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.... Show More

Episodes

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...
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July 13, 2020 40 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...
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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...
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May 11, 2020 44 min
Rebecca Black's music video for Friday was Youtube's most watched video of 2011, thrusting the thirteen-year-old Rebecca into a very harsh spotlight. Dubbed "The Worst Music Video Ever Made" Friday was an almost universal object of derision. This is the story of how Friday came to be, and how nearly a decade after it went viral, it sounds so different than it did back then. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts an...
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April 8, 2020 37 min
How did poop get cute? On this episode of Decoder Ring we trace the rise of cute poop from the original Japanese poop emoji to more modern poop toys which rely on the Youtube algorithm to get seen and sold. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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March 19, 2020 26 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. How did the humble rubber duck become an icon of bath time? On this episode of Decoder Ring we talk to rubber duck experts, enthusiasts, and manufacturers to find out how the rubber duck evolved, why it's so appealing, and why there are thousands of them lost at sea. Learn more about ...
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March 2, 2020 38 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. The 1998 romantic comedy You've Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is about the brutal fight between an independent bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner, and Fox Books, an obvious Barnes & Noble stand-in. On this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the real life conflict tha...
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February 10, 2020 33 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. When Peter Mac was young, he found solace from his troubles in the voice of Judy Garland. He's now been a Judy Garland impersonator for 17 years. On this episode of Decoder Ring we explore the special valence that Judy Garland has for queer people, the history of female impersonation ...
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February 3, 2020 41 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an exposé of Lord Byron's incestuous affair in 1869, it nearly destroyed The Atlantic Monthly, and threw the reputations of two literary icons into chaos. This is a story about 18th century scandal, cancel culture, and Bad Literary Men, that isn't ...
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December 9, 2019 38 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Nick Spark fell down a rabbit hole tracking down the origins of Murphy’s Law, the ubiquitous phrase that says “If it can go wrong, it will go wrong”. On this episode of Decoder Ring, we follow Nick on his journey while taking a few detours of our own to find out how Murphy’s Law was [mayb...
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November 6, 2019 40 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Jenna Karvunidis invented the gender reveal party, but now she has regrets. On this episode of Decoder Ring, we explore the pink and blue world of the gender reveal party, and how Jenna's small barbecue celebration turned into a global phenomenon that's gotten way out of control. ...
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October 7, 2019 48 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. In the early 1990's Bart Simpson became a breakout star while also becoming a target in the culture war, culminating in president George HW Bush speaking out against The Simpsons as an example of a degenerate American family. Today on Decoder Ring we try and figure out why the H-E dou...
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August 12, 2019 41 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Why is the ice cream truck business so bananas? On this episode of Decoder Ring we find out via three seperate stories about the strange world of ice cream trucks—about the first ever ice cream trucks in China, the ongoing ice cream wars of Manhattan, and the life of an ice cream family i...
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July 15, 2019 30 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Over the last half century the decorative pillow has been crowding out our sitting and sleeping spaces, multiplying across our beds and couches decade by decade. For some, decorative pillows are a fun design accent, for others a symbol of useless overconsumption. Today on Decoder Ring we ...
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June 11, 2019 48 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. The King was an animatronic lounge singer who performed in Chuck E. Cheese locations in the 1980's and early 90's, but then he disappeared. The King was a victim of a conflict known as the pizza wars, when Chuck E. Cheese faced off against its rival, Showbiz Pizza for pizza arcade...
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April 29, 2019 35 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Videomate: Men is a VHS tape released in 1987 featuring 60 single men pitching themselves as dates to women on the other side of the TV screen, who could connect to these eligible bachelors from the comfort of their homes. In retrospect, Videomate: Men is bizarre and hilarious, but at the...
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March 25, 2019 35 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Truck Nutz are a brand name for the dangling plastic testicles some people affix to the bumper or hitch of their vehicle. Also known as Bull’s Balls, Your Nutz, and other brand names, these plastic novelties have a powerful symbolic charge and are often associated with a crass, macho, red...
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February 25, 2019 38 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Baby Shark is an megaviral YouTube video, an unstoppable earworm, a top 40 hit, a Eurodance smash, a decades old campfire song, and the center of an international copyright dispute. This month on Decoder Ring we explore the strange history and conflicted future of the song, what makes it ...
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January 30, 2019 53 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Brett Johnson was a career criminal: a fraudster, a con man, a cyber criminal, but now he’s a legal person operating on the right side of the law, helping companies stop people like he used to be. His story is the stuff of a movie like Catch Me iI You Can, it involves wild scams, narrow e...
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December 3, 2018 43 min
Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Jennifer Aniston’s story had it all: Heartbreak, secrecy, sex, betrayal. But what it also had was a new kind of tabloid: Us Weekly and its copycats. Brad Pitt leaving Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie would have been a huge Hollywood scandal no matter when it happened, but it became an ...
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