Category: Media

I’m a media studies graduate and with that comes a raftload of tools that I’m repeatedly told aren’t actually useful for anything, to which I counter that I like using them and enjoy the experience of applying those tools to all the media around me I partake in and therefore my life is enriched and overflowing with wonderful experiences of interconnectivity. By this point the other person has usually wandered off. Anyway, this is the category for anything that I think of as being connected to ‘media’, whether it’s a type (like TV, music, movies or so on), a brand (like Disney! Hi Disney!). This category also covers my weekly critical engagement column-type-thing currently called Story Pile.

Story Pile: Altered Carbon

When you get down to it, Altered Carbon is a series that doesn’t so much need recommendations as much as it needs content warnings. Up front, the series features gender, race, and general body dysphoria (being in a body that’s ‘very wrong’), graphic torture, death, murder for pleasure, torture for pleasure, sex workers, sex worker abuse, sex worker marginalisation, realistic and sympathetic AI death, sensory overload, sensory deprivation, descriptions of nightmares, depictions of trauma, hetero bonking, consent-comprimised hetero bonking, nudity, violent nudity, cutting and –

Good grief, what isn’t in this series.

I feel a bit bad about this because the avalanche of things to warn people about in this show are all reasonable things. It paints the picture of this series as gaudily, grindingly nasty and full of vile indulgence. It’s not like that, I promise – it’s more that the series has such a breadth of nasty things it deals with that to have one leap out of you in the story as a surprise is like finding a razor blade in your ice cream. It’s not only unexpected it’s also extremely bad if you weren’t expecting it. The emotional punch is all there, I just don’t want people going into this series blind, especially since, for all of its content warnings, I really liked Altered Carbon.

I’m not going to talk about the greater universe of the story, though, I’m not going to run down the plot or its themes or its meanings. The story is a neon noir cyberpunk dystopia that uses income inequality as its most intense theme, its central character is a jerk, and it weaves together his history and his present. That’s all good and I might talk about them another time, but instead, we’re going to talk about one thing.

We’re going to talk about Poe.

Don’t worry, we’re also not going to spoil the plot!

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Shirt Highlight: House Logos!

Ever have a day where you had some things you needed to get done, but you were so sick with anxiety and rage you couldn’t, so instead you threw yourself into something in the hopes of making one person maybe crack a smile?

No?

Hey, good, good for you, I am so glad you’ve never had to be here.

Anyway, today I fancied up these shirt designs I’d sketched out:

If you want to get these shirts representing your favourite Houses for the School Cup based on whether you feel you’re Basic, Extra, Boring or Evil, you can check them out on my Redbubble. There’s even one shirt that holds all four designs to show people all at once!

If, by the way, you like these designs but don’t want to buy a shirt, don’t forget you can always get stickers of what I make, and stickers are often very cheap, especially if you buy in lots of 10 or more!

The Rural Purge 2: Fleeing New York

Hey, remember when I did that thing on The Rural Purge?

Well, following on from that, and from my habit of recycling things I hear on other media criticism outlets (criticism in this case being ‘to regard carefully and thoughtfully’ not, ‘this sucks!’), it was brought to my attention that there was kind of a more recent, more inverse Urban purge, or more specifically, a New York purge.

During the 90s there was an odd, interconnected web of sitcoms set in New York. It’s a bit of a funny coincidence fest mostly born out of the nature of sitcom actors. Actors in the same core of shows tended to show up in one anothers’s shows, and with a single unifying broadcaster, they even did continuity gags and interconnected nods to one another’s shows. You know, Kramer shows up in Mad About You (probably saying something deeply misogynistic off-set), and Helen Hunt’s … Mrs… Paul Rieser… shows up in FRIENDS, and you know, whatever. So it was just one funny thing that there were all these series, interconnected, in New York, that were all part of one big continuity.

And they all kinda just died around the same time.

The source I got this idea from claimed 9/11 did it, but I don’t think so. I think it’s just the natural ending of a lot of series, the ending of an era, and a lot of fad-based series development collapsing at the same time. But what happened around this same time was the sudden absence of series set in and around New York. There was this weird split in continuity, where American TV went from, during the most aimless and empty genre, being about New York City to suddenly being about absolutely anywhere else.

What made this especially weird, as far as trend-chasing goes, is that when you look at those shows, that little New York sliver of time… barely any of them are about New York?

I haven’t gone and rewatched a dozen sitcoms for research (aside from Caroline in the City, because hey, that one’s for me), but mostly none of these sitcoms are about living in New York City. Real estate woes that should be present and aren’t are a point of almost hackish comedy in the Friendsverse – you know, all these people with huge living quarters in the middle of the most expensive city in the world (probably), whose salaries could not afford it at all.

There’s also the way these shows somehow featured a tiny number of nonwhite people, despite the racial diversity of New York. And there is no point where a dude in hotpants with a snake wrapped around his shoulders walked across the street to take a shit on a cop’s shoes. It’s a New York where a pair of gay dudes with a baby was seen as a ridiculous assumption for Joey and Chandler.

So it wasn’t anything like New York as it exists. It’s just about a certain, oddly insular New Yorkness, and as an effect of the insular, contained nature of a small group of talent making television sitcoms.

Story Pile: The Zombie Apocalypse Of The Author

I’ve written about the idea of ‘the death of the author,’ but to crash course it: The concept of death of the author is the idea that the interpretation of a story is about the person doing the interpretation, not about the person who made it. That is, there is no ‘author’ who can be said to truly represent what the story means in any and all circumstances. There’s a lot more to it, but it’s mostly cigarettes and sadness. That’s your basics:

The Death of the Author is the idea that the Author does not have exclusive rights to define interpretations of their work

This is a great idea and its most obvious modern application is fanfic and fan media. The story says Snape is an ugly snooty jerk, but that doesn’t matter, because you read the book and your interpretation involves no such thing, and the image of these characters interacting in your mind is perfectly valid. You don’t get marks for how the story works in your head, nobody’s grading you. If other people can grasp what you’re expressing when you share it, then that’s all that matters.

The thing is, thanks to Twitter and the Web 2.0 era of produsage, one of the groups of people getting involved in further creating fanfiction for these works and they are most annoyingly, the original authors.

Thanks to the unprecedented access we have to authors these days, we have a whole host of authors who are actively and aggressively attempting to insert into their own texts things they didn’t bother to try and put there the first time around. I’ll always kick at the Harry Potter franchises for any reason, but specific way that Rowling has claimed that Dumbledore is gay will always bother me. This has recently come to a head – again – with the upcoming Fantastic Beasts 2 movie that wants to have Young Dumbledore but also is ensuring to absolutely not show any of that icky gayness that the story isn’t about at all.

What this means is that any given reading of the text, these days, is not taken as a reading, with people willing to examine it, but as with all things in nerd cultures, we bury it under the toxic intention to prove it. Work must be tested or verified to be acceptable, interpretations must be justified to our satisfaction, and thanks to the availablility of certain authors, and their willingness to pontificate on what their work really means, we are now facing Zombie Authorship.

The author lies not still in their grave but shifts and moves, ever tumultuous in their position, expanding the work a tweet at a time – Werewolves are AIDS, the nudity is justified, you will e’re love the story for its manifold purpose. Tarantino, Martin, Rowling, Kojima, they each inflate their work not for its art but to remain alive a word more, to continue, to consume.And so the zombie slough flows over us all, and we do not engage with or interpret or study art, but we see it all as grey slurry that washes over us. The nerd cries out, be canonised, be purified, be true, and our eyes grow dull and dull and dull.

As for the Death of the Author, the sad thing is it contains within its own explanation; we bring out experiences to bear interpreting work.

The act of creating the work is one of those experiences.

Thanos Is Racist Now,

That got your attention.

We’ve been told what the motivation is for Thanos in the upcoming Infinity War. Feel free to jump out here, because you want to avoid spoilers, or because round-the-backtalk about movies bothers you, or because comics are stupid. Whatever your reason, here’s an escape route: Here!
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The Bright Conspiracy Theory

Okay, hold up.

I don’t want you going to think this is true. This is a hunch. This is a notion.

I want you to understand I don’t like holding hypothesis that can’t be easily proven. I grew up around conspiracy theorists, and I feel like I can recognise the mental habits that make a conspiracy. Conspiracies rely on being nebulous, unfalsifiable and emotionally satisfying. That is, they want to attribute blame to an unknowable ‘them,’ they can’t be shown to be wrong somehow, and they feed into emotional responses we already have.

Furthermore, I haven’t seen the Netflix movie Bright. I’ve seen its advertising, and that convinced me that Bright sucks and I don’t want to watch it, which in a reasonable world would be a good sign that the advertisers were good at their job, but that’s not how advertising is advocated as working in this mixed up ole world of ours.

With those clauses in mind, the actual quality of Bright and if you liked it, is really moot.

Instead, I want to talk to you about how and why Bright gets talked about at all.

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Sharing

One of the weird things about growing up in fundamentalist church with a deliberately stifled education is that some concepts kinda just get thrown around and you never really learn what they are. This meant I had to teach myself a bunch of this stuff, and I realise, there are some people similarly uncertain as to where the heck the idea of Shares come from.

The basic idea of what a share is is that it’s a portion of something. The place it got its start – more or less, there are always earlier versions of things, but the place it sort of got its modern kick-off – was during the (absolutely god-awful) trading history of large fleets of vessels, things like the Dutch East India company.

The way these things worked was, buying a boat – like, a whole boat – and managing an expedition over to do trading was, as an up-front cost, totally ridiculous. Like, we talk about wealth disparity, but it’s kind of hard to translate wha that was like when you’re talking about a period of history when you might not even exchange money for food, because it simply wasn’t affordable. So there’s a striation of wealth between poor and wealthy people that’s like, mindboggling, and I tend to think about ships from the perspective of the poor people. Each one of them represented more than a lifetimes’ worth of wealth, so the idea of rich people owning multiples is kind of impossible.

Anyway, even so, the task of sending a boat to get goods for sale was still a gamble – every time it went out, you didn’t know if it was coming back, and if it didn’t come back, you were out a ton of money, enough to ruin someone. The solution, then, was for people to band together – wealthy people, mind you – and instead of buying one ship, buying one tenth of ten ships. When each ship came in, you got a tenth of its proceeds. If one sank, you were out a tenth of a price of a ship. Then they got really fiddly with the numbers, and bookkeeping got involved and you started to see people making more and more careful subdivisions of the shares, and things you could do to interact with the shares and eventually things got decoupled from ever needing to turn a profit at all, because everything about markets eventually sucks butts.

Still, the thing with this whole system that makes my ears twist is, no matter how I think about it, the more I think it’s kind of inevitable that people will come up with this idea if they have some way of representing it. And then the weirder thing is: We have this idea for buying and owning shares in objects and businesses, but it seems fundamentally inimical to the current mindset of the world to have shares in the government you’re part of. Like, taxes are seen a an imposition, rather than a percentage ownership of the country you’re investing in.

The Stormtrooper’s Lament

I work at a university. This means I see a lot of students, and students like t-shirts. They like t-shirts, and they like Star Wars. And because they like Star Wars, they like wearing shirts that show the words to Star Wars, you know, the lyrics, or whatever. Star Wars has lyrics, I’m sure of it. Anyway, the point is, I see a lot of Star Wars shirts, and since being a walking ad isn’t enough any more, people go for weird and offbeat and ironic riffs on Star Wars.

So I see a lot of jokes about Stormtroopers missing.

Image Source

Now, I am not an expert in Star Wars, which is surprisingly hard when you consider that my field of academia is kinda adjacent to Fandom Studies, which is basically the study of Star Wars, And Now Harry Potter and Dr Who I Guess, at this point, but somehow, I am not really all that in with Star Wars. The main thing I know about Star Wars is how much the people love it love to shit on it because that’s how they show they Star Wars the best, like, being the people who love the movies enough to point out all the ways it’s dumb is how they show they’re better Star Wars fans than other Star Warsers.

I think that’s how it works. It’s like, in the rules of Star Wars, like encoded in the Force.

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Now, again, I’m no expert, but this question about Stormtroopers missing in a universe where there’s literal actual destiny and an actual force that actually exists and actually intervenes in reality to the degree of letting people teleport their soul ghosts across vast distances and huck objects around and lightning and stuff, why people think that Stormtroopers miss rather than the people being shot at avoided the shots.

It’s really weird, like, the series is constantly hammering away on the Force guides, the Force determines, the Force makes the universe hold together, the Force is super important, but when people witness a faceless, nameless stormtrooper doing the best job they can do, they don’t think ‘maybe the Force this whole series is constantly all about is doing something,’ they think ‘hah, that guy sucks.’

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It isn’t just the troopers, though. There are all sorts of near misses in the story, all sorts of things that could have gone wrong but didn’t, all sorts of moments when they sort of had to lean on the concept of the story itself to keep the hero, Johnny Starwar, going through the narrative. There were coincidences that pulled people together, and people point at those coincidences and say ‘well isn’t that silly? It’s like there’s some sort of conventional plot point dragging everything together into one spot!’ And normally I’d be okay with making fun of that but that’s a thing that exists in the story, and the ability to control or channel it is part of how the story even works, as a story.

Yet it’s way easier to make fun of the things in the story for being… affected by the story? In a universe where the story itself has power over the story? Where being able to manipulate the nature of reality, where complying with what the story wants you to be doing is a way to survive and live on?

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I’d say I’d wonder if there were more ways the story could make the force obvious but it kinda can’t, because they never shut up about it.


The images for this post were obtained from TeePublic, but that doesn’t mean they’re presented by their original artists. Trying to find the original artists only built the suggestion that the original artists are not actually posting them on TeePublic.

Story Pile: Kakegurui

It’s not often people approach me and suggest anime to me. I’m pretty fidgety about anime these days, because I watch it subbed (for no reason I can adequately explain) and I don’t like watching TV shows I can’t watch while I work on other things. Still, it was in Netflix, it was easy to get, and what they hey, it looked kinda interesting so let’s check out this anime.

It opens with a character losing a poker hand based on an Amazing Hand, which is a huge red flag for me about people not knowing how poker works. This was not an auspicious beginning for a series that I later heard described as Death Note For Money.

Anyway, I quite liked Kakegurui.

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