Dasha Nekrasova: Post-Ironic Pre-Disappointment
By Sarah Buckley
Photographer Chad Moore
to Be caught up with Dasha Nekrasova – writer, actor, and cultural critic. Here, we talk with her about New York energy, snark and charting controversial territory.
There’s a certain bravado that comes with living among the smog of New York City. I think that’s why people from outside are often in awe of the hustle, bustle and decadence that comes with residing in the worldly hodge-podge of America’s favourite rounded R’s.
With stacked-high townhouses and quintessential stone-steps, the smell of garbage and the-larger-the-fur-coat, the-larger-the-life types, New York has a dynasty that Belarusian director, actress and podcaster Dasha Nekrasova savours in her every step. Whether co-hosting podcast Red Scare, directing and co-writing The Scary of Sixty-First or acting in the third season of Succession, Nekrasova is both the critic and ‘victim’ (as Comfey in Succession) of cultural and social politics.
“I grew up in Las Vegas. But I was born in Eastern Europe. Then I went to college in the Bay Area. Then I moved to LA and I was trying to be an actress down there for five years.
“I mean, for me – obviously, there’re plenty of people with careers in LA – but for me things really changed when I moved to New York, pretty quickly.
“I don’t think I would have had most of the career opportunities that I’ve had in LA. Even Succession, it’s a very New York show. There’s a different sensibility here than there is in Los Angeles.
“LA is more of a media epicentre. When we started the pod, we were talking about New York, you know, and we’re based in New York. I think it really gave us a platform. because so many people in media and entertainment live and work in New York.”
It all started when the internet gave her the moniker ‘Sailor Socialism’, after Nekrasova spouted snark with ease during an interview with the far-right media platform InfoWars, earning her a starring role in the ‘dirtbag left’. Perhaps hoping to convince her that Bernie Sanders would go the way of Hugo Chávez, the interviewer told her, “Politicians are sipping on champagne as the people eat rats in Venezuela!” “You people have, like, worms in your brains, honestly,” responded Nekrasova callously.
It was the first time Nekrasova would wear out an idiot while being recorded, as we watched on in horror and laughed. The podcast she co-hosts, Red Scare, erupted soon after. We know much of the story that follows: Anna Khachiyan and Dasha Nekrasova spawn an army of nay-sayers and Red Scare-die-hards. Modern politics for the young and frisky, or philosophy students. Suddenly, millennials and Gen Xers find it a trend to have borderline personality disorder, or lie about having it. They might even decide to deepen their vocal timbre for the sake of resembling their favourite podcasters.
But what, in our interview, did we find out about Dasha Nekrasova that Vulture, Interview Magazine and many other publications didn’t?
Well, for one, Nekrasova is renowned, even revered, for her enduring use of the word ‘retard’. And she stands by its use. “Saying the word ‘retarded’ is literally the hill I’m going to die on. I think it’s really important to say the word retard … [it’s] just really descriptive and useful,” she adds and laughs.
“The aesthetic of Red Scare is a little bit aggressive,” says Nekrasova, and it’s true. In 2018, when the podcast first started, “no one else was really doing that.”
“After I moved to New York I met Anna. We had mutual friends in the city but also, we were following each other on Twitter. And we were both like, ‘We’re Russian American girls who are critiquing liberal feminism.’
“I had a boyfriend who had a podcast, and we were friends with some of the Chapo Trap House people. So there was a model for starting a podcast, and we just sort of built up that space from there.”
And that space was uncharted, politically incorrect territory. What might have been offensive or off-limits to say, Red Scare said front and centre.
“There was a lot of this ‘hashtag resistance’ stuff in post-Trump America. And Me Too was really part of that. We were definitely some of the first people to be like, ‘This seems like bullshit’.”
In 2017, the Me Too movement was rife across the internet and in the media, bringing down the likes of Harvey Weinstein and other major movie moguls. The movement had a significant impact on the way we use the internet and engage with the justice system. But it also purged our capacity to ‘agree to disagree’, spawning a new type of ‘woke’ liberalism that derailed nuanced discourse as we knew it.
“Now I feel like we’ve been totally vindicated on that,” Nekrasova tells us.
When asked if Red Scare was what led Nekrasova to landing the role in the recently SAG-awarded HBO television series Succession, she said no.
“I auditioned for a small role in the second season, and Avy Kaufman, their casting director, was like, ‘There’s this scene with a girl in a mailroom. And you're too pretty to work in a mailroom,’” Nekrasova laughs. “Avy, I love you.’”
“So then in this third season, when the part for Comfrey [came along] … And Avy definitely doesn’t listen to Red Scare, but I know that some of the writers do, but I made the audition tape for it like I would for anything else.”
“Are you going to be in season four?” I ask. “I don’t know. I think they’re just starting in the writer’s room now. Even when I was shooting this previous season, I wouldn’t know what was coming up. They would send us the scripts as we were shooting.”
“Originally, I think my character was supposed to be in three episodes and then they just extended it, and I kept getting invited back.”
“And then you had the movie as well,” I prompt.
“Scary?” [The Scary of Sixty-First, which Nekrasova co-wrote and directed.]
“It’s about a property that belonged to Jeffrey Epstein, but not like his actual house. We shot a scene in his house, yeah. It’s about two girls who move into a property that they discover used to belong to Jeffrey Epstein and some satanic chaotic antics ensue. I don’t really know how it works with distribution with Australian stuff but I know it’s streaming now – but maybe that’s just in the US.”
“Where do you guys live?” Nekrasova asks us.
“In Melbourne. Everyone’s just like, ‘Oh, we’ll just skip Australia, because no one actually lives there,” we laugh. But Nekrasova feels like she’s gotten a good response from Australia.
We ask if she feels like other work she does is interpreted through the lens of Red Scare. “Probably, yeah,” she agrees. “I mean, there’re lots of people who have antagonism towards me for what they think I represent.”
Some of those things include being “pro-life, but not from a policy perspective,” and the Red Scare photo with the likes of Alex Jones, which Freddie deBoer indirectly outed. deBoer was “being bloviating and pretentious,” says Nekrasova of the incident, “but [he] is a great writer and thinker.”
Nekrasova also thinks culture wars are just cyclical, “Every decade, every 15 years – probably the [most recent] culture war was in the ’90s. And people kind of get fatigued and build up resistance to it. And now, obviously, social media exacerbates things. But I think it’ll pass. There’s already kind of a collective resentment.”
But all in all, Dasha Nekrasova is busy.
“I’m not shooting anything now, but in March I’m going to shoot Betsy Brown. I have another script that I’m shopping around, but I don’t think I’ll make it this year. It’s a more expensive movie to make.
“I made The Scary very, very quickly. So this time I want to make something a little more carefully. The Scary was on a very limited scale with a very limited budget and under a lot of self-imposed pressure.”
One last useless question burned me, so I had to ask: “Did Demi Lovato ever reach out to you?”
“No,” says Nekrasova.
Photographer CHAD MOORE
Styling ALEXA LANZA
Hair LIZZIE ARNESON
Makeup AYAKA NIHEI
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