Tuesday, January 22, 2013
"GIRLS on Film: Secrets, Seduction and Reclaiming the Body on Camera" at Indiewire
"We don’t often see women having agency over their own bodies and, indeed, much of the focus surrounding Dunham’s nudity has been on her insistence on placing her characters in a range of strange, unfulfilling, and sometimes humiliating sexual situations. But the scene I love most in Girls is the one of Hannah naked and happy, eating cupcakes in a bathtub. This simple image is strangely radical: a private moment where we see a woman enjoying her body just as it is, a naked woman who exists for no one else."
"The funny thing about Hannah and Fiona is that they have pretty much the same job. Hannah works at a coffee shop and Fiona is a cocktail waitress (though that’s just one of Fiona’s many gigs). In context of the modern economy, it’s not hard to picture the two rubbing shoulders. As the service sector grows and the opportunities for the middle-class shrink, young people of all classes find themselves making minimum wage together, and our class distinctions are getting more complicated as a result. Retail and food service are where the post-crash jobs are"
Friday, January 18, 2013
The show's success is drawn from rich, sometimes challenging storylines. That push network TV norms and hinge on mystery in semi-serialized narrative.
The New York Times:
“She’s the most complex black female lead we’ve ever seen in prime time,” Dr. Cooper said. “You’re not getting an archetype, you’re not getting a stereotype, you’re getting a fully fledged human being,” she said."
"Asked whether she felt any pressure being in this unusual position, Ms. Washington... She said in an e-mail: The question was: Are audiences ready to have the stories that we tell on television to be more inclusive? Are we ready for our protagonists to represent people of all different genders and ethnicities?” "OWN:
"[Olivia Pope] is a fully realized woman," says Oprah. "She's not just in this role because she is African-American. [She represents] a new moment for our culture."Indiewire:
"The other week, as the debate about the depiction of torture in "Zero Dark Thirty" raged on, I chatted with Alex Gibney about his upcoming HBO doc "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God" and the piece he wrote in Salon about his issues with Kathryn Bigelow's film, which he felt misrepresented how useful so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" were in finding of Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, on TV, Huck (Guillermo Diaz), one of the main characters in Shonda Rhimes' ABC drama "Scandal," was accused of attempting to assassinate the President, taken to a windowless room somewhere and tortured in an attempt to get a confession."Parents Television Council:
"On the very same night that Vice President Joe Biden met with entertainment industry leaders to discuss the issue of media violence and its impact on children, ABC—the television network owned by a company named for Walt Disney—aired an intense, explicit and bloodied torture scene during its show Scandal," the PTC wrote in a statement Tuesday.Jezebel:
"Scandal's a runaway success not because it's a black show from a black writer but because it's a great show from a great writer. (Although let its inclusively be a lesson to the networks and showrunners who can't manage to employ any people of color… What's stopping you?)"
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
A few days ago the blogosphere picked up the story of Googoosha's new YouTube video.
So, why should you care?
A Quick Google Search and...
Googoosha's Dad is the Dictator President of Uzbekistan, Islom Karimov.
It's like if Uday Hussein had gotten his brothers together and started a boy band.For real. Gerard Depardieu helped. No, Seriously. Her second single is a duet with him.
While the song is pure pop, it is one of the more chilling pop songs I've ever seen. The juxtaposition of who this woman is, and what she has grown up around put into the context of the milieu largely populated by Reality TV stars heavily autotuned and YouTubed is giving me a serious existential crisis. But for posterity, for future generations who will read this blog as a link from a twitter post in the library of Congress, here's a recap of a specific facet of the phenomenon.
For those of you unfamiliar, viral pop music videos are a huge thing among the "famous for being famous" set. Especially women. They're an essential part of the modern album release and a staple of Internet humor sites. If you're reading this when I post this blog post, you were alive in 2012 and know this, because in 2012, the viral video truly united the world through online and mobile distribution, you can go to any country in the world and dance to Gangnam Style with a stranger.
In the nineties every Disney Child Star with a TV Show also had an album: Lindsey Lohan, Amanda Bynes, Hillary Duff, Demi Lovato & Selena Gomez. A trend likely built from the success of the Mickey Mouse club's past alumni: Annette Funichello, Justin Timberlake, Brittney Spears, Christina Agullera... the list goes on. So, as goes these Disney stars, so goes the aspiration of young women (and old). The idea becomes: if every famous person is a multi talented snowflake capable of having a popular show and a platinum album, then every person on television should be able to launch a music career.
|Don't even get me started on Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana has a lot to answer for.|
Let's be honest with ourselves, not everyone is good at everything. Someone who is clearly a skilled model, like Tyra Banks, clearly has a strong business acumen to have established a TV empire and respectable business endeavors. She tried to release an album and parley her other successes into the music business. It didn't work because well, making music is not her finest skill and ultimately the audience didn't respond the way she had hoped.
Autotune and the means of video production being more democratized means that more people can make music videos and distribute them at lower cost. What once was considered the exclusive per view of record companies and signed bands is now available for thousands of dollars, and there are many businesses and producers that will make your video if you have the cash. This has produced some great things, that's not in doubt. Bands like Ok Go blew up thanks to embeddable videos, Carley Rae Jepson's Call Me Maybe. These are now who are getting signed, who are finding their audiences and dozens and dozens of others singers, bands and mini-celebrities that you can find that suit your musical interests and desires.
|Social Media Analytic data should be measured in microBiebers and macroBiebers|
Why Yes, that is the DARPA Cheetah Killbot next to him.
|Creative Commons with Attribution: @Caitlin_Burns|
Rebecca Black's Friday was released in 2012. Ms. Black's parents paid the ARK Music Factory a fee to create a professionally produced music video and get it seen online, hopefully propelling her to music fame and fortune. Ms. Black's song became a byword for the horrible things that can be paid for and produced if you have the money and the ability to become infamous and a tale of how infamous a person can be for signing a bad song. For Rebecca Black; who it really cannot be stressed enough was a 13 year old, had the fortune to have the money and support of her parents, there's forgiveness. The song is rather terrible, and terribly catchy, and it created tremendous opportunity for her because of it's viral awfulness.
In another decade, the video would never have been seen. Ms. Black's parents money might have purchased the video but it's unlikely that it would have been distributed. Ms. Black has years to hone her craft if she chooses and should she decide she wants another crack at the music business, does have a name to play off of, and a serious reputation to build from and overcome.
They get the ratings and they get paid. They may have been wealthy before or not but as soon as they're famous they get the bug to be more famous and more successful. So many of them have made music videos. The most notable set are from the Bravo epic continuum of "Real Housewives". Wealthy women who get in fights over perceived gaffs, snubs and talk about each other behind their back.
Someday I promise to dive further into all of that, but today I want to focus on the music videos. Patient Zero for this phenomena, at least for me as an audience member, was Countess LuAnn's "Money Can't Buy You Class".
Wait, it may have been Kim Zocolak of The Real Housewives of Atlanta's "Tardy to the Party"
The Hollywood Reporter says the the second of these, "Tardy For the Party" is the most successful financially of these to emerge from the glut of autotuned, objectively terrible but hopelessly viral videos that surround the Bravo franchise and give the reality show celebs a reason to go on the talk show circuit during the off season.
"The most successful song to emerge from the franchise? "Tardy for the Party" by Atlanta's Kim Zolciak, written and produced by fellow Housewife Kandi Burruss, which has sold some 101,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Factor in the piracy rate, and more than 1 million people own the tune -- despite Zolciak's questionable singing skills. The poorest performer: Michaele Salahi, one-half of Washington D.C.’s White House party crashing couple, whose “Bump It” moved a whopping 122 copies.But these videos are highly contextual, without the support of a popular television show, these women's videos would not be profitable, clearly, even with it, most are not. These examples though have spawned many imitators and aspiring reality stars to attempt to rise through the ranks of starlets to find their niche.
"These are fun, novelty records … not everything is a Grammy-nominated piece of work," says David Waxman, head of A&R at respected dance label Ultra Records, which signed and released two singles by New York Housewife LuAnn de Lesseps, including the autotune atrocity "Money Can't Buy You Class." He says "Tardy" influenced his decision to acquire the Countess LuAnn track. "She was popular on the TV show, the song was reactive, and we took advantage of it," says Waxman, adding that even with small profit margins, such tracks can have a long shelf life, re-emerging in reruns and syncs that could "cause a whole new surge."
I would post a number of examples but in the interest of your sanity, dear reader, and the fact that I need to buy stock in ear bleach before I subject you to the onslaught; I will only post two examples for your perusal. If you have favorite similar examples, drop them in the comments.
Hot Girls Have Problems Too
And who can forget CHET HAZE (aka Tom Hanks's son)
Lots of these videos seem to come from the same place: people with money enough to hire a professional crew and purchase some music producing and a heavy spackling of autotune. (I'm not going to even try to talk about autotune or it's crimes here) These people and the content of their videos, really what makes them so abhorrent is that they genuinely have nothing to say. They don't seem to engage people who push them in terms of the content of their lyrics or their internal motivations.
- "I'm Hot"
- "I'm Sexy"
- "I'm Rich"
- "We're Just Like You, Except We're Hot"
- "Look at my Money, Also I have Breasts"
- "Look at my shiny possessions"
- I apologise that you know about these now, that's time you won't be getting back
- I am all for everyone, of every race and socioeconomic class having a voice and a creative way to express themselves and share
- If your going to say something, please try and make sure that you are actually saying something of some value
Many of these efforts do not achieve success for the people who hope to gain from them, in fact they cost them lots of money.
Heidi Montag, the poster girl for Reality Stardom, is the strongest story I can think of to describe this absolute vacancy of meaning and the desperation for fame for its own sake I know of. Montag was a staple of reality shows for a few years in the aughts, starting on The Hills and moving on with a publicly toxic, very fourth-wall-breaking kind of bad relationship with another reality star called Spencer aaand according to a google search I just did are STILL doing this on reality TV. The reason she's the poster child for this sort of plastic vacant fame-for-fame's sake kind of thing is evident in her personal story, but also on her literal face.
To remain press worthy after her first album flopped, she literally turned herself into another person.
|This is a role model to millions of little girls who watch television... who's buying drinks?|
"Ex-reality star Heidi Montag has released a new album of four pop tracks even though her last effort died a hideous death and cost her $2million.
And the four tracks on it aren't even new - they're just repackaged versions of songs she released a while ago - Your Love Found Me, Party Is Wherever I Am, No More and Overdosin'.
The album called 'Dreams Come True' shows Heidi looking glam on the front cover wearing a cut out pink swimming costume, but, er, we've had a listen and we don't think even her gravity-defying boobs will save this album from going much the same way as the last."
So, why are we talking about this? and can I stop doing it and make the bad video research stop?
Well, while the vacancy and absurdity of many privileged fameballs is represented in videos the fickle mistress of Internet distribution does reward some interesting pieces. For example, Psy's Gangnam Style is actually a coup in South Korean pop not just because of it's wild international success but because of it's satire of wealth and aspiration to the trappings of the bourgeois.
From the Atlantic Monthly,
The video is "a satire about Gangnam [a ritzy neighborhood in Seoul] itself but also it's about how people outside Gangnam pursue their dream to be one of those Gangnam residents without even realizing what it really means," Kim explained to me when I got in touch with her. Koreans "really wanted to be one of them," but she says that feeling is changing, and "Gangnam Style" captures people's ambivalence.
So, let's take it back to the beginning. Googoosha's video with Gerard Depardieu, why is this video and pop star produced by a wealthy princess compelling. I'm going to repeat myself:
IT'S LIKE IF UDAY HUSSEIN AND HIS BROTHERS STARTED A BOY BAND.
This isn't the daughter of a plastic surgeon from Pasadena we're talking about. While I am absolutely and utterly revolted by the actions she and her family are implicated in I am disgustingly fascinated by the idea that in this pop song there is some insight into the perspective of someone who has been born into this particular space when and where it is, whether she is complicit in criminal acts or no.
Karimova — who moonlights as a fashion designer and pop star in between serving as Uzbekistan's ambassador to Spain and permanent representative to the U.N. in Geneva, and, you know, being implicated in trafficking thousands of Uzbek women against their will to work in the international sex trade.She's also a DIPLOMAT, which is as astonishing as it is compelling. This is not to say that political figures have no other skills, Let the Eagle Soar, anyone? This is a woman with actual political power, someone who has accomplishments outside the fame-for-fame's sake reference point.
Despite the Karimov dictatorship's abysmal record on freedom of the press, its brutal suppression of dissidents, and its fondness for torture, Gulnara Karimova, a Harvard graduate and a resident of Switzerland, travels to the U.S. frequently and apparently freely; she has shown her clothing line, Guli, at New York fashion week. That Karimova fancies herself a player in fashion is perhaps especially galling considering that one of Uzbekistan's largest and most corrupt industries, after oil and gas, is cotton. The country is one of the world's biggest suppliers of cotton for the apparel and textile industries, and Uzbek cotton production is notorious for its reliance of child and forced labor. Karimova also plays up her tenuous associations with various charities, including the Susan G. Komen foundation. Karimova is reportedly using a PR firm to secure fawning coverage of her various fashion-related endeavors ahead of this coming runway season. So far, the Huffington Post "Style" section has taken the bait.This is a perspective from an artist humanity rarely gets to glimpse into, and when it's done, it's worth taking a look. Even if it's uncomfortable to do so. What does this video say about her perception's of men and feminine power? What level of involvement did this woman have in the choice of the set, the actual lyrics? We know they're her clothes and EVEN THAT gives us some interesting perspective into the country she comes from even though morally the reason we know about her is because she's a controversial figure and may be a party to human rights atrocities.
It's auto tuned poppy ear worm combined with the political intrigue perspective is like my addiction to Takogo Kak Putin a few years ago. Lord knows I don't want to give money to someone wrapped up in human trafficking. So, I will rant about it online, because discussing it is probably the best thing we can do.
Because of the context I can barely handle not knowing. It is genuinely provocative. The questions it raises in the sociopolitical context of Uzbekistan and the attitudes of it's elites are fascinating. The fact that a political figure and unquestionably rich as Croesus Asian oligarch is using the same methods as any other rich kid with unlimited funds to get attention and get her 15 minutes of fame are both appalling and awkwardly precious, we really are all the same these days in some ways. Back to Registan.net:How dare, how dare, how dare you can be so different?Who dares? Is Googoosha’s the voice of jealousy that others can do what they want, but she is trapped by her position at the top of society? Or is it society’s voice (Uzbekistan? The international community?) judging her for trying to break free from the chains of her pre-defined identity and behaving in ways that are acceptable only for a man in her society (i.e., wielding economic and political power) or like a Westerner, in ways her father’s government inconsistently emphasizes are unacceptable for Uzbeks. The object of the song’s scorn is ambiguous.
How dare, how dare, how dare you can do it?
How dare, how dare, how dare you can be so different?
How dare, how dare, how dare you can break the wall?
The benefits to her of playing such destructive games with impunity are great, but limited to her home country Uzbekistan. For example, her attempt to buy success in the West by purchasing an advertisement in Billboard magazine to bolster her false claim that she had become a pop sensation in the U.S. paid no dividends outside Tashkent.
|Painted by Adolf Hitler. Maybe we should just build more art schools?|
Ambition to fame does not have to be a bad thing.
Hell, Autotune, like radiation, is a tool that can be used for good (in theory, I'm not sure I've got any examples of that, anyone? anyone? Bueller? Bueller?) I intend to push my kids as hard as I try to push the people around me to do something meaningful, even if it's silly or small in scope.
The ambition for fame can be a wholly consuming and destructive force that makes people twist their bodies and morals out of shape. Something that can backfire on you horribly and if you are unprepared for attention it can pull you deeper into insecurities and despair that can swallow you whole and spit you out again while the world laughs.
So think a bit about why you're doing the things you're doing as well as if you can do them. If you're talking about something larger than yourself you can likely engage in a fascinating discussion with the wider world, rather than being the butt of the joke.
And if a privileged woman makes an autotuned pop video that prompts greater attention and discussion of horrors and corruption in a part of the world that usually exists in a media vacuum... does it justify giving it attention thereby feeding her desire for fame?
Monday, January 14, 2013
There are few media properties out there that so sum up the excesses and obliviousness of pre-crash America quite like Sex in the City. That's not to say parts of it aren't enjoyable, I know I enjoyed the hell out of it as a teenager, when it was on TV. The movies may not have been the best... let's face it the second one was just plain awful, no good, can we forget it ever happened? But at least it was consistent with what had come before. You could imagine these increasingly aging, increasingly astonishingly wealthy characters involved in most of what went on there, even though to many they wished by hour 3 they'd chosen the root canal rather than a night at the movies.
Sex in the City is a cultural touchstone for many, a constant referential byword for Girls which seeks to take on its mantle as "the thing single ladies watch." But, while Girls seeks to cover the lives of single girls in new york in the new Millennium in its own universe. The Carrie Diaries is seeking to pick up the metaphorical Cosmo of the once powerful Juggernaut, explicitly in the Sex and the City story world and tell us about Carrie Bradshaw's early years.
Re imagine the youth of a character whose adulthood we've already seen, hit the tween market and build a franchise that primes an audience to explore further into that world when they reach an age where the HBO show's drinking, drugs and sex are more appropriate? Right? Wrong.
The name is the same but the story has changed. Broken down beautifully by NYMag's Vulture:
The backstory: Carrie's dad "quit" her and her mother when she was 5. (We probably didn't need to hear Ron Rifkin give a speech on daddy issues, but this was a backstory we could get behind.)Now watch this Carrie Diaries trailer:
The backstory: Carrie's mom died just before Carrie's junior year of high school. Her dad is a very present, Danny Tanner type (minus, so far, the vacuum).Video References at the original article.
Does that discrepancy matter?
There's also a class continuity issue, with the Carries.
Does it matter that the new Carrie Bradshaw no longer seems very "working class"? Greco thinks yes because old Carrie was relatable and funny, while the grown-up version of new-Carrie would probably be "intolerable." Sounds like Patti Greco just told The Carrie Diaries to check its privilege.But again, does that discrepancy matter?
Looking back at other reboots that the CW has tried, you see a variation on this theme. When bringing say, a book to television on the first time like Gossip Girl or The Vampire Diaries. Their track record is quite strong. Even though those television story worlds are wildly different from the publishing story worlds. Those discrepancies have not failed to remain bankable.
On the other hand, trying to adapt a television show narrative outreach to the model has not been as successful. As an attempt to make a Gossip Girl Spin-Off, Valley Girls, CW seemed to have tried its Sex and the City/Carrie Diaries model out.
A show about the mother of one of Gossip Girl's leads and her teen years, steeped in 80s style and the same sort of love triangles and class issues that are brought up by Gossip Girl. At the same time, not really. The characters were much more clearly lower/middle class than glamorous rich kids, allusions to scheminess but no delivery on the mean girl drama that made Gossip Girl a hit. Also, the actors were actually remarkably physically different from their adult counterparts.
Even with the addition of flashback story points in the highly popular Gossip Girl show, Valley Girls didn't have enough momentum to justify it's final green light as a series.
Things like cast chemistry and actor eye color can only go so far if the stories don't seem like they exist in the same world. Based on the flashbacks in Gossip Girl, it felt like another show altogether rather than simply a different time. Audiences for long form content (like a semi-serialized TV property) are willing to wait for story points to build but if they don't feel the same excitement they feel for a property already on the air, they probably will tune in grudgingly if at all.
The question of inconsistencies then seems like a bigger one. If the aspirations don't make the transition, can you find the audience you're seeking? can you make them stay?
If Carrie isn't fighting to get her job, or find her way to her future writing career, will audiences recognize her in the associated stories?
Sex in the City has been off the air for years, so the target market isn't glutted with the stories of the older characters the way Gossip Girl was, but only time will tell if The Carrie Diaries has enough similarities to pay off long term... and if the new audience will transition to the stories of the older show with the frequency and consistency for the rights' holder's gamble that a reboot will pay off.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
This Morning on the Twitters I noticed this article on Pretty Little Liars and it's social media marketing campaign. Now, if you aren't familiar with Pretty Little Liars or the CW in general, it's important to note that they have been actively reaching out to their fan base for years in a variety of experiments that seem to be paying off, if not all, at least enough to show the model to be viable.
The CW, growing quickly thanks to a ready stable of shows growing from Alloy Entertainment's I.P. for teen girls, has always been quick to connect it's web presence to its TV schedule. Ensuring that soundtracks, products seen in the shows, and ancillary items (like books) were pushed in commercial spots online and available at least in part after the premiere of any new episode.
A few years ago during the height of Gossip Girl's popularity, they created a facebook game that loosely followed a narrative, but was explicitly designed to get your social network engaged in the show. I played it at the time, was delighted that they were attempting to create a minor through line between the events of the episodes (I can join Dan and Blair at their internship meetings!) but stopped paying attention when the initial build of the connection between the show and the game petered off. It felt like a missed opportunity to me.
|For a Show about a Gossip-Sharing Website with push to phones... maybe you could have more gossip on web and phones than just on TV.|
I find that I lack a group of friends who I am willing to do invite to my "Transmedia Game Extension Book Club". [Those of you interested in helping me level up my My Little Pony social gaming network, help me get enough random McGuffin Ooze to play the Marvel Avengers Alliance Special Feature missions and any others that crop up, DM me on twitter.]
But I digress, my point is, if you're not social, these games aren't for you necessarily, but if you're a teenage girl with more social network than social life, you will dive right in. I was this once, I would have played all of them, endlessly. Basing my assessment of the networks success with these experiments based solely on the fact that they continue do to these things, it seems to be working.
Pretty Little Liars premiered with a secret-keeping/sharing app on mobile phones alongside the television premiere. Coupling this with the sort of year-round multi platform marketing we're seeing from Networks across the board, it's compelling to see how these social extensions are changing the way television networks look at marketing. The CW realized early that Teen Girls were an underserved market they could own, and own it they have.
The social factor for tween and teen girls couldn't be a bigger factor. While these extensions don't get as much press as they might, some pretty simple metrics, like those seen here, let you know just how strong the potential market for an additional extension can be, with the kind of social buzz you see here.
The immediate product pick up from 17K tweets to a fake twitter handle would absolutely drive traffic to a webseries (or app, or book) that takes fans on adventures when shows are off the air, in ways that are different and differently engaging than a behind-the-scenes with actors. Pretty Little Liars is just one show among many, that recognize the need for transmedia outreach to fans, but Pretty Little Liars and the CW are ones to look at for practices that take it to the bank for teen and tween girls, even when there is room for expansion into connected story lines and creative improvement on ancillary platforms.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
At minimum it's aspirational and maybe in 10 years we won't have to care so much, because attitudes will have changed, gender will balance naturally in these things and we'll all be over it.
Friday, January 4, 2013
From your new blog addiction Overthinkingit.com
"The popularity of the television show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” among the Brony community is based on the show’s depth: Well-developed characters, complex plotlines, and numerous allusions to other works. However, My Little Pony is not simply the story of talking, pastel-colored equines living in a place called “Ponyville”; it is also the most detailed allegory of Plato’s Republic ever written. Everything from Plato’s ideas on utopian society and government structure to his Platonic Forms has representation in MLP’s Equestria. "