You're Wrong About

Anastasia

June 01, 2020 You're Wrong About
You're Wrong About
Anastasia
Show Notes Transcript

“I’m being pulled into planet myth … and I like it here.”

Special guest Dana Schwartz tells Mike and Sarah how a short, brutal story became an enduring myth. Digressions include Titanic nostalgia, Princess Jasmine and Dr. Phil. A significant portion of the episode is dedicated to Rasputin, Russia’s greatest love machine. 

Find Dana at her website or listen to her podcast!

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Where else to find us:
Sarah's other show, Why Are Dads
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Sarah: Don Bluth and Roald Dahl, and creators like that, for whatever reason they really wanted to draw kids into these fantastic stories and then be like, “Listen kid. Between you and me, life is pain and sometimes the best you can hope for is living a short, happy life as a fucking mouse.”

Sarah: Welcome to You’re Wrong About, the show where we learn the somewhat disappointing truths behind the magical stories of our childhood. Does that make it sound fun? I intend to have fun. 

Mike: I am Michael Hobbes. I'm a reporter for The Huffington Post. 

Sarah: I am Sarah Marshall. I'm working on a book about the Satanic Panic.

Mike: We are on Patreon and PayPal and other places and other ways that you can support the show and you can not support the show in quarantine if you don't want to, which is fine.

Sarah: And today Dana Schwartz is back with us.

Mike: Triumphant return. 

Dana: Hi!

Sarah: We're so happy to have you back, Dana. 

Dana: I am so honored and so excited. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike: Yes. Dana, as well as being one of our returning guests, is also the host of a wonderful podcast called Noble Blood, which is about old royal family drama and it's extremely good. 

Dana: Well, thank you. I'm so excited to come back and talk about gruesome, gruesome deaths. 

Mike: Well, okay. So if I can preface this, today we are talking about something called Anastasia, which I literally know nothing. 

Sarah: This makes it sound like it's a super drug developed by MKUltr,a or something like that.

Mike: I have no information. I don't know if this takes place in the 1950s or the 1450s. 

Sarah: Fascinating.

Mike: I think there may have been a Disney movie. I'm coming in the freshest I've ever come into one of these episodes. So just to warn you. 

Sarah: This is so exciting. 

Dana: You've never seen the animated movie?

Mike: Nothing. I'm only vaguely aware of it. 

Sarah: I'm really excited to do this episode because you have no idea what you're talking about, and because I feel that little girls love Anastasia. Like, somehow for little girls Anastasia is like dinosaurs. Where it’s just like when you’re a little girl you're like, “Anastasia, I'm curious. I want to read books about it”

Dana: For a specific reason we're going to find out. There's a reason that it's sort of in that 80s/90s strike zone.

Sarah: Interesting. 

Mike: I mean, yeah, I do think boys have like, killer bees and quicksand and girls have Anastasia. 

Sarah: Yeah. I remember killer bees being offered to me as an interest and I was like, “Uh, I don’t– where’s the story?” Also, say that I was getting coffee right before we started recording and I told my mom what we're going to be recording and she was like, “Oh, Anastasia, that was a big childhood fixture”. And I was like, “Really? Cause I don't remember being super into that when I was a kid” and she was like, “Oh yes, I loved that Ingrid Bergman movie” and I was like, “Oh yes, your childhood.” So, this phenomenon also has some roots. 

Dana: There's an amazing writer, Rachel Sime, and I feel like she's tweeted a lot about ‘bow girls’, like girls that when they were in elementary school wore big bows and loved The Secret Garden and Samantha, the American Girl Doll. And I feel like liking Anastasia is also very much in that like milieu. 

Sarah: Yeah. And Samantha is such an appealing American Girl because she gives a speech against child labor at a factory that has just awarded her an essay prize. So, like, Samantha implied that you could have it both ways in a way that I think really shaped millennials. Like, you can organize against capitalist imperialism, and you can also have nice, soft, cute things. 

Mike: Where…  I don't even know where to begin with this. Where should we start? 

Sarah: Okay. Well what are your first questions? Like, what do you need? 

Dana: Can I do one tiny ‘You're Wrong About’ early on that everyone makes?

Mike: Please do.

Dana: This is so basic and so boring, but I feel like Michael we're starting from nowhere.

Mike: The scratchest scratch. Yes. 

Dana: The 1997 animated film is actually not a Disney movie. It was directed by Don Bluth who was like a former Disney animator that left in a huff and brought half of the animation team with him and it was a big to-do.

Mike: The Secret of NIimh guy, even I know that.

Dana: Yeah. But she's not technically a Disney princess. It’s the rates of Nimh guy. 

Mike: So is there, like, a myth that we want to debunk about Anastasia? Is there a cultural conception that little girls get?

Dana: Yeah. Sarah, why don't you actually start with just like the basic plot of the animated movie? 

Sarah: Okay. So I have not seen the whole animated movie because I was an insufferable child and I was like, “I am not watching this Anastasia thing. There is an animated bat in it that talks, this movie seems to be playing fast and loose with history. I don't want any part of it.” I was like nine. 

Dana: So I feel like we'll just art at the basic, totally fictional by the way, animated story, because I feel like that is where most of the lay people come to Anastasia, which is that after the Russian revolution, the Royal family, the Romanovs, are killed except mysteriously their youngest daughter, Anastasia, got away and no one knows what happens to her.

Sarah: I have goosebumps right now. 

Dana: Now, 20-some odd years later, the grandmother survived and she's in Paris. And she's offering a huge reward to anyone who can bring her granddaughter to her alive. And a young street con-man named Dimitri, he's like, “We'll just find an actress and have her play the part”. And they find this young, orphan girl named Anya, who is like, “Look, I just want to go to Paris. I don't know anything about this Anastasia chick.” But, of course, over the course of their education on the con, the memories come back to her and she really is Anastasia. But in the end, she decides that she would rather not reclaim the title of Anastasia because she wants to live a life with Dimitri because they fell in love. 

Mike: And then at the end, they're like, “What is your name?” And she's like, “Anya Skywalker” 

Dana: And the villain in the Anastasia movie is not the Bolsheviks who murdered Anastasia's family, but Rasputin, a dangerous wizard sorcerer. 

Mike: Who Sarah also wants to do an episode on, and who I have also never heard of.  Can I ask the dumbest of the dumbest of the dumbest questions I've ever asked on the show?

Sarah and Dana: Yes. 

Mike: Is Anastasia a real person or not? 

Dana: Yes, yes, absolutely. Do I get to dive into the history now? 

Sarah: Let's do it. Let's jump in.

Dana: So, real history. This is the beginning of the 20th century, early 1900s. It's, you know, post-World War I, just to sort of anchor us. This is a time when all of the great Royal families of Europe are basically all related. So just for context, the czar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his wife, Alexandra or Alicki, are both first cousins independently with George IV, the King of England.

Sarah: But imagine Europe being a family affair.

Dana: Like, for context, you know, World War I was between three cousins. I mean, it was Nicholas II, Kaiser Wilhelm, and George V, and they're all his cousins. 

Sarah: It’s the worst family feud ever. 

Dana: But the thing about Europe at the time was royal families are in decline among the popular people. First, World War I, you know, absolutely decimated the population and plunged people into poverty, you know, throughout. There was depression around the world. So like, people in gilded crowns are just far less appealing.

Sarah: Is it anything like how we feel about Instagram influencers right now? 

Dana: Yeah. Yes. Just, it doesn't work. It doesn't work when people are actually suffering.

Sarah: Or when people are suffering in such large numbers that it's like, “I don't think I can counterfactually believe that drinking this juice will allow me to live in a mansion.”

Dana: Yeah. So I feel like just for context, across Europe there's a general swell of anti-monarchist sentiment and in Russia, this is especially prominent because since 1905 Nicholas II has been known as the ‘Bloody Czar’, because there was an uprising of protestors that the coset guards basically just murdered horribly. 

Sarah: Wow. So this is like a very large scale kind of a Kent State moment.

Dana: Yeah. So there's that one protest that is an absolute disaster and then World War I happens, and that sets people against the monarchy. Especially Alexandra, the Tsarina, because she's a German princess.

Sarah: I'm seeing a theme in your guest episodes. 

Dana: Yeah. People love turning against foreign women. She is incredibly demonized from that point on. I mean, even when she arrived, she was demonized because she was German. She was very shy and wasn't very good at speaking Russian.

Mike: Understandable. 

Dana: So at big events, she would always want to retreat back to her room to read and so people thought she was a snob and even the Nobles really didn't like her.

Mike: No she’s just an introvert. She's in the kitchen at parties. 

Sarah: Aw, Mike.

Dana: And then to make it worse for her, she has a daughter. First of all, okay, that's a fuck up. Then she has another daughter. 

Sarah: Oh no. 

Dana: Then she has a third daughter. 

Mike: Strike three. 

Dana: Then she has a fourth daughter. 

Sarah: Wow. 

Dana: And then finally, four years after the last daughter, she has a son, Alexei, which was the biggest, I'm sure, relief of her entire life, that she finally had a son who could inherit the Russian throne, which was her only purpose.

Mike: No one had looked for a penis that hard since the cops responded to the Lorena Bobbitt call. Sorry, bad joke. Anyway… 

Dana: And then, horror of horrors, after trying desperately for a son that she needed so badly after all this time, Alexei is a hemophiliac, which was a known royal ailment. It was in the royal blood. Most of the women were carriers.

Mike: That's the one where your blood doesn't clot, right?

Dana: Yeah. So it means you're incredibly precious. You're like a human Fabergé egg. And so after all of this Alexandra is like, “Oh my God, my precious son and now he's even more precious.” So that makes her even more withdrawn and that's how Rasputin comes in. And Rasputin isn't super relevant to the storyline, but she was desperate for any cure or help for her precious son and so he was, you know, a wandering, religious mystic and so she falls into believing that he could help her son.

Sarah: I can see this all playing out in Instagram drama today. You know, it's just like a Silicon Valley family and there's a wandering guy who spouts mysticism, but actually has kind of a weird, unsavory past.

Dana: Yeah, like a creepy Yogi. 

Mike: I mean, there is a weird thing between rich people getting sucked into these weird pseudo-science, health and wellness worlds. This seems to happen among dictators a lot. It seems to happen among celebrities a lot. Goop is sort of the most high profile example of this, but the idea that your wealth insulates you from critical thought to the point where you start getting into these weird cures and this weird obsession with youth and keeping your own world clean. I mean, it seems like this cuts across societies in history.

Dana: And you know what? I also feel like there's a sense of powerlessness that comes with health and aging, where it's like your money and your power can protect you and provide so much for you, but it's like, all the money in the world wasn't going to keep Alexei from being hemophiliac. When you are someone who's accustomed to having all the power in the world, feeling helpless is a very bad sensation that you'll look for whatever answer you can, whether it's like jade eggs in your vagina or a creepy mystic who says that he can help your son. 

Sarah: It's a little bit like Oprah and Dr. Phil. She started working with him when she was sued because she said some stuff about mad cow disease and he joined her legal team in an official capacity and then she was like, “I like him. I'm putting him on TV once a week and he's going to tell teenagers what to do” and was powerful enough to be like, “I like this guy. I like his style.”

Dana: Yeah. I mean, Rasputin was very charismatic by all accounts. Although, in any photos of the family, he just looks like the creepiest ghost in the world. 

Sarah: Yeah. I'm going to look these pictures up. I'm very curious.

Dana: For other reasons that we'll get to later, like with the Anastasia myth, the Tsarina dressed them up in matching outfits most of the time. And so, I think probably because it's like, “Oh, I had all these daughters and then a son” she sort of thought of the daughters as one unit. 

Sarah: So he does look like a ghost. Mike, I'm going to send you this picture.

Mike: Look at his fucking eyes! Ah, haunted family! He looks badly photoshopped. His eyes have, like, the lids removed or something. He has, like, wide, super bright eyes.

Sarah: Yeah. So there's this lovely family of five girls and one boy and they're all wearing white, and the boy has a little sailor outfit and then there's just this Babadook standing in the middle and it’s just very creepy.

Mike: And his weird bowl cut. 

Sarah: He must've been really charismatic. 

Mike: Dude, I know. 

Dana: Well, that's what they say. They say people who really hated the Tsarina, which again, I feel like it's very Marie Antoinette, they're like, “He’s given you that charisma, isn't he?”

Mike: Is one of these girls Anastasia?

Dana: Indeed. One of the girls is! The smallest one.

Mike: Is she making, like, the cringe emoji face or is that just the low resolution?

Dana: She sort of is, but I think it's low resolution.

Mike: Okay.

Sarah: It's hard to smile when Rasputin is there.

Dana: The thing that would happen with Rasputin is like, Alexei would have a hemorrhage and Alexandra would be like, “Please Rasputin, pray on him” and then he would pray, and it wouldn't work, but she'd be like, “Oh, thank goodness you prayed. He didn't die.” 

Sarah: Okay. So he's doing faith healing and she's got this confirmation bias. 

Dana: Yeah. And the thing is Rasputin actually dies – he's murdered – a year before our story with Anastasia really begins. He's murdered by a group of sort of right wing political nobles who think that this creepy mystic has too much influence, maybe rightly, over the Tsarina.

Mike: I thought it was going to be someone from the Better Business Bureau, but okay. 

Sarah: But he's a casualty of this cultural tide that's turning, it seems like, and the attempts to push it back that are going to be futile ultimately. 

Dana: Yes. And what sort of turns Rasputin into sort of a famous figure, other than the fact that he looks like a creepy Victorian ghost, they try to poison him, and it doesn't work and then they have to shoot him three times at close range. And so it's like, “Oh my God, he can't die.” 

Mike: So yeah, maybe he was onto something with all this health stuff. 

Sarah: Yeah, he ate so much wheat germ that he was impervious to bullets. 

Dana: Well, this is also the myth-busting is that there's some museum that says they claim they have Rasputin’s love machine, if you know what I mean, and that it's very, very large. 

Sarah: Well, and again, I feel like that's simplistic. It's like, do we really think that Rasputin was able to do everything he did just because he had a large penis. Because a lot of people have large penises, and they don't infiltrate royal families all the time.

Dana: Completely correct. And I'm also pretty sure that they DNA tested the museum where they said they had, like, this foot-long penis and it was actually, like, a sea cucumber. 

Mike: It's not even a penis, much less his penis. That's pretty great.

Sarah: Yeah. It seems implausible to me that the people who murdered Rasputin with what seems to be significant effort would then be like, “Let's cut off his penis and carefully preserve it”.

Dana: Also by all accounts, I mean, this is now so boring, but by all accounts, his genitalia was intact when they, you know, there's no firsthand account of them being like, “And then we cut off his penis.”

Sarah: Right. It's important to give a detailed debunking of these myths. It's the little things that really cling.

Mike: This is becoming a CBS procedural where Dana Schwartz investigates the genitalia of historical figures.

Sarah: I would love it. You call it Crown Jewels.

Dana: Oh my god. Green light this immediately. 

Mike: But yes, it's reductive because maybe he was a great lover not because of his genitalia, but just because he, like, listened to women and asked them about their day. 

Sarah: Or maybe he was just a very charismatic con-man who wasn't having sex with anyone and still was able to exert great influence over them. 

Dana: You know, I have no proof obviously, but by all evidence, my understanding is that he was just a charismatic charlatan that Alexandra had never slept with, but just wanted and trusted and wanted to heal her son.

Sarah: I feel like it's classic German princess propaganda to allege that she's having an affair with any male who enters the castle. We've heard this story quite recently. 

Dana: Of course, the slutty German princesses.

Mike: But none of this is sounding very Disney movie so far.

Sarah: I love Don Bluth. He's like, “Let's do a kid's movie. It'll be about climate change and dinosaur parents dying and immigration and this old Russian wizard, who's Christopher Lloyd, and he pulls his head off. Kids will love that.” And kids were like, “We do, we do love that!”

Dana: I feel like the reason that we have to talk about Rasputin in the Anastasia episode is twofold. One, because he is a major figure in the animated movie, even though that isn't relevant, really.

Mike: Okay.

Dana: He's only sort of relevant to this part of the story in that he really turned public tide against Alexandra and the Royal family. 

Sarah: Well and also, I think there's this interesting twinning of Rasputin and Anastasia where like, these are the two figures who from this Royal family and from this period of Russian history have become household names in the United States, which is very weird and you're like, why these two people, these two very different people? Like, what are the dynamics at play here that have turned them into mythic versions of themselves and kept them relevant? 

Mike: Oh, that's a good little segue.

Sarah: Thanks.

Mike: I’ve been planning that for minutes.

Dana: Let's talk about the real Anastasia, who is a real person.

Mike: Who was not a name in my household, so I'm excited for this. 

Dana: So like I said, Alix of Hesse married the future Tsar Nicholas II 

Mike: So yeah, she moves there. She has four daughters.

Dana: Has four daughters. Olga, the sensitive one, the oldest. Tatiana, who's considered the most beautiful one. It's like a boy band. Maria, who's sort of like, I sort of always read as, like, she’s sort of the Kitty in Pride and Prejudice. She's always sort of dominated by her little sister and her little sister is Anastasia or as I feel like we've come to be known, Anastasia. I'm saying Anastasia because some, like, real, history people might get mad and be like it’s Anastasia. Anastasia was the youngest and she was really the most playful and mischievous one. She was the one who, like, stuck her tongue out at people behind their backs and pulled pranks and tried to escape and she was like the life of the palace. So, that's also why people love her and, I think, sort of gravitated towards her as a character. She’s sort of this fun figure, you know, and her older sister, Maria, sort of fell into lockstep and the two of them as a pair were always causing mischief around the palace.

I mentioned earlier that Alexandra, their mother, sort of viewed the four of them as one unit. I feel like part of the reason the Anastasia mythos still persists in popular culture so much is, you know, it's sort of the beautiful dead girl phenomenon where all the photos we have of these four girls, these four princesses, who, you know, spoiler alert, died really tragically in their youth, they're always in, like, beautiful, matching, white dresses, like, really virginal. They have really great, shiny, thick, long hair. There’s sort of like a childishness about even how they're dressed, like, you know, boat hats or sashes, you know, like, Victorian. And it's these four princesses, grand duchesses is, I mean, the more literal translation, but there are all these sweet stories about how they always wanted to  interact with people or would escape, you know, to try to go to a shop and realize they didn't know how to buy things at a shop.

Sarah: Also it's like Princess Jasmine, where you're just like, you do not know how the real world works, but you're curious. 

Dana: Exactly! They have no idea. They would sometimes, you know, there's little stories of them, like, you know, flirting with the men on ships, you know, if they're on a ship somewhere.

And then during world war one, the older two, Olga and Tatiana, volunteered for the Red Cross and, like, they charmed all the soldiers and all the officers and like, it's that sweet story that we have of, like, the good old days. It's definitely when people tell the tragic story of Anastasia, I feel like it does romanticize the monarchy in a way that little girls do. You know, when they dream of being a princess or a grand duchess, you're not imagining being married off to your second cousin when you're fourteen, you're imagining grand balls in the palace and flirting with the handsome officers.

Mike: You're taking it out of all the political and historical context that makes it kind of like, ew.

Sarah: It's very interesting that, at least in the United States, it's very normal for little girls to have, you know, princess dresses and princess parties and, and just like “princess” is kind of this almost generic term expressing fancy and special. And like, we don't do that with “prince,” I think because we recognize that that's a functional role that's preparing you for something and the word princess doesn't signify, you know, that you're being prepared for anything taxing, which you are, of course, because in reality you would have to be married off to somebody 

Dana: Yeah, and manage a household, manage a court.

Sarah: Yeah. And like, maybe be killed by a revolution or something. Right? Like, if history goes in a positive direction it's going to be bad for you which is a weird position to be in. So like, it's interesting. It's really interesting that it is this classic little girl thing to be like, “Yeah. A princess, I'm a princess.” And it's like, what an incredibly stressful job.

Dana: And I think that wealth and beauty are always just two fundamentally appealing things. Also, like, they're in elegant clothing. It's like the trappings of their lifestyle are incredibly appealing. Okay. So I'm going to send you a photo. First of the girls when they were little.

Mike: Oh, they look great. 

Dana: Yeah. The girls have this really great hair. 

Sarah: Yes. 

Mike: Look at that hair. Wow. It's like drag wigs. It's huge.

Dana: Yeah. It's very voluminous and shiny and long and then they're always in these white dresses.

Mike: So I guess then Anastasia would be the second from the right. She's extremely pretty. Wow.

Sarah: They all are. I love how there are these families where they're like, “This one's the pretty one” and you're like, who decided that?

Dana: Yeah. Here's a photo of them a little older and you'll see the one that is “the pretty one” is Tatiana, who's seated. 

Mike: Yeah. She looks amazing. The short hair is dope.

Dana: Yeah. She looks great. So I think that that's also why their mythology is so pervasive culturally. 

Mike: The clothes are incredible though cause they're so ornate. They look like doilies or really ornate napkins that you would get at a really fancy party. They're all white and they're draped and like lacey and layered.

Dana: They're wearing pearls, head coronets. 

Sarah: This is reminding me that when Titanic came out in the nineties, it sparked this wave of sort of like nostalgic teen fashions that were sort of inspired by gilded age and World War I era clothing and looking at this I'm like, yeah. We've got these high waists. There don't appear to be corsets, just these comfortable, breathable, drapey, summery, dresses.

Dana: Yeah.

Mike: Yeah. It looks fabulous. 

Dana: But this photograph is closer to the age where our story, you know, really dives headfirst the Russian Revolution, which I feel like could be its own multi-part episode series.

But I mean, what happens, obviously, is the monarchy is abolished and it begins with the family being imprisoned in Alexander Palace, you know, where they were living. 

Mike: Okay. 

Dana: There's this wave of anti-monarchist sentiment and so people are like, “Yeah. Power to the people” You know? “Throw down the monarchy.”

The family is sort of isolated and imprisoned and the idea is what everyone sort of understands is “Okay, you know what? The Czar is probably going to go on trial. The Czar is probably going to be executed. Probably Alexander's going to be executed, not great, but that's just maybe how it's going to go and oh my God, wouldn't it be a tragedy if also they have to kill Alexei, the heir? That would be a tragedy, but like, oh God, that's the worst case scenario.”

Sarah: Which reminds me of when we talked about Marie Antoinette. I mean, I'm sure this was discussed at some point by someone, but in history, as we know it, the revolutionaries apparently were like, “And their children are fine, and we'll re-educate them and teach them to denounce their parents and we'll abuse them and stuff. But like, we're not going to kill them.”

Dana: Yeah. They're not going to publicly execute the children.

Sarah: That looks bad. 

Dana: And also remember these are a royal family with a million connections to every other European power. So it's not like these are random nobles. These are the cousins of the King of England. You would not want to just murder these daughters.

Sarah: I mean, World War I started over much less. 

Mike: Yeah. And how old is Anastasia at this point? 

Dana: The oldest Olga is about twenty-one. Tatiana is twenty. Maria is eighteen. Anastasia is sixteen and Alexei is twelve. But because the royal family is such a vulnerability to the rebels, they need to move them out of the centralized palace because they're just a valuable resource to have or not have in the country. And so they moved them far east to Siberia, to Tobolsk and the idea is that they're just sort of kept there. It's an incredibly isolated region where you have to get to on boats and when it freezes over, you can't even get there. So it's like, great. We'll just keep them isolated. You know, the Bolsheviks are fighting against other forces for control of Russia, and they just want to sort of keep the Romanovs off the board.

Mike: It's like the post-revolution free for all that happens after most revolutions where it's like, well, what happens next? 

Dana: Yes. And for context, back when they were at Alexander palace, this was when ministers of the provisional government started writing to George the Fifth in England being like, “Hey, can you take the Romanovs in England? Can you just do that? Can you take them away? We don't want them here.” The extremists wanted, you know, to kill Alexander immediately and have him stand trial, but also there was a faction that's like, “Just get them out as quick as possible so we don't have to deal with them.”

Sarah: Is there a fear that like they remain these charismatic megafauna?

Dana: 100%. That's the biggest fear where it's like, “We just want them to get out and shut up because they can bolster power and sympathy.”

Sarah: It's like breaking up with someone and then having to stay living with them. You're like, I don't trust myself. Not to just start having sex with you again, like your place in my life was real for so long. How do I trust you to not just slide back into it? 

Dana: Yeah. So that's sort of what's going on. Even the provisional government, there's not a clear consensus of what to do with them. Okay. I'm going to do a double myth bust. There's sort of a fun fact, I feel like, about European history when people are like, “George V could have saved the Romanovs, but he didn’t.” I just want you to know, like, this is where in that story, that tidbit will come in.

Mike: Ooh, okay.

Dana: So the White Army, sort of the anti-Bolsheviks, are moving in and they decide that they're going to move the Romanovs to an even more isolated, more distant place. 

Sarah: Give me a little nutshell explanation because I am someone whose understanding of the Russian revolution, like, really, primarily is Animal Farm. So, are the Bolsheviks, like, the classic revolutionaries?

Dana: Yes. They become the communist party.

Mike: They’re Lenin’s whole gig. 

Dana: Yes, exactly. 

Sarah: Okay. And Lennon is Snowball, right?

Dana: And then the White Army was sort of the anti-Bolsheviks, who weren't necessarily monarchists. They were trying to fill in that power vacuum in terms of, like, law-and-order.

Sarah: So they're like, let's not have a monarchy, but like, let's not be communists either. 

Dana: Yes. So the Bolsheviks, for their revolution that happened, they don't want the White Army to get the Romanovs just for multiple reasons. I mean, one, they could use them to bolster power. They could sort of use them as puppets. 

Sarah: Right. 

Dana: Or they could use them to negotiate with other European powers for support because, you know, as far as other European powers are concerned, they haven't recognized this communist government as an official government yet. So, the Romanovs are moved even further away to a house in a place called Ekaterinburg and the house is given the name, and this is so ominous and creepy, the House of Special Purposes. 

Mike: Oh god. They should have named it like a rehab facility and just been like, Whispering Willows or something that just sounds blandly nice. 

Dana: So this is really when, I mean, they're imprisoned for sixteen months total between all of these moving houses.

So this is, you know, over a year of being under heavy guard. The windows first are covered with newspaper and then whitewashed and drawn. So there's no air coming in or out. They have a tiny, like, one ventilation area, but they're not allowed to look out the window. And because, the whole idea is like, no one can know you're here. They don't want anyone to know that this is where the Romanovs are, but the effect is incredibly isolating and scary. 

Mike: How did we manage to pick a story that involves people being trapped inside for long periods of time?

Sarah: I picked it. It’s because this is the moment. Strike when the empathy is hot!

Dana: So throughout all of this, the girls have been told by their, I'm sure their mother or just whatever officials were around, to sew all of their jewels and private belongings in the hems of their dresses and in their pillowcases. So they have jewels hidden among their person.

Mike: Drug dealer vibes. 

Dana: But it's incredibly restrictive and scary. They're not allowed to look out the window on pain of being shot. If they need to use the bathroom, to leave their room they have to ring a bell and they get, you know, isolated time in the garden for half an hour, twice a day, you know, morning and afternoon. And they're just, they're in prison, but the girls are writing in diaries. So we know firsthand that they're reading to their mother. Their mom, I mean, Alexandra has a complete nervous breakdown. 

Sarah: Can't imagine why. Right? 

Dana: Yeah. You know, not leaving her chair. One of the daughters would read to her during the day while the others are sort of out playing and really what keeps them together is sort of the sense of family. Like, the girls were always extremely close. Nicholas is very close to them. I mean, the thing about Nicholas is he was a very good father and a very bad czar. 

 Sarah: Yeah. Can we talk about him just a little bit? Like, what are maybe some of his more egregious Czar choices and what are some of his good father choices? 

Dana: I mean, I think that The Bloody Sunday was the big one, but I mean, as a father, he doted on his kids and played with them and gave them nicknames and, like, was a cute dad, but like, hey, being a cute dad doesn't qualify you to be a good leader and that's the problem with monarchy that I feel like I keep coming back to through Nobel Blood as the sort of the theme of the podcast is like why I find it so darkly funny is like, yeah, having a monarchy means you're choosing a leader almost based on random where at least in a democracy, it's not necessarily the smartest, but you have to have some quality, whether it's like, you know, you're captivating, you're charismatic. Like, you're good at winning elections, even.

Mike: Right. There's also mechanisms of accountability where if you suck, you get replaced. One of the biggest problems of monarchies is no matter how bad someone is, the only way to replace a king is through this like massive upheaval process where you're basically having a revolution, essentially. There's no other way of saying, like, every 10 years or whatever… 

Sarah: And we’re going to have to tear out the entire system of governance to that point to get someone who's not their kid or their cousin.

Dana: Yeah. Or just really hope that their kid is less shitty. 

Mike: Yeah. 

Dana: So this is when the story gets sad. 

Mike: Ooh. We're getting to the dark part. Okay. 

Dana: Yeah. So the Romanovs sort of, because they had already been moved twice, they sort of had the assumption that they were probably going to be moved again to another secret location or a more distant location at some point as the white anti-Bolshevik’s were closed in. The night of July 16th, the morning of July 17th, 1918, they're woken up in the middle of the night. It's implied that they're moving to another place because the White Army is closing in. So, all the girls and everyone, they could get dressed and they pack all their jewels into their pillowcases and dresses and the guards even are sort of like, yeah, move, move, move.

They're, like, angry that they're taking too long to get ready. They're brought across the courtyard into, like, an underground basement, I think, with the implication that it's going to be like, “Okay, well, the army is coming. We just want you out of the way.” And then the leader of the guards – it was a man named Yakov Yurovsky who is leading this thing by now – reads a statement saying that the new Russian government has sentenced the czar to death and Nicholas is so genuinely taken aback. Like, this was literally just the last thing they expected to happen, that he asks them to read it again. He's like…  it was literally like a double-take moment. He's like, “What?!” They thought they were just being moved to a new place and at that moment, after he asked them to be read again, a group of soldiers come out of the adjoining room and just massacre the family. 

Mike: Oh, the whole family?

Dana: The entire family. And what's really scary and tragic is, you know, the night before each of the guards had been assigned to kill one person, to shoot one person and then a group of the guards were like, “We don't want to kill the girls. They haven't done anything wrong. We've been, you know, living with them for the past year. They seem like fine, nice people.” And so a handful of guards refused to kill the daughters and then they were just replaced and another few guards were brought in to do that part, but even worse, in this dim basement, when push came to shove everyone wanted to be – they were all such loyal Bolsheviks – they all wanted to be the one who killed the czar or Alexandra, who they hated. And so, they all shot at Nicholas, which, ironically, meant that he died the fastest and easiest, where the girls weren't shot. This is so gross and so horrible but at close range, these Russian military issue guns were far less effective than you might think and somehow at close range with, like, smoke and screaming and chaos and everyone's running, they completely miss some of the rest of the family or, you know, graze them or don't land killing shots. So, it ends with the girls, like, cowering in corners and then they're bayoneted to death. 

Sarah: Oh God. Oh my God.

Mike: Yeah, that sucks. 

Dana: It’s really just impossible to describe. If you imagine just being shoved into this basement in the middle of the night, being surprised with a death sentence, and then seeing half your family shot, bullets flying, smoke, screaming, blood, brains on the floor, and then being bayoneted, I don't know how much of these details are true, but they, you know, had jewels in their clothes and pillowcases that, you know, blocked some of the killing bullets. 

Mike: So far this sounds like a perfect candidate for an animated children's film. 

Sarah: So to be clear, a bayonet is like a stabbing stick, basically at the end of a rifle, right? 

Mike: Yeah. It isn't terribly long either. Isn't it only, like, three to six inches long? So it would just be like getting stabbed to death, like, a million times by a little tiny knife.

Dana: Yeah. It is, I think, one of the scariest deaths I can imagine is being in a basement, watching your parents shot, and then being stabbed to death in a corner. 

Mike: Maybe we're not ready for this yet and there's more you want to say about this but what's interesting to me is that, like, the Anastasia story doesn't actually sound like all that great of a story. It's basically, it's like, she's born and then she's rich, and then she goes into quarantine and then she dies. 

Dana: Yeah. She's a teenager who's murdered. 

Sarah: It's a classic dead-white-girl story though where the point of the life is the lack of a life.

Mike: I guess because it's interesting to me, just like, of all of the, you know, princesses and all of the rich people and all of the whatever throughout history that it's like, this is the one that has become this larger cultural shibboleth, especially for girls. 

Sarah: Okay. Like I want to live, Mike, in the logical world that you would have us live in where there's a Don Bluth movie about Eleanor of Aquitaine. 

Dana: Although, you know, Michael, I mean, there is an actual historical reason. I feel like the reason that Anastasia kept on as a myth, and it's sort of several reasons in a row, because the story that I told you about, you know, the family being shepherded to the basement in Siberia and being executed, people didn't know that. That happens very secretly. So what happens is in the rest of Europe, no one knows where the Romanovs are or what has happened to them. 

Mike: Okay. So it becomes a mystery that then people can fill in with whatever weird speculation they have and that gives rise to all these stories. 

Dana: And it becomes a mystery on purpose because the Bolsheviks are pretty…  they're like, “I mean, this doesn't look good. We did what we thought we had to do, but we know that it's bad.” So they say they killed Nicholas the Second. They say that Alexandra and Alexei, the son, are, you know, off somewhere and they say that they put the girls on a train and they lost touch with them. 

Sarah: That's so vague.

Mike: It's like a fanfic premise. Like, you can imagine all the stories people can start writing about this immediately. 

Dana: Right. So what happened is, you know, the revolution continues. The Bolsheviks, I mean, really wanted the rest of Europe to think that they didn't murder a bunch of teenage girls because that doesn't look good.

Mike: Doesn't look great. 

Dana: And what's really tragic is sort of that summer where the Bolsheviks are saying that they're still alive, European powers are kind of trying to galvanize to rescue them, to say, “Well, get them out” and they're negotiating with the Bolsheviks.

Sarah: God, how awkward to be a Bolshevik in those negotiations. There’s just like dark, dark comedy in that to me where, imagine being Anton, the Bolshevik and you’re like, “Yeah, we'll be able to get them to you by mid-July. Oh God.”

Mike: So does this indicate to you that this was kind of a strategic error for them to kill the kids? Because they were actually a useful bargaining chip.

Dana: Yeah. Like, I imagine if I were the leader of the Bolsheviks, I would have sent the daughters to England and like, I don't think they would have caused a big fuss. 

Mike: Yeah. 

Sarah: Well, building off of our Marie Antoinette episode, I mean, when you think about having royals to execute what I think about is like, you know, okay, so you want to run a revolution and you don't want to position yourself as the villain and you're pretty clearly the villain if you murder a bunch of children in a basement by stabbing them to death and it seems like, you know, the kind of public execution that we saw of Marie Antoinette is useful to bring into the public sphere because people really hate her. She's a very visible symbol of the monarchy.

Dana: No one, I mean, no one hated the four grand duchesses.

Sarah: Right. There's no potential political value in their deaths, but it feels like a miscalculation because it's like, what they did is not useful to their position at all and can only, kind of, affect people neutrally to negatively in terms of how they view the Bolsheviks.

Mike: Yeah. 

Dana: I feel like it was a panic decision because, like, the White Army, they were closing in on Ekaterinburg. You need to kill them so they can't get them. 

Sarah: So it was like a Jonestown decision. They were like, “Enemy forces are closing in and if they take my hostages as their hostages, then I will have no hostages.”

Dana: Yeah, then you lose power. I mean, it's just a tragedy all around, but what happens next is an incredibly bungled burial. You know, they strip the bodies and mutilate them, and they molest the Tsarina. 

Sarah: Oh God. 

Dana: Yeah. You know, they bring them on a truck to a forest, you know, try to dump them down a mineshaft. The mineshaft is too shallow, so they tried to deepen it with hand grenades. It doesn't work.

Mike: Oh my god. 

Sarah: I'm picturing, like, teenagers. This seems like teenagers doing this.

Dana: It’s so bungled. Then they pulled the bodies back onto a truck. They're trying to go to a deeper mineshaft somewhere, but they get caught in the mud, the truck, and they're like, “Fuck it. We'll do it live” and try to, and then just bury them there where the truck was caught in the mud.

Sarah: Just in this muddy, make a little muddy hole. 

Dana: And so here's the second part of the Anastasia mythology. They decide to bury some of the bodies separately so that if the White Army finds them, they're more confused by the body count. So they tried to disfigure the faces with rifle butts and cover them in like quick lime and sulfuric acid and bury them and then they bury one of the daughters and Alexei fifty feet away. You know, they burned them first in a bonfire and this is like the bones left.

Mike: God, this is like the anti-Dexter. It's like all this like serial killer bullshit, but it's just like they're doing it frantically and haphazardly.

Dana: Middle of the night, frantically, sun is coming up. “We got to do this now.” So they really, really bungle this burial.

Sarah: It's weird. It's this very weird combination of like, the brutality being so much worse because the assassins don't know what they're doing. 

Mike: Yeah, it’s bad project management, like everything else. 

Dana: All of these are factors that then feed into this general sense of confusion, which then is purposefully bolstered by the Soviet leadership for, like, the next eight years where they're like, “Oh, all the daughters were killed by left-wing extremists or maybe not. Maybe they got away. Or maybe accidentally murdered.”

Sarah: “I just got a postcard from Olga and she’s on the beach in Ukraine.” 

Dana: They finally acknowledged the murders in 1926, eight, nine years later. But, I mean, everyone sort of knew they were dead because these girls on the train haven't appeared.

Mike: I feel like I finally get why this is such an appealing story, because the idea of, like, a bunch of princesses that are in hiding and they're like dope and pretty and they're like running around Europe

Sarah: It's like a cross between Little Women and Gone Girl. 

Dana: And they're mischievous and fun.

Mike: Yeah! That’s a good movie, like princesses on the run and they're, like, kind of sheltered and, like, they don't know how the world works, but they have to make it and they get allies and stuff like that.

Dana: You got it now! It's a great show. 

Mike: I get it. 

Dana: So these deaths aren't formally announced until 1926 by the Soviets, but even then, people are like, “Maybe that's a cover-up of something else.” Like, no one really knows for sure what happened until after the fall of communism. 

Mike: So there's eight years where people can just make up whatever wild story they want. 

Dana: And even then, like the bodies aren't exhumed until 1991. 

Mike: Oh, wow. Okay.

Sarah: I'm suddenly seeing why this was a nineties phenomenon.

Dana: There we go. So for eight years, everyone kind of knows they're dead, but they could be elsewhere. And then even after that, it's like, but the Soviets lie all the time. Maybe they just say they're all dead, but you know, if one got away, they wouldn't say that. 

Mike: Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. Cause they might've bungled the executions, the princesses escaped, but they're saying that they killed them all. 

Dana: Right. Or maybe one escaped.

Sarah: And like, they did bungle the execution so that you would only have to believe that they bungled them more than they did.

Dana: Yeah. I mean, if you are a slight conspiracy or hopeful-minded person or romantic person, you're like, “Look, we don't know what happened to these princesses.”

Sarah: Like little girls are. 

Dana: Yeah. Little girls aren't going to be like, “No, they were probably murdered in a basement in Siberia. Strategically, they weren't going to let them out.”

Mike: But you can just imagine that if this were the modern day, there would be, like, long Reddit posts with all of the evidence that they're still alive and, like, photos of people.

Sarah: Yeah, and they would find some girl on Facebook. 

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. 

Sarah: Some girl who lives in like, Yorkshire and be like, “They have the same nose to lip ratio.

Dana: Yeah. So that is exactly then what happens. I mean, that's why, I feel like the fixation on the Romanovs becomes such an exciting conspiracy because it's a plausible and romantic conspiracy. 

Mike: Which is such a better story.

Sarah: It's, like, the perfect amount of information. It's, like, the porridge that Goldilocks ate, right? Cause it's enough to be intriguingly specific and give you a lot of mental images, but then vague enough that almost whatever you want could have happened. 

Mike: Yeah. 

Dana: And then isn't there something about, like, the best lie is one that you want to believe? Don't you want to believe that one of the girls got away or all of them, you know? 

Sarah: Yeah. As a child, I remember very fervently wanting that. 

Mike: Is this the version of the story that you guys heard as kids?

Sarah: So I will tell you my very vivid memory of a piece of Anastasia media, which I think was like a PBS or a History Channel type thing and I remember it had, I believe, a picture of Anastasia doing a fake levitation thing because she was interested in, like, magic and illusions and stuff.

Mike: Okay. 

Sarah: And the narrator of this was like, “But did Anastasia perform the ultimate trick and disappear?” And it was like, you know, a very cheesy, hour long, TV thing where, like, at the end, they're going to be like, “Well, probably not, but we're not sure, but yeah, we are.” I remember as a kid being really torn between, like, the documentary knowledge that like, no, she didn't make it. It's like you're in space between two planets and one is planet fact, and one is planet myth and you're like, it's interesting that planet fact is bigger and yet its gravitational pull is weaker and I’m being pulled into planet myth and I like it here. 

Dana: Yeah. I mean, that's really it. I feel like my childhood understanding is that I watched the animated movie and loved it and was obsessed with it, but also in the back of my mind as the little shit I was… 

Sarah: The little history podcast maker.

Dana: Yeah. I was like, yeah. But we all know she actually died.

Mike: Right. It was bayonets.

Sarah: But also, as a little kid, this is a powerful thing and when you find out a fact, you recognize the power of that also. So maybe for a child of the nineties specifically, you're like, “I know what the truth is or the truth is available to me and yet there's this whole cultural structure that has been being built on for decades that is about the myth and I also like the myth”

Dana: But Michael, as you so cogently pointed out, like then for eight, nine years, it is a free for all of speculation. You know, the most famous imposter, which then led to a court case, was in 1920 in Berlin and it was, you know, a woman named Anna Anderson who is revealed to be a woman actually named Franziska Schanzkowska. She's a Polish factory worker with a history of mental illness. She is in a suicide attempt. She jumps off a bridge and, you know, she survives. Then all the people around her are like, “Oh, but she's actually Anastasia” and it becomes a court case because some Russian emigre in Germany is like, “Ah, I recognize her. She is Anastasia” And then, but everyone else is like, “No, she's not.” And then, you know, at some point she's like, “Yes, I am.” and it becomes a court case which is dismissed because she has no proof that she is Anastasia and then DNA evidence has revealed conclusively that she is not. 

Sarah: DNA evidence just ruined everything, right? 

Mike: What a bummer. 

Sarah: I think nothing came of this, but there was something about like, “We might be able to DNA test something to find out who Jack the Ripper was” and I'm like, I don't want to know that. The truth is going to be so disappointing too. It's just going to be some guy who no one has heard of and who there's very little historical record of, I'm sure, and then we'll be like, “Yup. Just a guy who wanted to cut up women. Kind of a dime a dozen.” 

Dana: So the DNA evidence, I mean, this is sort of weird and ironic. They get DNA from Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth's consort because he's also a grandchild of Victoria and, like, also is German. Like, his lineage is actually very close to the Romanovs. It's sort of funny that that world of royalty sort of still exists in the weird way. 

Mike: Prick a random royal. Yeah. 

Dana: So those sort of stories captivate throughout the 1920s, because, you know, after the fall of the monarchy, you sort of are like, “Ah, but wouldn't it be wonderful, a hidden jewel,” You know, like I think they sort of romanticize it a little bit. So I think that glamor and nostalgia feeds into it. The burial site is discovered in 1979 by an amateur, but he keeps it a secret until the fall of communism. 

Mike: Interesting. 

Sarah: Who is this person? What's his deal?

Dana: It's a geologist named Alexander Avdonin who, you know, hears the rumors about the grave site and goes and finds it. So he was just so scared about the Soviet government getting mad at him because you were forbidden to talk about the Romanovs that he just re-buries the bodies and doesn't do anything until the Soviet government, you know, starts to sort of loosen it stance and finally after the Soviet Union collapses in 1991, they find the bones and they do some DNA testing and they realized that it is, in fact, the Romanovs.

But, if you remember, they separated Alexei and one of the girls. So even in 1991, two of the bodies, they don't find. Everyone else is accounted for. So, I feel like, then that's in the news, but then there's sort of a reemergence of the myth that one of the daughters got away and who but the most beautiful, mysterious, youngest daughter, Anastasia, even though the memoirs of like Eucovski and all the guards are all like, “No, none of the girls got away. We just buried two of the bodies separately.” You know, intellectually everyone can think that, but again, you want to believe what you want to believe and then in 2007, that's when they actually found the other two bodies and, you know, confirm that the sulfuric acid and nails, it was Alexei and one of the two daughters, whether it was Maria or Anastasia, I think like most contemporary, I don't know what they base it on, but I think they think it might've actually been Maria who was separated.

Mike: So there's no, like, scrap of fantasy left. Like, every single thing in the official account is confirmed. 

Dana: No. Everybody is accounted for. They found all the bodies.

Mike: Shit.

Dana: But, you know what I mean? Every scrap of fantasy wasn't confirmed until 2007. 

Mike: So 90 years, basically. 

Sarah: And it took so long, and it fell apart so slowly.

Dana: And the Soviets, I mean, were even if I missed for subterfuge and information, we're like, “Yeah, it is a possibility that they were lying or doing a cover-up that something else happened”

Mike: But did they find the DNA of the talking bat? 

Dana: Still at large!

Mike: Oh no. What happened?

Sarah: I think Rasputin survived because he's attune. That’s my theory. 

Dana: The tiny, like myth of the myth, that I want to dispute is the myth that George the Fifth could have saved them and didn't. And I really, I go into this– I have a Noble Blood episode all about the relationship between George and Nicholas the Second, because they were cousins who looked basically like they were twins. They have identical beards and mustaches and looked a lot alike and there's a weird cultural fixation on how close the two of them were. 

Mike: I've seen porn based on that. Yes. 

Sarah: What? Really? 

Mike: No.

Sarah: I believe you though. I mean, I bet. I mean, if there isn't any, I bet there will be in a few months. 

Dana: Basically, it’s like, yes, the provisional government, you know, the year before they were actually executed and moved out to Siberia, we're like, “Hey England, can you take the royal family?” And George was like. “Uhh, do we have to?” and his minister was like, “No. Do not, you know, your crown is hanging by a thread. You are incredibly unpopular. The Czar is incredibly unpopular. Most of England, which is, you know, having a massive socialist movement was on the side of the revolutionaries and everyone knows that you are very close with this Russian czar, where, if you bring him here and are very cozy, that's going to make you look really bad.” And again, at this time, no one knows the extent of a gruesome murder. This is too early. No one in their wildest fantasies would pitch that the girls are going to be bayoneted to death. But, like, the excuses that his minister makes are so easily that it's a little funny in retrospect. They're like, “Oh, where would we keep them?”

Sarah: “We're famously short on real estate as the royal family.” 

Dana: The ambassador’s like, “One of your palaces. What about Balmoral in Scotland?” And the minister is like, “No, no, that's a summer palace. We’re in winter. You wouldn't want to keep them in a summer palace” when it’s like, they're about to go to motherfucking Siberia.

Sarah: But they can't put them in a summer palace. It would be like sleeping on a throw pillow. It's just not done.

Dana: But again, like, this is still when it was a very political decision. It wasn't like a rescue, rescue operation.

Sarah: It's very interesting that people seem to have such faith in the idea of like, “Yes, I'm sure they're going to probably execute Czar Nicholas and his wife. That makes sense. But like, they wouldn't kill kids. The kids are blameless.” It's interesting. Right? It's like a gentleman's code.

Dana: I think that feeds into the nostalgia of Anastasia. It's like, ”Aah, a better time before chaos” when it's like, no, I mean, it was just as chaotic, right? 

Sarah: And it's like, well, not a better time, but maybe a more predictable one. 

Dana: Yes. Exactly. Not a better time. Just one where the evils were understood by a certain social order.

Mike: Right. Cause, because that accepts the myth of kings as like benign rulers.

Sarah: Right. Because I feel like the logic there is like, why would you kill the blameless children of people in power if there is blameless collateral? And it's like, well, people in power kill blameless collateral all the time. 

Mike: Exactly.

Sarah: It’s one of their main functions. So like, of course that happened. 

Mike: Right.

Sarah: You can spin it as, like, a loss of a gentler age and it’s like, in a way, but also the loss of a world where people could plausibly be like, “But why would anyone have that kind of enmity toward the blameless family of the czar?” And it's like, well… 

Dana: And then also to myth bust, it's like, even if King George was like, “Yes, we're taking them out. We're taking them to safety. My reputation be damned.” I mean, it was winter at this time, you know, the port might've been frozen. Like, it is very difficult to get a ship from England into the ports of Russia in winter through a bunch of Bolshevik extremists who wanted the Romanovs hostage. Also, at this time, the danger still wasn't known. So it's like, hypothetically, even if they have gotten all the way through, it's possible that the Tsarina…  a few of the kids had had measles and it's possible that they would have been like, “Well, we don't want to go to England while they're still sick. So, we'll just wait.” Like, that's how non-threatened they were at the time when escape was still possible. So it's like this idea that they could have been rescued is sort of like Anastasia, this very romantic idea. But in the cold light effects, you're like, it just wasn't feasible for a lot of reasons at that time.

Mike: Although, as fan fiction, it's pretty good. Like, the rescue of these little tsarinas in, like, deepest, darkest Russia, like, these royal assassin dudes creeping around in the snow to rescue them from the house. Again, great screenplay.

Dana: Do you know how my fan fiction works in my head?

Sarah: How?

Dana: That like, when the girls had been at Red Cross during World War I, that they befriend or have a romance with a soldier.

Sarah: That's good. 

Dana: And then they escape with the help of the soldier and they come to England. Yeah. 

Mike: See, we don't need real historical facts. Let's just stick to fan fiction. That's so much better.

Sarah: I think that it's really nice to be like, these are the facts. I know what the facts are and now here is my fanfiction and just be like, here are my emotional needs and here's how I'm going to meet them, not by tricking myself into the belief that, you know, history is what I want it to be, but by being like here's history and here's what I want to be. Like, my fantasy that Clarence Darrow and Helen Keller had some kind of a thing on the side. They definitely corresponded. Similar ideals. I'm just saying. 

Mike: I wish other, I guess ,conspiracy theorists or other people that write fanfiction without realizing that's what they're doing, could also be clear about their emotional needs. They could just say like, “Look, I know vaccines are real, but I like believing that Bill Gates is doing all of this so that he can control all of our brains.

Dana: That's a fun sci-fi story. Right? A sci-fi story about a billionaire secretly trying to track people. 

Sarah: And also like, I think there are people who are like, “I don't like superhero movies. They're for kids. I like facts.” And it's like, that's nice, but your need for story is not going to go away. Like, you can be aware of your needs or your needs can be aware of you.

Mike: Look, I need a talking bat in this story. 

Dana: Yeah. But yeah. So you look at these photos of these, like, beautiful, vivacious teenage girls who you read in their diaries were so playful and love teasing each other and like, you know, we're of marrying age. I feel like our culture thinks like, “Yes, a young virginal princess is like the highest achievement of a young woman.” Like, that is who our culture values the most. She met with a bloody end, which just makes her more enthralling. Or did she?

Mike: Right.

Dana: I am so sorry that it is beyond a shred of historical evidence or genetic evidence. 

Mike: Sorry, it's ruined.

Sarah: I feel like you're like the Marcia Clark of Anastasia. The case for Anastasia is dead. It's just like, it would be so nice to find a way out of believing this. 

Dana: It really would be nice, but nope. All the bodies are accounted for. But, you know, write your own Anastasia fanfic.

Mike: Sure.

Dana: It's fun. 

Mike: Maybe all the time I spent fixated on killer bees as a kid is actually kind of nutritious. Maybe it's good that I didn't dive into the Anastasia rabbit hole.

Sarah: Because it would be too emotionally taxing. 

Mike: Yeah. 

Dana: Thank you so much for having me on this podcast, again.

Mike: We're having you on tomorrow. We’re have you the next day. You just keep coming on just until we cannibalize every single episode of your show. We’re just going to keep doing this. 

Dana: Take them! 

Sarah: Like killer bees. No, not really. That's a bad metaphor. 

Mike: So yeah, if you're going to be obsessed with fanfiction, that's totally fine, but just call it fanfiction. Don't call it real. 

Sarah: So the lesson is that DNA ruins everything. DNA ruined stories by creating truth. 

Mike: Yes. Don't tell that to Marcia Clark.