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Pop Couture: Undressing Popular Culture!

Mike Ruocco, Erin Jade Igel, Joe Schrum

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Hosted by Michael Ruocco (He/Him), Erin Jade Igel (They/She), and Joe Schrum (He/Him), Pop Couture explores the wide world of entertainment and analyzes the media we love through the lenses of industry experience and fervent fanaticism! Join us as we talk about weird movies, stacks of comic books, awkward video games, trainwreckords, and everything in-between! Due to the mature content and language, this show is not recommended for younger listeners.
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What does ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’ have to do with Odysseus? How does Brad Pitt's Achilles in 'Troy' match up to Homer's original hero? And is Arnold Schwarzenegger the new Heracles? This collection of video animations and audio discussions examines how the heroes of Greek mythology have been represented in popular culture, from ancient times to the modern day. Odysseus is the archetypal questing hero - a blank canvas on which every era has projected its own values. Heracles is the original s ...
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NEON is a different way of sharing historical knowledge. NEON takes a pop culture phenomenon and turns it on its head by revealing lesser known facts, real-life events and history behind your favourite Netflix shows, movies or video games.From how the A-Team took inspiration from Vietnamese history and resistance leaders, to the Aryan purity and Harem breeding programs behind the Handmaid’s Tale. Even some of the most successful video games – Assassins Creed, God of War, and Fortnite – are s ...
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The aim of this series is to offer insights into key moments in the story of Irish popular culture since the publication of Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies in the early nineteenth century. If the story of transnational Irish popular culture begins with Thomas Moore in the early nineteenth century, it wasn't until the end of the 1800s that writers and intellectuals began to theorize the impact of mass cultural production on the Irish psyche during the industrial century. In 1892 Douglas Hyde, s ...
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In Dance Music Spaces: Clubs, Clubbers, and DJs Navigating Authenticity, Branding, and Commercialism (Lexington Books, 2022), Danielle Antoinette Hidalgo examines the production of physical and digital spaces in dance music, and how the players—clubs, clubbers, and DJs—use authenticity, branding, and commercialism to navigate them. An in-depth stud…
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I Spit On Your Celluloid: The History of Women Directing Horror Movies (Headpress, 2024) by Heidi Honeycutt is the first book-length history of female horror directors from the late 1800s to present day. Having conducted hundreds of interviews and watched thousands of horror films, Honeycutt defines the political and cultural forces that shape the …
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The mainstream news media struggles to understand the power of social media. In contrast, conspiracy advocates, malicious political movements, and even foreign governments have long understood how to harness the power of fear and the fear of power into lucrative outlets for outrage and money. But what happens when the messengers of “inside knowledg…
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What if the original teachings of Jesus were different from the Bible's sanitized 'orthodox' version? What covert motivations might inspire those who decide what the text of the Bible 'says' or what it 'means'? For some who ask conspiratorial questions like these, the Bible is the vulnerable victim of secular forces seeking to divest the USA of its…
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Las Vegas is a place the American dream made; a city built in the middle of desert visited by millions of people every year hoping to make their dreams (big or small) come true. The essays in The Possibility Machine: Music and Myth in Las Vegas (University of Illinois Press, 2023) examines Las Vegas not as a kitschy, vaguely embarrassing American t…
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In the 1990s, India's mediascape saw the efflorescence of edgy soft-porn films in the Malayalam-speaking state of Kerala. In Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India (U California Press, 2024), Darshana Sreedhar Mini examines the local and transnational influences that shaped Malayalam soft-porn cinema—such as vernacular pulp fic…
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In 1900, Britain and America were in the grip of a cat craze. An animal that had for centuries been seen as a household servant or urban nuisance had now become an object of pride and deep affection. From presidential and royal families who imported exotic breeds to working-class men competing for cash prizes for the fattest tabby, people became en…
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In 1971, the New York Times called the Taiwanese-Chinese chef, Fu Pei-Mei, the “the Julia Child of Chinese cooking.” But, as Michelle T. King notes in her book Chop Fry Watch Learn: Fu Pei-Mei and the Making of Modern Chinese Food (Norton, 2024), the inverse–that Julia Child was the Fu Pei-Mei of French cuisine–might be more appropriate. Fu spent d…
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In September 2006, Margo Jefferson spoke to the Institute about her book, On Michael Jackson (Vintage, 2007). Jefferson received the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for criticism when she was at the New York Times. Her 2015 book, Negroland: A Memoir, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. And in 2022, she published, Constructing a Nervous System, a memoir…
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Casablanca is one of the most celebrated Hollywood films of all time, its iconic romance enshrined in collective memory across generations. Drawing from archival materials, industry trade journals, and cultural commentary, in Immortal Films: "Casablanca" and the Afterlife of a Hollywood Classic (University of California Press, 2022), Dr. Barbara Kl…
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Ishita Tiwary’s book Video Culture in India: The Analog Era (Oxford UP, 2024) is an unprecedented attempt in foregrounding the diverse media history of the analog video era in India. It reconstructs the evolution of analog video culture through interdisciplinary approaches, including oral histories, archival resources, and discarded tapes. At the s…
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In Anti-Blackness and Human Monstrosity in Black American Horror Fiction (Ohio State UP, 2024), Jerry Rafiki Jenkins examines four types of human monsters that frequently appear in Black American horror fiction--the monsters of White rage, respectability, not-ness, and serial killing. Arguing that such monsters represent specific ideologies of Amer…
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For decades, Joni Mitchell's life and music have enraptured listeners. One of the most celebrated artists of her generation, Mitchell has inspired countless musicians--from peers like James Taylor, to inheritors like Prince and Brandi Carlile--and authors, who have dissected her music and her life in their writing. At the same time, Mitchell has al…
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Electronic Dance Music: From Deviant Subculture to Culture Industry (Rowman & Littlefield, 2023) explores the subculture’s emergence as a deviant subculture. This text analyzes how industry professionals, fans, and public officials helped usher in a new age of EDM, arguing that while the defining features of the subculture made it attractive, they …
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From his overwhelming embrace by evangelicals and other people of faith to his championing of policies and conservative judicial candidates long sought by right-wing Christians, Donald Trump’s candidacy, campaign, and presidency were empowered by believers of many stripes who employed different methods of rationalizing or Christianizing Trump and h…
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How have women resisted sexism in TV? In Producing Feminism: Television Work in the Age of Women’s Liberation (U California Press, 2024), Jennifer S. Clark, an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, explores the people, organisations, TV shows and audiences who all shaped women in and on television during the …
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Friendships can be the foundation of our earliest memories and most formative moments. But why are they often seen as secondary to romantic, or familial connection, something to age out of and take a back seat to other relationships? BFFs: The Radical Potential of Female Friendship (404 Ink, 2023) by Dr. Anahit Behrooz is an examination of the powe…
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It’s the UConn Popcast, and “Hit Man” is writer and director Richard Linklater’s latest film, available on Netflix after a brief theatrical run. We analyze the movie through Linklater’s classic themes: identity and its malleability, American sub-cultures, and American mythologies. “Hit Man” is a less challenging watch than much of Linklater’s canon…
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In Pure: The Sexual Revolutions of Marilyn Chambers (Headpress, 2024), Jared Stearns tells the untold story of the world's most famous X-rated star, who rose to fame as the face of Ivory Snow and the star of Behind the Green Door but struggled to find her true self in a world of sex, scandal, and shattered dreams. Marilyn Chambers was the embodimen…
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Serial Mexico: Storytelling Across Media, from Nationhood to Now (Vanderbilt UP, 2023) responds to a continued need to historicize and contextualize seriality, particularly as it exists outside of dominant U.S./European contexts. In Mexico, serialization has been an important feature of narrative since the birth of the nation. Amy Wright's explorat…
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Infinite Dreams: The Life of Alan Vega (Backbeat, 2024) by Laura Davis-Chanin and Liz Lamere is the first biography on the life of Alan Vega, best known as the co-founder of the punk duo Suicide. In their exhaustive biography Davis-Chanin and Vega's wife of 30 years, Liz Lamere, start with Vega's early life and attempts at astrophysics in college, …
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Since the 1990s, many of Houston’s African American residents have customized cars and customized the sound of hip hop. Cars called “slabs” swerve a slow path through the city streets, banging out a distinctive local music that paid tribute to those very same streets and neighborhoods. Folklorist and Houston native Langston Collin Wilkins studies s…
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In Vibe: The Sound and Feeling of Black Life in the American South (University of Mississippi Press, 2023), Corey J. Miles narrates how southern Black sound, feeling, and being is constantly policed, surveilled, and criminalized. In doing so, he re-narrates the region as the "carceral South," to capture the ways people in the South and beyond can f…
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Tara López's Chuco Punk: Sonic Insurgency in El Paso (University of Texas Press, 2024), is an immersive study of the influential and predominantly Chicanx punk rock scene in El Paso, Texas. Punk rock is known for its daring subversion, and so is the West Texas city of El Paso. In Chuco Punk, Tara López dives into the rebellious sonic history of the…
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Eleanor Medhurst joins us today to talk about Unsuitable: A History of Lesbian Fashion (Hurst & Company, 2024). Clothes are integral to lesbian history. Lesbians, in turn, are integral to the history of fashion. The way that we dress can help us to present who we are to the world, or it can help us to hide ourselves. It can align us with a communit…
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In Record Cultures: The Transformation of the U.S. Recording Industry (University of Michigan Press, 2020), Kyle Barnett tells the story of the smaller U.S. record labels in the 1920s that created the genres later to be known as blues, country, and jazz. Barnett also engages the early recording industry as entertainment media, considering the ways …
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Daniel Rachel's new book Too Much Too Young, the 2 Tone Records Story: Rude Boys, Racism, and the Soundtrack of a Generation (Akashic, 2024) presents the definitive history of 2 Tone Records. In 1979, 2 Tone Records exploded into the consciousness of music lovers in Britain, the US, and beyond, as albums by the Specials, the Selecter, Madness, the …
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The definitive illustrated book on "The Boss"-- Springsteen: Album by Album (Palazzo Editions, 2024) is now updated to celebrate Bruce Springsteen’s 75th birthday! Renowned for his passionate songwriting, galvanizing live shows, and political activism, Bruce Springsteen stands astride the rock 'n' roll stage like a colossus--and the iconic rocker s…
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In The Pet Shop Boys and the Political: Queerness, Culture, Identity, and Society (Bloomsbury, 2024), editor Bodie Ashton compiles twelve essays exploring the impact of Pet Shop Boys across the past four decades. The Pet Shop Boys came of age at a time of deep socio-political tension. From the rise of sexual politics and awareness to Thatcherite ne…
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This episode, we talk with Jennifer Lynn Stoever–editor of the influential sound studies blog Sounding Out!–about her new book, The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening (NYU Press, 2016). We tend to think of race and racism as visual phenomena, but Stoever challenges white listeners to examine how racism can infect our ears…
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Pet Revolution: Animals and the Making of Modern British Life (Reaktion, 2023) by Dr. Jane Hamlett & Dr. Julie-Marie Strange tracks the British love affair with pets over the last two centuries, showing how the kinds of pets we keep, as well as how we relate to and care for them, has changed radically. The book describes the growth of pet foods and…
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Lost Literacies: Experiments in the Nineteenth-Century US Comic Strip (Ohio State UP, 2024) is the first full-length study of US comic strips from the period prior to the rise of Sunday newspaper comics. Where current histories assume that nineteenth-century US comics consisted solely of single-panel political cartoons or simple “proto-comics,” Los…
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The history of rock and roll music can be seen in a long arc of Western civilization's struggle for both greater individual expression and societal stability. In the 1960s, the West's relationship with authority ruptured, in part due to the rock revolution. The lessons and implications of this era have yet to be fully grasped. James A. Cosby's book…
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During the Qing dynasty in China, a wide variety of people participated in a lottery game named weixing (“surname guessing”), which had participants placing bets on the surnames of civil service examination candidates. A fiercely competitive process, those who passed the various levels of the civil service and military examinations could climb the …
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Russian Style: Performing Gender, Power, and Putinism (University of Wisconsin Press, 2023) provides a critical and nuanced analysis of the relationship between popular culture and politics in Russia during Vladimir Putin’s first two decades in power. It traces how the performance of Russian citizenship has been remolded according to a neoconservat…
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We all sometimes ‘lurk’ in online spaces without posting or engaging, just reading the posts and comments. But neither reading nor lurking are ever passive acts. In fact, readers of social media are making decisions and taking grassroots actions on multiple dimensions. Unpacking this understudied phenomenon, Just Here for the Comments: Lurking as D…
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'Star Wars' is a global phenomenon that in 2022 celebrated its 45th year of transmedia storytelling, and it has never been more successful than it is today. More 'Star Wars' works than ever are currently available or in simultaneous development, including live-action and animated series, novels, comics, and merchandise, as well as the feature films…
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What was popular entertainment like for everyday Arab societies in Middle Eastern cities during the long nineteenth century? In what ways did café culture, theatre, illustrated periodicals, cinema, cabarets, and festivals serve as key forms of popular entertainment for Arabic-speaking audiences, many of whom were uneducated and striving to contend …
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While American television has long relied on a strategic foregrounding of feminist politics to promote certain programming's cultural value, Woman Up: Invoking Feminism in Quality Television (Wayne State University Press, 2022) by Dr. Julia Havas is the first sustained critical analysis of the twenty-first-century resurgence of this tradition. In W…
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Marion Casey is a professor at Glucksman Ireland House at New York University where she also serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies. She has published widely on various aspects of Irish-American history and in 2006 she co-edited Making the Irish American: History and Heritage of the Irish in the United States with Joe Lee. In this interview, s…
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The astonishing behind-the-scenes story of the 1963 film Cleopatra and how it changed the face of Hollywood makes it one of the most fabled films of all time. Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the film’s making soon became a cautionary tale, for the lavish extravagance of production on Cleopatra all but bankrupted 20th Century Fox and a…
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How games are built on the foundations of rules, and how rules—of which there are only five kinds—really work. Board games to sports, digital games to party games, gambling to role-playing games. They all share one thing in common: rules. Indeed, rules are the one and only thing game scholars agree is central to games. But what, in fact, are rules?…
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Britain is a nation of gardeners; the suburban garden, with its roses and privet hedges, is widely admired and copied across the world. But it is little understood how millions across the nation developed an obsession with their colourful plots of land. Behind the Privet Hedge: Richard Sudell, the Suburban Garden and the Beautification of Britain (…
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It’s the UConn Popcast, and today we are joined by Professor Robert Farley, author of “Andor: Star Wars Recreates the Battle of Algiers (And it Works).” We talk about how Andor, the Disney+ streamer, was deeply influenced by Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 movie The Battle of Algiers. Both texts tell the story of a rebellion against authoritarian colonial …
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Antarctica is, and has always been, very much “for sale.” Whales, seals, and ice have all been marketed as valuable commodities, but so have the stories of explorers. The modern media industry developed in parallel with land-based Antarctic exploration, and early expedition leaders needed publicity to generate support for their endeavours. Their le…
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As the sun set slowly on the British Empire in the years after the Second World War, the nation's stately homes were in crisis. Tottering under the weight of rising taxes and a growing sense that they had no place in twentieth-century Britain, hundreds of ancestral piles were dismantled and demolished. Yet - perhaps surprisingly - many of these gre…
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From Bill Clinton playing his saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show to Barack Obama referencing Jay-Z's song "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," politicians have used music not only to construct their personal presidential identities but to create the broader identity of the American presidency. Through music, candidates can appear relatable, show cultural comp…
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In Unhomed: Cycles of Mobility and Placelessness in American Cinema (University of California Press, 2024), Dr. Pamela Roberston Wojcik examines America's ambivalent and shifting attitude toward homelessness. She considers film cycles from five distinct historical moments that show characters who are unhomed and placeless, mobile rather than fixed—…
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Pet Revolution: Animals and the Making of Modern British Life (Reaktion Books, 2023) tracks the British love affair with pets over the last two centuries, showing how the kinds of pets we keep, as well as how we relate to and care for them, has changed radically. The book describes the growth of pet foods and medicines, the rise of pet shops, and t…
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Free time, one of life’s most precious things, often feels unfulfilling. But why? And how did leisure activities transition from strolling in the park for hours to “doomscrolling” on social media for thirty minutes? Today, despite the promise of modern industrialization, many people experience both a scarcity of free time and a disappointment in it…
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