The Dune Franchise Tries Again — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #110

The world now has another Dune film, and this time Warner Bros. is serious about a franchise, with at least one sequel planned and a prequel TV series in the works. With thousands of years worth of world building, the books by Frank Herbert and the world now being fleshed out by his son Brian Herbert with Kevin J. Anderson offer more source material than Star Wars for potential filmmakers to play with, but is this world anywhere near as fun?

Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer and Brian Hirt are joined by Brian Casey (brother of The Partially Examined Life’s Dylan Casey) and Three if By Space senior editor Erin Conrad to talk about whether this series is really adaptable to the screen at all, and we consider past attempts by David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky (rather slighting the tedious TV version). Is the new version more successful? More feminist? Less colonialist?

Is the lore just too packed into the books to convey adequately? When Frank Herbert jumps forward 3000 years, is that a path that moviegoers will want to follow, even if familiar characters can still be present as talkative ancestral memories in new characters’ heads or come back as clones?

For points of comparison, we touch on not only Star Wars, but Outlander, Picard, The Orville, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Walking Dead, The Dark Tower, and more.

Some articles that fed into our discussion include:

Follow Erin @ErinConrad2.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. 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.

Breaking Down the Beatles’ Get Back Documentary: Stream Episode #111 of the Pretty Much Pop Podcast

Your host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by musician David Brookings, Gig Gab podcast host Dave Hamilton, and OpenCulture writer Colin Marshall to discuss Peter Jackson’s documentary Get Back and the enduring popularity of The Beatles.

This was recorded on 12/8, the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. We consider the arc of their career, the various post-mortem releases that keep our interest, why Beatles solo work remains a cult interest, and much more.

Follow @davidbrookings. Hear him sing every Beatles song. Hear him talking about his own tunes with Mark on Nakedly Examined Music.

Follow @DaveHamilton. Hear him on PMP talking about Live Music.

Follow @colinmarshall. Hear him on PMP talking about Scorsese films.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. 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.

Dueling as a Film Trope: Pretty Much Pop #109 Considers The Last Duel and Its Genre

In light of the release of The Last Duel (which you needn’t have watched), we talk about the trope of the honor-resolving duel in movies and TV. Mark and guest co-host Dylan Casey of The Partially Examined Life are joined by Clif Mark, host of the Good in Theory podcast who wrote his political thesis and a 2018 Aeon article on the history and logic of dueling.

Since we’re all philosophy podcasters on this one (our entertainment podcaster guest dropped out at the last minute), we bring in philosophers like Hegel and Nietzsche in as needed, the circle of ethical concern (who gets moral status and so is worthy to duel?), and of course the relevant class and gender critiques.

We also touch on The Duelists (incidentally, Ridley Scott’s directing debut, where The Last Duel is his latest), The Duelist and The Duel (two 2016 films), A Knight’s Tale, The Princess Bride, Dune, Hamilton, Bridgerton, The Karate Kid, and more.

For more information on the specter of dueling in politics, read about Justin Trudeau and Trump/Biden.

Some articles that fed our discussion (in addition to Clif’s “What Is Offensive”) include:

Follow Clif @Clifton_Mark.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. 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.

Board Game Ideology — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #108

As board games are becoming increasingly popular with adults, we ask: What’s the relationship between a board game’s mechanics and its narrative? Does the “message” of a board game matter?

Your host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by game designer Tommy Maranges, educator Michelle Parrinello-Cason, and ex-philosopher Al Baker to talk about re-skinning games, designing player experiences, play styles, game complexity, and more.

Some of the games we mention include Puerto Rico, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Sorry, Munchkin, Sushi Go, Welcome To…, Codenames, Pandemic, Occam Horror, Terra Mystica, chess, Ticket to Ride, Splendor, Photosynthesis, Spirit Island, Escape from the Dark Castle, and Wingspan.

Some articles that fed our discussion included:

The two games Tommy created that we bring up are Secret Hitler and Inhuman Conditions.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. 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 a “Cult” Band? Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #107

What makes for a “cult band”? Not just a small audience, because Grateful Dead fans are an archetypical cult. Not just a devoted, emotionally invested audience; no volume of Swifties make Taylor Swift qualify as a cult act. Does the music have to be somehow inaccessible, or the fans snobby?

Your host Mark Linsenmayer and three other musicians try to figure it out:

A few of the names that come up for consideration are Tom Waits, The Cure, XTC, Big Star, Brian Wilson, Lou Reed, Guided by Voices, David Bowie, R.E.M., The Residents, Os Mutantes, Tony Owens, Phil Judd, Mike “Sport” Murphy, and many more.

We talk about how the Internet has affected fandom and the music business, the power of musicians lauding each other, and how music fandom relates to other fandom.

Listen to Tim on Nakedly Examined Music and The Partially Examined Life. Read his blog 5-star-songs. Read his article “Hopelessly Devote: Cult Bands.” Follow him @tbquirk.

Listen to Aaron talking about his songs on Nakedly Examined Music, on Pretty Much Pop last year (talking about Borat), and as part of a Partially Examined Life audioplay (also featuring PMP favorite Erica Spyres and cult actress Lucy Lawless). Listen to the song he mentions that resulted from a Tik-Tok collaboration with cult artist Emma Freeman. Follow him on Facebook.

Read Chris’ post-mortem on cult artist Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger.

A couple of articles that fed into this included:

Just to explain one of Mark’s comments, there really was a playset for “the hatch” for the TV show Lost.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. 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 Death of Soap Operas (Is Greatly Exaggerated) — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #105

Writers Sarahlyn Bruck and Kayla Dreysse join your host Mark Linsenmayer to discuss how this once very popular TV show type has simultaneously become niche, yet has had a tremendous influence on current prestige TV as well as reality shows. We talk about soaps’ story and structure conventions, the demands on soap actors and writers, and how changing market forces and technology have affected the genre. How much of a role does sexism play in the critical dismissal of soaps?

In addition to the daytime soaps like General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful, we touch on nighttime soaps like Dallas, teen soaps like Beverly Hills 90210, Downton Abbey, White Orchid, Breaking Bad, 24, Gray’s Anatomy, and more.

Get Sarahlyn’s novel Daytime Drama and follow her at @sarahlynbruck.

We all watched the 2020 documentary The Story of Soaps, which is available on YouTube. A fun podcast Mark listened to some of is A Trip Down Soap Lane.

Other sources that inspired us included:

Sample the Muppets’ fake soap opera that Mark’s intro references.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. 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 — Season One Wrap: What Have We Learned? (#102)

After 101 episodes and a bit over two years, OpenCulture’s first podcast offering is moving into a new phase. Here your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian hirt reflect on what we’ve learned and set a course for the future.

Our overarching concern with this podcast has been how and why we consume. We may not have learned a great deal about this issue in a general sense, but we’ve certainly been shown the appeal of many forms that we might not have considered before, and we’ve theorized about why people like drama or horror, or what makes for compelling sci-fi or gaming, etc.

We’ve stretched over these episodes into some unexpected areas for a pop culture podcast, like the philosophy of photography and why people obsess over conspiracy theories. The current discussion takes this on through a re-consideration of what pop culture is. Of course, the title of the podcast has “pretty much” in it, which allows a certain amount of leeway, but the source of that ambiguity is not just that I want the freedom to bring in any topic that interests me, but because of two points covered in this episode:

  • Functionally, individuals entertain themselves with a variety of things; they are our cultural food, and can include many obsessions that have nothing to do with manufactured media at all. If such fascinations are also used by multiple people to bond over, then that’s culture, and insofar as bonding over that object is common, then it’s pop culture.
  • There’s a continuum between creation and spectating. Creators are first of all consumers and create largely through imitating and tweaking past works. Though this podcast focuses largely on the consumer side of the equation, some of audience appreciation is a matter of respect for the craft, which increases through understanding and (at least vicarious) participation in the activity. Though it’s not always the case that we get enjoyment through sympathy with the artistic choices a creator makes (sometimes we just marvel uncomprehendingly), this is a significant dynamic in fandom. Viewers who liked Game of Thrones had many ideas about how it should have ended even if they had no opportunity or even talent to really provide an alternative.

It all comes down to the dimensions of mimesis, which means reflection. We enjoy storytelling largely because it reflects us, either how we are, how we might like to be, or how we fear we could be. We get some of our ideas about who we are from these media reflections. Marketers guess at who they think we are (again, in part based on media) and create products to market at us. Artists create works reflected from other works which attempt to reflect us (or distort us based on knowledge of a reflection). Who we are as a culture may be very much storytelling all the way down. So political myths are an essential part of this, as are sexual mores, ideas about what leisure activities (and jobs, for that matter) are respectable, manners taken more generally, how we deal with our legacies of racism and sexism, what we find funny and how that changes over time, and much much more.

Thanks, all, for listening. We’ll be back in a few weeks.

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.

The “Conjuring” Film Universe Digested — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #101

With the release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, your Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark, Erica Spyres and Brian Hirt explore the larger “Conjuring universe” that started with the critically acclaimed 2013 James Wan film depicting the fictionalized supernatural investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). Largely using the plot-generating device of the couple’s storehouse of haunted objects, this series has extended into eight films to date with more planned.

Are these films actually scary? Insofar as these demons and ghosts do frighten us, can we (emotionally) buy into the power of Catholic symbols to keep them at bay? Is it OK to valorize these real-life people who were very likely hucksters?

Is grouping these films together merely a marketing gimmick, or is there real narrative justification for the continuity? Even without a common filmmaker, stars, or plot through-line, there is some value in a brand or franchise, just so you know more or less what you’re getting, but does that actually hold in this case, or have Warren-free stinkers like The Nun (2018) and The Curse of La Llorona (2019) already failed to meet the franchise’s standards?

Some of the articles we reflected on for this episode included:

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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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.