Episode 0:
What's ProbLITmatic?
A Preview

Welcome to That's ProbLITmatic, the podcast that examines unhealthy and problematic relationships in literature.

We will always start off each episode with this disclaimer: You are allowed to love problematic things. This podcast doesn't exist to criticize you for "shipping" literary couples or to place blame on authors for the relationship dynamics they've created. That's ProbLITmatic encourages you to love what you love, unapologetically, but it's important to develop an understanding of how problematic and dysfunctional relationships have been normalized over the centuries in our literary canon and for readers like you to be able to recognize toxic behaviors when you see them represented in fiction.

Thank you so much for queuing up this preview episode of That's PobLITmatic. I am your host, Lacy Phillips, but before I get into telling you a little bit about myself, I wanted to mention right away that each subsequent episode will feature a different guest co-host who will join me for a discussion of the relationships in a single work of fiction. We already have a couple of excellent co-hosts who will be recording discussions soon, and I can't wait to introduce you to them. But for today, you're just gonna have to make do with me... although, I would love to hear from you if you'd like to join me as a co-host. You don't have to be an expert to become a guest co-host on That's ProbLITmatic. You don't need to be a behavioral health professional or hold any specific degrees to qualify. Most adults can recognize toxic behaviors and we all have valuable contributions to make to the public discourse. I believe that if you're a consumer of literature, you're already fully qualified to critique that literature. The bottom line is, if you can read the text and express your thoughts clearly on why the relationships in it are problematic, I'd love to have you join me in a discussion. I want to hear about that piece of literature that's had its hooks in you for decades but in the back of your mind something never sat right about how the characters treat each other. If that sounds like you, email me at probLITmatic@gmail.com and pitch me an episode.

With that out of the way, let me introduce myself. I'm Lacy Phillips. I'm a writer and communications professional who's worked with over 40 non-profit organizations to help them promote the good work they're doing in the world and tell their success stories. Professionally, I do a lot of social media management ghostwriting on blogs and digital marketing. As a content creator, I have over 20 years of print and digital graphic design experience. I'm an award-winning portrait photographer, and I have formal training in videography and audio-visual editing. Over the course of the last two decades, I've worked with various local, national, and international organizations to promote gender equity. Some of the advocacy I've done for gender equity has been in a professional capacity, and some of it has been deeply personal.

I've had the itch to take on a podcast for years but I hadn't landed on a concept that I was passionate enough about to sustain the level of effort it takes to bring a podcast into existence and make it successful. But here we are, just weeks away from the national election in 2020, and that elusive concept that I've been searching for has finally clicked. I can tell you I've never been more ready to put all of my energy into a new project, and I'm so grateful to all of you who've taken the time to listen for supporting this effort.

I think it's an important topic that sometimes doesn't get enough attention. There are always going to be titles that come on the market and make a big splash because of the just awful relationships the main characters have. Those would be, you know, the Twilights and the Fifty Shades of Greys and the Gone Girls of the world. But more often, the reading public is presented with borderline cases, behaviors that straddle the line between persistence and harassment, or that create dramatic tension through methods of emotional manipulation that should be considered major red flags if they were to happen in real relationships. Those are the types of things we'll be exploring in upcoming episodes. If you can think of a contemporary title like that, leave us a message at anchor.fm/probLITmatic and tell us so we can be sure to record an episode about it soon.

A lot of the first episodes that we have planned are going to focus on classic literature. In America, the literature curriculum for secondary students is fertile territory for finding unhealthy relationship dynamics. I know when I was in school I was assigned books to read that were overwhelmingly written by long-dead white males, and never once did a teacher preface our discussion of the events in those stories with a warning that the way the protagonists treat each other in the text should not only not be held up as a romantic ideal, but that if a romantic partner ever tried to treat one of us students like that, we shouldn't allow it.

I'm really looking forward to re-reading some of the classic literature that I haven't taken a second look at in 20 years and bringing a fresh perspective to interpreting those stories and characters. I'm even more excited to be able to bring in the perspectives of some amazing guest co-hosts to help explore those topics with me. I already have a couple of co-hosts lined up to talk about some of the classics. The discussion of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" with Dr. Rebecca Gibson will be available at the end of October, and you will not want to miss this! Dr. Gibson has a PhD in bioanthropology, and I cannot think of anyone whose academic specialty is more suited to a discussion of Frankenstein than her. We'll also have an upcoming episode featuring Liz Ogden who's an author, professional narrator, and editor who holds two theater degrees. She'll be joining me for a conversation about "Romeo and Juliet" and it'll be great to have her beautiful voice grace our ears.

There are many many other titles that I'm actively recruiting guest co-hosts to discuss. If you'd like to claim one of the titles and come onto the podcast as guest co-host, email me at probLITmatic@gmail.com.

By its very nature, the concept I've developed for the podcast requires me to maintain a high degree of scheduling flexibility. We'll need to be able to work with each guest co-host's availability, and allow ample time for both my co-host and myself to read the source material. As such, I've decided that That's ProbLITmatic will not have a strict publication schedule. We will always drop episodes on a Friday, but there won't be a new episode every Friday. This may change in the future as we gain momentum, but as of right now, I can't commit to scheduling regularity beyond making sure new episodes debut on a Friday.

Each of our episodes will be edited with the considerations of classroom instructional time limitations in mind. We'll be aiming for right around a half an hour per episode, so you know a lot of really good stuff is going to be left on the proverbial cutting room floor. But if you support the podcast on Patreon, you'll get access to the uncut discussion. And there are lots of other benefits to becoming a supporter, so be sure to check that out.

That's ProbLITmatic will always aim to be appropriate for all audiences. I feel it's especially important for young adult readers to learn to recognize toxic behaviors when they see them on the pages of their favorite books. My hope is that these discussions can help readers of all ages be able to recognize (and hopefully avoid) toxic behaviors in their lives. We don't want to give parents or educators any reason to prevent minors from listening to our discussions, so there will be no cursing or explicit language on the podcast, ever.

I have big dreams for That's ProbLITmatic. I hope one day that it'll become a classroom staple, a resource for literature instructors, maybe even a domestic violence prevention tool. I can even imagine a day when school librarians can label the books in their collections with a That's ProbLITmatic warning sticker so young people know they can go online and look up an episode that details exactly how Estella and Pip are so deeply terrible.

I haven't been this excited to dive into a project in a long time. And I know I've used the word "excited" so many times already, but I really am fired up to get this project off the ground. I want to thank you for the enthusiasm you've all shown for this undertaking so far. I've already gotten a lot of great feedback that will help me shape the way the show develops over time, and I'd definitely like to hear more. Email me at probLITmatic at gmail dot com or leave a voice message at anchor dot fm slash probLITmatic, and I'll take your ideas into consideration.

Thanks to Pictures of the Floating World for composing and performing our theme music.

We'll always end on this note of hope:

If you are currently experiencing any of the problematic behaviors mentioned in today’s episode, you may be involved in an unhealthy relationship. We encourage you to contact the “Love is Respect” organization by visiting loveisrespect.org, calling 1-866-331-9474, or texting “LOVEIS” to 1-866-331-9474 to be immediately connected to a peer advocate who can help you find solutions to your unique situation.