Slate’s Culture Gabfest on Maleficent, faking cultural literacy, and the song that introduced sex to pop music in 1909.
Is Social Media Making Us Savvier or Just More Pretentious?
Slate's weekly roundtable.
June 4 2014 10:39 AM

The Culture Gabfest “Ow, Your Cheekbone!” Edition

Slate’s Culture Gabfest on Maleficent, faking cultural literacy, and the song that introduced sex to pop music in 1909.


Listen to Culture Gabfest No. 298 with Mike Pesca, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner with the audio player below.

And join the lively conversation on the Culturefest Facebook page here:


The sponsor of this week’s show is Audible. Get a free audiobook from Audible’s collection of more than 150,000 titles and a subscription to a daily audio digest when you sign up for a 30-day free trial at This week’s pick for the Culture Gabfest Bucket List—the books you’ve got to read to be a smarter culture hound—is Sleeping Beauty and Other Classic Stories by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, read by Julia Whelan

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On this week’s episode, the critics discuss Maleficent, Disney’s live-action retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the villain’s perspective. The film stars Angelina Jolie in a role whose seductive deviance and maternal tenderness befit the star’s tabloid image. Next the gabbers turn to Karl Taro Greenfeld’s New York Times op-ed about faking cultural literacy in the age of social media. Have Twitter, Facebook, and the proliferation of “tabs” in our Web browsers made us savvier culture consumers or just better at BS? And finally, the Culture Gabfest welcomes Jody Rosen, critic-at-large for T: The New York Times Style Magazine, to discuss the 1909 hit that introduced extramarital sex into pop music—and why the two have been inseparable ever since.

Links to some of the things we discussed this week follow:


Dana: Mike Pesca’s daily Slate podcast The Gist, which has become Dana’s go-to listening while walking her dog.

Mike: Kara Walker’s sugar sphinx in the soon-to-be-demolished Domino Sugar refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Jody: Graham Robb’s Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris, to which Robb brings the expertise of a historian and the flair of a novelist.

Julia: The Spot, Slate’s pop-up soccer blog in anticipation of the World Cup, especially Alan Siegel’s post about The Simpsons’ brilliant soccer parody.

Outro: “My Husband’s in the City” by Sophie Tucker (1910)

You can email us at

This podcast was produced by Ann Heppermann. Our intern is Anna Shechtman.

Follow us on Twitter. And please Like the Culture Gabfest on Facebook.

Mike Pesca is the host of the Slate daily podcast The Gist. He also contributes reports and commentary to NPR.

Dana Stevens is Slate’s movie critic.

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate’s Culture Gabfest podcast.

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