Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Apocalypse took several hundred to complete, but it has already occurred, and now we are in danger of joining the Oblivious Walking Brain-Dead

I have always seen myself as a critically-minded person. I had always thought that I was adept as looking through texts of various genres from Hemmingway to a nightly news program, and seeing what others may not in analyzing texts. However, I have had to reconsider what it is to be a truly critical thinker.  What I have realized more and more is that the lens through which we look is vital to adapting and facilitating our ability to see what messages may be transmitted through the images, sounds, and texts to which we are endlessly exposed. How Marxist theory changes the themes, characters, and messages of everything we see is to notice a new world of oppression. Feminist criticism exposes the universal struggles of women and the ingrained, accepted patriarchy- enforced gender roles and hegemony that rule every aspect of our society is surreal.  One can see how the world at large has become a safe haven for an infinity of sexism and both openly cruel and sickeningly patronizing texts of every kind. These hidden messages that support these oppressive norms are have created the post -apocalyptic reality, and  we are all the  walking brain dead.  

I had completely missed many of the messages in television and film that were blatantly harmful to women, and perpetuated a culture in which men have a hundred portrayed definitions of “happy” and women only one – life in the home and time spent with family. Of course this is not to suggest that is not something that, in fact, does make many women happy, but it is not the only thing.  I had sometimes caught the sexism and the messages that all powerful women would really be happier at home doing laundry while combing through cookbooks, but admittedly, I more often was unaware and oblivious to the manner in which women and men are routinely portrayed. The lens of a feminist critical theory approach has completely altered every conversation I have and my view of everything I read and see – and just between you and me … that is saying something. I have to say there are now so many more ironies to behold and of which to be in awe. The montage of countless professional journalists and commentators weighing in on Hillary Clinton’s behavior and appearance reads as though it was written for an episode of Mad Men  and yet those who rail against feminism have the airwaves convinced that “Femi-nazis” are the real problem, and not the misogynistic norms of society. Of course what concerns me the most is how my own children will digest these messages and how it may affect my daughter’s identity.   

This affect is all clear once one acquires and focuses a critical lens. A lens  through which to focus our critical eyes and ears can change everything we thought we understood about not just the texts around us but what we think and believe. A critical point of view allows one to scrutinize and examine texts in specific paths of thought that have very different outcomes than when we simply observe or read, even when we think we are critical thinkers.
As we have moved onto other genres of pop culture, I continually see texts and behaviors that reflect the critical theories we have studied. I have in the past surveyed critical theories as applied to literature as an English Major. I was most struck with the applications of philosopher of Jacques Derrida and logocentrism –an idea which regards words and language as a fundamental expression of an external reality, or describing a particular sense of the relationship between thought, speech, and writing – one basic application is that we  cannot really think about anything until we have a word for it…. This has always explained my love of academia because academia names things. Once we have a name for something we can study it and take note of it and apply or fight against it. 

Critical Theory names the manner in which we are indoctrinated or numbed each and every day.  Critical theories give names and therefore disempower the modes of oppression and marginalization.   
As I look to the manner in which television is designed to addict and capture an audience, and the manner in which the internet and Youtube turn one shared video into a 3—minute time suck of mendacity, I had never before connected that with statistics stating that ”Two-thirds of wealthy people watch less than an hour of TV a day and almost that many—63  percent—spend less than an hour a day on the internet unless it is job-related.  77 percent of those struggling financially spend an hour or more a day watching TV, and 74 percent spend an hour or more a day using the internet recreationally,” and only 9 percent of the wealthy watch reality TV shows (Corley 2016). These stats are published in virtually every money and investment magazine from Forbes to Money. It is almost excruciating how this fits into a Marxist criticism of the entire structure of pop culture on TV and the internet. All is perfectly tailored to depoliticize and numb the masses so they will not notice how the powerful have it all and they are forever relegated to the powerless have nots.  Of course the wealthy  do not even consume the time-wasting television and internet memes and tubers, and ceaseless viral videos.

The pop culture post - apocalyptic world we inhabit is a wasteland of unread books and toddlers glued to hand-held screens just right for their little hands, and altered thought patterns (not for the better) and news anchors more concerned with viewer responses than the Fourth Estate, and an entire quarter plus of the population who believe that The New York Times is fake news and Fox news is the only place to get the truth, and The Bachelor –……. There are so many dangerously oppressive, sexist, mind-numbing, base hegemonic assertions in that one program , I can only hope that if we rise out of this wasteland manipulation of subversive texts the entire show will be a profane term – “you evil Bachelor-watching cake sniffer.”

In the meantime, we can only remain vigilant in seeing through the eyes of prophetic brainiacs who saw all this coming long before the first laugh track conditioned the need for a peer-pressured chuckle. Perhaps we will see and share more enlightened  content that supports texts with in which the marginalized and disempowered get an equally good seat at the table in our brave, new world.  

Corley, Tom  (September 8). 16 Rich Habits Your autopilot mode can make you wealthy or poor. 2016retrieved from

Punished by Rewards

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman proposes that television as a medium is attacking literate culture, by propelling the idea that everything it presents has to be entertainment.  As a result, television viewers come to expect everything they view through that lens and risk becoming harder and hard to please.

In his book Punished by Rewards, Alfie Kohn, noted journalist and author, makes this observation: “Clearly punishments are harsher and more overt…but rewards simply control through seduction rather than by force.  In the final analysis, they are not one bit less controlling since, like punishments, they are typically used to induce or pressure people to do things they would not freely do - or rather, things that the controller believes they would not freely do.”

In many ways TV has become a “reward” for Americans, young and old. Parents use TV as a reward for good behavior for their children.  Adults use TV as a way to decompress or reward themselves for surviving yet another day.  

However in the context of Kohn’s assessment of the danger of relying on rewards, his warning sound reminiscent of The Frankfurt School scholars.  It seems insane to imagine that 100 years ago millions of Americans would choose to consistently zone out for hours at a time on a daily basis, be bombarded with advertising demands to spend all their money and watch other people live fake lives.

And yet that is the reality for a huge percentage of modern Americans. We have been seduced into complacency and mindlessness.  And we LOVE it! Unfortunately, we all deal with this thing called Human Nature.  In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink cites research about the nature of rewards.  They do tend to work.  For a while.  Eventually, however, the reward becomes the baseline, and more is required for the same amount of satisfaction.  

You only have to look at the evolution of television and what is considered acceptable and entertaining to see this principle in action.  In the 1950s Leave it to Beaver was iconic and a family favorite.  Today it’s considered antiquated, unrealistic, silly and irrelevant.  Television producers continue to push the envelop and up the ante wherever they can.  An interesting example is Hollywood’s exponential increase in the use of swear words, once considered taboo and crass. 

What is your experience?  Do you feel the need to seek out entertainment that is more cutting edge or visionary?  Or do you prefer more classic shows, storylines, and approaches to your entertainment?  Do you feel your viewing habits influence your preferences?

What If Our Whole Life Is Just a Movie...

In many Tv Sows we see instances of how the world should be through the camera lens following around major tv shows. From shows like "Friends", "The Office", and "Parks and Recreations, we see shows that show a variety of different lifestyles that can heavily influence the way that individuals choose to live out their daily lives.
With all of these shows, we can see how their lifestyles affect society but with that being said, I'm starting to wonder if perhaps these shows aren't necessarily influencers but the influenced. In a popular show called "The Wire" that I used to watch with my dad is based on the crime scene of past and current times in Baltimore, Maryland. Another thing that I also wonder about is music. I know there are a lot of people that are saying that popular music genres such as rap, hip hop, rock and roll influence generations in a variety of ways but I'm also wondering what influences those songs? Tupac Shakur often talked about how his music was basically an audio painting of the stuff that he saw his fellow members of the projects and slums going through, through his eyes.
Now with all of this being said, my next question is if these stereotypes whether they be real or too far are actually factual and valid in some cases? My next question is do you think that society plays an impact on the media or does the media play an impact on society?

Pure, Wild, Animal Craziness

Throughout this semester I have written about several movies, for several different reasons. However, I haven’t ever written about any of my “top five all time favorites”. I think the reason I haven’t delved into the pop culture significance of these movies is because they are special to me. I can’t explain why I like these movies so much, so it is a little scary to attempt to write something meaningful about them other than “I like them because I do”. 

One of my favorite movies that I can explain my love for is, Fantastic Mr. Fox. 

Wes Anderson’s 2009 stop-motion adventure/comedy film is in my opinion, the greatest animated movie of all time. As I previously mentioned, I can’t always explain why I like certain movies, but as I read about Timothy Corrigan’s various elements of film, I could explain how each element plays a role in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox tells the story of a father trying to create a life for his family while still following his own dreams and aspirations. While Mr. Fox leads his family through peril, his son Ash struggles with the identity of being a youth while his cousin Kristofferson stays with the fox family. The characters in this film are compelling for a few reasons. 1) They are very relatable. 2) they convey emotions powerfully. Corrigan presents the question “What do [the characters] represent in themselves and in relation to others?” In fantastic Mr. Fox, Ash is the most complex character in the film. Ash is constantly trying to match the grandiose that his father constantly creates. Unfortunately, Ash just isn’t a natural athlete like his father. To make things worse, his cousin Kristofferson is just as impressive as Mr. Fox, and everybody including Mr. Fox notices this. To Ash, he is the magnificent and athletic fox that his father is, but to everybody else, Ash is a shadow of his father’s reputation.

The characters in the movie are often very relatable to people of any age. I’m certain that a good number of fathers who watch this movie feel Mr. Fox’s pain of wanting to give his family everything, but not knowing how to do it. Middle school age kids almost certainly feel a twinge of pain watching Kristofferson outperform Ash in front of all of his friends at whackbat. Typically kids movies contain a fair bit of innuendo to make the adults watching chuckle. Fantastic Mr. Foxsets up some heavy emotional situations that will go over the heads of children watching, while hitting home for adults. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox checks more than one box when it comes to great movies. Not only is the story very well told, and engaging for all 87 minutes, but it is an incredibly beautiful film. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion, and Wes Anderson flawlessly creates that feeling of childhood wonderment with his directing of this film. For most movies, if you randomly pause the movie you won’t find anything special, but with Fantastic Mr. Fox, every single frame of the movie looks like it could be a page in a children’s book. The signature Wes Anderson symmetry, the beautiful brown/orange color scheme, and the quirky and awe-inspiring sets make this movie one of the most beautiful pieces of art that I have ever seen, and I mean that with full sincerity. 

Rather than try to explain why this movie is so well made, I will just include a few screenshots. Each screenshot tells a story of it’s own, which is why I love the movie so damn much. 

The audience doesn’t need to be told that they are looking at the villain of the movie. The darker, red color scheme immediately signals danger, plus this man just looks flat out scary. 

Mr. Fox tries to explain his dangerous ways to his wife, while she listens sadly, knowing that Mr. Fox will never change his ways. 

 Ash stands, frustrated, after being outperformed by Kristofferson. Mrs. Fox paints, foreshadowing the storm that is to come. 

All in all, I can’t really explain why Fantastic Mr. Fox leaves such an impact on me every time I watch it, but I do have an idea. Wes Anderson seems to always create films that feel like a bed-time story come to life. Perhaps Roald Dahl, the author of the book this film is based on, is responsible for this, but I think that Wes Anderson’s art and character design is what makes this movie so phenomenal. I have seen this movie well over a dozen times since I first saw it two years ago, but every time that I watch it I still feel a sense of wonder, excitement, and happiness as I did the first time. Some films are created to make us laugh, some to make us cry, and some to exist purely as art. To me, Fantastic Mr. Fox checks all of those boxes, and then some. 

The Persistence of Stereotypes

Neil Postman, in his article Amusing Ourselves to Death states that the way television stages the world is the model for "how the world is properly to be staged" (Postman, 1985, p. 2). We have studied over the semester the "chicken egg" effect of how culture shapes media and media shapes culture; it is very difficult to determine which element comes first.

The same occurs with TV. Oftentimes, what is portrayed on TV is a reflection of what we see as "reality" or what we'd like to see in reality. We stage our world based on what we see in the media or in this case, what we see on TV.

When we watch TV, we want to be entertained. Newscasters are no longer responsible for only perpetuating thoughtful ideas, but they are required a certain panache when presenting material to their audience. The idea is less important than the performance which accompanies it. A lot of this makes sense because television is just that television and therefore, the medium requires a more interesting visual component, however, I agree with some of what Postman says in that the depth of an idea is less important than how the idea is communicated.
Image result for ron burgundy memes

Another idea communicated through television is that of stereotypes. TV portrays certain characters with certain characteristics which find their way across the board. The cheerleader, the jock, the geek etc. are all characters common to film and these are just to name a few.

Image result for girl and her posse from movies
Image result for cinderella story cheerleader
Although in many cases, these stereotypes are over dramatized and the audience is expected to know that these are extreme examples, the stereotypes show up often enough to warrant questions as to why these exist. What is it that continually causes blatant stereotypes to show up so often in film and television?

Image result for friend in spiderman homecoming
How do the perceived stereotypes on TV (mean girl and her posse, football jock, geek, etc.) play out in real life? Is there truth to stereotypes or does TV create these stereotypes?

Music, the Art of Organizing Sound

How does one measure success, especially in the music business? I imagine it is a very difficult task to accomplish. Still, it is a question worth contemplating.

Is the success of a musician determined by how much money he or she has generated throughout their careers? Is musical success classified by how long they have maintained their fame or is it just based on the opinions and critiques of those well versed in the music business (Simon Cowell for example)? Well, I think all these things reasonably could come into play when considering the main question under discussion. However, you have to think about the influence the lyrics have on people. Influence, not necessarily money or timeframe, is the most important aspect of measuring success, especially when it comes to music. Consequently, well-written lyrics influence people.

Now, that being said, who do you know that meets and even exceeds all these criteria? The answer is obvious, isn't it? The answer is Sir Elton John!

Briefly, I wish to review a section of an article that both describes and illustrates this point. One of my favorite songs of all time is Elton John's, Rocket Man (which brought me to the article in the first place). Consider how the opening lines came into existence told by way of a short story:

"The opening lyrics came to Bernie Taupin while he was driving near his parents' house in Lincolnshire, England. Taupin has said that he has to write his ideas down as soon as they show up in his head, or they could disappear, so he drove through some back roads as fast as he could to get to the house where he could write down his thought: "She packed my bags late last night, pre-flight. Zer hour, 9 a.m., and I'm going to be high as a kite by then...From there he came up with the song about a man who is sent to live in space as part of a scientific experiment" (

Inspiration drives action. I imagine Bernie's excitement was difficult to contain, not because he would make money off of the well-written song or increase his fame, but mainly because it would influence people for good, even if it was a small number of people at the start. Further reading of the article explains some of the words used which relate well to life topics:

"Rocket Man can be interpreted as a symbol of how rock stars are isolated from their friends, family, and from the real world by those with power in the music industry. Some lyrical analysis as part of the rock isolation theory includes:

"I'm burning out his fuse up here alone" - Rocketing through space on stage.

"Higher than a kite" - Feeling outside the box called normal.

"Mars" - "The place he is when he is high; do not need to be raising children when you are an addict (drug attic I am assuming). It is a "cold" place, being an addict and larger than life when you want to be "normal" and a "Rocketman" at the same time."

Abnormality, high off of drugs, and raising children are all mentioned and therefore communicated within the song, which seems to powerfully resonate with many people. I think this is just one song from one artist which accurately describes how to better measure musical success.

Questions for consideration:

What do you think though? How does one measure success, especially in the music business? Leave your comments in the comment box below. 

There’s no Business Like Show Business

In “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Postman claims that TV is attacking our culture. The issue is
that subject matter is presented as entertaining. There’s no business like show business. I wish to
explore a few cons, pros, and examples that illustrate the role TV plays in society.

TV encourages people to live in a lie. Weatherman and newscasters are just actors; it doesn’t matter
if they report good news or bad news because they have to smile either way. This creates a false
perception. News isn’t news, it’s entertainment. What stories are reported? The most entertaining
ones. For example, a baby boy named Senator was born during an election week and Senator Mike
Lee visited the premature baby in the hospital and KSL ran the story. Was that story essential news?
No, it was definitely entertainment. People care more about how a senator visited Senator and
complimented him on his potential to be a politician.

TV has also turned us into master entertainers. Postman reminds us that how television stages
the world becomes the model for how the world is properly to be staged. One example of us
becoming master entertainers from watching TV is prevalent in our social media use. Yesterday
my roommate was Snapchatting with her friend from biology class. Soon chatting turned into
bantering back and forth. My roommate paused and commented that she needed to come up
with a super funny reply to impress her friend. I found it interesting that my roommate spent
30 minutes coming up with an amusing reply just to entertain her friend. I’m not saying
entertaining is a bad thing, but it shouldn’t occupy all our time.

Postman claims education has become entertainment and is less valuable because of TV. I think
that education is more memorable when you make it entertaining. For example, when teachers
give examples in the form of popular movie clips, students are more likely to understand the
concept you are teaching and make a direct connection. Put information to a catchy tune and
people are much more likely to remember it. My roommate can still sing the electromagnetic
spectrum song she learned in seventh grade. Is it sad that society prefers seeing/hearing content in
an entertaining way instead just listening to content? Yes. Is it bad that society has evolved to prefer
entertainment? What are your thoughts? Are we over stimulated because of TV? Do you consider
Netflix to be part of TV? Fun question: What is your favorite TV show?

Women vs. Men

We live in a time where women are stronger than we have ever seen them. The world never knew how independent a woman could be, and how much inner strength they have had to raise a family on their own. Not to mention the knowledge they possess that has influenced the world. Through media (such as movies) as well TV (specifically watching politics) we are seeing the strength of women and their impact in society. We see movies like the Hunger Games, and we see politicians such as Hillary Clinton who show a strength that was never normally accepted. Women are becoming stronger and more independent. We have men being portrayed as incompetent, weak, and idle.
Image result for hunger gamesTelevision shows such as The Simpsons and Family Guy depict men with low IQs and inability to act normally in society. We also see less men graduating from high school, or even College over the years while women continue to increase. As we see this happening, it begs for the reaction for someone to take a step back and see what reality is truly like.
Image result for beauty and the beast
As we watch the hit movie, The Hunger Games, we see Katniss Everdeen being the bravest of them all and a symbol for a nation to look up to. While being hunted, she is finding ways to survive on her own. She is feared and respected because of her abilities and her intellect. This is a side of a woman that is rarely seen in the world. She broke downed walls that were meant to be broken. Other movies such as the recent live action Beauty and the Beast, we watch Bell who is portrayed as a strong and well-rounded woman who does not need a man to make her happy and valued. She had turned down the most handsome, strong, and most secure (wealth wise through his hunting ability) in her village. She had an inner strength and security about her that the Beast who was once a man had lost. In this movie, the men (Gaston and the Beast) needed the woman in order to feel valued and happy.
Looking at politics, there was a woman who broke history by becoming a runner-up to the presidency of the most powerful nation in the world. Hillary Clinton out spoke and outlasted many men who opposed her and made fun of her. Her intellect and her conviction led her to win her Democratic Party. Never at any time have we seen a woman in such a position. Many of her counterparts started to respect and support her as they had lost to her in the Democratic election.
Image result for hillary clintonToday looking at men in television, there is something different being seen than was portrayed years ago. The Simpsons show a husband, Homer, who does nothing for a job and craves donuts all day long. We see a father who gives terrible advice and has no drive for learning and education. His wife on the other hand is the sane one in the relationship. Marge, his wife, is constantly pointing Homer in the right direction and saving her children from the harm he has put his. This portrayal is very similarly expressed in the television show Family Guy. Looking at the movie Mulan, she is a woman posing to be a man in order to protect her family and her nation. It was a hard journey for her to gain the respect of her male peers but as she persevered and fought hard, as we see women do today. We saw a change from the men around her by the men looking to her as a leader at the end. The men she associated with were portrayed as men who could not focus their mind on the task at hand without Mulan. Their mind was focused on women who they had left back home. When Mulan showed them how to really train, they began to emulate her through their actions and held her in the highest regard as their leader. What was even more interesting was that in this movie Mulan is seen as a man when in reality she was a woman having a drive that women today possess.
When we look at women versus men we see clear increase in respect and admiration for women around us. On the other hand we see men often being portrayed in Media as something less admirable. Slowly but surely more opportunities are given to women but we are still fighting a situation that needs to be addressed regarding women's equality to men. Ideally it would be wonderful to come together to create a better and prosperous world for men and women.
What qualities do women today have then men seem to struggle with?
Why are men being portrayed as lazy and incompetent?

Speaking in Pop Culture

As we began the study of pop culture and discussed why it is relevant and worth studying, I had the thought that we all have levels of pop culture that correlate to the levels of our social circles. Previously, I was thinking about three levels of pop culture social groups (although if I was to get technical there would be more).

1. People you do not know/haven’t known for very long. For example, using pop culture to relate to the new person at work.

2. For the purpose of this post, the “in between people.” Again, pop culture is useful to help understand these people better, to have something to talk about other than your personal lives and to make a fun connection.

3. Family/Close Relationships. I would say traditionally we have our inner circle that doesn’t require pop culture to communicate with, but it is still present on a small scale. We have plenty to talk about without discussing pop culture topics.

After playing with this idea for the past few months, and then reading Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, I would still argue that there are levels, but I have more to say about the depth and complexity of each level. While pop culture is a useful tool for the first two levels, it has become a driving force in the third level.

Postman discusses how television is devoted to supplying its audience with entertainment. Even our news is a packaged product. It is creating an audience that no longer talks to each other but instead entertains each other.

“They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions, they argue with good looks, celebrities, and commercials.”

This was written in 1985, but it is more relevant today than ever. Today, we literally exchange images for conversation. Not only do we talk about pop culture to relate to others, we speak pop culture as a language.

We can have full conversations with people that are solely based on images. Now for this to work and be comprehensible, we have to share pop culture knowledge. I can’t send a meme of The Office to just anyone (or my mom) because they might not understand and for me to explain the meme is totally beside the point. So, this type of interaction can really only happen after I know someone well, probably in the third level.

I also want to add a fourth level: fandoms. Relationships you have because of pop culture. You may not actually know these people, but there is a sense of a deeper connection. These groups have fascinating ways of using pop culture as a language.

Coming back to Postman, we have gone beyond television, news and pop culture as entertainment and are looking to conversations, personal interactions, and daily life to amuse us. At times, I think we have lost the value of conversation.

As Postman said, “What all of this means is, our culture has moved towards a new way of conducting its business, especially its important business. The nature of its discourse is changing as the demarcation line between what is show business and what is not becomes harder to see with each passing day.”

How do you feel about distilled forms of communication like memes? Do you find the need to balance the lower level conversations with meaning content and discussion?

Hip-Hop has merged with Rock and Roll

Hip Hop has finally displaced the Rock and Roll scene.  Hip-Hop originated in the 70s . This was a time where Rock and Roll thrived in the music world.  Hip-Hop has scratched and crawled its way to the top of music genre all while going through and experiencing different genres and waves of music. Many artists have tried crossing over. Although few are successful in creating a following in a different genre of music most aren’t. 

Artists like  Lil Wayne, Tekashi69, and Trippie Red are some of the artist successful at this task. 

Hip-Hop and Rock and Roll or punk music both originated from New York, started around the same time and was played in the same night clubs.

I find it very coincidental that Tekashi69 comes from Brooklyn, New York and has created his own sound of music. Which can be considered Punk-Hip-Hop. With loud screaming similar to rock and roll music and a flow of lyrics that resembles hiphop he has merged these two genres of music together.