SUNDAY

If it weren’t for Short Circuit, film would have never ascended to its position as the universe’s dominant art form. It’s a simple calculus, really: As a child, the sassy robot Johnny Five lit a fire under a young Josh Levin, famed film critic who taught the world that it was OK to love the movies again. Patrick Kiger (pictured) and Martin Smith’s book Poplorica—the title an unwieldy amalgamation of “pop culture,” “lore,” and “America”—spells out 20 connections between singular events (say, high-fiving Satan) and a zany new reality (say, Ashton Kutcher’s career). In short, snappy chapters, the authors try to argue for a kind of great man/place/thing theory of pop culture. Most of the time, Smith and Kiger are on point: Indeed, where would the zombie movie be without George A. Romero? What would have become of the dunk if there had been no Dr. J? Occasionally, though, they miss the net. Did Alfred Kinsey’s failed honeymoon really bring about the sexual revolution? Did the Reese’s Pieces–loving E.T. really invent product placement, or was it simply a particularly successful combination of product and pitch-alien? Ultimately, it doesn’t much matter that these “theories” are really only thinly veiled excuses to squeeze a series of funny anecdotes into a single slim volume. After all, what is pop culture—er, ”poplorica”—other than trivia? Who cares whether it’s true that the TV dinner came about because CA Swanson & Sons had 260 tons of extra turkey lying around? It should be true, and that’s good enough for me. Kiger reads at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 16, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Josh Levin)

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