Hi there — Emily here!
I listen to podcasts all the time. They entertain me when I’m doing laundry, and washing dishes, and making dinner, and basically doing all of the boring grown-up things that (somehow?) magically appear on my to-do list. Listening to people have interesting conversations about amusing and important topics makes the mundane parts of my day so very much more exciting. I find it a lot harder to complain about having to go to the grocery store when I’m also listening to two historians talk about the legends surrounding the real-life kick-ass lady warrior Boudica, Queen of the Iceni.
(Because the blogosphere absolutely needs a higher density of images of Boudica.)
Back in September, I indulged my curatorial whims by putting together a list of some of my favorite podcasts. And I stand by those recs: the podcasts that I wrote about are all highly enjoyable and worth your time. But this week, I want to make an addendum to that list and recommend a few podcasts which have been utterly delighting me in the last few months.
As a grad student in English lit and an all around pop culture geek, I love consuming new media — and re-experiencing old favorites — but my schedule doesn’t tend to allow me to binge-watch tv or to check fun-reading books out of the library and actually get a chance to read them during the semester. Don’t get me wrong: The Faerie Queene is awesome. But when you spend a whole lot of time reading The Faerie Queene and Arcadia and weird Renaissance texts, you end up with less time to consume random pop culture. So recently, I’ve fallen in love with two fantastic, gargantuan, encyclopedic, and entertaining, recap-based podcasts, both of which I recommend that you check out.
As these podcasts talk in minute detail about geek culture properties and story arcs, they satisfy my cravings to consume new media (and re-experience old favorites), while also presenting their content in a way that (1) includes critical analysis and (2) allows me to listen while I’m on the go. Basically, these podcasts have become an awesome way to intake story and think about fandom and geek culture (while, you know, actually reading The Faerie Queene when I’m supposed to be doing that).
First off, last autumn I started listening to StoryWonk’s Dusted, a weekly Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast. In Dusted, writers/cultural critics/Joss Whedon fans Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens are slowly working their way through Buffy episodes, and are breaking down story-beats, character arcs, and the general awesomeness that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer as they do so. (Full disclosure: I’ve watched the whole Buffy tv show and read Season Eight of the comics, so I already knew of the general awesomeness of Buffy before starting to listen to Dusted.)
Lani and Alastair started out re-watching the first season last September, at which point they were talking about two Buffy episodes a week. Now they’ve slowed down, though, so that while they still podcast weekly, they only cover one episode of Buffy at a time — even though their podcasts still tend to be at least 90 minutes long. Yes, that does mean that it takes longer to listen to Dusted than it does to watch Buffy, but Lani and Alastair have some great moments of media criticism as they discuss character beats, gender politics, overarching themes, and the outdated ‘90s technology that Willow keeps getting excited about.
They’re smart, funny, and on point as they discuss the iconic genre tv show that they both love. (Spoilers: Joyce Summers is surprisingly awful and Cordelia Chase is unsurprisingly amazing.) Next week (3/26) they’ll be discussing the season two finale (“Becoming, Parts 1 and 2”!!) so it’s the perfect time to get caught up on this fantastic podcast!
More recently, then, I’ve also fallen in love with Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, a weekly podcast in which two comic book lovers and X-men aficionados (or X-perts?) read through the major X-men (and X-men adjacent) story arcs in Marvel comics, as they comment upon story and art design, discuss character arcs and gender politics, and attempt to explain X-men continuity. (Full disclosure: before starting to listen to Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, I’d only read Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men, so this podcast has been more of a learning experience than a revisiting of old favorites.)
Rachel and Miles started out last spring with a few weeks on Silver Age storylines before really settling into the Christ Claremont years of the franchise (now, in March, we’re still in the Claremont years on X-men). They breeze through story arcs that they don’t find either particularly appealing or particularly continuity-relevant, but when they hit a story they like, they spend multiple 40-minute episodes working through why these stories work as well as they do. They talk character design, narrative construction, thematic through-lines, the intersection between word and image, and the way that stories and their legacies have rippled through the X-men franchise as a whole.
Their descriptions of comic events like the New Mutants’ Demon Bear Saga or the end of the Dark Phoenix Saga, are fun, engaging, and understandable to a comic-book newbie like myself. (Spoilers: the Dark Phoenix Saga is amazing, Secret Wars 2 was bizarre, and Rogue and Gambit have the best kiss in the X-men franchise.) Also, Rachel and Miles are — like Lani and Alastair — just delightful. They’re still working through the ‘80s in both the flagship comic and the New Mutants, but if you’re curious about X-men continuity, start at the beginning and catch up!
Both of those podcasts are — while absolutely wonderful — kind of a time commitment, though. So if you want wonderful pop culture podcasting which doesn’t require a lengthy investment or ask you to remember past story arcs that were recapped, I want to recommend the recent Pop Culture Happy Hour episode in which the always charming Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, and Barrie Hardymon discussed Jane the Virgin, The Boy Next Door, and erotic thrillers, all the while keeping it NPR appropriate. It’s a great discussion, and it’s doubly wonderful for hearing the NPR-able circumlocutions that Linda keeps finding herself using.