Increasing Disabled/Other-Abled Representation in Media — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #83

At least 20% of us have some sort of disability, yet such conditions are reflected by only tiny portion of TV and film characterizations, and what characters are portrayed typically get played by non-disabled actors. Depictions often focus on what it’s like to live with the condition. This can of course be socially beneficial, but we don’t want to essentialize people as their conditions, so it’s even more useful to feature disabled actors and characters when the plot is not about their disability.

Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by playwright Kayla Dryesse to talk about hurdles to representation, disability culture, whether “disability” is even the right word, negative stereotypes (no less than five James Bond villains are in wheelchairs!), and issues in portraying disability related to theater, comedy, horror, and superheroes. Some shows mentioned include Speechless, Atypical, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, Breaking Bad, Glee, The Stand, The Witches, and The Great British Bake-Off.

Learn more from these articles:

Also, watch Stella Young’s TED talk, called “I’m Not Your Inspiration, Thank You Very Much;” the episode of Drunk History about 504 accessibility; and Stevie Wonder’s SNL parody of a camera commercial.

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can access 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.

Why Does The Karate Kid Persist as the New Cobra Kai? A Critical Consideration by Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast (#82)

Did anyone suspect that the beloved 1984 film The Karate Kid (and its decreasingly beloved sequels) would now be not just remade but revived as the YouTube-Red-turned-Netflix hit Cobra Kai? Is this new show actually good, or just living unhealthily on nostalgia and the fascination of watching teens and middle aged people fistfight and fall in love.

Your Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark-san, Erica-san, and Brian-san survey the show and all the films for nonsensical plotting, villain motivation, questionable acting, and more. It’s almost as if PMP is the best… around… and nothing’s ever gonna keep it down.

Care for some articles with more info about these shows?

If you haven’t seen the notorious Karate Kid III, watch this.

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can access 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.

Radio vs. Podcasting: A Discussion with Jason Bentley (KCRW, The Backstory) on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #81

Jason was music director at KRCW, the LA NPR station, is also a DJ with a lot of experienced interviewing musicians, and now hosts a new podcast, The Backstory. He joins Mark and Erica to discuss the creative and business possibilities of podcasting in comparison to radio, what their futures may hold, and his own journey between the two media.

Follow Jason @thejasonbentley. Listen to his Backstory interview with Kristen Bell and his current radio show, Metropolis.

Here’s some comparison data and other basic information on radio and podcasts:

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can access 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.

Do We Need Yet More Films About Time Loops? A Pretty Much Pop Discussion (#80) of Groundhog Day and its Descendents

Tine looping, where a character is doomed to repeat the same day (or hour, or longer period) is a sci-fi trope dating back more than a century, but really entered American consciousness with the 1993 Bill Murray film Groundhog Day. Since then, and especially in the last five years, there have been numerous iterations of this idea in various genres from racial police-shooting drama to teen sex comedy. But do we need more of this? What are the philosophical ideas involved, and how do these change with tweaks to the scenario?

Mark, Erica, Brian, and returning guest Ken Gerber discuss not only the very recent and popular forays into this genre with Hulu’s Palm Springs and Netflix’s Russian Doll, but also touch on Edge of Tomorrow, Repeaters, 12:01 PM, Before I Fall, The Fare, and episodes of The Twilight Zone, Star Trek: Discovery, The X-Files, and Rick & Morty.

There are of course other film and TV uses of this trope. For a relatively full list, you can see this wiki page listing time loop films and this other wiki page discussing literary antecedents. Also see the “Groundhog Day” Loop page on tvtropes.org, and here’s a relevant reddit thread.

Here are more articles:

Watch the 12:01 PM 1990 short film. This bonus episode of the 11.22.63 podcast had a great discussion of time loop media including the Ken Grimwood novel Replay and the short story “12:01 P.M.” and its sequels. You can read the 1941 Malcolm Jameson story “Doubled and Redoubled” online. As a forerunner to the time loop idea, check out the very short 1892 children’s story “Christmas Every Day” by William Dean Howells, where time does move forward with its consequences, but it’s always Christmas!

We talked a little about Happy Death Day with its costume designer in our ep. 38 and got into time travel more generally with Ken in ep. 22 and into “weird situations” in our Twilight Zone ep. 52. You may also enjoy Wes Alwan’s (sub)Text podcast discussing the psychological implications of Groundhog Day.

Check out the time loop movie bingo card that Brian put together (with groundhog picture by Ken):

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can access 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.

 

The Formula for The Coen Brothers/Noah Hawley’s Fargo – Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #79

Your hosts Mark Linsemayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by Tamler from the Very Bad Wizards podcast to consider the plaudits and complaints heaped on this morality-tale-turned-organized-crime-drama that began with the 1006 film and  has continued through a 4-season TV show. We delve into its elaborate style, “tundra western” setting, dry humor (including “Minnesota nice”), speechifying, gender issues, stunt casting, and the role of chance in its plotting. Did the show go downhill in its later seasons, and is there altogether too much rehash involved? Yes, there are spoilers, but no, it barely matters.

Check out these resources for more opinions and background information:

Follow @tamler. Hear him on The Partially Examined Life. Check out his book, Why Honor Matters.

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can access 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.

Should You Race Back to Theaters When It’s Safe? Pretty Much Pop: Culture Podcast (#77) on the Big Screen Experience

The pandemic has kept us out of the movie theaters, forcing new streaming practices so that films can be released at all, but as these restrictions end in 2021, do we want things to go back just to the way they were?

Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt reviewed many articles where filmmakers fretted about the future of cinema. Even before the pandemic, concerns about falling movie house attendance and the increased use of streaming have had the industry worried about films being viewed in the manner their creators intended, or even made at all.

For at least the first half our of this discussion, we largely ignored all that in favor of musing on our own past theater-going habits and experiences. What has worked and hasn’t in the shift toward more spectacle and amenities? What do we like and loathe about being in an audience with others? Is the theater experience essential just for big special effects films, or does it make any film more effective? How would we improve moviegoing and home viewing? We consider the list of films that were supposed to come out this year and were either delayed or moved to streaming, like Tenet, Soul, In the Heights, etc.

Here are those articles, in case you’re curious:

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion you can access 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.

What Makes for a Beloved Bad Film? Jackey Neyman Jones (Manos: The Hands of Fate) Talks to Pretty Much Pop (ep. 73)

While there have of course been numerous attempts at movie magic that have resulted in something less than audience pleasing, only a few demonstrate such bold ineptitude as to become “so bad that they’re good.” Such a film requires a strong sense of vision coupled with a complete inability to realize that vision in a coherent way, and it must display real charm, as we see through the presentation to behold real human beings captured in the poignancy of their doomed filmic endeavor.

Some often cited candidates for this new kind of film canon include the classic Plan 9 from Outer Space, whose creation was dramatized in Tim Burton’s film Ed Wood; Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, chronicled by the book and film The Disaster Artist; Troll 2, a film that has no business or creative relation to the already dubious film Troll that was documented in Best Worst Movie; and the an up-and-comer Birdemic: Shock and Terror, self-financed by James Nguyen, whose popularity greatly increased through the treatment of his films by Rifftrax, one of the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s Internet successors.

And then there’s Manos: The Hands of Fate, lauded as one of the most trippy finds of the original 1993 MST3K. It’s a film written, directed by, and starring (literal) fertilizer salesman Harold P. Warren about a family (on their “first vacation”) getting lost in Western Texas and ending up staying the night at a house with a religious cult. Jackey Neyman Jones played the six-year-old girl in the film who eventually (spoiler!) ends up tied to a stake as the cult leader’s seventh wife. Her father played the cult leader and created much of the art for the show, her mother sewed the costumes, and her voice was dubbed over by a fully grown woman who was not at all warned that she’d be having to imitate a child’s voice.

Jackey wrote a memoir about the experience, and here joins your Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica, Spyres, and Brian Hirt to talk about the ongoing interest in the film despite its initial, complete dismissal as well as the dynamics and perils of working with a supremely confident “auteur.”

The discussion also touches on other bad films like Catwoman, The Happening, and Battleship. Are these contemporary, big-budget flops worthy of such canonization? What about films made intentionally to be cheesy, whether by auteurs like Velocipastor or pumped out by a company like Syfy’s Sharknado series?

You can watch Jackey read her entire book online. See her art. Read her interviewed in Cracked, Entertainment Weekly, and the AV Club. Check out her IMDB page and her short-lived Hand of Horror podcast. Manos: The Hands of Fate is in the public domain, so watch it unriffed if you dare, or check out the classic MST3K episode or the more recent Rifftrax treatment. See also the warped stage version with puppets: Manos: The Hands of Felt.

To think more generally about this topic, we consulted some lists of bad (or “so-bad-they’re-good”) films by The Ringer,  Thrillist, Screenrant, Yardbarker, and Wikipedia.

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion you can access 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.

Comic Book Writer Fred Van Lente Touts “Comic Supremacy” on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #72

Fred Van Lente has written for more than 15 years for his own Evil Twin Comics, Marvel and other outlets. In this episode of Pretty Much Pop, he joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to discuss comics as an idiosyncratic form of literature.

In the realm of non-fiction, Ryan started with the beloved Action Philosophers! series in 2004 with illustrator Ryan Dunlavey, and this team has gone on to create the very successful Comic Book History of Comics, plus more recently Action Presidents, Action Activists (available free in association with the NYC Department of Education’s Civics for All program), and have just begun releasing The Comic Book History of Animation. While the non-fiction comics format is common in places like Japan, and has a storied history in America, having been used to train soldiers in World War II, this is still something of a novelty in America as comics still struggle to overcome their reputation in (as Ryan puts it) “trash for morons.” Given that visual content is well known to help people learn as compared to text alone, the use of tools like Action Presidents in classrooms shouldn’t be surprising.

The interview also gets into Ryan’s fiction work, from Cowboys & Aliens, which was turned into a 2011 Jon Favreau/Steven Spielberg film entirely without Ryan’s involvement, to titles like Marvel Zombies and X-Men Noir which use alternate dimension versions of popular characters to tell stories too dark and/or whimsical to have much possibility of ever being transferred to the screen. Despite comics’ reputation as being basically like elaborate film story-boards, their low overhead is exactly what distinguishes them so strongly from film: Their creativity is unlimited by budget, and creators can take tremendous risks. Whatever the mainstream palatability of (alternate dimension) Peter Parker eating Aunt May’s brain, this has been one of the most popular things that Ryan’s been involved with among comic book readers.

Learn more about Fred’s work at fredvanlente.com. You can read there about how Fred constructs scripts; the one Mark refers to with the mysteriously changed coat is right there highlighted at the top of this page, and there are also several sample scripts including the one for Action Philosophers: Immanuel Kant that demonstrates Fred’s methods for vividly explaining a complex idea.

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion you can access 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.

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