Est. Read Time: 7 minutes. Read Time brought to you once again by the Ashburton Energy + Hair Logistics Group, in association with the Bradley Hills Bureau of Corrections.
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Greetings Sternal Journalists,
First of all—thank you so much to Sternal Journalist Matt for reaching out after last week’s story, Bad Drawings of Good Ideas, to share this hyper-relevant reddit post: “If you ever feel bad about your storyboard drawings, here' is what Rian Johnson drew for Knives Out.”
It indeed makes me feel so, so much better about something I already enjoyed.
But onto this week’s topic:
Who the Hell does Ben Platt Think He Is?
I was driving on LA North-South thoroughfare Highland Avenue this week, doing one of my favorite things: stare at billboards and say “what the fuck is that?” Normally, it’s about TV shows or movies that I don’t think necessarily need to exist and—importantly—don’t think the people who made them necessarily want or think they should exist either.
My favorite current example is NBC’s Ordinary Joe, which premieres tomorrow (and, should be stated, has nothing to do with Ben Platt):
If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Joe, this is a Sliding Doors-style show about a guy who might have become a doctor; but if he had made another choice, he could have become a rockstar; and then technically if he had made another choice, he could have become a police officer.
In other words, they figured out how to roll tv shows about cops, doctors, and the entertainment industry—three of the absolute most well-trodden concepts of all time—and make them into one big show. They found a way to not have to change anything about network procedurals, but still repackage them for a TikTok attention span.
(DARKSIDE JULIAN: WHEN YOU PUT IT THAT WAY, IT’S ACTUALLY A PRETTY SHREWD DEVELOPMENT MOVE. WE SHOULD FIND OUT THE EXEC RESPONSIBLE AND HIRE THEM FOR THE STERNAL JOURNA—)
Shush, Darkside Julian! We’re not hiring any execs for the Sternal Journal until we launch our streaming service, SternJourn+. Plus, nobody’s a better exec than you, Darkside Julian.
(DARKSIDE JULIAN: I MEEEAN, I’LL PROBABLY BE PEELING OFF TO START MY MANAGEMENT COMPANY BY THEN. I’LL BE TAKING OUR IP, BY THE WAY.)
Goddammit, Darkside Julian. Whatever. So even though I admit Ordinary Joe could be a hit (again—hit and good can have zero overlap), I still am willing to bet that nobody was dying to make this show. Or that everyone involved has something they wish they had made instead.
But hey baby, wishes don’t buy ads.
(DARKSIDE JULIAN: THAT’S REALLY GOOD. CAN I USE THAT?)
Get out of here, Darkside Julian! So that’s all a long way of:
Complaining about that damn show that I haven’t seen yet and
illustrating my general recreational ire towards billboards I see around the city of Los Angeles.
Which brings me back to driving up Highland, lookin’ at billboards, winding up my eyes for a good rollin’, when I happened upon a billboard for the forthcoming movie adaptation of stage musical, Dear Evan Hansen, starring Ben Platt. It looks something like this:
I have not seen this movie, but I’m very excited to. It’s based on a musical I’ve heard wonderful things about, and I generally make an exception in my aversion to adaptations when it comes to musicals turning into movies1.
Now, the title of this rant is Who The Hell Does Ben Platt Think He Is? And at this point, you’re probably thinking Well, What In The Hell Does Julian Think About Who The Hell Ben Platt Thinks He Is?
Because fair enough. I sort of made a bold promise with that title and you might be feeling like I haven’t delivered on it yet. I actually have no beef with Ben Platt. I remember him vaguely as the magician from Pitch Perfect, and I had heard of him when people started seeing Dear Evan Hansen.
But my who the hell is this guy started when he popped up in Netflix’s The Politician, another show I have not watched, aaaaaand at the same time, had a Netflix concert special at Radio City Music Hall?!
I did watch about fifteen minutes of this, and he’s a great singer and fun entertainer, but not only did it leave me wondering who the audience was, it left me wondering really who Ben Platt is!
And I had the same sensation when, on the same block as the Dear Evan Hansen billboard, I saw this:
I’m lookin’ at the Dear Evan Hansen poster thinking “So he’s a movie guy!” and then looking at this Reverie billboard—apparently the tour supporting his second studio album—and thinking “Okay, so he’s a music guy! Some Bruce Springsteen-y kinda guy.”
And so I’m whiplashing between these two disparate versions of Ben Platt, thinking “Who the hell is he? Who does he think he is?” when I start wondering, “Julian, why do you care? What’s the problem here?”
(DARKSIDE JULIAN: NO, I GET IT. HIS BRAND ISN’T AS COHESIVE AS IT COULD BE. ON ONE HAND, HE’S THE NERDY ACTOR SING-Y GUY, AND ON THE OTHER HAND, HE’S THE SEXY ALBUM SING-Y GUY. YOU CAN’T BE BOTH AT THE SAME TIME IN THIS TOWN, YOU GOTTA PICK-)
Ah-ha, Darkside Julian! You’re a piece of shit, but you’ve gotten to the bottom of it. Ben Platt isn’t some cocky guy who thinks he can be every different version of himself2. He’s just not adhering to traditional PR and marketing standards of what it means to be a celebrity.
And seeing a celebrity not be so precious and hyper-tactical about their career’s admin feels strange. But I like it! I should be like “Who the hell is Ben Platt?” even if I know he’s famous. Whereas if I saw Drake in person, I would probably accidentally walk up and say “Hey man, I haven't seen you in forever—how’s that breakup?” before remembering I’ve never met or spoken to him ever before.
So whoever the hell Ben Platt thinks he is, I wanna find out more!
(DARKSIDE JULIAN: WOW, I’VE REALLY SEEN THE ERROR OF MY WAYS. I NOW UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANT OF PEOPLE BEING ABLE TO BE DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THEMSELVES.)
That’s really great, Darkside Juli—
(DARKSIDE JULIAN: AND IF YOU WANT TO SEE JUST HOW MUCH SOMEONE CAN LEARN FROM LIVING OUT THEIR DIFFERENT LIVES, CHECK OUT ORDINARY JOE, TOMORROW ON NBC AT—)
Hey! Absolutely no plugging Ordinary Joe! Let’s just go to the recs!
Mentally Al. Documentary. This movie about alternative comedian Al Lubel is a must for anyone who likes to think about comedy, the arts, being a parent, or being a child. PLUS! For next week’s Sternal Journal, I’ll be sharing my interview with the director, Joshua Edelman. So do your homework I loved this movie and can’t wait to talk to you all about it.
Reverie. Album. I listened to this Ben Platt album while writing this and it’s a groover!
FREESTYLE. Song. I was recording a podcast on the very swanky roof of a hotel this Monday and a group of rappers from Atlanta showed up to hang out at the bar. They crashed the podcast and were a hoot. I listened to their music when I got home, and this song from BBA.RED was easily my favorite. If you don’t NLE Choppa, it might not be for you. But it has under 1,000 on Spotify, so if you like this kind of music, you could really get in on the ground floor for this guy.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Movie. I have absolutely no idea how about the historical accuracy of this biopic about televangelist and tabloid queen Tammy Faye Bakker—I only found it was based on a real person on the drive to the theater—but I am sure reviews will be full of working like “JESSICA CHASTAIN TRANSFORMS” and I would agree. It’s fun and fascinating and, at the very least, I’m excited to learn more.
Ordinary Joe. Television. Ok ok look, I’ve talked to much shit about it at this point not to give it a shot. Won’t you join me?
Now go live all the different lives you can possibly live!
This is completely selfish. I do not live in New York, so it’s harder for me to see musicals. And I want to see them. Movie versions make that easier.
He is, however, the son of a very successful film and theater producer, which I learned late enough in writing this that I couldn’t figure out how to fold it in more elegantly. So he could be cocky is what I’m saying.