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These Girls Are Not Your Friends
Forbidden Fruits is a Masterclass in the Interrogative Interview
As my descent into Walking 10k Steps A Day madness continues, I’ve been consuming what some would call an unhealthy amount of podcasts. Regular readers of the magazine will know that it is physically impossible for me to consume media without developing an incredibly strong opinion about it. Which brings us to today’s topic: one of my favorite pods at the moment, Forbidden Fruits, the Spotify podcast hosted by Julia Fox and Niki Takesh.
Say what you will about the NYC club girls, Forbidden Fruits is an interesting program. At first misogynistic glance, it’s a fluff podcast– two women with matching vocal fry talking pop culture with B, C and D-list celebrities. But it’s so much more than that. There’s layers to this shit.
Julia Fox and Niki Takesh are incredibly skilled interviewers– mostly because they know exactly what people assume about them. They’re two fashion girls, former-addicts, influencer-type celebrities– they know that no one is expecting the Barbara Walters treatment from them and they use this to their advantage. They’re able to fool guests into thinking that they are not on a serious show– that they’re just hanging out with their two friends, Niki and Julia– there’s no danger here! But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Often the tactic on Forbidden Fruits is a classic Good Cop/Bad Cop routine. With Julia Fox playing the sweet, encouraging Good Cop and Niki Takesh as the sly, calculating Bad Cop, they each take turns probing their guest with near constant revealing questions.
It works so well because Fox keeps the conversation going– always lighthearted and empathetic; she's able to reroute the interview when the subject begins to put up their defenses against Takesh’s line of questioning. A frequent occurrence given the fact that Takesh doesn’t make a habit of pulling punches. She asks the hard questions people want answers to.
Takesh would genuinely succeed as a hardline journalist. She has all the right instincts. She’s able to seamlessly weave damning questions into casual conversation- having the guest ¾ of the way through an answer before realizing exactly what they’re saying.
Although, I do have to say, it is true that their combative, probing nature can verge on the side of “ambush”. Their fast-paced, overwhelmingly passive aggressive, Leading Questions feel very reminiscent of middle school mean girls. And as a former schoolyard loser myself, I feel an incredible pang of empathy for their guests. Sometimes I just wanna yell through the screen: These girls are not your friend!!! Stop talking!!!
But you can’t deny it makes for damn good TV. Despite this overarching insincerity that they masquerade as a sort of hollow “best friendship”, they have a very effective interviewing tactic. Guests feel lulled by this disarming, friendly sense of comfort, hypnotized by the vocal fry, until they begin to reveal certain aspects of themselves that they might otherwise conceal due to embarrassment and shame.
The shining star of the Forbidden Fruits podcast is their April 2022 Caroline Calloway episode. I had never before seen a Good Cop/Bad Cop routine employed so deftly. Calloway is a figure whose Internet Lore is far too expansive and intricate for me to get into on this lil ole magazine o’ mine– but I would definitely recommend falling down an internet rabbit hole about this girl when you get the chance.
The most important thing to know is: Caroline Calloway is someone who is supremely aware of her image– she’s a spin doctor with an iron grip on the way her narrative is employed and a deep unwillingness to be perceived as “Someone Who Did Something Wrong.” So, her coming on the Forbidden Fruits podcast was kind of a Clash of the Titans for those who love internet gossip.
The interview is tense. Calloway is dodging just about every question thrown at her– somehow always pivoting back to this sense of rebirth and emotional growth that she’s really trying to peddle this PR season.
But listeners can sense an increasing hostility towards Takesh. Calloway at times fully ignores her questions in favor of answering Julia Fox’s– even though they are essentially asking the same thing. It’s captivating to listen to. The hosts are able to shift Calloway’s initial unwillingness to answer ANY uncomfortable questions into an unwillingness to answer ONLY Takesh’s uncomfortable questions— leaving Fox’s fully fair game. They were able to pivot what ultimately would have been a boring interview into a compelling piece of media.
This dynamic is especially emblematic in this segment:
[discussing the rent owed by Calloway to her NYC landlord]
TAKESH: So how are you going to handle this? Because your landlord is asking for $40,000 in back rent.
CALLOWAY: Okay MOMMM! [Calloway laughs, ignoring the question]
FOX: What does your mom think?
Calloway goes on to answer Fox’s question. Totally unaware that they just pulled a fast one on her– tricked her into tangentially discussing a topic she had previously outright denied to talk about. It’s scary the way they do it! It’s smooth and subtle. It’s one of those tricks that you can only see from the outside-in.
I sometimes imagine what I would be like as a guest on Forbidden Fruits. Part of me would want to fully submit myself to their tricks– to sacrifice my dignity and reputation in pursuit of making a good podcast episode. Because I know that Forbidden Fruits has an appeal similar to the Eric Andre Show– of unexpected vulnerability. Where the true entertainment comes from the guest not fully knowing what they’re getting themselves into. Once they’re aware of the show’s gimmick, part of the magic is lost.
But it would be hard to get over that fear! I know that these girls are not afraid to paint you in a humiliating light. A light that, while insightful and entertaining, can feel exposing and unpleasant.
God it reminds me of middle school.