Category: Culture

My So-Called Life: Angela Chase, Body Image, and Teen Angst

In August 1994, ABC aired the pilot episode of My So-Called Life, and for the first time I felt that a television show spoke directly to me. I was fifteen, self-conscious, and searching for identity in a rural suburb of Lansing, Michigan. Shows such as Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place obsessed over affluence, sexuality,… Read more →

Lillie Western, Banjo Queen

It should come as no surprise that the Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists list includes only two women, Bonnie Raitt at #89 and Joni Mitchell at #75. The unyielding maleness of guitar culture stretches across decades and genres, even in the face of necessary corrections like Gayle Wald’s biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe or the… Read more →

Photos with Santa Paws: Ruminations on Pets, Precarity, Consumption, and Family

Children have posed for photos with Santa, willingly or otherwise, for more than a century, but recent pics star new subjects: pets. Pet stores, along with department stores, malls, and community groups, now host special pet-friendly photo sessions. Lists abound online of such photo ops, as well as tips for how to get that perfect… Read more →

Deconstructing HIV and AIDS on The Golden Girls

In 1990, the much-beloved sitcom, The Golden Girls — a show about four older women, Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia, living together in Miami, Florida — was in its fifth season. On February 17, the “72 Hours” episode aired. In it, Rose receives a letter from the hospital where she had gallbladder surgery notifying her… Read more →

“Hateful, Un-American Ideas!” Gender, Race, and Politics in Cold War Romance Comic Books

In the October 1949 issue of the romance comic Hollywood Confessions, the protagonist of the story “Too Ugly to Love” describes himself as so ugly that he resembles a “menace from a horror picture.”1 Jon Koslo has “accepted … [his] ugliness philosophically!” when a film producer spots him and “exploits [his] ugliness” by giving him… Read more →

I Was Trolled – Here’s Why I’m Turning It into a Teaching Opportunity

Here’s what happened. I wrote an essay critically analyzing a YouTube talk show I actually watch and enjoy — Hot Ones — on which celebrities answer questions while eating ten chicken wings doused in hot sauces of increasing spiciness. I argued that interrelated gender conventions about flavor, food, appetite, and consumption shape how celebrity is… Read more →

Women’s Liberation, Beauty Contests, and the 1920s: Swimsuit Edition

For several years, I’ve had a wall decoration in my office: a panoramic photo of a 1920s beauty contest. I was surprised to come across it at a discount home furnishings retailer and bought it on impulse. After all, how often does a cherished primary source present itself as a consumer good? From its inception,… Read more →

Superhumanization

On the cover of Black stands a lone Black man in red, hood up, hands to the sky, while cops aim their guns for his head. Surprisingly, there is a smirk on his face. I flipped through the pages so fast to see why this man could smile in the face of a modern day… Read more →

On Poverty, Morality, and Mothering

In 1930, nineteen-year-old black (preta) Jovelina Pereira dos Santos, a live-in domestic servant in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hid her pregnancy from her family and employers, gave birth in secret, and asphyxiated her newborn immediately after delivery. Santos already had a young son named Ernesto who was a little over one year of age. Santos… Read more →

Microwave Cookbooks: Technology, Convenience & Dining Alone

The microwave is celebrating its 50th birthday this year, but even that can’t redeem the innumerable copies of microwave cookbooks you’ll find discarded at thrift shops. Recently, while scanning the musty smelling shelves for vintage copies from Julia Child and James Beard, I finally gave into my curiosity and purchased a small corpus of five… Read more →