Applied media analysis 2

I would like to use this time  to make a post that produces an argument about how the film industry repeatedly promotes the same views over and over again through it’s films. While I will be discussing Hollywood in this scenario, mainstream films produced through the film industry, I also want to reflect on the ‘new media’ independent film industry’s role in promoting the same story-lines, and how even though indie films can have similar plots, they also present it in a different or more original way. From what we’ve discussed in class, I believe that Sloan’s article on variations of a story can best represent the underlying theme that I’m discussing.

Specifically, I will be reflecting on the idea of how one is supposed to fall in love, or how a loving relationship between two people is supposed to be, according to films. There are many popular mainstream Hollywood films as well as a couple independent films which all contribute to the exact same unrealistic or idealistic beliefs of love/attraction/affection. Each film involves something of this nature that contains underlying lessons to viewers (if you do this, then this happens etc.), of which have been promoted throughout more than one films.

Hollywood is creating a stigma: specifically of how people expect ‘falling in love’ to happen in a certain way, and sometimes how ridiculous the process is. I believe the independent film, Swiss Army Man has a different definition, yet similar enough to provide a compare and contrast. The film is about Hank, who is hopelessly stranded on a deserted island, finding Manny, a talking corpse who asks questions about life and possesses conveniently life-saving flatulence, and their adventure together in the wilderness on their way back to the mainland. The indie film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016, shortly after of which the indie-film production company A24 bought the rights to the film and released it to the public in the summer. The budget for the film was $3 million and earned around $5 million in the box office; compared to Hollywood films this is a very low budget which is one of the trademarks of the usual ‘indie’ film.

According to Hollywood, through romantic comedies more or less, there are specific ways to find love. In this article by Roxanna Coldiron, these ways can be broken into 4 lessons; Lesson 1: “If you really, really love someone, you should stalk them until they love you back.” Not only does this not work in reality, if someone actually did this they would most likely be arrested. There is such a thing as ‘cyber-stalking’ nowadays, it’s even recommended before actually meeting a blind-date so you can actually know something about the complete stranger before meeting them, which is made accessible to us due to the rise of technology and social media. While ‘Facebooking’ (looking up people’s profiles on the social media app Facebook) someone is at least a little bit approved by society, using GPS to find someone and stalk them until they love you is not. This exact thing can be seen in the movie The Sweetest Thing, which came out in 2002 with a budget of $43 million, earning about $69 million in the box office (The reason I’m including budget and box office numbers is in order to show the difference in all of the big budgeted Hollywood films compared to indie). Lesson 2: “Men and women cannot just be friends.” In basically every mainstream Hollywood film where a man and a woman are friends, they more often than not end up together at some point in the film. “It implies that being just friends with a someone of the opposite sex requires a future romantic response if the other person earns your favor, which starts getting into the territory of sexual entitlement and creates another set of problems. No one is ever owed sex or love” (Coldiron). Movies like When Harry Met Sally (1989, budget $16 million, box office $92.8 million), He’s Just Not That Into You (2008, budget $40 million, box office $181.1 million), Post Grad (2009, budget $15 million, box office $6 million) or Friends With Benefits (2011, budget $35 million, box office $149.5 million) all question whether or not men and women can be friends, or be friends who just have sex, and not fall in love; none of these keep the friendship and they all end up in relationships. Lesson 3: “You must constantly test someone’s love to prove it is true.” This lesson exhibited in films like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003, budget $50 million, box office $177.4 million) and Think Like a Man (2012, budget $12 million, box office $96.1 million), completely disregards the element of trust in a relationship, and almost always backfires in the films. It promotes dishonesty, and an expectation that whether or not your significant other will do something for you will prove “if they really love you”. Lesson 4: “You either need a fabulous facade to reel him in or to get a complete makeover before he can fall in love with you.” This is the ultimate plot in many RomCom films where the ‘dorky’ girl gets a makeover and becomes the ‘beautiful mysterious girl” which causes the male lead to realize he’s head over heels for her. In the movies there are two ways a girl can do this: by changing her looks to accommodate the male lead’s expectations of ‘the ideal woman’ she either shows her best self or she pretends to be someone she is not. This is exhibited in a range of films such as Maid In Manhattan (2002, budget $55 million, box office $154.9 million), She’s All That (1999, budget $10 million, box office $103 million), Pretty Woman (1990, budget $14 million, box office $463.4 million), Mean Girls (2004, budget $17 million, box office $129 million), Clueless (1995, budget $12 million, box office $56.6. million), and hell even the story of Cinderella has a makeover that wins a prince! Our culture already idealizes women, providing a list of expectations that women are supposed to somehow meet. It’s unrealistic and ridiculous.

Something that indie films have done well is approach the ideal (how love works) that Hollywood has set up and adapt it in a very different way. Something that Sloan talks about is how there can be variations of things, some more fiction than others, such as particular stories. I believe with this philosophy in mind that Hollywood is not very subtle with the recycling of the 4 lessons, while with indie they maybe recycle the plot (of how love works) but present it in ways that do not correlate with the 4 lessons previously discussed. Although a film is a film, and so there is bound to be similarities in plots, indie or Hollywood, but there is differences in these films as well. For example independent films are known for their quirky explanations of a particular story, of which is brilliantly seen throughout the film Swiss Army Man. Similarities to this film and Hollywood ones are certain filming techniques used, such as Montage. During a montage in Hollywood RomComs it’s usually to show a quick pace timeline of the two characters spending time together falling in love, however in Swiss Army Man it’s used to show how the two male characters depend on each other for survival, and is laced with background music of which they are singing about the montage, subtly and comedically nudging at the fact that it is a montage the viewer is indeed watching. Also in the film, a contributing theme is love, and in a few particular scenes one character provides to the other a definition of what love is and how it usually works between two people. In the video provided in the link above, the idea of love is demonstrated accurately through what is normally identified as what indie films usually do, which is change the stigma that Hollywood tries to set up. While still romanticized, the characters provide a more realistic process of ‘falling in love’, essentially once compared to Hollywood’s 4 lessons, of which this definition does not apply.

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1)

Kevin Kelly “1,000 True Fans”

Are the ways of gaining “1,000 true fans” skewed? I mean, some people are just in the right place at the right time and they could get 2,000+ followers on social media. And even then those specific followers could be just following for absolutely no reason, other than they think the person they’re following is cute or famous from their 5 minutes. Are these people even considered “true” fans?
What really bothers me about this particular situation is that it’s so unfair to artists out there who are actually trying to get people’s attention and make a name for themselves, or create their own fanbase.

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“Netflix’s “Black Mirror” reflects reality – sometimes without changing a thing”, Tim Molloy

Something made fairly evident throughout every episode in this show is how new media technologies are making it easier to engage with other people, and how much easier it is to manipulate one’s agency through that technology. Even though all of these are set in a fiction world, they’re each carefully laced with the underlying truth: that we are headed this way. For example in “Nosedive”, everyone ranks each other on their devices based on their interactions. These rankings depend on social status, and whether or not their social status is high or low consequently decides on whether or not they can purchase a house, or get in to the building where they are employed. While exaggerated in the show, the effect that social media has on people and their actions that take place in the world is dead on. If technology keeps progressing, like it has since inventions begun, will our world turn into something like what we see on this show?

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Lessons Learned

I thought my project allowed me to study new media technology pretty well, considering it was about a new media form developing from an older one (Film vs Digital: A History of the Camera). Jaime Weinman’s piece on film becoming a dying medium, and that day in class that we briefly talked about film itself, made it evident to me that I wanted to do at least something related to cameras. I honestly do think my project could provide some relatively elementary understanding to people who have very little knowledge about cameras, specifically the differences between film and digital. I definitely noticed during my showcase of my project, some heads of my classmates nodding during the timeline history of the camera (specifically when I told them the first camera -Camera Obscura- was merely a box using natural light). I thought that was rather assuring, and felt like I’d at least taught a few people something new for the day. I suppose if this project had to be limiting for a student of new media, it would be that it’s mostly discussing just two of the basic types of photography, when nowadays there’s many more types (such as cellphones, GoPro, handheld video cameras, drones, etc.).

I guess, in my experience of implementing my project, it’s helped me understand how new media can influence professional photographer’s lives, especially the older ones. The photographers who have been around when film was the medium to use, have been influenced the most by the newer digital cameras in the way that people probably always ask them why they still use film, at a time when digital is considered better by a lot of people. Even during my showcase, one of the questions I was asked was which do I prefer, digital or film? And I honestly can’t answer that, it’s such  difficult question and effectively depends on what I’m shooting that day or whether I feel like shooting with either film or digital that day.

A couple of the course readings that illuminated my understanding of my project experience could include Weinman as well as Jenkins’ piece on memes: “If it Doesn’t Spread, it’s Dead”, due to the conversation about something doesn’t become popular it slowly fades away into oblivion. This is something that spiked my interest in the way that film is considered this way by some, however not so much because it’s still being used to the day.

From my experience with this project, it suggests that there will continue to be ‘newer’ and ‘better’ camera-types being introduced in the future of new media. There might even be a camera-type that has not been invented yet. I do believe that any new cameras will look at the past camera for inspiration though, just as digital looked at film.