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The Artist in American History examines the ways in which illustrators, film makers, musicians, and writers have impacted the American experience.

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Podcast Episode's:
Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance
<p>Perhaps one of the most exciting moments in US history, the Harlem Renaissance was an explosion of art, literature, and performance in New York's Harlem burgh.  One of its foremost participants, Langston Hughes, produced some of the greatest poetry of his generation - words which challenged dominant racial stereotypes whilst celebrating Black identities in a time when they were often suppressed.  In this podcast, Dr. Darren R. Reid examines the role of Hughes and his first published work, "The Negro Dreams of Rivers".</p>
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Custer's Revenge: Racism and Sexism in Early Videogames (Videogame History #2)
Custer's Revenge on the Atari 2600 is an almost uniquely horrifying celebration of casual racism, sexism, and sexual assault. Released back in 1982, this novelty videogame is a type of revenge fantasy in which George Custer must cross a field of falling arrows so that he can reach -and then rape- a Native American woman. To say that this game is in bad taste is an understatement. A toxic mix of racism and sexism, it celebrated masculinity in a crass and violent manner - a unique and fascinating (if repugnant) cultural artefact from the 1980s.
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01 - Videogame History: E.T. on the Atari 2600
E.T. by Atari is widely regarded as one of the worst videogames ever created. Based upon the wildly popular film Steven Spielberg, it was made in under six weeks by a single developer working on hardware that was, by 1982 standards, utterly archaic. The Atari 2600, the console on which the game was released, had just 128 bytes of RAM – not 128Kb of Ram, but 128 bytes. Building the game on such notoriously underpowered hardware at such ridiculously short notice was a catastrophe. $20 million had been spent by Atari on acquiring the license, but only a few thousand dollars were invested into the actual development of the game which was shipped in vast numbers. At least four million copies of E.T. were manufactured and though the game was initially a commercial success, selling upwards of one and a half million copies, it left a vast inventory unsold which Atari eventually shipped to a landfill site in Mexico and buried. The burial of hundreds of thousands of unsold E.T. cartridges was bad enough, but the game’s quality was so notoriously poor that the real damage was caused by the copies which were actually sold. The game found its way into a million and a half homes in time for Christmas, 1982 and, in so doing, helped to sour the American public’s taste in videogames, proving that a well-loved brand was no guarantee of quality. E.T., alongside several other notoriously bad Atari 2600 games from that same era, was an advertisement for why people should not want to play videogames and, in 1983, the market for computer games in the United States collapsed. To be sure, Atari was not the only company responsible for the market crash, but it was a massive contributor. By 1985 the value of videogame sales in the United States had declined from several billion dollars to perhaps one hundred million as consumers across the country lost trust and interest in the medium. E.T., for all its hype and initial success, practically destroyed a medium which had been growing massively since its explosion into American homes in the 1970s. E.T. was the anti-Pong. Other than a footnote in pop culture and business history, then, where does all of this leave the notoriously bad E.T? Is it as bad as its reputation would have us believe; is it really the worst videogame ever made? The simple answer to that question is no. In spite of the fact that it was rushed to market and that it is marred by some terrible design choices, Atari’s E.T. possess degree of charm, particularly when its six week production cycle is taken into account. Granted, one must sometimes look deep to uncover it whilst forgiving some pretty significant flaws, as a piece of retro Americana it carries appeal. The gameplay revolves around E.T.’s quest to assemble the phone that will allow him to ‘phone home’. In order to accomplish this, the titular character is able to move around a type low resolution quasi-open world. Players are forced to go in no one particular direction though there is little variety and little to see wherever they do go. As the player explores the world, such as it is, they find themselves chased by government agents, though the real threat faced by players is the game’s extremely buggy nature. The map is littered with pits, wherein the pieces of the phone are to be found, but falling into such craters is as much a matter of chance as it is a matter of design. Once in a pit, players must extend E.T.’s neck to ascend upwards but might well find that they become snared in a pit-loop, immediately falling back into the same hole from which they have emerged. Sometimes these loops can be broken, often they cannot... http://www.darrenreidhistory.co.uk
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Da Vinci's Spraycan - A Beginners Guide to Street Art
How to appreciate street art - a beginners guide to the underworld. Join Dr. Reid as he explores a secret street art gallery somewhere in Scotland. The abandoned factory has had its interior covered in graffiti, tags, and illicit wall murals. It is a monument to vandalism - and the ability of art to speak truth to power.
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Election Special! The Trump Effect
<p>In this special episode Dr. Reid travels to New York to speak to ordinary Americans about their reaction to Donald Trump's divisive rise.  The resultant short film, co-directed by Brett Sanders and shot by the pair's history students, provides an insight into how the people of New York feel about the sudden and dramatic rise of one of the city's most controversial sons.  Aftermath: A Portrait of a Nation Divided was directed by Brett Sanders and Darren R. Reid for Red Something Films.</p>
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Guardians of the Forest: The Magna Carta and Colonial America
<p>The Artist in American History is back with a special post-Brexit episode which deconstructs British and English claims to founding global democracy through the creation of the Magna Carta.  Rather than seeing that document as the basis of English democracy, this podcast instead looks at how the spirit of 1215 was betrayed in colonial North America - and how it was maintained by Native Americans even in the face of growing English antipathy for its values.</p>
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The Politics of Star Wars
<p>In this episode, Dr. Reid examines the rich politics which underpinned the original Star Wars film.  From the importance to the guerrilla fighters in the post-Vietnam era through to contemporary warnings of empires built upon technological advantages, Star Wars, in spite of the seeming simplicity of its depictions of good and evil, had much to say about America and its place in the world.</p>
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The Present State of the Future
<p>Explore the meaning of science fiction as a means of uncovering difficult truths about world history and the human experience.  This episode uses the recent film Chappie to ask questions about how one of the most easily dismissed genres is able to speak truth about the present by posing scenarios about our future.</p>
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Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the Suicidal Clowns of New York
<p>Video Podcast + Trailer. Looking for Charlie; Or, Why Do Clowns Kill Themselves is the new feature length documentary from historians Darren R. Reid and Brett Sanders. It explores the thin line between happiness and despair among comedy legends from the early twentieth century. This video podcast provides an arresting first look into the new documentary and its story of love, laughter, hopelessness, and suicide.</p>
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Unfrozen - Gender and the Disney Princess
<p>Lecture by Dr. Darren R. Reid reflecting on the ways Disney have attempted to adapt their princesses to move away from out dated gender stereotypes.</p>
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Why is 'Redskins' Racist - The History Behind the Controversy
<p>In this lecture we examine the history behind the name 'Redskins', looking at the history of race and racism in order to lay bare what, exactly, is so problematic with that label.  This lecture ties the history of race into the current controversy surrounding the 'Washington Redskins', focusing upon its discriminatory name and logo.</p>
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Folk Music of the Civil War: Hard Times Come Again
<p>Bad food makes great music - in this mini-lecture Dr. Reid examines the role played by folk music in the American Civil War by examining the case study of 'Hard Times Come Again No More' and how that song was transformed for a lament about poverty into a cry for good food for the Union army.</p>
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5 Minute History: The Theatre of Charlie Chaplin's Youth
<p>In this <i>5 Minute History</i> explores the importance of live theatre as a way of building community in Britain and America in the 19th and early 20th century, from Vaudeville to the Music Hall.</p>
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5 Minute History: Charlie Chaplin and Kid Auto Races
<p>Celebrate one hundred years of Charlie Chaplin with this micro documentary exploring his early life and his earliest appearances as the "Little Tramp". In this five minute history, become a master of Chaplin's early years.</p> <p> </p> <p>Charlie Chaplin, one of the earliest auteur's, true geniuses, of cinematic comedy was born in 1889 to Charles Chaplin, Senior and Hannah Hill.  Both of Chaplin's parents were in some way associated with show business, performers on the bustling British music hall scene of the time.  His father, Charles, Senior, enjoyed some success and was able to build for himself a solid reputation as a reasonably popular singer but his mother, in spite of her best efforts, was unable to get her career off the ground.  Chaplin's parents separated in 1891, precipitating a childhood which was, at times, calamitous and poverty stricken.  To make matters worse, Charlie's mother, Hannah, suffered episodes of poor mental health and at numerous points in his childhood, was separated from her sons.  By 1899, Chaplin had started his own career in show business, joining a clog dancing troop which toured the music halls of his native Britain.  In 1903 Chaplin began his acting career proper, showing, from an early stage, a knack for comedy.  By 1912 Chaplin was in the United States, touring the Vaudeville circuit, and, the following year, he had been headhunted to join the Keystone Studios.  His first appearance on film, Making a Living, followed in 1914 though it was for a picture entitled Mabel's Strange Predicament that he created his iconic "Little Tramp".  Despite being made first, however, it was this film, Kid Auto Races at Venice, that marked the Tramp's cinematic debut.  Simple in premise and execution, it was a fine way to introduce the world to Chaplin's comedic chops, a magnificent showcase for the aspiring young actor, and a tremendous first showing for the Tramp.</p> <p> </p> <p>The film was shot on location, very cleverly taking advantage of a very real event to provide the backdrop for Chaplin's show of buffoonish idiocy.  It gives the impression of high production values but you shouldn't be fooled by what you see -- those aren't extras, but real spectators and, as David Robinson has pointed out, if you watch carefully, you can see some of them responding, laughing and pointing, at Chaplin as he performs.  Bear in mind that Chaplin was a, more or less, complete unknown at this point -- the reactions of those spectators are honest.  People really did respond to his performance, recognising the charming absurdity of the strange little man with the even stranger little moustache.  The reactions of Chaplin's live audience, then, show us something that is almost always lost to film historians -- an honest audience reaction.  Chaplin's Tramp was a hit from the first.</p> <p> </p> <p>Visually speaking, Chaplin's Tramp is more or less fully formed, even at this early stage.  His costume gently mocks gentile fashion, appearing, perhaps at first glance, normal but, upon closer inspection, deeply absurd.  The trousers Chaplin wears are huge and baggy whilst the clothing on the upper half of his body is tight and uncomfortable looking.  He twirls his walking stick, as charming now as it was then, and holds himself with dignity -- or rather, he tries to hold himself with dignity.  You see, that's the joke in this film.  Chaplin's character tries to act the part of a gentleman, beholden of a quiet little pride and dignity, but practically everything he does interferes with or undermines the world around him.  He sees the cameras around him and is drawn to them but is abused and thrust away by the film crew.  In spite of the reprimand, the physical abuse he suffers, he cannot help himself from getting in the way, sometimes intentionally, but often not.  Chaplin's tramp is not a malicious character, he's not trying to ruin anyone else's day, but he doesn't seem to be able to help himself.  He comes across as innocent, naive, and harmless, and, because of that, we as the audience are drawn to him, our hearts swell at the almost child-like enthusiasm the character shows for the world.  He's a buffoon, the sort of person who might well be deeply annoying if we encountered them in real life, and yet there is something there that appeals, something that makes us sympathise with him.  As Chaplin would show throughout the rest of his career, he was a master of mime and empathy and even though his later efforts would deepen that formula, the Tramp's debut appearance remains a fantastic little film in its own right.  At a little over six minutes long there is almost no fat, no excess to complain of, and Chaplin's performance, as we can see by the warming reaction of some of the spectators around him, was an honest one.  It may be simple, perhaps even crude, but Chaplin makes this little film more than it has any right to be.</p> <p> </p> <p>For more see http:///www.darrenreidhistory.co.uk</p> <p>Twitter @ThatHistorian</p>
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006 - Comic Books Studies: Wonder Woman, Feminist Icon - A Brief History of Her Gendered Creation
<p>The sixth episode in the Comic Books Studies series examines the ways in which Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston tried to distill his complicated ideas about gender and female superiority into a single character.  Wonder Woman, who will make her big screen debut in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, was the face of Marston's vision of the future.</p>
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Review - 24: Live Another Day (Premier)
<p>In this special episode we examine the just broadcast return of Jack Bauer in 24: Live Another Day.  Always a political creative vehicle, 24 is perfect for discussion and analysis.  In this episode Dr. Reid reviews the two hour return of the show, examining hints about this season's political message and any social commentaries contained within.</p>
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005 - Comic Book Studies: Why Comic Books Matter - V for Vendetta and the Occupy Movement
<p>Comic books are not always seen as a valid subject of academic discussion but in this episode, Dr. Reid lays out a case for why that should not be the case by exploring Alan Moore's V for Vendetta and Watchmen, and Art Spiegelman's pulwitzer prize winning Maus. Comic books matter.</p>
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004 - Comic Book Studies: Race and Racism in Early Superhero Comics
<p>A short film that explores how fundamental ideas about race manifested themselves in the first wave of superhero comics.</p>
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003 - Comic Books Studies: Captain America's Racist Sidekick
<p>Captain America first appeared in 1940 but shortly after his introduction he was joined by sidekick team "The Young Allies" among whom was one of the most openly racist characters in superhero history. In this episode we explore how and why men like Jack Kirby and Stan Lee (creators of the X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc) helped to create such a piece of racist iconography.</p>
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002 - Comic Book Studies: A Brief History of The Joker (Batman)
<p>The second American Studies lecture again looks at classic American comic books, this time turning its attention on Batman's arch-nemesis, the Joker. Throughout his long career the Joker has been portrayed as everything from a Chicago-inspired gangster, to traumatised victim, and ruthless terrorist - in this lecture we explore how each of those images reflected huge social and cultural changes in America.</p>
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001 - Comic Book Studies: Superman, Then and Now
<p>Superman first appeared during the Great Depression in 1938 in a comic book which reflected the period's strong stereotypes against women. In this episode the first superhero comic will be given a scholarly reading and compared to its modern equivalent to show how America's self-image has changed over the past 70 years.</p>
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So, The Lone Ranger Has Been Nominated for an Oscar...
<p>In the same week that the producers behind hit sitcom, 'How I Met Your Mother' had to apologise for their use of 'yellow face' in a recent episode, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated The Lone Ranger for the Oscar in 'Best Hair and Makeup', a nod that seems to justify the film's controversial use of 'red face'. Let's talk about race, Native Americans, and the Academy.</p>
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004 - Film Festival: Charlie Chaplin's The Immigrant + Audio and Visual Commentary
<p>In the final part of the 2013-2014 film festival we explore Charlie Chaplin's seminal 1917 film, The Immigrant.  When Chaplin was exiled from the United States in the 1950s for his leftist politics, this film was used as evidence against him.  This episode includes the complete film with a new audio and visual commentary track which explores Chaplin's deep interest in the poor and the hopeless, looking at how his left leaning politics did influence his film making process.</p>
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003 - Film Festival: Scenes From The Birth of a Nation + Audio Commentary
<p>In the third part of 'The Artist in American History' film festival we examine the finale of 'The Birth of a Nation' (1915), one of the most important films in the history of cinema.  From the imagination of director D.W. Griffith, this deeply racist film was a part of the 'lost cause' myth which recast the former Confederate states as a land lost to the tyranny of the Union.  In this scene (complete with a new director's-style commentary) we examine the disturbing racial subtext of this film as well as the white supremacist message at its heart.</p>
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002 - Film Festival: Superman Goes to War + Audio and Visual Commentary
<p>In the second episode of "The Artist in American History" film festival we examine the racial coding present in the 1942 Superman short film, "Eleventh Hour".  This episode contains the complete short film + a brand new audio and visual commentary track.</p>
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001 - Film Festival: D.W Griffith's The Mended Lute + Audio Commentary
<p>Native America on film - in this special video presentation we examine a short film by D.W Griffith (director of The Birth of a Nation)that was made in 1909. This episode includes the entire original film with a special academic audio commentary.</p>
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A Song of the South: Decoding 'Dixie'
<p>In this episode we explore one of the most controversial American songs, the unofficial anthem of the Confederate States of America, 'Dixie'.  This enduring song continues to be performed in a variety of contexts today, but in this study we will examine the original white supremacist, pro-slavery meaning of the song's lyrics as well as reflecting upon what that may or may not imply about modern performances of this music.</p>
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Making Sense of Torture in Early America
<p>Not the faint hearted.  We head back to early America for this episode, as we explore anti-Indian propaganda in literature from the 1780s. In 1782 Colonel William Crawford led a military expedition into the Ohio Valley.  His campaign was defeated by the people he had come to attack and the Colonel was taken into captivity, tortured, and executed. The gruesome details of Crawford's death were published in an account written by eyewitness John Knight in a volume published by noted Indian hater Hugh Henry Brackenridge.  The resultant document is a potent piece of anti-Indian propaganda that is needs to be understood in the troubling context of the time which produced it.</p>
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Race, Classic Comics Books, and Why WWII is No Excuse
<p>In this discussion, I consider the argument which dismisses racism in classic comics.  Racism in the Golden Age of comic books was rooted in ideas which predated the Civil War which de-humanised both African-Americans and Asian-Americans.  The Golden Age of comic books may have started in the context of World War II, but the racial caricatures present in the genre linked to much older traditions.  We should also remember that public art could be a means to challenge broad stereotypes and the presence of such obvious racial coding in early comics demonstrates something about the character of that particular medium.</p>
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John Brown's Body: An Introduction to the Artist in American History
<p>This episode is an introduction to the podcast series "The Artist in American History".  By examining the evolution of the popular folk song "John Brown's Body" and how that track was transformed into "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" this episode aims to show how and why the artist is so important to the American experience.</p>
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The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, and SMiLE: The Lost 1960s Masterpiece
<p>In 1966, Brian Wilson led The Beach Boys into the studio to begin work on the follow up to the critically acclaimed album, Pet Sounds.  What should have been the band's masterpiece turned into their biggest calamity as the SMiLE album unraveled and collapsed around them.  In this podcast, Dr. Darren R. Reid takes a look at the recently released SMiLE Sessions to assess what may have been.  Is this album the lost masterpiece of legend? Would it have secured the band's place alongside The Beatles?</p>
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Pink Floyd and the Cold War
<p>In this episode we explore the resurgent Cold War of the 1980s through the music of Pink Floyd and their chief songwriter, Roger Waters.  Starting with a critical overview of the 1983 album, The Final Cut, this episode explores how the Cold War transformed the band, moving them away from abstract ideas and vague protests into a more politicised realm with their music.  Albums explored in this episode include The Final Cut, The Wall, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, and Roger Waters' Radio K.A.O.S.</p>
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Is The Lone Ranger Racist? Disney and Race in 2013
The Lone Ranger has been no stranger to controversy since its announcement. In this episode we will examine the finished product in order to see whether or not claims of racism directed at the movie are justified.
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