The Brazen Heads Podcast

Mark Derian and Derek Bronish's The Brazen Heads podcast exemplifies our current generation of well educated Maslow-champions fueled on opinions and addicted to catharsis. Their sometimes infuriating but always interesting discussions on art, entertainment and 28 year old culture appear weekly on iTunes along with a summary post from the podcast's sister website, Animus Empire.

The long-time friends have struck a dynamic which suits them. Derian--or sometimes, "Diz"--comes off as a bizarre art-snob / fraternity-bro hybrid. He assails you with anti-feminist manifestos and "kids today.." rebellion which lends a needed touch of bar-stool to Bronish's coffee-shop aesthetic. Currently a graduate student pursuing a career as a therapist (?!), Derian's cock-rock credos [he generally finds music boring, with the exception of Guns N' Roses, which he finds transcendent] are usually extreme, frequently annoying, and occasionally pure genius.

While it's Diz who makes the Brazen Heads funny or compelling or--well--brazen, it's Bronish who actually makes it consistently listenable. His even-keeled voice-of-reason narrative is like carbon rods keeping the Brazen power-plant productive whenever Diz gets sucked into feedback loops about the importance of getting laid or yelling at liberals. A potent critical thinker, Bronish will tell you, in crisp baritone, that academic navel-gazing need not be a pejorative term. He operates with a refreshing neglect for connotative language and general understanding that opinions are more about doing the work than being right.

On his own, though, Bronish simply isn't eccentric enough to cut through the Throught Catalog-era Internet din, which is why Diz makes for the perfect co-hort. With a show title taken from an old mythology about "bronze heads" which were able to answer any question, a casual listener might say the main theme of the podcast is over-intellectualism. But ultimately, their bottom line is about emotional freedom--even if over-intellectualism is the road they usually take to get there.

I'm not sure whether or not the Heads will ever enjoy popular podcast success. They may not, due to the heavy 'NPR" nature of the podcast world so far. But at the moment, they're doing a decent job "finding their people". For more with these dudes, check out their interview on Article 25 News.


Anonymous said...

I can say after listening to the show every week for years that this is a phenomenal assessment.

allwyn said...

I agree with this analysis. You must have listened to a few episodes to reach this conclusion. Good work!

The heads are really awesome and they have really had a huge impact on my understand of terms like masculinity and dealing with girls and some other things too. In fact I hardly thought about these issues much before listening to them but other philosophies like libertarianism, capitalism is something I've been following for a long time.

WoodSlicker: Nature for Those Stuck in NYC said...

A love-it-or-hate-it podcast, the Brazen Heads is a casual pop-culture/philosophy dialogue between two lifelong friends, originally from the Midwest but now each on separate coasts of the country. While categorized as a comedy, the two thirty-somethings present a more intellectual than comedic take on whatever current events happen to interest the co-hosts at the time. After only a few listens, you've come to expect the libertarian/alt-right opinions they seek to validate with a mixture of bro vernacular and individual expertise - Mark is a psychology grad student in NYC, and Derek is a computer scientist for Space-X in LA. They both endorse, sometimes blindly, the controversial views that were likely commonplace in their college dorm rooms in the Midwest. They both still thump their worn copies of 'Atlas Shrugged.' Mark invokes philosophy only to the point it can help him make a "sweet point" while Derek gushes over the latest Sam Harris podcast episode. All of it becomes rather monotonous as a show, but I've hung on for all these years for a different reason.

What interests me about the Brazen Heads is less the issues they discuss, which lack the necessary disagreement to make it a meaningful dialectic (Mark's alpha nature often muscles past Derek's subtler, if misguided, points), but more their unlikely friendship. By all accounts, they should've outgrown each other years ago. Mark, whose locker-room nickname is "Dizz," is more the meathead musmouth who substitues his gaps in logic with cheap, power-driven jokes. By day, he is a grad student who was asked to leave Columbia allegedly because they didn't agree with his lofty attempts to "unify psychology." You respect that he's the guy in class who's brave enough to voice an unpopular opinion, but you suspect that the ideas he's throwing his life behind are based in an inner misogyny and social alienation in the liberal mecca of New York City. By night he's an amateur stand-up comedian and answers young men's dating questions through his site Animus Empire, a site that features articles about cumming in girls faces and why women shouldn't vote.

Derek however is more the stereotypical Silicon Valley type who believes the same algorithms that would save the world (if people just weren't so damn stupid) will also get his Seamless order to his house faster. His ideas are everything that's right and wrong with technological determinism, but of the two, I tend to agree with him more as he considers complexity a bit more and laughs off Mark's misogny. In fact, you get the sense that Derek favors more progressive points than he'll ever admit to on the show. Where Mark likes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Derek likes David Foster Wallace. What I've come to love about the show is that it functions as a regular practice of friendship that seeks to balance their outside alienation; Dizz as a 15th century knight stuck in a 21st century grad student, and Derek as a tech guy with the sneaking suspicion he might be creative writer. Hearing them nostalgically bring up old schoolmates are genuinely beautiful moments. The show would yield a lot more fruit if they argue through their differences rather than agree all the time. Even if their shared lack of empathy and gauche demeanors land them in the same ideological spot, one should be smart enough to play Devil's Advocate for the listener.

Of course, the very things that would make it a really good show might ruin the friendship. Who knows, maybe their friendship could withstand it. Of course, for these two bros, acknowledging their friendship like that would be "too gay."