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 25 Minority Critics 1 (Mauricio and Jeff Yang)

Today is our first of three episodes exploring why we all need critics of color. Colin talks to Jeff Yang, an American writer, journalist, and business/media consultant who has written for The Wall Street Journal and CNN, and, Mauricio Mota, a producer of East Los High, an award-winning Hulu drama series that has earned five Emmy nominations for its realistic portrayal of Latinx high school students. We talk about the gatekeeping responsibility and power of the few critics of color when they are critiquing media coming from their own communities: They can break or make a show or movie. We also discuss their importance for unpacking the cultural context and nuance of movies such as Crazy Rich Asians and Coco within their fan community and for those encountering these more inclusive representations for the first time. We also discuss how globalization should, and can, work in unexpected ways: Coco did very well in China, for example. How do we move forward? “Everyone can be a critic” says Mota, but for a long time “we were not allowed to have taste in this town.”

 

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

Jeff Yang’s mahjong explainer for Crazy Rich Asians

Margaret Cho’s All American Girl

Yang’s review of All American Girl for the Village Voice is not available online, but this NYT article on his son Hudson covers some of it

Rotten Tomatoes‘ recent move to add over 200 critics to increase its diversity

Maureen Ryan’s column on The Leftovers

 

Episode 24: War of the Worlds, hoaxes and conspiracies with Nick Cull

To continue our thread on rumours and conspiracy theories, this week Colin discussed the 80th anniversary of the The War of the Worlds broadcast on CBS radio with media historian Nick Cull. Orson Welles’ infamous radio drama showed the power of news media to convince populations about a fake event, but it also highlighted the rumours surrounding the broadcast: not everyone thought it was aliens invading, but Nazis, the Japanese etc. Cull explains how rumours reflect the underliying social and political tensions of the moment, and tying to the current moment, describes how rumours have always worked the same way: to explain, engage, undermine and entertain.

Check out our previous conversation with USC colleague Nick Cull, part of our series on Black Panther, here.

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

Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre of the Air and War of the Worlds radio broadcast (10/30/1938)
F for Fake (Orson Welles, 1974)
Pragmatic Imagination (John Seely Brown)
Civic Imagination (Henry Jenkins)
The Platypus and the Mermaid (Harriet Ritvo)
Video Palace (Michael Monello)
The quote Henry read from Ithiel de Sola Pool can be found in Henry’s book Convergence Culture (p 237) or in Pool’s Technologies without Boundaries
Sahara (Humphrey Bogart)
The Last Jedi and Russian trolls

And for more in-depth discussion of War of the Worlds, check out this episode of RadioLab.

Episode 23: Naja Nielsen

This week, Henry talks with Naja Nielsen from Orb Media. They dive into all things youth and politics, focusing on how this group feels about their relationship with traditional politics, their tendency to focus on issues and not parties, and how they can often feel unwanted in current political systems.

Orb recently conducted a cross-national study, focusing on young people from different countries, and found that their desire to get involved often takes a less traditional format: young people choose protesting over traditional politics. This stance manifested in different countries and across the political spectrum: examples of the study included Poland where young people are moving towards right wing and anti immigration politics, while in the US they studied those taking  to the streets as part of the March For Our Lives. Other parts of the study focused on Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, and other countries, in an effort to understand youth voices, media coverage and politics at a global level. They found that even though the youth came from different ideologies and backgrounds, they shared similar feeling that traditional politics exclude young people. They call this “adult-ism,” which describes an environment where it feels like adult opinions matter more, “Young people don’t think they belong in any of those crowds” said Nielsen.

Henry shares some of the lessons from his book “By Any Media Necessary,” highlighting that a larger shift is taking place toward cultural mechanisms that allow people to communicate in a different way about issues that matter to them – asking questions such as what counts as politics and what could be included in political involvement. Nielsen also asks “could we do a better job at reflecting what politics actually is?”

In this episode, Nielsen also walks us through the shift – or need – to look at issues in a global perspective, particularly focusing on how we think of news as happening in discrete areas of life. An example is plastic: “It is in the air, it is in the water….you can’t stop that from entering your country…” and yet traditional news media tend to draw lines between national vs international news making, missing that many of our issues today are global. Orb, as an organization tries to look at these issues from a global perspective, focusing on what are the contention points are in political debate, more than just the issues at face value.

We hope you enjoy diving into this week’s episode as much as we did.