Decoder Ring

Decoder Ring

www.slate.com/decoderring
Cracking cultural mysteries


Pillow Talk
Jul 15 • 30 min
Over the last half century the decorative pillow has been crowding out our sitting and sleeping spaces, multiplying across our beds and couches decade by decade. For some, decorative pillows are a fun design accent, for others a symbol of useless…
Chuck E. Cheese Pizza War
Jun 11 • 48 min
The King was an animatronic lounge singer who performed in Chuck E. Cheese locations in the 1980’s and early 90’s, but then he disappeared. The King was a victim of a conflict known as the pizza wars, when Chuck E. Cheese faced off against its rival,…
Videomate: Men
Apr 29 • 35 min
Videomate: Men is a VHS tape released in 1987 featuring 60 single men pitching themselves as dates to women on the other side of the TV screen, who could connect to these eligible bachelors from the comfort of their homes. In retrospect, Videomate: Men is…
Truck Nutz
Mar 25 • 35 min
Truck Nutz are a brand name for the dangling plastic testicles some people affix to the bumper or hitch of their vehicle. Also known as Bull’s Balls, Your Nutz, and other brand names, these plastic novelties have a powerful symbolic charge and are often…
Baby Shark
Feb 25 • 38 min
Baby Shark is an megaviral YouTube video, an unstoppable earworm, a top 40 hit, a Eurodance smash, a decades old campfire song, and the center of an international copyright dispute. This month on Decoder Ring we explore the strange history and conflicted…
The Grifter
Jan 30 • 53 min
Brett Johnson was a career criminal: a fraudster, a con man, a cyber criminal, but now he’s a legal person operating on the right side of the law, helping companies stop people like he used to be. His story is the stuff of a movie like Catch Me iI You…
Sad Jennifer Aniston
Dec 3, 2018 • 43 min
Jennifer Aniston’s story had it all: Heartbreak, secrecy, sex, betrayal. But what it also had was a new kind of tabloid: Us Weekly and its copycats. Brad Pitt leaving Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie would have been a huge Hollywood scandal no matter…
The Incunabula Papers
Oct 29, 2018 • 53 min
Ong’s Hat, or The Incunabula Papers, is a conspiracy theory that arose on the early internet. Combining cutting edge science, mysticism, and obvious hokum, it intrigued thousands of people who tried to find out what it all meant. Today we uncover the…
Hotel Art
Oct 1, 2018 • 32 min
Hotel Art used to be one of the ultimate symbols of bad taste, it was often ugly, kitschy, and strange. Today, the art you find in a hotel is far less likely to be the result of one individual’s poor taste, and much more likely to have passed through an…
The Paper Doll Club
Aug 27, 2018 • 38 min
Paper dolls were a ubiquitous part of children’s lives for decades, and then mostly disappeared. David Wolfe was a boy growing up in the 1950’s, with paper dolls as his primary means of accessing a world of glamour and beauty that he didn’t see at home in…
The Basement Affair
Jul 30, 2018 • 43 min
What are the real reasons people go on reality TV? This episode follows the story of Ann Hirsch and Cathy Nardone, two women cast on VH1’s “Frank the Entertainer…In a Basement Affair”, a show about an adult man looking for love—while living in his…
Clown Panic
Jun 25, 2018 • 37 min
Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every month host Willa Paskin,Slate’s TV critic, takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speak with experts,historians and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from,…
The Johnlock Conspiracy
Jun 4, 2018 • 52 min
Who gets to decide if Sherlock Holmes is gay? For over a century, fans of Sherlock Holmes have been analyzing, debating, and creating new texts with Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters. Decoder Ring explores the Johnlock Conspiracy, a fan theory about the BBC…
The Laff Box
Apr 30, 2018 • 32 min
Welcome to Decoder Ring! Decoder Ring is a monthly podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every episode we’ll take on a cultural object, idea, or habit and speak with experts, historians and obsessives to try to figure out where it comes from, what it…