How Do You Like It So Far uses pop culture to take soundings of a society in transition, exploring intersections with civic imagination and engagement, and social and political change. Henry Jenkins and Colin Maclay are your guides on this adventure.

Episode 29: The politics within politics of the Oscars

In this episode we discuss the Oscars with Raffi Sarkissian, Lecturer at Christopher Newport University, Virginia. Raffi has written about the “award season”, where a long narrative is created by promotion strategists, etc. with the Oscars as a culmination. We discuss the emerging of the #oscarssowhite debacle, as a reflection of the industry and the structural problematics. Since then, we have seen the industry attempting to course correct, particularly with this year’s nominees, yet, as Raffi says, the #oscarssowhite problematic will continue to bubble under the surface. We also discuss the evolution of the role of politics in the ceremony. Any award show is inherently political: whenever any institution decides who gets included, what is considered “good” and the repercussions of the awards on the industry.  Many of the recent, mostly Trump-focused political speeches in awards ceremonies, which began with Meryl Streep’s 2016 Golden Globes speech. Yet we have seen many since, including many by Viola Davis etc. focusing not only on the state of the country, but of the industry. Many of the speeches are about pushing the status quo, more than just inclusion and representation. Lastly, there are the politics of the broadcast itself:  as they try to appeal to a bigger audience, who is in charge of the awards, and who are the Oscars for?

Note: the book chapter Raffi and Henry mention will appear in the forthcoming Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination: A Casebook, Henry Jenkins, Gabriel Peters-Lazaro, and Sangita Shresthova (eds.) due out later this year from New York University Press.

Here are some more of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

April Reign, creator of #oscarssowhite

compare nominees 2010 – 2016-present OR search the Academy Awards Databases

Some of the current and recent controversies we mention:
“popular” category retraction
Kevin Hart host retraction
After we recorded this episode, the Academy also announced the categories that would not to be broadcast  then quickly reversed that decision on Friday February 15 after pressure from the industry
Bohemian Rhapsody/Bryan Singer
Green Book director sexual harassment; screenwriter racism
James Franco wasn’t nominated

More of the awards speeches mentioned:
Regina King (2019 Golden Globes)
Glenn Close (2019 Golden Globes)
Viola Davis (2017 Oscars)
Marhershala Ali (2017 Oscars)
Taraji P Henson (2017 SAG awards)
Meryl Streep (2016 Golden Globes)
Halle Berry (2002 Oscars)
Vanessa Redgrave (1978 Oscars)
Marlon Brando/Sacheen Littlefeather (1973 Oscars)

More about the Academy museum

More about the Netflix/Roma campaign

Is it true that only 20% of viewers can recall who won best picture?

Little Gold Men podcast

Spike Lee Oscar history; 2016 “boycott”

The first Oscars ceremony gave awards for both an “Outstanding Picture” (Wings) and a “Unique and Artistic Picture” (Sunrise)

Episode 28: Taking risks: comedy as tool for social justice

In this episode we talked to Caty Borum Chatoo (Twitter: CatyBC), Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) and Executive in Residence at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C. Before academia, she ranged from working with Norman Lear to producing documentaries. She collaborated with comedian Hasan Minhaj on the documentary, Stand Up Planet, identifying comedians in the Global South who tackled serious social justice issues, including global poverty. Comedians and activists share the common goal of identifying problems with the status quo. Caty takes us through why comedy is a viable way of talking through, and getting actual engagement, with difficult issues; the new generation of YouTubers and activists who are bringing it to legislators through, for example, comedy videos about the treatment of sexual assault survivors, and the “comedian in residence” they have at her research center. Also, we consider why it is important that people with different lived experiences and backgrounds can speak directly to their publics without first trying to appeal to majority gatekeepers and how the digital has helped re-shape how we think of audiences. Comedy can help with “activist fatigue”: we need hope, Caty says, not just anger, to deal with such depressing issues. If the question is, how do we get people to engage in serious issue? Caty argues that comedy, as solution, needs to be taken seriously.

Here are some more of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Caty’s forthcoming book (with Lauren Feldman), A Comedian and An Activist Walk Into a Bar: The (Serious) Role of Comedy in Social Justice

The Norman Lear Foundation

A comprehensive list of Norman Lear’s productions

Norman Lear and remaking One Day at a Time

CMSI’s The Laughter Effect: How Comedy Works [to Change the World]

Hasan Minhaj shows Homecoming King and Patriot Act

Comedians Franchesca Ramsey, Zahra Noorbakhsh

Activist Amanda Nguyen

Funny or Die: Even Supervillains Think Our Sexual Assault Laws Are Insane

Abbie Hoffman and The Yippies

Dennis the Menace

More on Bethany Hall, CMSI’s Comedian in Residence

Caty’s Talk, “How Poop Jokes Can Save the World

Baratunde Thurston on Hacking Comedy

Will Rogers’ Native American activism

Eddie Cantor’s Jewish activismListen to our All India Bakchod episode for more on using comedy to address issues

Episode 27: Critics of color: The added value of subtleties, with Eric Deggans

In our third and final installment of the need for critics of color, Eric Deggans, NPR’s first full-time TV critic and author of Race Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation, talks to Henry and Colin about his longtime trajectory in radio and print media. Our guest speaks about how his first encounter with white culture was through radio, and asserts that “podcasting is radio for young people” now. When starting he thought, how can we talk about culture in a unique way, of things that other people cannot see? In his case he thought not only about race, but also about other dimensions, such as being a musician. In terms of television, we talk about how critics of color are needed not only to understand the new shows that better represent minority culture, but also to make visible the prevalence of and default to white culture in general. He says that Luke Cage, for example, hit a few touchstones of growing up black in that time, creating a powerful feeling of nostalgia and understanding that he could not get, for example, with The Sopranos, which he enjoyed as an outsider.

Here are some of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

My Proudest Moment as a Pundit: Bill O’Reilly Calls Me a Race Baiter

Our producer Rennie recommends this opinion piece by columnist Leonard Pitts

Eric’s profile of Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Coker

Eric’s review of The Chi

Eric’s podcast recommendations:

It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders

Pop Culture Happy Hour

We’ll be taking a break for the rest of the year, but have already recorded some great episodes you can expect in mid-January. And make sure to let us know how you like it so far!