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Your Tweets: The New Object d’Art

2 Dec

Recently, a friend sent an article asking if social media is bad for NYC to an email list shared by some of my close friends.  While I know everyone has their own opinions of various social-media outlets, here’s a quick rundown of my views, based mostly on a great deal of cultural and media research.

It is anecdotally true that there is a cultural shift that involves documentation as part of the social experience.  Whether this is long-term or even vastly wide-spread has yet to be studied on a large enough scale to warrant a yea or nay from the world of social science.  Being someone who reads (a lot) of theory about these things, I assume that this cultural shift is similar to the theoretical shift seen post-WII in culture, society and media.  Ok, so, post-modernism starts at the end of WW-I and people are very taking notice by the 1950, at the very latest.  The term post-modern had certainly been used in literary and cultural criticism by that point.  Add to the the widespread use of the television, and you’ve got a media-based cultural revolution.  This gives rise to everything from needing our President to be cute (thanks for sweating a lot on TV, Nixon) to pop-art.  The fragmentation allowed to each individual through their separation from group gathering is very indicative of every type of media in this period.  Everyone is obsessed with the same figures, yet everyone is isolated from a group.  Images and media are seen as less “authentic” (in the way Benjamin used the term authentic) due to their consistent reproducibility.  Cultural critics worry we’ve lost originality in the age of post-modernity.

Two things then happen.  First, the Internet, then 9/11.  Much in the way that the majority of vast cultural changes can be linked with basic events in world history (often military/war related), such is the case here.  The ability for people to connect immediately, to give information instananeously is seen as neccesarry by our culture in a post-9/11 climate.  The technology available to us allows us to shift from isolated media images that require separation to isolated media images that require “virtual” community.  Part of the beauty of social media is the interconnectivity of information sharing.  Hitchcock said he liked to put one thing in his movies that he would call “ice box talk.”  It was the piece of information that everyone would discuss as curious or incongruous after having seen the film.  Hitchcock wanted people to be so puzzled by it that they would still be thinking about it, hours later, as they gazed into the icebox hours after their film-viewing experience was over.  It would prompt thought, discussion and drive people a little bit crazy.  This is the same concept as discussing a “must-see” TV show moment around an office-place water-cooler, a commonplace referrence made during the late-80s and through the 90s.  Now, we don’t have to have a physical place to locate in order to share our cultural obsessions; we can tweet them with a hashtag and share with thousands of others the very instant we watch Vertigo and can’t figure out how Madeleine was in the fucking window of the hotel if she hadn’t checked in (damn, you Hitchcock — icebox talk strikes again!)  This culture and type of media has also grown to include ourselves as part of the media, itself.

That’s fucking fascinating, y’all! We are the cultural objects being studied at the same time as we are the ones studying.  We need to know things as they happen, but we need to analyze them, as well.  I think as this trend continues and/or we get historical and societal distance from it, we will very much see 9/11 and twitter as interconnected and integral parts of our growth and change as a larger cultural group.

So, are New Yorkers (and the rest of the world) navel-gazing a little bit more than they had in the past?  Yes and no.  Just as much as people wanted to be part of the avant-garde set who saw the latest show the second it came and knew the next big artist before she made it big, so do they want to be a part of this creation, as well.  The self-importance isn’t new; the way the information is gathered and disseminated is.


What Characters Really Want

28 Sep

As a humorous response to a Facebook post, I decided to make a classified ad for Jareth, the Goblin King.  A good friend suggested that I make more classifieds from fantasy, sci-fi and beloved kids movies.  Naturally, I obliged.  Now, you can guess the movie (or character, whatever.)  Fun games for everyone!

1. Attractive Goblin King w large package and contact juggling skills seeks strong-willed but naive girl for ballroom dancing, muppet parties and sing-alongs. Will provide outfits. Love, fear and doing what I say essential. You get slavery in return. Hoping to hear from you.

2. Last lady from dead race desires dude with lady name for adventure.  Must love fuzzy dog-like creature.  No skeksis, plz.

3. Attractive oinker with penchant for green flesh and webbed toes desires companion for bike rides. Dreamers and producers esp. welcomed.

4. Midget in need of nanny. Seriously, this kid is practically my size.  Also looking for somewhat insane bodyguard/traveling companion.

5. Rugged not-at-all King needs otherworldly woman. Be self-sufficient as my job keeps me on the road a lot. Fluent in English and Elvish preferred.

6. Really old Scotsman looking for fighting companion.  Prefer other really old people.  No draws allowed.  One winner per fight.

7. Empress needs bullied bookworm to save her with valor and love. Warning – am jailbait.

8. Entertaining ghost seeks child-bride for eternity.  Will always be available for those who know my name.  Am fashionable and witty. Be the same. Goths encouraged.

9. Injured lady-warrior seeking battle-hardened man. I spent my life trying to prove I am as good as my (now dead) brother to our (now dead) dad. You should be able to relate. Must love defending men from encroaching darkness and horses.

10. Strange-looking demon king seeks lady love. Must be willing to wear elaborate outfits.  Must hate daylight, as I am only a nighttime kinda guy. Am willing to kidnap to find right woman. Plz don’t have cosmic love-match, as killing them makes me tired.

11. Shiny, type-A robot wants friend (and more) for desert wanderings and space travel.  Should be fluent in many languages.

12. Want some out-of-this world fun? I like accidentally getting drunk, eating candy, and flying bicycles. Plz respond w/ad – am not great w/phones.

13. Are you the lady of my dreams? Me: office worker by day, angel warrior guy by night. You: lovely blonde. Must be ok with government bureaucracy and overbearing, looks-obsessed mother. Send me your completed forms to file and I’ll send you mine.

Those are what I got for now.  I might add more later.  Feel free to leave some in the comments.

What Are We Letting In?

8 Sep

I, like many self-admitted loserpantsed people, love vampire genre things.  Books, TV, movies… if it has fangs, I’m in.  That doesn’t mean I’ll like it, mind you, just that I’ll check it out.  For example, I’ve read all of the Twlight books, a fact that is a little bit to my chagrin.  They crack me up in their badness, but that’s another story for another day. 

Right now, I want to discuss my fears about the American remake of the excellent Swedish film, Let the Right One InI’m going to try to keep this spoiler-free, but knowing the plot and characters will certainly help you in reading this.  Moving on.  Let the Right One In is a gorgeous film, deeply entrenched with a visual mood that colors the feel of the movie from start to finish.  Moreover, it is full of subtlety, especially in the relationship between the two main characters.  It is quiet in its horror rather than explosive.  It is more about the nature of caring, love and commitment than it is about fear, though that certainly is an element that is addressed.  There is no flash, no extraneous gore, no moments that make you pee your pants a little.  Just good story telling and good film making. 

In a lot of ways, Let the Right One In isn’t a genre story in the way that many vampire tales, especially of late, have been.  Eli dislikes her vampirism, but not in the fake extensial quandry kind of way seen in Twilight or The Vampire Diaries.  Vampires are certainly not a normal part of every day life like in the worlds of Anita Blake or Sookie Stackhouse.  The love story is not about sex or forbidden desire, but rather about lonliness and very human needs.  Moreover, the love story is gender-reversed from the majority of vampire tales.  The vamp is a girl, though there is ambiguity surrounding her gender identity.  It is a very clear signal that the normal vampire codes of seduction and lust do not apply here. 

Clearly, I really, really, really like this film.  It’s original and moving and is already being hailed as a classic.  Of course, this means there has to be an American remake.  Joy.  Let Me In is set for wide-release in just a few short weeks on October 1st.  I’m going to see it, but I’m pretty skeptical (a fact that is probably already obvious from the tone of this post.)  Ok, I haven’t seen it, but I have seen plenty of remakes.  Most of those fit in the “When Remakes Go Bad” category.  I’m concerned. 

I’ve seen the trailer, people.  You can see it too.  Let’s compare and contrast trailers from the original and the remake, shall we?

First up, the original:

Now, the remake:

What do we see?  Well, I can’t really tell you what to see, but here’s what I get.  The original trailer is not about the horror.  It focuses on Eli and Oskar; their relationship is paramount to understanding this movie.  Yes, there are quick cuts and some moments that look vaugely scary, but that isn’t the thrust of the trailer (or the movie). 

The remake, though, plays instantly on very American fears.  A boy is dead, it’s an ordinary town, these people are just like you and your bullied kid could wind up loving a vicious killer vampire girl.  There’s a cop added to the mix, too.  He wants us to know that this has happened before, because we can’t figure that out on our own.  Maybe that’s a little harsh, but I just can’t help but feel like it has been “horrorized” and dumbed-down for the American audience.  Ambuiguity and subtlety are left by the wayside.  More proof?  Early accounts say that any gender confusion was taken out of the American remake.  Can’t have possible latent homosocial or homosexual undertones in our horror movies, can we?

Ultimately, that’s the problem that I’m getting at through all of this.  Let the Right One In isn’t really a horror, thriller or genre film.  From the looks of it, Let Me In is more horror than story, more genre than drama.  I’m worried that what I love will be lost in the desire to capitalize on the popularity of vampires and horror.  In the end, I’ll see it and try to look at it with an open mind, but I don’t know if I’m ready to let in a poor substitute at all.