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August 13, 2018 | by  | in Podcasts | [ssba]

Podcasts on Pop Culture

It’s really hard to use the term “pop culture” without sounding like a dick. But, for lack of a better term, it must be done. People who read the podcast section (who are you? are you out there?), please consider this a warning/ don’t hate me lol.

I like talking about pop culture. I like thinking about pop culture and engaging with it too. By pop culture I just mean the stuff/content/people/things that are widely popular and prevalent at this current moment. One could say that the Kardashians are a big part of pop culture now. Or Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMAs. Or Frank Ocean dropping a new album. (All of these things are highly important to me and you should know this).
It is easy to spin that well-told tale of “popular” content as part of some lower-level form of culture — meant only for mindless entertainment, and devoid of any real value or insight. I must respectfully disagree. Lots of weird, fascinating, and telling things happen in the realm of pop culture. I think it is worth exploring, so I turned to podcasts.
I have been on a search for the pop culture podcast gives me everything I need — humour, insight, relevance. Basically, I just need some generally good convo that lets me think about the Kardashians and feel truly enlightened at the same time. I will now share with you my findings.

I started my journey with the BBC’s Unpopped — their very first episode is dedicated to RuPaul’s Drag Race and it is a banger. The host, Haley Campbell, and a few guests jump into a conversation about the phenomenon that is drag, and the impact and significance of a show like Drag Race. The episode goes from a discussion about the use of language in the show, to a history of drag and queer communities, to looking at the controversial topic of cisgender woman in drag. Although I did thoroughly enjoy this episode as an avid Drag Race fan, I found later episodes of Unpopped to be extremely hit or miss. Often the conversation is dry and never really moves beyond surface level discussion (eg. a long talk about how Instagram is used).

Keep It!
is a pop culture podcast that I heard about through some pretty positive online reviews. It describes itself as “at the intersection of pop culture and politics at a time when we’re obsessing over both”. This podcast is quite casual, it seems to rest heavily on the personalities and dynamic of the hosts. Also I still haven’t really worked out who the hosts and guests are and why I should really care what they think — maybe you have to listen to lots of episodes to get attached to their banter? It errs on the explanatory side of things, and seems to be more of a run-down of current events than anything super insightful.

Still Processing
Lastly, but my absolute favourite, is the New York Times podcast Still Processing. Hosted by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, two culture writers for the Times, the podcast tackles a different cultural phenomenon, event, product, or just general topic each week.
The best part of the podcast is how Wortham and Morris are unafraid to put broader societal issues, such as racism and sexism, at the forefront of their discussion. To them, pop culture is always political, and hearing them take on topics in this critical way is refreshing and thought-provoking. Topics include how to negotiate Kanye’s role as both a pop star and a politically problematic figure, the frustration from the queer community around Rita Ora’s song “Girls”, and two great episodes discussing the experience of being Asian-American in the current cultural landscape.
10/10 because this podcast continuously opens my mind and I love it


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