Decoder Ring, Slate’s podcast about cracking cultural mysteries, is back with a brand new season of investigations. Each episode takes on a different question, and tries to uncover the deeper meaning behind the people, places, and ideas that permeate our cultural consciousness. As Vox put it, “Willa Paskin, Slate’s TV critic, is a remarkable host with a knack for uncovering layer upon layer of insight into trends and stories you vaguely thought you knew about.”
The new summer season does more of exactly that. It launches Tuesday with an episode about a resilient temple of commerce: the mall. Malls are vulnerable, disdained, and disappearing—but they’re also persistent and beloved. What do we lose if we lose the mall?
Rod McKuen: In the 1960s and 1970s, Rod McKuen was on TV, released five albums a year, worked with Sinatra, was nominated for an Oscar, and sold millions of books of poetry. So how did he go from being the most popular poet in American history to being completely forgotten?
Alien Invasion: The story of how one couple, Betty and Barney Hill, established the alien abduction narrative we all know today, and changed science fiction forever.
Mae West: What does a century-old Broadway scandal—involving Mae West, her play called Sex, the fanfare and trial that ensued, and the aftermath of both—have to tell us about the creation of celebrity now?