“Palmer,” a new film starring Justin Timberlake and directed by filmmaker and actor Fisher Stevens, challenges harmful ideas about masculinity and serves as an example of how far Hollywood and much of the U.S. has come towards creating spaces for gender nonconformity. The movie, released globally by the streaming service Apple+ on January 29, is set in small town America and centers on the story of a child, played by Ryder Allen, who defies ideas about what boys should and should not look and act like. The film ultimately becomes about the child’s unlikely kinship with Palmer (Timberlake), who is struggling to rejoin his community after a prison sentence, and how society views those who are considered different in any way. On this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” director Fisher Stevens, who also produced the Oscar Award-winning documentary “The Cove'' and the Netflix hit mini-series “Tiger King,” joins Robert Scheer to discuss his new film as well as the benefits and downsides of streaming services. Stevens explains that where filmmakers may have struggled previously to get Hollywood companies to take a chance on projects that push boundaries, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Apple+ have brought many unconventional works such as “Palmer” to a wider global audience.
“I can pretty much tell you that more people watched ‘Palmer’ [in its opening] week on Apple than would have seen it in a cinema,” Stevens tells Scheer. “So it is kind of amazing. I exec-produced this TV show for Netflix called ‘Tiger King,’ that during [the COVID-19 pandemic] had a massive audience. Had we put it on some obscure cable TV channel, I don't think anyone would have seen that either.
“So it is a good moment right now,” he says, “[and] I'm hoping that [streaming giants like Apple, Netflix and Amazon] stay like this [and don’t start dictating content]. Right now it is a kind of heyday.”
Scheer, who wrote a book about Silicon Valley’s increasing prevalence in every aspect of our lives titled “They Know Everything About You,” also warns against the dangers of big tech companies such as Apple finding new ways to collect data on subscribers. The podcast host also acknowledges, on the other hand, that the fact that such a globally known company is not only led by an openly-gay CEO in Tim Cook, but also buys projects such as “Palmer” can go a long way towards changing hearts and minds around the world. Throughout the discussion, Scheer speaks enthusiastically about the film, which both Stevens and Scheer agree is primarily about another issue that deserves the spotlight: bullying.
Listen to the full discussion between Stevens and Scheer as they explore the changes taking place in the entertainment industry as well as American society at large over the past few decades.