Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Random Notes From The World of Popular Culture

The PopCulteer
January 17, 2020

We have lots of little things to talk about this week. It has indeed been a strange week in the world of PopCult. The AIR was temporarily taken down by hackers. The Wednesday night cable television ratings were thrown into disarray by the appearance of Lev Parnas on The Rachel Maddow Show. Lots of early info is leaking out in advance of Toy Fair. And Major League Baseball has seen its integrity flushed down the terlet.

So in no particular order, let’s see what varied topics we can address…

Reacting to Death on Social Media

It seems like we’ve had an unusually high number of celebrity deaths recently, and it’s brought up something about social media that has bothered me for some time.

When a famous person–an actor, director, musician, artist or whatever–passes away, it’s inevitable that people who were deeply touched by their body of work will be sad. It’s the nature of social media that they will use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever, to express that sadness.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a normal human emotional response. When you mourn, if part of that process involves expressing your grief publicly via social media, then by all means, do so. It’s a release, and your feelings are valid and worthwhile.

What irks me is, when somebody famous dies and people are expressing how much they admired and respected that person, other people who are not acting out of grief go out of their way to express their opinion that the person who just passed away was not really that good.

That is just being a social media predator, poaching the genuine grief of people so that you can call attention to yourself.

When somebody famous dies, and you do not have fond memories of them, unless they have personally wronged you, then the civilised thing to do is to hold your tongue. I hate to point this out to you, but in the grand scheme of things, your opinion is not that important. At least it’s not so important that you need to trot it out to crap all over someone else’s genuine grief.

When Stan Lee died in 2018, I waited over a month to write about it in PopCult because I felt I could not simply praise the man. Being a huge fan of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, I could not ignore his shoddy treatment of his most important collaborators. I also feel that his dialogue is not nearly as good as some people say. I don’t deny his importance, but I see his contributions as an editor as much more important than his role as a co-writer.

That is my opinion, and there was absolutely no need to share that while so many other people were openly hurting at the loss of a hero. People were genuinely gutted when the man died, and it would have been selfish and cruel to intrude upon their grief. So I waited a few weeks, out of respect for his fans as much as for the man.

I’m not saying that you need to keep your mouth shut about your opinions, but rushing to say “I never cared for their music,” or “I always thought he was overrated” on Facebook just hours after someone passes away makes you look a bit like a selfish jerk.

We are all free to express our opinions, but as with everything in life, timing is the key.


Speaking of opinions, it may seem a bit odd for me to suggest that people be more prudent with sharing theirs when this blog, PopCult, is basically a vehicle for my opinions and criticism.

I admit that there is no small amount of irony here. However, what I wrote above was all about timing. When I write criticism or analysis, it’s about those things on which I feel competent to offer my opinions.

I have no qualms about offering up my opinions on toys, comics, books, movies, theatre, art or a number of other topics.

Yet there are opinions that I keep to myself. Being an old, straight, white guy, I don’t pretend to have any important opinions on fashion. I have opinions, but they shouldn’t be relevant to anyone besides me. Wear what you like, and don’t seek out anyone’s approval, especially not mine.

There are types of music that are simply outside my realm of interest. There are also comics and books and movies and theatre that have little or no interest to me. I don’t see any point in harping on things I don’t like. There’s enough negativity in this world, and if you like something, you shouldn’t let anybody rain on your parade.

What I try to do in PopCult, most of the time, is find stuff that I think is really cool, and then tell you all about it. If I do write something negative, it’s because I think that something that had the potential to be really cool fell short somehow.

More GI Joe Rumors

A week or so ago I wrote about rumors that JazWares might license the Real American Hero GI Joe from Hasbro and produce a line of 4″ action figures.

That is still possible, but we have confirmation now that Hasbro will be offering up a line of 6″ figures, the same scale as Marvel Legends and Star Wars Black Series, that will be called “GI Joe: Classified.”

The first wave of that line is said to be made up of two versions of Snake-Eyes, plus Scarlett, Destro, Roadblock and Duke. It would seem by the name and line-up that this is not based on the upcoming Snake Eyes movie, due out in October. Expect a different line of toys based on that movie.

The image at right is an unofficial figure of Snake Eyes, posted by HissTank, who have been in front of this story with loads of great reporting. They are the go-to source for info on the Real American Hero GI Joe.

These are said to be expected out in June. The existence of this line does not necessarily mean that JazWares will not be doing a 4″ line as well. We still have a few days before the International Toy Fair in Nuremburg before we can see what JazWares will have to offer.

AEW News

Yesterday it was announced that Warnermedia had extended their contract with All Elite Wrestling until 2023. This is great news, although it may not exactly be as big as the wrestling press is reporting.

I have it on good authority that this was really just Warnermedia exercising the options in their original contract early, and that no major new deals were negotiated. It’s a definite sign that Warnermedia is exceptionally pleased with AEW’s performance in the ratings, but it also seems that this was part of the deal from day one.

The fact that they say it’s a “four year deal,” but also that it “expires in 2023” is a sign that this was the intent from the beginning. Tony Khan is not a fool, and I would expect that he had to have a four-year commitment in writing before he’d invest the money needed to start up a new wrestling company. My guess is that AEW hit all the desired benchmarks ahead of schedule, so they were rewarded with this early announcement and maybe an improved compensation package.

As part of the new deal, AEW will be adding an additional, hour-long show, which will likely mean the end of their weekly AEW Dark YouTube show. Each week they tape matches before and after Dynamite to use on the YouTube show, and now they can repurpose those tapings for the new AEW program.

It was also announced that AEW has signed former wrestler and experienced commentator, Taz, to a long-term deal, which is good news for the new show, as he’s one of the better announcers in the business.

It is worth noting that AEW’s deal is worth $175 million over four years, which comes out to around $44 million dollars per year. That’s about one-tenth of what WWE is getting from USA for RAW, each year, and is even less than the reported $50 million dollars that USA is paying for NXT, which airs opposite AEW Dynamite every Wednesday.

We still don’t know what night the new AEW show will air on, but it’s not likely to go up against RAW or Smackdown, or the NFL on Sundays, so Tuesday, Thursday or Saturdays seem to be the most likely landing spots.

The Rialto Report

It’s a bit hard to imagine now, but for a brief time in the 1970s and early 1980s, porn was a huge part of the mainstream pop culture landscape. The days of “Porn Chic” saw porn stars elevated to rock-star like status (and lifestyles) and before video killed the porn star and AIDS scared the top stars out of the business, the “Golden Age of Porn” was one of those cultural phenomenons that has since managed to achieve a mythical status.

The movie, Boogie Nights, and the HBO series, The Deuce, dug into the some aspects of this world of sex and drugs and rock and roll (and way more sex and drugs on top of that). It’s a fascinating period in pop culture history when a newly permissive attitude toward sex created an enviroment where sleaze merchants mixed with independent filmmakers and a bizarre new cinematic art form was born.

Ashely West and April Hall, who were consultants on The Deuce, document the people, times and verbal history of the Golden Age of Porn at The Rialto Report. This is a podcast/blog that puts Porn Chic under the microscope and looks at the lives of the people who starred in, made and distributed what are now considered classic porno movies.

Their mission statment reads:

The Rialto Report is a series of podcasts dedicated to expanding the historical record on the adult entertainment industry between the early 1960s and the mid-1980s. We take a special interest in adult film production in New York during this period but are also interested in the industry in other geographical areas.

The project is named after the Rialto Theatre, New York’s oldest continually operating exploitation theater. The Rialto advertised “pictures chosen to give you the ultimate in thrill entertainment.'”

What makes The Rialto Report podcasts so special is the way that West and Hall put their subjects at ease, so that we get their entire life stories. Along the way we find out why people did porn, how they got started, how their families reacted, why they got out of the business and what they’ve done since. This is first-rate interviewing and in-depth journalism.

Each story is unique and fascinating, and some, quite frankly, are hilarious. Some people felt abused by the porn industry. Some felt empowered by it. For some it was just a job. Others have gone on to get masters degrees in sex-oriented studies. Though every story is different, you can also see patterns emerge.

Of course, if you are easily offended or have no interest in sexual topics, you won’t want to visit The Rialto Repot. It is dedicated to pornography, and is not for everyone. The website is loaded with nudity and some hardcore images, and the interviews are frank, explicit and uncensored. But if you are curious about the time before AIDs made sex scary again and the internet sucked all the money out of the industry, then you may well enjoy The Rialto Report.

The Art of Glen Brogan

In last year’s PopCult Gift Guide, I recommended pre-ordering the book, The Art of Glen Brogan. It was published at his opening at Heroes Complex Gallery in Los Angeles last Saturday, and I have my copy in my hands now, and it’s gorgeous.

The book collects artworks from Glen’s entire career, with some of his childhood drawings included, and any fan of his work should have this in their library.

You can still order The Art of Glen Brogan and some of his new prints from HGC at this link, but act fast. These won’t last long.

And that is it for this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features and fresh content every day.

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Wheeler

    Awesome article, Rudy. I agree with you 100% on the expression of opinions, and I’m truly pleased to have confirmation on the 6″ Joes.

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