48 episodes

Decoder Ring is the show about cracking cultural mysteries. In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

Decoder Ring itunesu_sunset

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.5 • 171 Ratings

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

Decoder Ring is the show about cracking cultural mysteries. In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    Plus: The Making of This Season

    Plus: The Making of This Season

    In this exclusive episode for Slate Plus members, Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch discuss what it’s like to make Decoder Ring, and share stories of making the episodes in this season.

    Custer's Revenge

    Custer's Revenge

    Custer's Revenge is widely considered one of the worst video games ever made. Originally released as part of a series of Swedish Erotica-branded adult games for the Atari 2600, Custer's Revenge involves moving a pixelated General Custer across the screen to rape an Indigenous woman tied to a post. It's unfathomably racist, sexist, and un-fun to play. Today on Decoder Ring we tell the story of how Custer's Revenge came to be, the people who protested it, and the even stranger story of how the whole thing became a considered trolling operation. This is the final episode of our current season, but we'll be back in 2022.
    If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more.
    Note: This episode has been edited to correct a misstatement about Women Against Pornography's aims. The group did not advocate the banning of pornography.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 47 min
    The Fame That Got Away

    The Fame That Got Away

    Today on Decoder Ring: Three stories about fame, and one about monkeys. Are primates susceptible to celebrity endorsements? What does fame do to the mind of a famous person? Who were the famous tattooed ladies of the 1880s? And what's it like to be in a rising rock band, only to see everything fall apart over a beer commercial?
    If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 44 min
    Truly Tasteless Jokes

    Truly Tasteless Jokes

    Note: This episode is about offensive material, and so contains explicit and offensive language.
    Truly Tasteless Jokes were a series of joke books that dominated the bestsellers list during the 1980s. An equal opportunity joke book: Truly Tasteless Jokes were collections of jokes ranging from Helen Keller, to dead babies, to sexist and racist jokes that from the vantage of 2021, seem entirely abject. For readers in the 1980’s though, these books were ubiquitous. On this episode we dig into the history of these books and their author Ashton Applewhite. It’s a story that involves the tangled history of 1960’s free speech politics, conservative backlash, and the strange moment in the 1980’s when left and right wing speech politics converged to help make these books mainstream. 
    If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 50 min
    The Philosophy of Vampires

    The Philosophy of Vampires

    In literature, the choice to become a vampire is a metaphor for transformative experiences. On this episode, we bring you a story from Slate's Hi-Phi Nation podcast, which explores problems in contemporary philosophy through story. From real-life blood suckers, to Lord Byron, to Twilight, vampires are a tool for philosophers to think about otherness, sexuality, and the transformative experiences we all go through in life.
    To listen to more Hi-Phi Nation, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
    If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 37 min
    You Just Lost The Game

    You Just Lost The Game

    When you think about the game, you lose the game. When you lose the game you must declare that you have lost the game, causing all others in your vicinity to also lose the game. That’s it, that’s the game. 
    The game is mind game that trades on a quirk of human psychology, and is so intensely viral that it went from a college science fiction club in-joke to an endemic mind virus in only a few decades. If you’re a bit older and already know about the game, you likely learned about it in the aughts, but the game continues to spread through social media, most recently on TikTok, where the game became a meme over lockdown. On this episode, we examine the game to figure out how it works, where it came from, and the curious psychology that powers its viral nature. 
    Note: A version of this episode was originally released as a secret bonus to our 2018 episode “The Incunabula Papers”, but this is its official public release. The episode has been updated with new voice over, sound design, and minor story changes to bring it up to date in 2021.
    If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you can get ad free podcasts, bonus episodes, and much more.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 26 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
171 Ratings

171 Ratings

Cedararbutus ,

WONDERFUL

finally a podcast with clear English storytelling ....gets right to the point ...,no swearing ...no hideous hyena laughter ..keeps the listener glued!! GREAT JOB

CasaMcLeod ,

Insightful and delightful

Consistently interesting and intriguing deconstruction of aspects of our popular culture. Well written and narrated by Willa Paskin and the Slate team. I just listened to “The Shop Around the Corner” episode from March 2020 and consider it one of the best overall podcast episodes I’ve ever heard.

I was unimpressed ,

Ad edits!

The abrupt ad breaks are really effecting my enjoyment of this smart interesting show. I know y’all can do better. Please. Listening is disjointed when one is engrossed in this production which I want to love.

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