Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Halloween Unmasked explores the psychology of Michael Myers and real-life serial killers

Still from John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)
Photo: Fotos International (Getty Images)
PodmassPodmassIn Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

The Food Chain
Unseen: The Rise Of Eating Disorders In China 


This BBC food journalism podcast travels to China as part of a broader series exploring eating disorders outside the context of a Western woman’s disease. Although there’s not an official record, it’s known that areas of China see the same prevalence of eating disorders as the U.S. and Europe. At the country’s sole closed ward for treating eating disorders, a psychiatrist worries that cases are on the rise. These disorders are a by-product of economic development. When countries grow prosperous, they tend toward an abundance of food and a downtick in physical activity among citizens. People generally become larger and out-of-step with cultural attitudes regarding beauty, which in China place a premium on “diminutive” women. One interviewee reports being warned by her doctor that her strong muscles would damage her marriage prospects. Men, too, are dieting to better resemble K-pop icons. All this is unfolding amid a robust food culture emphasizing large portions. Competitive eating is trending on Chinese social media, and historical memory of famine is manifested through widespread disdain of letting food go to waste. Sales of diet pills and laxatives are surging, and many in China can’t or won’t acknowledge dangerously thin family members. [Zach Brooke]

Halloween Unmasked
Michael Myers: Psychopath, Serial Killer… And Victim?


John Carpenter’s iconic 1978 film Halloween reconfigured the horror film genre, inspiring multiple sequels and remakes, including a new installation in the franchise due out this month. In episode three of the eight-part podcast Halloween Unmasked, host Amy Nicholson takes a deeper look at the horror masterpiece and develops a psychological profile of Michael Myers. Here she’s joined by Dr. Anthony Tobia, who teaches college classes that examine the mental illnesses of killers from classic slasher flicks. Taking into account the mental state of the movie’s masked killer, Tobia suggests a diagnosis, and even calls into question the methods of Myers’ movie psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (played by Donald Pleasence). By looking at the origins of the phrase “serial killer”—which wasn’t coined until after Halloween was released—real-world serial killers, and less grounded explanations of Myers’ murderous impulses from the franchise and its novels, Halloween Unmasked is the perfect podcast to listen to leading up to Halloween, and even better for augmenting your marathon-watch of the original movie series in preparation for the release of the newest Halloween. [Jose Nateras]

It’s Been A Minute With Sam Sanders
Coming Out


In honor of the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day on October 11, NPR’s Sam Sanders took the opportunity to diverge from his typical interview installment to focus on the role that coming out has had within the LGBTQ rights movement, and how this milestone has shifted in accordance with modern history. Back in more socially rigid times, an individual’s coming-out process came in waves, if it came at all; you could spend years gradually announcing to the world who you were, provided you felt safe enough to do so. As a black man raised in a Pentecostal church, Sanders explains how his own homosexuality has a layered context, even positing that to have a declarative “coming out” moment might be something more readily afforded to white people. Professors Marcia Gallo and E. Patrick Johnson discuss how coming out might actually soon be seen as a limiting announcement rather than a freeing one: With younger generations viewing gender, sex, and sexuality as more fluid markers of one’s personhood, saying, “I’m gay,” could commit them to a binary that doesn’t appeal to them. Here’s to the next 30 years of embracing the labyrinth of our own identities. [Marnie Shure]

That’s Dark
Murder Set Pieces Pt. 1 


That’s Dark is a new show, currently on its fifth episode, that revolves around two friends showing “extreme cinema” to a third friend known for big emotional reactions to movies. The creators stress that their show aims to go deeper than quick film recaps through a conversation that’s closer to art criticism. That premise is still murky in this nearly two-hour episode, but some definition is starting to form. Two new segments shape the discussion: One is a three-minute thumbnail sketch of the plot that’s graded for accuracy, and another, called “Who’s Accountable,” attempts to finger a culprit for any artistic or moral failings. This episode’s movie is Nick Palumbo’s Murder-Set-Pieces, a widely condemned horror film from 2004 about a neo-Nazi immigrant fashion photographer and rapist/serial killer living in Las Vegas, with 9/11 imagery tacked on for vague reasons. The movie seems to revel in excruciatingly gory scenes, but host Danny (the emotional one) refuses to succumb to cheap shock tactics. All the hosts are taken aback, however, when the director makes use of the terrified reactions of a baby whose trauma was exploited for footage. The trio promises to investigate the baby’s life story for the next episode. [Zach Brooke]

Jack Bauer He 24 Big Hit


In the downtime during the Comedy Bang! Bang! live tour a few years back, podcasting MVPs Scott Aukerman, Lauren Lapkus, and Paul F. Tompkins got to know one another more personally, and—lo and behold—the exorbitantly talented and funny trio enjoy one another’s company. Although they often cross paths professionally as guests on each others’ shows, it’s usually behind the guise of a high-concept character or part of a larger panel, so with Threedom (alternative working title: All 9/11 Jokes), the hosts assemble a supergroup of sorts and drop their usual formats to catch up and chat with each other as colleagues and friends. As listeners of their other shows might anticipate, the three episodes so far released on Earwolf are a cathartic, illuminating, laugh-out-loud delight, featuring stories from the comedians’ youth, thoughts on their careers and industry, and how weird it is to see their images used in clickbait ads. This week, the gang debate their personal time-traveling cut-offs for what they consider non-shitty eras to be alive, then take turns confessing cringe-worthy childhood moments. [Dan Jakes]

Try It, You’ll Like It
Hostess Cakes With Valerie Gordon Of Valerie Confections


In Try It, You’ll Like It, comedians and culinary obsessives Winston Carter and David Zwick interview Los Angeles-based chefs, brewers, bakers, writers, and performers about their least-favorite ingredients and dishes, and then attempt to win them over to their stated personal-Fear Factor foodstuffs with a variety of homemade and professionally sourced preparations. It’s no half-assed undertaking: While the conversations are laid-back, Carter and Zwick will sometimes spend weeks curating and assembling different takes on themes like beer (cheese dip, bread, meat pie, ice cream) and olives (tapenade, goat cheese, more ice cream), and textures like “gummy.” Often, it’s an entertaining exercise in futility, like when they recently tried to sell Jeremy Raub of Eagle Rock Brewery on nattō, a mucusy, godforsaken acquired taste that resembles fermented soy beans webbed in putrid Rice Krispie treat slime. Their conversion rate hovers around Ninja Warrior territory, but fun discoveries are frequent, like bitter melon’s easy taking to pickling. This week, after chatting about turkeys specifically bred for Disney park concessions, sweets connoisseur Valerie Gordon confronts her “low-grade fear” of what the hosts call “Hostess MREs” with a smoked Twinkie, a Hostess cocktail, and cupcake cake pops. [Dan Jakes]

Your Favorite Band Sucks
Led Zeppelin Sucks


Consider this the yin to Cocaine & Rhinestones’ yang. Whereas Tyler Mahan Coe’s other podcast is an exhaustive tribute to country music that celebrates its overlooked artistry and impact, this show is him drunk shit-talking about overrated rock stars with co-host Mark Mosley. No punches are pulled, so of course the duo references the misty mountain of plagiarism charges leveled against Led Zeppelin as well as Jimmy Page’s underage girlfriend, but Mosley and Coe are clear in their view that the band doesn’t suck because it’s composed of shitty people; it sucks because the music is bad. Mosley goes so far as to say Led Zeppelin lacks the originality of ICP, while trained musician Coe rips guitarist Page and drummer John Bonham as frauds undeserving of virtuoso status. His evidence is all the impeccable YouTube covers of Led Zeppelin tunes performed by preteens and Zeppelin’s own shoddy work at live shows. Still, Page and Bonham get off easy compared to criticism leveled at “banshee” Robert Plant. Surprisingly, none of the hate extends to bassist John Paul Jones, lauded by Coe as a gifted and pioneering musician. But not even Jones’ presence can stave off their wrath for “Stairway To Heaven.” [Zach Brooke]

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