Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Wednesday, Dec 12, 2012
True Blood's Amy Burley (Lizzy Caplan) lives a life of paradox: corrupt hipster and a conscious preacher of environmental sustainability -- for vampires.

“I am an organic vegan and my carbon footprint is miniscule,” utters Amy Burley, as she embarks on her environmental cause. “Balance”, “Harmony” and “Beauty” are three signature words defining Amy’s cause in the HBO series, True Blood.  Amy, along with other True Blood women, does not represent a new wave of womanhood, but rather women’s participation in contemporary society as activists in their own right.


The character of Amy, played by Lizzy Caplan, is an eco-activist constantly preaching and guiding her partner, Jason Stackhouse, towards an organic lifestyle. She is the future of modern ecological consciousness in the small, dysfunctional town of Louisiana.


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Thursday, Aug 9, 2012
We talk about the Twitter Age the way we talked about the Nuclear Age. Like? Dislike? Doesn't really make a difference because once here, technology -- nuclear or cyber -- doesn't leave the room.

It’s the Twitter Olympics. Like? Dislike? The live feeds aren’t there or aren’t good, or, they’re spoiling the excitement of the evening TV replay. I’m panning wider: the Twitter Age. We talk about the Twitter Age the way we talked about the Nuclear Age. Like? Dislike? Doesn’t really make a difference because once here, technology—nuclear or cyber—doesn’t leave the room. A PDF is a most personally cherished possession as judged within a cultural mass psyche that cherishes all things personal. You have the power of personal choice, touch and response. Did I say instantaneous touch and response? And unlimited choices?


Is there a dark side? It begins not so dark, but if you think about it beyond a 140-character thought process, it all seems to be a burlesque ending to Enlightenment dreams so well lit in the mind that even postmodernity couldn’t dim them. But there’s a dimmer on now.


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Thursday, Nov 10, 2011
Nominally a kiddie series, the TV adaptation of Horrible Histories has a sharp comic intelligence. It might just be one of the most successful original comedy shows to appear in years.

The thing is, the British attitude toward how one might go about teaching history is a bit more… relaxed than most.


Not that this has traditionally trickled down to UK classrooms anymore than it has North American ones; only that it’s not surprising that when the floodgates did finally open, it happened in the land of 1066 and All That, et endless seq.. When once you’ve decided to adopt Rowan Atkinson as a media icon, there’s not much use trying to prevent children learning about the Renaissance from the perspective of a sewer rat.


Thus was enabled the origin story of the best-beloved Horrible Histories franchise. When asked circa 1992 by Scholastic Books UK to write an historically-themed joke book with a few factoids thrown in, British children’s author Terry Deary had traumatic flashbacks to his struggles to stay awake during middle school courses on the subject. Wouldn’t it be much more fun, Deary suggested instead, if he were to write a book of historical factoids with some jokes thrown in…?


As he delved into the ‘serious’ history texts, that quite naturally evolved into lots of jokes—in fact, into the entire grand gold mine of black comedy that is human civilization throughout the ages, just naturally packed full of the kind of bodily-fluid-filled gags that invariably set children to squealing happily. All of it underpinned by the particular sort of shrewdly anarchistic cleverness that the UK media have been on high alert for, oh, just about f40 years now. Hey, “Chapter One: The Dead Pirate Parrot Sketch” has a nice ring to it…


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Friday, Sep 30, 2011
Mainstream culture's failure to examine professional wrestling seriously -- in this case, workplace safety issues -- lets the WWE get away with all kinds of ridiculous villainy that no other media organisation could. And pocket a tidy profit while doing it.

Professional Wrestling may bristle at being marginalised in mainstream popular culture, but the benefits from being seen as a cultural irrelevance (while raking in millions of dollars and marketing all kinds of conservative values to the children – and adults – in its audience) also works in its favour as often as not. Mainstream culture’s failure to examine professional wrestling seriously lets them get away with all kinds of things that no other media organisation could, or should, get away with, and pocket a tidy profit while doing it.


Interestingly, last Monday on the WWE’s flagship show RAW there was an odd development – not the kind of outrageous, overblown sex or violence that sometimes draws the attention or ire of the mainstream media (something the WWE has worked hard to avoid of late), but a (relatively) quiet storyline development that showed something that’s rarely seen on mainstream television: a group of workers forming a small group and sitting down together to discuss workplace safety issues and getting legal advice on how best to deal with their problems.


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Monday, Jul 25, 2011
Today, PopMatters kicks off a 10-day countdown of some of the high and lowpoints of the 2010 to 2011 television season beginning with the superlative Mad Men and the sad on-going strength of reality shows.

With the Emmy Nominations having been announced for the July 2010 to July 2011 television year, another season is officially concluded. Thanks to a sudden rush of outstanding end-of-the-year shows, what once looked like it was going to be a mediocre to average television season unexpectedly became strong.


Although the Emmys will announce the 2011 winners at its annual show on 18 September, I want to take some time to look back on some of the high and lowpoints of the past season. Beyond doubt this is not exhaustive although it’s certainly a personal list; these were some of the things that either most delighted or most upset me as a television viewer this year. 


For each day for the next two weeks I am going to reflect back on one major highpoint and one major lowpoint of the 2010-2011 television year. And since everyone loves a countdown, let’s start with Number 10:


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