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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?  

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  1. 1. Does Guess Who's Coming to Dinner go in the space capsule?

    • ✅ Dinner is served!
    • ❌ You're a pontificating old poop!

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Paul & Amy invite themselves over to 1967’s Sidney Poitier “meet the parents” dramedy Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner! They praise the movie’s light touch with then-controversial social issues like interracial marriage, compare the film to early mainstream gay comedies like The Birdcage, and listen to a posthumous letter star Katharine Hepburn wrote to Spencer Tracy. Plus: Every sitcom with an episode title inspired by this film.

This is the fifth episode in our Kinspooled series on “effed up families”; next week’s film is The Farewell! Learn more about the show at unspooledpod.com, follow us on Twitter @unspooled and Instagram @unspooledpod, and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify. You can also listen to our Stitcher Premium game show Screen Test right now at https://www.stitcher.com/show/unspooled-screen-test, and apply to be a contestant at unspooledpod@gmail.com! Photo credit: Kim Troxall

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Good intentions up the wazoo, and I do appreciate the performances of Tracy, Hepburn, Poitier, etc., but this just isn't a great film. It's didactic as all hell: characters literally just speak the themes and messages out loud on screen. There's no work for the audience to do, which I think is what generates the negative criticism of it being patronizing. I woudn't call it "bad," exactly, but it doesn't need to go on the rocket ship, especially since In the Heat of the Night is from the same year and deals with the racism of the era in a more interesting/entertaining way (I'm not even a huge fan of that film either, but I'd easily vote for it over Guess Who's Coming to Dinner).

And this isn't about light touch or happy endings being devalued. You can have a light touch but still let the audience do some work and come to their own conclusions about the material. The Birdcage was discussed in the episode, and I'd say while that film (and its French predecessor) also has a light touch, it does lead the audience to a conclusion of acceptance/tolerance through character and situation, not by preaching at them. Guess Who's Coming preaches.

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Robin Hanson writes a lot about the distinction between what we say about a situation generally and what we do when it directly impacts us. He refers to it as "near" vs "far", although the general term other academics have for the phenomena is "construal level theory".

I don't think Mrs. Robinson is less interesting than Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate. If anything, HE'S the drip and I can't understand what she sees in him. I'm also glad to hear Paul take a dig at that film (which is not normally my response to his takes on movies). There's some flashy directing in it, but the uninteresting lead character really drags it down.

My own take on this film is that it's fine, but comes across as really dated now. That's a hazard of making a film tailored to big issues of the present day, because the present soon becomes the past. I really don't see the comparison to a murder mystery. I also don't see it as "punching up" because it's not really "punching" at all.

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