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Ethics and Chill

Ethics and Chill explores the ethics of pop culture. We dive deep into things considered shallow, uncovering how pop culture shapes our understanding of right and wrong. Movies, TV shows, pop music, comics and more provide the modern myths which help us live our lives – and Ethics and Chill examines them all.

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Politics in Pop Culture – Gabe Fleisher

Gabe Fleisher has been a political junkie since he was a child, starting his now-famous Wake Up To Politics daily newsletter before the age of ten. Now Gabe has a podcast on St. Louis Public Radio, and is blazing a trail as one of America’s most promising political journalists. Gabe joins James to discuss the portrayal of politics in pop culture, exploring the idealism of “The West Wing,” the dystopian world of “House of Cards,” and the doltishness of “VEEP.”


11 May 2020

Rank #1

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The Etiquette of “Animal Crossing” – Rachel Reams

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is a pop-culture phenomenon. The new installment of the long-running Nintendo series came out just as many of us were starting our COVID-19-induced lockdowns, and offers millions of people an escape, giving players a chance to create their own island getaways. But what is the etiquette of “Animal Crossing”? How should we act when we visit another player’s island, and why does it matter? James discusses this pressing question with an “Animal Crossing” super-fan, Rachel Reams.


10 May 2020

Rank #2

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Is Immortality a Curse? – Altered Carbon

Is immortality a good thing? Death is the great inevitability of hum an life – we all know, deep down, that one day we will die. And most of us don’t want to die. So, for millennia, human beings have sought methods –religious, occult, and technological – to avoid our inevitable fate. Mostly, people have considered it a good thing: we want to be immortal. Pop culture works like Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon (recently made into a new Netflix series), on the other hand, say “Not so fast! Maybe immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!” And that’s what this episode is about: using Altered Carbon, and the world it presents, to explore the desirability of immortality.


17 Apr 2020

Rank #3

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Does Death Media Make You a Monster? – with Kat Weir

Dive into the dark, disturbing, yet compelling world of “death media” with self-described “death media weirdo” Kat Weir! Death media is the increasingly popular genre of podcasts, TV-shows, films etc. focused on death and the darker side of life, and here we ask “Is it morally wrong to consume death media? How about to create, host, or share it?” Warning: this episode is not for kids – listen at your own risk!


20 Mar 2020

Rank #4

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Simulating Morality in Video Games

In the beginning, games simulated simple things: a bat and ball, driving a car. More recently, however, games have started exploring morality, using different ways to give players choices between right and wrong. How do video games simulate morality, and do they effectively convey how it feels to make difficult moral decisions? James explores, using examples from Fable, Mass Effect, the Telltale games, and Planescape: Torment.


5 Mar 2020

Rank #5

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Who Gets to Tell Which Stories? – with Amanda Poppei

Who gets to tell which stories? If you are a man, can you successfully and ethically write stories starring women? If you are straight, will you ever really be able to capture the experience of being gay, and should you try? Using the novels of Rick Riordan, the incredibly popular fantasy author for children, as a springboard, James discusses this question with Amanda Poppei, Leader of the Washington Ethical Society.


7 Feb 2020

Rank #6

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The Virtues of Jean-Luc Picard – with LaShana Lewis

Jean-Luc Picard: Starship captain, diplomat, flautist, archaeologist, lover of Gilbert and Sullivan, devotee of Shakespeare, and drinker of Earl Grey tea. Picard is the quintessential “Star Trek” captain, a paragon of Humanist virtues. As this beloved character returns to TV in Netflix’s new show “Picard,” James speaks with “Star Trek” uber-fan and space-lover LaShana Lewis about the virtues he embodies. Make it so!


31 Jan 2020

Rank #7

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The Moral World of “The Witcher”

“The Witcher” has become a phenomenon. The character was born in the short stories of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, popularized in a video game series from CD Projekt Red, and is now fully mainstream with his own Netflix show. The world of “The Witcher” is dark, morally complex, and compromised. But it is not nihilistic. What moral messages can we learn from this fascinating fantasy universe?


17 Jan 2020

Rank #8

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What Do You Do When Creators Disappoint You? – With Callie Wright

What do you do when you discover that your favorite author, movie director, or game designer is a terrible person? Should that change how we interact with their art, or does it simply not matter? This week James is joined by Callie Wright, creator of the Queersplaining podcast and huge pop-culture fan, to talk through this complex ethical question. They discuss all the problems that accompany problematic creators, charting a course through treacherous ethical terrain with humor and grace. CN: This episode has references to sexual harassment and abuse claims made against prominent creators. Find Callie’s podcast at www.Queersplaining.com


10 Jan 2020

Rank #9

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Can Harry Potter Be Your Bible?

What does it mean to treat a nonreligious book like “Harry Potter” as “sacred,” and what can we learn when we do? This week James interviews Vanessa Zoltan, one of the co-creators of the incredibly popular podcast “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.” They discuss what it means for something to be “sacred,” and how we can glean deep insight into ourselves from secular texts.


21 Dec 2019

Rank #10