59 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 Slate Podcasts

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.6 • 1.5K 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

    The First Alien Abductees

    The First Alien Abductees

    When you think of an alien abduction, what do you picture? Humanoid creatures, medical experiments, lost memories retrieved through hypnosis? That narrative was largely unknown until Betty and Barney Hill went public about their own alien abduction in the 1960s. Betty Hill’s niece, Kathleen Marden, recounts how the story went viral and her aunt and uncle became unwitting celebrities. Then professors Susan Lepselter, Chris Bader, Joseph O. Baker and Stephanie Kelley-Romano explain how the Hills’ alien abduction changed science fiction forever.
    Thanks to Eric Molinsky for bringing us this story that originally aired on his terrific podcast Imaginary Worlds. Eric’s got a lot more stories like this one so subscribe wherever you listen. 
    Decoder Ring is written by Willa Paskin and produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director.
    If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com
    If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 41 min
    The Most Famous Poet No One Remembers

    The Most Famous Poet No One Remembers

    Rod McKuen sold multiple millions of poetry books in the 60s and 70s. He released dozens of albums, was a regular on late night, and was even nominated for an Oscar. So, how did the most salable poet in American history simply disappear? On today’s episode, Slate writer Dan Kois went searching for Rod McKuen, a famous poet who isn’t so famous anymore. We’ll hear from Stephanie Burt, Mike Chasar and Barry Alfonso, author of Rod’s biography A Voice of the Warm. Along the way, Dan meets Andy Zax, a guy who, like him, was bewildered by this forgotten star—until he became an accidental fan, and then somehow the only person keeping Rod McKuen’s flame alive.
    This episode of Decoder Ring was written by Dan Kois and edited by Willa Paskin. It was produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director.
    If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com. If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 48 min
    The Mall is Dead (Long Live the Mall)

    The Mall is Dead (Long Live the Mall)

    What do we lose if we lose the mall? 70 years into their existence, these hulking temples to commerce are surprisingly resilient and filled with contradictions. In this episode, Alexandra Lange, the author of the new book Meet Me at the Fountain: an Inside History of the Mall walks us through the atriums, escalators, and food courts of this singular suburban space. We also hear from mall-goers whose personal experiences help us make sense of this disdained yet beloved, disappearing yet surviving place.
    This episode of Decoder Ring was written by Willa Paskin and produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director.
    If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com
    If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 45 min
    Summer 2022 Teaser

    Summer 2022 Teaser

    Decoder Ring is coming back with a new season featuring a whole new set of questions.... Like, is the shopping mall really dying? How did a poet who sold millions of books and records 50 years ago, come to be completely forgotten? And what does a century old Broadway scandal involving Mae West have to tell us about the creation of celebrity?
    You can hear these episodes and more on the new season of Decoder Ring. Launching July 26, 2022. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 1 min
    Plus: How Decoder Ring Made This Season

    Plus: How Decoder Ring Made This Season

    In this exclusive episode for members, host Willa Paskin discusses how she came up with the topics covered in this most recent Decoder Ring season. Then we’ll also hear more from her conversation on storytelling with Damon Lindelof, writer, producer, and creator of shows like Lost, The Leftovers, and Watchmen.

    The Storytelling Craze

    The Storytelling Craze

    When did everyone become a storyteller? Decades after George Lucas and Steve Jobs made storytelling a big business, every company now wants to tell “Our Story.” Instagram and TikTok let everyone else tell their “stories,” and the number of people calling themselves storytellers on LinkedIn is now more than half a million. Something we have done for the entirety of our existence as a species has become just another fad. 
    In this episode of Decoder Ring, we’re going to look at where this trend came from and where it’s going. What Willa discovered changed the way she now thinks about stories—and it might do the same for you. 
    Some of the voices you’ll hear in this episode include Margaret O’Mara, historian and author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America; Michael Simon, director and producer; Francesca Polletta, sociologist at University of California, Irvine; Steve Clayton, Chief Storyteller at Microsoft; Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author of All Marketers Tell Stories; Everett Cook, Associate Editor at Axios Local; and David Paskin, Willa’s father. 
    Decoder Ring is written and produced by Willa Paskin. This episode was edited by Dan Kois and produced by Elizabeth Nakano. Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director.
    If you have any cultural mysteries you want us to decode, email us at DecoderRing@slate.com.
    If you love the show and want to support us, consider joining Slate Plus. With Slate Plus you get ad-free podcasts, bonus episodes, and total access to all of Slate’s journalism.


    Thanks Avast.com!
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 41 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
1.5K Ratings

1.5K Ratings

SergioCathy ,

Episode ‘fame’

Love this show—— it’s a perfect short length and always entertaining.

Justin Bateman 🙄🙄🙄. Sounded like such a ‘princess’——- other people discuss their life experience toward the point of an interview. Duh. Really missed an opportunity to promote her book. Also she hasn’t been famous for a kabillion years so it’s not like she is right in the middle of her height. Do famous authors truly expect an interviewer to read and recall every word of their vanity project?!?!? Ugh. I’m not usually so critical but she was awful….just sounded so high-handed and above answering any questions about her past as it informed her present. And, um, what has she lately done that we know and can ask her about other than her book which is about fame. So not a fan now.

Adore the show. The vampire episode whipped.

ahsu57akso899 ,

Infrequent episodes with a paywall

Show used to be good but now the episodes are few and far between. They put a lot of the new content behind a paywall. It’s really expensive for what it is and I won’t be paying.

josie729 ,

Thought-provoking…

I loved the Rod McKuen episode. I had completely forgotten about him. My older sister had a book of his poems in the sixties. So interesting to hear his story. There was a lot of stuff we thought was profound then but were embarrassed by later (like The Prophet), but this episode helped me see McKuen in a different light.

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