I would say start doing some freestyle movement.
Michael: Just wave your hands around. Just jockey back in your jumpsuit.
Aubrey: Okay, so, I just want to round us out. There's one more quote from Angela Lansbury about body image, and aging, and dieting stuff that seems worth talking about.
Michael: Angela took us on a journey.
Aubrey: This is her last thing of like losing the thread around weight stuff.
Michael: "These days, I'm not wild about the way my arms look in short sleeves. I have terrific muscles in my arms and I'm gardening, but there are areas of loose skin that are just genetic. After a certain age, it's more becoming for a woman to have a little extra on her upper arms and have a well-rounded face rather than a face that's scrawny and gaunt from dieting that has lost its skin tone. I have friends who live in fear of their scales as if those inanimate measuring devices had some sort of power to affect the quality of their lives. Let's keep some perspective and remember that the goal is to be healthy and attractive."
Aubrey: She was so clever.
Michael: She really had it. She really had it until the end. [laughs]
Aubrey: She's like, "All you have to be is like healthy and move in ways that make you joyful," and then she's like, "Also, I'm really paying attention to your face and it looks kind of fucked. " It's wild to me that she's like, "You shouldn't diet because you look worse." It's like--
Michael: I know.
Aubrey: -an extremely fucking hot take, Angela.
Michael: I think it would be hard to say the goal is to be attractive [crosstalk]
Michael: You're not sort of supposed to admit that that's what it's about. Even though, that's absolutely what it's about--
Aubrey: No question.
Michael: But everything has to be wrapped up in all this fake shit about health and moisture.
Aubrey: Yeah, she said the quiet part loud, which I think is kind of not the cardinal sin. Do you know what I mean? The cardinal sin is the quiet part being there, not the quiet part being explicit.
Michael: Some people have skinny faces. I don’t know.
Aubrey: It's fine.
Michael and Aubrey: It's fine.
Aubrey: You know what, Angela? You found what works for you, go, make yourself a salad sandwich, let people be afraid of their scales, let them work through their own feelings on their own time.
Michael: Yeah. But if they're considering moving to a small town where somebody gets murdered every week, stop them.