Mark, Erica, and Brian discuss the HBO Max show out Victorian-era super-powered feminine outcasts, helmed and now abandoned by the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, etc. It’s jam packed with steampunk gadgets, fisticuffs, social injustice, and far too many characters and plot threads to keep track of. Given that the season was reduced to a half season in light of the pandemic, does it still work? Does knowing the complaints about Joss Whedon affect our consumption of the show? Is this a faux feminism where women must undergo torture to gain strength?
Why do people play video games, and what keeps them playing? Do we want to have to think through innovative puzzles or just lose ourselves in mindless reactivity? Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by Dr. Jamie Madigan, an organizational psychologist who runs the Psychology of Video Games podcast, to discuss what sort of a thing this is to research, the evolution of games, player types, motivation vs. engagement, incentives and feedback, as well as the gamification of work or school environments. Some games we touch on include Donkey Kong, Dark Souls, It Takes Two, Returnal, Hades, Subnautica, Fortnite, and Age of Z.
Some of the episodes of Jamie’s podcast relevant for our discussion are:
The tech genius has become the go-to bad guy in recent films: They’re our modern mad scientists with all imaginable resources and science at their command, able to release dystopic technology to surveil, control, and possibly murder us. Even Lex Luthor was made into a “tech bro” in Batman v. Superman.
Your Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian discuss the HBO Max series Made for Love starring Cristin Milioti, as well as Alex Garland’s Devs, Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley, and Jed Rothestein’s documentary WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn. How does this trope work in comedy vs. serious media? How does it relate to real-life tech moguls? Can women be villains of this sort, or is a critique of toxic masculinity part of this sort of depiction?
What drives someone to collect Star Wars figures or Transformers or LEGOs or whatever else? Your Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by guest Matt Young of the Hello from the Magic Tavern and Improvised Star Trek podcasts to talk about this potentially expensive and life-eating habit. No kidulting required.
What is with the weird relationship we Americans have with our pets? Many of us treat them as our babies, yet of course they’re our captives. Dog trainer Hannah Branigan joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to talk about pets as entertainment, as hobby, and as pandemic companions. How can we make this relationship as beneficial as possible for all involved, and how can learning to be a better pet owner inform our treatment of other people? Plus, what do we want out of TV talking animals, dog training TV, and the abomination that is Pooch Perfect.
Marshall McLuhan famously said “The medium is the message,” by which he meant that when we receive information, its effect on us is determined as much by the form of that information as by the actual content.
The result is much more philosophical context than you’d get in a typical Pretty Much Pop discussion. Plato, for example, argued (through the character of Socrates) in the Phaedrus against writing, which he said amounts to off-loading thought to this inert thing, when it should be lively in our minds and our direct conversations. Postman’s book describes the Age of Print as highly congenial toward lengthy, abstract reasoning. High literacy rates, particularly in America, conditioned people to expect that this is how information is to be received, and as such they were, for instance, prepared to listen raptly to the Lincoln-Douglas debates in which the speakers provided lawyerly speeches that might span multiple hours.
Postman, an educational theorist, described television as not just providing a no-context experience whose high level of visual and auditory stimulation beats its spectators into thoughtless passivity, but that its popularity positively infects all the other communication channels available. Of course there is still in-person teaching, but television shortens attention spans such that teachers now feel the need to constantly entertain instead of forcing students to make the effort required to attend carefully to what they have to teach. Of course there are still books, but they are less read, and the competition of television for our time has changed the presentation within books so that they must be as immediately and consistently appealing as television.
McLuhan described television as a “hot” medium due to its high level of stimulation, where a “cool” one like a textbook requires more active participation of the recipient. We discuss how Postman’s critique fares in the Age of the Internet, which interestingly mixes things up, with more interactivity (in that sense cooler) yet even more possibility for sensory distraction (in that perhaps more important sense hotter). To supplement Postman, we also consulted a widely read article from The Atlantic written by Nicholas Carr in 2008 called “Is Google Making Us Stupid.”
What’s the meaning behind the continued international popularity of kaiju media in which giant creatures stomp on cities and beat each other up? Is this just pro wrestling drama with special effects, or does it relate to deep-seated feelings of helplessness in the face of natural disasters? Perhaps both?
Your Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt reflect on the MonsterVerse films: Godzilla (2014), Kong: Skull Island (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), and chiefly Godzilla vs. Kong (2021). We also go into the history of Godzilla in Japan from the 1954 original to 2016’s award-winning Shin Godzilla. Do we care at all about the humans in these films? Are King Kong films too sad? Is there any legitimate sci-fi or political commentary in this genre? We touch on Pacific Rim, The Host, Cloverfield, Colossal, When a Monster Calls, Rampage, giant video game bosses, and more.
In lieu of an Oscars episode, the Pretty Much Pop podcast this week considers one of the nominated films, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and the career of its writer/director, Aaron Sorkin, which started with A Few Good Men through four TV series (most notably The West Wing), and films like The Social Network, Steve Jobs, and Molly’s Game.
Your hosts Brian Hirt, Erica Spyres, and Mark Linsenmayer consider Sorkin’s stock recurring characters and their political diatribes, plots often based on true events, and how his writing creates drama. Do we feel uplifted or vaguely dirty after a Sorkin bath? It’s great to have characters that aren’t stupid, but are they actually smart or just designed to seem that way? Are the deviations from fact just good use of dramatic license or positively harmful? We touch on virtually all of Sorkin’s productions (well, except for the plays; he actually considers himself natively a playwright) and still have energy for a few Oscars musings and reflections about including real locations or news events in fiction.
Here are some articles we used to prepare ourselves:
Get the best cultural and educational resources on the web curated for you in a daily email. We never spam. Unsubscribe at any time.
FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Open Culture scours the web for the best educational media. We find the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.
Open Culture (openculture.com) and our trusted partners use technology such as cookies on our website to personalise ads, support social media features, and analyze our traffic. Please click below to consent to the use of this technology while browsing our site.
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.