Two pop aficionados bring a feminist tilt and hit of flip to the ball-bearing world of podcasting
By Katherine Monk
VANCOUVER – It’s a bit like playing pop culture pinball with two feminist flippers: thoughts, rants and gleaming balls of insight are batted back and forth, pushing hot button topics and ricocheting through current events with bright flashes of insight and spontaneous bursts of badass bell-ringing.
It’s just what happens when broadcaster Lisa Christiansen and bestselling author Andrea Warner get together. One minute, they’re talking about the validity of Katharine Hepburn as feminist icon. The next, they’re talking about real tears shed over Real Housewives.
These two women have the kind of conversations that make you want to hang out at the kitchen table for a weekly roundup of cheeky chatter, and now, through the magic of digital technology, you can do just that by tapping into Pop This! – a brand new podcast featuring the dynamic divas dissecting various pop topics, from Kurt Browning to Kraft Dinner, and just about everything in between.
“It’s not like a boy band thing,” says Christiansen. “The reason we are doing this is because someone thought we already had what they wanted to hear in a podcast. So we’re just doing what comes naturally for both of us. We’re both obsessed with pop culture. And nothing is really sacred for us.”
Though acquainted for years via the Vancouver music scene – Christiansen as producer for CBC Radio 3, Warner as journalist for a variety of music magazines – the two didn’t find their podcast chemistry until the recent book launch for Warner’s We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ‘90s and Changed Canadian Music.
Christiansen was invited to moderate the salon, smart sparks flew, and shortly afterward, local producer Andrea Gin approached the two about putting something together.
“We thought about doing a podcast before, but it didn’t really go anywhere,” says Warner. “But it doesn’t matter, because this is a better answer to what we wanted to do anyways — which was just hanging out and talking with each other about things, and being people who love pop culture and being feminists.”
Given the vast majority of podcasts are created for, performed by, and tailored to a male audience, Warner and Christiansen say the F-word is what sets them apart in a turgid stream of digital testosterone.
“In podcast culture now, it’s really crowded by men, and I wanted to have more women’s voices out there,” says Warner. “That’s why I wanted to do one. I like talking about pop culture and I think we bring a different perspective to the discussion. So many podcasts are two dudes talking and it’s such a different conversation.”
Ask Warner exactly how it differs and she doesn’t mince words: “I would say ours is more intelligent and nuanced.”
They both start laughing, but they do believe their presence matters – regardless of how big or small their audience becomes.
“When you make a podcast, it’s like writing a blog: It’s deciding that you have a voice that deserves to be heard,” says Warner. “And dudes are just more comfortable taking up that kind of space. There are a lot of tech-oriented dudes, lots of tech-casts, so there are a lot of invisible barriers, I think, preventing more women from becoming a podcast force.”
Christiansen says she’s been monitoring the form since it took off in the Internet’s salad days about a decade ago, and she’s heartened by what she sees as the ‘second wave’ – a resurgence in the form that offers deeper, intensely researched material.
“The form is getting so much stronger,” she says. “And it’s also hugely liberating to not worry about ratings or audience or how long something is going to be. We can just do what we want – with a basic structure for each show. We lead off with something that pissed us off this week, then get into a meaty topic that we can promote the week before and give people a chance to ponder, then we end on something that each of us really liked… because we don’t want to end on a downer.”
Christiansen pauses. “I don’t even like that word. I try to use disappointment now – you know, like I’m disappointed that we’re still talking about equal pay for women in 2015.”
Warner says she also suffers from frequent disappointment, but she’s channeling it creatively: “I just wrote the afterword for my book (now in its third printing) and I got to burn all the men who told me they were surprised they liked my book – because so many interviewers would say ‘I didn’t expect to like it, but I did’ – as if that was a great compliment.”
But we were talking about podcasts, and like cats that reluctantly return to the lap of their favourite human after a spontaneous tear through the house, the two women resettle on the subject at hand.
“It feels like the second wave of podcasts are more like old radio shows, and that’s what it feels like we’re doing… producing an hour-long digest of interesting journalism,” says Warner. “But it’s very DIY.”
“I worry about saying DIY,” says Christiansen. “Even though we are doing it ourselves, I just think DIY sounds like I made a house out of a box…there are a few expressions that really elude me. Like ‘it doesn’t happen in a vacuum’ or ‘choose a different tack’… I use these expressions, even though I’m not entirely sure what they mean.”
A giddy detour into idiom follows, but they round up again, and tighten the lines.
“There is no such thing as a great conversation without a great editor, and Andrea Gin keeps us on track, because you can have a fun time, but you still want to feel like you’re going somewhere,” says Christiansen.
“We want it to feel like you just eavesdropped on a great conversation… pop culture tells us who we are. It provides social textures and informs our identity – as individuals and as generations,” says Warner.
“I love the fact that neither one of us can say ‘oh, I liked that movie’ and leave it at that,” says Christiansen. “We both want to get into it. You know, if you liked it, what did you see in it? I love thinking about this stuff – I always have. And if someone calls me an over-thinker, I don’t really think of that as an insult. I’m kind of flattered.”
“Yeah,” says Warner, quoting Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living… and seriously, that point really rung true after watching Real Housewives. I never watched the show, but Lisa thought I should. So I did and it was eye-opening… I actually cried. I never expected to cry watching Real Housewives of New York. But that’s the beauty of pop culture, it’s always ready to surprise you – and teach you something about humanity.”
Pop This! is recorded every Thursday, and in now available on iTunes, but you can hear it here at The Ex-Press every week. Hear episodes one to four right now by clicking on the icons below.
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION (ABOVE) BY VICTOR BONDEROFF, THE EX-PRESS
Pop This! Featuring Lisa Christiansen and Andrea Warner
Episode One: The Gilmore Girls
Episode Two: The Real Housewives
Episode Three: Nine to Five
Episode Four: Jane Bond, Ghostbusters and Gender Swap Cinema
THE EX-PRESS, December 3, 2015