The Fran Lebowitz Series in Scorsese’s “Pretend It’s a City” and “Public Speaking”


  • Victoria Surliuga Texas Tech University



Fran Lebowitz, Martin Scorsese, Pretend It’s a City , Public Speaking, Public persona


Writer, humorist, and style icon Fran Lebowitz, author of Social Studies (1981) and Metropolitan Life (1978), then merged in The Fran Lebowitz Reader (1994 and 2021), has been the subject of Martin Scorsese’s Pretend It’s a City (2021) and Public Speaking (2010). Both introduce Lebowitz as a storyteller, social commentator, and public intellectual who narrates her life in the style of documentary performers (Waugh) without neglecting the techniques of the cinéma vérité.

Scorsese’s two works on Fran Lebowitz do not conform to the usual biopic yet can be understood as a selective biography. In introducing Fran Lebowitz to a contemporary large audience, the combination of biographical perspective and quasi-vérité style addresses the opposition between private and public (Arendt and Habermas). Altogether, the two productions can be considered as a series with an opening (Public Speaking) and seven episodes (Pretend It’s a City) that create Martin Scorsese’s series on Fran Lebowitz. The biographical traits, paired with Lebowitz’s status as public speaker, create a double portrait, almost a doppelgänger, as a split between the Lebowitz’s performance and her representation.


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TV Shows

Pretend It’s a City (2021)

Law and Order (2001-2007)

Documentaries and Films

Wojnarowicz (2020)

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (2019)

The Booksellers (2019)

Toni Morrison: The Pieces that I am (2019)

The Gospel According to André (2017)

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Public Speaking (2010)

New York: A Documentary Film (2000)

Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol (1990)

American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince (1978)

Italianamerican (1974)

It’s Not Just You, Murray (1974)

The Big Shave (1967)

What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963)

The Boy with the Green Hair (1948)




How to Cite

Surliuga, V. (2022). The Fran Lebowitz Series in Scorsese’s “Pretend It’s a City” and “Public Speaking”. Series - International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, 8(1), 33–44.



Narratives / Aesthetics / Criticism