Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How To Be A Girl explores a mother’s relationship with her transgender pre-teen

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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.

Finding Drago
Noy Story

After seven brilliantly silly episodes, Finding Drago has finally emerged from the taiga to stand victorious at the summit of its own personal mountaintop. The show, a comic mystery documentary program from Australia, has followed hosts Alexei Toliopoulos and Cameron James as the pair have become wrapped up investigating the existence of a bizarre book, Drago: On Mountains We Stand, chronicling the life of Ivan Drago after the events of Rocky IV. The exploration finds Toliopoulos and James unraveling the online cult of personality surrounding its Perth-born author, Todd Noy, with varying degrees of success. Like a more shambolic Mystery Show with none of the pathos, Finding Drago is still mesmerizing in its exploration of the curious tome, full of great humor and abjectly terrible reporting. As a product of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the show can’t help but evince a feeling of playful subversion, as if its creators have actively hoodwinked their government by securing funding for such an utterly quixotic inquiry. But it’s no knock, as the story at the show’s center turns out to be vast, spanning several countries and involving geopolitics, Wikipedia, Mike Tyson, and the very nature of pop culture fandom. [Ben Cannon]


How To Be A Girl
Eleven

What do you do when your trans daughter tells you she can’t stomach the thought of going through male puberty? Marlo Mack isn’t certain, as she confides to the audience at the end of this short podcast. Luckily the pair have medications called blockers, designed to delay the onset of puberty, at their disposal, but the hard decisions are looming. And that’s all on top of the other issues so important to middle schoolers, like dealing with gossipy cliques and a newfound emphasis on appearance that’s consuming Mack’s daughter and her classmates. Mack’s daughter first came out at age 3, and since 2014 she’s discussed her experiences as a trans girl with her mom on this show. Eight years later her gender identity remains fixed as female, and what was initially difficult is now cherished routine. The unnamed daughter expresses something close to boredom with fixating on being trans in public. Been there, done that, still trans; can we talk about my hobbies, please? There’s a growing realization around the intimacy of identity, and the advice she has for trans people newer to the outward-facing life is to accept being trans as a wonderful part of your larger self. [Zach Brooke]


Let’s Get Civical
Impeachment- It’s Not Personal, It’s Politics

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Throw a rock in any direction and you’ll hit somebody with a really strong opinion about national politics. But you’d have to take very careful aim with a bulldozer to hit anyone with a functioning understanding of how the United States government actually works. Let’s Get Civical is here to make you the target of that bulldozer. In a manner of speaking. Hosted by comedian Lizzie Stewart and civics enthusiast Arden Walentowski, this weekly podcast is like a social studies class with a lot of jokes. In each episode, the co-hosts welcome a guest to help them explain one important aspect of our political system, such as the foundation of our political parties and what the First Amendment really says. Here, they use Ophira Eisenberg of NPR’s Ask Me Another to figure out what the American populace really can and cannot expect from the notion of presidential impeachment, how it’s (almost) gone down in the past, and what kind of blast hole it would leave in our cultural landscape. Fun show with a worthwhile raison d’être. [Dennis DiClaudio]


Mega
The Marriage Bed Is Undefiled With Christina Anthony

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The broadcasting arm of fictional mega church Twin Hills is the setting for this comedy podcast that plays it so straight it feels like one of those deep-fake videos. Host Halle is the world’s friendliest psalm sayer who judges the absolute shit out of everyone, while her partner in praise, Gray, bends over backwards to reach the world’s lamest half-measures to any spiritual quandary. Second City alum Christina Anthony drops by in this “adults only” episode with a character that ministers to widows and those who’ve committed the sin of divorce, keeping them righteous till they are reunited with former spouses in heaven, willingly or not. There’s a frank discussion around acknowledging that healthy sexuality was created by a loving God and must always be resisted. So make sure you soap yourself with a washcloth or loofah in the shower so as not to provoke any sinful urges. [Zach Brooke]


Mobituaries
Sitcom Deaths And Disappearances

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On each episode of Mo Rocca’s new podcast, Mobituaries, the humorist and CBS Sunday Morning correspondent meditates on the concept of death, but not in the way you might imagine. This episode, for example, looks specifically at the deaths, disappearances, and abrupt casting changes of fictional sitcom characters. We all remember when Chuck Cunningham—Richie’s older brother from the first two seasons of Happy Days—took his final jaunt upstairs to his bedroom, never to be seen again. Or when the precocious Judy Winslow mysteriously disappeared at the end of the fourth season of Family Matters. Audiences were never given a good reason why these characters had to go, but we accepted it because there were other characters we liked more anyway. But, the death of Valerie Harper’s titular character in Valerie’s Family was something different. Audiences watched as her surviving husband and children shrugged off their misfortune in their newly titled show, The Hogan Family, where laugh tracks danced around an inexplicable family tragedy. Through a series of interviews with actors and researchers, Rocca dissects these bizarre instances of lighthearted shows either confronting or ignoring the heavy subject matter at hand. [Dan Neilan]


The Bon Appétit Foodcast
A Super Bowl Showdown

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Even though the Condé Nast–produced glossy Bon Appétit magazine has been an American culinary institution since the ’50s, it’s safe to assume many of the publication’s devotees in recent years discovered its recipes and content via its immensely popular YouTube channel. What began as a fairly straightforward test kitchen video supplement that featured the magazine’s editors and writers has evolved into an eclectic array of unique series (fermentation-focused It’s Alive with Brad Leone, celebrity guest drop-in game Back To Back with food director Carla Lalli Music, Gourmet Makes with Claire Saffitz), all of which—unlike the homogeneous, corny daytime aesthetic that runs through most everything on Food Network—allow talented chefs and authors with their own varying paces and personalities to coexist in the same experimental space. For the past four years, The Bon Appétit Foodcast, hosted by editor Adam Rapoport, has taken a similar anything goes trajectory that features in-depth nerding out over coffee preparations during one episode, then snippets from live shows the next. This week, Music joins Rapoport and Gabe Tesoriero to compare game-day menus; highlights include horseshoe-shaped Italian hoagies and Martha Stewart’s harissa-seasoned riblets. [Dan Jakes]


The Dropout
The Enforcer

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Most people outside of the tech industry weren’t aware of Theranos or Elizabeth Holmes until a few years ago, when the young CEO’s fraudulent medical technology company came crashing down under the weight of massive lawsuits and damning exposés. Two episodes into ABC News’ new podcast profiling Holmes, it’s clear that this recent downfall is just one part of a bigger picture. Holmes founded Theranos at the age of 19 soon after dropping out of Stanford University, and quickly built the company on a series lies, deceptions, and false promises, propping herself up as the next Steve Jobs (turtleneck included). Through a series of interviews with former employees, we see that everything about Holmes—including her iconic baritone voice—was an affectation meant to deflect attention away from her lack of a tangible product. But more than a psychological profile, The Dropout is a condemnation of the venture capitalist culture of Silicon Valley, where billionaires are far too eager to jump on a good-sounding idea from a charismatic personality even when every expert in the field is waving a red flag. We all know how the story ends, but how we get there is truly unbelievable. [Dan Neilan]


Winnetka
Introduction

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Jessica Harper was the go-to actress if you were making weird musicals in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Her acting career brought her to Los Angeles, but she’s a Midwesterner at heart, having grown up in the affluent Chicago suburb of Winnetka. It’s home to many WASPs, the Suspiria star explains in the opening episode as she reminisces about her upbringing. The premiere begins with the death of her father and implies a fraught relationship between Harper, her siblings, and the patriarch of the Harper clan. This episode is brisk and ends on a serious cliff-hanger, suggesting a deep family secret to be revealed. The first episode drops today, and if listeners don’t want to wait for the second episode, Harper has been providing small sample stories on the series feed to whet your appetite. [Mike Vanderbilt]

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