Pop Culture

  • Are Olympic Competitors Geniuses? | PBS Idea Channel

    While we often think of genius as an intellectual category, can we use it for Olympians? We normally associate the word "genius" with intellectual accomplishments, but athletes are geniuses at pushing their bodies to new heights, making the impossibly difficult seem easy and effortless.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Are You A Hipster? | PBS Idea Channel

    Hipsters aren't the most likeable people, right? They seem so smug and arrogant, with their ray bans, scarves, and ironic t-shirts. Even those who clearly are hipsters still recoil at the label. Embracing irony over earnestness, the key to hipsters is not just what they enjoy, but how they enjoy it. Borrowing from other subcultures, hipsters reappropriate these fashion elements as their own. But don't we all do that? Our own fashion came from somewhere and certainly has been refined. Do we all have a little bit of hipster blood in us? Watch the episode and tell us what you think!

    Grades: 9-12
  • Are Your New Year's Resolutions Bound to Fail? | PBS Idea Channel

    New Year's Resolutions are incredibly hard to keep. Watch this special episode to find out why, and tell us what you think!

    Grades: 9-12
  • Bored Americans Using Teleporters! | PBS Idea Channel

    It's time for you to put on your thinking cap, because we have three new ideas for you to consider. 1) What's so bad about being bored? 2) Why are Americans so sensitive? 3) Is that really you on the other side of the teleporter? Watch the episode and discuss it all with your fellow bored, overly-sensitive, teleportation-obsessed Americans! And tell us what you think!

    Grades: 9-12
  • Coffee, Mesmerism, and Morning Routines | PBS Idea Channel

    This episode is about glorious morning coffee. Or, more specifically, about our time-tested morning routines. Everybody has their morning routine that they rely on and cling to dearly. The simple acts of brewing coffee, showering, and whatever else you do makes that first act of climbing out of bed easier. The comfort and familiarity of those repeated actions give us a sense of ownership, and cause us to self identify with these simple set of actions. So what is it about these routines that make them so important to us? Watch the episode to find out, and tell us what you think!

    Grades: 9-12
  • Do Knock-Offs Prove the Value of a Brand? | PBS Idea Channel

    Living in the consumer culture that we do, we've learned that specific brands can carry very different meanings and values.  The counterfeit industry is huge and isn't going anywhere, and companies spend huge amounts to dissuade people from buying "fakes". But are knock-offs really a negative for the brand?

    Grades: 9-12
  • Do We Want the World to End? | PBS Idea Channel

    The so-called Mayan long count calendar predication of the 2012 apocalypse was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Mayan calendars and of society. It was so far off base that scientific and anthropological experts could dismiss it with a laugh. Yet, if it was so fundamentally wrong, why did we keep hearing about it? Why were there movies, news casts, and websites dedicated to this non-event? Watch the episode to find out, and tell us what you think!

    Grades: 9-12
  • Does Pop Culture Need To Be "Popular"? | PBS Idea Channel

    What is "Popular Culture?" Despite what the term may lead you to think, it is not just media that is numerically popular! Tom Waits most certainly is part of popular culture, regardless of his lack of billboard hits. So what are the qualifications for "Pop Culture?" And where does the internet come into play in all this? 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Hello Kitty, Minimalist Icon? | PBS Idea Channel

    With her cute pink bow and huge noggin, Hello Kitty is one of the most recognizable characters in the world. She sells billions of dollars worth of merchandise, but what is it about this simple cartoon cat that makes her such a beloved piece of pop culture? Ahead of her time when first created in 1974, we think that Hello Kitty used minimalism's bag of tricks to become the world's best salesgirl.

    Grades: 8-12
  • Is William Gibson a Modern Day Oracle? | PBS Idea Channel

    The science fiction writer William Gibson has not only written some fantastic scifi novels, but in the process predicted the internet, Miku Hatsune, reality TV, and a crazy amount of other technological and societal developments that have come into being. His impressive rate of accuracy seems almost mystical. Is he a modern soothsayer?

    Grades: 9-12
  • Nicolas Cage, Taoism, and YOLO | PBS Idea Channel

    Legendary actor Nicolas Cage is renowned for his reliably weird roles across many genres of modern film. Is he just a victim of a bad agent, or does he instead follow the philosophy of Taoism, or as its modern derivative is known - YOLO ("you only live once")?

    Grades: 7-12
  • Sandwiches, Modernity, and Lyrics: A Thanksgiving Episode | PBS Idea Channel

    In honor of Thanksgiving, we present two ideas to discuss with your loved ones around the dinner table. First up: sandwiches. They are the perfect food for today's fast-paced lifestyle. But was it the creation of this versatile food that ushered in the period of classical modernity? Next up: music lyrics websites. We all love singing the wrong lyrics and then looking up the actual lyrics on rap genius. But are these sites stealing from the recording industry by profiting off of artist's lyrics? 

    Grades: 9-12
  • What Do Hot Sauce Labels Say About America? | PBS Idea Channel

    Peppers are the essence of hot sauce, and hot sauce is the essence of spicy. You might be a hot sauce lover, but how much thought have you given to their labels? If you've ever taken a second to examine them, you might notice some patterns and similarities amongst them. What does this say about Americans' attitude towards hot sauces, or even towards food in general? 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Why Do We Love Zombies? | PBS Idea Channel

    Why are zombies everywhere in pop culture? Bad guys and monsters seem to go through phases: one decade there are a dozen movies about aliens, ten years later it's vampires, and right now, it's zombies. There must be something that makes us fixate on one antagonist trope, some qualities they hold that echo a deeper cultural fear.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Why Makeup Isn't Superficial | PBS Idea Channel

    When someone puts on makeup, there is no easy way to know why they've done it or why they made the decisions they did about their makeup. Answers to those questions might not even be clear to the makeup-wearers themselves! After a very long history of putting stuff on our bodies to accentuate our features, cosmetics - both the products and the idea of them - have taken on a good amount of baggage. So, its tough to know... Is it for the person wearing it? Is it for the people who are going to see the person wearing it? Is it for one by way of the other? This episode of Idea Channel approaches some of these questions, inspired by beauty and makeup tutorials found on YouTube and the tradition of person-to-person sharing of makeup knowledge. 

    Grades: 9-12
  • Yule Tube! | PBS Idea Channel

    Happy Holidays from your friends at Idea Channel! The yule log is a fascinating tradition, isn't it? Three-plus hours of footage of a burning log - a holiday symbol of home and family - first broadcast in the 1960s for poor city folk without fireplaces of their own. This simple, beautiful, long-form programming is a holiday miracle! 

    Grades: 9-12