Decoder Ring

Decoder Ring

Decoder Ring is the show about cracking cultural mysteries. In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

Episodes

November 30, 2021 37 min
In literature, the choice to become a vampire is a metaphor for transformative experiences. On this episode, we bring you a story from Slate's Hi-Phi Nation podcast, which explores problems in contemporary philosophy through story. From real-life blood suckers, to Lord Byron, to Twilight, vampires are a tool for philosophers to think about otherness, sexuality, and the transformative experiences we all go through in life. To li...
Share
Mark as Played
When you think about the game, you lose the game. When you lose the game you must declare that you have lost the game, causing all others in your vicinity to also lose the game. That’s it, that’s the game.  The game is mind game that trades on a quirk of human psychology, and is so intensely viral that it went from a college science fiction club in-joke to an endemic mind virus in only a few decades. If you’re a bit older and alrea...
Share
Mark as Played
November 16, 2021 42 min
Rats live wherever people live, with one exception: the Canadian province of Alberta. A rat sighting in Alberta is a major local event that mobilizes the local government to identify and eliminate any hint of infestation. Rat sightings makes the local news. Alberta prides itself on being the sole rat-free territory in the world, but in order to achieve this feat, it had to go to war with the rat. On this episode of Decoder Ring we ...
Share
Mark as Played
November 9, 2021 56 min
In the summer of 1986, both Time Magazine and Newsweek ran blockbuster cover stories on the same subject: a secret cache of provocative, intimate paintings by Andrew Wyeth, one of America's most famous artists. These paintings were completed over fifteen years and all featured the same, often-nude model named Helga, and had been hidden from his wife and the public for 15 years. The implication was obvious: Wyeth had been having...
Share
Mark as Played
August 6, 2021 50 min
In 2001, Oprah Winfrey invited Jonathan Franzen to come on her show to discuss his new novel The Corrections. A month later she withdrew the invitation, kicking off a media firestorm. The Oprah-Franzen Book Club Dust-Up of 2001 was a moment when two ways of thinking about selling out smashed into each other, and one of them—the one that was on its way out already— crashed and burned in public, barely to be seen again. So today on D...
Share
Mark as Played
July 27, 2021 50 min
Time does funny thing to everything, but especially to tattoos. Today, four stories about tattoos whose meanings have shifted with the passage of years, decades, or centuries: first, a look into an archive of 300 preserved tattooed skins, then a personal investigation into into the Tasmanian Devil tattoo, the story of the Zune tattoo guy, and finally mistranslated Chinese character tattoos. If you love the show and want to support ...
Share
Mark as Played
July 20, 2021 39 min
You know the Tootsie Shot. It’s that shot from the movies: a really busy midtown street, protagonist smack in the middle of it all, everyone going somewhere. It’s one of the most recognizable shots in film. It can be found in Working Girl, Midnight Cowboy, Wall Street, Heartburn, Elf, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Devil Wears Prada, The Wolf of Wall Street, and so many more. This is a short, transitional moment that often comes in the...
Share
Mark as Played
July 13, 2021 45 min
In the year 2000, Dan Kois was a junior book agent working on selling a secretive book proposal called IT, a codename for what would eventually be revealed as the Segway personal scooter. This is the story of the invention and development of a potentially revolutionary device, how Dan may or may not have doomed it, how the hype got out of control, and how that speculation helped birth the modern internet. If you love the show and w...
Share
Mark as Played
July 6, 2021 58 min
Ilona Granet was a New York art-scene fixture who won the praise of the art world when she put up anti-harassment street signs in lower Manhattan in the mid- 1980s. Her career seemed like a sure thing, but three decades on, and so much more art later, it still hasn’t materialized, even as her contemporaries are now hanging in museums. This episode is not about the familiar myth of making it, but the mystery of not making it. What h...
Share
Mark as Played
June 29, 2021 44 min
If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can binge the whole season of Decoder Ring right now, plus ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more. On this episode, we explore the misunderstood history of Muzak, formerly the world’s foremost producers of elevator music. Out of the technological innovations of World War I, Muzak emerged as one of the most significant musical inst...
Share
Mark as Played
June 22, 2021 37 min
To say that hydration is an invention is only a slight exaggeration. Back in the 1970’s and ‘80s, no one carried bottled water with them, but by the ‘90s it was a genuine status object. How did bottled water transform itself from a small, European luxury item to the single largest beverage category in America? It took both technological innovation, but even more importantly it took savvy marketing from brands like Gatorade and Perr...
Share
Mark as Played
June 15, 2021 52 min
Welcome to a brand new season of Decoder Ring! On this episode, we investigate the wild world of soap operas through the lens of one legendary, decades-long, ripped-from-the-headlines storyline. The rape of Marty Seabrook dared to combine the melodrama of soaps with a serious examination of sexual assault, and over time morphed from an award-winning story about believing victims into a redemption arc for the rapist at its heart. Th...
Share
Mark as Played
Right now Decoder Ring is working on a full season of new episodes coming this June, but in the meantime we wanted to share this episode from our friends over at The Sporkful. Each week on The Sporkful Dan Pashman and his guests obsess about food to learn more about people. This episode is the first in a five-part series called Mission: ImPASTAble. The series follows Dan as he embarks on an epic quest: to invent a new pasta shape, ...
Share
Mark as Played
December 21, 2020 41 min
What took blue food so long to catch on? Today it’s all over the freezer aisle, in candies for kids, in tortilla chips, and novelty foods, but it wasn’t very long ago that food experts agreed: blue food was an impossible sell. Their best evidence was a study from the 1970’s in which subjects were served blue steaks to sickening effect. On this episode, we uncover the strange, misinformation-stuffed history of blue food, the rise of...
Share
Mark as Played
November 23, 2020 36 min
In 1983, the Cabbage Patch Kids were released, causing widespread pandemonium in toy stores and in the media. How did a children'a toy inspire such bad adult behavior? On this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the strange world of the Cabbage Patch Kids to figure out why they hit it so big. The answer involves butt tattoos, slightly grotesque faces, industrial innovations, an origin story in a cabbage patch, and serious accusa...
Share
Mark as Played
How did Hanoi Jane become Exercise Jane? This is the second part of our two-parter on Jane Fonda's Workout. If you haven't yet, listen to the previous episode "Jane and Leni" first, it will give you the full context for this episode. This time around we explore how an academy award winning actor and controversial political activist managed to transform herself into a category defining fitness icon. It's a story ...
Share
Mark as Played
When Jane Fonda granted us an interview to talk about her famous workout tape, things didn't go as planned. On part one of a special two-part Decoder Ring, we explore the decades-long friendship of Jane Fonda and Leni Cazden, the relationship that birthed the workout that changed the world. It's a story of creation, regret, fame, forgiveness, trauma, survival, politics, and exercise. In two weeks, we return with part two: t...
Share
Mark as Played
August 14, 2020 50 min
The mullet, the love-to-hate-it hairstyle is as associated with the 1980's as Ronald Reagan, junk bonds, and break dancing. But in at least one major way, we are suffering from a collective case of false memory syndrome. In this episode we track the rise and fall of the mullet, and also the lexical quandary at its heart: who named the mullet? Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudenc...
Share
Mark as Played
July 13, 2020 41 min
The Karen, a white woman who surveys, inconveniences, and terrorizes, service workers and people of color is a relatively new term in the culture, but her character type has been with us for centuries. In this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the history of this type, from the code-names used during enslavement, to the contemporary menace of the COVID age. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like D...
Share
Mark as Played
June 10, 2020 38 min
In 2003, the word "metrosexual", meaning a well-groomed heterosexual man, exploded all over the English lexicon. It invaded the news, TV, and even American politics. On this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the origins of the metrosexual, and how trend forecasters, marketers, David Beckham, Sex and the City, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy helped make the metrosexual possible. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts an...
Share
Mark as Played

Popular Podcasts

    If you can never get enough true crime... Congratulations, you’ve found your people.

    The Daily

    This is what the news should sound like. The biggest stories of our time, told by the best journalists in the world. Hosted by Michael Barbaro. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, ready by 6 a.m.

    Dateline NBC

    Current and classic episodes, featuring compelling true-crime mysteries, powerful documentaries and in-depth investigations.

    Stuff You Should Know

    If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

    The Ben Shapiro Show

    Tired of the lies? Tired of the spin? Are you ready to hear the hard-hitting truth in comprehensive, conservative, principled fashion? The Ben Shapiro Show brings you all the news you need to know in the most fast moving daily program in America. Ben brutally breaks down the culture and never gives an inch! Monday thru Friday.

Advertise With Us

For You

    Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.

    Connect

    © 2021 iHeartMedia, Inc.

    • Help
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • AdChoicesAd Choices