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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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show series
 
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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In the summer of 2016, Disney introduced its first Latina princess, Elena of Avalor. Elena, Princess of the Periphery: Disney’s Flexible Latina Girl (Rutgers University Press, 2023) by Dr. Diana Leon-Boys explores this Disney property using multiple case studies to understand its approach to girlhood and Latinidad. Following the circuit of culture …
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Before Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria, and Penelope Cruz, there was Lupe Velez―one of the first Latin-American stars to sweep past the xenophobia of old Hollywood and pave the way for future icons from around the world. Her career began in the silent era, when her beauty was enough to make it onto the silver screen, but with the rise of talkies, Velez c…
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This book analyses the way that changes in the comics industry, book trade and webcomics distribution have shaped the publication of long-form comics. The US Graphic Novel (Edinburgh UP, 2022) pays particular attention to how the concept of the graphic novel developed through the twentieth century. Art historians, journalists, and reviewers debated…
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Never before have comics seemed so popular or diversified, proliferating across a broad spectrum of genres, experimenting with a variety of techniques, and gaining recognition as a legitimate, rich form of art. Openness of Comics: Generating Meaning within Flexible Structures (UP of Mississippi, 2016) examines this trend by taking up philosopher Um…
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Following Art Spiegelman's declaration that 'the future of comics is in the past,' Drawing from the Archives considers comics memory in the contemporary North American graphic novel. Cartoonists such as Chris Ware, Seth, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, and others have not only produced some of the most important graphic novels, they have also turned …
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Analyzing the way that recent works of graphic narrative use the comics form to engage with the “problem” of reproduction, Shiamin Kwa’s Perfect Copies: Reproduction and the Contemporary Comic (Rutgers UP, 2023) reminds us that the mode of production and the manner in which we perceive comics are often quite similar to the stories they tell. Perfec…
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Deeping It: Colonialism, Culture & Criminalisation of UK Drill (404 Ink, 2023) by Adèle Oliver shines a critical light on UK drill and its fraught relationship with the British legal system. Intervening on current discourse steeped in anti-Blackness and moral panic, this Inkling ‘deeps’ how the criminalisation of UK drill cannot be disentangled fro…
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How is comedy hostile to women? In Stand-up Comedy and Contemporary Feminisms: Sexism, Stereotypes and Structural Inequalities (Bloomsbury, 2023), Ellie Tomsett, a Senior Lecturer in media and film at Birmingham City University, explores the reality of a comedy industry that, despite many changes, still has a sexism problem. The book draws on a hug…
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Country music maintains a special, decades-long relationship to American military life, but these ties didn't just happen. This readable history reveals how country music's Nashville-based business leaders on Music Row created partnerships with the Pentagon to sell their audiences on military service while selling the music to service members. Begi…
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In the decades directly following the Holocaust, American Jewish leaders anxiously debated how to preserve and produce what they considered authentic Jewish culture, fearful that growing affluence and suburbanization threatened the future of Jewish life. Many communal educators and rabbis contended that without educational interventions, Judaism as…
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The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic (Grove Atlantic, 2024) tells the story of the epic friendship between John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, the golden era of improv, and the making of a comedic film classic that helped shape our popular culture. “They’re not going to catch us,” Dan Aykr…
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The cassette tape was revolutionary. Cheap, portable, and reusable, this small plastic rectangle changed music history. Make your own tapes! Trade them with friends! Tape over the ones you don't like! The cassette tape upended pop culture, creating movements and uniting communities. High Bias: The Distorted History of the Cassette Tape (UNC Press, …
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It’s the UConn Popcast, and today we discuss Netflix’s new screen adaptation of Chinese science fiction author Liu Cixin’s Three Body trilogy. We discuss the battle between the eye and the idea in film and television science fiction, and whether the new show strikes a successful balance. We consider some of the challenges involved in adapting this …
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In postwar Britain, journalists and politicians predicted that the class system would not survive a consumer culture where everyone had TVs and washing machines, and where more and more people owned their own homes. They were to be proved hopelessly wrong. Ben Highmore's Lifestyle Revolution: How Taste Changed Class in Late 20th-Century Britain (Ma…
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Rachel S. Gross's Shopping All the Ways to the Woods (Yale University Press, 2024) tells the fascinating history of the profitable paradox of the American outdoor experience: visiting nature first requires shopping No escape to nature is complete without a trip to an outdoor recreational store or a browse through online offerings. This is the irony…
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In Music and Sound in the Films of Dennis Hopper (Routledge,2024), Stephen Lee Naish explores how as a director Dennis Hopper used music and sound to propel the narrative of his work and to signpost the era in which the films were made and the characters' place within American culture. Naish examines five of Hopper's films to show how this deep eng…
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