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John Buffalo Mailer is an author, actor, playwright, and producer, as well as the youngest child of novelist Norman Mailer. In 2005 he co-wrote the novel "The Big Empty" with his[…]

Oliver Stone is our culture’s best at combining storytelling with social awareness, says John Buffalo Mailer. But others also carry his father’s torch.

Question: Who is carryingrnon your father's legacy?


John Buffalo Mailer:rnThere’s several people out there who I feel are doing their part in thatrnway.  I would say the only onernperson I know of who kind of combines the elements that my father rnbrought tornthe table in terms of affecting the public discourse would be OliverrnStone.  His combination of academicrnbrilliance and real life experience and just understanding people I rnthink isrnwhat makes him such a great storyteller, but also he cares.  He is interested.  He meets rnsomebody and he listens tornthem.  He has some questions.  Hern wants to know what they’re about. Andrnas a result I think his worldview is much more complex and whole and rnmost ofrnthe other…  I don’t know if we evenrnhave a category of public intellectual anymore, but he would be in thatrncategory.  He would be outrnthere.  The reason…  One of rnthe things that sets him apartrnthough is he is commercial.  He isrnmainstream.  He makes big movies and he is one of the last guys that can make big movies that actually have something to say, that you know challenge the audience in a way while entertaining them.

But there's, you know, there's a lot of people out there who are doing it.  I don’t know if it’s possible for anyone to really have that level of a voice anymore because our media is so diluted and parsed out.  You knowrnpeople kind of go for the news and information that they want as opposedrn tornpicking up a paper and seeing what catches their eye.  It’srn a very stark difference and you know it’s there is arnfew stories that end up going wide and everybody hears about them, but rnthey’rernusually salacious celebrity stuff that is not about substance or it’s rnthernlatest disaster and it’s kind of covered in a way that is just trying torn getrneyeballs on the screen.  It’s not,rnyou know.  I mean I think thatrnAnderson Cooper does a great job of staying with stories and pushing rnthem.  New Orleans he really…  Hern was there and he pushed it past thernpoint where his producers were saying, “Listen, you've got to stop because rnpeoplernare tuning out now. We’re on to another disaster.”  Yournknow, what do you worry about? Haiti? Chile? Turkey?  What?  You know,rnwhere do you put your attention and your focus?  Sorn for one person to really be able to cover all that groundrnwould be tough.  Also I think that,rnyou know, you have experts in fields who spend their life studying onernthing.  When an event goes on likernthat chances are they’re going to want that specific expert who has donern it tornbe on the show talking about it, not a writer or an artist of any sort, rnwhich Irnthink is a mistake because you know we don’t have…  Irn mean we have them, but there is certainly not you know inrnstrong force public philosophers anymore. rnThe only way you’re going to get that kind of metaphorical largerrn takernon what is actually happening and what it means to us and what it’s rngoing tornmean in a few years is to talk to people whose job it is to take life rnand turnrnit into stories and create it and frame it.  So rnit’s a tough role to fill.  I think that one of the rnthings that my dad was grapplingrnwith towards the end was how that shift had happened now and he would gorn on arnbook tour and do his shows and it would be you know fulfilling and good,rn but hernwouldn’t have the same impact that he used to and it wasn’t because rnpeople werernless interested.  It’s just becausernpeople are distracted by the million different sources of entertainment rnandrninformation in front of them at any given time.

Recorded March 30, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen