Beyond Reviews: Writing Pop Culture Personal Essays | Tabitha Blankenbiller | Skillshare

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Beyond Reviews: Writing Pop Culture Personal Essays

teacher avatar Tabitha Blankenbiller, Writer of things that are true. But stretched.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (46m)
    • 1. Intro to Pop Culture Writing

    • 2. Project Overview: Writing a Pop Culture Response

    • 3. Connecting to Pop Culture: Plots and Characters

    • 4. Essay #1: Elizabeth Ellen's "By the Sea" Review

    • 5. Essay #2: Mallory Ortberg's "Big Bang Theory" Essay

    • 6. Essay #3: Tabitha Blankenbiller's "Sailor Moon/Star Wars" Essay

    • 7. Tips on Publishing Pop Culture Writing

    • 8. Final Thoughts

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About This Class


Everyone consumes culture. Movies, TV shows, Netflix streams, music, Kardashians—the best and the worst of pop is the backdrop to our everyday lives. Pop culture reflects where we are as a society, and when it changes we change; and when we change, it’s forced to evolve as well. It’s easy to see why pop culture writing has become such a widespread and powerful style. The shift of publication from traditional print to online journals, coupled with the proliferation of media in our daily lives, has created a proliferation of sites dedicated to strong personal essays with pop culture themes.


This class is recommended for students who are currently working on writing personal essays, or have written essays in the past and are diving back into the form. Any level of essay-writing experience is fine, from personal essay blog posts on up to published work.


In this class, we’ll discover:


- What a pop culture essay is, and how it differs from traditional personal essays and media reviews


- Examples of outstanding pop culture essay writing, and what we can learn from these accomplished writers


- Considerations and tips for pitching and publishing pop culture essays to editors

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Tabitha Blankenbiller

Writer of things that are true. But stretched.


Tabitha Blankenbiller is an essayist, columnist and fiction writer living outside of Portland, Oregon. She is a graduate of the Pacific University MFA program, and her work excavates the truth behind fashion, food, friendships, old video games, and Netflix streams. Her writing springs to life where personal and pop cultures intersect.

Her essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Barrelhouse, Hobart, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Brevity, and a number of other journals. She reviews books for Bustle and writes a regular column for PDXX Collective. Her debut book, "Eats of Eden: A Year of Food and Fiction" is forthcoming from Alternating Current Press in Fall 2017.

For book updates and to follow her writing, visit She Tweets the latest literary goodness @tabithablank... See full profile

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1. Intro to Pop Culture Writing: Hi, I'm Tabatha Blinking Biller. I'm a writer and essayist based in Portland, Oregon, and what I specialized in is pop culture writing. Pop culture writing is something I became familiar with when I was still in high school in college, and I love to read blog's like Defamer and television without pity. And what the writers for those sites were doing was taking TV shows, movies and celebrity culture and writing about them in a way that also tied in their own lives and experiences. And not only did I love to read these essays because I was familiar with what they were talking about, I was seeing the movies. I was watching the shows. I was reading the tabloid gossip. I also wanted to write that way. It was exciting to see someone taking relevancy from the world around us and bringing their own life and perspective into it. It was very engaging and made me want to study writing more pop culture Writing became more popular with the advent of the Internet because all of a sudden we had the ability to publish things very quickly, and people were able to access them instantaneously immediately after having a cultural experience of watching a television show going to a movie reading a story about Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt breaking up. People are able to instantaneously read about culture, the culture they live in and participate in, and they're able to see how other people are viewing it. People may not even realize why they're having response to culture. They may love a film that they just came back and saw it stayed with them. And they may have watched a TV show and stayed up until 3 a.m. and used mother sick days because they were binging all night. What is it about this that just made me fall in love? Or conversely, what is about this? That I can't stop thinking about how much I hate it, and I want to get in a plane and go to Hollywood and beat up everyone who approved it. And this writing takes those feelings and amplifies them and puts them in the context of a personal life. And this is why journals often love to publish these pieces is that you know, people see something they connect with immediately a show celebrity, and they click and then they read, and then they fall in love 2. Project Overview: Writing a Pop Culture Response: for this class, we're going to be writing an essay about a piece of pop culture that you had a strong impression of. Now, when I say a strong impression, I'm not talking necessarily about a good impression. I just mean something that was very strong in visceral within you. Wonderful writing can result from having a strong negative response to a film or TV show. What you want to avoid is writing about something that you feel neutral on, because neutrality is where creativity goes to die. So in these lessons were going to be talking about ways to become more observant and ask yourself deeper questions to brainstorm and get ideas for writing pop culture responses. What I would recommend is when you think of that film or TV show that you recently loved or hated, go back and watch it again and watch it with a critical eye thinking, Why is this making me feel this way? And we're going to talk about some of those questions to get your creativity flowing? If you're planning to pitch your essay to an online publication, I would suggest that you choose something that is relevant in the moment and By that, I mean a TV show that's currently on the air or is streaming on Netflix or a film that is in the theater or has just been released on DVD. Another thing you can do is if you have something from the past that is relevant again, lets say the 20 year anniversary of Clueless is released. Then you can also pitch that because magazines love nostalgia pieces because they love to make us feel super old. When you're writing your essay, you're going to be drawing parallels to characters that are in the story. You may also be drawing from the themes, the plot and the storyline in ways that connect to your own life and where you live and the time we're living in and just your own experience. And through looking at examples of pop culture essays, you'll see the way that writers are doing that and you'll start to be able to ask yourself questions to evoke ideas and make connections between the larger stories that are being told in our world and the life you're living here now and speak to the universal of experience of being a 21st century consumer of pop culture. Because like it or not, we all are 3. Connecting to Pop Culture: Plots and Characters: in this lesson, we're going to be talking about connecting to themes and characters within pop culture, and this is the bones of the essay you're going to write now. Pop culture essay is like any other essay is a writer thinking on the page? And that means coming to conclusions or at least new ideas by writing through them now what I would recommend not only in your pop culture writing but just in writing in general, is to train yourself to be a better observer of the world around you. This is what we have to do, is writers is become better listeners and better interpreters of the people we see and the stories we watch, which is obviously very important in this style of writing. I would recommend when you watch something, start asking yourself deeper questions. If you love a story, ask yourself, What is it here that I see in my own life that's being represented because representation is important when we watch a story and we see our lives being told in this large way that many people can see it's very important, and this is why people fight to have diversity and characters and diversity and stories because representation matters, and it means so much to the human experiences. Toe. Have our stories told now a good way to start with pop culture writing is to focus on either a character that you connected or extremely disconnected with, or a plot of a story that meant quite a bit to you or meant quite a bit of negativity to you and an example of this would be, Let's take the effects Siri's archer. So if I were writing about Archer and I decided to tap into one of the show's themes I may chose choose to write how it represents male dominated workplaces. I've worked in corporate settings for 10 years, and I've seen quite a few cases where men are able to skate through a little easier on their charisma and women are left in the background holding the fort and just not being seen. And this is, ah, huge part of the show. We have Archer, who is a complete buffoon. His James Bond meets Peter Griffin. He's always almost getting somebody killed or, um, running a drug ring into the ground. So, in the story of Archer and within the Siri's. We see Lana, who is the female protagonist. She's so smart, so talented at killing people, so beautiful. But she's held back constantly by these men in her office who are able to get by on their charm and privilege, and she has toe cover for them and she gets held back by them. And it's not an obvious plot device. It's not what the show is about. It's not billed as a feminist exploration of our workplaces, but it's in their subversively in there. And that's what pop culture writing is. It's revealing the stories within the stories, reading between the lines, and that's what we're trying to get. Teoh. Let's look at the character of Pam, who is a non office HR person, and she is one of the only animated characters you see who's a plus sized woman. So she would be a great character to use to talk about representation of body image within pop culture. Pam is often the butt of jokes within the office. You know, she's, ah, former dairy farmer. So you know, everybody's always talking about how she loves cheese and all these things, but at the same time she is ah, fully realized sexual being She, like, goes after men, and she has appetites, and it's refreshing to see you even get shots of her in her underwear. Like, aside from Lena Dunham on HBO, that just doesn't happen. And it's refreshing again. We're talking about representation and myself, feeling represented in a character in good ways and bad ways, You know? Also, you know, at Archer could be a complete asshole tour just because of the way she looks. And, you know, unfortunately, that's a reality that I've dealt with and many men and women have dealt with on a daily basis. So again, the show isn't primarily about Pam. She's not the main character, not a main focus on every episode. But she does lend a voice to something that I find to be true and I've experienced and I find valuable. So I would ask myself those questions and I would start to build. It's in the similar style. That essay, in the similar way that we talked about building a theme, s a an example of my own life on example from the show example for my own life and work through that thought process on the page. And, you know, by the end, I would have, uh, conclusion as to whether I felt well represented by this character, or I felt that she was not lending the correct perspective into my life if she was becoming a caricature instead of a character. So when you're watching a film or a TV show after it's finished and you have a lot of feelings and you have a lot of questions that you've answered, I would recommend taking a few brief notes. And that way you have something to refer to when you dive into your essay and you don't lose all those golden moments where you just were inspired and answering questions and having great ideas. Just don't let them slip through the cracks. You'll need them. We all need them. And when you take your notes, delve into anything that resonates with you. If you love it, why, if you didn't, what do you feel are the blind spots? What is the story missing? Asking yourself those questions on a regular basis will get you in the habit of interpreting pop culture in a more intelligent way and then being able to write about it another important facet of becoming a pop culture essayist is reading as much great pop culture right writing as you can. Fortunately, we have a plethora of this writing out there to choose from, and I would personally recommend reading the essays of Aerial Bernstein. She writes for Salon and the Atlantic, and she has a fantastic catalogue of essays that examine both characters and themes and pop culture. She particularly has an essay about Rihanna and Taylor Swift and violence and female videos that we'll blow your mind. It's fantastic. So I've put links to her work up in our class. Resource is, I've also linked to some essays I've written about character, such as the Women of True Detective Season two, Not the good one. And you can refer to those and, you know, just get in the habit of clicking around seeing what's out there and enjoying this style of writing, because it will show you better than anything else the questions that people are asking and the themes there exploring, and it'll show you how to relate that into your life. 4. Essay #1: Elizabeth Ellen's "By the Sea" Review: For this first essay, we're going to be looking at Elizabeth Ellen's a review of By the Sea or How to Be an Artist and female IE How to Be unlikable or How to Not Pander. And this was featured in Hobart. If you haven't read the essay yet, click on the link and come back and join us. We'll discuss it all right. Elizabeth Ellen's review of By the Sea is hardly a review, even though it's titled as such, this is an essay that sticks to that structure. We were talking about 1212 and she begins it with the stakes of her argument right up front . First as women, there is the virgin whore complex to which were subjected or to which we subject ourselves , or to which we allow ourselves to be subjected or with which we must, at the very least, contend. And if we decide to procreate the mother bitch complex and if we dare one day to call ourselves artists lover, self obsessed monster complex. Now that first paragraph we get so much we get what the essay is going to explore, which is the dichotomy of being an artist and being female and daring to be so. We also get a sense of her voice, which was also in the title. She's digressing and going back and forth quite a bit. She's having an argument with herself. Just write down, she says. Why am I writing this essay? The part of me reading this essay, a spectator hates the other part of me that is writing this essay. Don't pander, the former says. Don't you dare fucking pander! So she's narrating this essay. But at the same time she's describing her own life and these air to independent voices. She's had these experiences, but also she's telling them through the lens of being a writer. And in this essay she compares herself to Angelina Jolie, who does the same thing on film. Angelina, as she explores, also has to deal with this dichotomy right here. She talks about how she's been part of debates where we talked about which Angelina we like best. Billy Bob, Angelina, Tomb Raider, Angelina, Brother kissing Angelina, Husbands dealer Angelina Earth Mother Angelina, World Ambassador Angelina. So we have dichotomies of Angela Anjali and we have dichotomies of Elizabeth Ellen, and they're both on display and Angelina Jolie has never been a vulnerable, It seems through reading this piece as she was in creating by the Sea Ah, film that she directed with her husband, Brad Pitt and Elizabeth Ellen in this essay has never been so vulnerable as when she was trying to write a book of poems that her friends were telling her were self indulgent and destructive when Angelina's film was described as surprise, surprise, self indulgent. So within this essay we see Elizabeth going very quickly back and forth between her own experience and that of Angelina Jolie that she's viewing as a person who's grown up watching Angelina's career unfold, which we have all done. Those of us who have grown up in the nineties and early owes, uh, you can't escape the fact that she was at one time Billy Bob Angelina. Then she was husband stealing Angelina. And now she's adoptive, beautiful mother Angelina, who dares to make a film about marriage. Uh, and we don't know Elizabeth Ellen. Unfortunately, she seems lovely. By connecting to Angelina Jolie's experience, she's immediately giving us a hook into her own struggles as a writer because we've all observed what's happened to Angelina Jolie on, uh, she quickly switches between the two of them, so we Seymour of their connection. A week or so later, I set my unfinished poetry collection to a friend who responded by telling me I had too much time on my hands and strongly urging me not to publish it. I mean out and a few months before by the Sea was released. There was an email hack in Hollywood. Angelina Jolie Pitt was the subject of some of the emails made public in one email of Producer referred to Angelina as a minimum. Lee talented, spoiled brat and to her ego is rampaging. How again? And in this moment of switching between, we can forget that Angelina is Theo a list celebrity, and Elizabeth Ellen is the writer, and we see this shared experience. No matter how high on the celebrity spectrum, these women are there having the same reactions lobbed at them. They're having the same challenges as artists, and we can relate to that. She makes Angelina Jolie's challenges human in a way that in the gloss of magazines and celebrity, they're not human. It's very hard to understand how somebody on that level could be struggling. Another thing that Elizabeth is doing so well in this essay is establishing her voice. Now she's talking about a serious subject, and her lines remain with that rapid succession movement. Poetic and serious. But she's so funny in this dark way, like this line here. No, I am not comparing myself to Angelina Jolie Pitt or I guess I am unnamed friend. I guess you are right about my ego. Fuck it and it's like she's talking to us. You know, we're at a coffee shop or maybe were at a bar. I feel like we're more in a bar, and she's just telling us about her feelings, watching by the sea and all of the darkness and heartache it evoked inside of her. And you can hear her asking herself the questions that we were talking about. Why did I love this movie? And so many people hated it. This was universally panned movie, but it meant so much to me. Why and how? Why should I compare myself to an A list celebrity? Why do I have the right to do that? Do I have the right to do that? I don't want to do that. I don't want you to think that I think I am a movie star. But you know what? We're artists, and I guess you're right. I think of myself as an artist. Fuck it, and that dark humor has a bite, and I just love it. I think that it shows a great example of how you can infuse your own personality into pop culture writing and make it more fun and make it more unique and also lend a voice to the culture that you are participating in. So one of the things that Elizabeth Ellen does a masterful job of in this essay is using the parent medical to build her voice. And when you read it, I'm sure you noticed all of these phrases within parentheses. And what she's doing with this is just creating a sense of dual Selves that she had previously talked about within the voice. And these represent the two duties that women are dealing with and the views through these asides. So I would suggest, you know, look at it and try reading it without those interjections, and you'll get a totally different voice and a completely different story than when you keep them in. And, um, it's sort of also reflects what we can't say while we're watching a film, that inner truth that runs through ahead as we take in the movie or the TV show and we interpret it. And that's a private monologue that's often forgotten lost. But she has in this writing, infused it back in and brought us that voice back, and it's really beautiful to see so as we have these back and forth, back and forth. So Ellen eventually builds into her conclusions about why she loves by the sea and why it's important to her. And it builds from a place of the tell a story. Given example, Tell a story given example, there are a few writings from inside of marriage. There's writing after a divorce after a death. It is safer to write about something once it is over. Once a person is gone by the sea is a film from inside a marriage. Most of my writing is from inside a marriage. The rules are less defined, writing from within, everyone is less comfortable. The audience in the creator, myself and my friend, why the film is important. You can see she's come to that answer that she's been asking herself. Why is this important to me? Why do I love it when so many people don't? It's because we have very few pop culture references that show what it's like to be in a long term relationship and what it's like to keep it going. Anyone who has been married to someone or bid with someone for an extended period of time can realize that it's not always perfect. And if it is, you're probably both lobotomized because there's a problem now towards the end, just going 1 to 1 to very quickly, again building to her final point. I can already hear Bret Easton Ellis saying no. The reason the critics didn't like by the Sea isn't because Angelina is a woman or because the movie is personal, but because the movie is boring and badly acted, and nothing happens to I can hear my friends saying no. The reason I didn't like your poems isn't because they were too honest or two balls e, but because they were boring and self indulgent and shallow one, and both of them would be right to of course they are right. Also one artist subjective to we can all be right and it bounces and it's getting to that point. We can all be right. Is Angelina right to make by the sea? As she says in her last line, You might like by the Sea, you might hate it. Fuck if I know. Maybe she should have made it. But she did say something, and she evoked a feeling in Ellen and Ellen's evoking something in us, and that's what art is. It's in perfect in its messy, and sometimes you're just going to have people not get it. 5. Essay #2: Mallory Ortberg's "Big Bang Theory" Essay: for this next essay. We're looking at the Big Bang theory or feelings I forgot I had about feelings for Straight Girls and Bad TV by Mallory Wartburg For the toast. If you haven't read this essay yet, refer to the link. Give it a read and come back and we'll talk about it. So this essay is the big Bang theory with some parent testicles by Mallory or for now, what this is a great example of is writing about pop culture that you do not like. This is about the Big Bang theory, and Mallory is not a fan, she tells us right away. I'm not proud of this one, exactly. There's been no rush to write it, in no small part, because I cannot possibly encourage you to watch the Big Bang theory. It isn't a very good show. It hasn't been unfairly overlooked by critics. There are no hidden gems. It's a predictable, unpleasant show, and you probably shouldn't watch it. So she's very upfront about her feelings right away, and she's also giving us a sense of the expectation that we're going to come to a place in the essay where we're not in love with the Big Bang theory. We're not rushing out toe watch it. However, even though she's going through something that she may not enjoy watching, it's the reasoning that she gets there where the surprises come in her answers to the questions. Why don't I like this show? What are its blind spots? What is it not representing? That is realty me and real to my experiences, a person. So another thing that Mallory does that Elizabeth also did is set up a voice right away, and you can tell there's a difference. While Elizabeth Ellen was very dark in her humor, Mallory is a little bit more up front and vivacious in it. So this initial paragraph, where she's telling us why she keeps watching the big Bang theory even though she doesn't really like it. And yet, and yet she reminds me of every straight girl I have ever uselessly pined for. Caveat. The first plenty of gay women can look or act straight. Caveat. The second, what does look or acting straight even mean? Mallory Caveat. The third. What's wrong with gay or by women? Answer. Nothing were wonderful. I didn't fall for straight girls, hardly ever that article was mostly inaccurate, but I also still have a lot of feelings about it. But I would also never try to manipulate a friend into loving me. So she's just having this conversation with herself, and we're just lucky enough to be in the room with her, just watching her wrestle with the fact that she keeps watching this show. She has strange feelings about the straight women on it and the way they're represented, and we want to know why. What where is she going? And the nice thing about doing pop culture essay writing like this is You can have fun with your voice. Nobody's coming to read this and thinking that it's going to be an academic essay about the Big Bang theory so you can feel free to joke around, have a little fun, play with form, just show off who you really are, and that is a joy to read. As we can see, it keeps us sucked in. Now this essay isn't very long. It's maybe 1000 words, and we don't get a plot summary. We don't read this and know exactly what the big bang theory is about. Aside from the fact that it is like she said, a cheesy sitcom. But what she does is she extracts perfect details so that we know exactly who she's talking about and what she's talking about. And everything else that has to do with show is really irrelevant. Because the details are so telling. Orenburg introduces the main character by saying, I am I will admit, not proud of my crush on Caylee, whose beauty is obvious, like the son she looks like every popular girl. I tried to make laugh on the bus in eighth grade, slash fell in love with. We all had our adolescent crush. We all know this person, and through those perfect details, we know exactly who she's talking about. She says. That girl, What is it about her? The messy bun, the constant smudge of black eyeliner around her lids, the ex boyfriends, black sweat pants. She had habits like a goddess of the hunt. How much better could you district drive a character than that? We see her instantly, So this is what's great about using characters, and using character details is that it allows the reader to instantly connect with who you're referring, Teoh without you having to describe anything from your actual real life, your pulling from the greater pop culture surroundings to paint the picture. There is another woman on the Big Bang theory, and her name is Amy, and she has brown hair and wears heavy clothes and doesn't know what to say around people. It's not a good show, she reminds us. So we have another perfect detail about how this woman is wearing heavy clothes, brown hair. She's from species of wallflower. And, um, we've either been that person or we've known that person, and we have a connection with that character, and we can understand, as Molly works in her connection. So Wartburg, in this first half of the essay she's done, let the pop culture writing do the work for her, introducing us to characters that matter and represent something to her. And we had have a sense of who we're seeing in the Big Bang theory, and here's in just one paragraph. She flips it, and we understand where she's going and why this matters. Their friendship, like all these kinds of friendships, is never even cited. Amy is alternately territorial adoring, put on an obsessive Penny is Justus, beautiful and drunk and wanted. There are jokes to be sure about how funny it would be if Amy really liked Penny like that . And it's an uncomfortable reflection of both the awful old predatory lesbian trope Ah, woman who wants a woman way too much, once the wrong thing. Can't think of properly for wanting and sometimes reality. All of a sudden we see the truth underneath this humor and the characters, the ugly truth of how Amy's feelings are made a joke all the time and suddenly were slammed to the heart. And we also feel uncomfortable because we're thinking, Why is this being shown on TV this way? Why is there so much lack of sensitivity for someone who has feelings or someone else? And it's a way that we wouldn't probably look at the show normally, and I think that it was mean spirited. But when it comes from a perspective of someone who has dealt with these experiences of being marginalized and having their love for people made into something that isn't really isn't serious isn't true, we can see where, even from a place of levity, it's not funny, and it's not representing something positive about our culture. In the next paragraph, she tells us there are times, especially when you are young and do not yet know the right names for things when you might joke and suggest an imply in case you're not imagining things. But you seek plausible deniability before you seek reciprocation of your feelings, never asking anything that could be answered in a flat. No, and do you see? She's describing plausible deniability. But she's also creating plausible deniability because she's not quite talking about herself . She's doing it from the second person. You may seek plausible deniability before you seek reciprocation of your feelings, so we assume that she's talking about herself. But we can't quite say, and that's just sort of a tricky way of again, turning the essay into the point she's making and showing how uncomfortable it is for someone who's experienced these crushes and these feelings, to be honest about them and express them because they're shot down in wildly popular shows like the Big Bang theory in the very last line, she's saying, you acknowledge that it was riel even if you didn't want anything to do with it. It's not a very good show. I don't think that you should watch it. So again, she recommends that we not watch this show, but for reasons that are completely different than maybe what we started out thinking. And the way she reached this point was through again asking herself questions of Why does Amy and Pennies relationship make me feel bad about myself? And when have I been in a situation that, maybe like Amy's? And when have I known a girl like Penny? You know, characters that are in pop culture, they come from somewhere. They don't just appear they're written and there acted, and they embody different facets of our culture that are either wonderful or terribly ugly . The thing about pop culture characters is that they don't appear from nowhere there, written and there acted. And they represent riel people and riel relationships within our culture in our world. And it's important for writers like Mallory to excavate them and give them a voice. In a way that's from a new perspective. So we're not just seeing the characters through the creators of the show. We're seeing them from the viewers of the show and why they're important in, in this case, negative ways because they're showing bias that the show has. And that really speaks to the whole world of people that have had these experiences and had these feelings and may not be able to articulate them through writing. Luckily, you're here and you're going toe articulate many things through your pop culture s a. 6. Essay #3: Tabitha Blankenbiller's "Sailor Moon/Star Wars" Essay: for our final essay. We're going to look at this slow fall of the hot heroin by tapping the blanket biller, and it was on the rumpus. So go read it and come back and I will share some thoughts. The slow fall of the Hot Heroin is a ness A. That's a hybrid of the two types that we've been talking about. We are talking about themes in pop culture, and we're also talking about characters, So this is kind of level two and also on important theme. That we're discussing in this essay is nostalgia. And any time you can work in nostalgia, do it because nostalgia is your friend. People love to see nostalgia because they have a special place in their hearts for the shows that they watched as a child or a teenager. And when they read pieces like this, it makes them think, Oh, my gosh, I had all of these strange feelings and thoughts about them when I was a child, but I didn't know what they were, and I didn't understand them until just now reading this essay. And people also love to see the connections between those early influences of pop culture and what we're seeing today and why we feel the way we feel about shows and movies that we're seeing now kind of threaded back through history to our initial pop culture place in time. So this essay begins in, uh, the teenager years of the writer, and she's watching Sailor Moon, which was a Japanese cartoon, Anna Mae. And she tells us that Sailor Moon and her inner solar system of best friends were paper dolls for my fledging personality. And there again, we have a statement that sets up the S. A sailor Moon, back in her teenage years served as a way of giving her personality when she didn't really know what hers was going to be. And she was using the characters as paper dolls to kind of play with who she waas and see herself in a world where she had yet to make any kind of mark of existing. So the writer describes her experience watching and loving Sailor Moon and, like Mallory did in the last essay, she's using that in directness and that plausible deniability to tell us the story. She says that I devoured that fantasy most days. Girls who are too ambitious and overly sincere, with bad hair and volatile skin need of mirage to wrench themselves forward. So she's not telling us that she was a girl with bad hair and volatile skin that was retching herself forward. But we can't and no, and we kind of feel it, too. We've all been there. So the end of this section, she tells us that the Sailor Moon characters were Anne Hathaway, playing frumpy in the Devil Wears product, unpopular Emma Stone in the House Bunny characters written with our problems but drawn as the beautiful people As much as I wished otherwise, I knew that dressing up like Sailor Moon with only spotlight how thoroughly I'd never become her Ah, one woman hot heroin drag show. So that again encapsulates the thesis of trying to become someone with the pop culture examples from the same time period of Emma Stone and Anne Hathaway. So we're really built into this whole world that the writers experiencing and we can remember where we were. Where were you when the devil wears Prada came out, You can remember. So the new Lord of the Rings section of the essay not only have we moved in time and the pop culture has shifted. But also the writer's life has shifted. She's now an older teenager at the end of high school. She has a boyfriend, and we get these little telling details about who this guy is, she says. The guy creeped me out. He had a ratty ponytail and was late to homecoming because his Dungeons and Dragons session ran long. He couch surfed and thought Hitler was deeply misunderstood. So hopefully we don't know this person right now. Hopefully, we've never dated him, but we can see him in our minds. And this is letting the details do the work for you of picking out. What can we tell about this person in one or two sentences that will paint the picture in people's minds and give your reader credit? They'll know what you're talking about. So after the Lord of the Rings jump, we have a jump into young adulthood, the writers in grad school and now the films that she's seeing are the blockbusters of you know, 2005 through 2010. Transformers, uh, the Avengers movies, things like that. So she begins her personal story by saying, I was 25 since the day my breasts were born. I had been a range of sizes along a paradigm of £40. My bare ass had stood in front of the bathroom mirror every single morning, 5000 times. So for the first time we can see, the narrator is kind of showing her own opinion about body image. And she's noticing that she doesn't look like the women on film like Megan Fox bending over the car in Transformers or again and Hathaway on the bat cycle with her perfect ass just magnified. And we're seeing that she's growing as the essay goes on, instead of just looking at what's on the screen and what's in the culture and saying, Oh, how do I become that? How do I turn myself into this beautiful creature or, you know, date whoever is around? She's saying, Wait a minute, this isn't my experience, and this isn't the way I look, but I'm also a human being, so it must somehow be riel, even though I'm not seeing it. So you're seeing the writer think and grow on the page as the essay progresses in time in the last section we jump to present day or close to present day Star Wars. The force awakens has just been released, the writers going to see it. And we've been through this journey where she's starting to be able to form her own opinions about her body image and who she is. And even if she doesn't see that on the screen, she's starting to come to terms with that and accept it. So she goes and she sees Star Wars, and all of a sudden she's, uh, seeing a revolution. And she says, The revolution I saw wasn't the fact that Ray was a female character. If that was revolutionary, then I'd be tearing up over Scarlett Johansson, this black widow in The Avengers or Zoe Saldana as guardians of the galaxy's go Maura. But unlike these heroines, Ray wasn't wearing a costume molded to every minuscule contra of her figure. The camera didn't loiter behind her ass while she mounted the bat cycle. Men didn't run off the road because she was striking enough to stumble, to suffer, to die, for she was a scrapper because she needed money. She was a pilot because she tinkered with shit this was important because she had a Millennium Falcon to fly and a Jet I destiny to fill. So, like the writer, we're finally seeing a character who's fully realized and female, and it's exciting. In the next paragraph, she draws back a full decade back to Sailor Moon. And she says, as I watched her sprint through the desert, pulsating in the light sabers blue glow, a realization came. I could be Ray for Halloween, and suddenly we understand why we've been through all of these other little pop culture moments. It's all building to this moment where she says, I could be this character because this character is not a body. This character is not a type of woman. She's just a human being, and that's all that matters are her skills and her intelligence. Everything else is so secondary. It's inconsequential what she looks like, And I could be that in the last section ties the whole journey together, she says. Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and Sailor Moon endure past their primes because they offer us the simplest, most comforting of delusions. We love photo and Luke and you soggy not because they could potentially save us, but because they could potentially be s within the mediocrity of our every days and the disappointments of our endeavors. We sift for meaning a path to something incredible if we're open to finding it. If Anabel confined Harry Potter under some English stairs, why couldn't Gandalf or R two D two pick us out of a crowd when a heroin isn't explicitly hot? When she's plucked out of the obscurity of her life for the same reasons a man would be a rare and unlined talent locked within her heart? Ah, multitude of possibility opens. Ah, little girl is cute to embrace her intelligence. Ah, young woman doesn't skip out on a costume party. A 1,000,000 more of us ask, Why couldn't that be me as readers? As we're reading this, we might wonder why she's picked one piece of pope pop culture versus another or why were jumping through time. But when we read that last page, we understand. Oh, this is all built into this one moment where we're getting to finally see a character. That's what she's always wanted to be here, always wanted to be heard as, and that is something that you do in your essay writing is you pick out the most important pieces of a culture you could take so long to describe, and you make them work for you by asking yourself questions of when Have I ever felt that I was not being represented? When have I ever felt that my story wasn't been being told? And then you're able to build those examples and your own experience into one moment where finally you have some resolution, you have a revolution, and it's a great way to show why it's so important that we've gotten to this pop culture place because of all the culture that's come before it. It all is a big time is a flat circle that keep going back to true detective because the first season was great. 7. Tips on Publishing Pop Culture Writing: in this lesson, we're going to talk about some publishing tips for those fantastical essays. I know you're hard at work already writing When websites published these essays, they already have the advantage of, you know, showing a picture of Hannah from girls or share from Clueless and having people have a reaction to that. Oh, I love that movie. Oh my gosh, I hate that show. I want to hate read this and click and they're already in. So, uh, people are anxious to publish them. There's also quite a few venues for publishing these essays. Many Web journals are interested in actively seeking pop culture writing. You can look into publications like the Gawker Sites, Slate Salon, Buzzfeed, Hobart, the Toast and Barrelhouse. If you're reading these essays, these examples and you really loved one of them, look into the website and see what they're looking for and whether your piece may have a home. When you decide to approach a particular publication, read their guidelines. This is common courtesy for any kind of writing or going to dio read specifically what they're looking for. Some places only want essays within a certain amount of words under a certain amount of words. Some people only want to receive fully written essays. Other people only want to receive queries where you proposed what you want to write to them . Never do the opposite. Never consider yourself an exception. Always follow those rules. It's common courtesy not only to your work but to your potential editor. You want to make the best first impression when you're researching places to pitch your essay, to look at whether they've published anything on the topic in the past, and it's OK if they have. What you want to make sure of is that it's not too close of a take toe what you've already created. Let's say they've already published about Star Wars. The force awakens, but they were exploring the relationship between Finn and Poe. Well, the essay on Ray and her body image is much different in a completely different take. So if I were to pitch that, I would say I read your essay about Star Wars in the past. I think that this is a complementary piece that will fit into your style in your voice and just be specific about what you're thinking and be friendly. Use that voice leave cultivated in your essay, and you'll have a much better chance of getting it picked up 8. Final Thoughts: now that we've been through some examples of essays, and we've asked better questions about our responses to pop culture, and we're also becoming brilliant observers of the world around us. It's time to start using that to create your own pop culture essay. Please upload it to the Project gallery and I'll be offering you feedback. And I'm very excited and I can't wait to see what you write about in your responses toe what you love in pop culture and naturally, of course, what you hate.