Sunday, May 6, 2012

Facebook and Digital Media


This week was the presentation on Facebook and studying Digital Media in the 21st century. Facebook has certainly changed how people meet other people, how people keep in touch, and the increased dangers of online predators and strangers out to harm. I have a Facebook, but I am definitely not on it all the time or even every day like a lot of my friends. For me it has really lost its novelty and I am just not comfortable with the constant back and forth of chatting and messaging and event invites. It all makes me really anxious and so I am just not on it every second of every day. Now I really only use it to upload pictures of trips with my family and finding out birthdays.

I really enjoyed how the group incorporated the Modern and Postmodern aspects of Facebook. It is very much a reflexive media; people are able to update every second of their lives, change activities on a moments notice, and receive instant feedback from their friends an family. People can create events for parties or graduations and change the time and dress code anytime without having to call everyone. people are able to behave and act in a certain way or project certain qualities about themselves that they want others to view them as, which may not be truthful to how they are in real life. They are able to hold multiple identities depending on how they want to be seen that day. Facebook also allows those who may be too shy or reserved to speak out about something to have a place to voice their problems or concerns and have their voices heard. Whether it be on their own page or a fan page of something they are passionate about, they are able to let out their desires to the world and not feel so constricted or silenced.

I liked how the group talked about the fragmentary aspect of Facebook, how it unites people but always deals in fragments of information. I liked how they brought up the 4 institutions of Modernity: industrialism, capitalism, military power, and surveillance. I also enjoyed how they involved the Market Research aspect, how Facebook can be used to get opinions and sales choices from average people and they can use that information to predict or change products and services. I liked their use of theorists like Saussure and the notion of signs and the signifier and signified. Derrida's idea of deconstruction and the "liking" of someone's bad day meaning getting enjoyment or merely understanding of someone's pain. There is also the prevalence of "indirect statuses" that people post where it is kind of a mystery what they are referring to. Foucault's Discourse and the history/timeline that Facebook allows people to advertise. Common interests come into play on Facebook, with people able to connect with people who have their same hobbies. Lacan's Psychoanalysis of the unconscious and the need for an ego-boost of some people, the need of validation for their lives. They want to show off how great their lives are to feel better about themselves. I also found it interesting how they incorporated Marxism and the concept of social classes in Facebook. The internet should be able to take away the social classes of people and make everyone equal, but Facebook still lets people make their wealth known by posting pictures of their new car or house, so there is really no escaping the hierarchy of class.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Presentation Reflection

                           South Park tv show photo

I have always been a fan of South Park, so I was really excited that I would get an opportunity to do a presentation on the show. I seriously never thought I would get that chance. It turned out to be a little harder than I thought. To me, South Park is Pop culture. It is able to cover every kind of subject known to humanity and develop critiques and comments on every world event or scandal that it wants. I knew this would be a challenge because one could pretty much teach a whole semester on South Park. I was worried about narrowing down what topics we could bring up for the presentation and avoid it being too packed or long-winded. It helped significantly to simply read Chapter 10 in the Barker textbook and the Moodle handout and figure out what aspects of South Park could be in tune with what the texts highlighted. This allowed us to form a somewhat organized path to follow and stick to the goal of incorporating the themes we discuss in class into the show.

I came up with the idea to cover the postmodern aspect of South Park where the creators deal with issues in people’s everyday lives. Everyone deals with race, immigration, capitalism, media, and religion one way or another in their lives. South Park loves to comment on those issues in ways that parody them and possibly show another, more humorous side to them. We would tell the class to think of a question while watching a clip from an episode that covered any one of the topics, and then discuss what the creators were trying to say or do with their representation. This allows the class to get involved in the discussion and possibly bring up ideas that we never thought ourselves. We also tried to stick with theories of pop culture and the theorists who thought of them. When you look closely at something that you simply took for granted or mindlessly absorbed, it is easy to remain uninformed about the conscious or unconscious actions that the creators perform in their own medium. We discovered that while South Park tries to remain unbiased and on a higher level of social screw ups than others, they too fall victim to unconscious patriarchal codes, such as focusing on the male over the female and having the women exist only in relation to the men. It shows that even people who may seem morally superior and without faults can still be fooled by societal norms.

In doing this project, I learned a lot about working with other people and sacrificing your own time in order to get together and discuss. I thought I knew a lot about South Park, but I ended up discovering deeper codes that the creators unknowingly perpetuate in their show. I learned that they follow ideologies like everyone else, but are able to make fun of themselves as much as other people. I had a lot of fun doing this project and I hope we are able to teach the class what we have learned in the process.

Rebel Without a Cause and Suburbia


Last week in class we watched scenes from "Rebel Without a Cause" and discussed youth, urbanization, and suburbia. The concept of a suburb seems to be middle to upper class white families desire for a real-life "utopia" of sorts to live in. They want two story houses, green lawns, white picket fences, and groomed yards. They want to live next to similar families of their own, with no minorities and thus no crime or gangs. The problem with this is that most of the time it is the parents who want it more than the kids, so the children tend to rebel against what their parents want and find ways to uproot the perfect setting. As portrayed in the movie, this results in the pretty white teenagers forming gangs of their own and causing trouble around town. James Dean's character Jim Stark is the new kid in town and he quickly learns how stubborn and mean the other kids can be. He tries to get to know a neighbor girl,  Judy, but of course she is dating the leader of the main gang and a real jerk who pushes Jim into a knife fight later on. Judy is dealing with her own troubles in suburbia, with her tension between her and her father and the growing lack of affection she is receiving, causing her to find it elsewhere and in bad places. 

Due to the suburban setting apparently resulting in the parents being less than involved in their children's lives, the teenagers rebel by being generally uncooperative and risk-taking in many aspects of their chosen activities. The teenagers pass the time getting drunk, riding in cars unsafely, intimidating other people, and generally just being delinquents. They have no real reasons to behave like this except that they are bored. This shows the downside to privilege and money. These suburban settings end up breeding teens that are spoiled and rich and seem to not have to answer to anyone. Their parents are too easy on them and almost ignore them in their dream lives in utopia, which leaves the kids with no outlet for their attitudes and aggression. This leads to them spending their time illegally and thinking of new ways to cheat death. 

Buzz, Judy's boyfriend and the leader of the gang, challenges Jim to a game of "chicken," where they will both drive cars toward the edge of a cliff and whoever jumps out of their car first loses. Buzz ends up going over and killing himself when his sleeve catches on the door handle, preventing him from jumping out when he should have. "Games" like this are beyond dangerous and completely pointless and is the result of the so-called suburban environment, where privileged sons and daughters think they are invincible and will do anything to pass the time. They will risk and risk and end up dead. They do not have anything to care about, so they do not put value on anything, even themselves. It becomes about trying to prove how tough you are and how much you can push the envelope. Kids flock to others like themselves and get peer pressured into doing stupid things the fit in. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Annie Hall

This week in class we viewed the film Annie Hall and discussed Postmodernism. Annie Hall was released in 1977 and was directed by Woody Allen, who also starred in it. The film seemed nearly autobiographical in that Allen played a Jewish comedian living in Brooklyn and went through the motions of a relationship that Allen may have experienced in his life. Diane Keaton played the title character which may have been actually based on her since her birth surname is also Hall. The film stands out by documenting an interesting relationship between interesting people and does not seem to follow any of the cliche Hollywood love story formulas. There are many awkward moments between the two, where both are kind of just bumbling over their words trying to figure out what to say to each other. There is also no happy ending where they look like they are going to stay together forever. It seems to follow the flow of a more average relationship between two adults, where no one is perfect and more often than not things just simply do not work out like you want them to.

Lukacs describes modernism as insignificant and too focused of aestheticism. He is more on the side of realism where nothing is sugar-coated and appearance is not placed above the deeper meaning. Annie Hall practices realism by going against the usual playing out of a love story. By showing that not everyone knows exactly what to say or do at the right moment or that everything can be worked out no matter what, it reflects more realistic relationships and people can relate more to the characters being portrayed. Lukacs describes realism as going "beyond the world of appearance to express the true nature of reality, its underlying trends, characteristics and structures" (Barker 187). Annie Hall does this by showing that relationships are not always romantic, pretty, happy, or without numerous problems. It shows the entirety of a relationship and all of the instances that lead to its downfall, much like how it would occur in real life. It even goes deeper into the unpleasant that is not usually shown in light-hearted movies, like trouble in the bedroom and even therapy sessions. This allows for a more believable story.

Annie Hall can also be described as a Postmodern film. The way that it breaks the fourth wall of cinema and talks to the audience through the camera allows those watching a more personal look into the actions of the characters. it is also the way the movie is fragmented, cutting from one scene to another, not necessarily in the proper order of events, and even doing flashbacks into past experiences. It demonstrates reflexivity in Woody's character Alvy bringing up instances from his childhood that may account for how he handles difficult situations and caused his actions as an adult. It is the matter of self-reference that Alvy digs into what went wrong in his relationship with Annie. He uses events in his past to try to explain what drives his reactions to things now that he is an adult. It manifests in him also trying to better fit into the social structure in which he exists. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012



This week in class we discusses romantic comedies and sex comedies and everything in between. We also saw clips from the movie "10" (1979) with Dudley Moore and Bo Derek as an example. Dudley Moore plays George, who just celebrated his 42nd birthday via a surprise party thrown by his lover Samantha. This seems to trigger a midlife crisis in George and he begins to become depressed about getting older, no longer able to go after young beautiful women and have casual sex anytime anywhere. He becomes withdrawn and rude to his friends and those around him. He even refuses sex with Sam, seemingly no longer interested in women closer to his age. His mind is completely obsessed with young women. I feel that in showing George pushing away a perfectly good relationship with a witty and charming woman his age in favor of silly daydreams, the movie is telling people to really focus on what they have and be happy. George is not thinking properly. His crisis goes into full swing when he happens to see a bride on the way to her wedding, Jenny. George sees her as the most beautiful woman he has ever seen and makes up his mind to find out everything he can about her. 

Eventually he follows her to Mexico where she is celebrating her honeymoon with her new husband. George is rather going into panic mode, so intent on forming whatever relationship he thinks he will accomplish with Jenny that he is willing to completely leave behind what he has at home and blindly stalk her. It shows incredible irresponsibility on his part. He does eventually run into Jenny and her husband on the beach. And fortunately for him, he has the chance to rescue her husband from floating out to sea and wins a date with her. And the date actually comes to a point where George has the opportunity to sleep with Jenny, despite her being being married. A phone call between Jenny and her husband while George is there reveals that both of them practice an open marriage situation. This apparently disappoints George since part of the thrill he was pursuing during his midlife crisis was the excitement of an affair. This new knowledge takes away the spark that George needed to continue his search for a rejuvenating relationship with a younger woman. He is no longer attracted to Jenny and returns home to Sam. Having gone through the whole experience, George has a new found respect for this time in his life and rekindles his relationship with Sam. He realized how uncaring and selfish he was being and discovered that his supposed real desire for young flesh and the reigniting of his youth was not worth it and not what he thought it would be. He found new ways to improve his sex life with Sam and rediscovered his place at his age. The movie looks to me like a sex comedy more than anything because the romance part does not really come until the end where George realizes he was taking Sam for granted. The entire movie is primarily about sexual desire and George's pursuit of it with Jenny, then finding out it was not really what he expected. There are many innuendos throughout the film and focuses on sexual relationships.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Technology in Films

This week I read "Images of Technology in Popular Films: Discussion and Filmography" by Steven L. Goldman. I enjoyed it immensely because I have always found interesting the popularity of films that portray high-tech equipment and "futuristic" human achievements. People love going to see movies like these because they want to see what the world could be like in the future. They want to believe it will be possible for everything to be done for them one day. For some people, the future is flying cars and jet backs, for others it is robots cooking and cleaning and serving them. There is a fascination with a utopian universe where anything is possible and there is no more war, famine, or violence. However, popular movies have portrayed an entirely different picture of future technology. In them, dystopian and apocalyptic results have occurred after scientists have created new and more powerful ways of doing things. Again and again technology is seen as destructive and anti-human. Robots created to service humans have become sentient and turned against their creators and taken over. Machines have backfired and waged war on civilization, destroying the entire world. It is never the scientists' and inventors' anticipation that there will be negative consequences, but it is the determined outcome. Movies have warned us of becoming too opportunistic and selfish with dreaming of never having to do anything for ourselves one day. It is painting a picture of one of many terrible outcomes to changing the environment too much. Goldman's work states that it is mostly science-fiction films that give this picture of technology being disastrous and killing those that created it. 

A more recent movie that I enjoyed that portrayed this as well is director Shane Acker's 9. In it is the view of a world directly affected by the machines that were supposed to prevent what it ultimately caused. It also brings up one of Goldman's points about movies having a scientist or engineer create something at the request of higher ups (military, presidential). In 9, a scientist is commissioned to make a fabrication machine by a dictator, who eventually uses it to make other weapons to kill his enemies. This leads to the machine becoming sentient and completely independent, making weapons without anyone telling it to. It results in a revolt by humans to destroy the machines, but they fail and the machines kill every human being. The scientist who created the machine regrets ever making such a dangerous invention and uses parts of his soul make dolls that he hopes will finally stop the fabrication machine and allow for life to exist in Earth again. This is a perfect example of the terrible consequences of investing in futuristic technology. It even shows the remorse of the scientist who feels responsible for destroying the world and dies himself trying to rectify it. I loved the movie because it also showed that there is still hope of humans will learn from mistakes and not be so eager to willingly doom themselves.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

James Bond


So this week we are preparing to hear from the group presenting Casino Royale and the infamous spy James Bond. We watched various clips of the movie Goldfinger and there were many references that I have heard in pop culture that I was able to see in context, but I also noticed how drastic the dynamic between male and female was in the film. James Bond is obviously represented as the epitome of manly men; a dangerous spy and unquenchable ladies' man. I had no idea how far it went in the actual film, however. The movie begins with Bond successfully completing a mission by destroying a drug lab, then immediately proceeding to seduce a beautiful woman. He makes it look so easy because it is supposed to be for such a suave guy. However, it becomes apparent that the woman means absolutely nothing to him when upon seeing a potential assassin in the reflection of the woman's pupil, he does not hesitate to put her in harms way and use her as a shield to get the upper hand on the hitman. She falls to the ground unconscious, Bond ultimately wins the fight with the guy. As she comes to, he simply grabs his jacket and exits the room with a corny one-liner. 

The blatant sexism continues as Bond uncovers more about the elusive Goldfinger and his gold bullion smuggling ring and ultimate plan to make his own gold even more valuable. Every woman seen in the movie is slim, beautiful, young, and incredibly easy to seduce. All of the women are turned into sex objects no matter what they do. They are also apparently simple to dispose of, as evidenced by Bond's female human shield in the first scene and the suffocation and gold paint-covered Goldfinger accomplice Jill Masterson. It is as if to perpetuate that the only thing women are good for is to look good in a bathing suit and maybe be intimidating with a gun, but not too intimidating. At the swimming pool before Bond spies on Goldfinger cheating at gin rummy, he is getting a massage by a beautiful blond woman. Before she can even want to know what is going on, she is shooed away by Bond because of "man talk" and she even gets a slap on the behind. God forbid a woman would just be curious about the events happening, it is obvious that she would not understand and be wasting their time with her small, infantile woman brain. It was just so interesting to see the representation of gender differences in the genre. It made it look so normal that almost every single encounter with a woman led to sex one way or another, at least normal for a spy. It made all the boys want to become secret agent spies so that they could treat women like crap and still get to sleep with them again and again, especially numerous women without any consequences or silly responsibility at all.