Category Archives: Readings

READING RESPONSE for 10/20/2010

Ross – Chapter 2

Viewer participation can be a wonderful thing. Blogs have opened up a new world of dialogue that has never really existed before and been in so many people’s reach. I think that, unless they are harmful to somebody or deliberately malicious, they tend to always be a positive thing. This may be a generalization, but I stand by it as my opinion. I do not think that all viewer participation is positive, though, and in many ways it may give people too much power to change people’s lives for all the wrong reasons. This could be me playing devil’s advocate, as we are always talking about how important active viewership is, but sometimes it could be detrimental to a person’s life.

The specific example I am thinking of is American Idol, one of the examples mentioned in the second chapter of Ross’ book. I must admit that I watched a couple of seasons of this show when I was younger. The thing the caused me to stop voting is the realization that the voting for this show actually greatly affects the people involved, and unfortunately there is no way of controlling the motives for voting. For instance, I had a friend in middle school who voted for the cutest contestant every week on the show. His singing was horrendous, but he ended up making it far just because he was “oh so dreamy”. This affects the other people that may have been more deserving in terms of singing talent, but that did not have the same good looks. On the other hand, it is people’s prerogative to vote for whatever they feel is important, but that doesn’t always go along with the intention of the show. If people want to vote for someone sexy, they should vote for a competition for most attractive man.

Blogging – Chapters 1 and 2

I, personally, would never have thought to study blogging in such an in-depth fashion as the author of this book. I do not think of the definition of blogging because I am so used to its existence around me that I do not think twice about it. It’s like somebody from Europe in the 19th century trying to define the word “book”. It’s something that’s so ingrained in our culture that we are never truly given the opportunity to consider it academically. Thus, Rettberg’s success in making blogging a study and not just a past-time is refreshing. A medium so invested in expressing individual opinions and sharing them with such a large audience, even if no one necessarily reads the postings, is something that one can compare to previous mediums, but with nothing that quite compares.

One could compare blogs to early letters written in fan magazines. These letters were written with the intention of being read by many people across the country. Though there was no “World Wide Web”, there was a way of getting your voice heard that wasn’t guaranteed to be published, but was easy to submit to. The problem with this method was that it was in somebody else’s hands whether or not you were heard, while today it is up to you to post and up to everyone else to read. Sending fan mail, also, was a way of expressing an opinion about a star, but there was no guarantee that they would read it or get access to it. With blogs, there is no guaranteeing the star will read it, but you can post your opinion about anybody and they will have access to it if you make it public.

Blogging has opened up a new world of communication of ideas. The three kinds of blogs do so in different ways. Starting a topic-driven blog may be more difficult because it is easy to maintain a personal blog by oneself, but having to count on other people to post and add input on a specific topic may be harder to pull off. That’s why it is now much easier to get your voice heard, but not necessarily as easy to start a trend of people speaking their minds on a topic. Therefore, though it has become easier to spread ideas and opinions, there are still challenges to spreading a message as far as one would like. Starting a blog about a very specific topic can be limiting in what audience will read the blog. Thus, though we live in the era thought of as completely breaking down communication barriers, it’s still not guaranteed that one’s ideas will spread if no one is interested.

READING RESPONSE for 10/13/2010

Felschow – Praxis

I have never experienced cult fandom of a medium, as I have not found something that has inspired me to become so emotionally attached that I am thrown into a fictional world. Still, I have experienced fandom of certain films and television series to the extent that I have tried to push a lot of my friends to watch shows like The Wire and Community and to watch movies such as Amarcord and Singin’ in the Rain. What I found most interesting about this article was the connection between cult fandom and religion. Since I have never experienced this “excessive” fandom, I do not know what it feels like, but the passion and fervor shown by the most arduous fans is similar to that which I have seen by some ultra-religious individuals.

I have a friend at home who LOVES the Lord of the Rings series. She was one of the youngest writers for the Tolkien society’s website, she started the club at our high school, she has a tattoo of a meaningful leaf from the series on her hip, and she speaks Elvish, among many other elements that prove her fandom. She lives out the rest of her life, but she lives the book like a religion. She is not religious, and therefore LOTR has become a religion for her. Her room is covered with paraphernalia from the films and the books, and is even insulted when people state that they dislike or have mixed emotions about anything to do with Tolkien’s literature.

What is most connected between this girl’s love for Tolkien and Hills’ argument is the fact that it gave her a community. She was a very social person at school, but she made many friends solely through her obsession with LOTR. By perusing the Internet for forums and sites affiliated with her favorite series, she gained new connections and even got a job offer when she graduated college. A lot of the time people think of cult fandom as a negative, reclusive activity, but in her case it gained her social connections she would never have had were she not so excessively involved in the fan scene. And this isn’t even with new movies, television shows and video games. This is a fan community of books written decades ago that are still popular and maintain a fanbase through the new media available today.

Kelly Rowett – They’re Letting You Write Your Thesis on That?

One thing that this article mentions that I haven’t thought of too much is fan fiction as an outlet for withdrawal during off-seasons. Since I have never been a participant in online fan communities besides the sparse observation, I cannot speak for myself in this phenomenon. What I do know is the torture of having to wait for another episode of a show in which I am emotionally involved. I have taken two classes now where we watch consecutive episodes of a television series every week. With all of the technology we have at our fingertips today, it is extremely difficult to remain patient when we can always access the shows on the internet. Right now, we are watching R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet and are only watching two episodes a week. The wait is killing each and every one of us that hasn’t watched the series. We know that the episodes are on YouTube, but we try to show some sort of restraint. If you haven’t seen the series, try watching the first two and then stopping:

Part 1 :

Part 2 :

I know that Trapped in the Closet is not a normal, weekly series, but it is equally difficult to wait between episodes when the next episode is at our fingertips. When the article by Ms. Rowett was written, in 1998, technology wasn’t close to as convenient for the impatient viewer like myself, but now that we know that we can watch what we want and when we want it, telling us to wait is like telling someone with a bad habit like nail-biting to stop. It just somehow makes us want to do it more.


Ross – Introduction and Chapter 1

I was immediately drawn to the topic of water cooler conversations while reading this. We are all familiar with water cooler conversations in person, whether they be at the Grille, in public restrooms, or just literally around a water cooler. Nowadays, people are always talking about what they’ve watched, what they think and of whom they are fans. The only idea of the Internet as today’s water cooler is a beautiful picture for me. I can relate so well because I am constantly posting links and opinions about television shows on my Facebook profile (I have yet to upgrade to Twitter).

One important thing about the Internet version of the water cooler is that it is so easy to post links to instant replays of moments from your favorite episodes. We have learned from sports how important instant replay is, but when there are things that one may not notice in the first viewing of an episode of a television series, it’s important to have a link to rewatch it and not have to wait until the next time it is on air. For instance, last night I posted a link to this Youtube video:

I had already watched the episode of Community that these clips came from, but I did not notice what was happening in the background. The show is so full of meta moments that one can easily miss them. With a fan community (no pun intended with the name of the show) willing to take the time to share their findings with other fans, and with accessibility to clips and the ease at which one can mash them up on personal computers, it’s no wonder that the world of television is at our fingertips. It’s also wonderful how this not only becomes interactive in terms of conversation, but also in terms of how we see things. It’s common to mash things up to give them different meanings through forms of storytelling, such as some mash ups of characters from Lost that create a completely new storyline.

The online fan community does not stop only at television series. It could arguably be said that other fan conversation and participation on the internet may even be more interactive. I play a lot of fantasy sports online, particularly on Whether or not I’m playing against my friends or just against the world, the people that we see on television playing sports are now at our disposal in creating our own teams. There has even been talk of people buying teams as collectives on the Internet, as one team in the lower tiers of Premiership Soccer in England was rumored to be bought by a community of bidders online. Video games also have a huge online fan base, and aren’t only played online, but are discussed as well. There are some people that even sell gold and other goods for games like World of Warcraft on websites like eBay and Amazon.

The fan community for every form of media is right at our fingertips, and it can be a beautiful thing.

READING RESPONSE for 10/6/2010

From the first moment we are let into the diegesis of Singin’ in the Rain, we are provided with references to Hollywood culture and 1920s nostalgia. Mark Juddery writes an incredible interesting article about all of these references, and about how the film does such an amazing job of combining the more modern 1950s film style with the 1920s culture. One important mention in the article is just how historically specific and researched Singin’ in the Rain was. Juddery states: “This is what it was like around MGM in 1928–with a little comic exaggeration…” From characters based off of real people, like Pola Negri and Mae Murray, to references to places like the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, we are thrown tons of different important names from the time.

The changes that were taking place during this time were also shown extremely accurately. From getting used to microphone placement in films to getting used to the need to make dialogue both believable and enthralling, there were a ton of problems encountered by silent filmmakers trying to make it in the “talking picture” era. There were obviously a ton of gags done in Singin’ in the Rain that may have been a little bit over the top, like R.F. tripping over the microphone wire and causing Lina Lamont to go flying in the air, but the general idea of obstacles to the realization of a good “talkie” without any experience were all real. The actors obviously had a difficult time, too, many of them falling to the wayside because their voices or screen personas were not translatable to movies with sound. Though many thrived in the environment, most of whom had begun on the theatrical stage, there were many who had to retire and find a different career path, such as Norma Tamadge, mentioned in Juddery’s article as a woman with a thick Brooklyn accent who could no longer play the sophisticated star role.

Many people shared Clara Bow’s spite for the microphone and the sound stage, which is clear from her quote: “That microphone was a nemesis: if you didn’t record well, you were finished.” Though many transitioned smoothly, some actors and actresses had to be intensively trained only so that they could sound “more refined”. This change was necessary but proved to be a hassle and a difficult transition, and many producers opted to just hire actors directly from the stage who had experience speaking lines and memorizing dialogue. I think this is the most interesting part of the article because it shows just how Singin’ in the Rain, though seemingly just a simple film about Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden’s love story, is actually a rich cultural goldmine of references and experiences.

READING RESPONSE for 10/3/2010

Fuller – Chapters 7 and 8

Movie fan magazines started off without a very clear intended audience or a very broad range of content. They were comprised solely of fictional movie plots transcribed into prose, and were aimed toward both men and women of all ages. They started to make changes quite quickly, and within a decade were aimed toward a very specific sub-group of American culture: women. The magazines went from including the technological medium of filmmaking as an art, to focusing almost solely on the spectacle of the star and drama that was contained within the movies. “This redefinition … accommodated women and girls more easily than men.” (p. 144)

Something I found particularly interesting in these two chapters of Fuller’s book was the depth in which she described The Answer Man in 1910’s Motion Picture Story Magazine. To me, the most intriguing piece of information Fuller provided was that this man “declined to answer some of his readers’ most prying questions about players’ marital status and personal habits, which the MPSM staff judged to be too invasive of players’ privacy.” (p. 141) Most of the Hollywood news that we hear today is about celebrity gossip of this nature, so this show just how much these columns have changed. These magazines weren’t the fan magazines we think of today, like People and The National Enquierer. They aimed toward a more sophisticated palate and were not as interested in the “juicy gossip.” Only in September of 1915, according to Fuller, did Motion Picture Classic begin writing about “film actors’ private lives.”

READING RESPONSE for 9/29/2010

Lauren Pattullo – Busby Berkeley and Gene Kelly

I have been tap dancing since I was six years old, so I have seen many of the musicals that are mentioned in the article. Gene Kelly is one of my favorite dancers, so I have personal experience as an audience member with his films.

I see the huge difference between Gene Kelly’s story-based musicals and Busby Berkeley’s huge productions geared towards spectacle. What is most interesting to me from the article is the fact that Berkeley only directed the musical numbers, with all their pizzazz, and somebody else directed the narrative sequences. Gene Kelly movies had a narrative form in part because it all flowed together, with the same writers and everything, while in Berkeley’s films it seemed that the huge musical numbers were geared solely towards wowing the audience with elaborate sets and pretty women parading around. There was hardly any integration in Berkeley’s films between narrative and the showmanship of it all, and now that I know they were directed separately, it makes more sense.

Gene Kelly’s musical numbers were very much expositional in relation to the narration. They expressed his emotions or even purely his actions. For instance, in Singin’ in the Rain, he sings the title song while he is doing just that: singing and dancing in the rain. There are no musical numbers that do not fit into the story somehow and, though there are some numbers that could be labeled lavish or self-indulgent, nearing what could be deemed spectacle, they can always be fit in somewhere in the plot line. It is also a commentary on movies LIKE Busby Berkeley’s films, since the topic of the movie is talkies and the transition into musicals once diagetic sound was added into “motion pictures.” A great example of this is also in Singin in the Rain, in the musical number that goes with “Beautiful Girls”. The beautiful girls in question were being portrayed as spectacles themselves, kind of like Louise Brooks in Prix de Beaute. The number didn’t feel like it was a part of any plot line, but it would be added to a movie anyway to please audiences.

READING RESPONSE for 9/27/2010

Fuller – Chapters 4,5,6

Coming from New York City, I never really considered the differences between large and small town audiences, and their wants and needs. I always thought about blockbuster films as a universal interest that all people could relate to. Since I am not biased against films based in the countryside or in non-urban areas, I did not see any reason to consider differences between these audiences.

Thinking about it now, particularly after reading more of Fuller’s book, I realize that a difference in geographic and sociocultural setting could make or break someone’s enjoyment and understanding of a motion picture, particularly in the early 20th century when understanding of different cultures wasn’t as readily available as it is today. Today, we have television to show us other worlds through the Travel Channel, the Food Network, Discovery, the History Channel, and other mostly documentary channels, not to mention narrative shows. Even if we come from small towns, large cities are no longer foreign to us and we do not live completely separated. Travel is now much easier to achieve as well. Back then, I imagine it was much harder to go into cities and experience their world. Many people lived in closed off communities, and did not have everything at their fingertips.

I believe that this is why there was such a dichotomy between the films people liked, particularly the church-movie scene. In a gated town community filled with a more homogenous group of people with religious fervor, some movies may not have been considered acceptable. The church-movie phenomenon was a response to the thought of many mainstream fiction films to be distasteful and unsuitable for the good Christian audience. In cities, since there was a much more heterogeneous population with varying interests, religious, faiths and cultural backgrounds, there wasn’t this same taboo in showing certain types of films. In the nickelodeon era, this lack of censorship in what was shown at many movie houses, as well as the audiences that were drawn to the films, made people believe that the movie houses in the cities, particularly in New York, were of lower value and cultural significance than those in small towns.

Fuller mentions how this changed when producers and film magnates began to realize that the film audience in the cities were much broader than just the lower class. They began to establish “new, more upscale movie theaters and customers.” (p. 99) This is visible proof of the split between large and small town audiences, since this large change did not translate to small towns. The small town audience started being considered the less sophisticated viewership as film audiences in urban areas began to include middle and even upper class groups.

I think that today, film audiences in large cities are still thought of as more sophisticated, especially in commercial centers and richer parts of these cities. Also, independent cinemas are considered the ones with more sophisticated audiences that are open to less commercial films, and most small towns do not have independent cinemas; take Middlebury as an example. The cinema world has learned to congregate in large cities, though movies portray all worlds, and this is presented in many ways. One way that cities have become the hub of movie culture is through film festivals. International film festivals are held in cities around the world, such as New York City, Cannes and Toronto, and these festivals give out prestigious awards and are many times the first to show films. Small towns do not have the draw or international influence to have these festivals, and their audiences are no longer considered the more sophisticated like they were in the era of the nickelodeon.

READING RESPONSE for 9/22/2010

Amelie Hastie – Louise Brooks, Star Witness

It’s interesting to think of “the star” as both the character and the actor. When one is taken by a character, one imposes their attributes on the star who is portraying them. This makes the star more attainable to the fan: when they are connected with a character that is not physically there, they have an air of attainability in reality. “The star is at once ordinary and extraordinary, available for desire and unattainable.” We see them on the screen and can relate with them, but we will never be able to actually have them in our arms. We can fall for a character and a movie star, and we can dream about them, but the chances of ending up with one are extremely slim.

People can assume what they want about Hollywood stars, and this is somewhat attributed to the fact that the stars can choose to omit what they want from their real life persona, or how they portray themselves. In some cases, stars sometimes associate themselves with characters they play, particularly in fan fiction. Louise Brooks blurred the line between her character, Lulu, and her real self. We have talked about the ability to immerse oneself in a film or medium, and it is the same with actors who get extremely into their characters. For fans, the line gets blurred between character and real person, and they may think that their favorite movie stars are more like their favorite characters than is the case.

READING RESPONSE for 9/20/2010

Silence of the Silents – Altman

We always think about soundtracks to current films that add to the ambiance and sound design of the telling of the narrative, but we do not often think about the sound design of silent films. Each silent film was presented with different sound as no two live shows can be the same. There weren’t tens of people working on the sound design or mixing and adding non-diagetic sound. ALL of the sound was non-diagetic. Though we do not normally think about it, the movie LISTENING experience of early viewers is an extremely interesting topic worth mentioning.

One thing that struck me most in Altman’s article about sound and music in silent films and the role it played, is that early audiences were equally annoyed by babies crying in the audience and sound disrupting the movie watching experience. When one is fully entranced in a narrative, it is jarring to hear sounds coming from reality that interrupt the full immersion that one hopes for in the movies. Whether in 2010 or 1920, audiences are alike in their annoyance at non-diagetic sounds getting in the way of their movies. The music that is played during films is an important part of the experience, but can sometimes not work with the plot or story that is being told, especially if the music is not composed specifically for the film. We may be watching a silent film and have romantic music playing during a shooting scene or chase scene and feel completely detached from the film. This shows how important sound is, and why it is bizarre to have blind pianists playing during a showing of a film.

READING RESPONSE for 9/15/2010

Slapstick Comedian – Krämer

It’s always interesting to see how many actors and actresses started off in theater, particularly in vaudeville in the early 1900s. There were so many vibrant vaudevillian acts that Hollywood recruiters swarmed around the show houses. Many of the actors translated well onto the screen with slapstick routines or comedy. Buster Keaton is an obvious example, and the article points out how he was so hesitant to go into movies at first. This is such an interesting anecdote taken into consideration his ultimate success in film. Audiences at that time were a huge draw to the vaudeville stage; they made up a large part of the shows with their applause and laughter. Without the audience being directly in front of them, the Keatons had trouble envisioning a successful or fruitful career.

This is one huge difference between the world of cinema and that of theater. Though both involve a certain amount of audience participation, the performers are not there while the spectators are reacting and therefore cannot draw from the audience’s influence on them during their performances. This is a very important difference between theater and film performance: the direct influence of the audience. Though fan mail and interactions make it easier for film stars to gain access to their audience, they film on set and are therefore not privy to audience reaction. I never thought about this, but it was probably a huge worry to people who were used to an audience in vaudeville to try and make it in the film industry.

Laterna Magika – Burian

I do not know what to think about this article because it was so factual and based on chronology that it didn’t really add that much insight except for the detailed description of an entire half-decade worth of performances. The only thing that I can take from this article and connect to the class is the idea of spectacle as a universal draw to a show. Toward the end of the article, Burian mentions that Svoboda’s new shows are aimed toward an international audience, and are thus less rich in dialogue and more based around aesthetic pleasure. Ultimately, what a producer or director wants is to please his/her audience.