Pop culture writer Shea Serrano’s first (and long-awaited) podcast, Villains, debuted at 5 a.m. on November 15. Within hours, it had reached number twelve on the Apple Podcasts charts, earning over 2,600 five-star reviews. That’s a shocking trajectory for most podcasts . . . unless you’re Serrano, the man who—with the help of his enthusiastic fans, dubbed the FOH Army—managed to push his illustrated book about the history of rap to the top of the New York Times best-seller list.
For fans of Serrano—of his commentary at The Ringer, of his carefully crafted rankings of the best rap songs of each year, of the way he harnesses his social media following to help those in need—the podcast will be delightfully familiar, full of his offbeat asides and serious consideration of goofy hypothetical questions. With Villains, which focuses on the bad guys (and women) of film, Serrano brings his earnestness and authenticity to an audio format.
Each of the eight episodes of the show, which will be released weekly by the Ringer Podcast Network, examines a different character and trope: the animated movie villain, the gangster movie villain, the karate movie villain. Serrano will be joined by two guests as he interrogates the legacy of his villain of the week: What do we think gave the Joker his facial scars? Is it possible to justify the behavior of Mean Girls’s Regina George? Would it be possible for the character to be rehabilitated? True to his genuine attentiveness to his fans, Serrano will also release a shorter bonus episode each Tuesday that addresses listeners’ questions.
In the first episode, Serrano, joined by The Ringer editor in chief Sean Fennessey and senior creative Jason Concepcion, explores perhaps the creepiest villain in movie history: Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs. They spend 45 minutes exploring more obvious points—dissecting why Hannibal is scary and debating whether Jodie Foster was an acting match for Anthony Hopkins. They also, of course, plumb the less conventional rabbit holes that make Serrano’s writing such a joy to read. After all, EMTs really should be trained to check that a victim’s face is their actual face, and if Hannibal Lecter hosted a cooking show, he could definitely make pork cheek in the style of Italian guanciale.
The episode is a delight. Podcasts are all about providing intimacy to a scene or topic—a reporter’s investigation into a horrifying crime, an on-the-ground political expertise—and Villains lets the listener in on a conversation around Serrano’s proverbial living room table. Grab your earbuds, bring some popcorn, and take a seat.