Tag Archives: Twitter

Worked Over: Jaclyn Santos’ Online Reclamation of her Work of Art Narrative

Worked Over: Jaclyn Santos’ Online Reclamation of her Work of Art Narrative

August 7th, 2010

In profiling Work of Art contestant Miles Mendenhall, I highlighted how his behavioural multiplicity both serviced and undermined traditional reality show narratives and editing practices; however, at the end of the day, the fact is that even those who find fault in Miles’ behaviour have few issues with his art. The series may have portrayed him as a jerk, but the series never went so far to blur the lines between his actions and his artistic expression.

However, I think artist Jaclyn Santos has a fair case for the fact that the editors were not quite so kind, although it is fairly clear how and why this happened. For better or for worse, Santos’ use of her own image created a direct connection between her behaviour and her artwork, and while this led to some of her most successful pieces it was also a key element in the producers’ efforts to paint her into a box throughout the editing process. If Miles carefully controlled his behaviour to appeal to the basic structure of reality television, Jaclyn purposefully positioned her work as both intensely personal and as a direct subversion of the male gaze, which gave the editors plenty of opportunities to paint her into a corner.

However, Jaclyn’s true subversion has taken place after the competition came to a close: frustrated with how she was being portrayed, her personal blog has evolved from an opportunity to celebrate her appearance on the series to an effort to reclaim her personal reputation and her artistic point of view from what she sees as Bravo’s manipulative editing. Investigating that blog offers a glimpse of something we rarely see: a reality contestant confronting their depiction head on, in the process heightening the series’ clear – and likely unintended – willingness to unearth the contradictions and conflicts inherent in reality television as a whole.

While I’m sympathetic to her frustrations, I think that her post-show efforts to set the record straight has transformed her experience from lemons to lemonade, and furthered the series’ reputation as the most frustrating yet fascinating reality series in recent memory.

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David vs. Goliath vs. Laziness: Potential-filled 2010 Oscars Lack Suspense, Muddle Triumph

David vs. Goliath vs. Laziness

March 8th, 2010

If you were going to watch a television show where two characters reach for the ultimate goal in their chosen field, one as the popular frontrunner and one as the almost-forgotten underdog, I think there’s a lot of dramatic potential there. There is something about the battle between David and Goliath that should automatically draw us in, and while Avatar and The Hurt Locker are not multi-dimensional characters (cue 3-D joke) they are fairly compelling award show narratives.

And while normal people, according to lore, only watch award shows to see things they like be liked by stuffshirts, people like me watch them because of the politics, because of the predictions, and because of the sense of surprise and anticipation. We watch them because we see a narrative in their story, able to chart momentum as the show goes on, moving towards the big award of the night with the pulse of a great year in film…ideally.

The 2010 Oscars will go down in the books as a rather colossal failure, the polar opposite of the simple and understated Oscars that followed the year before. In some ways, the show took risks not that dissimilar from last year’s show, but a few major missteps combined with some absolutely disappointing material from hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin resulted in an infinitely cynical response that, unfortunately, became the pulse of this show.

What was supposed to be thrilling and exciting, the story of two films in an epic fight for victory, became the story of how the show’s producers chose interpretive dance over cinematic integrity, and the predictable winners in most categories did little to keep this Oscars from being tepid, uninteresting and, perhaps worst of all, uneventful. A show like this should be an event, and this…this was just sad.

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On the Edge of My Seat (Closing My Eyes): Anxiety, Twitter and my Olympics Achilles Heel

Day Seven: On the Edge of My Seat (Closing My Eyes)

February 18th, 2010

When Martin Brodeur stopped the final shot in a shootout which secured Canada an all-important victory in its march towards Hockey Gold at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, I was on Twitter.

I’d like to tell you that I spent the final moments of Canada’s tense shootout victory over Switzerland on Twitter because I was interested in researching how people respond to sporting events in tweets, but the real reason is somewhat more embarrassing. Truth be told, despite the fact that I had recused myself of all personal investment surrounding Canada’s quest for hockey gold – “It’s okay if they lose,” I said naively – my crippling inability to handle suspenseful sporting events continues to be my achilles heel.

In 2002, as Canada faced off with the United States for the Gold Medal in Salt Lake City, I spent the third period on the second story of the house alternating between pacing with my ears plugged and putting a pillow over my head to muffle out any possible sounds from my family watching the game downstairs. It’s a serious issue, perhaps even downright psychological, but I just can’t handle the pressure: even when I have no actual investment, where I’m quite fine if Canada is unable to win a Gold Medal, I somehow internalize all of the pressure that the diehard Canadian hockey fans feel, and the pressure that’s on the players (some of whom are younger than I am) to perform at a high level. Basically, I am a helpless vessel for the transferral of crippling anxiety when it comes to suspenseful and meaningful sporting events.

And so I learned of Sidney Crosby’s heroic Shootout winner over Twitter, and Martin Brodeur’s clutch save was communicated to me through the same medium. In order to make myself feel somewhat better about this, I want to talk about how people were responding to the game through Twitter, and how it’s changing (or, as it turns out, not changing) my Olympics experience.

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Goodbye, 2009: A Brief Rumination on the Year That Was

Looking back, 2009 was a great year for television, and I’d also argue that 2009 was a great year for the online television community.

This has been the first year where I have felt comfortable self-identifying with a particular term within that community, “critic.” It isn’t that I would suggest I only started writing criticism this year, but rather that being unaffiliated with any media outlet, and lacking any formal journalistic training, places me in a liminal position between critic and “blogger,” a term which has gained an unfortunately (and unfairly) derogatory context over the past number of years.

Friend of the Blog (and of myself – I just really like the term “friend of the blog”) Dave Chen wrote a piece this week in response to a charge that film bloggers are killing film criticism as we know it, and he rightly argues that such a claim makes broad generalizations regarding the quality of bloggers writing about film. It’s a fantastic read overall, but this passage in particular resonated with me:

Fragmentation is not death. And film criticism can still remain a respected form of cultural examination, far into the future. But it starts with a spirit of acceptance and magnanimity. When those who have been doing this for a long time try to help those who haven’t – instead of lamenting the current state of things – I think we’ll all be better off.

And it got me thinking of what 2009 meant for me personally, in the year where I entered the world of television criticism in earnest. I won’t pretend that there isn’t the same sense of vilifying fragmentation in television criticism (as this essay demonstrates), but I would argue it is a minority opinion; considering my own experience, entering into the world of television criticism based on a blog which started with no such intentions, I have been humbled and honoured by the level of support offered by established critics. Through the joys of Twitter (which saw an increase in critical presence over the past year), critical dialogue has become a collective conversation about this medium we love, a conversation that I’ve loved being a part of even within the confines of the digital space. There was a moment earlier this year where a large group of critics (myself included) got into a lengthy discussion about Chuck and a number of other subjects, and I pondered aloud where else such a conversation could take place. The immediate answer I received was a bar (touché), but the idea of recreating in a digital space that type of interaction has (in my mind) invigorated the television critic’s position in the online television industry.

So, as we enter 2010, I wanted to thank all of the critics who have been kind enough to interact with me over the past year, as well as my fellow bloggers who have added their own voices into the mix. At the same time, I also want to thank all of Cultural Learnings’ readers for commenting and offering your own voices into these conversations; I want to be able to follow the examples of those who have much more experience at this in terms of interacting with readership, so I truly appreciate any tweets or comments that may come my way. I firmly believe that the online television community is in fact a larger whole, and that critics, academics, bloggers, readers, and simple viewers are all working towards a common goal of the appreciation (whether critical, academic, or just for simple pleasure) of this medium.

My only hope is that the year to come continues to demonstrate the collective intelligence and love for television that exists within this great group of individuals, whether they be established critics who do this for a living or people like me (or, people like you) who do it out of pure enjoyment.

All the best to everyone in 2010,

Myles

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FOE4 Musings: Chuck vs. Fan Management vs. Fan Facilitation

Chuck vs. Fan Management vs. Fan Facilitation

November 20th, 2009

Currently ongoing at MIT, the Futures of Entertainment 4 Conference is a gathering of academics, industry leaders, and interested parties for a discussion of how “the creation of transmedia storyworlds, understanding how to appeal to migratory audiences, and the production of digital extensions for traditional materials are becoming the bread and butter of working in the media.” And while I’m not at the conference myself, through the joys of the #FoE4 Hashtag on Twitter and some extensive liveblogging it’s as if I am, which is a wonderful feeling for an academic who is isolated from these types of major conferences by geography and funding both.

However, as regular readers of Cultural Learnings know, I rarely engage in wholly academic discussions in this setting, and in terms of this conference I’m particularly interested in the convergence between the discussions being held at the conference and my own experience looking at both television and the culture that surrounds it. In particular, this morning’s panel (moderated by friend of the blog Jason Mittell) on transmedia storytelling from the perspective of the producers (both in terms of third party companies who work on tie-in websites, etc., and those who are in charge of organizing those efforts) raised an important question that perhaps Henry Jenkins put best in a tweet:

There’s obviously an ideological difference between the two terms, one designed to control and the other designed to empower, and in an example like NBC’s Chuck (which, as announced yesterday, is returning in January) we can use these terms to describe the challenge facing the show’s relaunch.. The successful fan campaign which “saved” the show and earned it a third season was facilitated indirectly, as fans created their own transmedia experience by taking product placement and turning it into their own mini-marketing campaign.

And, as a result, NBC is in a position where Fan Facilitation and Fan Management start to blur, as the existence of an existing fan base more often inspires networks to attempt to control and manipulate that group rather than understanding the intelligence implied in their earlier behaviour and using that to their advantage, risking turning them away and squandering the potential they offer.

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Modern Family – “En Garde”

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“En Garde”

November 4th, 2009

I have mentioned on numerous occasions that I love the interaction that Twitter creates between critics regarding various TV shows, and today was a fine example of that. A single comment from Alan Sepinwall that Parks and Recreation could be the best comedy currently on the air resulted in a wealth of comments, some of which defended Modern Family as, well, the best comedy currently on the air. This resulted in a conversation between myself, Matt Roush and James Poniewozik about ABC’s new hit comedy, in particular the sense of “warmth” that has defined the show in its early episodes.

My argument is that the show has been TOO defined by that warmth to the point where it’s become expected. Part of what made the pilot stand out was that it went from a traditional sitcom (with the various family settings) to a simultaneously absurd (Lion King, anyone?) and heartwarming (Jay coming to terms with his new grandchild) conclusion. However, a lot of the episodes since that point have done exactly the same thing, and while the absurd has remained pretty strong due to some great performances the warmth has begun to wear thin for me. It’s not that I don’t think the warmth is an important part of the show’s identity, but rather that when it presents the same way every single time.

“En Garde” is an enjoyable episode that has some nicely absurd moments and some nice subtle comedy, but the conclusion feels forced in a way that could just be the show’s shtick but also seems to me to be simplifying the show’s formula to a fault.

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The Big Bang Theory – “The Pirate Solution”

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“The Pirate Solution”

October 12th, 2009

Usually, my reviews of The Big Bang Theory end up devolving into my frustration with the show’s treatment of Sheldon (a subject that many disagree with) and the ill-advised nature of Leonard and Penny’s relationship (which pretty much everyone agrees with, outside of a vocal minority), but “The Pirate Solution” is a rare occasion where I get to focus my analysis elsewhere.

I often feel that the show is held back by is adherence to the sitcom tradition of a fundamental lack of character development, focusing instead on character interaction. There are episodes where I totally buy into the value of this, accepting that although it holds the show back it nonetheless can result in some really fun comedy. However, there are episodes like “The Pirate Solution” which focus their attention on a character and in the process remind us that while some have turned into full-featured individuals others have, well, not.

Raj Koothrappali is a character who, like Penny, is a good foil for nearly every other character, but when you isolate him on his own things become starkly simple. Kunal Nayyar is an engaging actor, but the problem with Raj is that his lack of development is proving detrimental. When the show designates a Raj episode, it means the show recycles cliched India jokes and once again has Raj’s inability to speak to women prove detrimental. I won’t argue that this isn’t entertaining, as I think the Raj parts of this episode were charming; however, I think that there’s a point here where I wonder why Raj needs to be reduced to these stereotypes, and at what point his evolution would only improve the show’s dynamics.

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Tactless Logic: The Emmy Awards Time-Shifting Fiasco

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Tactless Logic:

The Emmy Awards Time-Shifting Fiasco

The Academy was so close to getting away with it.

Every year, the Emmys are faced with a mountain of criticism that no other award show really deals with, as the show in and of itself is part of the medium that it judges. While the Oscars or the Grammys are television presentations, the critics who analyze them as award shows are not likely film critics, and lack that personal connection with the material being dealt with. With the Emmys, however, the same television critics who (rightfully) criticize the Emmys for failing to recognize certain performers or certain shows for various reasons are the same ones who watch and criticize the show itself, making it a darn tough job to be in charge of the awards show.

This year, they are in the unenviable decision of having to make dramatic changes after two disastrous experiments: first, FOX confused just about everyone with their “Theater in the Round” setup, and last year ABC allowed the Reality Competition Program hosts to host the event and nearly caused a riot amongst angry critics questioning the lack of humour, chemistry, and just about anything worthwhile. They’re in the position where they needed to make changes, but when critics are always on the lookout for potential concerns they needed to step very carefully.

The changes they came up with, and revealed this week, were changes designed in order to streamline the show, allowing more time to let critic-approved Neil Patrick Harris do his thing, and to clear the way for the show to be more engaging for the audience at home. Their purpose alone, is quite logical: everyone wants a better show, and people acknowledge that there need to be changes for that to happen.

Where the Academy (particularly producer Don Mischer) went wrong, however, is in how they sold these changes, changes that demonstrate a logical understanding of some of the award show’s struggles and yet also a tactless understanding of how critics, the industry and other observers would react to their reasoning. If sold differently, these changes would have remained a sticking point but one that would have been over time forgiven: as it stands, it’s a scandal that isn’t going away anytime soon, and a scandal that’s standing in the way of the Emmys making a much-needed comeback.

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Chuck Me Mondays: Season One, Episode Two – “Chuck vs. The Helicopter”

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“Chuck vs. the Helicopter”

Season One, Episode Two

There was a time when I wasn’t sure if Chuck was going to work, and I’ll admit right now that Chuck vs. the Helicopter was the beginning of this feeling. As I noted last week as we started this Chuck Me Mondays project, I really liked the pilot, but this episode kind of lost me due to a few little plotting quirks, some of them the result of the traditional post-pilot adjustments and others a problem of definition. It may seem odd now that we’ve seen two seasons worth of the show, especially the amazing work in season two, but there was a time when Chuck was really struggling to find its footing.

That said, there are plenty of things to like about this episode that, if suffering from a bit of a necessary but offputting crisis of character, nonetheless send the show on the right path moving forward.

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Twitter-reviewed: Survivor, Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters

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Once I get this enormously far behind with some of the week’s shows, writing blog posts isn’t really possible – I’d have loved to have dedicated a half hour to ranting about the one-dimesional Grey’s Anatomy, but if I did I wouldn’t have had time to see the tribes finally merge on Survivor.

So, I did what any self-respecting and laptop-owning soul would do: I sat with my laptop, caught up on four shows from this past week, and Tweeted my thoughts. The end result was perhaps an over-explosion of tweets for my poor followers (Sorry! I’ll spread it out more next time), but it’s also some bite-sized thoughts on these episodes.

So, if you’re wondering why I’m not covering some shows, following me on Twitter might just be a great way to continue to have a discourse on them here at Cultural Learnings!

Grey’s Anatomy

Started watching Grey’s, and Alias flashbacks had me pausing it and digging into some media studies essays instead.

Onto ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Melissa George? Decent. Mary McDonnell? A bit one-dimensional. Ghost Denny? Le sigh.

‘Grey’s’: A week after dumping Hahn, introducing two new characters that only have one speed is not going to help the controversy.

‘Grey’s’: I think the Izzie/Denny storyline would have taken a more interesting turn if she had burned down the clinic to erase his memory.

[I didn’t tweet it, but seriously: Ghost Denny is physically real? Ugh.]

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