anthropologist, not the actress.
HARDtalk: Bell on Bell
August 19th, 2021
This interview is inspired by Richard Ayoade’s Ayoade on Ayoade.
BELL1: How would others describe you?
BELL: On Twitter a lot of people talk about how funny I am, how relatable I am, how beautiful I am, and how great my voice is.2 One person even said, and this is a direct quote, ‘Kirsten Bell is probably the best actress of her generation’.
BELL: Er, I think they’re talking about Kristen Bell, the actress, not you.
BELL: Hardly – she’s got a completely different first name.
BELL: But do you, in fact, act?
BELL: Of course, I act! Teaching is basically an endless series of performances – acting like I know what I’m talking about; acting like I haven’t given the same boring lecture a zillion times before; acting like the questions students ask are clever and interesting.
BELL: Okay, so how would you describe yourself?
BELL: I’m free, but I’m focused. I’m green, but I’m wise. I’m hard, but I’m friendly--
BELL: [interrupts] What?
BELL: I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother--
BELL: [interrupts] You don’t even have kids.
BELL: Stop interrupting me when I’m trying to answer your question.
BELL: Stop quoting lyrics from 90s angry girl rock at me.
BELL: [Aggressively] Are you calling me a plagiarist?
BELL: Well, you are a known self-plagiariser.
BELL: [Shouting now] How dare you! Seriously, how dare you!!
BELL: [rolls eyes] You just can’t help yourself. What, you think no one has noticed that you cut and paste paragraphs wholesale from one paper to the next?
BELL: That’s not self-plagiarism; that’s efficiency.
BELL: ‘Efficiency’, is it? Is that like when you peruse snippets on Google Books and pretend you’ve ‘read’ the whole book? We all know that’s how you got Charles Sanders Peirce so embarrassingly wrong.
BELL: I’m not going to respond to that. And Charles Sanders Peirce is so impenetrable, no one knows what he’s saying anyway, so who’s to say I haven’t read the whole book.
BELL: Some people have said that your most cited work consists primarily of synthesising others’ ideas into digestible chunks – so academic laziness basically explains its success.
BELL: I think that’s completely unfair. Would people say that about Deborah Lupton? Would they say that about Carol Bacchi? Also, for someone who constantly moans about interviewers asking leading questions, you sure ask a lot.
BELL: Fine. Describe yourself in five words that aren’t just antonyms of each other.
BELL: I punch above my weight.
BELL: So, you admit that you’ve been promoted beyond your expertise and experience?
BELL: What? No! I mean that I constantly exceed everyone’s expectations.
BELL: I’m pretty sure that’s not what that expression means.
BELL: Haven’t you seen Cinderella Man, where Russell Crowe wins all those fights against the odds?
BELL: Jim Braddock wasn’t punching above his weight; he was punching at his weight. You realise he was a heavyweight boxer, fighting in heavyweight matches, right?
BELL: Like my husband, who I had this exact same argument with recently, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I know I’m right.3
BELL: This is starting to sound like the time you made him do an IQ test and then took five separate tests to try and beat his score.
BELL: For the record, it was three not five, and I did beat his score. In the end.4
1. I, Bold Bell, am the interviewer. Normal Bell is my interviewee, an academic anthropologist of middling* reputation.
*Middling reputation is, by all accounts, a generous assessment.
2. A symptom of Bell’s delusion, no one has ever described her high-pitched, but surprisingly piercing, voice as ‘great’.
3. I’ve noticed that Bell is incapable of admitting when she is wrong. I’m told that this is a trait she shares with her father, sister and brother, which, I imagine, makes family conversations challenging.
4. Bell is also notoriously competitive. Whenever she sees another pedestrian, she speeds up to pass them. It’s even worse at the pool, where every other swimmer is treated as competition. The upside is that she is generally one of the fastest swimmers in the pool.†
†Although given the time of day she swims, the average age is about 65.