Controversy in all Directions

Sensitive subjects are not only appropriate for stand up comedy, but often perfect for it. Sensitive subjects usually only have a single narrative surrounding them in the news so when a comic can get up on stage and say something different it can be very refreshing. Dave Chappelle covers the #MeToo movement and naturally things got a little controversial. The listed news articles mentioned a couple of the jokes from his special out of context and the writers sounded too sensitive to be listening to comedy in the first place. When he talks about the female comic who had her dream of comedy “ruined” from Louie CK jerking off in front of her and calls her brittle spirited, I completely agree. She’s a comic, other female comics could have even made a joke off of it and continued with their careers. Comic moments like this balance out sensational events and act as devil’s advocate to help you create an opinion on a matter 90% the same as your original opinion, but now slightly slightly more realistic.

With Kevin Spacey, I think it was right for Netflix to cancel House of Cards, but to consider not watching the show anymore or not watching his movies anymore is a little overboard in my opinion. I care more about the media than the drama in the background much like with music. I was watching House of Cards a month ago when my roommates started making some actually hilarious Spacey jokes. I kept watching the show with the added giggles but it didn’t bother me. The key I think is to be lighthearted sometimes. One person who is undeniably disgusting is Harvey Weinstein and though Dave Chapelle makes a controversial joke about it, he mentions how terrifying it all must have been for female actors to be in their positions. He mentions how if he was in a meeting and the guy whipped his dick out he would be terrified too. Dave isn’t defending anyone in these specials but he is playing around and finding funny angles on the stories. This is a dangerous strategy and it fails occasionally, but I think that overall he is pretty funny and that his ideas are relatively grounded.

Louie C.K.’s career has undeniably ended because he pulled his penis out multiple times to female colleagues and it all happened in recent history. It appears that Kevin Spacey’s career is over as well but I don’t know if that is totally fair. The accusations happened something like 30 years ago and I believe it is entirely possible that he’s a different man now so maybe this controversy shouldn’t be his end in the entertainment industry. I could be wrong but I just know from personal experience that I evolve as a person every so often.

In general however I don’t tend to spend a lot of time thinking about this kind of news because it doesn’t benefit me in anyway to do so. I dwelled on Louie C.K.’s controversy for a few days because it was so shocking to me, but then I moved passed it. It just makes me feel uncomfortable to focus on such an ugly topic for so long. Does that mean that Dave Chappelle’s bits on the #MeToo movement and all of this controversy were unpleasant to me? In part, yes. Though Dave did had plenty of funny moments and was mostly on point, I just don’t want to hear of the subject matter to begin with. So to read articles written by very sensitive and passionate people who are essentially yelling at Chappelle for being insensitive and wrong about how he covered these topics was like nails on a chalkboard. It just feels like a waste of time and slightly like tabloid news. Also I do love Dave Chappelle, but I just hope he moves on to a different subject matter for his next special.

What Makes a Show Develop Dedicated Fans?

Shows like Stanger Things, Black Mirror, and The Punisher are all incredibly unique, potent, and immersive. All of these shows have die hard fans and it’s no surprise. Black Mirror for example caters to thinkers who dream about where the future may lead us and it fills a gap in the entertainment industry where Twilight Zone once resided. I’m a huge fan of the show myself because of it’s incredible writing and close to reality plots. I’m a computer science major who’s working on a glider drone that can use image recognition to spot people and plot their gps coordinates on a map all autonomously so I realize how close we actually are to robotic militarized dogs. It’s completely feasible even right now. So when a show taps into this kind of futuristic subject matter and does a good job of it, I’m very intrigued.

Stranger Things is a popular show with millions of fans for very different reasons. It is reminiscent to 80’s Stephen King films and deals with science fiction in a very fun way. The show is simply very likable and intriguing with it’s vibrant child actors and mystery. It’s also a very unique show (much like the others mentioned) and stands alone among countless other Netflix shows with virtually no overlap. When a show’s universe is this distinct and well thought out, it tends to naturally attract a lot of fans because people want to tap into these worlds and escape into them by watching the show or movie and by reading the fan fiction. Good examples of well realized distinct worlds are those of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars. Stranger Things’ universe isn’t as far fetched as the others mentioned, but it feels well defined due to it’s retro aesthetic and unique cast of monsters (oh and the upside down).

The Punisher is an interesting one because the guy is an example of a realistic super hero. Realistic meaning he’s just a normal guy with military training who actually has the personality you’d expect someone to have when all they do is kill. He is the superhero for grown men who enjoy military related things and violence. He doesn’t have cheesy pick up lines, he’s very relatable, and the action scenes in the show are full of carnage. In one episode, he clears out a room full of bad guys by going on a shooting rampage. This is reminiscent to ancient warriors like Spartans holding off 20 men single handedly with a sword. Many guys are drawn to this archetype of a mighty warrior because 2000 years ago, their ancestor’s probably were just that. It takes a long time for traces of this mentality to leave a gene pool if they ever do seeing how some men still fight wars generation to generation.

I like people who are hardcore fans of shows, movies, and even video games because these people show that they have a lot of passion for what they’re into. They do and watch what makes them happy and will even dress up as their favorite characters at Comicon. I see no issue with this except for when it completely takes over a person’s life and renders them useless to society (but this rarely is ever the case). In the USS Callister episode of Black Mirror, I don’t think it is about being an obsessive fan of something, but rather about the dangerous mentalities a person can have. In this case, the guy was kind of a pushover with a number of behavioral problems who let out his frustration in the form of being a glorious leader in a fantasy world. The guy knew that his crew was conscious and terrified of their leader, but he rolled with it because he was such a frustrated and dysfunctional person in secret. To say it is about toxic masculinity isn’t quiet accurate because in this man’s case things were much more complicated. Toxic masculinity is only a part of what’s going on here. Only Black Mirror can explore such weird and dark behavior in a person, and it leads to some thought provoking and impressive television.

Two Fresh Perspectives and a Poor Attempt to do Something About Racism

by Nick Christiansen

I’m a fan of Luke Cage and I think the show is great, but I don’t understand why people are upset about the lack of white characters in the show. The show isn’t about race, it is about fighting crime within an environment that is predominantly one race. We’ve seen white superheroes fighting crime in predominantly white environments and there’s nothing wrong with that other than the fact that it’s been done so many times. Creating a black superhero in a black neighborhood is fresh and allows for a lot more unique storytelling. That’s really it and there aren’t any us vs them racial angles to begin with. Also there are some Italian looking bad guys so it’s not like there’s only black actors.

I either find Luke Cage or the short Hispanic kid from On my Block (Ruby) the most compelling. I find the short kid from On my Block very relatable because I was also very short in high school, always tried to get girls, and had a tough side. The difference with Ruby is that his toughness has a Latin flavor that is shown in the micro expressions of his face and by his swagger. Luke Cage is also a great character because his character is very understated and discreet but noble and very powerful. He’s just a good guy who gets dragged into things and has to whoop some ass in places where no one else can.

I think that Luke Cage and On the Block do great jobs of telling stories from minority perspectives in minority environments because they feel authentic in a number of ways and they have very likeable protagonists. The shows both tell a good message too; Luke Cage gets across the message that you should be humble and strive for good in the world and On my Block tells the message that kids should stick together for support in environments like highschool and that you should try to pull your friends away from gang activity.

What message does Dear White People send? Well that is very hard to say. You could argue that it sends the message that racism is a big issue on college campuses due to  blackface parties, but those don’t actually happen often at all. We have to remember that we live in a huge spread out country and that there are definitely people who are racist and don’t see blacks as equals, but that isn’t representative of the whole country. Also, college campuses are very progressive in nature and are probably some of the least racist places in this country. A rural town in the south is going to be a lot more discriminatory than a hub for educated people who care about creating progress and innovation.

Dear White People is as bad and divisive as the title makes it appear. The main character is even shown to be blatantly racist when she reveals that she wrote an article about why you shouldn’t date white men; it doesn’t get any clearer than that. Also when she brings her white boyfriend (who is a big deal due to his race) to a gathering with her black group to watch a show, the white boyfriend mentions that most white people don’t support blackface parties. Now what he said is obviously true, but his words get viciously picked apart and the race card is pulled when he says, “what are you gonna do, punch me?” In context this was a normal thing to say to the guy who is being aggressive towards you regardless of his color. This makes the white character one of the only likeable main characters on the show which is hilariously ironic. The show was extremely unlikeable and the entire premise of their anger towards white people is generally unrealistic. A black face party would never happen at CSU. The only thing you could argue as being racist that happened on our campus was the putting up of “It’s ok to be white” posters which ironically were very neutral and you could even argue as being positive (but that’s a whole different story I don’t have space to elaborate on).

In the other shows, it wasn’t about race, it was about good values and being a good person in a crime filled environment. Dear White People is as misguided of a stunt as the football players who knelt during the national anthem. These football players were protesting violence against blacks by law enforcement (a good cause) but only created more bad feelings and anguish. If these black football players wanted to actually do something positive to counter this sore spot in our country and to heal, then they would have held hands with a white player during the national anthem or done something unifying instead of separating. Think about that for a second. Dear White People is seperating because it squabbles with unrealistic racial problems which results in the audience feeling a sense that there is a huge problem on college campuses when there really isn’t.

The Well Established World of Reality TV

by Nick Christiansen

Reality TV is a genre that seems like it will be around forever. There is a ton you can do with the genre, and virtually any demographic is reachable depending on the specific reality show. The shows we had to watch for this blog posting were Nailed It! and Queer Eye. These shows mostly appeal to a gay and female demographic with their subject matter and they do a great job at entertaining and providing to that crowd. I know this partially because my sister would watch baking shows in high school and I could tell that she would love Nailed It! Personally, my favorite type of reality show is something like Myth Busters or Doomsday Preppers where they experiment and build fun things. I love these shows because I love to tinker with things and you usually learn a lot along the way too. Watching these kinds of shows growing up also inspired me to do things like build artificial intelligent drones that will land me an awesome job soon.

I would say that Nailed It! conforms very heavily to the well established sub-genre of baking/cooking contest. You have a panel of judges with varying backgrounds, an energetic host, and contestants who are given a short amount of time to produce a result. The judges then judge the food based on appearance and taste before declaring a winner. Now I don’t think there really is any other way of designing a cooking show, so this framework doesn’t bother me at all. The only things that vary in these shows are what they bake. Nailed It! finds it’s niche in the sub-genre by making contestants recreate very elaborate baked items and I think that is enough to differentiate it from other shows in the genre. The show was very easy to watch and captivating because you can see mistakes happening in real time and you can see what kind of character a person has by how they bake. Would I ever watch TV like this in my own time? Absolutely not. I find it to be a waste of time and if I had to watch something I would rather watch a complicated show about crime or history for example. Does that mean I dislike it? No, shows like this are soft and easy to digest and would probably be a safe bet to put on while I’m hanging out with my girlfriend so she can enjoy the program and I can crack jokes at it. The show serves it’s purpose and brings a lot of people in to watch a fun and innocent little contests, so I respect that.

Cooking shows I’ve been known to get excited about are Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. Anthony Bourdain’s show was both a travel and a cooking show. He would travel to exotic locations to talk about the culture of the area, then go to highly regarded or just simply good restaurants that reflect what people like to eat in the area. Being a highly regarded chef, he would break down the food for the viewer and tell you what elements of the dish were special. This show just felt rich and immersive with Anthony’s relatable perspective and excellent eye for detail, I’ll really miss the guy. Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares was a great show because it was so intense. Gordon would go to failing restaurants to save them from closing down. This means he would have to identify the problems and then fix them. Most often these problems would be in the staff and their cooking, so Gordon would tell these oblivious underachievers cold hard truths about how much they sucked at their jobs and what they would need to do to be better. This resulted in a lot of drama, but as you’ll learn, Gordon is never wrong about what he says, and his harsh words are pretty much always deserved. He is a man with zero fear and zero tolerance for bullshit. And at the end of the day, Gordon Ramsey probably saved dozens upon dozens of real restaurants form closing down. This was a cooking show with purpose and impact.

Queer Eye is a show that delivers a lot more than I thought it would. I expected to see some gay guys giving someone a makeover, but the show covered the story of a gay black man in the south and his struggles, it went over the story of a small town and how it’s building a community center, and it tells the story of a very loving and spiritual woman who loves her son regardless of him being gay and her being Christian. I also respected the show pretty much right off of the bat when the men mentioned how they still love spirituality and Christianity regardless of how misunderstanding church groups can be. These guys exhibit their positive ideals and character by building the community center for a church (which they made look great) and by being supportive to the gay son of the woman they were giving a makeover. This show is both very gay and very wholesome, it isn’t a show I would watch in my free time, but I can see how gay men would probably love it, and for good reason. It doesn’t match any reality TV formula or sub-genre I’ve ever seen, and it felt very refreshing.

Documentaries are Extremely Powerful

by Nick Christiansen

The key to Netflix’s success isn’t only the fact that they have a ridiculously large amount of content, but the fact that they have a lot of quality content. Now this quality content can include anything from well rated blockbuster movies that millions of viewers are gonna watch within a week of the film being posted to indie documentaries that gain their traction through good ratings and word of mouth alone. The fact of the matter is, if something is of great quality, viewers will usually come. So it is smart for Netflix to include a lot of documentaries like this for a number of reasons. These documentaries will give Netflix an image of being tasteful and for a more curious and educated demographic. This also means that they will appeal to the people that actually pay for the Netflix subscription for their families, and that is hugely important for obvious reasons. Aside from all of that, Netflix is able to create a platform for more meaningful programs with important messages and findings that people should be exposed to.

For example, Icarus pulls the veil off of Olympic sports and professional sports in general to reveal the secretive doping tactics going on behind the scenes. This is a matter of global politics and because it is so important, and everyone who would care about the subject should know about it. But I don’t think this makes Netflix more of a newsstand than an all-encompassing library just because it is a traditionally styled widely accessible documentary. Netflix has plenty of weird and non-traditional movies in it’s roster, it’s just that they’re easy to ignore when there are so many normal more heavily viewed movies on there.

For my feature-length documentary I watched Icarus and was blown away. The documentary comes in at about 2 hours long, but it fills every minute with very important information and story. The story starts off with a semi-pro cyclist who wants to step his game up and compete with the top ten bikers in his races. The guy is still an above average competitor, but he just can’t break into the groups of riders above him. I should mention that this isn’t even the main reason he wants to take performance enhancing drugs. The cyclist wants to know how easy it is (if even possible) to take performance enhancing drugs in professional cycling. He gets drug tested and is told that things are kept fair, but rumors tell him that a Russian lab may be involved in bending the rules. After some investigating, he grabs a hold of a very charismatic doctor who is strangely willing to completely help the man take synthetic testosterone, HGH, and a drug which increases your red blood cell count. The scientist is only three levels down from Putin himself, and he uses his extensive information on the scandal to completely blow the lid off of it. Things pivot from being about a cyclist trying to get steroids to a real time story of the U.S. launching a new investigation against Russia partially with the information gathered from the documentary. This makes it feel much more visceral and like you’re watching a piece of history. The Russian doctor had to leave his family to stay safe in the U.S. after all since there was a very serious risk he’d be taken out by the KGB.

The story felt perfectly paced and always kept me hooked in, so I think that the 2 hour length was perfect. The story was incredible too for how it directly manipulated global politics. But to move on to a different kind of documentary, I will talk about Evil Genius. This documentary was four episodes long with each episode being about an hour, so you may think that things are relatively stretched out and slow in pace. This isn’t really the case as there was so many people to talk about and such a large story to tell. The story could have been shorter, but it probably would sacrifice character development that was crucial to the case. We begin by looking at a bank robbery attempted by a pizza delivery man with a bomb collar. The man’s neck blows up and he is unsuccessful because he had to stop to collect a key that would help take off his collar. Three weeks later, a man reports finding a body inside of a freezer. This man is brought in and almost immediately thought to be involved in the robbery because the site at which the crew strapped the bomb to the delivery guy was right near the house. the man claimed that a woman named Marge killed the man; she also had three other boyfriends who had mysteriously died throughout the years. This leads us to the interrogation of this woman and we find out how nasty and deceitful she is. It took about two years after the heist for the FBI to solve the case, so it means that we have a very long and detailed story to work with. This makes the four episodes fly by with each episode feeling totally meaningful and important to the overall plot. Length is one of those things that the producers of a show decide as they go. They begin chipping away at the project with a format and then decide what length the final product should be to tell the story best. Because of this, I don’t mind if a documentary is long like this because I assume that the makers of it know what they’re doing and have a good reason for it.

I really enjoy watching a good documentary because it feels much more meaningful than watching fiction a lot of the time. You learn something new and experience a part of the real world that you could never imagine beforehand. For example, I got to see how nauseating of a process it is to inject yourself with multiple performance enhancing drugs every week and I got to observe how a psychopathic killer woman behaves in an interview. I walked away with real knowledge and real happiness knowing that Marge form Evil Genius is locked up for the rest of her life. That documentary was also made very fun by that fact that you had to put together the story for yourself and decide who you believed and how much for yourself. It was like an exercise in beating master manipulators which I found extremely enjoyable. After this whole experience, I find myself wanting to watch yet another documentary; the genre is just so powerful.

A New Kind of Funny has Arrived

by Nick Christiansen

Animated television matters because it can accomplish what live action cannot. With animation, artists can create a world that’s perfect for anchoring in their own flavor of hilarious dialogue and plot. Also, it allows creators to make something like a spy show in which the characters are constantly traveling to exotic locations for a fraction of the price of live action. This empowers creators that aren’t bound by an ultra powerful parent company to put out fun and unique content.

With shows like F is for Family and Big Mouth, the writers are trying to accomplish the task of making a show that’s not only funny, but also insightful and fresh. With Big Mouth, we follow a middle schooler who is a victim of his emerging sex drive. Right away this sounds controversial and extremely uncomfortable, but with the power of animation and hilarious voice acting, the product is actually really funny an unique. The show embodies the boy’s sex drive into something called the Hormone Monster. This is a figure of the main boy’s imagination that jumps into the scene whenever the boy gets aroused. For example, this happens when he is in sex ed and when he is staring at a cat clock. In sex ed you hear the teacher say, “the eggs then travel down the falopian tube” when the monster appears and goes, “Falopian, what a savory word. Describes exactly what it is, know what I mean?” The boy responds by saying that he’s in school and that this all needs to stop. This shows the good side of the boy and his inner struggle against his sexual demon. Only in animation can a show accomplish and have it be hilarious. It opens up external and internal discussion on sensitive topics like this by showing us how silly the human condition really is. middle schoolers an adults alike are able to get into this story element because we all have a sex drive.

In F is for Family, things are slightly more serious and the story revolves around a war veteran father dealing with the daily struggles of being a father in a 70s America. The dad has anger issues much like his voice actor Bill Burr and he shows this part of himself in a hilarious and understandable way. When his youngest son breaks his TV, he takes it back to the shop and chews out the employee in a very appropriate though aggressive way. And that’s what I like about the show, it can be surprisingly aggressive and violent, but in an interesting way. For example, the oldest son is a punk rocker who is always swoonin the ladies and causing trouble. He’s a good kid though as he sticks up for his little brother when the boy needs help. The youngest boy gets chased up a tree by older kids who shoot him with a pellet gun and when the older boy hears of it, he leaves his make-out session and comes to the rescue. Once arriving on the scene, the older brother whoops some ass before saving his brother and giving him some tough love. This was very fun to watch because a lot of sitcoms and live action shows staring middle school and high school boys portray them as being soft as a kitten (except for Stranger Things). This is not always the case, so showing a little aggression in a TV show is refreshing.

After watching both of these shows, I decided that I really liked them (especially Big Mouth) and I plan on watching them more in the future. These shows are partially as good as they are because the star voice actors are stand up comedians who became well known through appealing to audiences time after time. This means they got where they are and ended up in these shows not through being selected by a single casting agent, but by thousands upon thousands of people who found them hilarious. It is as if we are partially putting the power back into people through crowd sourcing talent. I hope to see more of this kind of content as it is really fresh and entertaining, and it gives me hope for the entertainment industry’s future.

Past and Present Sitcoms

By Nick Christiansen

Sitcoms are not regarded as the most impressive or clever pieces of media one can watch, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t impressive. Sitcoms produce more episodes and seasons per show than any other genre and they manage to consistently rake in huge amounts of cash. The writers of these shows are able to consistently crank out funny episodes and interesting plots around the same 4-5 characters day after day. After watching the behind the scenes video of Friends, I was left with a feeling of respect for the shows creators; the amount of effort these people put into each episode made me regain some appreciation for a show that I’ve previously been known to bashed for unfunny and mundane writing. To be fair, I re-watched some Seinfeld (a show I remember liking as a child) and found that it drove me crazy with how bad the jokes were so perhaps some sitcoms just don’t age well.

When it comes to One Day at a Time, I found that the writing was very fresh and that even when talking about feminism, it didn’t bother me with overly biased writing. So perhaps Friends is incredibly stale because the recipe of a sitcom revolving around a group of white friends in their 20’s living in New York is very overdone. After all, Seinfeld did it and How I Met Your Mother made the mistake of doing it (yes that show is disappointing), so I myself find find any plot made between a group of friends in that city to be as flavorless as a piece of drywall. Although One Day at a Time doesn’t make sets outside of the home and office very often, at least the cast is very interesting. The mom is Latina and a veteran. With her and the grandma’s banter, something interesting is always said. The show isn’t afraid to get political too. This is generally a very bad thing in my mind, but the show traverses this sensitive territory in a very smooth way. For example, when the mom encounters a coworker that doesn’t listen to her ideas, she doesn’t take her feminist daughter’s advice to confront him, but decides to go straight to the boss to share her idea. This way she skips the drama and a forced speech. The clever writers then set it up where the man steals her idea right in front of her thus setting her up to finally chew the guy out in a fluid and non forceful way. It is easy to tell that a lot of thought went into the writing and it is also very pleasing to have the grandma on the show to counter the feminist daughter’s views with traditional ones. This keeps things balanced and sometimes makes the overly eager daughter reset her views to be more realistic.

I think it is also safe to say that the producers of this show spend more time writing the script than worrying about things like sets and how they’re gonna build them. This way they can prioritize what really matters in a show (the script) instead of overextending themselves to the point where they have to make writing changes on the fly like in Friends. This show didn’t make me like sitcoms, but I did find myself enjoying the show. Also, the traditional grandmother never ceased to create dialogue moments to shock and appall the feminist daughter (my favorite part of the show). Even the son was fun to watch as he is smart and cocky and overall feels very realistic to me. Back to the set, the crew did a great job at making the home appear as vibrant as the cast. The couch pillows are a bright orange and even the can of coffee in the kitchen is bright yellow. The home decor even compliments the characters. For example, the curtains to the grandma’s room allow for entrances and exits as dramatic as the woman herself. The set even helps tell the story like when grandma puts up a picture of the pope. It is little details like this that let you know that the set builders did a good job. I think the use of multiple cameras also compliments the show well because it allows the acting to be as fluid as possible and therefor conveys the dynamic the actors have between each other as accurately as possible.