Myth-busting, trivia and fact-checking podcasts are a genre all of their own: from the QI Elves’ No Such Thing as a Fish to Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History to Radio 4’s More or Less. One such show is You’re Wrong About, which started in 2018 and has since released more than 100 episodes, building up a devoted audience. Each week the American journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall choose a person or event – anything from the Millennium bug to Yoko Ono to the Jonestown Massacre – and rifle through history books, contemporary media reports and pop culture depictions to unpick our assumptions and misunderstandings about that story. The two hosts take it in turns to research: in each episode, one takes on the role of expert, the other the average guy on the street who only knows the headlines. They are conversational and digressive, making light-hearted analogies and deadpan jokes throughout.
Though Hobbes and Marshall usually jump from topic to topic, they have done longer multi-episode deep dives (most notably on the OJ Simpson trial). Now, they are embarking on a series about the life of Diana, Princess of Wales – just in time for the fourth season of Netflix’s The Crown (available 15 November), which covers the 1980s and the Charles-Diana marriage.
The nature of You’re Wrong About means that neither Hobbes nor Marshall is an authority on the Royal Family – they present themselves as aghast outsiders, Americans marvelling at the bizarre anachronisms of a dusty and backwards system. Hobbes has read Tina Brown and Andrew Morton’s biographies and shocks Marshall with the quirkiest and grimmest details: the formality of Charles and Diana’s first dates, the puritanical restrictions placed on a royal bride, the obscene invasions of the British tabloids. Though they question the veracity of some anecdotes (did Camilla Parker-Bowles really introduce herself to Charles with the line: “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather – so how about it?”), it’s not so much myth-busting as retelling a long-established narrative with renewed empathy. As Marshall herself puts it: there are human beings somewhere in this story, why not find them?
You’re Wrong About
This article appears in the 21 Oct 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Ten lessons of the pandemic