More American Icons
Friday, November 14, 2014
Friday, October 10, 2014
Friday, July 25, 2014
From David Letterman to the writers of The Simpsons, generations of comedians and writers have grown up reading Mad Magazine. It changed the way we consume pop culture and the way we talk about world affairs — along with a generous helping of dirtyish jokes and goofy parodies.
Friday, June 27, 2014
With just a pair of baggy pants, a derby hat, mustache, floppy shoes, and his own physical genius, Charlie Chaplin created silent film's most memorable character — the Tramp.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel about forbidden love among the Puritans captured our admiration for independence — and our craving for scandal. How much has changed in the 150 years since?
Friday, May 16, 2014
Cindy Sherman launched her career by placing herself in photos that look like movie stills for imaginary movies. With Untitled Film Stills, she also created some of the most recognizable images in 20th century art — and maybe even invented the selfie.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Cole Porter was out of the musical theater game during the 1930s, as American mores grew looser and more risqué. But instead of getting stodgy, he wrote the classic celebration of bad behavior.
Friday, January 03, 2014
In April, the band Nirvana is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — it’s been 25 years since the release of their first album, a gnarly piece of late punk called Bleach. But it was their second album, from 1991, that made them famous. It was angry and bracingly cynical ...
Friday, November 29, 2013
It's been over seventy years since movie audiences first watched The Wizard of Oz. Meet the original man behind the curtain, L. Frank Baum, who had all the vision of Walt Disney, but none of the business sense. Discover how Oz captivated the imaginations of Russians living under Soviet rule ...
Friday, November 01, 2013
One of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestors was a judge in the Salem witch trials. In his novel of early America, Hawthorne explores the tension between our deeply ingrained Puritanism and our celebration of personal freedom. Hester Prynne was American literature’s first heroine, a fallen woman who’s not ashamed of her sin ...
Friday, October 25, 2013
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin to promote the abolitionist cause. So how did Uncle Tom become the byword for a race traitor — a “shuffling, kowtowing, sniveling coward”? A scholar traces Tom’s unfortunate journey through pop culture, and a controversial writer who’s been called an Uncle Tom decides to own it ...
Friday, October 18, 2013
Generations of Americans have grown up with Walt Disney shaping our imaginations. We’ll tour Disneyland with its art director, a second-generation Imagineer, who explains why even the trash cans are magic. In Florida, urban planner Andres Duany shows how a theme park helped reimagine city life; Tom Hanks, the first person to play Walt Disney on screen, and futurist Cory Doctorow explain how Disney made them kids for life.
Friday, October 11, 2013
In the 1980s, Cindy Sherman began taking self-portraits that showed her in costumes and scenarios that looked just like movie stills, although they were her own inventions. In a media-saturated age, Untitled Film Stills have influenced a generation of artists as well as pop stars who play with identity as a kind of performance.
Friday, October 04, 2013
How do you build a monument to a war that was more tragic than triumphant? Maya Lin was practically a kid when she got the commission to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall. Her minimalistic granite wall was derided by one vet as a “black gash of shame.” But inscribed with the name of every fallen soldier, it became a sacred place for veterans and their families, and it influenced later designs like the National September 11 Memorial.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Walt Whitman set out to invent a radically new form of poetry for a new nation. His book was first viewed as bizarre and obscene — one reviewer said that the author should be publicly flogged. But revising and adding to the book until his death, Whitman accomplished his goal, creating a new Bible for American poets.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Ken Kesey had worked in a mental hospital, but his first novel was really a parable of what happens when you stand up to the Man – a counterculture fable that doesn’t end well. We visit Oregon State Hospital, where the film was shot, Louise Fletcher describes what it was like to play one of the top movie villains, and Sherman Alexie debunks the myth of the silent Indian.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Cole Porter lived in Europe during the 1920s, and returned to American to write a sharp satire of this freewheeling era that has outlived the people and events it referred to. Music historian Will Friedwald explains how Frank Sinatra saved the song, and we hear a new version written by Joe Keenan.
Friday, September 06, 2013
The story of a young man in the ghetto who turns to murder was an overnight sensation. But some think Native Son exploited the worst stereotypes of black youth. We trace the line from Bigger Thomas to Notorious B.I.G., and visit a high school drama class acting out Native Son, and struggling to grasp the racism their grandparents experienced.