3.22.16: Gender Bias in Media, Big Heads in the Stands, & The Caped Crusade

Mar 22, 2016

In 2013, journalist Adrienne LaFrance scanned her own reporting and found that only 25% of people mentioned in her reporting were women. Two years later she did the same thing. The result was…disappointing. Today, a reporter owns up to perpetuating gender bias.

Then, from TV's campy crusader to the Dark Knight, Batman has been reflected American anxieties and social norms for almost 80 years. We'll explore his appeal as a mere mortal among superhumans, making him a magnet for our heroic dreams. 

Listen to the full show. 

Gender Bias in Media

In 2013, Adrienne LaFrance, who writes about technology for The Atlantic analyzed her own reporting for gender bias. She found that about 25% of people mentioned in her reporting were women.

Granted, she covers Silicon Valley - world bro-grammer capital - and the male dominated robotics and AI fields along with the start-up and venture capital scene that flocks around them. But she vowed to get better. Two years later she did the same thing and now has the results

Big Heads in the Stands

As March Madness ramps up, you'll likely be seeing the faces of Donald Trump, Taylor Swift and Kanye West among the throngs of college students in the stands. Huh? From sporting events to campaign rallies to parades, the foam finger is out and giant heads are in. Famous faces blown up beyond life size and hoisted by cheering fans were designed to distract the opposing team - they also attract cameras like moths to a flame. 

Zach Schonbrun is a New York Times contributor where he wrote about the now ubiquitous giant heads at sporting events.

The Basketball Scout

American college ball is fertile ground for NBA recruiters, but not the only game in town. Among last year's NBA lineup, more than a fifth of players were born outside the United States. These guys don't just show up on the league's doorstep, swaddled in size triple extra-large blankets. Most have been on the radar since they were barely old enough to dunk. That's thanks to a global army of basketball gumshoes, scouring the planet for talent.

Sam Ahmedu is a foot soldier in that army. This story comes to us from producer Jon Miller and is part of the Working series from Homelands Productions.

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org

The Caped Crusade

This weekend Batman and Superman will face off in multiplexes across America. It will be, as the trailer promises, a classic set-up.

If you choose to side with man, that'd be Batman, but which Batman? The scrappy guy bent on avenging the death of his parents at the hands of criminals? The smarmy playboy? The brooding dark knight growling his way through the 1990s? In nearly 80 years of fictional life, batman has reflected the aspirations and anxieties of America's changing culture. He is, as Glen Weldon observes, a bat-shaped Rorschach inkblot for us to project meaning upon.

Glen Weldon is a panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. His new book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture charts the evolution of Batman along with the growing influence of nerds on mainstream pop culture.

Related: Batman Through the Decades: From Campy Ham to Dark Knight and Back Again?  

Green Superheroes

Comics have changed significantly since Batman began protecting Gotham in 1939. By the 1960s people were more attuned to the social upheavals taking place on the streets, far from the comic book universe and sales hit a slump.  BackStory producer Andrew Parsons has the story of two heroes who helped lead the charge to more socially conscious comic books.

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org.