April 25, 2005

Taking a scholarly spin:
student-assigned reading material

For my Media Aesthetics course, Dr. Jerz assigned the task of assigning texts to our peers. This is difficult for two reasons: a) you want to assign something that is worthwhile to your overall cause a.k.a. your term project and b) you don't want to get the class annoyed with you by the length of your article(s) you assign.

With all of that in mind, we generally did assign lengthy articles--mine was 20 pages alone. Needless to say, I am probably one of the more hated in the group. hehe.

Dr. Jerz gets off the hook, though. We can't blame him for lengthy scholarly readings anymore; we are the culprits now. Smooth professorial move. :-)

I can honestly say, though, that I have enjoyed this assignment--especially reading things that my peers deem credible and interesting information for the class.

The first of Johanna's articles, "Staking Her Claim: Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Transgressive Woman Warrior," for example, is a great big bag of feminist Twizzlers.

I was, and still am, a fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. It was my Tuesday night treat in high school. I remember many-a-night, when I would re-enact Buffy's fight scenes, doing high kicks in my living room. I think what drew me to Buffy is that she is the approachable, witty, smart blond, that can also seriously kick some arse.

According to Whedon, creator of the show, quoted in Early's article, "he has 'always found strong women interesting because they are not overly represented in the cinema'" (12). That is the case on television, as well--at least when I watched. I watched two shows in high school unfailingly: Buffy and Dawson's Creek, primarily for their strong female characters, specifically Willow and Buffy and Joey on the Creek.

That is not the only reason, of course. I continued to watch Buffy long after Dawson's Creek turned into college mush. Why? Because she still was strong; she still worked cooperatively with her pals, and the show kept its "witty, wildly dark camp action and adventure" with Buffy, the "improbable hero in a a program that underneath the fantasy, horror, and humor offers a fresh version of the classic quest myth in Western culture" (13). Okay, so maybe I tuned in to see David Boreanaz, too.

Overall, I look at this article and I do see the empowering girls issue, but I also mark that this wasn't the only thing drawing me to the show. As Early notes, "Viewers revel in the unfolding quest narrative that atypically finds a personable and responsible young woman cast as hero"(16-17). Throughout the show, however, Buffy isn't comfortable as the hero, never wearing the cape--well, except when she dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood in that Halloween episode. She wears her title lightly, as Early states, "maintain[ing] an ironic distance from her warrior role even as she embraces it" (19). It seems as if she wants to be just one of the gang--a part of something in her high school hell, rather than the "Chosen One," which she is labeled.

Buffy, even with her faults, is a role model for girls; she was a role model for me--I watched her make decisions, and regardless of her decision, I knew if it was wrong or right by the musical accompaniment and by the amount of people or demons that died in that episode. All very simple... Buffy is transgressive; she set the standard for "modern" females on television, such as Sydney Bristow on Alias. For those gals that are longing for a hero after the series finale of Buffy, Sydney's your new arse-kicking sister, minus her co-workers' fangs and occasional prosthetic ears.

Johanna's second article, "Complexity of Desire: Janeway/Chakotay Fan Fiction" by Victoria Somogyi brought me out of fan euphoria, and into a more scholarly approach, since I do not know these characters.

One interesting concept is that "fans are attracted only to the male/female pairings in which the woman is of greater or arguably greater power...Janeway is powerful, and she outranks Chakotay, a fact which fanfic writers, and their characters, rarely forget" (Somogyi 400).

As an occasional reader of romance and friend of a romance author, I know what women want (or what the publishers think women want) in a female character. A strong woman who may be subdued by a stronger, male, and in effect of this male-female relationship or "taming" as many novels call it, eventually submit to love. Female fanfic writers are probably writing what they like to read, and so, this should not be surprising.

A woman is placed in a position of importance and she must chose, if the episode or story calls for it, a choice between her personal relationship and her job, and the effects of such a choice on either world.

Moving on to Denishia's article, "Body Image and Advertising" is full of polls, which I question. The associations within the Mediascope article--all of them--contribute to the opinion of the article and the ".org" company that transmits the information, probably with their own agenda.

Some statistics demonstrated in the article are really questionable to me, such as "Boys ages 9 to 14 who thought they were overweight were65% more likely to think about or try smoking than their peers, and boys who worked out every day in order to lose weight were twice as likely to experiment with tobacco." I know that the sources are all cited, but many of the citations refer to newspapers and magazines--sources which have already been filtered once, or even twice from the original statistical information.

The statistics throughout the article are so drastic in support of "the cause" against the media's interference in a viewer's perception of self, that I hesitate to trust it. No contradictory opinions are demonstrated here.

Another issue is that the sources indicated by name, such as Dr. Harrison Pope is mentioned as a "researcher". A researcher of what? Denishia, I really would not go with this source. It is an option to go with some of the sources listed on the works cited list, though.

Anne's article in Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition, "Architectures of the the Senses: Neo-Baroque Entertainment Spectacles" near the conclusion focuses around a ride I did get to go on at Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park: The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. Throughout the entire article, I weaved in and out of consciousness, but when this ride is mentioned, I perked up.

The ride consists of a multi-media experience. Akin to many rides at theme parks, particularly at Disney World, such as the Aerosmith rollercoaster at Disney's MGM and the Terminator, as well as my favorite: E.T., the experience of a ride intermingles many media: film, ride, film about film, extending the story and the experience beyond the initial experience in whatever original medium the characters and setting were initially expressed.

The creators of these rides have a lot on their shoulders--they must create an experience that goes beyond the original medium, but still remains true to the original with an "improved" and "advanced" awareness of the "older media experiences" (Ndalianis 368). While some rides at theme parks are not as advanced as others, such as E.T. I will admit, they do become part of the spectacle nevertheless, "one space extend[ing] into another, one medium into the next, the spectator into the spectacle, and the spectacle into the spectator" (367), in, for instance, a brochure or television advertisement for the theme park, showing the people have a good time on their multi-media ride. As Ndalianis states, the "motion of the fold" becomes a "fluid media" (367), extending one media into another without skipping a beat, now moving into architectural designs.

As for my own reading, Peter Middleton and Tim Woods' article, "Textual Memory: the Making of the Titanic's Literary Archive," I chose this article to give a basic idea of the mediums I will be presenting in class.

I have read excerpts from the novel A Night to Remember by Walter Lord and have watched the film A Night to Remember. I am focusing on the 1997 Titanic by James Cameron, however. There is just so much about Titanic that I cannot encapsulate into this paper and presentation. I will mention them, of course, but I cannot directly associate it all and assess every aspect in this paper. Instead, in the fashion of Middleton and Woods, I will mention them briefly.

This article gives an excellent example of how I will begin to assess the pieces I have selected. From this article and another, I have reached a starting point in the storytelling aesthetic (particularly in a masculine and feminine context) of the Titanic film and literary worlds.

As Middleton and Woods express, Titanic is comprised of memories, reminiscent of other "feminine" films, such as Fried Green Tomatoes. Is memory a storytelling method that is most associated with films that target female audiences? What characterizes Titanic as a feminine film or a masculine film or both? What aesthetic qualities are associated with each gender?

In short...what makes a "chick flick" a chick-ish? or is that a label that is stereotypically slapped onto a film when someone doesn't like to delve beneath the surface or is surface something that is characteristic of a male-oriented film?

Or am I going to get myself in trouble with all of this gender aesthetic language... :-) I'm loving this project!

Posted by Amanda Cochran at April 25, 2005 10:58 PM | TrackBack

Re the "smooth move". You've figured it out, haven't you? I'll have to come up with some other, even more devious, strategy next time.

I'm glad you enjoyed this assignment as much as I did. You've offered some excellent insights, and I felt overall the class discussion was top-notch.

I'm really looking forward to finding out what you do with representations of The Titanic.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at April 29, 2005 3:49 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?