Thursday, August 11, 2011

rant 4: James Bond and British Imperialism

 For my group project I decided to focus on how James Bond has been a symbol for declining British imperialism since his creation. In the original books Bond was portrayed as almost an comedic parody of what was expected of a spy. Since his film debut Bond has now been the quintessential definition of what a spy is. Ever since WWII England suffered a series of defeats including losing most of their foreign territories and the humiliating Suez incident. Bond was a way for England to hold on to it’s former glory. Bond represents the ideal English gentlemen: suave, charming, intelligent, handsome, and powerful. Bond also represented England’s technological superiority over the rest of the world. In the years since Bonds inception England was slowly falling behind as a technological superpower, Bond was a way to portray England as still being technologically relevant. As stated in the images of popular film moodle article, technology still stood a backseat to the charming and resourceful hero of Bond. All of the films showed that the class and elegance of the English gentleman is superior to the overwhelming technological advantages used by Bond(England’s) enemies. Bond also expresses the superiority of capitalism over communism, such as when Goldfinger has bond  helplessly tied to a bed and he is going to use his gold melting laser to kill bond. Bond escapes the trap by using coin to reflect the lasers beam to cut his shackles and free himself. This is a metaphor for however the power of the purse can solve virtually all of life’s problems. Another important element relates to Fiske’s article of television culture, specifically his third level of code ideology. The bond films give a coded message of English superiority. Compared to the other spies and military types bond was always show as the more intelligent, masculine and efficient.   There are several subtle hints throughout the film to promote the idea of British superiority, such as bond always drives the stylish English car: the ashton marton. Another ideological point the film serves is the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon ethnicity. The films also tries to promote that England is the greatest western nation. An example is that in the film all of the American soldiers were powerless without the support and resources of the power English Bond.As noted in Fiske’s article, the character that is the least likely to be killed is the middle or classless white male in their physical prime. Since all of the bond’s meet this criteria, the film already implicitly implies that the White bond may get hurt but will never die. Bond himself is meant to appeal to the white male western, and to promote the views of the west. Anytime bond is not in his native England, the location he’s is in is portrayed as exotic, foreign and to a subtle degree abnormal.The best example was the trailer that was shown in class of the next Bond film: You Only Live Twice. In the preview bond when to Japan, in this film the Japanese people and culture were stereotyped in a way that made them seem abnormal and that the western Bond appear to be the definitive cultural norm. AI decided to go first in order to segue my presentation into the discussion on orientalism. I personally was disappointed that the class wasn't as involved with my question of:  is it possible when creating a work of pop culture to distance your personal beliefs and preferences. Or will subtle and not-so-subtle ideological messages always slip through the cracks and show the creators personal ideology. It was unfortunate that the class brushed off most of our questions. Admittedly many of us  weren't prepared and didn't plan our time well. However, that is no excuse for the class's lack of participation. Overall I believe that my presentation formed the foundation for the rest of my groups presentation.

Fiske, John, Television Culture, Chapter 9
Goldman, Steven L.
Images if Technology in Popular Films: Discussion and Filmography
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Volume 14 No. 3 Summer
Sage Publications

Thursday, August 4, 2011

rant 3: 80s cartoon modern updates

In these past few years a trend in movies and TV has been rising, the resurrection of many popular shows from the nineteen eighties.Among the shows to have been revived in form or another include: transformers, G.I. Joe, He-Nan, Thunder Cats, and Voltron to name a few. Before 80s shows are described in detail, examination of past animation is required.Ever since the birth of animated cartoons, it could be said that each decade belonged to a different type of cartoon. The 1930s-60s was dominated by a major 3way tie between Disney,Warner Brothers, and MGM. In the 1960s the Ca new company took center stage in the animation, world, the studio of Hanna-Barbera. Hanna-Barbera cartoons were different from the older cartoons because of the fact they were more contemporary than their earlier counterparts. Hanna-Barbera cartoons offered a much wider variety of programs, and used modern music and guest stars to made the audience able to identify more with these cartoons than other cartoon studios. Despite all the differences between the four mentioned studies they each share one key factor: predictability.  No matter which show from which studio, the general plot premise remained the same.  For the earlier cartoons the formula was as follows: pluck anthropomorphic animal is attacked by an unintelligent opponent whose own stupidity, pride, impatience or some other character flaw allows them to be outwitted and humiliated by the animal. For Hanna-Barbera the formula was similarly about either a pair of anthropomorphic creatures in a contemporary setting, or accompanying teens in an effort to solve mysteries. While originally each company was hailed as genus and orginal, they eventually stagnated and viewers begna to become bored. In fact the Hanna-Barbera flagship show Scooby-Doo has become synonymous with repetition.
However in the 1980s things changed, the shift of animation had a radical shift from focusing on comedy to action. This shift possibly stems from the radical increase in action in comics and advent of the modern action hero film. Another thing which made these shows so appealing was the individuality of the character. Prior to the eighties all of the characters from the earlier companies were cut from the exact same cookie cutter mold, and were placed in only slightly different situations. However these newer shows featured completely different characters each facing their own unique sets of challenges. Not only were the characters outwardly differently they also had differing personality's. The fact each of these characters were so completely different from each other made it possible for the viewer to relate to the characters on a level not possible with earlier characters.

The big question of why the sudden reemergence of these beloved shows can be attributed to one or more of several factors. The first factor could simply TV producers are lazy. It has been argued now for some time that originality in Hollywood is dead, and that producers and directors are simply clinging on to whatever fad catches the viewing audience at any given time. Thew revival of 80s shows could be argued that the Hollywood big shot's are just fluffing old popular shows simply to try make an quick buck without spending any real creative effort. Another reason could be merchandising. Besides the shows themselves, a plethora of merchandise was offered with each show. The greatest merchandise offered was the action figure. Action figures allowed viewers to emulate, recreate, and create stories based off their favorite shows. The entire advent of actions figures was established by the success of many of the shows. Now with actions figures becoming collectable commodities, the 80s show may be brought back to establish a way to tie in merchandise to a once popular venue. The final reason why these shows are being revived is the fact there is a certain timelessness to the plots of the shows. Compared to old shows which had no plots, the shows of the 80s had shows with complex backstories which kept viewers engaged by making keep track of what was going on. During the airing of these shows, the shows established fascinating stories in exotic lands. Even after the shows themselves stopped airing, a firm world was established. Now many of these stories are being revived by people wishing to add their own creative touch to previously established masterpieces. They are creating modern homages to classic stories. Whatever the reason these shows are being revived for, one thing is for certain. Now a new generation can experience the sense of wonder that children felt when the first saw these shows during the 1980's. This is Corey Weiss saying good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

rant 2: Jerry Maguire,dependancy and love

In many ways the 90's classic Jerry Maguire is the standard romance films, however there are a few things that keep it from being completely typical. One of the biggest things that drive the movie, is that it has three women to draw an example of what a relationship looks like. The best thing that shows how  a successful relationship works is through how dependent the couple is on each other. The first female lead Avery Bishop(Kelly Preston) treated her relationship with Jerry very casual. She was emotionally distant, controlling, and manipulative. She is meant as a stereotype of what he modern career woman is like. The modern career woman is the exact opposite of what was expected for women for most of human history. Throughout history most women were expected to be obedient, chaste, dependent, and only took care of the family. Now the modern career woman is portrayed as independent, driven, job oriented, and willing to use any method to get the job done. However Bishop was a little more developed than your average career woman character. Her character had a certain degree of vulnerability, despite her collected nature throughout the film when Jerry finally broke up with her, she was devastated. Most people expect her reaction to be one of indifference, but she is sincerely distraught as evidenced when she attacks Jerry in retaliation. Bishop is meant to represent one extreme in a continuum of dependency, on the other end of the continuum is Dorthy Boyd(Renee Zellweger). Boyd is the epitome of an older female stereotype, she is needy, moody, a hopeless romantic, and always forgiving. In a sense she is a very one dimensional character that seems to be cut from a preset model. The only thing that truly separates her from being a unnoticeable character is her son Ray Boyd(Jonathan Lipnicki). The young precocious Ray also immediately forms a bond with Jerry, which Jerry eventually becomes a father figure which allows him to bond with Dorthy. The fact Jerry, Ray, and Dorthy form a rather unorthodox nuclear family allows her character to develop much further than it did if she was by herself. After she goes to work for Jerry, she has taken a big risk because not only is she risking providing for herself, she also has to worry about providing for her son. Jerry eventually realizes this and has to try to set things right by becoming not only a better provider for them as a boss, but eventually as a father and husband. Some may argue a key driving factor in starting their relationship is the guilt he feels for causing chaos in their life. It is also guilt in the end which causes him to return at the end of the movie. Even after Jerry abandons the Boyd's, she is more than ready forgive him for all that he did and is willing to continue their relationship. The final woman lead is Marcee Tidwell(Regina King). Marcee is the wife of the up and coming NFL player Rod Tidwell. However by no means does she play a passive role in her husband's career. She is actively advocating for her husband publicity and making sure that Jerry is providing for all that her husband and her family needs. Despite the way she acts towards Jerry, at home she is a supporting wife, caring mother and trying to make sure Rod's brother isn't wasting his life. She is portrayed as woman who cares deeply for her family, yet is willing to fight to make sure they are provided for. The movie is basically showing the the Tidwell's marriage is the foundation for which Rod can fully develop his career as a professional athlete.  Marcee is the middle of the dependency continuum between the aloof Bishop and the needy Dorothy. She shows she is capable of working by herself to meet her family's needs, but was shown to be supportive and reliant on him in times of turmoil. The final character whose dependency needs to be analyzed is Jerry Maguire himself. In the beginning of the movie he starts similarly to of Bishop in the sense are emotionally distant. However the reason for their distance is completely different. He becomes distance from her because of a crisis of conscious in his career. He was a hot-shot sports agent who was cable to meet all his needs independently from his romantic partner. However when his financial stability is threatened, his pride prevents him from relying on her. They are physically together but emotionally distant. Jerry only finally breaks off their relationship when he believes he will be able to financially support himself again by landing an important new client. His relationship with Dorothy is based of her dependence off him both financially and emotionally. When he is fired and decides to start his own firm, she is the only one who follows him. At first she is completely reliant off him to support her and her young son financially. Then as the movie progresses, they later become emotionally dependent on each other. However, Jerry has never experienced this type of serious emotional dependence in his adult life, so he eventually becomes over whelmed and leaves her in his confusion. Only after they both see how the Tidwell's successful relationship works are they both able to fully handle a mature adult relationship. Jerry Maguire is a movie that shows how a balance of dependency, love, commitment, sharing of responsibility and respect is needed for a successful relationship to work. This is Corey Weiss saying: "you stay classy San Diego".

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

rant 1.5 Ethnography of the Topanga westfield shopping mall

The Topanga Westfield shopping mall serves as an important hub for culture, family and entertainment of the West Hills area. There are many parents and young children around the food court of the Topanga Westfield Mall. The mall serves a multipurpose function of being able to simultaneously feed the children as well as provide a variety of diversions to keep them happy and occupied. The mall offers plenty of stores and attractions such as an video arcade to keep younger children amused. Most of the parents are mothers. Either the fathers are still working during the summer, have other commitments, or the mothers are single. The mall also provides an opportunity for the parents to shop for anything they may otherwise need while simultaneously entertaining their children. Many of these mothers could be frequent visitors of the mall during the summer. A few families are present, the fathers are either off for the summer of simply have the time to spend with their families. Besides the parents and children, another one of the more common demographics are teenagers and young adults. With school off for the summer these young people are free to go where ever they want. Due to the current economic climate, finding summer work or college classes is very difficult so many young people spend their time at the mall keeping themselves occupied. The mall offers a perfect place to keep up with the latest fashion, electronic and other pop culture trends. They attemmpt to establish identity through identifying themselves with popualr brands. This type of self-identification is in line with the thoeries of left-centered culturalism.According to Hoggart, this form of culturalism states that culture is defined differently everday, which is why fashion trends so quickly shift(Barker, introduction to cultural studies, pg 15-16) Thomas It also serves as the perfect spot for finding potential romantic partners. The youth flock to the mall with hope looking for a good time, or with despair realizing they have nowhere else to go and their hopes for the future may be in jeopardy. Another noticeable demographic is middle aged couples. With their jobs potentially gone for the summer, many of these people face similar predictions to their younger counterparts of having nowhere else to go. They could also potentially view the mall as a chance for intimately spend time together, or find shop for necessary commodities. The final notable demographic at the mall is the elderly. The elderly are similar to the last two groups in the sense they use the mall as an escape when they have nowhere else to go. However, unlike the last two groups the predicament of having nowhere else to go is more permanent for the elderly. After retiring many old people are unable to find any form of permanently occupying their time and simply go about their days mindless trying to fight boredom and trying desperately to find some sort of fulfillment.
Besides the shoppers who occupy this mall there are also the employees. The employees generally fit into the same general age demographic as the shoppers. The young people who have jobs are working while trying to save up for school, or some other desired item. There are those who’re not in school simply working to pay the bills. These people are glad to be working, suffer through the heat and any potential indignities for the opportunity for money and experience. Some of these young people are also working for the chance for promotions; they realize school may not be their only option in life. So they decide to work early and seek promotions for a chance at a better tomorrow. The final reason why the youth are working at the mall is for work experience. They are earning money while trying to build up necessary experience for working at later, more desired careers. Besides the youth working at the mall, there are also the middle age and elderly. These demographics are either unable to find a more desired career, or are simply working these jobs out of necessity because of an inability to find other means of employment. Many of these people had other plans for their futures in their youth, but the harshness of life forced them to seek other avenues from what they intended. Many are bitter and miserable at how their lives turned out. While others are simply happy to be employed during a harsh economic climate. While others still have hope and still believe they can achieve their dream careers. Finally the elderly are working as a method of passing the time. After finishing a lifetime of work and child rearing, many elderly people still seek fulfillment and continue to work to avoid feelings of uselessness. Others need these careers as a way to afford the necessities of life. So they drudge through the days as way to support themselves, although they may wish to simply not work at all. Despite all the reasons listed for being at the mall, many more still exist. The mall is also a perfect example of the problems Marx has with capitalism. According to his writings: large consumerist hubs such as malls are dangerous catalysts which can trigger class warfare. Those who work at the malls, yet the majkprity of the workers cannot afford the luxuries provided at these malls. This inability to buy the luxuries they sell leads to  resentment of the upper class. According to Marx this resentment will fester until a boiling point is reached, then the lower class rise up against the higher class demanding equality.( barker,cultural studies, pg.13-15)
The Westfield mall is a perfect example of the modern American consumerist culture. There are a wide variety of stores which sell a wide variety of clothes, electronics, toys, jewelry and many other “luxury” goods. This mall is odd because many of its merchandise seems to offer an sense of luxury and privilege, yet most of the malls patrons are in general not able to afford the high priced goods. The mall wants to attract a higher class clientele yet the location of mall seems to isolate the more affluent potential customers. This trend is a perfect example of prototypical American spending habits. Many Americans have a deep sense of entitlement which leads them to make purchases beyond their means. This sense of entitlement is a direct result of modern capitalist philosophy which directly lead to the modern finical crisis. The Westfield center is trying to create a sense of high culture which is highly sought after. Many people want to emulate the high culture life style because the high culture lifestyle is socially desirable. The problem is what is expected of modern high culture is constantly changing making it difficult for people to keep up with the trends.  This is what the mall thrives, on, it requires the pop culture styles to change, so that people must keep coming back and buy the new materials of the updated high culture. The mall is in line with the ideas of Arnold and Leavis who view culture as the high point of civilization and society. To them giantic luxury emporiums such as a shopping mall are exactly what the elite society strives for.(Barker, cultural studies, pg 40-41)
The store Hot topic used to be a source of culture from below, but now exists as a source for culture from above. Originally the store appealed to small demographic and sold limited merchandise to that demographic. However, over the years the store garnered more public attention so the store’s inventory changed to reflect the increase in attention. This is in line with the Franfurt school of thought in which there is a culture industry which controls the opinions and views of what society decides is culture. (Barker, culture studies, pg 48-49) At first the store only sold merchandise related to Goth music culture. Now the store sells not only Goth, but larger variety of merchandise ranging from movies, TV shows, and 80’s and 90s nostalgia.  Hot Topic is a perfect example of how large corporations can turn a relatively specialized store, into a virtual cornucopia of pop culture related attire.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it greatly widens the appeal of these kinds of stores. Originally these stores would only attract a limited clientele who would buy limited merchandise. Now stores like Hot Topic sell a large enough variety of products, that virtually anyone can find something of interest. Hot topic isn’t the only store which has undergone a change from a retail shift. Stores like Claire’s, and Gamestop have benefitted from making their products appeal to a much wider demographic. Many sores will continue to follow this model of offering a wider variety of products, which in turn will attract more customers.
The Westfield food court is considerably different from your typical mall food court. Following in the overall theme of the mall, the food court is considerably more high-brow than a typical mall food court. It does include the standard types of mall food including Mexican, pizza, hamburgers etc. However, the mall also includes a much more diverse category of food including Gelato, Greek, and Brazilian to name a few. The food like is meant to appeal to a much wider variety of people than a typical mall food court. The wide variety of foods is a testament to noticeable effects that globalization has. Globalization has allowed many people to experience different cultures from their own, and a byproduct of these different cultures is food. You can tell a lot about the philosophy and worldview a given culture by the type of food they eat. Not only are the restaurants different, the food itself gives off a sense of high culture.  Even the appearance of the food court provides an ambiance that makes it feel much more than an average mall food court. The Westfield mall exudes an air of higher culture than is expected at an average shopping mall. This is probably what keeps the mall so active, vibrant and successful.

                                                              Works Cited

Barker, Chris,(2008). Cultural Studies Theory&Practice Third Edition

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

rant 1: a brief description of popular clture

Early descriptions of culture were often exclusively linked to what is now referred to as high culture. High culture involves the pinnacle achievements of human in art, literature, theater, TV, Movies and all other forms art. Anything else that did not fit into this category was not considered culture. However in the 1960's and 1970's anthropologists began the difficult task of properly defining popular culture. Drawing inspiration from Marxist writing's they began to come up with the concepts of "culture from above" and "culture from below". Culture from above was created from a higher source such as politicians, corporations or organized religions as a method to subtly influence the decisions of those using those partaking the culture. The idea of culture from above was influenced by Karl Marx's assertions the culture has political power where those who create the culture can control the morals, and beliefs of those they make the culture for. By contrast culture from below is created by more "authentic" sources such as local artists and is meant as sort of a counter culture to go against the expected norms. Culture from below is a direct result of the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, this era bore witness to the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement, and Vietnam War protests. To make their voices heard advocates of these movements often found unique and unprecedented ways to make their opinions be noted. Either by rock music, rebellions against tradition fashion or even through sexual promiscuity. Since this time when anthropologists were attempting to define popular culture, the overall spectrum of what culture includes has reached the point where seemingly all aspects of life can be included into the definition of culture. Even now there is still no one definitive answer as to what popular culture is and what it entails. For the sake of argument I am going to give the definition of popular culture as follows: popular culture includes the entirety of the shared human experience. Although this definition is vague but it does encompass what I believe to be the only two essential components what culture truly includes: humanity and shared experience. Culture is a direct byproduct of humanities need for expression, need for others and want of validation culture helps humanity express all these basic needs. Culture is by definition needing of at least two people, no one person can properly create a culture because it takes another person to properly validate the existent of another's created culture.  As of today three new subtypes of popular culture exists: high culture, middle culture and low culture. As mentioned before high culture is said often considered the peak of arts and sciences. However for most high culture is viewed to be too pretentious and often only appeals the the truly intellectual elites. High culture is often created for no other purpose to receive validation, praise, and monetary reward. Many people often pretend to appreciate high culture even though they may not like or even understand it. Middle culture generally has more broad appeal than high and low culture. It can be created by virtually anyone and has a much longer shelf-life than low and high culture. The other two cultures seems to be much more heavily influenced by current trends while middle culture has a slightly more universal appeal. Low culture is considered the worst type of culture. It has limited appeal and is heavily influenced by current trends. Low culture seems to often rise as quickly as it falls. Most people would often deny even partaking low culture. I have attempted to provide some adequate definitions of what culture is. Through later writing I hope to expand upon and refine these definitions. Until next time, this is Corey Weiss saying good night and good luck.