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One of America’s most beloved writers and cultural critics Roxane Gay will come to the Bath Forum this month, as part of her first ever UK tour. Roxane Gay: With One ‘N’.  We spoke to Roxane ahead of her show on Wednesday 15th March.

We are looking forward to seeing you come to Bath on March 15th. This is your first ever live show, so why now?


Well, this isn't my first live show though it is my first live show in Bath. The opportunity arose to do a tour in the U.K. and I jumped at the chance because I'm getting to see parts of the commonwealth I've not yet visited. One of my colleagues recently vacationed in Bath and had nothing but good things to share so that only increased my excitement.


There seems to have been so much that has happened over the past 4 or 5 years (Covid, Black Lives Matter, BoJo, Trump, The Queen, Harry and Meghan etc). As a social commentator, what have you made of the past few years and specifically how we consume our media/news information?


The last several years have shown us how powerful the media is both inte rms of what they do report and what they don't. That's why it is so important for all of us to be media literate, and to get information from more than one source, to have a strong sense of how things are, what matters, and why. I also know that too many of us aren't critical enough about the media we consume. We're too trusting. We endow expertise on anyone with any kind of platform, however unearned it might be. It's frustrating.

"I'm always going to be interested in women like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Cardi B, women who have such keen understandings of pop culture and their place in it."


Have we lost the ability to communicate and find nuance in an argument/discussion?


It seems like we've lost our appreciation for nuance but it is not completely gone, yet. We can communicate. It happens every day. It's just that some people are unwilling to listen, be open-minded, or consider other points of view. A lot of times, people want the easy argument rather than the true, complex argument. As a fan of nuance, I strive to shape all of my work with it and hope that comes across.


Is this lack of empathy or dismissive nature to other peoples lives the reason the term ‘culture wars’ exists?


The term "culture wars" exists because people want a convenient way of dismissing the lived experiences of others. When we're talking about freedom, autonomy, and equality, we aren't talking about culture wars. We are talking about human lives and dignity. These are important things that shouldn't be trivialized with phrases like "culture wars" that frame everything as easy battles to be won or lost. Many of the issues we're talking about are existential for the people who are materially affected.

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One of the topics you will cover in the show is reality TV. What is your relationship with this genre of ‘entertainment’?


As I've written over the years, I love reality television. I see it for what it is, and recognize how much of it is performative, but it's incredibly compelling. The people who do well on reality TV know who they are and what they want and that comes across in one way or another. I can't get enough of Below Deck and Vanderpump Rules and Ninety Day Fiancé and so on. I love all of it because I find people endlessly interesting and anytime I can see people revealing who they are in artificial circumstances, I am entertained. I also recognize that reality television is as much a part of our culture as any other form of entertainment. It would be short-sighted to pretend otherwise. 


One of the other hot topics at the moment is ‘Cancel Culture’. Do you have any views on this that you want to share?


Cancel culture, much like culture wars, is a dismissive term that people use to  avoid nuance or difficult conversations. When people make bad decisions, when they make mistakes, there are consequences so let's call it consequence culture. It's also important to think about who actually deals with consequences for their mistakes and who gets a free pass, time after time. And lastly, I'll say that we are pretty good at consequences but we, culturally speaking, have little capacity for redemption and creating paths toward redemption. I would love to see that happen.

As far as pop-culture is concerned, which figures fascinate/interest you today?

I'm always going to be interested in women like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Cardi B, women who have such keen understandings of pop culture and their place in it. I'm looking forward to Eliot Page's forthcoming memoir Pageboy which I think will be great. 

Finally, where do you find inspiration and is there a particular media you go to for this fix?


I draw a lot of inspiration from other creative endeavors--art and theater mostly, but if it's creative, I appreciate it. I am fortunate to take in a lot of both visual art and theater and it really keeps me energized and wanting to do more, and better, in my own work. 


two tickets to see Roxane Gay: With One ‘N’ at the Bath Forum on Wednesday 15th March. For a chance to win, simply click the link below and follow the steps...

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