The Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions
By The Center for Artistic Activism
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What happens when an academic, an activist, and an artist walk into a blockbuster? The Pop-Culture Salvage Expeditions! Who says cultural studies should be dull? Let's face it, a lot of what we enjoy in our leisure time is crap produced for profit, but we enjoy it because it strikes a chord. At the core of pop culture are dreams, desires, or fears that resonate with all of us. Once we've identified and understood these deep motivations we can salvage them, putting them to other, better, and more creative uses! This is where the Center for Artistic Activism (CAA) will be posting a series of podcasts from our directors - Stephen Duncombe and Steve Lambert, alongside CAA Chairwoman Patricia Jerido. In each episode Patricia and the Steves will be digging through garbage looking for hidden gems; from blockbuster movies, to chain restaurants, to video games, sports matches and more. The highest grossing and best attended give us an insight into what makes these guilty pleasures so popular, and what use creative activism can make of them. At the Center for Artistic Activism we go for gold. And here, there be treasure...
||Clean10: Professional Wrestling||The gang heads to Newark to see WWE Smackdown live!||2/4/2016||Free||View in iTunes|
||Clean9: Zumba||A Zumba class teaches us about real leadership.||12/13/2015||Free||View in iTunes|
||Clean8: Mega-Church||The gang goes to a megachurch! And gets creeped out.||10/18/2015||Free||View in iTunes|
||Clean7: Minecraft||with Duncombe's kids as our resident experts, what makes this video game so popular? And what can we learn from it?||9/8/2015||Free||View in iTunes|
||Clean6: Mani Pedi Day!||We get manicures and pedicures at a Brooklyn Nail Salon. What Pat calls "the definition of comfort" makes Steve Lambert very uncomfortable.||7/14/2015||Free||View in iTunes|
||Clean5: Stand Up Comedy||with Leonidas Martin! We went out for a night of live stand up comedy. Here's what we learned.||6/8/2015||Free||View in iTunes|
||Clean4: The Billboard Hot 100||Philospher and punk rock drummer, Max Tremblay, guides us through the Billboard Hot 100 charts!||5/8/2015||Free||View in iTunes|
||Clean3: Mini-Sode! 50 Shades of Grey||We took a group of 23 sex work activists to see 50 Shades of Grey in Cape Town, South Africa. The Steve's give a quick rundown.||4/24/2015||Free||View in iTunes|
||Clean2: TGI Friday’s||We visit TGI Friday's in NYC's Union Square. TGI Friday's has over 900 restaurants in 61 countries. Known for kitchy decor, potato skins, and alchohol - but what makes this restaurant popular? And what can we learn from it for creative activism?||4/9/2015||Free||View in iTunes|
||Clean1: Transformers: Age of Extinction||In our first expedition we will watch the highest grossing worldwide movie of 2014, and one of the worst. Not to make fun of it (though that can not be helped) but to learn.||3/12/2015||Free||View in iTunes|
What I appreciate most about The Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions is that in the end Patricia, Steve, and Steve are up front about their alienation from the subject at hand (whether Transformers or T.G.I. Friday’s) — they express out loud that they did not enjoy the experience, that they’d be happy to trash it — and yet still exert the effort to find meaning and usefulness. Their dissections are savvy, thoughtful, and genuine — modeling a kind of analysis anyone could replicate to carry this work forward. I’m excited to see what they subject themselves to next.
A fun look at using pop culture for political organizing
A podcast about pop culture could easily lapse into one of two extremes: criticizing it as total trash, or elevating it unthinkingly. The “Pop Culture Salvage Expeditions” does neither, but instead looks at why pop culture is popular, and what we can learn from it for political organizing. I love that the hosts of the show have a good time — this is not some dour dissection of pop culture, they’re enjoying each other’s company and the discussion and the subject itself. Great stuff!
These conversations about popular culture are aimed at what it can teach social activists about how to appeal to the masses. It's hugely instructive in that domain. I find the insights of the hosts equally useful in thinking about other aspects of my work: how to interact with coworkers, how to make software that appeals to users. Just great stuff.