As you may know Netflix’s first original series that matters (did anyone even watch Lilyhammer?) has come out and it’s kind of a big deal. But for whatever reason no one I’ve talked to in person is treating it as such. Even my professors who are paid to teach about the media industry have barely brought it up, and consequently the students don’t seem to really think about why this matters. Yes, it has been briefly mentioned that Netflix is doing original content, but that isn’t what matters here. What does is the fact that they’ve released the entire season in one big drop. This model makes sense theoretically since Netflix is popular for binge watching, but as the show’s first-run this is something both revolutionary and completely problematic. It’s a move that could change the industry as we know it.
The ABC television series LOST is one of the great success stories of the aughts. The show was deemed a colossal failure before it even began by advertising companies, was notorious for being the most expensive pilot ever shot at the time, and even led to the firing of the network executive who developed the idea. Yet the pilot would go on to amass 18.65 million viewers in the U.S. (Kissell, 2004) and soon became a world wide phenomena, airing in over one hundred and seventy different countries and being titled the second most popular show in the world by appearing in the most top ten in more countries than any other show other than CSI: Miami (BBC, 2006). With ratings like that, the question of whether LOST counts as a cult television series gets brought up frequently. While LOST may not work with the traditional definition of cult, when one takes into account the metamorphosis of the term cult and what it means in relation to the current state of television, it becomes intrinsically clear that yes, LOST is cult television. In fact, LOST is a quintessential example of modern network cult TV that provides a case for why cult TV matters as it brings fans together to create dedicated communities, while also serving as a model for the future of industry.
Reflecting back on the final events that end the mid-season break of Breaking Bad’s fifth season it occured to me that the AMC series is essentially the television equivalent of the sociology study known as strain theory. Everybody’s favorite meth cooker Walter White begins the show as little more than your average joe. He’s forty years-old, belongs to a lower-middle income class, teaches chemistry at a high school, and works a second job at car wash. His life is boring, average, and at this point, uneventful. But when Walter learns he has lung cancer he realizes that the way his life is going he’s going to leave nothing behind for his family and die a failure of the American dream he once saw in his grasps. It is then he decides it’s time to stop conforming to society and instead start innovating, even if that means breaking bad in the process. Average American Walter White begins cooking meth and starts his transformation into drug lord known as Heisenberg.
Everything we view in the media exists as carefully constructed, but not always intentional, social commentary. Films and television series are endlessly edited and changed at the hands of executives in suits whose end goal is to make as much profit as possible off the product. Their job is make the video appeal to as many viewers as possible. By the very nature of the job they have to suck out the uniqueness and turn the heavy, vaguely sweet taste of pumpernickel bread into plain old generic Wonder bread. Often this metaphor is actually quite literal with main stream media being predominantly focused upon white males. The average lead of you big budget, blockbuster film or high profile network is almost always going to be a white male. They may throw in a female counterpart or an American-American best friend to so-called diversify the product, but in the end you’re viewing a product told from a particular social view that reinforces a white patriarchal power structure.
U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens does his job by a simple rule: shoot if it’s justified. Complete with his trademark stetson hat, the hero of FX’s crackerjack drama Justified is in every sense a modern day cowboy; a man who seemingly fears nothing and never winces when it comes to pull the trigger. It’s not so much that Raylan likes killing and shooting others, but rather he simply has no qualms with it. He loves his job and will do about anything to uphold the law, though not always through the traditional marshal methods. It’s because of this almost trigger happy attitude that Raylan is transferred from Miami back to his home state of Kentucky where he’s forced to encounter the various family members and hillbilly criminals he tried to get away from years ago. Upon returning home Raylan learns first hand that each character that makes up the colorful world of Harlan County, Kentucky seems to have their own moral code and ethic system that means to justify their actions.
In the 1980s a monumental movement took place within the realm of feminist studies when the idea of post-structuralist feminism was created. Post-structuralist feminism is based upon the principal that we as a society must look closer at the language order that teaches us to be what culture labels as “women.” It is only through viewing the cultural constructions that constitute women as different from men that beneficial change can be brought about to women. Unlike previous feminist theories, post-structuralism doesn’t believe that the difference between genders is biological, but rather that it is cultural. Society has created definitions for what is man and what is women, not our metaphysical bodies as the other feminist theories believe. This classifies post-structuralism as a form of non-essentialist feminism. They believe that everything that defines a women as a women is purely cultural. There is no essential femininity behind this social construction. Post-structuralists aim to look carefully at the relationship between a given gender identity and the patriarchal order that rules society. They want to analyze the ways through which sexuality and subjectivity are created concurrently.
Everyday we are surrounded by millions upon millions of signs. The amazing thing about these signs is our mind rarely ever consciously registers them, rather it just accepts them and automatically derives meaning. The study of semiotics is an attempt to look at these various signs in-depth. But before one can study a sign, one must look at what a sign is. A sign is made up of two parts, the signifier which is the image/object/sound itself and the signified is the concept it represents. Each sign has a two types of significations, which is the relationship between the signifier and the signified.
The following is a paper I wrote for my Gender Studies course in December. It’s a subject that is perhaps dated at this point as the flood of masculinity based comedies have all been canceled (with the exception of Last Man Standing which has moved away from said premise). Nonetheless I figured I’d post this essay regardless of the timing. Work It had not yet aired at the time of this paper so I focused primarily on just fall 2011 series, that being said I could’t resist using a photo from it.
Women rule the world, or at least that’s what television what’s you to think right now. Often times each year without trying the various major networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX) seem to create pilots, the first episode of a TV series, with similar themes and messages. Last year there was an abundant amount of shows based around the idea of couples in various states in their relationship and life (ABC’s Happy Endings, FOX’s Traffic Light, and NBC’s bluntly titled Perfect Couples). Sometimes the theme sticks more than others, but this year the theme ended up being more overtly political than usual. Just about every show this year revolves around the idea of modern gender relationships and exploring what is the core dynamic between the different sexes. While the idea of publicly addressing how gender is handled in today’s society is one that may be appealing, there is a subdivision within the theme that is perhaps a little disturbing and troubling to look at.
The following article is not critique or even really an essay, but rather it’s more of a loosely structured musing on the nature of The Muppets and an exploration on why they matter so much to me. I typically don’t post personal details on this site, but this piece will fit outside that norm because really that’s the only way I can discuss a topic so dear to my heart like the Muppets.
I love the Muppets. In fact I more than love them, I’m obsessed with them. I’ve watched their various shows and movies countless times on repeat. Kermit the Frog was easily one of my top five role models as a kid. He was the perfect hero to look up to. Kind, caring, smart, funny, and always in control (well to the best degree you can with that gang). Muppets also played an important role in developing my sense of humor, as they were my very first introduction to meta comedy, a love affair that I continue today with the TV show Community. Even at a young age I was amazed by the very idea of an entire show being about putting on a show and that The Muppet Movie features the characters watching the movie themselves was revolutionary to me as a kid.
Nostalgia is word that’s thrown around frequently today, yet its a concept that appears to be dying. Earlier this month I came across a blog post by author A. Lee Martinez titled “A Post-Nostalgia Society”, which triggered thoughts about the effects of living in a world where nostalgia has become a meaningless word. At its core the word means the desire to return to a former time, but living in the year 2011 its near impossible for the youths and young adults of today’s world to experience this. As Martinez points out everything someone under the age of 40 grew up with is still easily accessible, and not just in its original form but in countless remakes and reimaginings. In the article Martinez states:
“Traditionally, nostalgia comes from a longing for something you used to have. It’s that warm fuzzy feeling we get when we’re reminded of something we haven’t thought about in years. It’s remembering something, usually through the positive spectrum of faulty memory, in a fond way. It’s a movie you haven’t seen in over a decade. Or a toy you threw away when you were twelve. Or a TV show that you can’t quite remember the title of but you’re pretty sure at some point somebody fought a dragon with a laser gun and that it was the greatest thing you’d ever seen up to that point… Nostalgia also used to mean you were allowed to outgrow something.”
And now Viacom plans to profit off this unwillingness to outgrow our past with the launch of a new programming block on the channel TeenNick centered around the nostalgia of young adults from the Millennials generation. Titled “The ’90s Are All That”, the block is made up of classic Nickelodeon shows that aired during the 1990s. The first series to air on it are All That, Kenan and Kel, Doug, and Clarissa Explains It All, but the network says they’ll add more to the lineup as time goes on. Continue reading