In this episode, Natalia, Niki, and Neil debate a fatal stabbing at a Bronx high school, the history of the romance novel and its critics, and the evolution of the game show genre.
Here are some links and references mentioned during this week’s show:
- We discussed the stabbing death of Matthew McCree, 15, at the hands of his classmate, Abel Cedeno, 18, at the Bronx public school, Urban Assembly, the first killing in a New York City school in two decades. Natalia cited Albert M. Camarillo’s theory of the “new racial frontier” that describes community and conflict in contemporary cities as one framework for understanding this conflict between a Puerto Rican and African-American New Yorkers. We also referenced West Side Story to emphasize the long-standing stereotype of Puerto Ricans as gangsters, a trope that has resurged in response to this incident. Niki highlighted the concept of the “school-to-prison pipeline” as important context to understand the criminalization of young men of color by the schools.
- Romance novels not only earn enormous profits, but also disdain from the literary establishment. For this reason, a long New York Times Book Review “roundup” of new titles in the genre made news. Romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books was ambivalent, grateful for the publicity but critical of the choice of a writer who failed to acknowledge the complexity of the genre. Natalia commented on Kelly Faircloth’s more nuanced treatment at Jezebel and recommended scholar Janice Radway’s book on the different ways women read the genre.
- Monty Hall, host of the classic game show Let’s Make a Deal, recently died, an occasion to consider the genre he helped define in historical context. Niki pointed out how the quiz show scandals of the 1950s marked an era of far higher trust in public institutions. One signal theme of the modern era, Natalia commented, is the blurring between the genres of reality television and game show, evidenced by The Briefcase, among other programs.
In our regular closing feature, What’s Making History:
- Neil commented on the death of musician Tom Petty, and in particular on his relationship to the Confederate flag.
- Natalia discussed the Los Angeles Times’ series and podcast “Dirty John”, by Christopher Goffard, a gripping California narrative that also reminds us of the need to support longform, investigative journalism.
- Niki discussed “Before Vibrators Were Mainstream” in the Atlantic, which explored the feminist origins of the contemporary sex toy industry.