Exploring the history and development of everything from television and popular music to literature and the plastic arts.
Forging a Path
The arts and criticism can contribute to deliberate culture, but they must first foster a more vibrant, inclusive conversation.
Living Through Our Errors
For a cyberpunk like Kenji Siratori, breaking the code of the text may be the only way to reassert the life of the author in the wake of Roland Barthes.
The Soul of Narrative
Why is narrative such a consistent feature of human culture? Perhaps because we need to practice consistency.
Twenty-two years is a long time to wait for the follow-up to Loveless, but that’s what it took to renew the promise of the early ’90s.
The biggest problem of evil in American Horror Story is the inability to pin evil down.
Inaugurating Unversed America
For literary partisans, an inaugural poem can be an argument for the significance of modern poetry—but only if it’s not muffled by the political gesture.
Django Plays His Part
Lulled by the retelling of the legend of Siegfried, we may have missed something remarkable: Quentin Tarantino’s most morally subversive character yet.
The Audience’s Revenge
How did we come to believe that Django Unchained was a revenge movie? By all outward appearances, all Django wanted was his freedom and his wife.
By directing our attention away from the South, the classical Western genre may have indulged a blind-spot in American history. Django Unchained turns us back on the path.
Blunting the Axe to Ban the Gun
The NRA’s scapegoating of the media is reprehensible, but we can’t afford to simply laugh off the suggestion that some forms of violent media contribute to violence.
Christmas Is A Big Commercial Racket
In 1965, Charles Schulz delivered a heartfelt plea for authenticity. In its thorny relationship to corporate interests, A Charlie Brown Christmas reflects the complexity of our own relationship to the holiday.
Frogtown Hollow Blues
What do fans of a Christmas special do when changes in format and ownership disrupt a holiday tradition? In the age of the digital revolution, they edit.
Coming Out In Christmastown
Since its first broadcast in 1964, Rankin-Bass’ TV special Rudolph has built a cult following in the LGBT community. Saving it from its own era has always been an act of intervention.
Make Yourself At Home
AMC’s remodeled theaters invert the notion of the “home theater,” but the added amenities may ultimately prove a liability.
The Journalist and the Mermaid
After Rihanna’s Saturday Night Live performance, few asked how we could understand seapunk with the same level of confidence that went into all our talk about it.
The Wrong Coming-of-Age?
What happens when a literary market is shaped in part by an audience it wasn’t intended to serve? The answer may be hidden in the book series that reshaped the Young Adult market.
Triggers of Meaning
What happens to a work of speculative fiction when the logic of a conceit doesn’t quite work? Sometimes what the audience takes from the story is irrevocably changed.
The Heart of a Killing Machine
When The Terminator sparked concerns over onscreen violence, a remarkably expressive score by Brad Fiedel helped the film transcend its own bleak vision of the future.
The Synclavier and Fairlight CMI added samples to the composer’s palette. With David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, they also suggested a future with no clear distinction between virtual and real.
“Cheap and fast” is how John Carpenter describes his musical process. Collaborator and unsung hero Dr. Daniel Wyman tells how Carpenter’s idiosyncratic vision created some of the most unnerving themes in horror.
The 1970 release of the Minimoog synthesizer freed popular music from the tyranny of singers and guitarists. In the hands of prog band Goblin, it would unleash a far more sinister presence.
Until the late 1960s, the soundtrack to evil ran to two extremes: orchestral menace and theremin eeriness. Then came Wendy Carlos and A Clockwork Orange.
Why do adults make up so much of the market for young adult fiction? Perhaps because YA reminds us of the power of fiction.
Grievances Without End
Innocence of the Muslims is more than just an occasion for violence, even if it’s something less than a movie.
What have we really missed with a work of art that relies heavily on familiarity with a deeply foreign culture?