Dave Chappelle was Right; Everyone is too Damn Sensitive

With the movement of the #MeToo Movement, we are seeing the true light of men in Hollywood as well as men in general on how they treat their women counterparts. And I should start off by saying that yes, I am a supported of the MeToo Movement, I am a supporter of transgender people and I consider myself to be a very liberal person, however I do agree that people are too sensitive when they can’t handle a joke about things going on in our current world. When watching Dave Chappelle it was like a sigh of relief for someone to finally be saying jokes and not being afraid to say them, because someone has to say them.

When it comes to Chappelle talking about the sexual abuse scandals that is happening around the country, I think that it’s good he’s talking about it. He is pointing a finger at these people saying yeah that is fucked up, but we should be able to still laugh about it as it lets people reflect on the absurdity of it all. A good example of this is when he is talking about Louis C.K. and starts making a mockery of him “busting a nut” on his stomach. It’s ridiculous to think that someone could actually do this in front of someone he barely knows, but he did it, so we should laugh at him. Chappelle is not defending these abusers in any way from my watching of his specials. He incorporates these topics by using his own experiences as a way to connect to what these women have gone through, and this is where I draw my only line. You cannot compare the struggle black people have gone through in this country with the abuse that these women are going through in their home and workplaces. Yes, they are problems that need to be addressed, but they are so different in their complexities with society that they cannot be compared as being the same. Sarah Solemani quotes Amy Schumer, ““All women have been a little bit raped” and this is much more serious and urgent matter in the eyes of some. It also diminished the importance of the MeToo Movement because he’s saying that he can understand what they’re going through. No he can’t though. He is a successful man who has never been sexually harassed by a higher up in his life. He has no idea what’s it like to have your dream hang on the balance of giving a handjob or not.

This brings me to the topic of “being brittle” and having “brittle ears” to which I agree with him 100%. As said before, people now are too sensitive. They hear a joke that’s related to them, and they get offended. These jokes are not means to hurt you individually, if anything they are just playing on the stereotypes that everyone already knows. Chappelle also talks about being brittle and the woman who gave up her comedy dream because Louis C.K. took advantage of her, and I agree with Chappelle that she did have a “brittle dream.” To just give up on your passion like that because of one asshole trying to take advantage of you, that’s called giving up. It doesn’t make it right what Louis C.K. did to her in the slightest, but to lose all sense of your goal is brittle. There is also the question on whether or not these men can continue their work, or if we should appreciate their past work now that we know the true side of them, and Hannah Jane Parkinson poses the question, “if artists we enjoy claim no moral content or purpose to their work: ‘Why can we not enjoy it without worrying whether they were good or bad people?'” I don’t think I have a solid answer for this.

I will say however that there are other instances of sexual abuse that go far beyond masturbation in front of someone, such as Harvey Weinstein pressuring women for sex to get a role, and this is a very serious matter, and I don’t think that Chappelle is defending that in any way.  He jokes about the inappropriateness of these men’s actions saying, “Sounds like a fucking nightmare, can you imagine that shit, can you imagine if you was in a business meeting and a motherfucker PULLED THEIR DICK OUT?!” He’s demonstrating the absolute horror that these women have gone through, and that women will still go through as long as these men are still in charge.

I think that comedy can make fun of everything, that’s why we listen. Jason Zinoman agrees with this on a certain extend saying  that “quoting Steve Martin, is not pretty. But when Mr. Chappelle says some of the sexual assault victims speaking out are now experiencing “buyer’s remorse,” a particularly cruel turn of phrase, this is surely not the funniest thing he can think of.” It’s probably not the funniest thing he could think of, but everyone could understand what he’s trying to say. The point of comedy is to push peoples buttons and make them see the lighter side of life. Chappelle does this very well. Even more so, he doesn’t just go into a bunch of cheap jokes, he gets much more serious in his act, especially when talking about Emmett Till in Equanimity. He doesn’t sugarcoat what happened to that boy, and he says the truth about that woman. If it wasn’t for her lie, who knows what the country would look like now in terms of reaching for racial equality. Yes it is a horrible, unforgivable thing that her lie murdered an innocent boy, but who knows how many lives were changed because of that lie. Then Chappelle follows up his joke with the punchline “then I would kick her in the pussy” and it’s funny. He made us think and take a step back to the realities that are in our history and in our country today, but he still makes us laugh.

When Fandoms Become too Much

I myself have been involved in the fandom culture in some shape or form like so many people. I like looking up the lore behind world such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and I like watching Marvel movies and I take pride in knowing a lot about the MCU and its characters. I have even gone to Denver Comic Con for the past 4 years and enjoy buying merchandise and meeting the celebrities that come there to sign autographs.

Watching Stranger Things, Black Mirror, and End of the F*****g World, it’s easy to understand how all of these shows can gather such a cult following. Something that stood out in all of them was the sense of nostalgia. For Stranger Things it relied heavily on popular culture from the 80s. It reminds older audiences of their memories of growing up then, or it remindes other generations about classic Steven Spielberg films such as E.T.  For the episode of Black Mirror it was the same effect with the clone of Star Trek in the episode called “Star Fleet.” It reminds audiences of the times they spent watching the show growing up, and it brings back a sense of fandom in almost all of us, even if we have never seen Star Trek like myself. EOTFW has a similar feel of nostalgia even though it is based of the present time because there is a “hipster” tone to the entire series that makes the clothes they wear, the places they go to, all seem so familiar.

Another reason as to why people gravitate towards these shows and create cult fan followings is because of the character development that occurs in all of them. With Stranger Things the audience is entirely within the group of the young boys. We grow to learn their personalities and relationships towards each other. If two characters seem especially close such as Eleven and Mike, then the fanbase will most likely “ship” them together, which means that they want the characters to be together romantically. This can happen with straight or queer couples. It becomes a problem however when the fanbase starts shipping the actors of the characters with each other, crossing the line between fiction and reality. Dee Lockett explains this in her article about Finn Wolfhard who plays Mike in Stranger Things. He had to publicly call attention to the inappropriateness of shipping himself with his coworkers, saying that it was inappropriate and “ridiculous.” The stars of EOTFW also have this issue when it comes to shipping because people (including me) were rooting for the characters of James and Alyssa to finally start liking each other and get together. However, it comes to no surprise that fans also started rooting for the actors Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden to get together in real life as well.

What is it about these shows and characters that make fans want to go “beyond the text?” Like said previously, it has to do with the character development that we experience when watching these shows. In Star Trek we come to know the characters strengths and weaknesses throughout the years of the shows running, and it makes us feel like we know them personally. This could be why Daly in Black Mirror wanted his victims to act like the characters he’s known from the show so intensely. We also see the characters change over time and this makes audiences cling closer to the characters still because we can see firsthand the journey they went through such as watching James think he’s a psychopath at the beginning of the series to coming to the conclusion that he’s not a psychopath at all. Another reason that viewers go beyond the text is because these worlds are so vast and the relationships become so complex that it is easy to try to create more content that fits into this world through fan fiction. Daly’s world in Black Mirror is like a super advanced fan fiction story because everything in his world fits his favorite TV show, yet he is making it his own and is creating new storylines that best fit him personally. If the show has an ending that is not the desired one fans are looking for such as the end of EOTFW which is left ambiguous, fans can create an ending that best suits what they desire.

My general view of fandom’s is positive if people explore it in appropriate ways. Going to Comic Con for example and cosplaying as your favorite character and buying posters and meeting celebrities in this atmosphere is appropriate and it is a lot of fun as well because other fandoms collide and you get to meet new people who love the same things as you do. It becomes a problem however when fans start stalking actors or creators of their favorite TV show or movie. It becomes a problem when older people start “creeping” on younger actors such as Finn Wolfhard or Millie Bobby Brown. It also becomes a problem when your fandom starts encompassing every aspect of your life and it becomes a literal addiction. Spending too much time on the internet focusing on a fandom is unhealthy and it alienates friends and family because they cannot relate to your fandom as intensely as you can. There is a time and a place to love and express your passions in a healthy and creative way. I think that Black Mirror demonstrates this idea of “toxic fandom” in a very provocative and elegant way. We have Daly who is an outcast in reality, but is a “god” in his own personal world. Instead of trying to communicate and make good impressions with his co-workers, he recedes into this office or in his home and is always immersed in his own world. Toxic fandom as I have said previously is when a person doesn’t communicate with friends, family, or the outside world if they can. They are completely immersed in their fandom world. This makes you look like an outcast, and for Daly his negative emotions about being an outcast push him further into this world. There needs to be a line between reality and fiction, and once a person can’t distinguish from the two or prefers fiction this is when toxic fandom takes place.

When it comes to my own “hardcore” fandoms I love The Lord of the Rings, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Mad Max. I have posters of all these things in my house and have met actors from these movies at Comic Con. I enjoy the lore and storytelling. I love to communicate with people that also enjoy these things, but I know when it’s appropriate to express my inner nerd, and when it’s not. I have been self-conscious about my love for these things at times because sometimes I want to wear a Marvel shirt or talk about things from The Lord of the Rings but I am worried that people might judge me for being a “geek” or a “nerd.” Being a fan of the MCU, I can definitely see myself as becoming a fan of all the Netflix Marvel shows. I just haven’t had the time to actually watch them. 

Racial Identity and Multiculturalism on Netflix

When it comes to producing and creating shows that revolve around a multicultural and racial topic or identity, I haven’t seen any other network or creative site that matches Netflix. We will be focusing on three shows: Luke Cage, On My Block, and Dear White People to demonstrate the forwards movements that Netflix makes to provide content and perspectives from people outside the white gaze.

Looking at the narrative worlds of these shows, it becomes apparent that they are going to involve the tackling of the “racial empathy gap” as Nico Lang points out. Luke Cage for example does not have many white characters, or white people in general in the show. This forms the narrative world as belonging to how African-Americans live in the present day. We learn that Cage was put in prison for something he didn’t do because of his profiling. We see that he is struggling to support himself even though he works hard and goes to multiple jobs. We also see the flip side of class beaus Cottonmouth is a very rich and influential man in some kind of mafia. When looking at On the Block and how their narrative worlds are formed, we see from the beginning that this neighborhood is lower class, and it’s dangerous as well when we hear the gunshots at the party. This is a norm for these children however because instead of running in fear they get excited when they know what kind of gun fired. It again draws away from the white gaze, as neighborhoods such as these are not usually represented on network television. Moving on towards Dear White People and this one differs from the other two as the main characters are surrounded by white people, but the perspective is focused on the blacks. This makes the narrative world feel as though the kids on the campus are trapped or always being on guard when they are on campus because they are surrounded by white people who do not understand the world that they live in every day.

When it comes to if these shows show racial stereotypes, I would say yes and no. For Luke Cage we get the scene of the men talking about sports in the barber shop, which is a stereotype of black men, however these kinds of barber shops do actually exist. I think that this scene also shows the relationships of the people in the community and the divide between the older generation and the younger. For On My Block, Ruby Martinez’s family was the most stereotyped because of the grandmother being a very devout Catholic, as well as Ruby shouting “Ay Dios mio!” when he realizes he is in a dress outside. The Latino gang is also highly stereotyped by riding in lowriders as well as wearing wife-beater tank tops all the time. For Dear White People I didn’t notice so many stereotypes of being African-American as much as I noticed stereotypes about these kids being outspoken college students, which is common in every college. The point of this show was to draw attention to the black stereotypes that white people assume because these stereotypes are false, however instead of showing these stereotypes visibly, the characters call them out on their own.

One stereotype that was noticeable, and to me problematic to some degree comes from Luke Cage. He is a quiet man who works hard, and takes pride in his work no matter what he does. However, I found this to be similar to the quiet black man stereotype that we see in TV and films such as servants, or janitors. I realize that these are the only jobs he can get because he was incarcerated and wants to lay low because of his powers, but this stereotype just kept staring at me in the face despite him being the main character and the “superhero” of the show. Another thing that is present in the show is isn’t necessarily a stereotype, but rather a comment on our society today where black men are subject to violence at a high rate, however we have a Cage being a black man that is “bulletproof.” This makes him impenetrable from the violence and death that surrounds him and his fellow black men every day and the irony of that is astounding.

For On My Block I noticed that Jamal doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotypes of being an African-American man either. Stereotypically, black men should be strong and tough, like Jamal’s father. He should have a love for sports and not show any weakness. Jamal is a nervous, skinny, goofy kid that doesn’t fit his father’s expectations. I think this is a positive way to show this character though because it allows black men and boys to show emotion and to be who they actually want to be rather than what society expects them to be. I think that can go with the other boys in the show such as Cesar because he makes it clear at the end of the first episode that he doesn’t want to be a part of his family’s gang, but he is struggling to separate himself from what his family expects him to do, not only because it will disappoint them, but he could also be hurt if he does. This highlights the traps that these low-income neighborhood kids can be stuck in just because they live there.

To change the minds of anyone based on one show is difficult to do, so I don’t think any of these shows, try as they might, will transform a bigoted person. A bigoted person would also probably not go anywhere near a show titled Dear White People if they know that their prejudices and cruel judgements are going to be called out as wrong. As for most people who just need to be properly educated about discrimination that thrives in this country, I think that all of these shows have the ability to open up their minds, and perhaps make people more open and welcome to others different from them.

When looking at which of these shows is the most appealing to the largest audience it would have to be Luke Cage because of the great appeal for the superhero genre, and the fact that it fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is another reason that it became as popular as it did. It also doesn’t have such a brash title as Dear White People does and it’s more appealing than On My Block because more people can sympathize with Cage’s situation more than they can living in a low-income neighborhood where violence and gangs are rampant. However, I personally think I sympathized with On My Block though because of the kid’s drama between themselves, and the awkwardness of growing up and growing different from your friends. I think that Dear White People was the most informative however because I am a white person, and the show was basically telling me personally how and how I should not interact with people of color. It also allowed me to see the daily struggles that POC go through every day with ignorant and sometimes racist people.

Looking through an industrial perspective, it is difficult for minorities to get stories and shows like these ones out into the public because of the limited resources and doors that are open for them. Julien Simien said in his podcast that he had to work a day job on the side of just trying to get money to get his movie off the ground. Even then he explained all the hoops he had to jump through and how patient he had to be just to finally get a buyer for his show. He also has to deal with the backlash once the movie and show was released. People got offended by having their pregudices called out, and didn’t belive that “blackface parties” actually happen, which only proves Simien’s point in that the show is to open people’s eyes to the realities that black people face every day.

Netflix and its Growing Influence on Reality TV

When it comes to reality television, it has never really interested me. I would watch them when nothing else was on, but I never went out of my way to keep attention to the storyline. They’re just something to put on in the background. Reality shows that I did watch and enjoy were The Jersey ShoreMasterchef, and America’s Next Top Model because I find subgenres such as talent contests and (some) docusoaps to be more interesting and fun to watch. Other consumers of television on the other hand are much more invested in the reality TV genre and as Scott Roxborough says, Netflix and other streaming sites are much more invested in reinventing and redeveloping the reality genre as a means to gain more audience members

Nailed It! and Queer Eye are two of Netflix’ growing brand of reality television with both being in the leads for most in demand reality shows. Both of them however show the good and the bad of what reality TV can be. Nailed It! was difficult to watch. It is supposed to be a comedy baking show where the focus is making fun out of average people’s baking creations. What was presented was a loud host and awkward staging, editing, and music throughout with cringe worthy small talk between the judges. Queer Eye on the other hand from what I saw was a celebration of LGBTQ community and a welcoming environment to watch. There was barely and awkward moments between Tom and the Fab Five about them all being gay, and it was an uplifting experience watching Tom find confidence in himself. What is also important about Queer Eye it sends a message that people in the LGBTQ community are skilled, talented workers and can make meaningful connections with people like everyone else. Both of these shows however depart away from most scripted genres because these are labeled “unscripted.” In the reality TV genre, there are multiple subgenres such as makeover, docusoaps, and talent contests. Nailed It! would be classified into a comedy talent show because while there is (poor) humor involved, it is ultimately a contest to see who can make the best dessert. Queer Eye falls in the makeover subgenre because these five men transform a person from five different aspects of their life: clothes, diet, relationships, grooming, and design.

As mentioned previously, Queer Eye is an important show in gaining insight to LGBTQ lives who are unfamiliar such as when Tom asks “who’s wearing the pants?” while talking about gay marriage and a conversation breaks out in the car discussing that the statement Tom just made is a misconception on how gay relationships work. It was done in a friendly upbeat way, and viewers aren’t left uncomfortable by their political or moral views (whatever that may be). The show also is a comment on masculinity in our culture and how it doesn’t have to be a stern, hyper-mascunalized viewpoint all the time. When Tom and Jonathan were talking as they were in the hairdresser, Jonathan keeps telling Tom what a sweet man he is, and that what he needs is more confidence. I think this is important men to hear because in the white cis dominated society they are taught not to show emotion and to have a ridgid exterior or else you’re not seen as masculine. What is also a joy about this show and masculinity is that Tom is extremely accepting of all of the Fab Five’s changes to his lifestyle. We learn he is a soft, kind man underneath a scraggly beard and that no matter how tough a man can appear, he’s still a person inside and still has emotions and desires that fall out of the hyper-mascinulized culture we’re in today. I don’t think that this episode was staged, or at least the emotions weren’t staged because if someone was uncomfortable with the idea of having five gay men change every aspect of your lifestyle, you can’t really pretend you are. I am in doubts however that Tom will stick to this new lifestyle that the Fab Five created because as said in the show, he’s a creature of habit. If he lived and ate how he did before for 15 years, I doubt a few days with these guys’ advice and guidance will have a lasting impact. I think that to will always cherish the experience, and might put more effort to the way he dresses more often, but I think he’ll return to his smoking outside and watching TV version of himself.

Queer Eye also opened up my own eyes about our society as well. I am not shy to admit that I am a liberal person, and I have certain stereotypes of “old white men” especially one’s that look like Tom and I just assume I know what their values and beliefs are. I always just assume from looking at someone whether they would be accepting of hanging around five gay guys or not. For Tom, I thought he was going to have homophobic tendencies and try to keep his distance or hyper-masculinize himself in order to feel more secure, but that didn’t happen. He was so open to all of them and at the end he felt like he grown close to the guys. When Bobby and Jonathan were at the mattress store with Tom I was completely surprised by Tom jumping onto the two on the bed. My own stereotypes about people were questioned just in the pilot episode, and that is significant

Going back to Nailed It! I think that the (surprising) success of the show has to do with most people’s inability to make creations that you see on other shows by “amature.” This reality TV show puts the reality back in baking by demonstrating how average people actually go about making these creations. People can relate to this and might also feel relief when watching because maybe their past baking fails are still better than the ones on the show. How this show differs from other reality cooking shows is that there is less attention on the food itself, and more attention on the people. There is an emphasis on how the contestants are ruining their desert than there is on what they’re doing right. When it comes to judging we know that all of them are going to be awful looking and when the judges laugh, we laugh. I think that this is a problematic way to go about failure and success because these people who are not skilled at baking are challenged with desserts that are way out of their league such as making a Sylvia Weinstock cake themselves. The judges then ridicule them of their mistakes as though it should have been the easiest challenge they could give. It’s unfair and it shows that if you don’t achieve something extraordinary, you’re still subject to criticism. Overall, in regards to Nailed It! I think that this episode is completely disposable. I will forget the contestants, I will forget the host, and I will most likely ever forget I watched it in the first place.

Netflix and the Future of Documentaries

Documentaries as a genre for the majority of their existence have been accessible to a small number of people. For a lot of documentaries, they end up at independent film festivals or at theatres which still doesn’t draw much revenue. However, Netflix has paved the way for filmmakers to be able to now show their work to a mass audience and they are now able to make a living off of it. There is a catch though in that Netflix is more interested in gaining the greatest revenue from these films rather than teaching their audience about the world.

Netflix is interested in the money. It is a business after all, and so when choosing new documentaries to put on their site, they choose to conform to the “traditional” documentaries rather than ones that are over-original and I think that is the best strategy or them. This is why they call their documentaries “original” even though, as Sudeep Sharma says, “they conform to what an average filmgoer would expect from a documentary” (148). It’s original in that no one has produced a documentary such as Icarus before Netflix however it still conforms to the traditional formatting of documentaries that we expect. Some of these formats include exposition of the situation which is what we see with the first two episodes of Making a Murderer and then there’s observation of the situation and participation of the documents. Participation happened quite often with the filmmakers for Icarus as they were there when the situation was still unfolding. You can find these formats in almost every traditional documentary in some way.

Sharma compares Netflix as a “newsstand” rather than a “library” when talking about the content that it houses on its site. I think that this is an accurate statement to make because with a library there is information that anyone can access. A library is a public space and it is also free to anyone and this is not the case for Netflix. With Netflix there is an idea that only people with money can get an education and access their documentaries and Sharma agrees saying, “Documentary…creates a feeling of seeing something of the real world, and therefore, learning” (146). Netflix also differs from being a library because there is no revenue to make so there is no mass audience that it wants to appeal to. Netflix wants to appeal to the largest audience it can with these documentaries, so they will pick certain films that discuss a controversial topic, but still isn’t too overt. Libraries have content of strong opinions left and right and you are given access to it if you desire it. Sharma compares Netflix to more of a “newsstand” because you have to pay for the content you want. Another way that it is more like a newsstand is that Netflix has a limited time frame for how long the documentaries are available to its subscribers. Three years is how long a contract lasts between Netflix and filmmakers and if they don’t want to continue having the documentary they will end the contract with them. Newsstands also has a limited time frame in that newspapers are reprinted every day because the news changes every day. For consumers this means that they need to purchase a newspaper every day from the newsstand in order to keep getting content, and the same goes for Netflix consumers because they have to pay a fee every month to keep the subscription. does also ]

Icarus is a documentary focusing around Russian state-sponsored doping and the scandal between the state and WADA. It focuses around the career and events that occur for Grigory Rodchenkov, who was a director for Russia’s anti-doping agency. I still agree with Sharma that most documentaries on Netflix conform to “traditional” styles of filming and I see some aspects of it in Icarus. Most documentaries focus on social issues and/or biographies and Icarus is a blending of both. We get the social issue side of athletes all around the world doping and not competing fairly which. When there is state-sponsored doping, it becomes an international problem, especially going into the Olympics. It is also part biography because we are given background of Dr. Rodchenkov’s personal and professional life and we are also following the events of his life after being discovered for participating in the scandal. Because this documentary happened so near the present it would be easy to market because as Sharma says it is “based on some preexisting awareness by audiences” (148) and people are more likely to watch it because of what they have seen on the news about these events as well as the political strife going on between Russia and the U.S. currently.

Icarus does also break some of Sharma’s claims because for almost half of the documentary we are also focused on the director, Brian Fogel who is willingly testing these doping drugs to see if he can get away with passing drug tests while he is competing as a cyclist. It is not often that we see the director being the highlight of some of the film because traditionally the focus is on a single issue. If it would stick to traditional styles, I think that Fogel would have been left out completely and the focused would have been on Dr. Rodchenkov as well as the political issues that he was caught up in.

I do not know if I found this documentary enriching as I did just informational. I was not aware of the Russian doping scandal, and I was not aware that it was still an issue during the Rio Olympics. To me the biggest surprise was that I had no knowledge of these enormous events that affect so many people in the athletic and scientific world because media just didn’t talk about it in the U.S. I also found it fascinating that the filmmakers were with Dr. Rodchenkov when all of these events were happening. It was especially shocking when he was on the phone with his lawyer and he heard that it was a mistake to give information to the New York Times and he was just going to get prosecuted. It also brought my attention to how corrupt the system can be with scientists willingly risking their careers in order to ensure that athletes can get clean drug tests. The only reason that they care so much about athletes winning is that it brings pride to the country. I took away that sports matter a lot more to everyone else than I thought. Assassinations could be carried out because of this scandal and it is scary to think this becasue an athlete just wants to run faster than the others illegally.

Making a Murderer is another documentary that I would like to discuss because instead of being a single film it is a series where events are shown throughout about 10 episodes. This formatting of documentaries has a lot of positives in that we are getting more detailed information about the murder and about Avery and Brendan. We get to see in a more intimate way how these people are reacting and acting to the claims that are being put on them. With it being in a series, it also makes the events feel like they are happening in real-time and it also emphasises the web of lies that encompasses this entire care in more detail. If this case was to be shown in a single film style, it would have had to leave out  a lot of information and it would be confusing for a regular audience member. Something else textually that separates a series from a film is that in Making a Murderer we get more “character development” in the sense that we see these people for longer periods of time and we can sympathize, hate, like them more. This can also make you more interested in the social issue that Avery goes through such as “alleged” police conspiracy. Because you’re more invested in this social issue now, you might want to explore this issue more and be able to see it in the world you live in.

Speaking more personally, I found the first four episodes of Making a Murderer to be very emotionally investing because in the first episodes details Stephen Avery’s first arrest that he was proved innocent over after spending 18 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. This hooked me because it was proved he was innocent for the first crime, so why couldn’t be innocent for the second as well? We also get to know the Avery family and the hardships that they had to go through in order to free Stephen and that makes it all the more difficult when they have to go through it all again with Teresa’s case that we learn about in the second episode. It keeps you hooked on the story because we are never exactly sure who is innocent because everyone thinks that they are telling the truth. The huge police conspiracy and tampering of evidence with both of Avery’s cases also shows the deception and manipulation of power that police departments are capable of having. I think that the storyline is compelling, the narrative also does a skillful job of following traditional narratives such as the five elements of plot. We get the exposition in the first episode. We get the rising action of Teresa being murdered and having her remains and keys being found on the property. We get the climax of Avery being arrested again and the conflict between parties of Avery and the justice system. We will eventually get the falling action of all the pieces fitting into place and finding out whether the court finds Avery guilty or not guilty, and resolution will be if he’s innocent or not. Another few elements of traditional narrative that this documentary follows is that it’s a “slow-burn” narrative in that details are revealed slowly to viewers as well as being a serial narrative where it’s a continuous storyline over multiple episodes.

In closing, I partly agree to Sharma’s claim that documentaries are a more “meaningful” way to spend one’s time because on the one hand, not all documentaries meaningful to someone’s lives than others For me, I found that Icarus was more important and impactful because of the relevancy it has to our politics with Russia today, meanwhile although Making a Murderer shines a light on police injustice, it didn’t seem as relevent to my own life. I think documentaries that have the potential to impact person determines whether its “wasting” their time or not. 




Traditionally, animated television shows have been seen as being made for children. Over the years though with such shows such as The Simpsons and Archer, animated shows have been made with an adult audience in mind. These shows should be regarded with the same kind of criticism and analysis as live-action shows such as House of Cards because they have the potential as well to convey deep interpersonal relationships, emotional scenes, and have the freedom to be as raunchy and comedy oriented as they would like.
One freedom that animation gives shows that live-action lacks is that “”more adventurous framing and shooting style than traditional television formats” (Moon, Randell , 142). This is because there is no need to worry about what plausible way a camera crew can shoot a scene. An example of this is when Bill in F is for Family is rolling down a hill in an oil barrel and we get a close up scene of him spinning around. This would be difficult if not impossible for a live camera crew to shoot. Another freedom that this medium allows for creators is that they have more space to create dialogue because of their limited movements on camera. Randell and Moon discuss that animated characters have limited space as they are 2-D images as well as how the characters are designed. Archer for example is drawn with thick outlines over the characters which helps make them have more human skin tones as well as it creates distance from the flat backgrounds. In terms of how this helps dialogue, because of their limited movement, dialogue has to become front and center since prop comedy isn’t as useful. This can hinder the use of animation, but it can also help because with more dialogue, deeper interpersonal relationships can be developed, and more creative comedy can be used.

I think that critical interest of adult animated series has shifted over the past two decades just because of the constant demand we have for it. Quality has also improved…in some aspects. Bojack Horseman for example is one of the animated shows that shines a light on depression and addiction without glamorizing it as a “special sensitivity as Emily Nussbaum explains in her article. It is also set up in a sitcom-style to satirize the shows of the 1990s that Bojack was also a part of. The style is intentional, the characters are realistically flawed, and there are enough animal-pun humor to still have a trace of lightness in it. On the other hand, there are animated shows that do deal with difficult topics, but are not executed in a way that is compelling or comfortable to watch, and I am looking directly at Big Mouth. While it does satirize puberty and personifies hormones sometimes in witty ways, the animation style distracts from it and the blatant, crude way that it discusses sex is very uncomfortable. This is the kind of show that would make people steer away from adult animation because of it’s crude humor and topics. Another show that deserves mentioning is Rick and Morty because it became one of the biggest animated shows in the United States (remember the McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce craze?). But it also is similar to Bojack Horseman in that it looks at dark issues such as alcoholism and draws attention to it in a humorous way that people aren’t going to be turned off by the conversation, and I think that is really important.

Back to Big Mouth one of the questions listed was did I find any part of the show upsetting? Yes, I found everything upsetting about that show. It was uncomfortable to watch, and reliving moments of puberty and the pain of being a 11-13 year old is something that I want to forget. F is for Family was also pretty upsetting because of the family dynamic. It is set in the 1960s, which makes the “housewife” character more understandable, but Frank, the father was despicable. Yes, he didn’t get to live out dreams he had when he was younger, and is stuck in a suburban life with children he barely likes, but there was nothing redeemable about him. Even when Bill is able to get him a new TV, he made it about him, pointing to the fact that this time he wasn’t a loser. While some animated shows such as Bojack Horseman show promise for the animation medium, there is a handful of shows that made the medium unable to get the praise and criticism that it deserves.

The Past and Future of Sitcoms

The three-camera sitcoms have never been an interest of mine. The laugh tracks were sometimes painful, and the jokes felt lazy and run-of-the-mill at times. The conventions of sitcoms, specifically domestic comedies have always been boring or predictable where plot points from one sitcom like Seinfeld could be the same in another such as Friends. If you were to tell me that sitcoms were a treasured form of cinematography, I would have laughed in your face. However, from watching One Day at a Time as well as the YouTube video “The One that Goes Behind the Scenes” there’s a lot more work that goes into every joke and every message that gets told across this genre that I have never thought to look at before.

Making any kind of production takes a lot of work and effort and that goes with sitcoms as well. From watching the Friends behind the scene video, it was eye-opening to see how much goes into making sure that one joke is as funny as it could be. While some may play off jokes as being lazily written, it became clear watching the writers and producers working that nothing is in the script for no reason. If a joke isn’t as hilarious as it could be, everyone would group together and ask themselves, ask the actors, and even ask the audience what could be done better. This makes for a very democratic system that ultimately makes the best joke for the biggest audience they can. The writing and rewriting doesn’t just stop with the writers room or even when they are filming the show, it even continues during post-production with editing and re-editing to make sure that the camera angle, the laugh track, and other elements are all blending together to make the narrative and the humor shine. There is so much to making a show that often goes unnoticed such as the continuous editing, to the Foley artists making sounds, to the set designers and all the work they put into. There is an appreciation for all these people now that I have had my eyes opened a little because this is the field that I am most interested in pursuing.

Something I have never thought about before with live-action sitcoms was the audience. I knew that a lot of them are filmed in front of a live studio audience, but it never occurred to me how much direction the audience gets from the creators such as how much to laugh, what jokes were funny, or even if they can go to the bathroom as Pili Valdés humorously explains in her article. The audience is key because it lifts up the atmosphere for the actors, and if a joke isn’t funny, or if a plot point isn’t making sense, the producers and writers have instant feedback. The importance of the live audience is also because it preserves tradition in a sense. The sitcom genre is one of the oldest on television and the live audience makes the acting and creating feel more like theater. There is nostalgia and excitement of being there physically and watching people perform in front of your eyes, and as Valdés explains, “You don’t care about the numerous takes. You don’t care Rita kept forgetting her lines. Really, you don’t. You’re too caught up in the magic of what you’re witnessing.”

Looking specifically at the show One Day at a Time, there is a noticeable difference between their formula and the formula of other sitcoms that I have watched in the past. To begin with, they tackle issues that are relevent for my time period (other sitcoms I have watched are from the past, and don’t deal with issues we have today) that are difficult and sometimes uncomfortable such as immigration and homosexuality. In Manuel Betancourt’s article about this show he says it’s “an urgent recasting of an old formula” and I would have to agree. What we see in this show is a single mother who takes on the “breadwinner” role of the household and struggles when she has to be also be the “homemaker” as well as we can see in Episode 3. We also see some other archetypes being broken such as Alex being about his look rather than Elena, and Elena is an outspoken feminist which; in my own personal experiences I have only seen done in The Simpsons with Lisa. There are so many textual anomalies that are talked about in the show which some I have mentioned before with immigration and homosexuality. We also see issues such as mental illness with Penelope taking antidepressants, we see the struggles that veterans experience when they come home, we see Alex contemplating drugs, and Elena watching porn. While a lot of sitcoms have the “very special episode” sprinkled in, One Day at a Time is almost made up entirely of these special episodes which makes the audience face these real life issues constantly. This also means that the audience can learn with the family how to deal with these type of issues in healthy ways.

According to Betancourt the reason that sitcoms tend to have a sense of community is because they “allowed viewers at home to feel as if they were there, laughing alongside those in the audience.” They are part of the family as much as the other characters are, and we see this in the usage of kitchen tables and how there is always one seat that is saved for the audience. This though could also be why people fell out of the three-camera sitcom genre because we saw these same issues expressed between so many different families so many times that no matter how funny a joke is, we know what’s going to happen. We know how the conflicts are going to be resolved, and their conflicts never expand out of their home or workplace. This is what makes One Day at a Time different though because we aren’t just getting the same plots and the same conclusions. We have characters break down, and we see different conflicts as well such as discrimination in the workplace that Penelope has to deal with. We also see them branch out of their home more because we see Penelope go to therapy, and Lupita going to church. This show is more progressive than other sitcoms in the past such as Friends and The Big Bang Theory because of the forward thinking that all these characters have about events that matter to everyone today in some capacity. There is the conservative such as Lupita, but her ideologies get changed too as she is forced to see how the world is changing through her grandchildren and daughter.

The Wild, the Whimsical, and the Weirdo

This week we watched Godless, Lost in Space, and The Santa Clarita Diet, and all three of them reflected their respected genres (Western, Sci-fi, and Horror-Comedy) while also twisting how we see each genre in stereotypical tropes. Godless is a clear Western genre television show and we are met with it right from the beginning with Marshall Cook riding a horse into an abandoned town called Creede. We see the emptiness of the Wild, we see man creeping into nature with the derailed train. We see the fear of God as well as the fear of bandits and gangs. Lost in Space is similar in fitting in with its genre; science fiction. A theme with science fiction is the is looking towards the future and we see this with flashbacks of living on Earth come to an end, as well as the advanced technology that is incorporated into everyday life. With science fiction there is also a theme of the protagonist having to face huge obstacles that are out of control such as powerful technology or natural phenomenon and in Lost in Space we get both of those such as Judy getting stuck from the freezing point of the planet as well as a robot of some kind that has the ability to murder and think.

While watching both Godless and Lost in Space I did notice that if you are not familiar with the genres such as Westerns or you aren’t familiar with the content beforehand such as the previous Lost in Space movie; it is easy to not notice specific themes or tropes that are associated with each genre. I am familiar with the Western genre and when watching Godless I noticed tropes like the “mystical” use of Native American medicine/religion as well as there being an evil gang of bandits such as Griffin. However, there were things that fell out of the typical themes of Westerns and that was La Belle being a functioning town without any men.  In Scott Tobias’ RollingStone article he mentions how the writers of the show wanted to push the boundaries of the Western genre saying that they used a “more optimistic truth about the Old West as a land of possibility and reinvention. Much of the action takes place in the literal no-man’s-land of La Belle, a town run almost entirely by women courtesy of a silver-mine collapse that killed off their husbands” (Tobias). Western is a typically hypermasculine genre and while the creators still stuck to a trope of “possibility and reinvention” they put it in a way that reinvent the genre by having women take the lead. Not only having a predominantly female town named La Belle, but as well as having protagonists like Alice who assume the role of leader of the house rather than a man. If you are not familiar with the already established themes and tropes of the Western genre, then it will be difficult to notice the recreations and creativity that make Godless stand apart from other Westerns.

I am a big fan of the sci-fi genre, more so than comedy or Westerns. However, I found myself not to like Lost in Space . as much as I was going to. I think a big reason for this is because this Netflix series is based on an older series of this story. I didn’t realize this until after I had watched the pilot and read Jeff Spry’s article about the show where he discusses the differences between the older Lost in Space versus the new one. He explains that the writers of the new show wanted to take from the original content, but not copy it. For instance he explains that the older version was more lighthearted and silly while the new one has a much more serious tone and you are transported into another world: “Spielbergian-style emotions and sparkling special effects to hook you into joining the Robinsons in their quest to discover a habitable new home” (Spry).  If I had known about this older series from the 1960s I think it would have been more enjoyable and for me, picking out the themes and tropes of sci-fi is a lot more difficult than Westerns.

I think two of the shows that deviated most from their genres are Godless and Santa Clarita Diet. For Godless I mentioned before that there is more of an emphasis on women and them leading instead of the men which is a huge deviation. However, there was also the interesting way that Frank Griffin was portrayed in the pilot that deviates from the genre. He has humanity to him which makes him all the more unsettling, but it shows that he isn’t after just gold and fame like stereotypical Western antagonists. He seeks to instill God into this godless landscape by becoming a god himself. He preaches what he thinks is right, and “purifies with blood” innocent people. He also takes nobodies into his group and spares certain people; showing compassion. Sophie Gilbert explains this in her The Atlantic article while also noting, “These moments of kindness from a brutal murderer add complexity to a fascinating character, but they also indict the idea that the culture of the Old West should ever be lionized.”

The Santa Clarita Diet also deviates from two genres, forming itself into a subgenre of horror-comedy. It follows the tropes of zombie horror by having Sheila crave meat, show no remorse or restraint, and she doesn’t have any vital signs. There is murder committed at the end that is horribly graphic and an underlying tension of what is happening in this suburban neighborhood is not normal. Meanwhile there is the comedy aspect where they live between two cops and the conflicts that ensue with that, there is the ridiculousness of Joel losing it over a toaster-oven as well as having the habit of staring at things in stores for a long time. There is also Drew Barrymore trying so hard to be funny, but completely fails every time with her monotone voice and her over-the-top acting when she’s trying to emote energy (shots fired!). This show doesn’t fit neatly into one genre, but shows themes and tropes of each genre enough for them to be blended together into the subgenre of horror-comedy that is more successfully done in movies such as Adventureland.

My dislike of the comedy aspect is the reason why I think this show is leaning more towards the horror because the comment on having paranormal horror in the middle of a clean-cut, American Dream, suburban neighborhood is a little unsettling in its own right. I also think that the concept of having the show lit the way it was where it felt warm and Modern Family-eque was a really interesting spin on the traditional horror themes where there is shadows and darkness. Jacob Oller in his article describes the real horror of the show in relation to the light saying: “The series itself is neither dark nor gritty. It’s upsettingly perfect, which is worse. There’s something extra fucked-up about seeing a picturesque home interior that wouldn’t look out-of-place on Queer Eye or Property Brothers coated in Evil Dead levels of goopy blood” (Oller). I think that this allows the comedy skills of the actors/writer of this show to slip a little because they rely on the ‘unsettling’ quality of the entire show’s design. This leads up to the climax at the end of the first episode where Sheila murdered Gary and began to devour his guts which is horrifying, suprising, and terribly disturbing, especially when Sheila waves excitedly at Joel.


Binge Watching and the Consequences

House of Cards has never been something on my “to-watch” list, I knew it was about politics and there was an intense web of lies and sub-plots that it seemed too difficult to watch. It didn’t seem like a show I could watch to wind down. So when assigned this show, I was hesitant on whether I would like it and if I could make it through six episodes easily. To my surprise I found it extremely entertaining to watch, I got the six episodes assigned watched in one whole afternoon. Something that I noticed about the characters right away was that there wasn’t a single likable person. They all had something about their personality that was vile, and a lot of them were the addictions that Casey McCormack mentions the surrogate characters tend to have. However, even though these characters were so awful, I still found myself sympathizing with them such as when Peter was offered a razor by Frank, or when Frank flops during the CNN debate with Marty.

McCormack discusses that House of Cards was designed to be viewed as a binge watching show and themes, motifs, and characters are designed to reflect the binge viewer and keep them engaged. Going back to the surrogate characters, McCormack says, “[They] serve as a kind of instruction manual on how to be a good binge-viewer. As new surrogates are introduced and then killed off, we come to see their failures as warnings, or at least as gestures to the viewer’s experience. So while Netflix wants the audience to be binging the show, they warn that if you take addictions to extremes such as in House of Cards there can be negative consequences.

Addiction with the surrogate characters is heavily integrated into the show. Because each surrogate character has an addiction, it is therefore representing the viewer who could have the potentiality of treating binge-watching as an addiction. As mentioned before, the addicts are in place to show the viewer what it is like to be a good and bad behaviors. If you succumb to bad behaviors such as Peter with his alcoholism and drug use, you will be punished. If you use your addictions in reasonable purposes, then you will be rewarded such as Frank with his addictions to nicotine as well as power.

Something else I noticed in my viewing experience of House of Cards was the motif that was also mentioned by McCormack and that was the repeated scenes of Claire and Frank Underwood sitting by the window, smoking a cigarette. Because it happened repeatedly, I noted that this motif had to be important, perhaps trying to convey the end of the day or as a way of releasing the stress from their non-stop jobs. McCormack agrees and in a more fluid way states, “this scene implicates Frank and Claire in a grueling process analogous to binging and acts as a call for psychological (and physical) preparation. The scene also reveals one of their addictions—nicotine—  which will become an ongoing motif throughout the series” (106). This was one of the most enjoyable themes that I noticed because it showed a certain intimacy of the characters that were masked when they are put in the public sphere.

Instead of each episode of House of Cards being called “episodes” they are called “chapters” instead. This is because the show wants to associate itself with the term “quality TV” because chapters are associated with books. This makes the show seem like it is a piece of literature rather than just a TV show. McCormack also references the fact that it remains continuous throughout the seasons, indicating to the viewer that this is a continuous plot and doesn’t leave as much of a gap.

Personally I do agree with McCormack’s claim of binge watching, “is a productive, often deliberate, and potentially transformative mode of viewing” because of how efficient it can be. Instead of watching a show for weeks at a time on a TV network, you can experience a whole world in a short amount of time. I look at this on the terms of efficiency because you are able to experience so many more worlds and plots than you would otherwise. While I do note the danger of information overload, I think that it is human nature to want to absorb as much as we can, and binge watching is a great way to view “quality TV” at a faster rate. You also experience the characters feelings in a real sense of time such as with House of Cards where if you binged watched when it was first released, it follows a similar flow of time. While watching the show, I did feel the exhaustion that is a prominent theme. Every time a character slumped into their seat or were awake at ridiculous hours of the night, I also felt that tiredness.

I do understand where Zachary Snider’s opinions come into play as well. He claims that binge-watching does more harm than good and rather than just absorbing information, binging causes loneliness and depression amongst viewers, and I did relate to that as well because I felt anxiety and loneliness while watching only six episodes because I watched them by myself and I was engulfed in the political world of intense stakes that I felt I was part of myself. However, I stand my McCormack’s point more strongly because of the immersion that we as viewers feel is more productive in the long run because we are able to go through more content more quickly, and through different shows we develop empathy with people in certain situations we might not have in the past. Instead of isolating us from the world, binge watching also has the power to have us understand the world and people around us better. Using my own experience as an example, I was alone while watching House of Cards and whenever Frank started talking to me directly, there was some intimacy, and he also demonstrated the corrupt and manipulative side of politics that I was not as aware of until now. His demonstrations of his real thinking being towards me shows how natural politics can lie and be hidden from the public, and at the same time, I felt like I was in on Frank’s plots because of his undivided attention towards me.

-Alison Baunoch

Netflix and the No Wait Media

When it comes to traditional television we have networks such as ABC’s and NBS that rely on the “live” audience when it comes to having some of their shows viewed. Late night talk shows rely on this as well as the obvious, Saturday Night Live. Traditional television also has the challenge of keeping their audience with them as a one hour show will have twenty minutes work of commercials. With Netflix it doesn’t have to deal with these hassles. There are no commercials, Netflix is able to get their revenue off of subscriptions to their streaming services. Since there is no live audience to keep engaged week after week, Netflix can give out the entire season instantly and “binge-watching” takes place. It allows the audience to not have to wait for new content week after week and they do not have to sit through endless advertisements. They do not need to worry about advertising revenue since they get it from subscriptions and placed ad’s in the content. This makes Netflix a powerhouse when it comes to media companies because there is an understanding that today’s modern audience does not have time or patience to sit around waiting for more content. They have options to skip the ad’s with technologies such as TiVo or they can save it and watch it later which is known as time-shifting, and Netflix is a key source for this time shifting because they can go back to the show and watch it at their own pace.

Some of the competitors that have fought with Netflix for audiences and subscriptions are big names such as Blockbuster and HBO. Blockbuster was always following Netflix from moving on from walk-in stores to going online. However, they were just copycats and did not have the support to compete with Netflix in a meaningful way. HBO was a competitor as well. From Cameron Lindsey’s article, Reed Hastings, one of the creators of Netflix called the rivalry between HBO and Netflix to be “like the Yankees and the Red Sox” (Lindsey, 176). Netflix streams multiple shows and movies from other companies, however they do not have any from HBO because they have their own streaming service of their own original content as well as shows and movies from other companies. What makes Netflix stand out in the end however is the accessibility that Netflix has. It can be streamed from almost any technological device, and when you even buy new computers, sometimes Netflix already has a shortcut on their desktop.

Some advantages that Netflix has over it’s competitors have been listed already such as no advertisements, easy access, a “no wait” availability for the audience, however there could be some reasons as to why Netflix could come crashing down. One example is the idea that Netflix will be co-opted by it’s competitors and they can use their own power to beat Netflix “at it’s own game” (Lindsey, 178). Another problem that can lay ahead is the expansion of the company means that the expenses are also going to be larger, and the subscriptions might not be able to be one of the main sources of revenue for Netflix. They could go for the option of raising the subscription price, however it will come to a point where the price will be too much and consumers will look to other media distribution sites.

One of the biggest eye openers is the idea that Netflix claims that it allows democracy when it comes to creating content because there is less stress than being on a live programming station where certain values have to be adhered and certain ideas and words cannot be said or mentioned. So while there is more freedom in that aspect for Netflix, it is not as democratic or autonomous as it appears to be and I will use the example that Gerald Sim highlights in his own article. House of Cards was based off of a BBC drama that featured Kevin Spacey. Netflix analysts looked at the subscriber behavior and the connections between different shows and genres to come up with what would be a big hit show. House of Cards is then based off of the BBC drama with the use of the actor Kevin Spacey because of consumer habits on Netflix. Nothing that is recommended to you was recommended by accident because there is an algorithm that tracks what you like and what you will likely enjoy next. This keeps you grounded in the site as well because you are continuously offered content that you enjoy.

-Alison Baunoch