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Unpopped: Herbs, `burbs and eating verbs

The Unpopped podcast attempts to deep dive into pop culture and have a serious discussion about topics seen as frivolous or unimportant to some.

During the first series, reality television, celebrity, pop music, video games, comedy and online phenomena have all been tackled. And a number of revealing, surprising and thoroughly baffling things have emerged over the course of the series.

Here are just a few of the things we learnt from the first ten episodes of Unpopped…

Listen and subscribe to Unpopped

1. The Secret To Winning Drag Race

Fancy winning RuPaul’s Drag Race? Here’s how it’s done. According to author and Drag Race expert Juno Dawson, the secret to succeeding in the show is to have a healthy mix of intelligence and likability - with a smattering of underdog thrown in. “There are exceptions… but more or less it will be a clever, likeable queen.”

Listen to RuPaul's Drag Race and Beyond

2. Paris Hilton and Jonathan Franzen Have More in Common Than You Think

On the episode focusing on Paris Hilton, journalist Daisy Buchanan noted that Paris, in some ways, ushered in the current, celebrity-obsessed Instagram age long before Instagram even existed. And while some may feel her fame has waned in recent years, Paris doesn’t have to push her herself or engage in the "thirst trap" of constantly seeking social media approval and attention. “She can step back a bit. She doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to. She is the Jonathan Franzen of a certain kind of celebrity.”

Listen to Paris Hilton and the Demise of the Party Girl

3. The Spice Girls Were Punks

In 1997, the legendary cult author and noted punk Kathy Acker interviewed the Spice Girls for The Guardian. Despite their apparent differences, Acker loved the group (especially Mel B), but journalist and Spice Girls expert Joe Stone feels the connection between them may have been further cemented due to the The Spice Girls inherent punk qualities. During their pre-fame years they, literally, escaped from a binding management contract by fleeing in Geri’s car under the cover of darkness and taking their master tapes with them. As Joe states, “which is quite punk, I think.”

Listen to The Spice Girls and Kathy Acker

4. A Disturbing Moment in David Lynch’s Childhood Coloured All His Work

During the discussion about Twin Peaks, both old and new, the core of the Lynchian sensibility that combines a very placid, "picket fence" Americana with a dark, evil underbelly is revealed when Kirsty Fairclough describes a pivotal moment in the director’s early life. During a childhood he describes as "idyllic", Lynch was outside playing with his siblings when a naked woman covered in blood suddenly appeared and walked down his street. “Something shifted and he understood the world is a much darker place than he realised.”

Listen to Twin Peaks and Forensic Fandom

5. Terry Pratchett Was Fascinated By a Certain Part of Lara Croft’s Anatomy

The history and influence of iconic video game Tomb Raider was discussed in one episode, featuring Rhianna Pratchett, who wrote some of the games in the series. She described her first interactions with the game, playing with her father Terry, an avid video game fan. She used to “tuck myself behind him like a little human bolster cushion” as he played various games including Tomb Raider. “My dad said he spent many happy hours following Lara Croft’s bottom around. It’s wrong on several levels.”

Listen to Tomb Raider and Indomitability

6. Chris Morris Is Fearless

Comedian, satirist and arch-provocateur Chris Morris and the darkness of his humour was explored and the lengths he is willing to go in the service of comedy was investigated. Morris biographer Lucian Randall talked about the famous Brass Eye sequence in which Morris approached drug dealers in South London asking for more and more ludicrously named drugs while wearing more and more ludicrous costumes. “There was no back up. No security. The people on the crew were quite worried for his safety as there were no police there. He was sitting around having a cup of tea, totally relaxed about it.”

Joining host Hayley Campbell are Pointless host and television producer Richard Osman, journalist Lauren Bravo and the creator of Come Dine With Me, Nell Butler.

Listen to Chris Morris and the Darkness of Comedy

7. The Importance of Coriander

Richard Osman, Lauren Bravo and Nell Butler delved into the world of reality show Come Dine With Me. Nell, the show’s creator, revealed one of the requirements necessary to appear on the show. “We used to have a cut off that people had to know what coriander was.” Nell said the contestants don't have to use it in their dishes or have any on hand, but you do need to know what it is.

Listen to Come Dine With Me and the British Psyche

8. There’s Something Called ‘YouTube Voice’

During a dissection of the YouTube phenomenon, the notion of "YouTube Voice" was brought up. Why do many YouTubers and Vloggers speak in a particular way, with overemphasis on certain words and vowel sounds? One theory, offered by contributor Sophie Bishop is that YouTube’s voice recognition software, which turns speech into subtitles and metadata, requires those speaking to overemphasise for clearer results. “It’s laborious to manually translate your video into close captions.”

Listen to YouTube and Ubiquity

9. It’s Hard To Define Grime

Journalist Yomi Adegoke explained that a song can have the same BPM (Beats Per Minute) as a grime song (140 BPM) feature the same subject matter that grime covers, even be East London based and still not be, essentially, grime. “There’s a different energy to it. There’s a different vibe.”

Listen to The Roots of Grime and Representation

10. People Are Eating Infinite Jest

David Foster Wallace’s 1996 cult novel Infinite Jest is beloved by its fans but, in recent years has also become a totem for a certain sort of "toxic masculinity". Particularly on social media, being recommended or quizzed about the book by men indicates a variety of intellectual superiority and identification as a "lit bro". Comedian Jamie Loftus grew so sick of this that she declared she would eat Infinite Jest, one page at a time, as a protest. “I think there’s something healthy about questioning the sacrosanct author,” journalist Elsa Court said during a discussion of the book on Unpopped. “It’s commendable. I actually found it really funny.”

Listen to David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest and Legacy

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