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Chuck Tryon

Like you, I found this scene to be one of the more interesting moments in the film. I’m wondering, though, to what extent it might be a commentary on the limitations of the Hollywood ratings system and the degree to which it prevents abortion from being discussed in anything other than an R-rated film (if then).

The film itself was frustrating, and I especially found the depiction of the wife to be rather unsympathetic—as if her primary purpose was to prevent Paul Rudd from playing fantasy baseball and having fun, in much the same way that Year of the Dog seemed to be relatively unsympathetic towards Laura Dern’s character.

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Yes… It is an interesting contrast to, for example, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” (1982) in which the character played by Jennifer Jason Leigh considers no recourse for her pregnancy *but* an abortion. The consequences of which are not presented as more serious than a cost of $150 and needing a ride home from the clinic.

A bit more complex treatment of the subject (strange to say) involves the quack abortion performed in “Dirty Dancing.” The choice was perceived as correct for the character, but the details were horrific, arguing (one might say) for our current safe, legal procedures rather than the history that is portrayed in the film.

I was surprised to hear that the film so briefly touched on the subject of abortion… but, then again, it is a comedy that relies on the pregnancy for most if not all of the jokes. A deep consideration of a complex alternative might be too much to expect.

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Chuck Tryon

I’ve shown one of Lowery’s other videos, “What Would Jesus Do?”, and both videos are very effective in conveying—as you point out—the importance of alternative media, especially as Lowery uses her videos to challenge normal representative practices. In WWJD, the stark contrast between Bush’s reference to a “mission from God” and the images of wounded Iraqi children is utterly compelling.

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Chuck Tryon
Avi Santo

I think that a Gramscian reading makes sense here. In my paper for MIT5, I wrote about fake trailers and noted that Fox Atomic is doing something similar: inviting participants to make “fake” trailers for upcoming films (28 Weeks Later, etc). Of course, they’re all Fox Atomic properties, so fans are actively engaged in promoting Fox’s upcoming films.

Just to make a bit of a leap here, your discussion of this Golden Bucket contest reminds me of the new reality-competition series, On the Lot, in which aspiring filmmakers compete for a $1 million developmental deal from DreamWorks (Spielberg is one of the sponsors). Thus far, I’ve been intrigued by the ways in which the judges and the show itself have positioned the aspiring filmmakers, pushing them into relatively conventional storytelling modes. Again, it seems to be placing some very specific limits on what it means to make meaning through movies.

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I also would be interested to note when faux news show such as Colbert are actually “taken seriously.” To be fair, this isn’t one of them.

Colbert isn’t “taken seriously,” at least, not by Feith. Following the timeline, Colbert’s “misstatement” runs dangerously close to accusing Feith of treason, NPR rebroadcasts Colbert’s statements as news, then Feith goes after NPR for the rebroadcast – not after Colbert for the misstatement. It is apparently only when Colbert’s statements are taken up by a “real” news program that they become dignified as accusations by Feith. Colbert’s statement is humor, NPR’s restatement is political, and thus warrants correction. This implicitly trivializes the humorous political text in favor of some sort of bona fide text. Reactions such as Feith’s call into question whether or not Colbert, as court jester, can “speak truth to power;” is power listening? Do those ostensibly in-power take humor seriously? What happens if they don’t?

Anton C. Zijderveld (1982) notes that perhaps court jesters only reify the power of the monarch. He argues that the ridicule of court jesters is infrequent, usually shallow, and depends ultimately on the sanction of the monarch. This makes any power exercised by the jester parasitical to that of the throne:

“The real point was that the monarch, by allowing his fool this kind of impudence, demonstrated in a rather painful manner how utterly powerless the rest of the court actually was. The fool, solidly and solitarily tied to the throne, was allowed to show off his politically innocent, parasitical power in order to demonstrate, as in a reversed, looking-glass manner, how utterly powerless everybody else outside the dyad of king and fool really was. To make things worse, king and jester would at times even swap roles, while everybody present was obliged to laugh heartily about all this folly. They were, of course, obliged to laugh about their own powerlessness!” (120).

If correct (and I certainly hope he’s not), Zijderveld’s characterization severely limits what Colbert can hope to accomplish, and what we as consumers of media and political agents can do. By ignoring Colbert’s comments and instead chastising NPR, does Feith reinforce that only comics can get away with such accusations? When accompanied by a laugh, this is what Joanne Gilbert (2004) has dubbed the “male guffaw,” a laugh by those in power that performs the joke as politically harmless and ineffectual. Ultimately, if we simply laugh at Colbert’s witticism, allowing NPR’s retraction to stand, what do we accomplish?

All that being said, what I love about Colbert’s unasked redaction is that he performs a move parallel to that of NPR – he takes no responsibility himself and passes the (absence of) censure down the foodchain. NPR admits that the quotation was flawed and corrects it. The wording itself here is comical to anyone with an ear for such things, yet it perhaps implicitly chastises Colbert. In any case, Colbert takes it upon himself to correct his statement, but in turn passes responsibility on to an unnamed intern. As he provided free content for NPR, so the intern provided free content for the Colbert Report, and for that both he and the intern deserve a stern wag of the finger, justice served. This may not be so much of a “bite” on NPR, as homage to NPR’s own savvy and somewhat humorous “faux apology,” which itself serves to hold officials accountable.

Gilbert, Joanne. _Performing marginality: Humor, gender, and cultural critique_. Detroit, MI: Wayne State (2004).

Zijderveld, Anton C. _Reality in a looking glass: Rationality through an analysis of traditional folly_. Boston, MA: Routledge (1982).

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Craig O. Stewart

Conservative Christians frequently combine self-help and recovery discourse in their “ex-gay” ministries, and homosexuality is often described as a “sexual addiction.” There are certainly tensions, though, between psychological and religious discourses in these communities.

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The video suggests that the program relies on discourses of addiction and psychology to safely contain pornography. How do evangelicals accommodate this kind of scientific discourse? I assume it doesn’t seem like a contradiction because people generally are accustomed to talking about these issues within this framework thanks to Oprah and others, but still it’s an interesting juxtaposition.

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Roberta Pearson

Chris is right to point the contradictory elements of BSG — babes and battles aimed at the fan boy demographic coupled with a dignified older woman aimed at my demographic. Popular culture is popular precisely because of its polysemy; a collection of disparate elements designed to appeal to the greatest number of viewers. We need to be aware of these contradictions when assessing the subversive possibilities of popular media. Formulaic elements added for fan boys, can, for example, transmute into something much more interesting as with Seven of Nine, the babe added to the Star Trek Voyager cast to up the ratings. She turned into oneof the series most provocative characters with regards to issues of gender and the nature of humanity.

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Michele White

Thanks for the comment about OurChart and safety issues. I agree that the pleasures of representing in different Internet settings need to be related to the kinds of personal information we are providing and the ways we develop friends, relationships, and profile lists of friends in Internet settings.

It is interesting to note that the promo for OurChart indicates that it will provide a safe setting but that the very design of the site encourages individuals to provide information that makes them identifiable and available to a variety of security risks. I taught a class on Internet social networking this semester and one of the things that we considered is the ways Internet social networking sites encourage users to misread the setting as closed and safe. People also tend to use similar aliases and pictures on varied sites, which can lead to the production of a detailed data image and allow individuals to identify people even when they do not provide full information on any site. OurChart has spaces in its profile form for such identifiers as first name, last name, location, and zip code without indicating to users the potential risks in providing all of this information. Some people do follow the implicit directions and provide the information. Given the commercial aspects of OurChart, we might also consider how this material is being used for marketing purposes and further produces particular kinds of individuals.

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[…] Here’s a thoughtful essay on fake news and its discontents. This essay is part of an innovative media studies blog–in media res–that you might find of some interest. I’ve got an essay appearing sometime next week–stay tuned. […]