My Take on Tina Fey

At the encouragement of my sister and parents, I started the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt the other day, and I adore it. To me, it is first and foremost great comedy and writing. Secondly, I think it has a great standing amidst fears of being politically correct humans.

The premise of the series is that Kimmy was one of four women kept locked in a bunker by a religious fanatic for 15 years; she comes into the present day of 2015-16 with absolutely no knowledge of how to be an adult in contemporary America.

One of the things that I love about the series is the writer: Tina Fey. She is possible one of my favourite public figures, comedians and women in the world, partly because her style of comedy is unadulterated and challenging.

She doesn’t shy away from ideas that are challenging in society, writing freely and provocatively about topics including sex and race in a way that makes me laugh at this inherent paranoia of being politically correct. For instance, in the first episode, Kimmy meets her roommate Titus after the landlady, Lillian’s, nonchalant introduction of him as ‘single, but very gay’ and ‘very black.’ Her matter-of-fact delivery is subtly jarring despite its humour.

I think something that draws me to this type of comedy is that it highlights the fact that in reality, being politically correct is something we overthink. Titus’ introduction is a good example of this, because in a formal essay or article he would be described as a ‘homosexual African-American,’ and while there is nothing wrong with this kind of description, it is overcomplicated and borderline pretentious.

If you were to watch another production by Tina Fey, such as Mean Girls or 30 Rock, you’d probably get what I’m trying to say. In Mean Girls, the first time Cady is introduced to her class as an exchange student from Africa, the teacher (played appropriately by Fey) is quick to assume that a black student ‘from Michigan’ is said exchange student. And in 30 Rock, there is an entire episode in which white businessman Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) gets black actor and comedian Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) to film a Republican campaign video to encourage black Americans to vote Republican; ultimately, Donaghy simply gets Tracy to say ‘Black people, don’t vote!’

My ultimate thoughts on Tina Fey is that in a time where censorship and political correctness is a hotbed of paranoia and anxiety, her humour is relaxed yet provocative. I am always going to have a biased view of her work since I adore her, but frankly I think that there needs to be more appreciation for this woman and the lens she offers us through which we can simply have a chuckle about how unusual, unfair or uptight the world can be sometimes.

My Take on Broadcast and the Post-Broadcast Paradigm

The second half of our lectorial today was about the role and nature of audience in media. Key terms that were discussed were broadcast and post-broadcast.

  • Broadcasting refers to how media is/was distributed to ‘mass audiences,’ mostly via television or radio. Broadcast media included things like the news or generic television shows catering to general demographics i.e. Families
  • Post-Broadcast refers to this idea more specific, niched audiences becoming consumers of media, rather than just simply mass audiences

I was interested in how the change in communication technologies have contributed to the change in how media is received. Distribution of media evolved from from TV broadcasts to online content, changing how audiences could access this content. When this occurred, media creators and practitioners altered their approach to getting audience attention by going online. Now there are platforms like Netflix, Apple TV, Spotify and TIDAL all encouraging the individual nature of consumers.

For instance, in the last decade, the cable network Adult Swim has become increasingly popularised as audiences are able to access their shows (including Rick and Morty, Aqua Hunger Teen Force, Robot Chicken and Family Guy).  The network has further developed itself by producing video games and music. Adult Swim’s penchant for creating mature, adult-oriented content in the form of animations and cartoons has attracted an incredibly tightly niched audience.

Without the formation of online streaming and downloading of media content, the kind of TV, films, music and content being produced would seem more generalised in the hopes of ‘entertaining the masses’ huddled together around the TV in the living room.

My Take on Copyright

Discussing copyright in our lectorial today was like a trip down memory lane back to VCE Studio Art. I’m grateful for having listened in those few Studio Theory classes on copyright, because a lot of what I knew came flooding right back: moral rights and obligations, duration of copyright and fair dealings.

We really only scratched the surface in VCE, and my first impression of the lectorial was a fleeting sense of panic: I immediately thought of any original artistic content, whether it was a drawing when I was 12, a photo series or a film that I’d posted online, and its vulnerability in cyberspace. Even further, what about things I had uploaded with copyrighted content? On YouTube, for instance, I tried to upload videos with a song from the 2007 film Hairspray, and about a week later the sound was muted because I wasn’t allowed to use the song. That, I think, was a fairly decisive but relatively appropriate manner in which to deal with the issue of copyrighted music being unlawfully used; I went on with my business, and forgot about the whole thing until now. In other areas of the internet, lack of understanding and the living, breathing environment of cyberspace makes enforcement of copyright laws nigh impossible except for in rare circumstances. But that is a post for another day.

Until this class, I always thought of copyright laws as being arbitrary. I still believe that to some degree, but now I feel I can respect those laws a little more since I have a better understanding of what is and isn’t allowed. For instance:

  • Ideas are not copyrighted, but content is

An idea can be recycled in anyway shape or form. If someone comes up with an idea for a film, and someone else wants to use that idea in their own ways. They may write different scripts or draw up different storyboards; as long as the actual material content of the films contains certain dissimilarities, everything is cool. It’s only if one of these products either takes content from the original, or replicates it until it is substantially similar, does this become an infringement of copyright. The only instance in which substantial similarities stop being grounds for infringement are when the product is made on the grounds of parody, satire, criticism and review or for educational purposes i.e. for an assignment.

  • Duration of Copyright

This got me a little confused. I remembered from VCE and had my thoughts confirmed that generally, copyright lasts for the remainder of the creator’s life plus 70 years afterward. However, the whole shimozzle regarding how to deal with works created before copyright was created in 1968 got me puzzled. The system of how copyrighted works are classified before 1st May 1969, to me, seems complicated and unusual. Then again, I was only able to see the slide for a brief moment before we moved on.

Copyright was a friendly little blast from the past in today’s lectorial, and I felt pleasantly as though I was eased into it having done Studio Art last year.

My Take on Medium Theory

For our PB4, my group has been given the subject of Technology and Mediums, and we seek to explore the evolution of cameras and photography since the beginning of the 20th century and its place within society as a media form. Relative to our topic of Mediums, I read through Meyrowitz’s reading regarding Medium  Theory.

To start off with, Medium Theory is the study of the distinctions between mediated forms (audio, print, text, visual, etc.) on social, psychological and physical levels. The simplest summary of the definition of Medium Theory in my opinion can be found in a quote by Marshall McLuhan, a literature scholar: ‘The medium is the message’ (1960s). The meaning behind this quote is that social influences that arise out of the media are influential not because of the message that is decoded, but because of the medium’s effect on recipients.

Distinctions made between different medium forms include the degree of verisimilitude ( ‘the appearance or semblance of truth[reality]”), the degree of human intervention and interaction required of varying mediums, and the degree to which a medium can be distributed or received simultaneously to many people in many locations at once.

Something that interested me in this reading was the history of medium theory being dated back to Socrates in ancient Greece. Now, first and foremost, I am someone who admires Socrates; my favourite quote by him is ‘All I know is that I know nothing,’ and it really feels relevant to my brain at this point of the year. Anyway, he argued that writing had negative effects on the mind; he believed that we literally no longer needed to use our brains to remember things because we could write it all down. This interests me in regard to the subject of mediums and medium theory because I see it as a fitting and humbling show of the beginnings of communication media studies, way before media was even a thing. Additionally, I find it ironic that Socrates thought writing was bad for you because if he was zapped across time to the present day, imagine his reactions to phones, tablets, laptops, smartboards, printing presses, etc.


My Take on Photography vs. Cinematography

A latest interest of mine has been practicing my photographic skills. Inspired by such talents as Ansel Adams, Lars Tunbjork and Bruce Weber, I have made sure my camera is used more in my day to day activities.

What has caught my interest lately is how different photographers are creatively motivated, and how this changes their style of photography. My fellow photographer partner in crime, who is studying a Bachelor of Industrial Design, prefers zoom and telephoto lenses, whereas I, with a keen interest in media and cinema studies, prefer a fixed wide-angle lens. My motivation is to capture story, meaning and artistic value through my photographs, and believe that my 24mm wide angle lens grants opportunities to mimic the styles of the Coen Brothers and Wes Anderson. However, the motivations of someone in the career of industrial design is to capture the most aesthetically pleasing image meant to communicate to a viewer the functions, appearance and design of a product.

This past week, I went down to Mornington peninsula with 4 other friends on a photography expedition. Armed with a Canon EOS 1200 DSLR and a Nikon FE2 film SLR, it was a nice break from the world to go down south and indulge in the incredible natural world.

There’ll be a follow up post about the developed film, but I gotta say, it was a little daunting. I only had about 25 shots a roll, and neglected to bring more than one. Oopsie! I was also nervous because the night before, I had managed to tear apart my last film roll trying to take it out of the camera. Lesson learned: Read the manual.

The shoot itself was daunting, because the beach (whose name I forget) and rocky rock pools that we visited was the epitome of ‘treacherous nature.’ Clambering up rocks and over agonisingly lumpy stones was exhausting, but worth it entirely as we saw the ocean breathing and crashing so close to us.

Baz Lurhmann’s Use of Sound

I like to think of Australian film director and former music video director Baz Lurhmann as a king of sound design. He uses diegetic sound in a way that is powerful and gripping, creating vibrant worlds that seem to assault the senses with exaggerated noises, foley and sound effects.

A scene that perfectly embodies the Lurhmann use of sound is from his 2001 film Moulin Rouge, early on in the narrative when protagonist Christian (Ewan McGregor) enters the Parisian nightclub for the first time.

Here, Lurhmann’s experience in making music videos is shown clearly; this is essentially an enormous music video. We hear several different songs, all MODERN songs, not of the year the film is set in (1899): Because We Can (Fatboy Slim) Lady Marmalade (P!nk, Lil Kim, Christina Aguilera, Mya) and Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana). Lurhmann often uses contemporary, catchy and rhythmic music in his films regardless of whether or not they fit with the time period; this is seen and heard in the Great Gatsby (2013). The use of modern music, particularly music associated with dancing and partying, creates a surreal atmosphere. It feels surreal in the sense that despite being in a different era and time, we can relate across time periods to the partygoing atmosphere.

Additionally, throughout the scene, the diegetic sound is clearly pronounced; the partygoers stamp in time to the beat, their clothes rustling is exagerrated, and as the scene progresses these sounds become more exaggerated, and emphasise a sense of the wild, rambunctious and unbridled excitement of the club. Additionally, the audience feels sucked into this hypnotic psycadelic whirlwind of the Moulin Rouge, and the use of the modern upbeat soundtracks allow them to relate to the scene; a wild Friday night at a bar or club.

Baz Lurhmann’s unbridled and indulgent use of sound and music sets him apart from other mainstream filmmakers, making him a king of sound design.

Cartoons are Just for Kids

That title probably “triggered” a few people out there so let me defuse the situation first and foremost: You just got clickbaited, without the clicking and redirecting to another page, unless you actually clicked on my blog, in which case: good for you!

Now. Are cartoons JUST for kids? How about we discuss what makes up a “cartoon.” From Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
Cartoon: (noun) A film or television show made by photographing a series of drawings : an animated film or television show

What part of this definition restricts cartoons to children? From this definition, anything made up of a series of drawings could be a cartoon; it could be gory, horrifying, lewd, surreal, anything. So why do we assume that anything that is ‘cartoon’ is something appropriate for children?

Let me elaborate: one of my all time favourite films is Hayao Miyazaki’s anime classic, Princess Mononoke (1997) which I first watched when I was about 9 or 10 years old. At the time, I believed the old “cartoons are for kids” thing, and imagine my astonishment when I saw limbs being lopped off and heads being slashed off at that tender age? It wasn’t until my parents actually checked closely did they realise that this cartoon was rated M15+ – i.e. Big no-no for 10 year old me (sidenote, I knew the whole time what its official rating was. I think the opening scenes with the big wormy boar gave it away; but it was a fantastic film, so sue me right?) Anyway, they decided the damage was done and let me watch it anyway.

Basically, what I am trying to get at here is that parents need to be more aware of a) how to check for and understand media classifications and b) they need to work out what they’re okay with their kids watching and consuming. I’ll also point out that I think I’m fairly liberal with what I believe younger people should and shouldn’t be allowed to consume, within reason. It’s so simple for us to assume at a glance that a cartoon is kid friendly, but the fact is there are so many animated films and television shows out there that parents would never let within 50 feet of their children if they knew what they were getting into; and they’re a click away from us all.

Parents need to be told that classifications aren’t put on movies, cartoons or video games just for decoration; the graphic designers probably hate having to ruin their gorgeous cover art with a little 18+ sticker. I’ve heard too often of kids going into stores like JB Hifi or EB Games etc. with their parents and getting copies of stuff like Princess Mononoke, DeadpoolDead Space 3 or other media texts with ratings of R18+ simply because we are made to believe too easily that video games, superhero films and animated series are ‘just for kids.’ No, they aren’t all for kids. Check your ratings; it’s not the media company’s fault that parent’s don’t take classification ratings seriously.

A Self Portrait

Our most recent assessment for Media 1 was to craft short film self-portraits. With only a week to make them, I feel a little shy posting mine here but figured hey, why not. I’m still quite inspired by what we’ve learned from experimental filmmakers, and took a kind of associational filmmaking approach; my aim was to juxtapose people with the landscape. My favourite part is showing how we react when we realise we are being recorded.