Author Archives: eerie locks

Everywhere Ever

“Forgive us for actually thinking about this shit; we know it’s television, but we can’t help ourselves,” says David Simon to Nick Hornby. He describes his approach as not that of television episodic conventions but instead as being literary, like a journalistic novel, and drawing from Greek philosophy. Clearly his to him his endeavor is intellectual and multi-layered, and not just escapist entertainment from the contemporary problems of the world. Rather, it faces and explores them head-on.

What struck me as interesting is his characterization of Baltimore. We’ve discussed at length Baltimore’s role in the series, and Simon contrasts it here with New York, LA, and other more distinct cities, as he puts it. Baltimore isn’t known for anything in particular. It’s just another American city with urban problems and none of the glamor of the more prominent cities.

However, I disagree with him on this point. Baltimore is the “everycity” and thus the story takes on a more universal tone, more relevant to the human condition. But somehow, isn’t that the point of every story? Should a story set in New York be only relatable to New Yorkers? Of course not. A good story speaks to everyone, not just the niche it portrays. The universal truths revealed in The Wire are powerful because they transcend the specifics of the location, and the same would be true of a story about famous models in London or corrupt doctors in Beijing or struggling farmers in New Mexico.

Gay.

The Williams article on how subtly gay The Wire is was actually embarrassing to read. For one thing, it’s incredibly obvious that Williams is just gay and apparently very turned on by the men of The Wire. Yet for him to project his attraction onto the series itself and say its actually there intentionally is an awkward leap, and indicates an inability on his part to distinguish between his personal fantasies and academic observation. The screenshots included in the article are laughable; there is nothing remotely sexual about them. And The Wire’s website being like a porn site with a daily turnover of fresh young dudes? What?

It annoys me that whenever male friendships are portrayed in any story, someone always has to interpret it as being secretly gay. Sure, maybe sometimes it’s the case, but aren’t depictions of straight male friendships valid too? Since when does it have to have gay undertones to be poignant? Male/male heterosexual friendships can obviously be a profound thing in and of themselves without hints of homosexuality, and to ascribe gayness when there is none discredits them.

And what’s his point, anyway? That David Simon is gay? That the cinematographer is gay? What about Homicide? What about The Corner? Nope. Just Williams himself, and the fact that the hot young black dudes in The Wire turn him on. Which is fine and all, but certainly not a legitimate criticism of the series.

The other thing that REALLY bugged me about the article was the assumption that if young black men in The Wire are indeed sexualized, then it is definitely for the benefit of the gay viewer. But what about women? Why is sexualizing men automatically gay? What about the whole heterosexual female demographic, arguably far larger than male homosexuals? Couldn’t the argument be made that the sexual portrayal of males in The Wire be catered to heterosexual women viewers? It’s like arguing that Sex and the City is made exclusively for lesbians.

Also, the phrase “One man’s urban nightmare is another man’s fantasy” actually made me laugh out loud.

ensemble cast vs. hero’s journey

Dana Polan contrasts the narrative focus of the film Straw Dogs on one single character and his journey and how it changes him with the ensemble cast and cyclic storytelling of The Wire. Are the characters place-holders, or is this somehow more true to life?

In life, events occur and change a person. In fiction, this is known as a character arc. But is such a defined change over a defined time realistic, and does it truly work better narratively? In an ongoing narrative of a TV show, there may not be one main character. We’re all the protagonist of our lives, but in the vast scheme of things, that’s a lot of main characters. Also unlike film, a show continues longer. Plots are not resolved as neatly and quickly, and if a character changes drastically over a short period of time, the flow of the series is disrupted. Thus the character growth and change is inherently more subtle and drawn out, running in cycles rather than a trajectory as we visit each.

Both are valid as art forms and methods of conveying a story. But would The Wire work as a movie?

The Wire/DVD Box Sets

This post on the “Stuff White People Like” blog is particularly pertinent to both The Wire and the DVD box set phenomenon. Maybe some of you have seen it already. Nonetheless, it humorously sums up the cultural significance of owning a show on DVD, giving the owner some kind of “cred”–note the sentence on authenticity.

Kompare would agree in his assessment that the DVD box set is more than just being able to watch the show itself at whim; it’s about the material possession of the set itself, especially considering online availability.

Annotated Bibliography

I’m an idiot and put this in the drop box on the 28th instead of posting it here and just realized my mistake right now. How embarrassing. Sorry everyone! Here’s my annotated bibliography.
Eng, Lawrence. “In the Eyes of Hideaki Anno, Writer and Director of Evangelion.” Cornell Japanese Animation Society. 2004. 27 Oct. 2009. <http://www.cjas.org/~echen/articles/spring97/05_03b.html>

Eng relates Anno’s speech at the 1996 Anime Expo, the year NGE was first released. It discusses how unlike most anime, the show was written as it went rather than the whole story being planned out in advance. It touches on Anno’s execution of the final two episodes, which were controversial at the time and later led to him making an End of Eva movie to replace them.

Hiroki, Azuma. “Anime or Something Like It: Neon Genesis Evangelion.” InterCommunication. No. 18.  27 Oct. 2009. <http://www.ntticc.or.jp/pub/ic_mag/ic018/intercity/higashi_E.html>

This interview goes into the psychology of each of Anno’s characters, and how each is a different manifestation of himself. He explains how the show is meant to be what one takes from it without having a literal meaning, as well its psychedelic inspiration.

Horn, Carl G. “Speaking Once as They Return: Gainax’s Neon Genesis Evangelion.” AMC Plus. 1.2. 1996. 27 Oct. 2009. <http://www.stanford.edu/~fenn/eva/eva1.html>

Horn talks about how Evangelion is different from most other anime of its genre because it tackles existential questions of life, death, sex, and religion in a poetic and metaphoric way. Good arguments here and contextualizing of the series.

Tsuribe, Manabu. “Prison of Self-Conscious: An Essay on Evangelion.” EvaMonkey. 1999. 27 Oct. 2009. <http://www.evamonkey.com/writings_tsuribe01.php>

Article relates Eva to other Japanese attitudes and cultural psychological trends.

Anno, Hideaki. “Interview: 1996 Anime Expo.” Transcript. 2004. 27 Oct. 2009. <http://lists.onegeek.org/pipermail/evangelion/2004-December/002032.html> <http://lists.onegeek.org/pipermail/evangelion/2004-December/002034.html>

Anno speaks about the series himself. Lots of really valuable insight. Definitely a major source.

Napier, Susan J. “When the Machines Stop: Fantasy, Reality, and Terminal Identity in “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” Science Fiction Studies 29.3 (2002): 418-435.

Bolton, Christopher, Istvan Csicsery-Rony, Jr. and Takayuki Tatsumi. Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.

Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics. 1913.

Anno drew heavily from this and other works of Freud.

The Bible, Book of Genesis.

As much of the series uses Biblical imagery, I will be referring to the Book of Genesis to analyze the metaphorical significance of Christian mythology in the context of the series.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The series often refers to these non-canonical Christian texts, which allegedly predict and name the angels.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (PROPOSAL!)

For my term paper, I will focus on the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, created by Hideaki Anno in 1995-1996 about three children who pilot giant robots to defend Earth from attacking “angels.” As an author, the show reflects Anno’s struggle with severe depression during the time of its making and deals with themes of sexuality and Freudian psychology. The show was unlike much before it, yet has influenced all anime since. The last two episodes of the series were subsequently supplemented by a movie ending the story. Additionally, currently the entire series is being made into four movies as a redux in which it is all reanimated and certain aspects are changed, though the overall story is the same. In my term paper, I will examine the underlying psychological and psychedelic themes of the series and how they are influenced by its authorship, as well as how these are portrayed differently over time in the new re-released version of the series.

CHECK IT OUT: my friend’s show + me acting in it = lols for all

As I mentioned once in a previous post, my good friend, Brooklyn director Tim Fiore recently made a pilot for an internet TV show. It is about a production team in the 70’s making a sci-fi show–it’s a show within a show. I have a small role in it. It’s pretty funny and quite pertinent to a lot of what we’ve discussed in class. Tim put a lot of thought into the writing end of it. I recommend checking it out, and you can probably all make fun of me too.

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/6694951[/vimeo]

The rest of the pilot is available at this website. Hope you lol.

Essay Proposal

One thing I’ve found repeatedly striking in Homicide is how suspects are presented when first introduced. In Episode 2, the scene in which Munch and Bolander are called to the old woman’s house to investigate her husband’s supposed death is an interesting example of this. As it later becomes contested whether his ultimate death is a murder, in this initial introduction, setting it up as an innocuous heart attack immediately made me assume she was the murderer, though this assumption is turned around a few more times before it is resolved. Somehow throughout the show, rarely did I find myself certain of a suspect being either innocent or guilty and having it turn out otherwise truly unexpectedly. The clues are always given, if even almost subliminally. I’m interested in the ways in which these scenes set up our sympathies and suspicions through subtle cues in the narrative and filmmaking.

Team Spirit

In Caldwell’s article, a thing that interested me is the assumption that team writing is somehow worse than individual writing, and the assumption that formula is bad. Do these things detract from something’s status as art? Is the “one-upmanship” described in the writing room a problem, even for those who don’t feel comfortable with it, if it brings the script to better and more interesting places? Surely not all writing teams are going for “bawdy.” I can imagine it being quite fun to work on a writing team.

A friend of mine once told me the key to creating good art in the film world is not to charge ahead as an auteur with a vision, but rather to gather a really solid creative team–the kind of team that could be self-sufficient enough in its skill and creativity to produce quality work on its own, to stick together project after project and grow together as artists, and to stand as a united front against studios and execs who meddle excessively. And it’s true–when you look at the credits in the films of the “auteurs,” you see the same names popping up again and again. Wollen is right to say that the idea of an auteur exists more when you evaluate a specific artist’s (or group of artists’) body of work over the course of their career and look for recurring themes, than to simply look at one work and try to decide who deserves the most credit for making it. With this idea in mind, the argument of auteur vs. collective is almost missing the point. Of course film is a collaborative medium–it’s simply a matter of who is working together, how they are credited, and whether what they come up with over time and repeated efforts is quality.

The Apatow/Brazill exchange that Caldwell documents I also found particularly interesting. Though Brazill’s annoyance at the situation is understandable, Apatow is right. These things do happen all the time. Some people call it collective consciousness and chalk it up to chaos theory, but I think it’s just that certain things crop up at certain times that inspire people thinking along similar lines to come up with similiar–sometimes spookily similar–ideas.

This strikes particularly close to home today for me. A few days ago, a good friend of mine just finished six months of hard work on a pilot for a show he’d written, directed, and produced pretty much single-handedly with basically no budget. He finally finished and put it on the internet, leaned back and got ready to send it to Sundance. And what surfaced on the internet right then? Someone else, almost exactly his age, had made a show with almost the exact same premise–even a similar aesthetic!–a few months prior. My friend had obviously had no knowledge of the other guy’s project, and the other guy could hardly find grounds to accuse my friend of stealing his premise. In the end, it simply boils down to who does it first and who does it better. That’s where it comes down to creative control–and monetary means–lying in people who care about the project on an artistic level.

It seems we have a friend in common.

What struck me most about McGrath’s article is his description of the profoundly shared experience of watching television on such a massive scale. It is true that unlike films or novels, television shows provide an ongoing story that when told engagingly does not simply lend itself to the kind of discussions people have about films or novels, which are more in the forms of critiques–an inherent assumption of taking these mediums seriously as finished forms of art–but instead are discussed in terms of the latest news on the characters, as if they were real mutual friends of everyone to gossip about. You can walk up to a stranger and if they follow the same shows as you, you can strike up conversation with them about it as if you’ve been part of the same circle of friends for years. And in a way, you have been.

This is a very powerful aspect of television. It’s not just a story everyone knows; it’s characters that everyone knows over significant time, who develop and change through events over time. Unlike a character in a film who is forever frozen in the concluded time frame of a film watched in one sitting, a television character follows the viewer into the mental spaces between episodes, in which they can reflect on a past that sometimes stretches on for years and speculate about what will happen next in an open-ended indefinitely long future. Anyone who has ever watched a television show reguarly can relate to this. It has far more in common with the way we think of our real friends than how we think of Dorian Gray or Luke Skywalker.

Perhaps it is this that keeps television out of the leagues of intellectualism. Gossip always gets a bad rep, even when it’s about fictional characters, but this prejudice camouflages a much more interesting phenomenon. Gossip is a very significant form of social bonding between people, a way of structuring and defining our society in a small daily manner. When the subjects of it are the mutual “friends” of the entire world, the messages delivered by them have indisputable significance.