Actor Margaret Colin (VEEP, Independence Day) Joins Pretty Much Pop #28 to Take On the Trope of the Alpha Female

What's the deal with images of powerful women in media? The trope of the tough-as-nails boss-lady who may or may not have a heart of gold has evolved a lot over the years, but it's difficult to portray such a character unobjectionably, probably due to those all-too-familiar double standards about wanting women in authority (or, say, running for office) to be assertive but not astringent.

Margaret was the female lead in major films including Independence Day and The Devil's Own, is a mainstay on Broadway, and has appeared on TV in many roles including the mother of the Gossip Girl and as an unscrupulous newscaster on the final seasons of VEEP. Her height and voice have made her a good fit for dominant-lady roles, and she leads Mark, Erica, and Brian through a quick, instructive tour through her work with male directors (e.g. in a pre-Murphy-Brown Dianne English sit-com), playing the lead in three Lifetime Network movies, on Broadway as Jackie, and opposite Harrison Ford, Al Pacino, Melanie Griffith, Michael Shannon, Wallace Shawn, and others.

Given the limitations of short-form storytelling in film, maybe some use of stereotypes is just necessary to get the gist of a character out quickly, but actors can load their performances with unseen backstory. We hear about the actor's role in establishing a character vs. the vision of the filmmakers or show-runners. Also, the relative conservatism of film vs. stage vs. TV in granting women creative control, the "feminine voice," why women always apparently have to trip in movies when chased, and more.

A few resources to get you thinking about this topic:

Someone's posted a tape of Carousel featuring Erica and Margaret.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #27 Discusses the Impact and Aesthetics of Star Wars

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Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt grasp the low-hanging fruit in pop culture to talk about Star Wars: The unique place that these films have in the brains of people of a certain age, how we grappled with the prequels, and why we feel the need to fill in and argue about the details.

We primarily focus on the two most recent emanations of this beast, The Mandalorian and Rise of Skywalker. We talk alien and droid aesthetics (how much cuteness is too much?), storytelling for kids vs. adults reliving their childhood, pacing, plotting, casting, whether celebrity appearances ruin the Star Wars mood, creation by an auteur vs. a committee, and what we'd like to see next.

We had enough to say about this that we didn't need to draw on online articles, but here's a sampling of what we looked at anyway:

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. In this case, it's all just more Star Wars talk, covering droid body dysmorphia and humanization, the cycle of embodiment via action figures and re-presentation on the screen, tragedy in Star Wars vs. Watchmen, making up for racism in Star Wars through sympathetic portrayals of Sand Person culture, watching particular scenes many times, clown biker troopers, and more. Don't miss it!

This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #26 Discusses Alan Moore’s Watchmen Comic and the HBO Show with Cornell Psychology Professor David Pizarro

Perhaps the most lauded graphic novel has been sequelized for HBO, and amazingly, it turned out pretty darn well (with a 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating!).

Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by the Cornell's David Pizarro, host of the popular Very Bad Wizards podcast. We consider Alan Moore’s 1986 graphic novel, the 2009 Zack Snyder film, and of course mostly the recently completed (we hope) show by Damon Lindelof, the creator of Lost and The Leftovers.

How does Moore’s idiosyncratic writing style translate to the screen? Did the show make best use of its nine hours? Are there other stories in this alternate history that should still be told, perhaps to reflect on other recurrent social ills or crises of whatever moment might be depicted? Was Lindelof really the guy to tell this story about race, and does making the show about racism (which is bad!) undermine Moore’s rejection of (morally) black-and-white heroes and villains?

Some of the articles we used to warm up for this discussion included:

You might want to also check out HBO’s Watchmen page, which includes extra essays and the official podcast with Damon Lindelof commenting on the episodes.

Follow Dave @peezHear him on The Partially Examined Life, undoubtedly the apex of his professional career.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Sportscaster Dave Revsine (Big 10 Network) Joins Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast to Discuss the Role of Sports in Pop Culture

How is spectator sports different from other types of entertainment? Dave Revsine (lead studio host for the Big Ten Network and former ESPN anchor) joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to discuss the various sources of appeal, team identification, existing in a sports-filled world as a non-fan, watching vs. playing, human interest stories, sports films, and more.

Some of the articles we looked at to prepare included:

The first two links above were part of a series of 2016 editorials in the Washington Post coinciding with March Madness. As the whole series is definitely worth a look, just follow the links at the bottom of those articles.

Dave wrote a book you might want to look at called The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation. Follow him on Twitter @BTNDaveRevsine.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #24 Considers Holiday Viewing: What’s Canon?

Join Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt for a special "snake draft," where we take turns picking the holiday films and TV specials that we think are (or should be) part of America's yearly viewing traditions.

Were I to list all the shows and films we mention, that would give away our picks now, wouldn't it? Compare your intuitions about what is classic or seminal or over-rated with ours!

Here are some articles with most of the likely suspects to get you warmed up:

We did NOT beforehand actually look at IMDB's Top 25 Christmas Movies or their Greatest Christmas Specials list, but YOU certainly can. Neither did we look this ranking of the various versions of A Christmas Carol by Dave Trumbore. While we're at it, here are times where TV shows ripped off It's a Wonderful Life.

Other references and information: 

When does A Christmas Story take place? 1940; read trivia about that film. The Dare Daniel podcast has a brutal take-down of the little-seen 2012 sequel  that serves as a great substitute for actually viewing that pile of garbage.

You can watch the quick version of the very funny Rifftrax running commentary on the Star Wars Holiday Special on YouTube or buy the whole thing. Did George Lucas really want to smash all copies of it as Mark said?

Brian refers to this article, "Diagnosing the Home Alone Burglars' Injuries: A Professional Weighs In" by Lauren Hansen.

It's actually the Thanksgiving Charlie Brown special that has been blasted as racist, not the Xmas one. Here's an article about the history of Franklin being included in the strip.

Whenever discussing or watching It's a Wonderful Life, I can't help but think of the Saturday Night Live "lost ending" to the film.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

The Singer or the Song? Ken Stringfellow (Posies, R.E.M., Big Star) and Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #23 Discuss

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What's your relationship to music? Do you just embrace the pure sound, or do you care about who made that sound? One way of seeing where you fall on this issue is whether you care more for singles or to whole albums or careers by artists.

Ken Stringfellow, who co-fronts The Posies and was a member of R.E.M. and Big Star, joins Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to talk about what actually grabs us about music, whether being a musician yourself is a key factor in whether you pay attention to the context of a song, how music gets to your ears, singers vs. songwriters, what we think about the notion of "genius," and how this artist vs. song conflict relates to how we take in other media (e.g. favorite film directors).

The ideas for this discussion mostly came from reflecting on our own experiences and habits, but we did some warm-up research into:

Listen to Mark interview Ken on Nakedly Examined Music, presenting specifically some of his solo, Posies, and Big Star songs. After that was recording, Ken sang some harmonies on a tune on Mark's last album, Mark Lint's Dry Folk.

Other references: "Midnight Confessions" by The Grass Roots, Lil Peep, Tom Waits's most popular album, Lou Reed is not a one-hit wonder, the scene in Slacker with a fan getting Madonna's pubic hair, Damien Rice is still working, the band Live reunited, REM on Sesame Street (no, Ken is not on camera), Ken being "world music" by playing solo in foreign countries.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop #22 Untangles Time-Travel Scenarios in the Terminator Franchise and Other Media

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Time-travel rules in The Terminator franchise are notoriously inconsistent. Is it possible for someone from the future to travel backwards to change events, given the paradox that with a changed future, the traveler wouldn't then have had the problem to try to come back and fix? Neither the closed-loop series of events in the first Terminator film nor the changed (postponed) future in the second make sense, and matters just get worse through the subsequent films.

Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by Brian's brother and co-author Ken Gerber to talk through the various time travel rulesets and plot scenarios (a good starter list is at tvtropes.org), covering Dr. Who, Back to the Future, Looper, Dark (the German TV show), time loop films a la Groundhog Day (Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day), time-travel comedies (Future Man), historical tourism (Mr. Peabody and Sherman), Timecop's "The same matter cannot occupy the same space," using time-travel to sentimentalize (About Time) or clone yourself (see that Brak Show episode about avoiding homework), and freezing time (like in the old Twilight Zone).

Some articles we looked at included:

You can find the Brian and Ken short stories we talk about at gerberbrothers.net. Listen to them podcast together and read the science fiction stories they publish at constellary.com. The Partially Examined Life podcast episode Mark hosted where the dangers of AI are discussed is #108 with Nick Bostrom.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

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