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Blog Entertainment

A Study in T-Swift

Taylor Swift’s latest single (“Blank Space”) has been the talk around town since Monday’s release of its highly entertaining music video. The lyrics alone carry heavy implications towards Swift’s “in on the joke” attitude regarding media representation of her romantic endeavors. With catchy, impossible-not-to-sing-along lines such as “got a long list of ex-lovers / they’ll tell you I’m insane” and “’cause darling I’m a nightmare /  dressed like a daydream”, Swift’s message is clear.

“I feel like watching my dating life has become a bit of a national pastime,” Swift says. “And I’m just not comfortable providing that kind of entertainment anymore. I don’t like seeing slide shows of guys I’ve apparently dated. I don’t like giving comedians the opportunity to make jokes about me at awards shows. I don’t like it when headlines read ‘Careful, Bro, She’ll Write a Song About You,’ because it trivializes my work.” RollingStone, 2014

For nearly all of Swift’s career, she has been painted in mainstream media as something similar to a mythological siren: luring and trapping celebrity males with a beautiful song, only to quickly change the tune upon the end of the relationships. Taylor Swift’s dating life has been a spectator sport- or, in her words, national pastime- for years. Theorizing about who Taylor Swift has dated, why they broke up, and what songs she has written about them is secondhand nature to gossip magazines and its readership alike.

For this very reason, “Blank Space” carries a huge amount of impact. The song itself remains a strong representation of the entirety of 1989, Swift’s first ‘documented official pop album’. Both of the singles from 1989 (“Shake it Off” and “Blank Space”) are equal parts fun and anthem. From my perspective as a consumer, 1989 is huge risk, huge reward: and “Blank Space” perfectly exemplifies this. The subject matter Swift presents to her fans and critics alike in “Blank Space” introduces what music video director Joseph Kahn describes as “a deconstructivist version of Taylor Swift”, or more simply, the version of Taylor Swift that has been plastered in magazines and tabloids for years.

“For a female to write about her feelings, and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her, I think that’s taking something that potentially should be celebrated — a woman writing about her feelings in a confessional way — that’s taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist.” UsMagazine, 2013

Swift makes a huge, unmissable statement in both the song and the “Blank Space” music video. She is not the parody of herself that mainstream media loves to scrutinize and pick apart, and that is why she managed to throw the image back into her critic’s faces. Swift embraces the unintentionally satirical nature of her so-called ‘image’ and creates an entire music video satirizing both herself and her love life.

The siren is breathed into life, as Taylor Swift glides to and fro in a giant storybook mansion wearing gorgeous designer dresses and surrounded by seemingly ethereal horses. Her unsuspecting prey spends the majority of the video as a silent companion, until the second verse, when Swift wows with her lyrical fight segment. Other highlights include, but are not limited to T-Swift’s crazy eyes, the way she trips after attempting to beat up a tree, and the fact that Sean O’Pry is a Kennesaw, Georgia native. The real highlight is the entire music video.

“I kind of wrote [Blank Space] as a joke. I was thinking a lot about, you guys know, you’ve seen in the last couple of years, it’s been interesting what the media has decided to fictionalize and sensationalize about my personal life. It’s been pretty gnarly.  I was thinking about that. I was thinking about how they’ve drawn up this character, she’s like emotionally unstable, and needy and clingy, but she gets all these boyfriends but they leave her.  She’s devastated.  She goes to her evil lair and writes songs for emotional revenge. I was thinking about the juxtaposition of that and my actual personal life which involves just kind of me just sitting there with two cats watching Friends marathons. But I got to thinking about it and I thought, which one is more interesting to write about? I thought the character they’ve drawn up, although it may be fictional, it’s actually sort of interesting.” SecretSession Livestream, 2014

I have reached the portion of this blog where I am incapable of doing anything other than gushing incoherent praises towards Taylor Swift. Without further ado… “Blank Space”. Watch and learn. Maybe write a blog about it.

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Blog Entertainment

Mediocre Love Story

On October 24, 2014, ABC announced the cancellation of Manhattan Love Story, a dime-a-dozen sitcom featuring the quirky relationship of two unlikely protagonists: a young, fresh-faced twentysomething seeking financial security and love in New York City, and a jaded New Yorker with a self-destructive romance life. Summarizing the show isn’t terribly important (it was cancelled, after all)… just think Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 only without the star studded cast, without the quick dialogue, and without the cute coffee shop B plots. Insert Kickstarter campaign for ABC to bring back Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 here. 

As you may have already noticed, I’m not here to mourn the untapped potential of Manhattan Love Story. The concept of the show was half-baked enough without the poor execution, no matter how handsome I find Jake McDorman. I took issue with the show from the very start, but perhaps the most offensive flaws in Manhattan Love Story can be found in the character of Dana, as portrayed by Analeigh Tipton.

Dana is meant to be an ambitious, small-town girl living out her dreams in the city that never sleeps. She has all the staple characteristics of a sitcom heroine: a cute and easy wardrobe, endearing clumsiness, and a ‘quirk’ factor that sets her apart from all the other girls. With the success of Fox network’s New Girl, Zooey Deschanel in all her quirky glory at the helm, it’s no wonder freshmen sitcom are presenting audiences with newer, stranger female characters to adore and admire. The only problem is Dana falls just short in terms of substance. In the pilot, she prides herself on knowing how to text using proper grammar, although she has an unbelievable difficulty managing the use of her cellphone and additional social media venues without help from her ‘savvy’ or as I like to call it, ‘average twentysomething’ Amy.

The scene not only solidifies Dana’s character as a snob, but it also begs the question: what young person in the 21st century, seeking a corporate position or not, doesn’t know how to use basic technology? Dana is presented as a clumsy, fumbling idiot to the audience. In the writers’ effort to give Manhattan Love Story their brand of quirky, Dana becomes a rare breed… the technologically inept twentysomething. In one instance, Dana mistakenly updates her Facebook status several times instead of using the search tool. The very same gag was used in one of ABC’s comedies from last season, Trophy Wife. Bradley Whitford’s character not knowing how to use Facebook was a believable and hilarious inclusion on the show. Insert Kickstarter campaign for ABC to bring back Trophy Wife here.

Dana Hopkins’ inability to use a simple search function on a highly user friendly website? Not so much. The difference lies in the age. Dana is meant to be young, and motivated by her career passions; a millennial. However, in several instances within the show, she proves to be an anti-millennial of sorts. Dana Hopkins inept technological skills rivals that of the caricatures of elderly people featured in the popular Esurance commericals.

Two characters immediately come to mind when I think of millennial representation in television. Mindy Lahiri of Fox network’s The Mindy Project and Gina Linetti of the same network’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine are both highly flawed, highly egocentric characters with a vast social-media related knowledge. Gina spends an entire episode speaking only in emojis. Mindy once lamented the fact that she didn’t vine her own ill-fated engagement. Meanwhile, Dana fails to have even a basic comprehension of the way email and even doors work.

All in all, well-written sitcoms should not be this hard to come by and– if Brooklyn Nine-Nine, with its Golden Globe awarded only four months after the show’s premiere, is any indication– they aren’t. It comes as no surprise that ABC network would cancel Manhattan Love Story, it is only surprising to me that they encouraged production of the show at all.

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Blog Entertainment

Shawn Song

I’ve heard it both ways.


Not long after the 2014 winter television season began, USA Network announced the conclusion to the successful comedy Psych would air in March. For many, the announcement was expected. Lead actress Maggie Lawson’s spot on rival network ABC’s freshman endeavor Back in the Game had given many fans and critics reason to doubt the continuation of Psych.

However, some Psych-os held out hope. I was one of them. The cancellation of Psych was unthinkable in my eyes. With an eight season run, and an almost cult-like following (appropriately named ‘Psych-os’), the success of the show speaks for itself.  It wasn’t until reading a TVGuide.com interview with Dulé Hill concerning the finale that I came to terms with the knowledge that the show was ending. After commenting on the strength of the most recent seasons, Dulé stated that he felt the show was “ending at the top”.

The strength Dulé referred to comes from the show’s biggest feats, from the two hour event known as “Psych the Musical” (effectively a two part musical episode) to bagging each member of The Breakfast Club in dynamic guest roles such as Ally Sheedy’s portrayal of Mr. Yang, the popular villain introduced in the season three finale. Several of my personal favorite episodes or moments that occured on the show were at the direction of James Roday. Although Roday was fairly set with his role as lead character Shawn Spencer, he managed to find the time to direct eight separate episodes.

Nearly a month has passed since the conclusion of the series, a finale widely accepted. The series finale did the entire show justice by presenting the conclusion as more of a start than an ending. Psych fans everywhere appreciated tiny nods to some of the show’s earliest moments, in addition to a number of surprise guest stars. Halfway through the episode, one Psych-o tweeted “my tears taste like pineapples.” a statement unique to Psych and the fandom it produced.

Series finales are often paradoxes, as most fans desire to see the show continue regardless of how many successful seasons it has had. By and large, fan reaction to series finales is a mixture of dismay, defeat, and delight. It was no small miracle that Psych managed to dodge the bullet so many series finales face.

For all the seeming simplicity of the finale, Psych managed to accomplish where other finales of the 2014 season seem to have failed. There were no surprises, no confusing plot twists meant to leave audiences wanting more. The Psych writers team knew this was their moment, and they did not disappoint. Psych creator Steve Franks was fortunate in that respect- he was able to conclude the series just as he’d envisioned.

Every character in the finale episode of Psych saw a conclusion as well as a beginning. For some, it was the conclusion of one career that would lead to the advancement of another. For other characters, the conclusion was more abstract. Carlton Lassiter’s (Tim Omundson) conclusion, for instance, was one final act of character development. Once given the opportunity to be proven correct about his assumption concerning Shawn Spencer’s “psychic” abilities, Carlton destroys the evidence rather than hear the rest of Shawn’s confession.

I say this is the final act of character development for Lassiter because the very next moment shown is a wide shot of Chief Carlton Lassiter in his office, calling his wife to talk to his newborn. The image is vastly different from that of the pilot episode, where the audience is shown a frustrated man on a quiet downward spiral. Similarly, when asked what the best thing about working on Psych was, actor Tim Omundson responded “the best thing about working on Psych for eight seasons, hands down, is the people. They’ve become my family.”

The series finale stayed true to the foundation of the show, featuring strong dialogue and a focus on the various relationships that have grown out of the eight series run. Psych began as a series focused on a charismatic lead with Peter Pan syndrome and ended with the same charismatic lead making somewhat uncharacteristically grown up decisions.

In comparison to other series finales, the Psych series finale is fairly mild. However, in my mind, the series finale served up a great deal of delicious flavor. With neatly tied up plotlines and a general theme of new beginnings, this Psych-o has no complaints. I can live with a lack of gotcha! moments and character deaths if the trade-off is a series finale full of happy endings and beginnings.

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Blog Entertainment

#VeronicaMarsMovie

Let’s shift gears. The change in blogging style shouldn’t be too surprising, as this is the same blogger who referenced Tom Hanks in her exploratory Mystory project so many times that it became the focal point of a small joke between the other participating members.

So, Veronica Mars. Rob Thomas and crew take to the silver screen in a delightful Kickstarter-backed cinematic debut that (I hope) by now every single one of you has experienced for yourself. If you haven’t, kindly do so… and probably stop reading this blog post until you do. This is my subtle way of saying there are spoilers ahead!

As a fan of the television series, and subsequent backer for the film, I have to say I was thrilled with the outcome. I had a few small questions when I left the theater, but every good narrative leaves the audience with some sense of incompleteness. If the audience is so enthralled in the world presented within a two hour movie that they leave with a handful of questions about where the characters go from there, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I brushed my first question away almost as immediately as I thought it. “Why did Veronica get back with Logan so quickly after ending things with Piz?” I mean, the distance between Piz breaking up with Veronica over the phone and Veronica falling into Logan’s arms is literally one scene. It’s a pretty pivotal scene: Keith Mars is able to uncover the tip of the iceberg concerning Neptune’s corrupt police force before he becomes the victim of a clearly targeted car crash. I had an issue with the pacing at first, but there are a lot of reasons why I can see it was done the way it was. First of all, they obviously only had so many minutes they could dedicate to balancing out the Piz/Veronica breakup and Logan/Veronica reunion. I appreciate that there wasn’t anything going on between Veronica and Logan while she was still dating Piz (aside from the easy banter and occasional lingering glances) almost as much as I appreciate the fact that Piz was the one to end the relationship.

I don’t believe for a second that anyone truly considered Stosh to be the endgame option for Veronica.The fact remains that Piz and Veronica’s relationship was inevitably going to deteriorate. Thomas does an excellent job of presenting Veronica’s life in New York as stable and comfortable. Job hunting and gearing up to meet parents, Veronica clearly has cut out a neat little existence for herself. Due to this, almost by default, Piz becomes a representative of what is safe, stable, and comfortable to the New York Veronica. Alternatively, Logan represents the unpredictable- in all forms. For this reason, I believe the way Veronica initially reunites with Logan is perfect. Witnessing your father nearly die is a pretty understandable reason for wanting someone to stay the night. A brief look at the LoVe track record will show just how dysfunctional and reckless their relationship was in the past- and Veronica’s decision to channel her worry and stress into sex with Logan isn’t exactly out of character. For either of them.

It does bother me that some critics would assert that Veronica “picked the wrong guy”. The assertion makes me question whether or not I watched the same movie as these critics. Logan and Piz are vastly different characters, and I do not believe they were meant to be pitted against each other to such a degree. Despite some definite (and progressive) signs of change in Logan’s demeanor, the film highlights a great deal of his worst qualities. Meanwhile, as I stated before, Piz represents something in Veronica’s life that she has only recently seemed to grasp onto: stability. Throughout the film, he is shown as supportive and understanding until the very end. His decision to walk away isn’t out of malice so much as a defeated tiredness. But from the start (I’m talking season three, Enter Stosh Piznarski) Piz was doomed to exit in such a way. On the other hand, in the VM series, Logan was consistently shown as recklessly impulsive, the typical angry rich kid with a chip on his shoulder. The film continues with this theme, as he instigates and participates in a good deal of physical as well as verbal altercations throughout. However, in the past nine to ten years, Logan has definitely grown as a person, and I have a hard time trusting the opinions of critics who fail to acknowledge his growth. As an audience we were able to see the level of responsibility Logan assumed both in his decision to join the Navy and in the relationship he had with Bonnie towards the end, (in Logan’s words- acting as more of a “sponsor” than a boyfriend). These are just two examples drawn from the film- there are absolutely more.

Rob Thomas cleanly highlights the characteristics and flaws that defined his characters in the show’s three season run while simultaneously featuring their character growth. We see no-nonsense, adult Veronica expertly navigate her way through a job interview, and we see how easy it is for her to fall into a habit she managed to quit and stay away from for a good ten years. I don’t think it was ever Thomas’s intention to present characters that were perfect in any way, shape, or form. Veronica Mars may be an ideal woman to some, but she is far from perfect. In fact, Veronica’s flaws are what draw her back to Neptune.

Perhaps the largest reason I take issue with these critics claiming that Veronica made the wrong choice is the implications that follow. There is a certain level of doubt in Veronica with the statements these critics are making. It’s almost as if they are saying she is basing her choices off of an irrational emotion, some kind of high-school nostalgia for fast cars and the boy wearing a leather jacket. Is Veronica not a grown ass woman who can make her own decisions? I realize that some measure of critique is required, and I also realize that Veronica is fully fictional, but the implications behind any questioning of her choice to be with Logan are too much for me to ignore. So what if Piz is a constant example of the “right” guy? Does that automatically mean he is the right guy for Veronica? I don’t think so. If Veronica Mars taught us anything, it’s that spending nearly a decade attempting to distance herself from the life she had in Neptune left Veronica so bored that she began to associate her mother’s alcoholism to her own “addiction”: solving cases. At the very start of the film, Veronica gives herself a mild diagnosis as a compulsive possible adrenaline junkie with an addictive personality. Based on that description, it isn’t any wonder she chose the less stable man.

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Community Entertainment The Quest Schema

“Quest Schema” Exercise

  • The “hero”, Anne Shirley, wishes to leave the ordinary world in which she resides– the unimaginative surroundings of both the orphanage and the home she worked in.
  • Anne seeks a way to address her outer problem (dull, hopeless environment) while also seeking  an answer to her inner problem (identity questions, no family). Anne’s inner struggle is evident in the scene where she first meets the orphanage proprietor and indicates that her name is Cordelia. With the absence of her parents, Anne is in the process of creating a new identity for herself.
  • The call in the film takes shape in Matthew and Marilla’s decision to take in a male orphan, eventually prompting Anne’s arrival to Green Gables. The call acts as a way for Anne to approach her inner and outer problems (she is able to leave her ordinary world and also, find a family in Avonlea).
  • Marilla Cuthbert undoubtedly acts as Anne’s threshold guardian… outlining a “set of prescribed rules” for her quest/life at Green Gables. Similarly, Miss Stacy represents a shadow mentor who offers support, and exists as a source of inspiration to Anne. Several other female characters also support Anne’s later focalized quest to teach and write.
  • Green Gables becomes Anne’s special world
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Entertainment Fetishscreen

“Fetishscreen” Exercise

fetish

Writing has always functioned as a process that centers me. In a way, I believe my personal blogging exists as a “fetish” because it is something I do that gives me a sense of confidence. Whenever I look over past entries it is clear to me that I usually only turn to writing out personal blogs when I feeling lost or overwhelmed, and I can identify blogging as a “fetish” that guides me through whatever emotional state I am in.

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I feel relatively comfortable referencing the film You’ve Got Mail as a personal “fetish” of mine. My love for this movie is what initially inspired me to choose the typewriter for the invention I discussed in my Career discourse. By the end of the discourse I even referenced a number of aspects of the film that I am able to tie into my chosen career field. Despite the fact that Romantic Comedies are generally dismissed by most, I manage to maintain a deep affection for such movies. Ultimately, I treat You’ve Got Mail as a significant “fetish”/source of confidence and security because nearly all of my memories of this film are associated with memories of my twin sister. We have a shared appreciation for You’ve Got Mail, and as a result, every time I watch the film I am immediately at home (metaphorically speaking).

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"High Concept" Entertainment

“High Concept” Exercise

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I chose to use the character/person of Tom Hanks (typewriter enthusiast and actor) for this exercise because his appreciation for typewriters partially influenced my decision to go in that direction for my Career discourse. Additionally, Tom Hanks is a co-lead in the film “You’ve Got Mail”, which I reference in the final portion of my Career discourse. I made my one-liner caption “is it a typewriter, or is it love?” because of my pre-established association with Tom Hanks as an actor in the romantic genre. In addition to this, I also stated that I tend to romanticize the act of writing and therefore view antique typewriters with rose colored glasses. The mood of my Career discourse similarly captures a love for the modes of writing as a portion of the evolution of these modes is mapped out in the evolution of the typewriter.

 

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Entertainment Pidgin Signs

“Pidgin Signs” Exercise

Reviewing my Mystory project in its current state produces several patterns that can also be associated with the language or “pidgin” I am creating in my project.

Several of my blog posts as well as my two completed discourses are heavily doused in the idea of a space or setting (my grandmother’s house, my local library, the churches I attended with my family, etc.) and nearly all of these spaces are touched in some way by my family. I would posit that the central aspect of the pidgin forming in this Mystory blog is one concerning images of family/home scenes. Even in exercises where I did not directly create an image concerning my family, the end product almost always includes some reference to a space that grounds and centers me as an individual (the High museum, driving in my car).

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Photo taken in my home town; representative of the spaces or pidgin signs I have created thus far in my Mystory project.