Monthly Archives: October 2010

Crisis Management

There is no such thing as bad press, right? So if fans “celebrate, critique and de-or-reconstruct” (126) mass media texts of their choice, is that really a bad thing? Wait, wait, WAIT! Do they even have the right to do all these things? The post-network era and the accessibility of tools used for text creation have caused publicity to be a double-edged sword for the media industry. Why? Because the creator of the product is not in control of its publicity.

Yes, these fans are just everyday folk who are a just a little too savvy at Final Cut Pro and iMovie (negative language intentional for sarcastic effects), but we have seen too often how a homemade video of something as silly as a child saying “blood” over and over again can spread across the Web like a plague. In today’s world, these videos have the potential to be just as influential as Bono or Angelina Jolie. They too can adopt a celebrity, or almost cultish, status.

At the same time, if you are a producer and the viral video on your show has over a million hits on youtube, then that’s free advertising. But the people making these iterations of existing texts aren’t commissioned by the industry. In a sense, they are in competition with the industry’s hired writers and creative boards. They are unpaid labor. They are even taking someone else’s work to make their own? Where I’m from, that’s called stealing. On the other hand, the industry is also scoping out websites and adapting what you and me are making for their own commercial purposes. So the former is a sort of Robin Hood-esque thievery and the latter is what a socialist’s brief looks like.

So now who is the consumer and who is the producer? How can anyone maintain a distinction? I’m thinking of the olden days when the industry held screenwriting contests not only to control the mass scripts fans mailed in, but also to utilize the creativity that was sitting right in their mailboxes. Surely, this is being done with Batttle Star Galactica and other medias. Producers are posting clips and sound bits on their website and asking fans to create their own texts. This extends to other industries as well, Nine Inch Nails did the same on their website for their music. However, these efforts have not quelled fan ambition. Can this creativity even be put to rest? Do we buy off youtube, the largest and most recognized platform for remixes? That’s just wrong in all realms of internet morality. Youtube was made to be a exhibitionist website where users show and tell what they want to, as long as it’s in the confines of the website. Do we ban newspaper op-ed’s then too? How do we put a “tax” on intellectual property? (This is artistic socialism!)

Nouveau TV

I hate the phrase: “I’ll know it when I see it.” It’s just not practical. There’s a reason why there are dictionaries, why we have categories, why we use headings, labels, names, subjects, topics, references—this that and the third—so that we can call it when we see it.

If I don’t watch TV on the actual TV anymore (which I don’t) does that mean that it is not TV? Historically, the apparatus—the TV set—has defined television. Now, in the “post-network” era, televised programming can exist outside the box. In fact, many people prefer it that way. So if you watch a show on your computer, iPod, cell phone, is it not TV then? I guess we will have to call it how we see it. TV on hulu or iTunes does in fact feel like TV. Television has just gotten a Windows upgrade.

TV has entered the realm of cyber space. This is a space where we don’t have to sit and wait for our favorite shows to come on or use TV guide to navigate our evening. Television is now at our fingertips. Empowering isn’t it? And yes, I still call it TV when I watch Glee on hulu because the terminology has crossed over. It is impractical to call nouveau-TV by the apparatus. If that were the case, is it The Hulu then? Is it youtubing? Or should be call it iTunes-vision? I guess it’s just TV then until we find a more fitting term that looks and feels like the post-network era.

Something old, Something New

We know these dance moves all too well. I mean…who hasn’t grown up watching The Breakfast Club? Therefore, when we see the remix videos of a group of friends performing the Brat Pack dance moves to Phoenix’s Lisztomania our mind automatically takes us back to the film. There’s a huge sense of familiarity and imitation. But isn’t there innovation here? After all, the locations are new, the clothing worn are different, the people performing the moves look and feel contemporary with their American Apparel leggings, Ray Ban covered eyes and matching shaggy beards that are all the rage in Brooklyn now.  There is no question that this is a hybrid of the classical with the modern.

At the same time, is there a sense of creative legitimacy to hybridity? One commenter wrote, “Do you know what ‘decadence’ means? No? I suggest you look it up,” in response to this video. Decadence is of course cultural decline. What user jqp364 means is that this video is an indication of our generation’s lack of creativity. Meanwhile, others have found this video to be quite innovative or they see it as a tribute. There is no definitive answer; the debate can go on and on and on.

Nevertheless, this video is clearly indicative of our culture in another sense. It does show an appreciation for past works, the continuity of youth throughout the ages and our ability to add our perspective on this continuity. I would not say that this remix is decadence but rather a personalized hybridity. It is a way of making something old speak to a new generation.. Instead of creating something wholly novel, the creators of this remix have found relativity despite years of change and applied it to our world. This personalization is creativity.

Me, My Blog and I

I try not to get into blogs. Or TV shows. Or Videogames. Or anything else that can be potentially addicting and will remove me further from my everyday reality than I already am. Now, with that said, I will list off the blogs I do follow. It’s a long, exhaustive list (wink). I swear by and the way it represents the world through a feminist lens to counter all the crap women are given in mass media. is a fashion blog that combines urban street wear with Chanel. What more could a girl want? Lately, I’ve been falling off the nitro bandwagon because it’s beginning to focus more on the chic than on the dope, as well as the blogger’s own fabulous life. Essentially, it’s starting to address me less and less but I still scope it out from time to time. The last blog… drum roll please… is, which keeps me up to date with the latest hip-hop and RnB. This is very crucial when a New Yorker goes to school in Vermont.

So, as you can probably guess, my experience with blogging is not extensive. Now take a wild guess as to what my face looked like when I was told I had to keep a blog for class. I’ll just tell you—I was horrified. When I reluctantly began this blog, a lot of the posts were just summaries/lame reflection of the readings. Obviously I’ve opened up a bit.

Viewing blogs as a secondary orality can even convert a non-believer like me. Orality is the use of speaking, talking, reciting as communication rather than writing and printed texts—the way they did it in the old days. Blogs, although written, take on many of the features of orality because it is a conversation, it is social and it is less formal than print writing (Rettberg: 33). Let’s hang on the last feature for a bit. I think that my issue with blogs was bridging the informal nature of blogs into a liberal arts college classroom.  But who am I to say there’s no space for blogs in Middlebury? After all, touches on tons of issues that can tie over to my classes and has often been my source for a good conversation or two even in an academic setting. Let’s just say, I’m warming up to the idea of my own blog more and more.

Grown Up Cartoons

There are two types of Family Guy viewers in my household. The first group is the two young adults who are fluent enough in English to understand the witty scenarios woven into a nonsensical plot (my brother and I). The second category of viewers is attracted to the visual element of the show. What they see is a baby with the enormous head and his talking dog. They watch—or at least try to watch before someone catches them red handed—because this show is a cartoon. The second set of viewers is my elementary school aged niece and nephew.

I had a hard time getting into Family Guy for the same reasons that drew the kids in my life towards the show. I even remember once putting it on for them when all other cartoons called it quits for the night. I also remember how both of them screamed at me when I changed the channel. Mixed feelings towards the show were bubbling when my brother invited me to watch Stewie’s mishaps with him one evening. Of course I declined and, naturally, he persuaded me to at least sit through one episode. Needless to say, I enjoyed myself and can now understand the large fan base—adult fan base.

A little while after my Family Guy revelation, I went to my brother’s room only to find him watching more cartoons. I gave him a disapproving look; he needed to grow up already. This time it was an anime called Naruto. Again I had to sit through an episode. I can’t say I was converted into a fan just as I was for Family Guy because the show is very serialized and I walked into the middle of the series. My hour was spent with my brother’s personalized narration and frequent pauses of the show for explanation. I ended up just being frustrated with EVERYTHING thrown at me in such a short period of time. Or maybe my brother was just extending an invitation to me to join the allegiance? Was he sharing the cultural capital he earned through months of devotion? Nevertheless, I did appreciate it for what it was. Anime (or at least Naruto) is in fact very sophisticated, well structured, and sets up a world that is easy to fall into. This is by no means child’s play.


In screenwriting class, we were taught that there are different iterations of things. First, a screenwriter can take a short story, then put it into Final Draft, add some of his own lines and lengthen it to 120 pages. This first iteration is sent off to the place where scripts go. Wherever that may be.  Now it’s in a producer’s hands, he gives it to his director-friend. This director finds something, maybe only a single line of dialogue appealing, and decides he wants to hold on to it. He hires another writer to rework the script. Second iteration. Now that the director is appeased, shooting can start.

But this director has a vision that he wants to manifest on the screen. This goes beyond the text on a page, it’s in the mise en scene. Third iteration. Don’t forget the actors! They too have their own way of conceptualizing the script. Fourth iteration. Shooting is complete, but do we now have a film? Certainly not. The directory ships the raw material to an editor who nips and tucks the footage. At the very least the final product an audience sees is the fifth iteration (or interpretation). To think that all of these versions sprang from one short story—and who knows how that story came into being? *

Now let’s try to think of fan fiction similarly. I know, it’s readily assumed that fan fiction is “pilfering of another’s work” (Rowett), but let’s take a deeper look at this practice a bit.

John Doe loves said show. He loves it so much that he writes about it. But he just doesn’’t write his opinions, he fills in narrative blanks, tests out alternative plot twists, changes the context, extends and retracts this show. Is this not iteration? John Doe posts his work on the web, his friends and other lovers of the show read his work. Wait John, you forgot about this…. So Jane writes her version that does things a little differently than John’s. Second iteration. The shows producers realize something vital in John/Jane’s work after an intern scopes the web between transcriptions of yesterday’s footage. “We can use that” or “let’s not kill him off just yet” or “Man, people like this, let’s throw it in there.” More iteration. So then, who is to say fan fiction shouldn’t be taken seriously?

*Disclaimer: This is not a how-to-get-your-screenplay-sold guide. This is just an example… for the sake of conceptualizing a broader idea, because broad ideas need to be conceptualized.


In high school I had more time to engage with television shows on a habitual and ritualistic basis. My friends and I had weekly sleepovers just to watch House and Unsolved Mysteries. It was a complete comfort zone; we talked about the shows and our love/lust for Hugh Laurie openly. We would almost fight over our opinions on “who done it?” But these established practices were broke when one of my friends admitted, proudly admitted in fact, to being a 7th Heaven fan. The show just did not fit the mold that we, as a group of three musketeers, were used to. Her revelation was almost deviant but she didn’t stop there. She had sent letters to WB when the show was about to be canceled. I blinked hard and jovially thought, “so that’s what she does when we aren’t in school, doing homework, or hanging out.” Then she cracks a large grin, “I’m the reason why 7th Heaven wasn’t cancelled. I wrote them mad letters. I saved 7th Heaven.”

At the time, I had instantly labeled my friend a fanatic. Normal fandom was fanaticizing over Hugh Laurie, not actually fighting for him. In time, I came to realize that there were cult fans that had an even deeper relationship with their shows of choice. These fans were engaging with these shows all over the Internet, at conventions and even regularly in their everyday life. The world’s full of crazies right?  Not necessarily. It is only on a closer reading of television programming that we can notice reciprocity. For example, taking the fanmade romantic pairing of the Supernatural leads and incorporating it into an episode in which Sam and Dean find a comic book insinuating their incestual relationship (Felschow). Maybe my friend’s belief that she ‘saved’ her favorite show wasn’t wholly unfounded after all? I guess as long as someone’s listening….

Lovers and Friends

It’s Saturday night at Middlebury College and a group of college students lounge around, order Chinese food and simply enjoy each others company. They sit on a sofa, directly in front of this sofa is a table, and on that is a MacBook playing Glee. Everyone in the room has already seen the episodes, but we are in the mood for some good clean fun. The dialogue going on over the show goes as follows:

Friend 1: Puck dated Santana.

Friend 2: That’s a hot couple. Who’s he dating now?

Friend 1: Don’t know.

Friend 3: Rachael is dating Mr. Shu supposedly. They’re actually close in age.

Friend 1: That’s just a rumor. And she’s like my age, 22 going on 23, and he’s in his thirties.

Friend 4: Quinn is so pretty.

Friend 1: Yeah she and Rachael are actually best friends in real life and they live together.

Friend 2: Who are Finn, Rachael and Puck dating in real life then?

Friend 1: Dunno.

Friend 3: I have a hunch Puck and Quinn like each other. I youtubed an interview of all of them and those two were giving each other the eye.

Friend 4: Can we just watch the show?

All this information (or should I say misinformation) has come from the Internet. Although we four friends are not at this moment surfing the web for answers of blogging our speculations, this conversation is a form of teleeparticipation. Essentially, if teleparticipation is the ways in which audiences engage with TV programming, then this is a clear example. In addition, the Internet changes this relationship by serving as a resource where fans can work out ideas surrounding shows and then share these ideas with the world (16). At the time, my friends continued to watch the show, but I feel confident in saying that at least one looked up something on Glee’s characters—or at least I did.

Lastly, think about the following statement: that which is not told to us is the most telling. The fact that we cannot readily state the relationship statuses of the show’s leads like we can for our friends (yes, facebook stalking is encouraged here) feels like a setup. The personal lives of these specific characters are held apart from the fans to create mystery and stimulate conversations like this one. As Ross states, the industry invites viewers to the teleparticipation party and therefore certain “behavioral expectations” and “rules” exist (21). These expectations take the form of maintaining the hype around the show’s characters, while giving the audience something to keep them hanging on.

No Longer a Theater Celibate

The first movie I saw at the theaters was Rugrats: In Paris. I was nine years old, a late bloomer to moviegoing simply because my family did not indulge in the activity. My neighbors, on the other hand were avid moviegoers, and decided to take the deprived child next door along with them one evening. I still remember getting my ticket, waiting in line for popcorn—hell even the smell of my first movie-magic popcorn. I remember finally sitting in the dim theater and waiting for the room slowly move into complete darkness. I remember saving, showing, and treasuring the “Rugrats Passport” I received with my ticket. It was my first theater paraphernalia, soon I would add limited edition Pokemon and Digimon cards to that collection, but for now this was all I had and I adored it.

In retrospect, I realize that I blindly followed my neighbors throughout the process that I have now come to know instinctively. I taken for granted my first experience because I engage in the activity so much now. It’s like learning to read—we can recall when we learned how to read, but every time we pick up a book, chances are, we don’t trace the process by which reading became second nature.  In fact, it wasn’t until I read Fuller’s last chapter when I remembered Rugrats: In Paris. The first generation of moviegoers, had to be educated to moviegoing (176); what’s interesting is that once fluent, we forget about the learning process. I am fortunate in that I began so late and therefore still hold the memory of the first time. So now, dig past years of moviegoing, pounds of popcorn, hundreds of ticket stub and ask, “How did I learn moviegoing?”

You Ain’t Speakin’ English Right

Unbeknownst to us, we often judge people by how they speak. Certain accents or ways of speaking slap a label of ignorance or intelligence on the speaker. Foreign accents are interpreted as less proficient in English. These beliefs have been used to remove non-native teachers from English instruction classrooms. These beliefs have forced students who speak a different language at home or who speak a different form of English that is not “mainstream” to assimilate or remain marginalized—to get with it or get lost. These beliefs have too much strength.

Indeed, how we speak does matter, but we need to recognize there are different ways to speak. Traces of the superficial demands for the appropriate way of speaking are evident in the coming of sound. Norma Talmadge’s Brooklyn accent forced her into early retirement because it did not match up with her classy image. Other actors and actresses were given vocal lessons, not for singing, but for speaking! Conversely, foreign silent stars were embraced as exotic.

The silent film actor Adolphe Menjou put it best, “I knew that unless I proved I could talk before my contract expired, I would be a dead pigeon.” Get with it or get lost (Juddery). Today popular culture often reiterates the mainstream style of English and therefore the aforementioned beliefs are further reinforced. It was too readily forgotten that even American icons once dealt with the same language issues average Americans are facing everywhere. The links here have been lost either because of disconnect between cinema studies and the classroom, or a lack of connection between literacy and mass media. Regardless, further investigation should be done to reinterpret the far reaching misconception of English and its relationship with Hollywood so that it can be used in schools, public policy and civil society.