Pop, the Question is a spirited dialogue about popular culture. Hosted by Dr. Melinda Lewis, the series engages in conversations with guests about the ways in which popular culture intersects with their academic fields of study and research.
- Season 6-Episode 47: Getting Real About Housewives
The Real Housewives is a television franchise of voluminous proportions. With over 10 American-produced series since 2006 (each with multiple seasons and based in varied locations), a conglomerate of spin-offs, and numerous international series to boot, the Bravo network continues to attract the attention of audiences the world over. With characters, locations, and on- and off-screen drama aplenty, the franchise is both soap-opera-reality-show and cultural institution. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis joins longtime Housewives fan and Drexel University Director of International Admissions Christie Ruggieri to take a deep dive into The Real Housewives universe, where the show's stars exhibit transgressive behavior and demonstrate how anything is possible on modern television.
- Season 6-Episode 46: Climate Change, Science Writing, and Environmental Justice
For over two centuries, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University has been at the forefront of scientific research in the Philadelphia metropolitan region and across the globe. Now, more than ever, the institution's vast collections, research initiatives, and community-based projects are forging pathways to scientific understanding about the world's natural environment and its inhabitants. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis joins two esteemed science experts from the Academy: Dr. Rick McCourt (Curator of Botany and Director of the Center for Systematic Biology and Evolution; Drexel University Professor of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science) and Roland Wall (Senior Director of Environmental Initiatives for the Patrick Center for Environmental Research). This in-depth conversation addresses the impact of climate change, the accessibility of science writing in popular culture, and the greater movement for environmental justice and access to nature for all.
- Season 6-Episode 45: Game Time for Esports
Esports, as a growing cultural institution, finds itself in the middle of a debate over how it qualifies in the world of professional athletics and competitive sport. With growing popularity among gamers and fans alike, esports thrives among online streamers and college-level competitors. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis faces off with Drexel University undergraduate, gamer, and Drexel Esports President Claire Toomey to understand the rapid evolution of esports and how colleges are fostering a sense of sport and community for gamers.
- Season 6-Episode 44: Professor Magic
Magic has a way of (abracadabra!) appearing ubiquitously throughout popular culture. Integrated with mysticism and illusion is the core element of performance, transcending the carnival atmosphere and stage into other arenas of human life and interaction. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis talks with magician, improv comedian, Drexel University English writing professor, and overall "Man of Mystery" Dr. Fred Siegel to uncover the allure of the magic genre, its evolution, and its performative relevance to life on stage and in the classroom.
- Season 6-Episode 43: When Great Artists Behave Badly
This special episode highlights a previously recorded discussion in partnership with the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. Presented as an installment of the Pennoni Panels series—and later produced as a pair of episodes for the PBS-broadcast TV series The Civil Discourse, hosted by Drexel University Pennoni Honors College Dean Paula Marantz Cohen—"When Great Artists Behave Badly" features Tony Award-winning dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones and a panel of esteemed experts. The panelists take on the topic of controversial artists and how society can separate the art from the artist in cases of toxic, immoral personal behavior.
- Season 6-Episode 42: Rust Belt Stories
The image and stories of working-class people have been central to an understanding of "America" and the "American Dream." Their stories are omnipresent in popular literature, film, television, music, and everyday life. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis takes a tour with Drexel University sociologist Dr. Amanda McMillan Lequieu to explore a de-industrialized United States of America and its hardest hit communities, where some choose to leave while others remain. Along the way, the two also explore narratives that have helped shape policy and public perception of what it means to come from a place of importance.
- Season 5-Episode 41: Fight for Your Right to Fandom
Fandom often gets a bad rap, with communities surrounding popular texts like Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and professional wrestling framed as toxic, desperate, or some combination of both. But fan communities are also the source of vibrancy and community-building with fans who make and share art, fan fiction, fanzines, clubs/message boards, cosplay, and conventions. Participatory culture helps expand the boundaries of the text, expanding its reach and meanings. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis explores these communities with Drexel University student, artist, writer, and consummate fan Kat Heller, who discusses their own research and relationship with fandom. The conversation also dives into the depths of the HBO Max series Our Flag Means Death, offering overt queer representation with its characters and, in turn, plenty for fans to enjoy.
- Season 5-Episode 40: State of Euphoria
Euphoria is a highly bingeable HBO series that has made an indelible impact on pop culture of the early 2020s. It has drugs, sex, cutting-edge fashion, constant conflict, and plenty of references to past TV teen dramas like My So-Called Life and Beverly Hills, 90210. It also places lead star Zendaya and writer/director Sam Levinson in the spotlight, but not without criticism. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis welcomes Drexel University student and Euphoria critic Kiara Santos on the phone for a debrief of the show's first two seasons, exploring the ups and downs of the cast of characters and the writing behind all the drama.
- Season 5-Episode 39: The Undertaker and Wrestling Over Time
Professional wrestling encapsulates so much of what's popular in the greater culture: dynamic characters; athleticism; narrative conflict; and riveting performance. For decades in the media spotlight, wrestling has maintained a stronghold on audiences with the likes of Hulk Hogan, André the Giant, Rick Flair, Dusty Rhodes, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Undertaker. However, as the profession changes, so do the players with the passing of time and their own aging in the face of mortality. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis gets in the ring with Drexel University student services pro and lifelong wrestling fan Dr. Subir Sahu for a match for the ages. The tag team takes on wrestling's powerful place in pop culture with a special focus on The Undertaker's trajectory from Mean Mark Callous to a masterful icon of the sport.
- Season 5-Episode 38: The Beauty of Pageants
Beauty pageants have a prominent history in American culture, where they evolved from baby contests at state fairs to full-blown Miss America extravaganzas for millions of viewers to enjoy. With its evolution, pageantry in all its splendor has found a home in popular culture and inspired TV shows like The Bachelor and Toddlers & Tiaras, movies like Miss Congeniality and Drop Dead Gorgeous, and also the way social media influencers comport themselves. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis examines the history, trends, and cultural impact of beauty pageants with Dr. Hilary Levey Friedman, a Brown University sociology professor, the author of Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America, and the daughter of a former Miss America winner.
- Season 5-Episode 37: Life Lessons in True Crime
The popularity of true crime indicates a fascination with crime. Whether that interest is rooted in the perpetrators, the horror of the crimes themselves, or the pleasure in detective work, audiences continually gravitate toward narratives like The Staircase and Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer or podcasts like My Favorite Murder and Criminal. True crime has become a lifestyle, where enthusiasts even attend conventions like CrimeCon. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis examines the truth behind true crime in conversation with criminologist and serial killer expert Anthony Meoli, who has spent years corresponding with those behind bars. From Michael Alig to Gary Whiteside (and Charles Manson and Ted Kaczynski in between), Meoli has built relationships with some of the more notorious people of true crime lore and provides insight to the complexities and nuance of crime and criminality.
- Season 5-Episode 36: Punk Rock Rebellion in Philadelphia
Philadelphia's punk rock legacy, much like Rocky Balboa, is one embodying a fight to the finish and unsung achievements. Such is the story of author, educator, and lifelong rabble-rouser Nancy Barile, whose autobiography, I'm Not Holding Your Coat: My Bruises-and-All Memoir of Punk Rock Rebellion, revisits her beloved Philly and a revolutionary period in music culture. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis stage-dives into conversation with Barile for a return to the author's old stomping grounds and the punk rock lifestyle that made her who she is today as a high school English teacher and hardcore punk historian.
- Season 5-Episode 35: The Meaning of Life
What is the meaning of life? It's a question that many (including Monty Python) have asked themselves through the annals of history and, most recently, during a global pandemic. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis evokes a discussion on the topic with Drexel University adjunct professor of philosophy Dr. Josh Peskin, exploring representations in popular film, the power of mindfulness, and the allure of woodworking that has helped Peskin design his life and make sense of the world around us.
- Season 4-Episode 34: Life-Changing Albums
Remember when you were 14 and there was that one album that changed the way you see and hear the world? Taking its lead from The Adolescentia Project, a digital archive that honors the music of our past, this special episode delves deep into the 14-year-old selves of three Drexel University faculty members to understand how The Police, Carpenters, and Dead Milkmen impacted these listeners' lives and outlooks. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis leads the listening party with Drs. Denise Agosto, Jonson Miller, and Sheila Sandapen to reminisce about formative records (along with a few bonus tracks).
- Season 4-Episode 33: Pandemic Fashion
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the fashion world on its head, prompting independent designers to step up as larger, more established brands had to either pivot their business model or fold. Prudent designers followed the call to design comfy clothes like sweats, supportive footwear like Crocs, masks for both function and fashion, and creative collaborations with independent designers and craftspeople representing diverse clientele and wide-ranging needs. Drexel fashion design major Lindsay Alshouse and fashion design graduate Gabrielle Bak join Host Dr. Melinda Lewis for a big reveal of fashion trends from the pandemic, as well as industry shifts and their impact on popular culture.
- Season 4-Episode 32: Dystopian Science Fiction's Past, Present, and Futures
Part of the allure of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian fiction, whether in print or on screen, is the ability to conjure up possible worlds and concepts that don't yet exist in reality. Novelists have done this for centuries, inspiring television and film adaptations to give rise to scientifically-based visions of what lies ahead. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis explores this genre of popular media with Drexel University product design professor, lifelong sci-fi and fantasy fiction enthusiast, and self-proclaimed "Doomsday optimist" Raja Schaar, unearthing the power of imagined stories to help make sense of (and potentially heal) a fractured society.
- Season 4-Episode 31: Poop, the Question
As unpopular as it may seem, poop is omnipresent. We all do it, we all think about it, and we all have established practices and product preferences. Companies make big bucks from human bowel movements, while social infrastructure determines how we "go" about our daily lives. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis lets loose alongside self-proclaimed poop advocates and Drexel University undergraduate students Alaina and Jake to tackle this typically taboo topic with humor and pragmatism.
- Season 4-Episode 30: Musicals
Everybody loves a good musical! They're full of life, movement, poetry, social commentary, and, of course, plenty of song. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis joins the chorus line with Drexel University Associate Teaching Professor Gail D. Rosen, a life-long devotee of musicals, to discuss the best (and worst) in stage production and screen adaptation, as well as the power, memory, and future of the great musical.
- Season 4-Episode 29: Pennoni's Pandemic Picks
Binging TV, movies, and social media during a pandemic is one way to cope with the daily uncertainty and inordinate amount of time spent at home. Fresh content abounds, giving viewers plenty of excuses to procrastinate from ongoing duties and the reality of the world outside. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis invites a cast of colleagues to chat about current TV series, horror flicks, and even some throwbacks that have been occupying their minds and capturing their hearts.
- Season 4-Episode 28: Zombie Apocalypse
Zombies emerge as one of popular culture's great symbols of anxiety, unrest, and crisis in the face of public health. More than ever, in a pandemic, zombie films conjure up the power of human instinct, strength, logic, and empathy. For this special episode, Host Dr. Melinda Lewis welcomes returning guest Dr. Kevin Egan to lead a team of outstanding Drexel University faculty through a discussion on what it takes to survive a zombie apocalypse and whose expertise will best equip them to lead the cause.
- Season 4-Episode 27: Punk, Power, and Politics
Punk rock roots run decades deep in underground and mainstream culture. The music and aesthetics exist in opposition to convention and in reaction to the sociopolitical climate of the times. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis riffs with Drexel University political scientist Dr. Kevin Egan and historian Dr. Scott Gabriel Knowles about punk in popular culture, the indelible music it has created, and the future of the genre.
- Season 4-Episode 26: Music and Material Culture
At the intersection of material culture and critical theory is an ever-changing music industry. Just as popular media formats have evolved over the last century, so have marketing strategies and power dynamics to get those media into the hands of audiences around the world. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis spins tales and unpacks theory with Dr. Joe Steinhardt, Drexel University Music Industry Program Assistant Teaching Professor, avid collector of both obscure and popular music and movies, and co-founder/owner of Don Giovanni Records.
- Season 3-Episode 25: Love and Hate Island
Celebrating a 25th episode special, Pop, the Question turns the tables on Host Dr. Melinda Lewis to play a little game of celebrity Love and Hate Island. Pop culture expert, Drexel University colleague, and longtime friend Dr. Katie Barak quizzes Dr. Lewis about the worthiness of various celebrities and cultural icons. Some earn an appointment to Love Island and others get dumped on Hate Island, but the game reveals a treasure chest full of pop culture nuggets.
- Season 3-Episode 24: Fashion and Memory
Fashion always remains ahead of the curve and the vintage economy is no exception. Thrift stores and vintage specialty retailers offer an opportunity for consumers to find affordable glamour, to buy back their memories, and to even contribute to a global economy of product upcycling. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis sifts through the racks with fashion and thrifting scholar Jen Ayres to unearth the allure of a subculture. A former vintage retailer and longtime thrift store ethnographer, Ayres digs deep to uncover the power of memory and narrative hanging around at the local thrift store.
- Season 3-Episode 23: The Rise of Young Adult and Children's Literature
Young adult (YA) and children's literature has defined contemporary pop culture. While Robert Cormier and Judy Blume set the stage in the 1970s for exploring adolescence, recent decades have ushered in a growing depth and diversity in the youth stories we read and write. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis curls up with a good conversation alongside Drexel University English professor and YA literature expert Dr. Deirdre McMahon to outline the evolution and cultural impact of YA and children's literature on other media, including film and graphic novel adaptations.
- Season 3-Episode 22: The Ultrarunning Man
Ultrarunning is an introspective sport and way of life for those who commit to the long haul. It conjures up the unrelenting pace of running-themed movies and inspirational music, but also encourages contemplation of human joy and suffering. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis runs through the topic with ultrarunner and Drexel University information science professor Dr. Tim Gorichanaz to discuss the myriad ways in which extreme running defines a person's character, literary choices, and even playlists.
- Season 3-Episode 21: A Celebrity Tailor’s Thread of Tedium
Tedium isn't such a bad thing, when you work for the stars. Such is the case for artist Grace Kim, whose fastidious craftwork has taken her all over the world to perfect what she was born to do as a precision tailor. Kim has worked with the likes of Rihanna, John Krasinksi, Emily Blunt, Lucy Liu, Mahershala Ali, and sew on and sew forth. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis talks with Grace Kim to knit together stories of the artist's formative years with the fast-paced, demanding nature of a professional career behind the scenes of popular culture.
- Season 3-Episode 20: Comfort TV
Comfort television is nostalgia, kinship, family, convenience, escapism, and so much more. It includes favorites from the past, the syndicated usual suspects of Law & Order and Star Trek franchises, classic sitcoms, reality television, and other contemporary streaming hits. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis tunes in with former Drexel University colleague and TV enthusiast Ana Castillo-Nye to binge all their favorites, and make sense of this universal creature comfort.
- Season 3-Episode 19: The Power of Computer Science
The field of computer science was once a playground for aspiring basement developers and classified government initiatives. Now, with the omnipresence of computer technology, video games, and a big push from Hollywood in recent decades, computer science permeates the greater economy, cultural landscape, and mostly everything humans do. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis connects with Dr. Bill Mongan, assistant professor of computer science at Drexel University, to discuss representations of the field in popular media, as well as efforts to make it all more accessible and inclusive.
- Season 3-Episode 18: Life Is Just a Wheel of Fortune
Game shows are a decades-long American television tradition, and Wheel of Fortune has one of the strongest legacies. Take a spin with Zaarah Abdul-Aziz, a Drexel University undergraduate who was a contestant and prize winner on Wheel of Fortune (engaging in plenty of wordplay with Pat Sajak and Vanna White). Host Dr. Melinda Lewis quizzes Abdul-Aziz about her TV game show experiences, as well as the obsession that took the pre-med student from her living room to the set of Wheel of Fortune.
- Season 2-Episode 17: There's "Something" About The Beatles
The Beatles made an unprecedented impact on music and pop culture when they first arrived on the scene over a half-century ago. To this day, their influence continues to reverberate for new generations of listeners worldwide, including a curious and critical group of Drexel University staff members who dove head first into The Beatles' back catalog. In a special live episode of Pop, the Question (recorded for the 7th Annual Philadelphia Podcast Festival), Dr. Melinda Lewis breaks down the band's canon of work with fans Dr. Kevin Egan, Broc Holmquest, and Julia Wisniewski.
- Season 2-Episode 16: Holy Shirts
Once relegated to undergarment necessity, the T-shirt has evolved over the last half century to fashion trend, art form, political statement, and now collectable item. For artist and musician Perry Shall—a self-identified T-shirt archivist of over 1,400 shirts (among other artifacts)—his unique hobby is an unprecedented labor of love mixed with a lifelong thrill of the thrift store hunt. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis and Shall dive deep into the stories and cultural trends sewn into the very fabric of the ubiquitous T-shirt.
- Season 2-Episode 15: The Schrute Factor
The Office, an American mockumentary sitcom, ran on NBC for nine seasons through 2013 and continues to resonate with fans for its satirical humor and sometimes brutally absurd depiction of everyday work life. Central to business operations at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc. are the personal relationships among the characters, as well as the transformation many undergo over the course of their employment together. Most notable is lead character Dwight Schrute, who embodies the hero's journey as theorized by mythologist Joseph Campbell. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis gets to the bottom of the paper piles with longtime fan of The Office and Drexel University Mathematics professor Dr. Dimitrios Papadopoulos.
- Season 2-Episode 14: No Representation Is Bad Representation
Following growing discussion around identity politics, Hollywood rolled out the red carpet in 2018 for diverse film offerings like Black Panther, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, BlacKkKlansman, Crazy Rich Asians, and Eighth Grade. While the industry hasn't turned over its equitable leaf quite yet, these titles represent an exciting moment and promise for historically underrepresented filmmakers and and narratives. They present great specificity and character development to reach and resonate with their diverse global audiences. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis shines the spotlight on film and diversity in conversation with cultural critic and Drexel University English undergraduate Byshera Williams.
- Season 2-Episode 13: An Apple Conspiracy
Apples are nature's candy, as well as a popular motif and metaphor. At their core, they represent original sin, despite the adage that one a day keeps the doctor away; still there's relatively little consumer information available in the cybersphere about this handy fruit. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis gets to the root of the matter—and even holds a taste test—with apple aficionado and Drexel University Computer Engineering undergraduate Doug Gerichten.
- Season 2-Episode 12: The Western Hero
Once upon a time in America, Westerns ruled the film landscape. While the Western genre no longer commands the front line of popular culture, the legacy endures through space epics, heist films, and anthology TV. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis discusses the complex and inspirational nature of the great Westerns with late filmmaker, writer, and Drexel University cinema studies professor Dave "D.B." Jones.
- Season 2-Episode 11: Demons Don't Buy Kitty Litter
Horror punk godfather and musician Glenn Danzig birthed the Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig with iconography and inspiration from the likes of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and B-list horror and sci-fi flicks from his formative years. His love/hate relationship with the pop culture of his youth helped Danzig establish preeminence within the music subculture, which later lent itself back to more mainstream audiences through branding, merchandising, and appearances on cable comedy series like Portlandia and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis and veteran Drexel University WKDU DJ Johnpaul Golaski explore Glenn Danzig's legacy and peculiar rise to fame.
- Season 2-Episode 10: Glitz, Glamour, and Shoulder Pads
Working Girl and its protagonist Tess McGill set sail on the Staten Island Ferry for a piece of the capitalist pie, challenging gender and class stereotypes. For three decades now, the 1988 film's influence has docked in the hearts of moviegoers and feminists alike. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis and Drexel University alumnus Maren Larsen reflect on the greater cultural appeal and impact of Working Girl.
- Season 1-Episode 9: Guilty Pleasure Songs
Music is instrumental to self-exploration, identity, and how we socialize. This includes songs filed under the category of guilty pleasure, where earnest tastes in music somehow prove misaligned with what's considered the acceptable or cool social standard. In a special live episode wrap-up to Season 1 of Pop, the Question (recorded for the 6th Annual Philadelphia Podcast Festival), Dr. Melinda Lewis digs deep in the crates with pop music fans Ann Alexander, Dr. Katie Barak, and Jenny Carolina-Bell to unearth some of their greatest hits of all time.
- Season 1-Episode 8: Sweatpants and Stilettos
Keeping Up With the Kardashians has pivoted reality television and social media to reinvent how audiences gain access to celebrity lives. With Kim at the center of it all, the Kardashians and Jenners work relentlessly to enhance their image, the public's consumption practices, and even the indelible impact on culture and society. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis and superfan Jenny Carolina-Bell explore this influence and the evolution of pop culture's first family.
- Season 1-Episode 7: Indie, Eclectic, Undefinable
When the music industry emerged from the shadows of AM radio and found itself in the hardcore punk music mosh pit of the late 20th Century, fans followed suit and got involved on their own terms. Music industry professor and Jade Tree Records co-founder Darren Walters went from listener to active participant, supporting the work of artists on the ground level for the past three decades. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis spins tales with Walters about the evolution of the music industry, the place of an indie label in mainstream culture, and the influence of popular rock bands like Rush and Duran Duran on a thriving counterculture.
- Season 1-Episode 6: This Thing Is Gonna Blow
While archeologists have Indiana Jones, geologists have Harry Dalton, Pierce Brosnan's character in the 1997 volcano extravaganza Dante's Peak. The film laid the groundwork for scientific representation of volcanology in mainstream culture, and made an impact on how emergency agencies prepare the public for disaster. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis and aspiring volcanologist Nick Barber grapple with what Dante's Peak gets right, what it gets wrong, and how popular culture shapes the way audiences interact with their natural environment.
- Season 1-Episode 5: All How You Frame It
A cartoonist draws inspiration from a spectrum of influences. For graphic novelist and educator Jamar Nicholas, city life, popular comic strips, and reality TV all inform his creations. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis and the artist discuss his graphic novels, social themes at play, and his affinity for The Real Housewives and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
- Season 1-Episode 4: Celebrity Crushes
A celebrity crush is a rite of passage for people all over the world. The emotions are real, while the relationships typically are not. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis flirts with this cultural phenomenon alongside six guests, revealing myriad ways in which fans crush on those in the spotlight.
- Season 1-Episode 3: Serendipity in Science
In the 19th Century, the pursuit of truth and holistic understanding of science were hot new trends. Little known Russian scientist Sergei Vinogradskii was one of the hippest cats, with his microbe work paving the way for the emerging fields of microbiology and ecology. Dr. Lloyd Ackert joins Dr. Melinda Lewis to till fertile ground related to the role of serendipity in scientific discovery, theories of mutual aid and Darwinism, and how microbes have impacted life and culture.
- Season 1-Episode 2: The Gift of Kick-Ass
The 1988 Oscar-nominated film Die Hard challenged preconceptions of the action film genre and what constitutes a Christmas film. It delivers a powerful (holiday) punch, while also unpacking the institutionalization of the Christmas spirit. Drs. Melinda Lewis and Kevin Egan embark on an analysis of this Christmas classic, and even discover a few stocking stuffers in the process.
- Season 1-Episode 1: The Cult of the Superhero Movie
Superhero fans, actors, and production companies are chasing down the next big hit, but at the risk of over-saturating the market for comic book screen adaptations. Host Dr. Melinda Lewis and guest Ann Alexander discuss the increasing popularity and financial ramifications of superheroes and their universes.