Category Archives: popular culture

September 24, 2012, 12:13 pm

Eroticizing Violence Against Women Is A Feminist Issue — So Why Don’t We Say So?

            Not sexy, dude, even in France.

Mostly I have been keeping my mouth shut about the vogue in mainstream S/M. I am certainly restraining myself on the pressing topic of the day, Naomi Wolfe’s vagina. There seems to be so little to say about these things after all the regular critics have finished with them except to be mean about heterosexuality and how dull it is becoming. Is it interesting that A Trillion Fifty Shades of Grey is popular among straight girls?

Not really. What’s more interesting, from this historian’s perspective, is that the Grey books, which feature the possibilities of changing your life by becoming involved with a wealthy kinky man, are being carried in Barnes and Noble; that having a man “do what a woman wants without being asked” doesn’t seem to include having him give …

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September 1, 2012, 10:23 am

Tenured Radical’s New Media Adventures

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a new Huffington Post feature called HuffPost Live. My segment — on marriage equality — was hosted by Janet Varney, who once had a part on one of my all-time favorite shows, Entourage (2004-2011).

I can’t figure out how to embed the video (perhaps because it is unembeddable?) but you can access Tenured Radical discussing the question of whether the government ought to get out of the business of marriage altogether here.

As you can see if you click on the link, it’s a web broadcast with a live chat feature on the right. There is a central studio in Los Angeles, where they sometimes have sit down guests: our feature was done via a Google+ Hangout, a video chat feature that allows up to nine people to join a conversation.

One obvious feature of doing a digital media event — aside from the fact that it is fun — is that in a …

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October 7, 2011, 3:18 pm

Is Steve Jobs’ Life An Inspiration To All Of Us? A Meditation On The Difference Between Having A Life And A Lifestyle

Great minds so think alike. Following the death of Steve Jobs, Historiann asks whether the outpouring of grief over the death of this brilliant and peculiar man is yet another symptom of anxiety over national decline. Oh yes — and, since our friend brings up the exploitation of Chinese labor by Apple —  I would add that Apple is a potent nexus for the ambivalent historical relationship that American politicians and manufacturers have with China.  Apple products are one of the very few consumer objects that people around the world seem to crave, much as American merchants have craved unfettered access to Chinese consumers since the 1870s. Simultaneously, Chinese consumers have craved the American consumer culture that is shamelessly knocked off there and sold to billions of people from Beijing to Times Square. An iPhone also closes the circle between a Cold War capitalist model and 2…

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September 6, 2011, 5:19 pm

Respecting Differences

Today’s guest blogger is my Zenith colleague, feminist philosopher, animal studies scholar and fellow tenured radical Lori Gruen.  I asked her to comment on the renewed interest, both virtual and real, in the relationship between humans and chimpanzees.

Two summer movies featuring “chimpanzees” (no actual chimpanzees were used in the production of either film) have really got folks talking about our primate cousins.  People seem to be both fascinated and frightened by the idea that scientists might create intelligence in other apes.  What’s interesting is that other apes are already intelligent without our manipulations — we just don’t know how to appreciate it because we’re too focused on our own cleverness.  Project Nim, a documentary by James Marsh, director of the acclaimed Man on a Wire, reveals the quirks inherent in cognition research with chimpanzees as well as …

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December 6, 2010, 7:55 pm

Towards A Theory Of Scandal; Or, How To Become Client 9

On The Good Wife, actress Julianna Margulies
assumes an iconic stance as Alicia Florrick.

Laura Kipnis, How to Become A Scandal:  Adventures in Bad Behavior. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010. 208 pp. Bibliography, no index. Illustrations.

Client 9:  The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (Alex Gibney: 2010).  Now in general release, and available on some cable systems.

One of our favorite shows chez Radical is The Good Wife (Tuesday nights at 10 EST on your local CBS affiliate or online.) I have always liked Julianna Margulies:  I liked her last series, Canterbury’s Law, which got canceled after six episodes in 2008 because of the writer’s strike.  She appears to have emerged from that complex show having found her niche as a TV attorney. Margulies’ fundamental interiority as an actress is a perfect comment on some of the dilemmas of modern heterosexuality, marriage and parenting for…

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July 12, 2009, 3:52 pm

Steal This Book! Public Enemies, John Dillinger and Me


Don’t be surprised if you are channel surfing in the next couple months and suddenly see — me! There are at least four different made-for-TV documentaries in which I appear as a talking head because of my first book, War on Crime: Bandits, G-Men and the Politics of Mass Culture (Rutgers University Press, 1998). For a while I was an all-star on Third Street in Lower Manhattan because the History Channel is, apparently, one of the few things the inhabitants of the men’s shelter there can agree that they all like. Every once in a while I would be strolling by and a cigarette-ravaged voice would growl happily, “Hey! I know you!” Once I was at a tenure party for someone else, and that person’s father confided that he had really come to the party to see me. People write me mash notes from Australia, England and Canada — always men, which is really disappointing. I am also occasionally…

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June 29, 2009, 4:14 pm

How Will We Write The History Of The Man In The Mirror; Or, Who Was Michael Jackson (To You)?

Last Thursday night, my iPhone — which only works intermittently in the hills of Litchfield County, CT, and only then if you stand in the exact right spot in the house — buzzed to indicate a text message. I looked down. “Michael Jackson died :(” read the message, sent by a colleague and a good friend (the Radical’s agents are everywhere.)

Wow, I thought: and only three days after Judy Garland.

It is good there is no internet where I was, otherwise I would have spent the rest of the evening on my computer looking for the very few details that were (and still are) available. I also missed most of the relentless tributes, as there is no television in this little retreat either. Friday morning I did decide that I needed a New York Times, so I went to the grocery store out in Northford, CT, where I have shopped since about 1986. The woman at the check-out station was weeping, tears…

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April 21, 2008, 1:04 pm

Be Afraid of Your Wife: Feminism and the History of Everyday Rage

(Crossposted at Cliopatra)

A Vietnam-era suburban housewife is standing in front of a kitchen counter. She stares calmly and without expression into the camera, as if she is the star of her own cooking show. “Knife,” she intones, displaying a knife in her right hand. With short, violent strokes she stabs the cutting board in front of her. She puts the knife aside. “Measuring cup,” she intones, and begins to flip an invisible liquid into the face of an invisible person. “Nutcracker,” she says, holding up the new implement and snapping it together sharply three or four times before setting it down.

Ouch. “Semiotics of the Kitchen” (1975), one of five short performance pieces produced and filmed by Lynda Begler, shows how ordinary kitchen implements express a woman’s rage, or what Betty Friedan famously called “the problem that has no name.” But Friedan – and…

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December 2, 2007, 10:48 pm

Home Again: Driving Dr. Radical

Although the AAA was not the last conference I am going to this year, it is the last one I am going to this calendar year. Phew. And my return home was marked by the oddest taxi ride ever.

Those who are familiar with Shoreline’s taxi history know that it is a somewhat recent event to have taxis at the train station at all. Back in the ‘seventies, I remember slogging up to the Oligarch campus with my duffle bag on my shoulder, block after block, usually in the cold. There were often troops of us going up together, and this before the days of suitcases with wheels even. Sometimes we would have to stop for a drink or two on the way. It was that bad.

In any case, there are now lots of taxis: whether all those medallions existed before and were being held off the market in hopes that Oligarch University would relocate to another town, or whether the city did something to create them who …

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July 27, 2007, 1:02 pm

Dogs, Violence and Popular Culture

Last night I was watching the pilot episode of Damages, the new Glenn Close series on FX about a Manhattan litigator who sues corporations for the Big Bucks when they do dirt to the little guy. Ted Danson plays the evil Kenneth Lay-type CEO who has encouraged his employees to invest in the company, then dumped his stock, killed the company and voided their pensions. I think it’s going to be a pretty good series, in part because, in true Fox News style, the producers are not going to let Glenn Close — a torts attorney, one kind of right-wing whipping boy — be a heroine. It appears that she has constructed an elaborate deception to get a witness to testify for the case against the robber baron by killing the witness’s dog, a large friendly mutt named Saffron, and framing the “bad guy.” The witness was willing to let five thousand people’s pensions go down the drain, but her moral…

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