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How Pop Culture Explains The World

Breaking down the complexities of society with help from Michael Scott, Homer Simpson, and Neopets.

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Sh*t You Should Care About

I spend my entire life (or at least, my entire job) trying to figure out how to explain the world to people in ways that actually make sense. And when I’m not doing that, I’m listening to Harry Styles, re-watching Ted Lasso, or scrolling on TikTok—I’m only human!!

For those of you who don’t know me (or what my job is), I’m Luce and I run a media company with my two best mates called Shi*t You Should Care About. Our job is to explain the news to people in our daily newsletter, on our two podcasts The Sh*t Show and Culture Vulture, and over on our Instagram.

To do our jobs we need to be able to understand some pretty complex stuff (I’m looking at you, supply chains 👀) so when I find something that combines my two loves—pop culture and trying to make sense of the world—it’s my favourite thing to read and my favourite way to learn. I figured you’d like it too, so I’ve put together a list of the best pieces I’ve found that do just this. Enjoy!!

Labor Exploitation, Explained by Minions

Rebecca Jennings

Lucy Blakiston: “Even though I’m not a fan of Minions (this may be an unpopular opinion) I’m even less of a fan of exploitation via capitalism—so I stuck with this piece, and it was worth it for this quote alone:

‘If you were generally an uncynical person, you might say that Minions are cute and people like them. If you were not, you might posit that they are agents of the capitalist machine, ready-made and endlessly merchandisable mascots that make the world’s destruction at the hands of mega-corporations seem adorable and fun.’

If you think about it, Minions in our world are just capitalism embodied (there aren’t many products that you couldn’t whack a Minion on and sell off) but in their world, they’re the ones being exploited—they’re ‘standardized, highly interchangeable, and desperate for any job they can find.’ They’re all even in uniform! Honestly, you’ll love this piece more than Minions love bananas. That was bad, sorry.”

The Michael Scott Theory of Social Class

Alex Danco

LB: “As a die-hard fan of The Office (and someone who would otherwise struggle to read an article about the American social class system) I feel like this piece was written for me. And, if you’ve seen The Office then it was definitely written for you too. It uses The Office (as a stand-in for wider ✨society✨) breaking the characters into three rather harshly named groups: the ‘economic losers’ (80% of the office, including Stanley, Pam, and Darryl), the ‘sociopaths’ (David Wallace, Jan, Ryan), and the ‘clueless’ (Andy, Dwight, and of course Michael.) In literally any other circumstance, this piece would have been quite dry, but thanks to The Office (and Alex Danco) you’ll actually want to read it!!”

The Rise and Fall of the Pop Star Purity Ring

Chelsea Beck

LB: “When I was younger I was the BIGGEST Jonas Brothers fan. I genuinely thought I was going to be Mrs Nick Jonas (I’m more of a Joe girl now tbh—sorry Nick.) Anyway, one thing I distinctly remember was that they all wore purity rings. Actually, they didn’t just wear the rings—they preached about them too (and this was true about a BUNCH of Disney stars at the time.) Only THIS YEAR did I learn about the political motivations behind ‘purity ring’ culture. Spoiler: it was actually all about conservative evangelicals keeping access to political power and using America’s most famous young people to sway other young people towards abstinence. By the time George w. Bush was in power, this ‘purity culture’ had led to abstinence-only sex education, virginity pledges, and the huge involvement of Disney stars. A lot goes on in this story, so I highly recommend reading this one!”

Is TikTok Helping or Hurting The Music Industry?

Culture Vulture

LB: “Hear me out: Olivia Rodrigo’s break into the music industry was about more than just her scream-my-head-off-in-the-car-even-though-I-am-actually-fine banger ‘Drivers Licence’—it signalled a shift in how we both discover and promote music. By tracking the use of TikTok and how it was first used to unpack the Olivia Rodrigo/ Joshua Basset/ Sabrina Carpenter love triangle (and how that eventually lead to the huge interest and subsequent BLOW UP) of ‘Drivers License’, Liv and I make sense of the way the whole damn music industry is changing. This might be cheating because it’s from our own pop culture podcast, Culture Vulture (where we literally use pop culture to explain the world) but it’s defs worth a listen!”

How Neopets Paved the Road to the Metaverse

Rex Woodbury
Digital Native

LB: “2022’s favourite buzzword may have been claimed by Mark Zuckerberg, but the Metaverse is actually supposed to mean so much more. Thankfully, as a kid I played Neopets, so I know what the Metaverse is supposed to be all about because as a kid, I played Neopets (it ​​had everything from how virtual worlds, online communities, and a full-on digital economy.) What do Neopets have to do with the Metaverse?? Well, our fave childhood game is used as a guide to show how it walked so the Metaverse could run.”

The Supply Chain Crisis, Explained by Adele

Emily Stewart

LB: “If anyone could find a way to learn the supply chain not only understandable but also interesting, it’s Adele. I mean technically it’s Vox, but they’ve used Adele. If you’ve been waiting for months for your online shopping to arrive and blaming ‘that damn supply chain’ without really knowing who or what you’re blaming, then this piece is for you!”

Homer Simpson: An Economic Analysis [WATCH]


LB: “Here we have another example of something I love (The Simpsons) explaining something that would have otherwise been difficult for me to grasp (The ✨Economy✨). This video looks at the myriad of jobs that Homer has had during his time on our TV screens (he’s had over 191!), figures out what he would have been paid for each, and then mirrors is with America today, proving that Homer is a paradigm of middle-class America. After three decades of working, he’s right where he started.”

How ‘Will & Grace’ Had a Real-Life Political Impact on Marriage Equality

Reid Nakamura
The Wrap

LB: “Despite having never watched Will & Grace, I hear this show referenced EVERYWHERE, largely because it was sorta before its time when it came to bringing gay relationships to a mainstream American audience. This piece tracks how the show influenced politics—in particular, what happened after a 2012 Joe Biden said that this show was one of the reasons he was voting for marriage equality. For me this piece is about more than Will & Grace, it’s more about how pop culture is about way more than just entertainment—it’s a reflection of the world we live in, and often a catalyst for a better one!”

Lucy Blakiston

Lucy runs Sh*t You Should Care About—an online media company—with her two best mates Rubes and Liv. Her goal is to help people make sense of the world around them by explaining the world in words we all use (and understand) and in a way that won’t leave you feeling down in the dumps!

How does she do this? She gets up each day at 5am to send out a daily newsletter, wrapping up the news of the day, she chats on their news podcast The Sh*t Show and pop culture podcast Culture Vulture, and of course, she posts on Instagram. She also has an extremely healthy obsession with Harry Styles.