Does Every Picture Tell a Story? A Conversation with Artist Joseph Watson for Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #51

Storytelling is an essential part of Las Vegas artist Joseph Watson's painting methodology, whether he's creating city scenes or public sculpture or children's illustrations. So how does the narrative an author may have in mind affect the viewer, and is this different for different types of art?

Joseph is perhaps best known as the illustrator of the Go, Go, GRETA! book series and does online streaming of drawing sessions through Instagram and Facebook. On this episode of Pretty Much Pop, he joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to explore the picture-narrative connection and more generally how knowing about the creation of an image affects our reception of it, touching on Guernica, Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, The Chronicles of Narnia, and more.

You can browse Joseph's work at josephwatsonart.com, and you're really going to want in particular to look at a couple of the works that we consider explicitly:

Other sources we looked at in preparation for this discussion include:

Follow Joseph on Instagram @josephwatsonart; also Twitter and Facebook.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This week, it includes a particularly philosophical consideration of the notion of escapism and how different that is from so-called serious pursuits. Is this just a version of the high-low culture distinction that we largely rejected in episode one? 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.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #40 on #MeToo Depictions in TV and Film


These stories are all heavily watched, which means they're entertaining: The 2019 film Bombshell (about the predations of Roger Ailes), Apple TV's The Morning Show (about a disgraced anchor), and Netflix's Unbelievable (about reporting rape) and 13 Reasons Why (about teen suicide resulting from sexual assault). But what's "entertaining" about sexual assault and harassment? What makes for a sensitive as opposed to a sensationalized portrayal?

Erica, Mark, and Brian consider which stories work and why. How much divergence from true events is allowable in Bombshell or Confirmation (about Anita Hill)? By having characters interpret their situations (Erica gives an example from the show Sex Education), are writers essentially telling audiences how to feel about their own experiences? Should certain depictions be ruled out as potentially triggering, or is it good to "bring to light" whatever terrible things actually happen in the world? Should shows delve into the psychology of the perpetrator (maybe even treating him as a protagonist), or must the message be wholly and unambiguously about the victim? 

Art is about risk-taking and capturing difficult ambiguities; this doesn't sound much like a public service message. So what responsibility to do show creators have to consult professionals about how to present difficult topics like this?

We drew on some articles to help us look at these questions:

Here's that weird scene where Jennifer Aniston and Billy Crudup sing on The Morning Show.

If this topic is too depressing, check out our episode #39 from last week about what to watch on TV during quarantine:

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. 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.

Updating Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” to Cover Female Action Heroes–Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #33

This week's guest Vi Burlew has arisen, a shining figure clad in mail, carrying aloft a shimmering broadsword to bring your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt this topic about the hero's journey.

This general plot structure dating back to ancient myth was detailed by Joseph Campbell and famously and deliberately plundered to create the plot of the original Star Wars. So how has this evolved with the increasing introduction of female heroes in recent, largely Disney-owned blockbusters? We talk Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, anticipate Black Widow and the new Mulan, but also bring in Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz, Little Women, Jane Eyre, Working Girl, and of course Road House.

What complicates this issue is that a distinct "heroine's journey" had already been plotted in response to Campbell by feminist thinkers at least back to Maureen Murdock in 1990. The key difference is that while the hero achieves the goal and comes home in triumph, the heroine then realizes that there was something self-betraying about the triumph and requires an additional step of reconciliation with her origins. This is like if Luke realized after destroying the Death Star that he was a moisture farmer all along and had to come to terms with that. (Maybe he could actually grieve for his dead aunt and uncle and his best friend Biggs!)

It's been argued that Harry Potter's journey more closely resembles that heroine's journey, whereas, say, Eowyn from Lord of the Rings ("I am no man!") is a more traditional hero. Action films of today may feature female heroes, but when this is done thoughtfully (not just by taking an action hero and swapping the gender without further alteration), then filmmakers may tweak the structure of the myth to include some gender-specific elements and perhaps blend the two types of journey. These new variants that may or may not resonate in the way that caused the original Star Wars/Campbell formula to become so popular.

Two articles we specifically cite in our discussion are:

For some basics about the journeys described by Joseph Campbell, Maureen Murdok, and a different version by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, see the Wikipedia entries on Hero's Journey and Heroine's Journey.

In addition, The Heroine Journeys Project website features numerous articles about female heroes in media. We also looked at this reddit thread, which among other things provides some opposing views to those of our guests about the Star Wars franchise character Rey.

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.

Are Stand-Up Comedians Our Modern Day Philosophers? Pretty Much Pop #17 Considers

In an age where the average person can't name a living academic philosopher, it's been claimed that the social role of an individual orating to the masses and getting them to think about fundamental questions is actually not performed by academics at all, and certainly not by politicians and religious figures who need to keep on message in one way or other, but by stand-up comedians.

This is the premise of the Modern Day Philosophers podcast, where comedian Daniel Lobell interviews some of our best known and loved comics. However, as Daniel has discovered in the course of that show, only some comedians are trying to express original views on the world. Many are just trying to tell good jokes. So do the routines of those more idea-based comedians count as philosophy? Or does telling the whole truth (instead of a funny one-side or exaggerated take on truth) rule out being funny? 

Daniel joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer (of The Partially Examined Life philosophy podcast), actor Erica Spyres, and sci-fi author/linguist Brian Hirt to consider questions of authenticity and offensive humor.  We look at how philosophers and comics can use some of the same communicative tools like inventing new words, irony, and autobiography. We touch on Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr, Hannah Gadsby, George Carlin, Emo Phillips, Rodney Dangerfield, Louis CK, Between Two Ferns, Berkeley, Socrates, Kierkegaard, and more.

A few sources:

Find out about Danny's podcasts, graphic novel, album, and videos at dannylobell.com.

This episode includes bonus discussion (including some out-takes from the interview where we got too off-topic) 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 is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

 

Is Opera Part of Pop Culture? Pretty Much Pop #15 with Sean Spyres

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Opera used to be a central part of European pop culture, Pavarotti was as big a pop star as they come. But still, it's now the quintessential art-form of the wealthy and snobbish. What gives?

Guest Sean Spyres from Springfield Regional Opera joins his sister Erica along with Mark and Brian to discuss opera's place in culture (including its film appearances), how it's different from music theater, the challenges it faces and how it might become more relevant.

Some articles:

Watch the Shawshank Redemption opera scene or perhaps the Pretty Woman scene. What Is pop opera? Here's Ranker's list of artists. Paul Potts sings that famous song on Britain's Got Talent. Plus, check out albums from brother Michael Spyres. Yes, you can hear an opera-singer sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," but you probably shouldn't.

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

Voice Actor Dee Bradley Baker (Clone Wars,American Dad) Defends Cartoons on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #9

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Are cartoons an inherently juvenile art form? Even animation aimed at adults is still typically considered genre fiction--a guilty pleasure--and the form enables tones and approaches that might simply be considered awful if presented as traditional live action. So what's the appeal?

Dee's voice can be heard in substantial portion of today's cartoons, especially for animal or monster noises, like Boots in the new big-screen adaptation of Dora the Explorer, Momo and Appa in The Last Airbender, Animal in the new Muppet Babies, etc. He's also a deep thinker who proudly defends cartoons as providing primal delights of humor, justice, and narrative meaning.

Mark, Erica, and Brian engage Dee about his experience as a voice actor (e.g. as Klaus German fish in a Seth MacFarlane sit-com, figuring out what Adventure Time was actually about, doing all the similar-but-distinct voices of the various clones in Clone Wars, coming up with a language for The Boxtrolls, and recreating Mel Blanc's voices in Space Jamand other Looney Tunes projects), his role in collaborative creation,  the connection between cartoons and vaudeville, how live-action films can be made "cartoonish," graphic novels, cartoon music, and more. We also touch on Love & Robots, A Scanner Darkly, Larva, the documentary I Know That Voice, and the 1972 film What's Up, Doc? Introduction by Chickie.

We did read a few articles in preparation for this about the phenomenon of adults watching kid cartoons:

There's also a lengthy reddit thread that we mined for perspectives.

This episode includes bonus content 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 is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.
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