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Brando’s Feminine Side

“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.” Those words, spoken by washed-up prizefighter Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) to his mob-connected brother Charley (Rod Steiger) in Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront, are among the most famous in American cinema. Brando liked to claim the contender scene was improvised, but writer Budd Schulberg’s original shooting script shows the words were spoken exactly as written. But Brando did show his improvisational prowess in On the Waterfront in a beautifully touching boy-meets-girl scene that includes an accidentally dropped white glove. When Malloy, who oozes testosterone, pulls a delicate glove over his beefy hand, he reveals a feminine vulnerability that proves to be his salvation. Director Elia Kazan cast Eva Marie Saint as the virginal Edie Doyle in On the Waterfront after testing the sexual chemistry between the actress and Brando. Saint remembers Kazan “whispered to me, ‘Eva Marie, you’re home alone, and your sister’s boyfriend is coming. Do not let him in the house.’ So here comes adorable Marlon, knocking on my make-believe door…and somehow he got in the room…he put the radio on, and we started dancing. The sparks just flew.” The sparks between Brando and Saint continued to fly during the freezing location shoot in Hoboken, New Jersey. Edie Doyle does not know Terry Malloy was involved in the death of her brother Joey. Alone in a public park Terry assures Edie, “You don’t have to be afraid of me. I ain’t gonna bite ya.” When Edie drops her white glove, Malloy scoops it off the ground. As Kazan remembers it, “I didn’t direct that; it happened.” Brando pulls at and plays with the glove, symbolically peeling away his brutish exterior. Unexpectedly, he puts her glove on his own hand. What other actor would make that choice? Suddenly Terry is all raw helplessness. He wants, he needs this girl. Terry asks Edie, “You don’t remember me do ya?” She replies, “I remembered you the first moment I saw you.” The sexual tension that began with the white glove climaxes with Malloy, channeling his inner Stanley Kowalski, breaking down Edie’s apartment door. “You love me Edie!” he shouts. But in a softer voice he tenderly pleads, “I want you to say it to me…I want you to say it to me.” Malloy knows her love is his only chance at redemption. Malloy rejects the traditional male code of silence—“Deaf and dumb. We don’t rat”—and testifies against the crooked union leaders. R. Barton Palmer, writing in Larger Than Life: Movie Stars of the 1950s, notes the box office success of On the Waterfront “flowed from Brando’s ability to project a sexual openness that seems to know no gender.” James Dean, Richard Gere, Johnny Depp, Ryan Gosling and James Franco have all built on the fluid sexuality of the bad-boy persona Brando introduced in Waterfront. According to film historian David Thomson, Brando “was so beautiful he altered our idea of maleness.” This year marks the 60th anniversary of On the Waterfront, and it would have also been the year Marlon Brando turned 90. Eva Maria Saint, who turned 90 this month, remembers him as the “finest actor I’ve ever worked with. And what a great-looking guy! I think it’s one of the saddest things that ever happened in our profession when Marlon lost the joy of acting.” Photo courtesy of Everett CONNECTS_On-the-Waterfront

by Colin J. Warnock

Jul 24, 2014

Trigger Warnings: Not for the Faint of Heart

In the current pop cultural discourse, the term trigger warning has become shorthand for oversensitivity, prudishness, censorship and an unwillingness to engage challenging subjects. And that’s a problem. If your first encounter with the concept of triggers was in an article in Salon or The New Yorker, you probably haven’t been diagnosed as being susceptible to what psychologists, therapists and other mental health professionals call “trauma triggering.” Essentially, individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other conditions affected by specific past experiences often have subjects that trigger psychological reactions for them. For some survivors, dealing with a triggering subject can be the difference between having a normal day and having a recurrence of a major psychological episode with extensive consequences. Recently, members of the academic community came out with fervent declarations against trigger warnings, after some professors were encouraged to put trigger warnings on syllabi. They argued that the idea amounted to a form of censorship, a limitation of what can and should be expected of discourse and critical inquiry in institutions of higher learning, and that the implementation of such warnings was a way of coddling students who are seeking an excuse not to engage with difficult or unpleasant material. If some administrators feel there’s a need for trigger warnings in curricula, however, it’s not because they want to become censors. It’s in response to a critical mass of students who want to sign up for rigorous and potentially emotionally stressful coursework but who are also vulnerable to being triggered. Trigger warnings aren’t for prudes, they are for people who have seen things they shouldn’t have and can’t forget. They are for soldiers who have watched people get blown apart or who have themselves blown people apart. They are for victims of rape. They are for survivors of extreme violence who are susceptible to involuntary, overwhelming, visceral reactions to subjects that relate to what destroyed their lives. They are for people who have the means to gauge whether something they’ve been warned about will affect them, and plan accordingly. Photo courtesy of Flickr CONNECTS_PTSD

by Emilie Ruscoe

Jul 23, 2014

Taking Flight With “The Goldfinch”

Topics like Dick Cheney’s Iraq-related effrontery and the kerfuffle about Supreme Court decisions come and go, but Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, published last November, has proven to be a durable fixture of dinner party conversations. The debate has been pretty clear-cut. On one side are those who think the nearly 800-page novel is way too long and undeserving of the Pulitzer Prize, let alone multimillion-dollar earnings. Then there are those of us who put the work in league with some of the more celebrated literary triumphs. Teenage Theo Decker lugging his anger and sadness through the streets of Manhattan is, obviously, a kindred spirit to J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield. Theo’s also a 21st-century Oliver Twist. He’s accompanied by a modern-day Fagin (his alcoholic, gambling-addicted father) and an Artful Dodger (Boris Pavlikovsky, the hard-drinking, druggy Ukrainian boy who befriends Theo in a desolate Las Vegas subdivision). It’s not just this literary resonance that keep us turning all those pages, and it’s not just finely etched characters, elaborate plot turns and Tartt’s luxuriant prose. Quite simply, The Goldfinch is such a pleasure to read because it’s essentially about goodness—as befits a novel in which the ultimate message is art’s ability to raise us above the “ungainly sadness of creatures pushing and struggling to live.” Making your way through the hefty volume puts you in the company of some genuinely good souls—among them Theo’s art- and book-loving mom, who “cast a charmed theatrical light,” and Hobie, the benign furniture restorer who runs his hands along “dark, glowing flanks of his sideboards and lowboys as if they were pets.” The most luminous presence in the novel is the namesake bird, painted by Carel Fabritius in 1654. The painting is hanging safely in the Mauritshuis in the Netherlands these days, having endured none of the fictional perils to which Tartt subjects the small canvas in The Goldfinch. As Theo writes, “It exists; and it keeps on existing. And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them.” Fabritius died in an explosion in Delft the same year he completed the painting, and his image of a pretty goldfinch chained to its perch is his legacy, burnished for modern readers by Tartt. In her hands, the little bird is the tranquil centerpiece of a maelstrom of friendship, love, protection, beauty, loss and a whole lot of other weighty matters that will keep you reeling long after you turn the last of page of this extraordinary novel. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia SHOP_The-Goldfinch

by Stephen Brewer

Jul 22, 2014

I’ll Have What She’s Having

Nothing brings a movie to a climax like a good, well, climax. For the 25th anniversary of When Harry Met Sally..., we bring you four fake orgasms—a multiple, if you will—in film, television and fine dining. Best friends Harry and Sally share in all the vagaries and fakeries of life. In this scene filmed at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City, Sally (Meg Ryan) delivers the fake female orgasm heard ’round the world. Despite Ryan’s initial timidity, she totally, uh, nails it. The now-famous punch line—“I’ll have what she’s having”—was provided by director Rob Reiner’s mom. As Meg Ryan would have a deli full of eavesdroppers believe, food can be just as satisfying as sex. In this episode of Seinfeld, George finds his sexual rival in a savory risotto. In Woody Allen’s vision of the future in the film Sleeper, orgasms are rapidly achieved by stepping into a large electromechanical cylinder called the “Orgasmatron.” Clearly, technology will one day preclude the need to fake. But not until 2173. New York–based performance-art group Improv Everywhere recreated the climax scene from When Harry Met Sally... with a 20-woman chorus. Wait for the punch line…then, you know, maybe grab a sandwich. Photo courtesy of Everett CONNECTS_When-Harry-Met-Sally

by Mediander Staff

Jul 21, 2014