Fran Lebowitz demands innovation in new Scorsese film

The Takeaway

When Martin Scorsese approached author and public speaker, Fran Lebowitz, requesting to make a documentary about her life, she had conditions: “I didn’t want anyone to follow me around with a camera,” she said. “You know, I seem, however, to be the only person left in the country that that is true of.” What emerged was a collection of entertaining interviews on HBO with the social faultfinder. “Public Speaking,” is a Scorsese film with only one casualty: society.

At the heart of her cultural critique is a disappointment that people aren’t developing anything new, she told PRI’s The Takeaway. Lebowitz acknowledges the invention of new technologies, but she doesn’t think people are using the gadgets to express new ideas. She describes individuals today:

Basically they’re collagists. You know, they take a little bit of this from someone else, a little bit of that from someone else, and put it all together. And you know, what is now called content, you know, seems to me to be nostalgic, you know, and nostalgia is an unusual sensibility for people who are young.

She sees recycled ideas pervading much of society, from pop music — which, to her, hasn’t come out with a new genre since rap — to politics. “You certainly can’t point to politics and say it’s anything but immensely regressive. You know, but I mean, the whole era is. And people keep saying that, ‘the tea party, this is a new thing.’ This is the oldest thing in the country.” Lebowitz calls this backwards outlook “a kind of merry-go-round.”

The fact that young people aren’t coming up with new ideas, in Lebowitz’ mind, is a failure. “I’m doing my job — I’m being cranky. They’re not doing their job. That’s all.”

“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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