Westworld | Voiceover
The first video I want to share is the second exercise we had, using voiceover and a scene from our selected TV shows/movies. I had a hard time deciding what my voiceover should rely on, and after browsing through books from my middle school era, I decided to use a love letter Bryce Walker wrote to Juli Baker from Flipped, a teen romance story, and juxtaposed it with Teddy’s suicide scene in front of Delores from Westworld. For those who have seen both Flipped and Westworld might find this combination to be interesting since Flipped is a story about first love and Westworld is a combination of sex, violence, and technology. The reason why I did this is that Teddy and Bryce are drastically different characters yet still face similar emotional arcs: Bryce has always hated Juli as a kid but realized he was actually in love with Juli when he grew older. Teddy has always loved Delores but realized she has re-programmed him into a cold-blooded killer. As a result, Bryce decides to face his true self by writing Juli a love letter and Teddy decides to end his life because he can no longer stay true to himself under Delores’ control. The choice of living or dying doesn’t make too much difference when putting them together because both characters decided to become a brand new person, regardless of in which form.
Westworld | Epigraph
For the epigraph exercise, I chose Laura Mulvey’s essay on the male gaze and parallel her arguments with a scene from Westworld S2E5 “Akane No Mai,” where The Japanese Geisha, Akane kills an emissary from a local shōgun when he demands she turn over her dancer Sakura. Geisha refers to traditional Japanese female entertainers who are designed to please males. Unadmittly it is part of the Japanese culture but also reflects females’ submissive positions in a male-dominant society. The fact that Akane is Geisha and dancing to please males confirms Mulvey’s argument that women are objects rather than subjects in male gazes, however, Akane killing the emissary flips the narrative and opens up the question of whether such male gaze is being challenged throughout history, or in Westworld‘s concept, maybe such plot twist only exists in scientific illusions. I have also used two different types of fonts to represent males and females depicted in the video, while red color fonts raise questions of death, danger, or revolution, white fonts indicate given plain statements.
Spirited Away, Watchmen, Blade Runner, and Westworld | Epigraph
It was such a fun and fascinating experience to play with multiscreen, as it helps me to compare similar elements from various kinds of sources and connect them together. I found four consistent elements in Spirited Away, Watchmen, Blade Runner, and Westworld: discovery, mystery, intimacy, and revenge. Though it took me a while to find an overall theme to connect four elements in one piece. After watching Richard Misek’s video essay “The Black Screen,” I was inspired by how the darkness, either in forms of darkness within tv/movies or in forms of black screen that outlines the video frame size, can produce impactful emotions that using plain lights can never achieve. With that in mind, I found moments that represent my four formal elements using darkness from the existing media library. I was glad that I could use Spirited Away as my opening because it introduces the audience to a new world as Chihiro’s family walk through a dark tunnel, which connects to my intention of how darkness helps transform our worldviews. In addition to comparing darkness shots from different tv/films in this essay, I tried to incorporate darkness into my opening, transitions, and ending by using voiceovers, water-dripping sounds, walking sounds, and leaving dark frames outside of imageries.
A side note:
I have tried many soundtracks in order to make this video work but eventually landed on using the original sountrack of my chilldhood favoriate show, Rozen Maiden. The backgroud music for this execise is the theme music for my favorite character, Shiku:
And the soundtrack for my next video also comes from Rozen Maiden, however, it is the theme music for my other favorite character, Barasuishou:
This may sound silly, but Rozen Maiden is the anime that represents the best of my childhood memories. It was a magical moment when I found how well the soundtrack of my childhood favorite show works incredibly well with my arguments. Note that both soundtracks only exist when characters are battling against others in the dark. In a way, the soundtrack itself further validates darkness’s magical power across nationalities, genres, and different platforms.
Westworld | Desktop Video
I have to admit, I am not only in love with Westworld, I am also addicted to it. I can spend days rewatching it over and over again and never get tired. Many people have asked me why I am addicted and I decided to use the desktop video practice as an opportunity to tell the audience the story of how I fell in love with it. I had so much fun working with the desktop format and I was stunned by how personal the desktop format feels to me than voiceover formats. The thinking process through typing sounds, the pause between typing, the search sounds somehow mimic the experience most people had before: having thoughts in mind, browsing the web, and eventually writing all of them down. However, the desktop format is more performative and more thought-provoking since all actions and scripts in the video are designed and written out beforehand. I started out my video with the memory of watching Westworld in a beautiful ski lodge with friends and gradually connect the dream-like memory to the prevalent theme of dreaming in Westworld, and eventually raise the question of what is our true reality towards the end. To be honest, I did not expect to reach such a deep question by the end, but the editing process itself pushed me to overlay my reality on top of what Westworld is trying to tell us, and this video inspires me to make another analytical essay to discuss how different our reality is truly different from our dreams. After all, Westworld is not solely science fiction, virtual reality and extended reality are gradually becoming part of human lives in the near future.
Call Me By Your Name | Response Video
WARNING: If you are a fan of Call Me By Your Name, it is possible that this video can heavily disturb your perception.
I am a little hesitant of showing my response video but I decided to put it out there anyway. After watching the movie “Call Me By Your Name” and was moved by the love relationship between Elio and Oliver but disturbed by the fact that Armie Hammer, the actor who plays Oliver is facing sexual abuse/rape/cannibalism accusations. Those sex scandals remind me of Emma Hampsten’s “Women, Intimacy, and Sexual Violence in Hitchcock Films,” therefore I wanted to make an experimental video using audios and videos from Eiffie’s (she said she is Armie’s former victim) testimony, visuals from Call Me By Your Name, and commentaries on Youtube regarding this issue in response to Emma’s video. Emma presented how women are being mistreated and abused in Hitchcock Films, and I wanted to raise the question of whether those mistreatment depicted in films truly made an impact on our society. In both Chinese and American film industries, females are often raped by their directors for money and power, and male actors like Armie who face sex scandals are not uncommon. No matter how many times films and tv shows have emphasized females’ freedom and equality but many people seem to only see those depictions of suffering as entertainment rather than lessons learned for everyday lives. In addition, the comparison between Oliver and Hammer also explores how scandals from one actor can influence his character persona from film/tv shows.
When I initially watched the film, I was able to isolate the character from the actor’s rumors. But when I made a juxtaposition between Hammer and his character in the show, I realized the more energy I put into editing this video, the more depressing and disturbed I became. I am not sure if those allegations against him are true but one thing I am sure of is after editing this video, I can no longer look at Call Me By Your Name with the same mindset again. Until today, I don’t know the reason why. There are lots of improvements that can be made to the narration structure and storytelling formats. I have tried to come back to revise it but still was heavily disturbed by it. Therefore, I have decided to leave it as it is.
The Untamed | Final Video Essay/ Documentary
Ideas Within This Video:
When I first watched The Untamed last year, I was immediately drawn to the level of the ambiguous yet breathtaking intimacy the show depicts, knowing the fact that explicit scenes are supposed to be restricted due to China’s censorship of homosexual-related content. I have made some fan videos about The Untamed during J-term but never got a chance to closely study the intimate relationship between the main protagonists from the show as produced an impalpable sensual, even sexual chemistry that many other heterosexual romances can not achieve. There is no kissing, no sex scenes, no love confessions in The Untamed yet it managed to stay true to the novel and keep this drama as the love story it is. I started asking myself: why do I find intimacy with some distances more attractive? Is it because my brain and mentality are already very much used to traditional kiss/sex scenes from movies and tv shows? Or because I want to just take a break from heterosexual norms in media and The Untamed just seemed to be incredibly refreshing? I started looking for details from the show and then analyzed why those small details can create such strong emotional bonds between the character and the audience.
However, my perception changed a little bit after reading Mo Dao Zu Shi (MDZS), the original novel The Untamed, listening to some fan-made audio soundtracks, and collecting countless numbers of fan art. From the original novel to fan art, they seem to be more sexually explicit since they do not suffer from a very strict LGBTQ ban like TV shows do. Interestingly, while I was enjoying those novels, soundtracks, and pictures, I immediately picture love/kissing scenes with the fact of the cast members from The Untamed as if those moments actually exist in the show. After reading MDZS, my friend told me: “God, I wish they actually visualize those sexually explicit chapters in the show.”
But it will never happen. At least not from the short run. Not now.
Therefore, my next question is: do I actually want more engagement between those characters? Let’s say if they really kissed in the show, do I feel relieved, or do I feel empty inside? My mom always tells me: “distance creates beauty.” I believe there is a threshold of intimacy satisfaction across different individuals, but whether that threshold is controlled precisely is difficult depending on what the media is trying to express. To me, The Untamed has done it well. It is between the borderline of lovers and brotherhood with minor lines or gesture movements that allows the audience for imagination. But this is just my own opinion, and I know others may want something more intense than I do, which is further validated by the popularity of Word of Honor, another danmei adapted television in China but with more sexually explicit lines and scenes. So instead of purely expressing my thoughts, I want to juxtapose the original show with the novel chapters and fan art and let the audiences figure out the answers themselves instead. In other words, this video essay is supposed to be open-ended rather than making a solid argument.
Narration Methods Within This Video Essay:
I want this video essay to be creative and explorative yet maintain the original cinematic experience of the show. As I was editing, this video turns into half documentary-like and half video essay-like format because I was using my voiceovers to tell personal stories. After consulting Professor Jason Mittell and Louisa Stein, I managed to make this video work, however, the entire editing process is slower and more complicated than I expected. My methods are the following:
First, I start with some snippets of the two male protagonists that are representative of The Untamed, because I am aware many people may have not seen the show yet, so having a trailer-like beginning is more provocative and viewer-friendly. Originally, I wanted to dive into the intimacy analysis within the show directly, then Professor Jason Mittell made a very good comment on letting the audience know about China’s censorship to help people understand my video essay completely. Professor Louisa Stein also inspired me to use some creative methods in order to convey this message, such as using a voiceover to tell a story. Therefore, my second step is using my own voice to tell a personal story about me and The Untamed and how China’s censorship can somewhat impact the viewing experience. Interestingly, my classmates pointed out that my personal voiceover produced a god-like worldview that leads the audience to the magical world of The Untamed. I was immediately drawn to this god-like narration method, therefore I am thinking about using voiceovers throughout my entire video instead of only using it at the beginning. My third step will be jumping to the analysis of the intimacy depicted within the show and my fourth step will talk about how fanart, novels, or even imaginations can expand the intimacy beyond the original media text.
Up to this point, I have made a lot of progress on telling my story of The Untamed and how danmei culture and censorship are intertwined within the show, using images from The Untamed but replacing the original narrative with my own experience. However, it is hard to maintain a consistent theme throughout the video essay since I am having four different sections with different arguments within each segment. In addition, there are also some dramas within China media between The Untamed fans and Word Of Honor fans, and it bothers me to edit peacefully sometimes since I love both shows sincerely. Therefore, I have been taking breaks between each section and try not to rush all the content out at once. The current version I have may not be the final, but the final version will definitely be finished by the end of the summer. This is also an experimental project because my senior thesis will talk about The Untamed as well.
I hope everyone can enjoy my video essay, regardless of whether they have watched The Untamed or not!