Enthusiasts: A Comprehensive Episode Guide
All the episodes of the podcast released so far!
“D. B. Cooper”
D.B. Cooper, who committed the only unsolved hijacking in commercial airline history, has become something akin to a folk legend among citizen sleuths. “Cooperites” and other true-crime enthusiasts still pour over theories and potential suspects to this day, both in online forums and at in-person meet-ups like CooperCon. Part of the enduring fascination with D.B. Cooper’s story is the amount of unknowns: did he survive his jump off the airplane? Was his bomb real? Did he act alone? What suspects seem the most and least likely? Why do so many people suspect they know “the REAL D.B. Cooper”? And how is the emotional investment in his daring mission still prevalent nearly fifty years after he pulled it off? Hope talks with Darren Schaefer, host of The Cooper Vortex, to find out.
This episode summarizes the origin story of American Girl and explores the sociocultural and economic factors that have shaped the brand’s evolution and lasting relevancy.
Those who closely follow celebrity trials fall into two main categories: diehard fans of the person on trial and opportunists who seek to make social media posts and/or merchandise using content from the proceedings. This episode looks at examples of how both types of spectators have made a scene outside of courtrooms, gained money and/or fame from their public support of stars on trial, and have overall shaped public narratives more than many realize. A wide variety of celebrity cases (and the superfans and grifters involved in them) are covered, including those of Elizabeth Holmes, Anna Delvey, Lori Loughlin, and TikTok star Cameron Herrin. Later on, particular attention is paid to the immense amount of social media content made in response to the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial, the reasons why the trial was livestreamed in the first place, and future implications of both the verdict and the social media activity surrounding the story.
This two-part episode seeks to make sense of who Elon Musk is, who the "Musketeers" are, and why Musk has consistently been present in the public conversation, both online and in the "real world." This comprehensive timeline lays out Musk's social media history, personal and professional lives, career highlights and lowlights, and other moments that are key to understanding why, like it or not, Musk's popularity and level of influence come as no surprise.
“Kelly Weill on All Things Conspiracy Theories”
A conversation with Kelly Weill, a reporter for The Daily Beast, co-host of the Fever Dreams podcast, and author of the book OFF THE EDGE: Flat Earthers, Conspiracy Culture, and Why People Will Believe Anything. Her and Hope discuss the history of the Flat Earth Movement, the overlap among conspiracy theory groups online, the implications of de-platforming misinformation-spreaders, ways to bring conspiracy theorists out of an alternate reality, and much more.
A condensed history of the most bizarre and concerning reality shows of all time, reality television's rise, and the reasons why reality TV stars gained a permanent spot in the world of pop culture.
An overview of what goes on at the world's largest Elvis festival, the conspiracy theories surrounding Elvis's death, the rumors that Elvis worked for the FBI, and why the intrigue surrounding and the love for Elvis prevail to this day.
The AKB48 Vision: A look at unique band concepts, ranging from a group with over 200 members to a group with each member revealed one-by-one over the course of many months, and what marketing logic goes into those concepts.
Cyberdog and Hello Kitty: This episode explores why physical pop-up replicas of iconic pop culture settings mean so much to fans, how Hello Kitty gained such sustainable and global fame, and why we all find certain cartoon characters adorable!
Miku, Holograms, and a Redefining of Reality: A brief history of how the concept of “reality” has been redefined by live performances over time, from puppetry to holograms to famous virtual characters like Hatsune Miku. In addition, I break down why Miku and other “vocaloids” are so popular and what that says about how what is “real” to fans is actually quite subjective.
The Bronies: The history and evolution of male My Little Pony fans, aka “Bronies.” This episode tells a condensed history of Bronycon, addresses common misconceptions about Bronies, and brings attention to the potential harm caused by gender stereotypes.
Sherlockians: An overview of the Sherlock Holmes fandom, the sources of tension between its sub-groups, the most secretive and selective fan club of them all, and the reasons why Holmes and his adventures are eternally relevant.
Boy Bands vs Sports Teams: This episode provides timelines of “Beatlemania”-related incidents and incidents of “football hooliganism” to show how the actions of sports fans have been reported on and perceived differently over the years compared to the actions of pop culture fans.
Comics & Superheroes: The history of the “moral panic” surrounding comic books, the man behind the push for comic censorship, the evolving nature of Comic Con, and much more background information is used to understand the root causes of our eternal love for superheroes and the worlds created through their comic books and graphic novels.
Sailor Moon: This episode serves as both a go-to guide for those who want to learn more about the characters and storylines in Sailor Moon and as a reflection for long-time fans thinking about what makes this lovable, relatable anime and manga character stand out from the rest!
TV Shows: This four-part special explores how specific television fandoms formed and have been maintained over time. Part one explores how fans of shows including Pretty Little Liars and Lost grew so emotionally invested in them. Part two gives examples of times when fans saved TV shows from cancellation. Part three explores sources of unity and tension within fandoms of shows including Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lastly, part four contemplates the ethical and economic implications of crowdfunded TV shows and spinoff movies.
Fan Fiction: From George R. R. Martin to Stephenie Meyer, this episode breaks down authors’ arguments both for and against writing fan fiction, demonstrated through stories about when fan fiction led to positive outcomes and about when it caused extreme distress among fans and authors alike.
Betrayals, Ep. 1: JT Leroy: Each episode in the “Betrayals” series tells a story about a time when fans felt lied to and betrayed. From lip-syncing scandals to memoirs that turned out to be fiction to ordinary children made out to be child prodigies by their parents, each story breaks down a time fans felt disillusioned and why they did or did not remain a fan of the pop culture source of their sense of betrayal. The first episode tells the story of JT Leroy, the teen author who never actually existed.
Betrayals, Ep. 2: Lip-Synching Scandals: A look back at three lip-synching scandals that became defining moments in pop culture history and what caused such different public reactions to each of those instances.
Betrayals, Ep. 3: Art and Book “Hoaxes”: This episode tells the true stories of false identities. First, the story of Marla Olmstead, a painter and alleged child prodigy whose actual abilities were questioned after a 60 Minutes investigation. The second story is about how Timothy Barrus portrayed himself as a Navajo man named Nasdijj while writing his memoirs, and what happened when the truth about his life story came to light.
Fandom Talk with Zoe Fraade-Blanar: I talk to Zoe Fraade-Blanar, one of the authors of Superfandom, about the evolution of fandom studies, what distinguishes fans from consumers, sources of tension among fans, and ultimately what it means to be in a fandom.
Barbie: This first installment in a series of toy-themed episodes of How to Stan provides a timeline of Barbie’s and Mattel’s career highs and lows, unpacks the complicated legacy Barbie dolls have, and looks at the impacts of the “Barbie vs Bratz” feud on consumers. Plus: the true story of the feud between two people who both insisted on getting sole credit for the creation of Cabbage Patch Kids.
The Simpsons: An interview with the authors, teachers, and “Simpsonologists” Dr. Karma Waltonen and Denise Du Vernay. They explain how and why they regularly use The Simpsons to help teach students, how humor can be used to get a message across, and overall what the lasting legacy of Springfield and its characters will be.
LEGO: A brief timeline explaining both how LEGO was invented and how LEGO became what it remains today: so much more than just a toy brand.
2020 Recap: An overview of what the podcast is all about and a preview of what fandoms will be explored in future episodes!
Brands: From Starbucks to Dove to Polaroid, this episode highlights ten of the most iconic brands and how they each developed and maintain such a loyal consumer base.
Brands (Part 2): Part two of the list of top 20 most iconic brands and how they each cultivated such a loyal consumer base.
Mark Twain: A look at some of the most absurd, intriguing, and humorous fan letters sent to Mark Twain throughout his writing career!
Boy Bands: A conversation with Maria Sherman, author of Larger Than Life, about the often-overlooked parts of boy band history, the factors that led to One Direction’s massive popularity, how BTS is breaking boy band stereotypes, and much more!
Britney Spears: A timeline of key moments in the “Free Britney” Movement, predictions for its future, and a sociological take on why so many people are and will continue to be invested in the life and career of Britney Spears.
UFO Culture: Aliens may or may not be real, but the belief in them certainly is. People have dedicated their lives to researching UFO sightings and alleged alien abductions. This three-part series explains why that is the case. From finding patterns in alleged alien encounters to looking at the impact of “UFOlogist” gatherings, these episodes piece together a timeline that reveals how the belief in aliens and UFOs has been shaped by pop culture, current events, and human psychology.
Influencers: This episode explains how TikTok became the preferred way to get famous over YouTube, what content houses are all about, and what famous TikTok users and influencers mean for the future of fan-idol relationships.
Bonnie J. Wallace Talks Dove Cameron, Disney Channel, and Going from “Hometown to Hollywood”: As the mother of actress and singer Dove Cameron and as a well-known consultant, author, and podcast host who covers all things Hollywood, Bonnie J. Wallace is uniquely positioned to clear up misconceptions about the industry. In this conversation, Bonnie pulls back the curtain on auditions, “stage parents,” fan-idol relationships, Disney Channel, and so much more.
Europe Football: A timeline of the drama surrounding the “Super League” and an explanation of the ways backlash to the idea fits into a long history of extremely passionate football fans making their voices heard.
Shrek: This episode follows a timeline of the Shrek franchise and its fans’ activities. From starting a Shrek-themed festival to making memes, fans are largely to thank for Shrek’s continued relevance in pop culture. Clone High and Bee Movie are used as examples of animated projects that use “The Shrek Formula” to maintain long-term hype, showing how Shrek fans have paved the way for fanbases to develop around other animated projects. Together, the stories of these three projects’ fanbases show how and why certain movie and TV show characters go from pop culture oddities to icons.
Jandek: How did a musician who kept his identity a secret and made music that was frequently called bizarre and disturbing develop a passionate fan base? This episode explores possible answers to that question, through a timeline of Jandek’s against-all-odds successes, a summary of his discography, and a look at negative reviews of his work.
Disneyland: A guide to the origin story behind, the goals of, and the rumors surrounding Disneyland enthusiast clubs!
“Industry Plants”: When an artist becomes massively popular all of a sudden, it’s not uncommon for rumors of being an “industry plant” to follow. But what does that term actually mean? Is there ever any truth to accusations that artists’ underdog origin stories are entirely fabricated? Why have the artists who have been accused of being “plants” been targeted with the accusation? This episode seeks to answer these questions, using both historical context and recent examples of artists having to respond to claims of being “industry plants.”
SpongeBob: A countdown of the ten best episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants! These episodes make the list for being great examples of how the characters and storylines in SpongeBob contain more layers and social commentary than people remember.
The Daily Show: How did Stephen Colbert change the perception of the place where politics and fan culture intersect? What kind of impact has this merging of the personal and political had on society? And what ultimately makes someone a member of the "Colbert Nation"? Through both prior research on the nature of television and celebrity and examples of times Colbert's segments had real-world impacts, I find the answers to those questions. Then (starting around the 38:40 mark), I reveal what I think is the key to The Daily Show's longevity. In both logistical and more subjective ways, I explain what about The Daily Show keeps it so well-done and relevant, which Trevor Noah quote sums up the nature of political talk shows, and why an unexpected cameo speaks volumes about what the show does best.
True Crime: There are infinite reasons why people can be drawn to the true crime genre. The horror element excites and intrigues some people. The feeling of becoming a detective galvanizes online communities, sometimes to the detriment and other times to the betterment of investigations. The stories of victims can hit close to home in ways that allow people to process their own traumas. The list of reasons goes on and on, but one thing all fans of the genre should have in common is a desire to be introspective. In what ways has the digital landscape made it easier or harder to achieve true justice and solve cold cases? When does a passion for getting to the truth cross over into an unhealthy obsession with a case? In what ways has social media warped the discourse around crime? Most importantly, what about true crime and its media coverage needs to change? In this episode, I interrogate my own fascination with true crime and how the roots of this fascination can be redirected in better ways.
Horror Movies: From the 1700s to the present day, this episode explores the evolution of horror movies and the history of monster imagery! The “zombie walk” that drove a political uprising, the rise of the Halloween-ready restaurant, and the ways Jaws changed Hollywood forever are just some of the many topics covered!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: This episode looks at the many ways Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed television and the lives of its viewers. From inspiring “Buffy Studies” curricula to paving the way for the teen-centered shows that followed it, this show broke ground on many fronts.
Britney is Free!!: I start off this episode with a revised timeline of Britney Spears's conservatorship and the Free Britney Movement, including additions from new documentaries, reporting, and publicized documents from the past year. Then, I share reporting about disturbing instances of financial malfeasance, neglect, and even deaths in the unregulated world of guardianships in the United States. Britney's story must stay in the public consciousness for more than a short news cycle; the conservatorship system at large needs attention and reform, so that those in Britney's situation can regain a sense of autonomy and truly have their needs met.
EJ Dickson on All Things Internet Culture: Rolling Stone culture reporter and Don’t Let This Flop podcast co-host EJ Dickson joined me to break down the best of, the worst of, and the most memorable content on TikTok! We also discussed other buzzed-about topics from the past year, from David Dobrik to right-wing children’s books!
2021 Recap: I cover the world of "true crime makeup," the latest example of an author revealed to have been an imposter, a new sense of vindication among UFO enthusiasts, the story behind the once-beloved Von Dutch brand, and even more updates related to stories covered this year! This episode both summarizes what this year's episodes of How to Stan were all about and includes stories that previously did not make the final cut.