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Posts Tagged ‘Television’

This is a story about stories — and the way technology is changing the scope and structure of the stories we tell.  Right now, in untelevised reality, we are in the middle of an epic, multiseason struggle over the territory of the human imagination, over whose stories matter and why.  For me, it started with fandom.
While many millions of people out there felt that they had been written out of the future, not all of them agreed on who to blame.  Some of us blamed the banks, blamed structural inequality.  But some people don’t pay attention to the structure.  For some people, kicking up takes too much energy, and it’s easier to kick down — to blame women and people of color and queer people and immigrants for the fact that they aren’t leading the rich and meaningful lives they were promised.
But there are different kinds of love, aren’t there?  I used to believe that there was something universal about fandom, that our excitement and love for our most cherished myths could bring us all together.  This wasn’t the silliest thing I believed in my early twenties, but I had, at the time, swallowed a lot of saccharine nonsense about what love means and the work it involves.  I had not yet encountered in my adult life or in my fan life the sort of love which is always, and only, about ownership.
All nerds love their fandoms.  For some of us that means we want to share them and cheer them on as they grow and develop and change.  For others, loving their fandom means they want to own it, to shut down the borders and police their favorite stories for any sign of deviance.
Television and online streaming are driving the evolution of a new, powerful hybrid species of mass culture, one that can be collective without being homogeneous.  As arc-based television explodes, becomes more diverse and more daring, the film industry is lagging awkwardly behind.  Films are still hamstrung by their own format:  They have to tell stories of a certain length that will persuade enough people to leave their houses, find a place to park, and buy a ticket on opening weekend, or else be considered a flop.  This means mainstream cinema still needs to appeal to what the industry considers its broadest possible audience.  So it’s superhero blockbusters, endless remakes and reboots, and sequels to sequels that dominate the box office.  Safe bets.
Episodic narrative television, meanwhile, allows for many stories being possible at once.  Intimate and intricate, it may be the novel form of our age — but to reach its true potential, it took the advent of streaming platforms.  Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO.  Streaming technology changed one simple thing about the way we tell collective stories today:  It made any show theoretically accessible to anyone, at any time.  A TV writer is no longer obliged to appeal to a very large number of people at a specific time every week and hold their attention through ad breaks.  Suddenly, TV became a medium that could find its audience wherever they were in the world, so long as they had broadband and someone’s login details.  Nobody has to write “universal” stories anymore, because every show or series can find its audience — and its audience can engage on fan sites, forums, and various social media behemoths, in breathless real time.
  —  Laurie Penny
An excerpt from her article:  “We Can Be Heroes: How the Nerds Are Reinventing Pop Culture
Appearing in:  Wired Magazine
Issue:  September 2019
The article also appears online at:  https://www.wired.com/story/culture-fan-tastic-planet-fanfic/
[The online version of the article may be behind a paywall.  In which case, you can probably find the hard copy at your local library.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2019 Sounds Like #LyingDonald
2018 Start Building
2017 Woof! Woof!
2016 Cast Out
2015 Small Pieces
Happy Father’s Day!
2014 Uncertain Work
2013 Unpatriotic And Servile
2012 What Price Freedom?
2011 Particular Importance
Three From Bette…

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I find television very educating.  Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
  ―  Groucho Marx
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On This Day In:
2018 Used To Rejection
Day 16: Looking Ahead (Just A Little)
2017 Tonight
I Rejoice
2016 Conscientious Courage
Speaking Of Which…
2015 The Beautiful Snow
2014 Nurtured By The Voices
2013 Précis
2012 Fear And Understanding
2011 Just Being Human

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Stonewall Jackson, who knew something about the use of weapons, is reported to have said, “When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.”  The trouble with television is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival.
   —  Edward R. Murrow
From his speech to the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) convention in Chicago
Given: October 15, 1958
[Popularly know as the “Wires And Lights In A Box” speech.  The link to the full speech is (also) available on my “Poems” page.  —  KMAB ]
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On This Day In:
2015 I Am Lucky And I Am Grateful
2014 Future Envy
2013 We Do Not Want To Learn That
2012 Social Inhibition
2011 Studying Chinese Food
Are You Bored, Too?
2010 Rant, Pant, Deep Breath – Reality

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This evening’s post is a book review and a movie review.
Book review: Edward R. Murrow: and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism  (2004©)
This book was written by Bob Edwards and chronicles the life of the famous radio and TV news journalist: Edward R Murrow.  A little background – I grew up listening to the famous record series “I Can Hear It Now (1933-1945)“.  I’m not sure why my mom bought them for me as a child, but I have distinct memories of listening to these albums (actually, 78rpm LPs, as in “Long Playing” for all you music streamers) along with my copy of “The Lone Ranger“.  Incidentally, anyone interested can hear much of, if not all of, the records on YouTube.  You can certainly hear enough of Murrow’s voice to appreciate what he sounded like to Americans who were just discovering radio.
The book is a fascinating account of the parallel track of radio and TV news journalism with early to mid-20th century world / American history.  The main body is 166 pages in my hardbound copy and I found it a VERY fast read.  If you have any interest in the history of broadcast journalism this is a terrific introduction.  Having grown up during the 1960’s, when many of the names in the book were faces on my TV every evening, the book really brought back memories.  Of particular interest, the “Afterword” runs about 13 pages and more or less precisely describes the news we see on TV (broadcast and 24-hour cable) today.  The book would be highly recommended based on the “Afterword” itself, but I found the whole book fascinating.  Final recommendation: Highly recommended!  Needless to say, there will be quotes to follow on my blog…
Movie review: “good night, and good luck.”  (2005)
This is my second review of this movie / DVD.  The original review can be found at:  Journalism And Fantasy  from back in 2012.  My first review pretty much stands as is.  This is an outstanding movie about a critical time in American history – 1953 to 1958 and covers the conflict between Senator Joseph McCarthy and Edward Murrow.  McCarthy was trying to fight communism in the U.S. government (and then within the U.S. as a whole) and over-reached by using government intimidation to restrict free speech and association and, ultimately, freedom of the press.  When Murrow used the power of television to confront McCarthy and his bullying tactics, McCarthy fell from public grace.  He was censored by the Senate and, ultimately, died in disgrace as a cautionary tale about the abuse of power in a democracy.  Ironically, some of the individuals he “exposed / persecuted” were later found to actually be Soviet agents when the U.S.S.R. fell and some of their spying records became public.  This has not, however, vindicated McCarthy in the eyes of history.  Rather, these instances seem to be the exceptions which proved the rule of innocent until proven guilty.
If I have one critique of the movie, it would be that it leaves you hanging.  There is the drama of Murrow’s (probably) most famous speech – to the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) convention in Chicago (1958) – popularly known as the “Wires And Lights In A Box” speech (which can be found in its entirety here), which leads into and then ends the movie, but there is no summing up.  The viewer is left to do their own research on Murrow’s career and life, and the result / reaction to his speech.  The fact the speech is actually a prophecy of the type of radio and television news we are experiencing today is also left for the viewer.  This is the type of DVD I would pay more for to get the extras (but I NEVER do this).
Even with that single criticism, this is a terrific movie and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American journalism, history or the rule of law in a free and open society.
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On This Day In:
2015 Not Mine, Anyway
2015 South By South East
2013 Don’tcha
2012 I Hear A Distant Thunder
2011 A Poison Tree

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TV is not vulgar and prurient and dumb because the people who compose the audience are vulgar and dumb.  Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.
  —  David Foster Wallace
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