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Decoder Ring

Slate

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.

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.

Location:

United States

Networks:

Slate

Description:

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.

Language:

English


Episodes

Tattoo Flash

7/27/2021
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 us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can...

Duration:00:51:26

The Tootsie Shot

7/20/2021
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 middle of a montage and takes up 30 seconds max, and...

Duration:00:39:14

Who Killed The Segway?

7/13/2021
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 want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate...

Duration:00:44:59

The Sign Painter

7/6/2021
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 happens, to an artist—to anyone—when they’re good enough, but...

Duration:00:58:22

That Seattle Muzak Sound

6/29/2021
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 institutions of the 20th century, only to become a punching bag...

Duration:00:44:45

The Invention of Hydration

6/22/2021
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 Perrier to turn the concept of hydration, and dehydration into...

Duration:00:37:10

The Soap Opera Machine

6/15/2021
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. This is the story of those who made it happen: the producers,...

Duration:00:52:36

Join Slate Plus to Hear a New Episode of Decoder Ring!

4/22/2021
Where did all the water bottles come from? Just a few decades ago, no one carried bottled water around with them, and now it's totally ubiquitous. What changed? Hydration is a real thing in science, but it was also a kind of invention: used by marketers of sports drinks, bottled water companies, and the wellness industry to keep us buying and drinking water for clearer skin, better health, and all sorts of other nebulous benefits. To hear the full episode now, sign up for Slate Plus....

Duration:00:01:38

Decoder Ring Presents The Sporkful’s Mission: ImPASTAble

3/15/2021
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, get it made, and actually sell it. It's great! To hear the...

Duration:00:31:01

The Blue Steak Experiment

12/21/2020
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 blue raspberry, and what to make of the blue food experiment...

Duration:00:40:59

The Cabbage Patch Kids Riots

11/23/2020
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 accusations of copyright theft. Slate Plus members get ad-free podcasts...

Duration:00:37:00

Jane Fonda's Workout, Part 2: Hanoi Jane's VHS Revolution

10/26/2020
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 involving a persistent VHS entrepreneur, dozens of bizarre celebrity workout...

Duration:00:50:37

Jane Fonda's Workout, Part 1: Jane and Leni

10/12/2020
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: the story of the bestselling VHS tape of all time. Slate Plus members...

Duration:00:53:47

Mystery of the Mullet

8/14/2020
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 Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support our work. Learn...

Duration:00:51:46

The Karen

7/13/2020
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 Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to listen and support...

Duration:00:39:16

The Metrosexual

6/10/2020
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 and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up...

Duration:00:37:32

Gotta Get Down on Friday

5/11/2020
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 and bonus episodes of shows like Dear Prudence and Slow Burn. Sign up now to...

Duration:00:44:12

Unicorn Poop

4/8/2020
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

Duration:00:36:08

Rubber Duckie

3/19/2020
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 your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:25:07

The Shop Around the Corner

3/2/2020
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 that inspired the movie and displaced independent booksellers on the...

Duration:00:38:36