In Retrospect with Susie Banikarim and Jessica Bennett

In Retrospect with Susie Banikarim and Jessica Bennett

Is there a cultural moment from your past that looks different in retrospect? Maybe it’s a scandalous tabloid story seared into your teenage brain or a political punchline that just feels wrong now. It might be a very specific red swimsuit that inspired a decade of plastic surgery (see: “Baywatch”) or the inescapable smell of an entire generation of prepubescent boys (Axe body spray, anyone?). Each week on IN RETROSPECT, Emmy-winning journalist Susie Banikarim and New York Times editor Jessica Bennett revisit a pop culture moment from the 80s and 90s that shaped them — to try to understand what it taught us about the world, and a woman’s place in it. Talk to us at @inretropod, @susiebnyc and @jessicabennett on Instagram. New episodes each Friday.

Episodes

June 7, 2024 40 mins

When Madonna performed “Like A Virgin'' at the first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984, she scandalized the audience and her own team. But she also stole the show, cementing MTV’s place in cultural history. In this episode, Susie and Jess look back at Madonna’s early years in New York, the events that led her to that stage and how she became one of pop's most enduring icons. 

GUESTS:

  • Mary Gabriel, author of Madonna: A Rebel Life
  • ...

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In 1984, a relatively unknown 26-year old Madonna appeared at the first MTV Video Music Awards. Dressed like a rock and roll bride, Madonna sang “Like a Virgin.” The performance was considered so risque, so scandalous that many – including her own manager – predicted it would end her career. But far from stopping her, that moment changed Madonna’s life, transforming her from rising star to pop idol. In this week’s episode, Susie an...

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May 24, 2024 36 mins

Girl dinner. Hot girl walks. Weird girls. Clean girls. Rat girls. Snail girls. Everywhere we look, it seems, a certain kind of girliness is being celebrated – from Beyonce to Barbie to Taylor Swift to TikTok. But what really is girl culture? Jess and Susie revisit a seminal photography book from the early 2000s, Lauren Greenfield’s “Girl Culture,” to ask: What does it mean when girlhood is being glorified but individual girls are m...

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Lyle and Erik Menendez, two Beverly Hills brothers, were convicted of murdering their parents in a tabloid case that captivated the nation in the 1990s. But in recent years, they have captured the attention of a new generation, becoming unlikely social media stars despite being in prison for the last 34 years. In this episode, Susie and Jess look at the dedicated fan accounts advocating for a new trial and the new evidence that mig...

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Hanging out with Monica Lewinsky for her first profile in a decade. Booking Jessica Simpson for a weight loss reveal that never happened. Searching for Casey Anthony….  and not finding her. Wondering how many members of a polycule is too many to put on an expense report (!). In this episode, Jess and Susie revisit some of their most memorable, and sometimes cringey, adventures in journalism.

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She made history as the first Black Miss America, then dramatically lost her crown in a scandal that would see her branded as "the pageant's own Hester Prynn.” But Vanessa Williams did not just go away quietly, she fought back — going head to head with Penthouse, the magazine that published her photos, and the man who tricked her into taking them. In this episode, Jess and Susie chart the aftermath of that sordid episode, as well a...

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You may know her as the Grammy-nominated singer, or for playing the cunning and iconic  Wilhelmina Slater on “Ugly Betty.” But before all that, Vanessa Williams was a bright young college student from New York who would make history as the first Black Miss America, in 1984. And yet before she could complete her term, she would be dramatically dethroned — in a nude photo scandal that would ignite a torrent of racism and see her bran...

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In 1991, America’s sweetheart Sally Field starred in a movie about an American woman’s desperate escape from her abusive Iranian husband. For Susie, and a generation of other Iranian-American kids, this was the only representation they saw of themselves in pop culture – and it was not great. It was essentially a horror film – and the horror was Iran. In this episode, best-selling author (and fellow Iranian-American) Porochista Khak...

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April 12, 2024 39 mins

As we revealed in part one, the 2007 Rutgers women’s basketball team was having a Cinderella season when radio host Don Imus callously dragged them into a national firestorm with a racist slur, effectively stealing their moment. But the women of Rutgers didn’t just go away quietly – they fought back, rising above the noise to tell their story. Susie and Jess are joined again by former Rutgers captain Essence Carson and Emmy-winning...

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Long before Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese were shattering records and making national headlines, there was the 2007 Rutgers team. The New Jersey players had a Cinderella season, powering their way to the Final Four in an extraordinary triumph. But instead of being celebrated, the young women were attacked – dismissed and belittled in an infamous on-air slur by the popular radio host Don Imus. In this episode, Susie and Jess revisit...

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For a certain generation of girls, the trading of lip gloss was akin to sharing secrets — there was hierarchy, and subtlety, and hidden messages all in one. In this mini episode, Jess reminisces about middle school makeup rituals and what they can tell us about female friendship, while Susie wonders how it’s possible to be so nonchalant about the spreading of germs (lol!).

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It was the iconic and irreverent magazine that shaped a generation of 90s girls, teaching them about pop culture, fashion and feminism. Sassy was accessible and relatable, willing to openly talk about taboo subjects like sex and teen suicide when nobody else would. In this episode, we chat with the founding editor and perennial cool older sister Jane Pratt about why Sassy still resonates for so many nearly 40 years later. 

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You asked, we answered! In this episode, Jess & Susie take a trip down memory lane — responding to “in retrospect” moments shared by listeners (you!). From a generation named after Jordan Catalano of “My So Called Life” to Brandy and Monica’s faux-feud in “The Boy Is Mine,” here are some moments from the 90s that you can’t stop thinking about.

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March 8, 2024 43 mins

Exactly 25 years ago, the blockbuster teen comedy “American Pie” launched the term “MILF” into the stratosphere — that is, Mom I’d Like to F*ck. Jennifer Coolidge, who played Stifler’s Mom, is perhaps still the most famous MILF in America. But… where did that term really come from? Jess and Susie uncover the MILF’s true origin story and how it was shaped by the most raunchy teen sex comedy of our time.

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March 1, 2024 34 mins

And what does that even mean? In this episode, Susie and Jess unpack how ageism has been used to diminish women for generations and their own complicated feelings about aging.

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What did a generation of strivers learn about what it means to get ahead from “The Devil Wears Prada”? Was Miranda Priestly, the famed and famously demanding fashion editor at the center of the movie – in many ways the original “girlboss” – an aspirational or cautionary figure? In this episode, Susie and Jess revisit the blockbuster 2006 film and talk about their own careers and changing relationships to ambition.

GUEST:

  • Samhi...
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How do you turn the classic raunchy teen comedy on its head? Emma Seligman, writer and director of the critically acclaimed, lesbian fight club film, “Bottoms,” and the claustrophobic, indie hit, “Shiva Baby,” talks movie-making, her early aughts inspiration, queer representation on screen and how it’s changing. Guest hosted by Sharon Attia, our researcher and associate producer, who also happens to be Emma’s best friend. 

GUEST: 

...
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    In part one, Jess and Susie revisited a famous episode of The Golden Girls, in which Blanche mistakes the word “lesbian” for “Lebanese.” (“Not ‘Lebanese,’ Blanche. Lesbian!”) Nearly 40 years later, the IKYKY of calling lesbians “Lebanese” lives on – as does the gay legacy of The Golden Girls. Jess and Susie talk to the originator of that joke about the role that The Golden Girls played – and still plays – in gay culture, as well as...

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    “Not ‘Lebanese,’ Blanche. Lesbian!” The line originated on The Golden Girls in 1986, after a lesbian friend of Dorothy’s came to visit and Blanche mistook her for “Lebanese.” A decade later, Ellen DeGeneres riffed on that same play on words, coming out as “Lebanese” on the Rosie O’Donnell Show shortly before publicly coming out. “Lebanese” lesbians would go on to appear in Mean Girls, on Glee, and even RuPaul’s Drag Race. In this e...

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    January 26, 2024 1 min

    Get ready for more In Retrospect! From the dramatic dethroning of the first Black Miss America to the enduring legacy of four caftan loving Golden Girls, we’ve put together a whole new batch of episodes about the retro pop culture we all love – and love to pick apart. So dig up your leg warmers and break out the Aquanet, season 2 drops next week!

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