Category Archives: Reading Responses

Ross: Power to the People? Or to the Industry?

As filmic technology improves and methods of tele-participation grow and evolve, the lines between the industry and the audience shift and blur. It seems, generally speaking, that over time, the people have gained more control in what the industry produces, keeps in the line up, and renews at the end of each season, yet how is it that the “Man” has relinquished so much of his power to us little people in a world controlled by profit? Well, simply put – he hasn’t.

The studio, the network, the industrial machine of digital and HD, they want us THINK we hold the fate of television in our hands, the truth is, as soon as we forge ahead towards viewer independence, they find a new way to market, package, and manipulate our tastes – turning the false security of personal choice into the profitable systematic production of mainstream consumerist drivel. It’s the same thing media does to trends in music, fashion, and other forms of culture, the mainstreaming of the counterculture, and the adaptation of independent desires into hetero-normative profit driven industry.

Yet it remains VERY important to those in charge that we feel important in the production process. Not to use the same old tired examples over and over again but FOX’s response of denial to rumors of Arrested Development’s cancellation in 2005 is a prime example of the industry’s false empathy for the viewer; the show was cancelled 6 months later. In the end, the network will always make the choices that result in profit.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re moving in reverse; the audience has certainly made notable headway in our ability to control the direction of television and filmic content. Increased fan visibility on the internet has lead to better industry measurements of viewership, and the prevalence of multi-media conversational platforms has allowed for constant the constant debate and remixing of preexisting content.

So the networks are listening, yes, but then why are critically acclaimed shows taken off the air? The real indication of viewer power would be a world in which GOOD shows, well written, witty, and unique shows got the chance to grow into their fan bases. Terribly imbalanced advertising funds, strange time slots and lack of network support are only a few of the obstacles facing any show’s chance at success.

There are too many industy factors outside the bound of audience control for the “little people,” the fans, to gain real or substantial input in the televisual process.

Yet this is not to say we are powerless, if our voices are loud enough we may be able to make a dent in what is produced and consumed, how large a dent it is however, depends on if the numbers align with our passion.

So, “What’s the Future of TV?”

Pay money for TELEVISION? PAH. Yeah right.

While interning at Showtime this past summer, I participated in an on-going study of the evolving TV audience; a focus group dissecting the rapidly progressive viewership trends of my generation – and more specifically, the effects of the internet on said viewership. The funny this is, there is a huge, seemingly irreconcilable disconnect between the old and new audiences. Most people over 30 aren’t satisfied with watching their shows off of a thirteen-inch screen; the youth’s demands of free dissemination and easily accessible content is the anomaly of our society. We are holding the industry hostage. Give us liberty or give us death.

But where did this sense of entitled entertainment come from?

Well, isn’t it obvious? It’s the fault of the platform, not the industry – we were introduced to the Internet as a place for free expression, a source of endless knowledge… as long as you pay your phone bill on tim of course

AOL for just 9.99/$ a MONTH! FREE TRIAL INSIDE!

Free. F-R-E-E. The birth of the Internet was the liberating revolution of information/expression and inter-personal connectivity. Think about what the original subscription expansion web-form was. Pornography; something outside of mainstream acceptability, outside of the realm acceptable entitlement – something with a very narrow and specific ad-market and cultural demographic.

And as with all technological and creative platforms, the internet has had to evolve to suit our cultural expectations and desires, finding new ways to spread entertainment and content – new platforms and structures, new pulls towards active participation and consumption.

The Internet is has quickly become “The Blob” of artistic socialism. It’s absorbed and encroached on the territory of all other forms of media, creating a culture of instant gratification and the deconstruction of traditionally paid-for content.

We want to watch WHATEVER we want, WHENEVER we want it… for FREE. Not only because of the traditional roots of the platform, but because of our recently growing participation within the medium. Thanks to the evolution of feel like partners in the perpetuation and the evolution of the web – we exist within the form as active creators, remixers and ethereal fans and artists – even if our format is on a Facebook page or on a youtube video, a blog or a p2p streaming website.

We live in a “post-network” era, at least structurally – where Showtime and HBO and FOX can’t hold on to their own content.

The internet is the commune, the network is a marriage. TV is going to have to embrace the chaos and look for new revenue streams. Sorry guys.

Normative’s “Evolution of Remix Culture”

Limewire died this week.

The last foot soldier in the fight against the big bad music industry. An industry that sucks money from artists directly, and apparently doesn’t want that to change. The vicious war on p2p sharing is NOT in the name of the musician. The musicians are getting fleeced by the labels anyhow. Radiohead understands that, so why can’t the government? Instead of fighting the inevitable, we need to look into new revenue streams and create a better system of open possibilities.

As Normative says, infinite and inflexible copywrite laws stifle the new wave of viewer participation and social integration. My adolescence was defined by a stagnant relationship to technological entertainment and viewership. TV was a vegetative distraction that kept me from doing my homework, it was a mind numbing, fantastical, sedating experience. The computer was equally as isolating, before we had the internet I would sit for hours traversing the Oregon Trail until I died of dysentery, or Doodling on Kid Pix. Now, I’m not saying this interaction with entertainment was entirely fruitless – I learned some very valuable lessons about morality from re-runs of “The Facts of Life,” and Oregon Trail taught me a great deal about Manifest Destiny – but while I was interacting with my entertainment consciously, I wasn’t creating – I wasn’t sharing this experience with others.

Then… sometime in the midst of my long four years in high school, the world changed; the internet became personal. Myspace, Facebook, Youtube all introduced me to the idea that I could live and breathe my thoughts and feelings through the wires and cables that lead to the outside world endless possibilities. I could exist outside myself – I could publish, propagate, inspire and learn, all at once, without leaving my chair. And then there were the connections, the mere idea of interacting and sharing with millions of people all over the world with the same interests, passions and ideas, the same need to create, was overwhelming. This was a whole new world of thought.

Contrary wise, many people today seem mourn the death of personal connection. I can honestly say that there are times when I find our culture superficially bound together by the simple tweets and facebook posts that take seconds to send. If we really cared that much about so and so, wouldn’t we call? Wouldn’t we send an email or, God forbid, a letter? I am the girl that collects typewriters and Polaroid cameras because I fear our culture is shifting towards a world of intangible forces. Celluloid film is dead. Coffee table photo albums are an endangered species. And craftsmanship ain’t what it used to be. I strive to live in a world where there is love in everything. In our words, in our work, in our art. And good news, I think we’re on our way.

Easily accessible video and other creative online platforms lead to the equal and fast dissemination of ideas and projects. Good work can be seen and passed along; the people, not the media, has the power to speak up and support what we want and like. We are our own tour guides in the chaotic world of mass culture. We don’t have to prescribe to the constructs of mainstream passive viewership anymore.

And even when our YouTube generation isn’t trying to relay a specific message or goal, we participate to be seen, to be recognized and appreciated for what we have to offer in our multi-national/cultural/intellectual/hyper individualistic society. We seek connection with friends and others like us around the country, around the world.

We all want to be seen, we all want to be loved. It’s human nature that thrives on connection, and in a world perpetually divided by isolationist technologies, we must make our media connect; we must fight the impulse to separate and embrace the possibilities of a shared technological culture.

DJ Spooky.

And then there was light.

…and Sight. Sound. Feeling. Color. Air and Earth and Sea.

Notes, words, words and more words, more notes, scales, chords, phrases, sentences and paragraphs, languages, more languages. The Old Testament, the New Testament, the Torah and Koran. The great American novel. The pop song. Gregorian chant. Ballet, jazz and tap. Break dancing, indie rock, slam poetry and a sonnet or two. There was Taming of the Shrew, Ten Things I Hate About You and seven hundred different cross-media adaptations of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Ironman. Man, man, man. How bout a film about Wonder Woman? But without the hot pants. Yeah, I didn’t think so.

And outside, animals tempted by the Darwinian promise of bigger and better leap towards like lemmings towards the “E” word – some succeed, some… splat.

Evolution/Adaptation, the foundation of creation – we take what we know and grow bigger, brighter, shinier truths with more megabytes and sleeker packaging. Laundry detergent is laundry detergent, air is air, words are words and all brands of dish soap are born out of the same elemental components and “Leave it to Beaver” functionality.

There are only so many notes, so many sounds, so many chemical-compounds that shift like quicksand to suit the mood, our bank account, chore wheels, time tables and…

We are the revolution. The high-speed internet and social networking soldiers raised on a steady diet of copy-written sugar cereal and those Napster-Megavideo Ghost stories, that never quite scared us kids – though our parents seemed afraid enough, and yes we are tired. Tired of being tired, tired of Fruit Roll Up comas and the condescending art-attacks that filter through the high definition TV screens that we don’t even watch anymore. Instead letting the blue-white glow of our smaller screens serve as our chariots into the raging battle of whens and whys and what to watches – the hows and the rights and the wrongs.

So we fight for the right to… party… no – to use bigger building blocks to create an amalgamated, mish-mashed, remixed, international, inter-intellectual, cross-generational, emotionally charged culture of “I refuse to sit on my ass and consume this crap you call television.” There’s a reason The Simple Life isn’t on air anymore.

…Welcome to the Renaissance of culture.

Fuller… Chapter 6: The Movie Fan

I challenge you, or anyone for that matter, to find someone in this country who doesn’t like movies – aside perhaps from some 97 year-old evangelical woman with clinical cinephobia who lives in the middle of the desert. Or the Amish.

Obsessive hyperbolizing aside – anyone who prescribes to the practices and ideals of mainstream American society is bound to enjoy watching movies. We are all “fans” of movies, but what makes one a “Movie Fan” seems to be a whole different kind of crazy. There is a reason the word Fanatic starts with F-A-N. Fandom is an obsession, an insatiable daydreaming consumerism and ardor for the unattainable life of celebrity and filmic perfection. The stigma of the term “Movie Fan” is a perfect example of the ageless obsession with words that began with Adam and Epoch and continues today in our growing and evolving language, our minute differentiation, the reason women are afraid to call themselves “feminists;” words carry the baggage of their social and historical implications – a word, is never really just a word.

As with the debate over the term “feminist,” those who enjoy movies, perhaps more than most seek to validate their passion in rational and intelligent thought – from this defensive reconstruction comes the term “cinephile,” “Movie Fans” who consume consciously, actively, and for higher purpose.

When I think of a “Movie Fan,” whether in its original context or today, I think of a juvenile, squealing girl who wastes half her paycheck or allowance on fan magazines. I think of “Teen Beat” and “Bop” magazines, I think of people chasing after Justin Beiber, or The Beatles, I think of people fainting.

I admit my views on the subject come from an elevated psychological plane of superiority, I would like to pretend I’m above the hubub of fandom – and on some levels, I am, but merely because I’ve lived in LA – yes, I met Chris Pine at a birthday party right after I fell into a swimming pool. Was it awkward? Yes. Did I faint? No. Did my heart beat a little faster? Duh. Was I briefly wooed by the shimmery allure of a fantastical filmic existence? Of course.

There is a part of me that is still 13-years old, whether I want to admit it or not – we are all impressed by the life of the movies, we are all “Fans,” and we shouldn’t be embarrassed to admit it.

Fuller…Chapter 5: The Picture Palace

It never ceases to amaze me how thin the veil of class divisions are, how alike we all really are, that, at the very heart of things, everyone wants to experience the same fundamental feelings and exercise the same natural senses.

The other day I was in Burlington with a few friends and we stumbled upon a multimedia art exhibit that broached this very subject – among other things, it consisted of a large, interactive touch screen called "I Want You to Want Me"– a study of human wants and desires, specifically in regards to love and dating.

Now what amazed me about this piece, and what is consequently relevant to my comment on basic human similarity, is the  overwhelming homogeny of our emotional lives: people want/experience the same feelings – across age, gender, socioeconomic status, race, sexual orientation, we all experience daily interactions between our senses, our emotions, and our expectations that defy stereotypes and statistics.

Now apply this to art, and we see a transparent trend. We all enjoy the same feelings, these experiences merely shift and adapt to suit our cultural and societal context. The Picture Palace was a way of channeling the upscale legitimacy of the Opera, of the Theatre. The soft seats and suited ushers pampered and preened the higher classes until they felt sufficiently sedated and at home enough to loosen their shirt collars and enjoy the show – they were served what they wanted, the affirmation of their superior social standing, and the relief of audience homogeny.

Picture Palace : Nickelodeon as Burlesque : Strip Club – Different ways of staging and fulfilling basic human desires.

Fuller… Chapter 4: Alternative Viewing.

I remember being in elementary school and praying for the teacher to be out sick or too tired to deal with us – anything that might result in a sacred hour and a half of staring at that small fuzzy TV they’d roll in from class room to class room on such occasions.

It was the very same TV that illustrated a journey through your digestive system on the “Magic School Bus”  back in fourth grade, and then two years later solicited giggles and “Ews” from the the long awaited “You’re becoming a Woman!” video. “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” with Kevin Kline and Christian Bale, Civil War documentaries, Awkward Spanish videos from the 80’s that followed along with your outdated textbook.

The same thing happened in CCD, videos of bible stories or illustrated tales of modern day morality where all of a sudden at the point of decision making we get a freeze framed: “What should Johnny do now? …What would Jesus do?!”

The CPR class I took last weekend was predominantly taught by a television.

When Fuller discussed alternative viewing styles and filmic modification of the early part of the 20th century, I found the concept strange, for alternative uses for film are both abundant and widely accepted in today’s society. What is different however, is that alternative film no longer seeks to usurp mainstream cinema in either value or prominence, and has settled nicely into it’s various niches, both educational and moral.

When I was younger, the in class movie was a chance to turn off my head, a chance to draw hearts on my Lisa Frank notebook and daydream about more important things, like what being a teenager felt like. Now, with weekly screenings filling up my Tuesday and Thursday nights for the past four years, I take a far different and more active approach. These are not the teachers of fifth grade looking to quiet a rowdy group of East Coast hoodlums, nor is it the rigid CCD teacher I disagreed with on nearly every modern day social political issue  – with choice came better alternative viewing, an active participation with film that I’d never had before.

Fuller Chapter 3… the Power of a Nickel

When I was a little girl, I would make my grandfather tell me about his parents. The idealized and dewy eyed six year old me imagined them to be much like the immigrant animated mice in Feviel goes west, except italian, Catholic and… not mice.

I loved hearing the stories of how they met in the tiny hilltop village of San Marco, Italy. How they fell in love and were married a week later.

The story continues a few years later, in Allentown PA, where my great grandfather ran a handful of movie houses. Now this part never really made sense to me. How do you run a movie theater? Aren’t they all owned by big companies? Six year old me was confused.  Those words glowing above the multiplex marquees: AMC, Lowes, Landmark, Arclight… they were all faceless businesses with massive rental contracts and expensive upkeep, how could someone run a movie theater?

Yet in my short little life I had experienced a place that sounded like these “Nickelodeon” things my grandfather was always talking about, it was a one room movie house from the early twenties that stood, up until two years ago, in the center of the town of Nantucket. The seats were hard, the air-conditioning erratic and the tickets surprisingly cheap. As a child, this was my favorite place in the world – This was “The Dreamland.” It was a name that evoked a sense of whimsy, clearly carefully chose to cater to the escapist appeal of the movies. The room was plain, for, as fuller points out, all our attention is to be directed at the screen.

Yet for me, “The Dreamland” represents the strange intersection between the ideals of the old Nickelodeon, the values of a conservative East Coast town, and the desensitization of the American consumer to technological spectacle. The late theater may have matched the stark interiors of old movie houses but failed to prescribe to the bare white bulbs and grand marquees that the times called for. Instead, “The Dreamland” had to retain gray shingles with white trim, and merely a wooden sign for indication of purpose. Why? The island has very strict building codes to maintain a traditional and culturally conservative atmosphere. It’s the same reason that chain stores are banned on the island; the town is founded on the traditions of purists – nothing can change, nothing can stand out. It is this mentality that makes me surprised they ever got  a movie theater in the first place, and even more surprised that they had the nerve to tear it down.

Fuller Chapter 2… the Geography of Viewership

Too often I forget how incredibly massive the United States actually is; how diverse it’s people and opinions and tastes. No, I’m not a total idiot, I just live in the pleasantly opaque bubble of an East Coast Liberal arts college education.

Though I’m sure it’s the same way in those small towns within the beating heart of Bible Belt, where people are equally as submerged in their own opinions and surrounded by their own kind that every once and a while, they completely forget that they aren’t the only, or even the loudest, of voices.

Point being, I’ve always looked at the American film audience as a whole, divided by age, race, and gender but NEVER by state lines and religious backgrounds. I suppose this is a more general commentary on the fact that prior to this class, I had never actually considered the varying nature of the film audience. Up until a few weeks ago, “the viewer” was just a faceless, nameless, passive participant in the consumptive filmic process. Now I find myself reassessing all of my learned generalizations about the American viewing public; all the statistics and box office returns, all the fan magazine sales and historical accounts of the early Nickelodeons. Every one of these numbers and pictures has been whitewashed by the power of the stereotype of a consistent or “normal” American consumer.

Though I have very long understood the power of government and corporate censorship on the film industry, local regulation was something I never knew existed (outside that one company that makes Mormon acceptable versions of popular Hollywood films… but that somehow seems different.) I suppose in many ways this adds to my surprise in the impact of small scale cultural subdivisions and opinions on the relative success of a national market, and how that market bent under the weight of societal pressures and regulations in order to meet those values.

Prague’s Secret Son… Laterna Magika

No need for a paternity test, Laterna Magika is indeed the illegitimate child of socialism! Yes, Laterna is a healthy, thriving, baby boy… with split personality disorder and a mild case of OCD. Highly functioning, but not your textbook definition of normal. He is brilliant, but destructive, he is easily frustrated and distracted… he probably has ADHD too.

In this way, Laterna Magika is a perfect mirror of the social conditions under which it was born, for socialism is tornado of contradictions and chaos, thoughts of brilliance muffled by shouts of propaganda – it is a renegotiation of reality and society that succeeds only when certain aspects of that society are oppressed and manipulated into submission.

As Suzanne Langer bluntly puts it, “there are no happy marriages in art, only successful rape.” And while I cannot say that I wholly agree with this statement, I do see its insight into the treacherous process of redefining well established or normative notions of culture – be it within art, or any other medium. The challenging of the regular is always questioned initially, it is the nature of progress to be stunted by fear. Consequently, it makes a great deal of sense why Laterna Magika retains such niche standing within the art world today – it’s fragmentation, its imbalance, is as frightening as the system it belongs to.

It may not be a rape, but it’s a rocky marriage. the highs are high, the lows are low, and the only thing you can count on is that anything is possible. When you combine your influences the combination of creative copulation grow exponentially.