Teens are often their own guides into how they consume pop culture and news media, and like their adult counterparts, they love the discussion of the art as much as enjoying the art itself. This kind of discussion reinforces school curriculum that also is about evaluating and discourse, and hones those life skills of understanding the world around them, and how they can contribute. Podcasts are an accessible form where one can tune in, and can be enlightening as they dig deeper into elements of culture, while also enhancing their own narrative skills, giving them language to better discuss and understand them.
There are often blurred lines between pop culture and current events. Better understanding the world from which something has arisen offers better understanding of the object, and the cultural climate it has arisen. Here are list of pop culture podcasts that will appeal to teens. Many offer humor and most look at the world through a social justice lens.
Still Processing from The New York Times with hosts Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. Insightful and timely, in this podcast Times writers break down current events and pop culture discussing everything from Barbecue (its culture and its appropriation) to sports (the power of tennis’ Williams sisters), the NPR’s list of 150 greatest albums by women, and what true self care really looks like, especially after events like Charlotteville.
Rookie Podcast from MTV with the creators of the online Rookie magazine and spearheaded by its teen creator Tavi Gevinson. Here they interview a person of interest and have had guests such as Lorde, Janet Mock, Roxanne Gay and do a podcast version of “Ask a Grown” where teens can ask adults questions about life. Also, in the spirit of the magazine, listeners are given prompts to send in content that will be part of the podcast.
It’s Been A Minute from NPR (National Public Radio), host Sam Sanders delivers two weekly podcasts looking at the week’s events meshing pop culture and news. The first podcast of the week he does what he calls a “deep dive” where he interviews someone, or looks into a recent issue. He has had interviews from previous Saturday Night Live actors Sasheer Zamata and Taran Killam, a tour of The Onion, and Lena Waithe from Master of None. At the end of the week he sits down with two other folks, usually other NPR voices, and they go through the week’s events in a variety of ways, and always ending with the montage “The Best Thing That Happened this Week,” where listeners call in and say the best thing that has happened in their life (just try not to cry, I dare you).
Nerdette Podcast also from NPR, hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen geek out on a variety of things from books, movies, and television whether it is science or science fiction. Recent guests have been Alex Kingston from Doctor Who, Everest climber, guide and mountaineer Melissa Arnot Reid, The Office’s star Rainn Wilson talking about bassoons, and Tom Hanks geeking out over typewriters. Each episode ends with their guest giving some “homework” that can vary from reading a specific book, listening to a song, or going outside. If you have a teen that is obsessed with Game of Thrones, during the television season they have another podcast where they recap each episode with the NPR host of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me Peter Sagal called Nerdette Recaps Game of Thrones with Peter Sagal.
Represent from Slate host Aisha Harris looks at film, television, and streaming content created by women, people of color, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. Recent podcasts have delved into the most recent season of The Bachelorette that had its first Black star Rachel Lindsay, while looking at what it means today to be a person of color in the modern dating world, breakdown Netflix’s controversial 13 Reasons Why, and Netflix’s new comedy Atypical about an autistic character, but not an autistic star. Guests on the show speak from personal experiences offering listeners a chance to look at pop culture through a variety of lenses.
KollabCast: A Pop Culture Podcast from an Asian American Perspective from Kollaboration hosts Christine Minji Chang and Marvin Yueh look at pop culture and offers social commentary from an Asian American perspective. They along with one or two guest focus in on the the creative arts and current events. Recent podcasts have included professional dancer Ben Chung, also known as BTEK, Leonardo Nam, from HBO’s Westworld, and Traci Lee, the editor of NBC Asian America. They have taken on the newest from Taylor Swift and the casting of the live-action Aladdin.
Lady Problems from MTV hosts Rachel Handler, Teo Bugbee, and Hazel Cills along with rotating guests look at pop culture through a feminist lens. Funny and on-point, episodes from their past season have discussed the International Women’s Day strike, Kylie Jenner’s pop-up shop, a new look at romantic comedies, and Carrie Fisher. The podcast is currently on hiatus, but past episodes are still resonating months later.
Who Charted? from Earwolf hosts Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack along with a popular comedian or two look at what is hitting the charts in both music and movies while giving funny commentary and playing a variety of games like Chart Roulette. Listeners can send in audio questions for upcoming guests.
Homophilia also from Earwolf this newer podcast hosts Dave Holmes and Matt McConkey interview and discuss with LGBTQ+ celebrity guests what they are are loving in the pop culture. There are usually plenty of dating stories along with dating advice.
–Danielle Jones, currently reading Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
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