popular culture

  • Hollywood Has Abandoned the Citizen-Inventor

    After generations of populist inventors making the things they need, Hollywood has framed our relationship to invention as receiving the gifts bestowed on us by plutocrats. 

  • Professor Helps Rescue "Lost" Asian American Silent Film

    Denise Khor's research on film culture seemed to show that the prints of the 1914 film "The Oath of the Sword" had been lost. But one museum had a decaying copy in a vault, and a restored version has premiered as the oldest known Asian American film. 

  • How Tina Turner Escaped Abuse and Reclaimed her Name

    by Gillian Brockell

    She escaped Ike Turner's abusive and controlling grasp with 36 cents in her pocket. Escaping the marriage required her to surrender all claim to their shared assets in exchange for the rights to use her stage name and have a second chance at stardom on her own. 

  • The Writers' Strike Opens Old Wounds

    by Kate Fortmueller

    The plot of each sequel of negotiations between the producers and writers has followed a formula of compromise for mutual self-preservation. Technological advances have convinced studio heads that they no longer need the labor of writers enough to keep compromising. 

  • Lizzo's Duet With History (and Madison's Crystal Flute)

    by Grace B. McGowan and Ravynn K. Stringfield

    Performing with the treasured national relic of a slaveholding President forced Americans to ask who owns antiquities, and has the right to tell their story. The controversy over the event shows that these are still contested questions. 

  • What You Need to Know About Captain America's Secret Identity

    by Roy Schwartz

    "You know the story: a young, undersized, aspiring artist from New York’s Lower East Side who loves his country and hates bullies uses a superhero persona to take on the Nazis and becomes a war hero. It’s the origin of Captain America. It’s also the origin of Jack Kirby, his co-creator."

  • How Superman Became a Christ-Figure

    by Roy Schwartz

    How did the comic book creation of two American Jews, whose origin story incorporates Moses, come to be understood as a stand-in for Jesus? Mostly through the movies. 

  • 20 Years Later, What is the Cultural Imprint of the Iraq War?

    The US war against Vietnam sparked a broad array of artistic responses, and more importantly became a litmus test for a future generation of leaders. Despite disagreements about the invasion and its serious consequences for the Middle East, the war seems to have left no trace on the West. 

  • 20 Biopics Worth Watching

    It's rare for a biopic to attempt artistic innovation. A critic offers a list of those that succeed. 

  • The Case for Blondie as the Sound of the 70s

    by Kevin Dettmar

    While the decade's pop scene was undeniably eclectic, there's an argument to be made that the New York group was at the center of the most lasting trends of the 1970s. 

  • Who Gets to Sing About Revenge in Pop Music?

    by Jewel Wicker

    Do the racial politics of musical genre explain why songs about revenge are celebrated in country music and turned into evidence for the prosecution against hip hop artists (even when the songs in question are fiction)?