Scarlett Johnasson’s upcoming interview with Bobbi Althoff has sparked debate about whether the screen star was spoken to in a different manner to the podcaster’s usual style because of her race.
In a preview clip of Johansson’s appearance on The Really Good Podcast, which was posted to Althoff’s Instagram account on Wednesday, the Lost in Translation star, 38, is seen discussing the hair products she uses with her interviewer.
At one point, Althoff, 26, asked to put some product in Johansson’s hair to slick it down, as she had an issue with the star’s tresses not appearing as neat as she felt they should. “It’s, like, perfect,” Althoff remarked, after smoothing her guest’s hair.
The minute-long clip was awkward, which is no surprise. Since launching her podcast earlier this year, Althoff has made a name for herself by portraying an interviewer who’s aloof, sarcastic and barely interested in her guests.
In previous interviews with such stars as Drake, Offset, Shaquille O’Neal and Jason Derulo, Althoff has been seen subjecting her guests to awkward questions, painful silences and a general air of sheer boredom throughout.
Contrasting the usually sycophantic delivery of celebrity interviews, Althoff has garnered her popularity through looking all but bothered by the presence of stars.
While the clips have made for many a viral moment over the past several months, social media users observing Johansson’s interview preview have questioned why Althoff—while still awkward—appears to be decidedly more interested in her guest than usual.
A number of social media users on X, formerly Twitter, reacted by surmising that the character Althoff portrays in her interviews is reserved solely for her Black guests.
“So she’s only awkward around black people? Got it,” wrote one X user, while another commented that Althoff “landing an interview with a white woman and immediately dropping her entire gimmick and just being nice instead is so insane.”
“She completely changed her tone. As a result, I want y’all to ignore her forever,” another said, echoing the sentiment of a number of detractors.
“So she’s only awkward to men?” one X user asked, prompting another to respond that the awkwardness only appeared to apply to Black men.
“Oh I see. She’s only awkward with black people,” another said, sharing an oft-used video clip of singer Adele looking nonchalant while sitting courtside at a basketball game.
Amid the wave of criticism, many X users came to Althoff’s defense, with some pointing out that Johansson’s interview, while notably different in tone, still brought with it an air of undeniable awkwardness.
“I’m dying at all the angry men in the comments claiming she was uncharacteristically being nice in this interview because Scarlet is a white woman,” wrote one supporter, who added the detractors’ “perceptions of this interaction are just wildly off base and it’s fascinating to see just how clueless they are.”
“I don’t think y’all see the sarcasm in this video and it’s alarming that y’all don’t,” another told those who were criticizing the Johansson clip.
“Ok… I want to say something,” another chimed in. “Why can’t you guys see she’s also being weird with ScarJo as well? Lol. Y’all keep saying she dropped her whole schtick, but I clearly see her still doing it.”
Another viewer of the video said that while they accepted Althoff’s approach to the Johansson interview wasn’t in line with previous clips, it was likely for a different reason.
“I feel like she only has a softer tone because she’s a woman I don’t think it has anything to do with race,” they opined, adding their belief that the social media star would likely have interviewed a Black woman in the same manner as Johansson.
Another wrote that the people “saying [Althoff] is being kind need to interact with white women more [because] this is like textbook white girl passive aggressive behavior.”
Others pointed out that Althoff’s interviews with musician Charlie Puth and businessman Marc Cuban—neither of whom are Black—were also presented in her usual faux unimpressed and unenthusiastic style.
Newsweek has contacted a representative of Althoff via email for comment.
Interestingly, one of Althoff’s more popular interviews in recent months was with Offset, who turned the tables and roasted his interviewer for her irreverent approach, while also comparing her to an unseasoned piece of chicken.
“You should be [Apple digital assistant] Siri. Deada**,” he said. “You should hit Apple and be like, ‘Yo, it’s 2023. It’s time for the new Siri voice.’ You could apply for that s*** and they’re gonna give it to you. And that’s gonna be more money.“
While Althoff attempted to match Offset’s playful insults, the rapper dominated the conversation. He has maintained that he was speaking in jest.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan that was published in August, Althoff, who has more than 920,000 subscribers on YouTube, spoke about the negative feedback she often sees from those who don’t grasp that she is portraying a character in her viral interviews.
“The overwhelming majority of the feedback I’ve seen has been positive, but it’s obviously hard to read negative comments,” Althoff, who has struggled with depression, said. “That’s what’s nice about not putting the real me out there too much. They’re really judging a character, not me. I know I’m a good person.”
Regarding the genesis of her style, she explained: “When I started my podcast interviews, the character was someone who pretended to be super connected. Now my character is just a very dry, sarcastic person who doesn’t have connections and just wants money and success. It’s a very exaggerated version of my actual truth.
“I’m very insecure, and the character that I’ve created is made up of my biggest insecurities. I’ve just made her into someone who’s proud of who she is. I’ve always been so embarrassed about being socially awkward. Now, I’ve exaggerated that and made it even worse for this character. It’s a fun way to take control of this thing that’s been horrible for me my whole life.”